Water with Meals. . . Good or Bad?
It’s no secret. The message is clear. Drink more water.
The facts are there to support the dictate:
- approximately 70% of your body is water (depending on your age)
- nearly half your brain is water
- hunger is often a mis-signaling for thirst
- with age, water content decreases (meaning drinking more water can actually slow the aging process!).
But do I drink enough? How much is enough? Is quality a concern? And when should I drink it?
Water is one of the most significant factors that affects health. It’s one of those topics I find best to think about incrementally. If I consider the safety of our drinking water, the water I just used to fill the tub for my son, the container from which I drink my water when I workout, and how much water I’m drinking through the day all at the same time, it’s daunting. So I’ve approached my relationship to water over time, addressing the how, the why and the what as I am ready. Today, I’m ready to consider the when.
When should we drink water and how does that timing affect our digestion?
This past weekend I co-taught the Revitalize: Spring Cleanse with Andrea Livingston. The focus of our spring cleanse is the liver. In the winter you naturally consume heavier foods and remain more sedentary. Toxins accumulate in your fat cells. This makes it difficult for your liver to do its job. Right now your liver is working extra hard to process the excessive toxic exposures of our times.
At the end of the class one student asked about drinking water away from meals. That got me thinking: what is the science behind drinking and eating? Is drinking water with meals good or is it bad for my digestion? Truth be told, I naturally have no desire to drink when I eat. So much so that I often forget to serve my family water with meals. I’m only reminded that others want water with their food by their intermittent leaps up from the table to visit the filter in the kitchen.
I had always assumed that my distaste for drinking and eating at the same time came from an instinct that the two were misaligned. And while this may be true for my digestive system, it holds no credence. Legend is that drinking water with a meal will dilute stomach acidity. The dilution of stomach acidity then inhibits our ability to breakdown foods, particularly proteins. It turns out that water won’t significantly affect the digestive juices and therefore will not interfere with digestion.
In fact, the opposite may be true. Water consumed before meals stimulates the gastrointestinal tract and peristalsis, the involuntary contraction and relaxation of muscles that moves food through the GI tract. Some research shows that drinking water boosts metabolism for up to an hour after being consumed. And consider this: drinking water will help balance weight! Your body’s signals for satiety are based on many factors. One of the most simple anatomical factors is the expansion of the stomach. That can be achieved with both food and water.
You may be surprised how many other health conditions can virtually disappear with the introduction of more water into the diet. These include heartburn, arthritis, chronic pain (back and otherwise), irritable bowel issues, high blood pressure and more. Its surprising, but ultimately it makes perfect sense! Look at the importance of water in your body:
- water moistens the tissues throughout the body
- water helps to regulate body temperature
- water assists in the protection of our body organs
- water prevents constipation
- water lessens the burden on the kidneys and liver, flushing toxins out of the body
- water lubricates your joints
- water dissolves minerals and other nutrients, making them more accessible to the cells
- water carries nutrients and oxygen to the cells
- Water, water, water! I hope you’ll join me for a cup, with a toast: to good health.
Eater’s Digest Homework:
Drink more water!
- Have at least 8 to 16 ounces of water upon rising in the morning. Your body has been without water for many hours!
- Carry a water glass or bottle with you so that you can drink throughout the day.
- Keep a pitcher or large container at your desk during the day. Aim to drink it all before leaving your desk for the day.
- If you’re new to this game, make it interesting; add a squeeze of lemon or lime, cucumbers or goji berries
- Commit to a short period of time where you actually count how much water you’re consuming. It doesn’t take long for practice to become habit.
- Drink water about 30 minutes before meals. Sip water during meals.
- Know that sugar cravings are often a sign of dehydration. Drink a tall glass of water before giving in to the craving and see what happens!