Why Cold Water Is Bad For You

This post comes from our Australia contributor, Miann Scanlan. Follow along with her on Instagram @freepeopleaustralia!

We’ve all heard time and time again the importance of getting hydrated, and finding creative ways to aim for that 8+ glasses of water per day. But have you ever thought about how the temperature of said water can play on your health?

Over the past few months I’ve been slowly making discoveries about and adapting practices from ayurveda. One that initially surprised me, but then – just like everything in ayurveda – made so much sense after looking further into it, was that cold water or beverages shouldn’t be ingested. Huh?

Let me set the scene for you:

It was the middle of the day in the middle of a scorching Australian summer and I was in Byron Bay for a yoga festival. After finishing an hour of power vinyasa in the hot sun I immediately grabbed a chilled bottle of water before setting off for an introductory seminar on Ayurveda. I was curious to hear what all this ancient Hindu fuss was about.

We sat on the floor in a room while Jay Mulder, otherwise known as Eumundi Medicine Man, explained how the key principle of ayurvedic health depends on your ability to properly and efficiently digest what you ingest. He explained that balancing your digestive agni (the “fire” that drives digestion and metabolism) is the reason Ayurveda recommends such a number of practices for better digestion like spices, food combining, and eating according to body type and the season.

why cold water is bad for you

Jay then used the fire analogy to properly explain how to apply the philosophy to our physiology: Digestive agni can be compared to a burning fire. If the flame is very low, then it will take a long time to cook the food. In the same way, if the fire is too big, it can burn the food. If we put a huge log on a low fire, it will extinguish it.

Which brought him to the point about ingesting hot, warm, and room temperature liquids versus chilled. As I was about to take a huge gulp of my ice-cold water, he explained that essentially, I was throwing cold water on the burning logs inside me, extinguishes my digestive fire almost entirely.

So how does it all work?

When cold water hits the stomach, the body is forced to use energy in order to warm up that liquid inside your body to match that of the body’s natural temperature. This robs your body of the energy it needs to properly process what you have ingested. Instead of working to extract all the foods nutrients, your digestive system is instead working on regulating the temperature of the cold drink.

Studies also indicate that the problem with cold water is that as the liquid passes through your system, the cool temperature solidifies fats from the foods we’ve eaten and thus the body in turn finds it hard to digests the unwanted fats from our stomach.

Once you get into the habit of drinking water at room temperature or warm, you will notice a dramatic improvement in your digestion and the way your body feels while eating and after the meal. I’ve even found that it curbs sugar cravings – bonus! Try these warm ayurvedic drinks below to keep kindling that internal flame.

Decaffeinated Green Tea

why cold water is bad for you

Hot Lemon Water

why cold water is bad for you

Tumeric Ginger & Honey Tea

why cold water is bad for you

Try this recipe for Turmeric Tea!

If you’re in America transitioning into winter, read this blog post on an ayurvedic morning routine for the colder months.  Similarly, for those of us down here in Australia in the midst of Spring, ripe and ready to take on summer, head here for some morning inspiration.

Find Miann at miannscanlan.com & instagram @miannscanlan and @freepeopleaustralia

Comments

  1. While this is very interesting..ever since I was little i’ve never been able to drink any beverage at room temperature..If I even attempt to drink water that is room temperature, I gag. I have to have ice in my water.

  2. When I danced ballet a lot I had a teacher that discouraged cold drinks because she believed they would make us ill. I mean, we’re all hot and sweaty, so dumping ice into the system would shock our bodies too much, right? I never realized WHY this could happen though. Thanks to this post I am even more convinced. I don’t even like ice water anymore.

  3. 3-4 times a week, first thing in the morning I put a spoonful of apple cider in a mug of hot water & drink it- it really helps to clean your liver & digestive system.

  4. I’ve always preferred room-temperature water, I never warm water was the better option; it is just the way I like it. I love drinking warm water with lemon in the morning before eating or doing anything else, it’s a great way to curb coffee/caffeine cravings (for anyone trying to kick the habit) and it does wonders for the skin and overall body. I’ve also found that having an ACV cocktail a couple times a day is a great way to cleanse the system and further boost the power of water.

    DW | http://www.daundra.com/blog

  5. I would be really appreciative for links to the studies that have suggested that the ingestion of cold water is detrimental to our health. I love drinking cold water, so I was alarmed to read this. I have not been able to find any peer reviewed medical research that supports this finding – only that it may burn a few extra calories as our body brings the cold liquid down to body temperature.

  6. Miann, love this. My mom has been teaching me different ayurvedic ways and I’ve been slowly incorporating them into my lifestyle. Room temperature water (with lemon!! especially when I wake) is one of them. Thank you for sharing your knowledge here — so many benefit, especially with a larger audience and the many people you can reach:) xoxo

  7. Jillian if the research your are finding shows that extra calories (energy) are in fact being burnt to bring down the temperature of the ice water, then there is your proof. The philosophy of Ayurveda is that health stems from optimum digestion and we should eat in a way to help the body properly digest what we ingest, keeping the bowel and colon clean from toxins, extracting nutrients from the food…. health doesn’t equate to burning calories.

  8. As a cook at an outdoor retreat, I have served so many Asian Groups and they eat everything that is put out. One day a lady came to me, she was older and slim and said to me, “Yes we eat everything, but we never get fat”. I said, “Yes, I noticed that”! Her answer was that they drink hot tea during the meal so the fat gets dissolved….most North Americans have cold drinks with their meal and I believe it doesn’t allow the fat to dissolve nearly as well.

  9. I live in Germany and at home it´s totally common to drink everything at room temperature. Only in restaurants you get cold drinks.

  10. How does burning a few extra calories, to warm up the water, equate to bad digestion? Once it’s warm in there, it’s warm, ya know? I’m not trying to bash here, I tend to play devil’s advocate. But I also like to have more then, it burns calories… I myself tend to drink water at room temp most of the time.

  11. Also would like to point out that hot water/tea to dissolve the fat is not accurate as well, for those stating as such. The gallbladder is a main component in dealing with fats in the stomach to be digested. It’s an enzyme that breaks down the fat not temperature. In fact, without a healthy gallbladder, fat that gets into your stomach quickly melts to body temperature and coats carbs and proteins which then hinders the digestive process. And FYI, having some fat is good for you, in fact, necessary. So I’ll end with this; if you want healthy digestion, give yourself the proper AMOUNT of water and nutrients so that your organs can do their jobs.

  12. Have a peek at this if you’re terribly concerned about it. http://gut.bmj.com/content/29/3/302.full.pdf Especially the results section. You can drink a 4 degrees Celsius drink and within 45 seconds of it hitting the stomach, the mean minimal temperature attained is 21 degrees Celsius. And you’re back to normal (aka 37 degrees Celsius within 20 minutes after) I wouldn’t worry about it too much. But to each their own.

  13. To each their own, and if you prefer room temperature water that is totally fine, but as others have said, this idea that cold water is bad for you hasn’t been proven. I really think this post is a little alarmist.

  14. Great article! It is also recommended to not drink any water or other liquid source 1/2 – 1 hr prior and after eating. Following the above, will assist with the digestion process.

  15. You said “Studies also indicate that the problem with cold water is that as the liquid passes through your system, the cool temperature solidifies fats from the foods we’ve eaten and thus the body in turn finds it hard to digests the unwanted fats from our stomach.”

    What studies? The fat solidification is debunked in several places i found in 1 minute of googling:

    http://www.snopes.com/medical/myths/coldwater.asp

    http://factsfromfiction.blogspot.com/2012/06/is-drinking-cold-water-bad.html

  16. Well, this is depressing. Maybe that’s why I haven’t been able to really go in the morning after getting up. Not to give too much information, I’m sorry.

    I’ve grown up drinking cold water though… UGH this is hard to try and change but if it’s for the better then I shall work hard at it!

    Thank you so much for sharing this article.

  17. There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that cold water has any adverse effects on your body whatsoever, under nearly any circumstances. I implore people to not take this article too seriously. If you want to stick to room temperature or hot drinks because it makes you like to, then do that. But don’t do it for health reasons. Far from being dangerous, cold water is probably the healthiest thing you can drink. Water is one of the healthiest drinks in general, and cold water is actually a very minor calorie-burner (you can find the science behind that online, I won’t bother posting it here).

    It takes more than slightly chilled liquid to destroy the human body. Otherwise, we would have far more important things to worry about.

  18. Rubbish does cold water harm you what ever next and I do speak with a high level of medical knowledge. Believe me people if you enjoy it you will be only be doing your body good not harm. I am 66 and have been drinking 1 litre of very cold water every day and feel good on it and have no intention of stopping.

  19. I am glad to see other spreading this simple idea of drinking hot water for health. i work as an acupuncturist in NYC and I suggest drinking hot water to all off my patients. Patients with digestive issues, respiratory issues, insomnia, anxiety, depression have all seen changes in their symptoms often big changes. For all of the skeptics out there all I have to say is I do not need to see proof from Western scientific studies because I see this work with my patients everyday.

    Check out my blog for more info:
    http://www.acupuncturewithira.com/drink-hot-water-for-better-health/
    http://www.acupuncturewithira.com/drink-hot-water-for-better-health-part-ii/

  20. This is a myth. Cold water is warmed up so quickly, it does nothing to your digestive track. Drink what tastes good.

  21. This is silly nonsense. Sitting in the scorching Australia sun, your body is working very hard to maintain it’s temperature balance. Drinking chilled fluids HELPS the body keep cool and stay hydrated. That wonderful feeling you get when you drink a cold beverage on a hot day or during a meal of hot food is your body’s way of saying “I need this”. Listen to your body, not to Internet gurus. If you like your drinks cold, enjoy them.

  22. This is a false state.Cold water doesnt affect anything.It regurlarly passes through your digestive system,nothing else.Before posting some facts or stuff,do some research because some opinions are not true and false.Studies?what study?How can they be sure?What if they were wrong?Cold water cant suddenly solidify objects THAT easily and fast.The temperature has to be 0°C or below the freezing point to quickly solidify objects.This is nothing but a myth that most mothers believe.Just plain nonsense.This is just useless.I dont even need all of this rubbish.Do some more research and also ask a scientist and a doctor.

  23. I. Am living proof bthat cold ice water harmscthe stomach. I am constantly chewing and drinking cold ice wate . It brought on such pains in my chest and back I thought it was a panic attac . After putting medicine under my tongue and got relief, I got up with my crunchy ice water and it hit me again. This went on for several months me thinking the worst. Had two today and came across your study. Gonna be hard to quit but cantvtake the pai . Thank you

  24. Plz pardon the spelling error . I am not use to using my phone. Guess age can be my excuse

  25. There is a little bit of chemistry involved here,if heat is provided to a reaction it will go forward faster.If you guys ever visit India,you must go to Kerala,it is very famous for their Ayurvedic techniques. In every restaurant in Kerala,hot water is served after a meal for good digestion.I mean in every single restaurant.

  26. I am using this since 40 years… eating green lemon “pure” in the morning and my breakfast for 15mn.
    My beer is around 6/7° and very tasty… Australian dring strait away. Even their glass is inside the deep freeze.
    Nature has too be follow! Don’t forget carots before your lunch too.

  27. This is complete and utter bullshit.

    One- if equalizing temperature affected your energy for digestion that much you have serious metabolic issues and are about to perish whether or not you drink cold water.

    Two- the whole “studies indicate” line about cold liquids affecting digestion is completely fabricated. The ONLY thing close to supporting this is the fact that drinking too much of ANYTHING while eating dilutes gastric fluids and slows digestion, but even that isn’t actually that harmful. Seriously, if it was a problem, it would already have a warning on it in California. You can even look this up on snopes and see that its debunked.

    Ffs people. Just because it showed up on the internet doesn’t mean it is true.

  28. Where’s your peer-reviewed research? ‘Cause I have NEVER heard this point of view from a medical professional, anyone trained in the biological sciences, or chemists. Because a quick google search finds this (http://factsfromfiction.blogspot.com/2012/06/is-drinking-cold-water-bad.html) which basically says, with sources and actual explanations that involve correct examples of how the human body works not metaphorical jibberish, that you are 110% incorrect. Feel free to drink all the room temperature drinks you want, but don’t hand out health advice that is backed by nothing more then poorly worded metaphors and anecdotal claims.

  29. this is ridiculous…. sure the water is cold entering your body, but by the time that water is in your stomach it will have heated up substantially…..lookup “counter flow chillers” to see how fast liquids can heat and cool when exposed to opposite temperatures. my goodness..

  30. I’m glad to see some skeptics here. I’ll back it up – there’s is zero evidence that cold water is anything but good for you. There is some dangerous logic in this article. For example “When cold water hits the stomach, the body is forced to use energy in order to warm up that liquid inside your body to match that of the body’s natural temperature. This robs your body of the energy it needs to properly process what you have ingested. Instead of working to extract all the foods nutrients, your digestive system is instead working on regulating the temperature of the cold drink”.
    This a classic error – just because you can come up with some sort of explanation that seems to makes sense, it doesn’t make it true. What does make something true evidence (hardcore data). Unfortunately, there is no scientific study that I am aware of in the history of humankind to back up this claim.

    Complete nonsense. Enjoy your cold water!

  31. Humans have always drunk cold water (rivers, springs, etc) if anything, warm water would be unnatural. And I suppose cold showers are also bad because the body works to keep you warm? Load of BS.

  32. This is a myth. Drinking cold water has NO effect on digestion and is if anything better for you cause it can bring your core temp down after a hot day.

    This belief comes from ancient superstition and should not be taken seriously.

  33. When you drink ice water or cold beverages your blood vessels shrink, your digestion becomes restricted and hydration is hindered.
    – Since your body is expending energy to regulate your temperature, it can lead to water loss.
    – Drinking cold water after a meal creates excess mucus in your body that deteriorates our immune system.
    – If you eat food while drinking cold beverages, the water temperature solidifies fats from the foods we’ve just eaten and the body in turn finds it hard to digest.

  34. It is a pity that some of you are not convinced. Ayurveda is more than 5000 years old and it is a sister science to yoga. There is a yogi, Yogananda, who lives in Rishikesh and he is 106 years of age. He twists his body like a pretzel and his agility is like a child’s. He never gets sick, never went to any hospital. How can that be ?Because he eats very little, chews more, all because he follows the precepts of yoga and ayurveda.

    I am myself a certified yoga instructor, 82 years of age, have never been hospitalized. Start today by drinking warm water only and your life will change. If you are not convinced, read Prakriti the book on ayurveda written by a former skeptic who believed only in western medicine. His name is Svoboda, the first foreign graduate from an ayurvedic college in India. His life completely turned around. Now he is on lecture tours disseminating lifestyle changes. Or you can watch the videos of Dr. Vasant Lad, his teacher and mentor. Both Dr. Oz and Oprah will agree.

    If you are still a skeptic, let God save you!

  35. This is all completly BS. Drinking cold water increases metabolism because the cold water decreases body temperature which in order for your body to maintain homeostasis needs to increase its temperature. And in order to do this your body needs energy to create heat. So if anything drinking cold water can help with weight loss and also means you can eat more!

  36. on several occassions, i have always done things in a dilema, thanks that am opened up to this, warm lemon improves on absorption rate of food nutrients into the blood stream!

  37. on several occassions, i have done this in a dilema….thanks!! more so, warm lemon adjusts on the absorption rate of food nutrients into the blood stream esp iron

  38. In the end, we are all entitled to believe in what we think is roght or what’s best. It all boils down to personal choice. So whatever you believe in, if you think it’s something right then go ahead. The worst thing that could happen is to keep fighting for something even when it steps on other people’s views and perspectives.

  39. For the anti-skeptics: Just because drinking cold water isn’t bad for you doesn’t mean you should stop drinking hot water. Drink what makes you feel good. We’re only pointing out the lack of evidence in this claim so people don’t dogmatically limit their options. This article mentions a study in support of its thesis, but then fails to cite the study. At the very least this is lazy writing, but it could also be seen as intentionally dishonest. It is OKAY to write about ayurvedic health without being dishonest about the science on the topic. Being honest about the lack of studies in support of the claim will actually increase the integrity of the article, not hinder it.

  40. Complete BS. Cold water makes you lose calories not lose energy. It uses calories so it can warm your body because the water is cold. So drinking ice cold water makes you lose weight which is good.

  41. People can choose whatever they’d like to drink of course, but I do believe that drinking warm or room-temperature water is the best for your body, especially for women.

  42. Any medical studies of this? Burning calories is good. Liquids do not affect a diabetic’s result from eating. So, this suggestion without evidential support. Personally, I know cold water in hot times makes feel and more energetic, same for hot drinks in cold — are my own results wrong?

  43. I’ve just learned, in my sports nutrition class, that cold water is ingested faster than warm or room-temperature water…..interesting.

  44. I work in a TCM clinic and I can tell you from experience with patients that this is definitely true.
    It hinders digestions. You shock your digestive track when it is so very warm and you throw cold water all around it…common sense! Don’t put the fire out!
    Instead of calling it BS…why don’t you try it for 2wks and see how you feel!

    Chinese Medicine has been around for over 3000yrs and is still going strong.
    Conventional Medicine is only approx 100yrs old and people are already looking for other alternatives because they are tired of there cheimical drugs either not working or making them feel worse.
    Worse part, conventional Dr’s are

    No brainer to me!

    Not to say that conventional medicine isn’t needed…Chinese Medicine will not sew your arm back on but the herbs and acupuncture would help speed the healing of it afterwards.
    Probably why TCM and Conventional medicine is used TOGETHER in the Asian countries.

  45. I work in a TCM clinic and I can tell you from experience with patients that this is definitely true.
    It hinders digestions. You shock your digestive track when it is so very warm and you throw cold water all around it…common sense! Don’t put the fire out!
    Instead of calling it BS…why don’t you try it for 2wks and see how you feel!

    Chinese Medicine has been around for over 3000yrs and is still going strong.
    Conventional Medicine is only approx 100yrs old and people are already looking for other alternatives because they are tired of there cheimical drugs either not working or making them feel worse.

    No brainer to me!

    Not to say that conventional medicine isn’t needed…Chinese Medicine will not sew your arm back on but the herbs and acupuncture would help speed the healing of it afterwards.
    Probably why TCM and Conventional medicine is used TOGETHER in the Asian countries.

  46. There is nothing wrong with drinking cold water , but it is more soothing and relaxing to the internal organs to ingest room temperature or warm drinks .
    I have never been able to take cold anything into my body system , and that is from childhood .
    My mother took me to the Dr because of what she perceived as poor eating habits and the Dr.said if everyone listened to their bodies as I was doing he would be out of a job . I still do not eat ice cream unless I remove the chill in a microwave !
    You may think me strange but I have never been to a Dr.for anything except a break and that was in my back
    I still don’t have a family physician .
    I listen to my body and practice preventative medicine . I teach it to anyone who asks I have been blessed to also use energy healing from about the age of 3 or 4 which my “conventional ” mother worked hard to discourage .
    So do as you wish , but when you are my age now ask yourself if it was worth it when you are filled with pain of the many different ailments that you have been assured of will come with older age, most of it from poor eating habits and a malnourished body over the years .
    Start now to pay attention to how your body reacts to different food and not how it makes you feel .
    Do you walk 3 to 4 km a day , every day ?
    I do and I’m almost 80.
    Inside I am about 45 and on a bad day 50☺
    Everything in moderation is my motto but cold beverages are never ever a choice for me .
    Blessings

  47. Pls note that the ice is not available commonly in warm countries as cold countries. The country needs to have infrastructure to provide ice for common man. Guidelines written 5000 BC were most suitable for climatic condition during those days. Drinking water is the most important thing regardless it is warm or cold. Your body will give you signal if something is not right. Go and live long !

  48. This logic doesn’t make sense, in summer if you drank warm water your body would have to work just as hard to cool the liquid down as it would warm it up if you drank ice cold water. And if your body is that hot that it needs to work quite hard to bring the cold water to body temp, it needs to be cooled down and therefore, by drinking the cold water it cools your body down. Personally, I think that neither is going to kill you but if it’s winter and your freezing cold, it’s probably not the best to drink ice cold water. And if its summer, its probably not the best to drink warm water.

  49. I feel that drinking water to hot yes that will hurt your body. But I’m sure as long as you water isn’t as cold as ice than you should be fine to drink it. I myself like just above room temp drinks.

  50. Never trust someone who claims “studies” prove their point and then fail to provide sources of these studies. This entire article is conjecture and assumptions.

  51. This is so stupid that it hurts me. Think carefully and understand basic thermodynamics before you write an article.

  52. This is silly information. To say the cold water “Solidifies” fats in your stomach is outrageous and untrue. For fats to solidify put it in the refrigerator! It has to get so cold to do this. The cold water in your stomach after you drink lasts about 2 minutes sitting 98 degree stomach fluid. I am a 50 year old strong bodybuilder and have been drinking ice water every day for decades. Never have I had any problems with digestion or anything else. Just drink ice water any time you want.

  53. So let me get this straight: throwing cold water on burning logs will extinguish its flames, but throwing room-temperature water on it will not???

    Also, what happens your body is perspiring to cool its internal temperature? Does that process not cause more energy expenditure than simply to simply heat up after some cold water entered into your system?? Instead of perspiring, would it not be more efficient to drink water which is already cool?

  54. I have experienced this cold water is totally bad en those who take cold beers are just digging their own grave seriously on health matters my grandpa has lived up 102 yrs now coz he grew up not having the concept of cold stuff.

    with cold water your digestion partten will drastically change.

  55. Thanks i didn’t know about the disadvantages of taking cold water and i will never take cold water in my life thanks very much for letting me know

  56. I would be really appreciative for links to the studies that have suggested that the ingestion of cold water is detrimental to our health. I love drinking cold water, so I was alarmed to read this. I have not been able to find any peer reviewed medical research that supports this finding – only that it may burn a few extra calories as our body brings the cold liquid down to body temperature
    Don’t miss the blog on
    How long does alcohol stay in your system

  57. I have noticed when I drink cold water my heart does start to race faster, even sometimes a tightening, when I drink warm or hot water it never seems to happen and if anything my stomach area does feel much more relaxed.
    I guess my only thought is that for centuries they never did have fridges and options of cold water for drinking, they would have always had to boil their water for health reasons, the fridge and freezer only begun in the 1800’s so I believe that cold water is not necessarily the best option, or ice cream, ice blocks, or cold foods in general.

  58. Even without peer reviewed articles there is some evidence to suggest this article is accurate.
    1. People on the comment board say they feel better (Note it could be a placebo).
    2. If you ever washed a pan that had meet cooked in it you will find the fats and such have turned to gelatin, and are almost impossible to clean. But if you heat it back up the fats break down some allowing for easier chemical reactions to occur(Basic kitchen chemistry).
    3. Your body is always attempting to stay in homeostasis or balance which burns or releases energy (Just ask any doctor or biologist. Also you can look up a peer reviewed article on how your body stays warm).

  59. Another load of alarmist crap disguised as some health miracle we’re supposed be impressed by.
    BS. Even worse when it accompanied by lame fake messy hipster photos using silly props. Wasted time and calories doing that silly shit.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.