One way that you know you are at dinner with an Ayurveda traditionalist is if he or she orders “water, no ice, please.” For years, this request perplexed my friends, until ordering water—no ice, or hot water, or no water at all became known as a norm for me.
It is quite unusual in America to hear this. Ice water is absolutely the norm. In fact, when I recommend that my clients at least switch over to room temperature water, I often get faces of horror.
Water intake is very important: Ayurveda recommends keeping water or drinks separate from the meals, and adequate hydration is emphasized at least thirty minutes outside of your mealtime. Let’s explore why ice water is not preferred.
In Ayurveda, an incredibly important concept is agni (your digestive fire). Agni is the transformative power in the body—digesting food, thought, and emotions. It is hot, sharp, light, subtle, luminous, and clear. Let me repeat, agni is hot. Ayurveda’s principle of “like increases like, and treat with the opposite” explains, then, that the ice cold water will decrease the strength of your agni. Likewise, if you want to augment agni, you will probably want to drink hot water or hot teas.
There was a small but interesting study done in the 1980’s, where they measured how long it took the stomach to empty its contents when the individual drank cold (39°F), room temperature (98°F), or warm (122°F) orange juice. They found that the stomach temperature dropped after drinking the cold juice and it took nearly 20–30 minutes to return back to normal temperature. They also found that the cold drinks increased the emptying time.1 The agni had to work harder to maintain its proper energetics so that it could digest properly.
What we are avoiding by maintaining a strong agni is the production of ama (toxic, metabolic wastes). When foodstuff sits undigested in your trashcan, it ferments. A similar process can occur in the gastrointestinal tract. For more information on the importance of agni and ama and how to care for each, read our guides, The Importance of Agni and Ama: The Antithesis of Agni.
So, next time you are at a restaurant or you are about to pull out a drink to quench your thirst, think about your agni. You will notice less bloating and sluggishness after your meals, more regular bowel movements, a healthy complexion, more energy, and more ease in maintaining a healthy body weight!
1 Sun W, et al. “Effect of meal temperature on gastric emptying of liquids in man,” Gut, 29 (1988):302-305.