MEDICALLY REVIEWED

Is Drinking Cold Water Less Healthy Than Warm Water?

Water is essential for human survival, but the temperature at which it is consumed has sparked considerable debate. 

In many cultures, particularly in Southeast Asia, there is a belief that warm water is healthier than cold water. This article examines whether drinking cold water is less healthy than drinking warm water, considering scientific evidence and cultural perspectives from the region.

The Benefits of Warm Water

Digestive Health

Warm water is often recommended for its potential benefits on digestion. Drinking warm water can help to stimulate the digestive tract and improve bowel movements. Research has shown that warm water can aid in breaking down food more efficiently, which may help alleviate constipation and promote regular bowel movements.

Circulatory System

Drinking warm water can also enhance blood circulation. Warm water causes blood vessels to dilate, which improves blood flow and helps to deliver oxygen and nutrients more effectively throughout the body. Improved circulation can also help in detoxifying the body by promoting the removal of waste products.

Detoxification

Warm water is believed to help with detoxification processes in the body. It can assist in flushing out toxins through sweating and urination. Some studies suggest that warm water can help to dissolve and flush out fat deposits and other toxins from the body, contributing to overall health.

The Benefits of Drinking Cold Water vs. Warm Water

Hydration

Cold water is often preferred for its refreshing qualities, especially in hot climates like Singapore. Drinking cold water can be more effective in cooling down the body and preventing dehydration. In a study conducted in a tropical environment, participants who drank cold water rehydrated more quickly than those who drank warm water.

Exercise Performance

Cold water can also enhance athletic performance by helping to regulate body temperature during exercise. Athletes often consume cold water to prevent overheating and to maintain performance levels. A study found that athletes who drank cold water during exercise were able to perform for longer periods compared to those who drank warm water.

Metabolism

Cold water may have a slight impact on increasing metabolic rate. When you drink cold water, your body has to expend energy to heat the water to body temperature, which can temporarily boost metabolism. This increase, however, is relatively minor and should not be relied upon as a significant weight loss strategy.

Cultural Perspectives in Southeast Asia

In many Southeast Asian cultures, there is a strong preference for drinking warm water. This practice is often rooted in traditional beliefs and customs. For instance, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) advocates drinking warm water to maintain balance within the body. TCM practitioners believe that cold water can disrupt the digestive system and lead to various health issues.

Scientific Evidence on Water Temperature

Gastrointestinal Effects

A study conducted in China found that drinking cold water can exacerbate symptoms in individuals with sensitive stomachs, such as those with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The cold temperature can cause the stomach muscles to contract, leading to discomfort and pain. Conversely, warm water was found to have a soothing effect on the gastrointestinal tract.

Respiratory Health

In some cases, drinking cold water has been linked to respiratory issues. Cold water can cause mucus to thicken, which may lead to congestion and respiratory problems, particularly in individuals prone to colds or respiratory infections. A study suggested that individuals with a history of respiratory problems might benefit from drinking warm water to help alleviate symptoms.

Practical Tips for Choosing Water Temperature

  • Personal Preference: Ultimately, the best water temperature for you may depend on personal preference and individual health conditions. Listen to your body and choose the temperature that feels most comfortable.
  • Climate Considerations: In hot and humid climates like Singapore, cold water can be more effective in cooling down the body and preventing dehydration. During cooler weather or when experiencing digestive issues, warm water might be more beneficial.
  • Health Conditions: Consider any underlying health conditions. For instance, if you have a sensitive stomach or respiratory issues, warm water may be a better choice.
  • Hydration Needs: Regardless of the temperature, staying hydrated is crucial. Make sure to drink adequate amounts of water throughout the day.

Final Thoughts

The question of whether cold water is less healthy than warm water does not have a straightforward answer. Both cold and warm water have their benefits and potential drawbacks. 

In Southeast Asia, traditional beliefs strongly favour warm water for its health benefits, particularly concerning digestion and overall balance. However, cold water can be more refreshing and effective in preventing dehydration and improving exercise performance. Ultimately, the choice of water temperature should be based on individual preferences, health conditions, and specific needs.

References

  1. Çalişkan, N., Bulut, H., & Konan, A. (2016). The effect of warm water intake on bowel movements in the early postoperative stage of patients having undergone laparoscopic cholecystectomy: A randomized controlled trial. Gastroenterology Nursing, 39(5), 340–347. https://doi.org/10.1097/SGA.0000000000000181
  2. An, J., Lee, I., & Yi, Y. (2019). The thermal effects of water immersion on health outcomes: An integrative review. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 16(7). https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16071280
  3. Lee, H., Kim, J. J., Min, B., Lee, J., Kim, Y.-H., Chang, D., Kim, J. Y., Rhee, P., & Rhee, J. (2009). Effectiveness of warm water consumption to reduce patient discomfort during colonoscopy: A randomized controlled trial. The American Journal of Gastroenterology, 104(12), 2935-2941. https://doi.org/10.1038/ajg.2009.429
  4. Heinonen, I., & Laukkanen, J. (2018). Effects of heat and cold on health, with special reference to Finnish sauna bathing. American Journal of Physiology. Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology, 314(5), R629-R638. https://doi.org/10.1152/ajpregu.00115.2017
  5. Brown, C. M., Dulloo, A., & Montani, J. (2006). Water-induced thermogenesis reconsidered: The effects of osmolality and water temperature on energy expenditure after drinking. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 91(9), 3598-3602. https://doi.org/10.1210/JC.2006-0407
  6. Wang, Q., Fu, W., Guo, Y., Tang, Y., Du, H., Wang, M., Liu, Z., Li, Q., An, L., Tian, J., & Wu, Z. (2019). Drinking warm water improves growth performance and optimizes the gut microbiota in early postweaning rabbits during winter. Animals, 9(6). https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9060346
  7. Kristula, M., & McDonnell, S. (1994). Drinking water temperature affects consumption of water during cold weather in ponies. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 41(1), 155-160. https://doi.org/10.1016/0168-1591(94)90020-5
  8. Fadanavis, M., Sawarkar, D., & Sawarkar, D. G. (2023). The principles & practices of water consumption according to Ayurveda- A cross-sectional survey. International Journal of Life Science and Pharma Research. https://doi.org/10.22376/ijlpr.2023.13.3.sp1.l16-l21
  9. Soputri, N., & Lado, W. O. (2019). The effectiveness of warm water therapy for constipation. Journal of International Society of Preventive & Community Dentistry, 7(1), 475-482. https://doi.org/10.35974/isc.v7i1.1088
  10. Johnson, R. F., & Strowman, S. (1987). Effects of cooling and flavoring drinking water on psychological performance in a hot environment. Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society Annual Meeting, 31(1), 825-829. https://doi.org/10.1177/154193128703100731

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