Hot or Cold Water?

Ayurveda is about balancing with opposites.  If you are usually hot, you would balance with cool (not just about temperature) foods and drinks.  If you are cold all the time, you would balance with heating (not just about temperature) foods and drinks.

That sounds very practical and perhaps a bit obvious but you’d be surprised how many times people keep unconsciously increasing the issue they are trying to resolve.  A huge aspect of Ayurveda is to bring you more self-awareness (same as yoga).

I have a friend who is always cold (you know who you are!).  Yet, every time I meet her for lunch she orders ice water.  I keep encouraging her to either have cooled, hot water (like you would a tea) or room temperature water…but, no, she always gets ice.  She finally started ordering a pot of hot water…to warm her hands on!  Ok, its a step.

Ice water.  I used to only think of ice water increasing Kaphic qualities because Kapha is cold and wet.  But, then I learned that it increases Vata qualities because Vata is cold and dry.  Ice is essentially ‘dried water’.  It is water in its dried form.  The only people who could remotely benefit from increasing the cold in their bodies are Pittas.  Even at that, maybe in the dead of a hot summer afternoon would I recommend a Pitta person drinking actual iced water.  So, for every rule there can be an exception.

On top of most people, at most times, not wanting to increase Kapha and Vata, here is the other reason why you don’t want ice water.  Our digestive fires…note the image of fire…must be strong in order to break down our food.  If we think of digestion the same as a fire burning up logs in a fireplace, you can see how it takes that same kind of energy to break down solids in our digestive track.    You wouldn’t think of putting water of any type on a fire if you want it to burn.  So, in eating food, generally we would recommend just a little bit of liquid so as not to extinguish the digestive fire (energy) of the body.

Since we are not a pile of logs burning but a complex human being digesting food, we have to look at it a little more broadly.  We rest at a general temperature that we call “hot blooded”.  In the exact same way that you would not usually want someone to throw a bucket of cold ice water on you, you also don’t want to ingest a glass of cold ice water into you.  If you did get it thrown on you, your natural reaction is to contract!  If you throw a glass of it into you, your system also contracts and you must use energy to re-balance the body temperature.

The visual combination of throwing water on a fire and throwing ice water on a person kind of sums up why it just doesn’t make a lot of sense.  Ayurveda is very practical.  Some advocates of using ice cold water to lose weight do make some sense to me, on the short term.  But, in the long run, for better health I would advise against it.  Room temperature makes a much softer landing on the internal body.  It avoids the possibility of using up too much energy to keep the body heated vs. digesting food and it encourages a calmer inner environment.  Calmer inner environments contribute to calmer inner minds.

Now, if you do want to lose weight from an Ayurvedic point of view, consider the drinking of boiled water that you have cooled like you would a cup tea before drinking.  This temperature of water helps to loosen ama (sludge, undigested food particles) from the digestive track, clearing you out more easily.  This also helps if you lean toward being constipated.  I have even found, for myself, that I feel much more hydrated this way and stay more hydrated even if I am working out.