Drinking Water with Meals: All Myths and Facts

31Dec

From our childhood uptil now, we are told not to drink water or any other liquid with our meals as this disrupts our digestion. But is this really true or is it just a myth that we are following from generations. Let us look deeper into this topic.

To understand this, we need to have a clear understanding of our digestive process. So, once we take food in our mouth, it gets mixed with our saliva secreted by our salivary glands. Then the food bolus moves down through our food pipe into the stomach, where it gets mixed up with the gastric juices. This is called as chyme and it now moves into the small intestine.

In the small intestine chyme gets mixed up with pancreatic juices and the bile secreted by the liver.
Absorption of nutrients starts within the small intestine and most of the nutrients get absorbed here. Rest of the nutrients are absorbed in the colon.

Is drinking water with meals affecting your health negatively?

  1. Incomplete digestion of food
    • First myth in this context is that, drinking water with meals flushes out the food from your stomach and does not allow its complete digestion. This is actually not true. Drinking small sips of water with meals is not bad.
    • Liquids pass faster through the stomach as compared to the solid food but this does not affect the digestion of solid food. Solid food takes its complete time required for complete digestion in stomach and only after this, it moves out from the stomach. Water or any other liquid does not affect the digestion of the solid food.
  2. Leads to weight gain
    • It is also believed that drinking water with meals helps in putting on weight. But there is no scientific study to claim this belief. If you are drinking any liquid other than water like sugary beverages, milk, coffee, tea etc along with your meals, then this will surely help in putting on weight due to the fact that you are feeding your body with extra calories which will make you gain weight.
    • On the contrary, if you are drinking a glass of plain water 30 minutes before your meals, then this will help you in eating less and thus can help you in losing weight.
  3. Hinders the absorption of nutrients
    • Third myth regarding this topic is that water slows down the absorption of nutrients in the gut. It is believed that drinking water and other liquids along with the meals dilutes our saliva and other gastric juices which then do not digest and break down the nutrients properly due to being in a diluted form. And hence, nutrients are not absorbed completely from the food under digestion.
    • In this sense, you mean that you are doubting your stomach’s ability to adjust the concentration of its digestive juices as per your meal’s consistency.
    • Our stomach does absorb some amount of water from our meals and use it in secreting gastric juices but this water only aids in the digestion process and does not hinder it.
  4. Alcohol and citric juices lower saliva secretion
    • It is also believed that alcohol and citric acid juices also lowers the amount of saliva secreted. It is seen that drinking alcohol in moderation along with your meals do not affect your saliva secretion, here we are talking about low alcohol concentrations in beer and wine. But drinking a hard liquor with meals do lowers saliva secretion up to 20%. On the contrary, citric acid juices increases the saliva secretion.
  5. Leads to acidity
    • Another belief is that drinking water with meals increases acidity and heartburn. It must be noted here that drinking water in moderation like a few sips with your meals does not cause any problem but drinking a lot of water puts pressure in your stomach as a result of which the stomach tends to regurgitate food back into the oesophagus. thus, this must be taken care of by the people suffering from the condition of GERD (gastro oesophageal reflux disease), not to drink lot of water with meals as this produces extra pressure on your stomach and this results in acidity.
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Conclusion

There is no scientific study revealing that drinking water between meals is wrong. But there are some studies, that do say that drinking a glass of water 30 minutes before and 2 hours after the food aids in proper digestion and absorption of food. So, on bottom line, sipping a few sips of water along with meals can help in easy swallowing and digestion of food by making it soft enough. But one must avoid drinking lot of water say, one glass of water along with the meals as this can lead to acidity.

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