Is drinking cold water bad for you?

Thoreau wrote, “I believe that water is the only drink for a wise man.” But he didn’t say at what temperature a wise man should drink his water. Health fads come and go so quickly that it’s hard to know what’s actually the truth. Is drinking warm water better for your digestion? Is drinking cold water bad for you?

The answer is there’s no one right answer.

Medical studies on this subject are particularly limited. Medical research remains inconclusive on the best temperature at which to drink water. But the good news is it’s hard to drink water in any particularly wrong way. Because it should go without saying that staying hydrated is essential for your health.

What are the health benefits of drinking water?

— It’s our main source of hydration. In fact, the National Academy of Medicine suggests daily intake of 125 ounces of water per day for men, and 90 ounces per day for women. Of course, these numbers vary depending on an individual’s body size and exercise regimen.
— When you’re sick, drinking water is essential because your body uses water fight off infection. Drinking lots of fluids replenishes that and rehydrates you.
— Water helps cushion the body’s joints.
— Water is essential for eliminating waste.
— Water protects your spinal cord and sensitive tissues.

So is drinking cold water actually bad for you?

The short answer is no. While there have been some studies that indicate certain groups of people have a harder time digesting cold water compared to warm water — those who suffer from Achalasia or migraines are just a couple of examples — there aren’t many studies to demonstrate that drinking cold water negatively impacts one’s health.

In fact, drinking cold and room-temperature water can be healthier for the heart. Drinking cold and room-temperature water, but not hot water, reduces stress on the heart by reducing heart rate.

However in certain circumstances such as exercising, drinking cold water may be better. Those who drink cold water are able to delay raising their core body temperature for an additional 30 minutes compared to room-temp. When your core body temperature rises, you sweat, which leads to dehydration. So drinking cold water prevents the body from dehydrating faster than room temperature water. In this case, cold water is the way to go.

Is drinking hot water better for you than cold water?

There isn’t a lot of evidence about how hot water affects the body unless you count a study on rabbits, which isn’t exactly the same as testing on human. There was one warning that came out from WHO in 2016 after a study found that consuming very hot temperature drinks is linked to esophageal cancer. So drink at your own discretion, but hot isn’t necessarily better.

Yet we hear so much about the health benefits of drinking hot lemon water. Mostly from celebrities. Gwenyth Paltrow, Miranda Kerr and Beyonce all swear by it. But is that more about the lemon juice than the water?

What are the health benefits of lemons?

— In terms of aging, a report done in 2019 on mice found the mice lived 3 weeks longer on average, locomotor skills remained intact later, and changes in the intestinal microbiome (the bacteria that effects your gut health) due to aging were delayed.
— Lemons are a rich source of Vitamin C, which is full of antioxidants which help protect the body’s cells from damage.
— Citrus flavonoids are linked to reduction in inflammation.

But while water is essential and lemons are beneficial to health, there’s no real evidence that drinking hot lemon water every day is a health cure-all. In fact, eating a balanced diet in addition to your lemon water is still the best way to ensure overall long-term health. Adding warm lemon water to your diet (warm, not hot) will give you the benefits of lemons and hydration.

Ultimately, worrying about if drinking cold water is bad for you or if lemon water will give you super powers is missing the point. You have to stay hydrated for optimal health, so the best temperature at which to drink water is whatever will help you drink as much as you need to. In other words, the temperature you personally prefer. So give yourself a break. If you want to drink water warm with lemon, fine! Cold with various emoji-mold ice cubes? Also fine! Just drink enough water to stay hydrated, and you’ll be fine.

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