It is a well-known fact that keeping yourself hydrated has a range of benefits for the body and mind. With adult bodies being made up of 60% water and 90% blood, H2O is crucial for our organs and cells to function. The Institute of Medicine recommends that men drink around 3 liters and women 2 liters of water each day.

Although there are many positives, there is a lot of discussion about the harmful effects of drinking H2O. That is water that is chilled, served with ice, or below a temperature of 36 °F (2 °C). 

This may concern you, but don’t put down your glass just yet.

Risks of Drinking Cold Water 

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Multiple cultures around the world hold the belief that drinking cold water, especially with food, is something that should be avoided. An ancient Indian medical system, Ayurveda, advises not to do this as it can upset gastric juices’ functioning and the forces that make up the physical body. These are the ‘Doshas.’ 

In traditional Chinese medicine, eating hot food while drinking cold water creates an imbalance in the body. Drinking warm beverages, such as tea, with warm food, promotes a sense of balance and well-being. Below are some other reasons as to why cold water is considered bad for you. 

Restricts Digestion 

Drinking cold water can have an impact on your digestive system. H2O that is cold and other chilled drinks restrict digestion because it causes your blood vessels to contract. When you drink water that is of a low temperate, your body does not absorb nutrients during digestion the way that it should. 

This is because your body’s focus is shifted from digesting your food to regulating your body temperate. In turn, this can result in potential dehydration and water loss. The energy you need to digest food and absorb nutrients is being used to help manage your body temperature instead. 

Decreases Heart Rate 

Drinking cold water is thought to have an effect on your heart rate. H2O at a low temperate stimulates your vagus nerve, which is part of your autonomous nervous system. This controls involuntary bodily functions.

The vagus nerve moderates the lowering of the heart rate. Therefore, when stimulated can result in your heart rate decreasing.

Can Cause Headaches 

According to a 2001 study including 669 women, cold water triggered a headache after ingesting a small glass full. It was also found that those prone to migraines were more likely to experience a headache after ingesting cold H2O.   

Constipation 

There is a chance that if you drink chilled water, you will become constipated. This is because the cold liquid can result in your intestines contracting, which may make it more difficult for you when you need to go to the bathroom. 

Water that is below room temperature can also cause the food you eat to solidify when passing through the body. This then, along with contracting intestines, makes the whole natural process of ‘needing to go’ that bit more uncomfortable.

Worsens Symptoms of Those With Achalasia

Achalasia is a condition that affects the esophagus. The esophagus is a tube that helps carry food from your throat to your stomach. If you have this condition, your lower esophageal sphincter doesn’t open up properly when you swallow, which it should. 

 Drinking cold water should be avoided by anyone with this condition as it can make the whole digestive process more troublesome. 

Sore Throat

Have you ever eaten ice cream and developed a cough afterward? Well, cold water can also trigger that response. Your body reacts as it would to a cold winter’s day. By drinking ice-water, you can increase your chances of getting a blocked-up nose and sore throat. 

Chilled water, especially when consumed after a meal, causes a build-up of excess mucus, mucus that you don’t necessarily need. There is a potential for this to not only make your throat sore but make it more vulnerable to inflammatory infections. However, there is yet to be concrete scientific evidence to prove this. 

Shock To The Body 

Drinking water that is cold, especially after a workout or on a really hot day, can cause confusion to your body due to the contrast of temperatures. When you’re really warm, you may drink ice-cold H2O to cool you down, but seeing as your body won’t absorb it properly anyway, it’s best to stick to room-temperature water. 

The cold water can shock your body, which can cause stomach pain and possibly cause you to feel faint or pass out. 

Benefits of Drinking Cold Water 

While there are a notable number of reasons why drinking cold water can be bad for you, there are some benefits. 

Helps With Weight Loss And Boosts Metabolism

It is a widespread notion that consuming cold water can aid with weight loss and increase your metabolism. This is because of your body’s energy to regulate its internal temperature when drinking cold H2O actually burns calories. You could argue that the effect of cold water mixed with eating, that is, food not being absorbed properly, could contribute to weight loss, too. 

This method only burns a few calories per glass and may add up the more you drink. However, it’s unlikely that -especially on its own- this method will result in any notable weight changes. 

Endurance When Exercising

Cold water can keep your core temperature low, which can help with the cooling process during a long exercise session. This can help keep fatigued at bay for that bit longer, prevent overheating, and improve sports performance. This is compared to athletes who drink cold over room temperature water. 

May Improve Alertness 

Cold water helps stimulate your body’s adrenaline production. Whether you drink it or take a cold shower, cold H2O has an effect that can perk you up. This may be useful if you have a stressful day at work or a long drive to endure. In these cases, it’s highly recommended! 

The Takeaway

It seems that, in this article, drinking cold water has more harmful effects than beneficial ones. However, there are a few things worth noting here. Firstly, not a huge amount of studies has been conducted regarding what drinking it does to the body, its functions, and a persons’ performance. 

While there are some risks of drinking cold water, if you are a fit and healthy person, it’s unlikely that drinking cold water will have an extremely negative effect on you. Except perhaps a bit of brain freeze! 

However, if you are susceptible to migraines, have cardiac problems, are an elderly person, or suffer from digestive issues — such as Achalasia, refraining from drinking chilled H2O is probably in your best interest. If you catch colds and flu frequently, then cold water won’t help you. The same goes for if you are currently struggling with a cold or flu.

Overall, you should remember to stay hydrated throughout your day, especially when exercising, working, or being generally active. Water that is room temperature, or even water that is warm, has the best effect on your body and its essential functions.