There is a lot of confusion among people regarding whether they should drink water before or after their meal. Some experts believe that drinking water after eating could disturb your digestion and cause health problems like gas, bloating, and constipation. But is it that bad to drink water with your meal?
Drinking water, in general, is linked with a lot of benefits for our bodies. It keeps our body hydrated and helps in glowing skin. When your body is hydrated, it aids in digestion and even relieves you in times of constipation.
This article will discuss whether you should drink water before, with, or immediately after your meal or not. We will also try to understand what is wrong with drinking water while eating and how it impacts digestion.
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Understanding the process of digestion
To understand why drinking water is not a good idea before or after you eat, you first need to learn about our digestion mechanism. Digestion is a long process that typically takes around 30-40hr to complete.
The journey of digestion starts from our mouth and ends at the anus. The organs that play a critical role in this process are the mouth, esophagus, stomach, pancreas, liver, gallbladder, small intestine, large intestine, and anus.
The digestive process starts when you eat something. When you start chewing the food in the mouth, it activates the salivary glands to secrete saliva. It contains enzymes that help break down the food.
Food mixed with saliva then travels through the esophagus to reach the stomach. Food in the stomach is further broken down into smaller chunks by gastric acids and enzyme juices from the stomach wall. This process dissolves the food and breaks down proteins, producing a thick liquid called chyme.
In the small intestine, enzymes from the pancreas and bile acid from the liver mixes with the chyme. This further breaks down the chyme and nutrients get absorbed into the bloodstream. Leftover undigested fiber, water, and dead cells travel through the large intestine (colon), where the intestinal walls drain out the fluid, and we are left with remains called stool. Digestion ends when we excrete the stool from the anus.
Is it bad to drink water while eating?
Some people have a habit of drinking a few glasses of water while eating. This is not a good habit, as it can harm your digestion. Drinking water while eating is believed to dilute the saliva and gastric juice in the stomach. Excess of water also dilutes the concentration of digestive enzymes. Hence it disturbs the natural digestion process.
Water while eating fastens the flow of food from the stomach to the intestine. This tampers the natural absorption time of nutrients from the food. Drinking water while eating not only affects your digestion but also makes absorption of nutrients difficult.
Why is it bad to drink water just before your meals?
Dieticians support the idea of not drinking water just before your meal. Drinking water is believed to dilute the gastric fluid and enzymes in the stomach. So it is better not to drink water at least 30 minutes before you eat.
One common argument is that dilution of digestive juice in the stomach makes it less effective in the proper breakdown of food, resulting in poorer digestion. This undigested food could also increase the risk of obesity and digestive problems like gas, bloating, and constipation.
Is it good to drink water after eating?
Drinking water immediately after eating impacts our digestion the same way as drinking water while eating. By drinking water just after you finish your meal, you are again disturbing the natural digestion mechanism. Drinking liquid is greatly related to the speed of digestion. Liquids pass your digestive tract too quickly, and in the process, they take away the chyme from the stomach to the small intestine.
This early flushing out of chyme or poorly broken food is difficult to digest in the small intestine. This undigested food, when reached to the colon, can cause constipation.
Furthermore, it is very important to understand that drinking water or any liquid just after your meal adds volume to your stomach and creates pressure like you have eaten a large meal. This could lead to acid reflux, heartburn, and acidity.
How long should you wait to drink water after eating?
We should avoid water before, during, and after food. It is recommended not to drink water at least 30 minutes before and after your meal. It takes 2-3 hours to complete the initial stages of digestion. Food that we eat goes through our esophagus to our stomach and then to our small intestine. Finally, the unabsorbed waste gets flushed out of the body through the colon via the anus. When we take a gap of 30 minutes, this allows our food to enter the next stage of digestion. This way, water does not disturb the digestion in the stomach.
Drinking water just before or after eating dilutes gastric acid and enzymes, making it less effective for digestion. Plus, this also troubles the natural absorption of nutrients, causing the bare minimum nutrients to be absorbed during digestion.
Avoid drinking water before, during, or after you have your food. If required, you can have some sip of water that may help quench your thirst without harming your digestion.
Reasons to avoid gulping water after food
Water is the elixir of life. However, if you are habitual of drinking water after your food, it’s a red flag for your overall health. Below are some reasons why you should avoid drinking water after eating.
Drinking water before, during, or after your meal causes poor digestion of food. This results in a lot of undigested food in your system. The glucose from these undigested food gets converted into fat, making you obese.
Higher risk of diabetes
When converted to fat, undigested food leads to a spike in insulin levels in the body, which increases the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Drinking water after you eat is linked with an increase in uric acid levels in the body. This increase in uric acid can cause joint pain in the knee and shoulders.
LDL (bad cholesterol)
When converted into fat, undigested food in our body causes an increase in bad cholesterol in the body. High levels of LDL cholesterol raise your risk of heart attack and other heart diseases.
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Drinking water after eating is a bad habit. It dilutes the gastric acid and enzymes, which causes poor digestion of food. A similar effect can be seen if you drink water before or while having your meal. Dieticians suggest maintaining a gap of a minimum of 30 minutes before and after eating.