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Warm or cold: The drinking water debate

By MYLENE MENDOZA-DAYRIT, The Philippine STAR Published Apr 16, 2024 5:00 am

It is quite easy to get dehydrated in the summer. Sweating cools our body but strips our system of hydration, which means we should drink more than the usual two liters daily. 

There is a debate on social media regarding drinking cold water. Many are swayed by fake news, so I did some research to put the issue to rest. 

Many of the medical and scientific websites I looked into agree with this fact: there is no scientific data that proves drinking ice-cold water is bad for your health. The antis say that cold water constricts blood vessels. This notion might be because of how an ice bath is used for muscle repair and pain therapy. When you immerse yourself in a tub of ice, your blood vessels constrict. That constriction limits the blood flow to areas of inflammation and swelling. 

Drinking water hot, warm, room temperature, cold or ice-cold is a personal preference. Go for the option that helps you drink two liters a day.

While the notion of blood vessel constriction might be true, no evidence exists that drinking iced or cold water is bad for your health. The simple truth is that 60 percent (on average, as this can vary depending on sex and age) of an adult’s body is water. Two-thirds of that is part of the intracellular fluid, while the rest is outside the cells.

Drink up: There is no scientific data that ice-cold water is harmful for you, especially if it’s aiding you in surviving the hot weather.

The water inside our bodies plays many roles such as a solvent for biochemical reactions, temperature regulation, transport of oxygen, nutrients and waste, as well as lubrication. So given all these very crucial roles, healthcare professionals would just like us to drink water because our life depends on it. 

Drinking water hot, warm, room temperature, cold or ice-cold is a personal preference. Go for the option that helps you drink two liters a day. To be fair, though, and to help you decide, let’s look into the benefits of drinking warm water, as well as the benefits of drinking cold water. 

Traditional Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine both value warm or room-temperature water for its health benefits. These practices claim that drinking warm water in the morning activates the system and aids in digestion.

Our body is 60 percent water, so it is vital that we hydrate properly, especially when we sweat a lot.

The claim is that warm water taken before and during a meal helps dissolve food more effectively than cold water. Since warm water is associated with the dilation of blood vessels, Eastern traditional medicine claims that this improves blood flow and circulation, which might help in muscle relaxation and pain management.

Another belief is that regular consumption of warm water first thing in the morning will help regulate bowel movements. Warm water also soothes a sore throat by dissolving thick mucus to aid the body to expel it. They recommend warm water with a pinch of turmeric and honey to soothe the throat.

If you are a warm coffee or tea drinker, be warned that these are diuretics that work against your hydration objective. Every time you take a cup of tea or coffee, you should take two glasses of water to offset the diuretic effect. Those two glasses are on top of your two-liter target. If you are having difficulty drinking a lot of plain water, try adding a bit of lemon or switch to herbal teas with no caffeine.

Drinking cold water is more beneficial when you are doing sports or exercising since it helps keep your core temperature low. Try to sip water every 15 minutes.

Is there any benefit in drinking cold water then? Experts say that the best time to drink cold water is during exercise. Studies claim that drinking cold water while exercising helps maintain or lower the core temperature, which allows people to exercise longer. Drink sips of cold water every 15 minutes while doing sports, dancing, or exercising.

Drinking iced water is also extremely refreshing in hot weather. Again, there is no scientific finding that it is harmful, especially if it helps you survive the heat and if it helps you drink more water. There are instances, though, when cold water might not be good for you.

Listen to your body. Do you suffer indigestion when you take iced water with your meals? Some report they do. Do you have sensitive teeth? If you do, then cold water is not for you. If you have other medical conditions and hydration is recommended, make sure you clarify the amount of water to take, when to take it (it should be spaced out over an entire day), and whether it should be warm or cold.

When you have a sore throat, it might be better to stay away from a cold drink. For children, diabetics, and the elderly, it is also better to stay away from ice-cold drinks during the flu season. Studies revealed that drinking cold water causes “cold stress” in the body, which reduces the movement of cilia or the hair-like projections in the throat that keep viruses and bacteria from lodging in the throat. Cold drinks also temporarily reduce white blood cells and reduce the release of cytokines, which are necessary in fighting infection.