I've long held onto this belief that drinking water with meals was a bad idea. Intuitively, it felt right to avoid it – drinking water while I ate would create a swimming pool of floating food in my stomach, and thus make digestion slower and leave me feeling bloated. But is this actually true or did I let my imagination get the best of me? Here’s what you need to know about drinking water with meals.
The Digestive Process
When you take the first bite of your food, salivary glands in the mouth begin to produce saliva, which contains enzymes that break down the food. Saliva also helps to soften food before it travels down your esophagus. Upon entering your stomach, the food is mixed with acidic gastric juice, breaking the food down even further into a thick liquid called chyme. From there, chyme enters the small intestines for nutrient absorption. After the small intestines, it is eliminated into the colon for eventual elimination.
Many argue that it is in the stomach where acidic gastric juices are breaking down food and water is unwelcome during the process. They say that water dilutes the digestive juices and thus delay the digestive process. This is exactly in line with what I’ve always assumed and have also felt to be true. If I chug water during a particularly salty meal, I immediately feel very full and bloated (hint: it doesn’t feel great). But does that feeling equate to impaired digestion? Apparently not.
Drinking Water with Meals
Drinking water during or after a meal does not disturb digestion. The digestive system reacts according to the kinds of foods you eat.
Meanwhile, water helps to break down and liquefy food so that your body can absorb nutrients. Water also prevents constipation by softening stools and keeping the digestive tract lubricated.
When it comes to overeating at mealtime, water may be your best sidekick. It gives you the sensation of being full faster. In this way, you take breaks from your food and can check in with your hunger signals more consciously.
What I always mistook for having messed up my digestion – immediately bloated and full – was actually a temporary response to ingesting water. The fullness likely held me back from overeating and the water was simply helping my body to lubricate the food I just ate so that I could digest my meal even more effectively than without the liquid.
Do you drink water with your meals? Why or why not? Let us know on our Facebook page.