We all know that staying hydrated is vital to your health. But should you also drink water during your meals?
Some people say water dilutes the digestive juices and interferes with digestion. Is this true? In this post I explain the role of water in digestion and you will learn who should and who shouldn’t drink while eating.
To understand the role water plays in digestion, you have to understand the normal digestive process first.
The Role Of Water In Digestion
It all start in the mouth were you first break down the food by chewing. Chewing also signals your mouth to produce saliva, which is mostly water but also includes enzymes, which help you break down the food.
Once you swallowed your food it will get mixed with acidic gastric juice in your stomach. This mixture and the further breakdown of the food particles results in a thick goo called chyme.
From this point on your body does not distinguish between individual ingredients of your meal but simply absorbs all the nutrients it can get as the chyme moves through your digestive system.
Now, the question is, does the addition of water hurt this process and lead to suboptimal digestion?
Many people believe that drinking water with meals dilutes stomach acid, which in turn makes it more difficult for the body to digest nutrients.
But our stomach will sensor not only the nutritional content of a meal but also the consistency of it and adapt its digestive response. If the stomach acids should get diluted by a very high water intake, your stomach would adjust to bring the acidity of the gastric juice back to normal.
Do Fluids Speed Up Digestion?
Another claim is that fluids speed up digestion, which leads to less nutrient uptake. The idea is that because the meal has less contact time with stomach acids you get fewer nutrients than if you didn’t drink any water along with your food.
But there is no scientific research to back up this claim. In fact, one study measured the stomach’s emptying speed and noted that, even though liquids did pass through the digestive system at a faster rate than solids, this didn’t affect the solids’ speed of digestion.
So drinking water with meals usually doesn’t have negative effects on digestion, but it does have some benefits.
Water acts as a natural lubricant and makes swallowing dry foods easier. That way it will also be easier for your intestinal walls to push food along smoothly, which prevents constipation and bloating.
Drinking water before or during meals can also help with weight loss. Not because it boosts metabolism or digestion, but because you will eat slower and are less likely to overeat. Eating at a slower speed give your body more time to send you anti-hunger hormones which can take up to 20 minutes.
So all in all, there is no evidence that you should avoid drinking water during your meals. It actually helps with digestion and leaves you feeling full sooner. What this means is that you should base your decision on what feels best.
If, for some reasons, consuming liquids makes you feel bloated, then drink water before or after our meals. This can sometimes happen with people who suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disease. Otherwise feel free to drink and eat at the same time. Our bodies are a lot smarter than many people think and evolved to digest all types of foods under all types of conditions.