Is Drinking Cold Water Bad for Your Health? | A Chinese Medicine Explanation

Last updated on August 6, 2021.

In the summer, cold water is enjoyable for many of us, to cool down and quench our thirst. From a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) perspective, however, cold water actually brings your body more harm than good. Read more to find out why!

Drinking cold water hurts your spleen and stomach

In traditional Chinese medicine, cold water and iced drinks weaken the spleen and stomach, interfering with their normal functions. The spleen is the major organ for the formation and circulation of “Qi” to distribute blood and nutrients throughout the human body. A healthy “Qi” circulation is fundamental to motivate digestion and absorption, enhance blood circulation and synthesis, and immunity protection. The spleen adapts to moderate and warm temperatures better as “Qi” circulation is optimized in a warmer environment, on the other hand, coldness can potentially slow down and inhibit “Qi” circulation.

A popular TCM theory — “the stomach works best with warmth rather than coldness” suggests that consuming warm and hot foods keep the stomach healthy, while cold and iced food may harm the stomach and interrupt its digestive function. 

According to TCM principles, there are six groups of natural pathogenic elements that alter one’s physiology, namely the “wind”, “coldness”, “summer-heat”, “dampness”, “dryness” and “fire”. Since cold water is regarded as a kind of “cold” pathogenic element, its “cold” nature would slow down and obstruct “Qi” circulation of the spleen, leading to a weakened spleen and hence poor digestion and absorption of nutrients. Nonetheless, the “cold” nature of cold water also disturbs the favorable temperature of the stomach, causing the stomach to generate more heat in order to strike a balance. Such reactions inhibit the stomach from working properly, thus affect the digestion process. As a result, drinking cold water damages the spleen and stomach, which ultimately leads to a series of potential gastrointestinal conditions, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dyspepsia, malabsorption, loss of appetite, etc.

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Cold water accumulates dampness

In addition, “Qi” circulation is also responsible for “dampness” catabolism. A combination of damaged spleen and the “coldness” nature of cold water may slow down “Qi” circulation. As “Qi” circulation fails to catabolize “dampness” effectively, “dampness” accumulates and further inhibits the digestive performance of spleen and stomach, resulting in a vicious circle. Theoretically, accumulation of “dampness” may bring about signs and symptoms like dizziness, fatigue, poor sleep quality, sensation of heavy limbs, oedema, overweight, obesity, etc.

Drinking cold water increases the risk of menstrual disorders

Women should pay more attention to the temperature of drinking water. Due to the fact that the “cold” property of cold water may harm “Qi” circulation and slow down blood circulation, a prolonged cold water drinking habit might induce “Qi” obstruction and blood accumulation. TCM experts believe that “Qi” obstruction and blood accumulation is a major contributing factor to several menstrual disorders, such as menstrual pain, endometriosis, uterine fibroids, etc. 

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Cold water weakens your immunity

Last but not least, the spleen is a part of the human immune system. In TCM theory, “Qi”  strengthens immunity and keeps us away from pathogens and infectious diseases. That being said, the spleen as the organ for “Qi” formation, protects us from getting diseases like flu and common cold. Consequently, drinking cold water may harm the spleen as well as your immunity.

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In general, drinking cold water and iced drinks harms your health and makes you more susceptible to many disorders. Start replacing your iced beverage with warm or room temperature water instead to get healthier!

This article was independently written by Healthy Matters and is not sponsored. It is informative only and not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be relied upon for specific medical advice.