Water makes the world go ’round, and it does the same for your body. Our bodies are 60% water, although we dehydrate throughout the day as we go about our business. For that reason, drinking water throughout the entire day is essential.
You have probably thought about getting into the habit of drinking more water for your health, but have you thought about what temperature water you should be drinking? Did you even know that temperature can make a difference in how water affects your body? In this article, we will look at the differences between drinking hot water versus drinking cold water. This way, you can make the right choice for living a healthier life today.
Drinking Water 101
Water is extremely important in a wide variety of processes in your body. In fact, just about every process that takes place requires water to do it. Drinking enough water will help your body regulate its temperature, keep your joints cushioned and lubricated (which in turn means less pain), keep your spine healthy, maintain the health and function of your tissues, and help you eliminate waste effectively and efficiently.
Drinking water even helps you look good. Oftentimes, upping your water intake can have a positive effect on your skin health, for example. Organs require water to function at their best, and your skin is the biggest organ in your body. Water also helps with keeping your weight down since it doesn’t add fat-causing calories and yet it makes you feel full and filled with energy.
Being dehydrated is just as bad as being hydrated is good. Your body naturally dehydrates through the day, which is why it is crucial to drink water throughout the hours that you are awake. If you are mildly dehydrated you might have a headache or feel hungry, but the symptoms worsen as the dehydration becomes more severe. Confusion, fatigue, nausea, irritability, muscle pain, seizures, and even a coma are all symptoms of dehydration.
Fun Fact: Did you know that your daily recommended amount of water doesn’t only need to come from drinking actual cups of water? Many foods have high amounts of water, giving you up to 20% of your recommended water intake per day.
Almost everyone knows that drinking water is a quality of a healthy lifestyle. But do you also know that the temperature of the water can make a difference in how it affects you? Indeed, there is a difference between drinking hot water or cold water, and each one has its advantages during specific times or for particular processes in your body. Let’s start by looking at the benefits of drinking hot water.
On average, adult men are recommended to drink 13 cups of water per day. Adult women should be drinking 9 cups of water per day. The amount of water needed changes if the person is active, pregnant, breastfeeding, or suffering from some kind of health condition.
Benefits of Drinking Hot Water
Although drinking water of any kind will make you feel and function better, hot water is in its own special category. This is because of the fact that there are a number of useful benefits that you can get from drinking hot water specifically.
Have you ever noticed that taking a hot shower improves your breathing or congestion when you have a cold or allergies? You may have even realized that it helps with a sore throat to a certain extent. This is because hot water is generally helpful when it comes to clearing up your sinuses and the symptoms that come with it. Drinking hot water in combination with inhaling the steam is the best scenario, as both things are beneficial. Drinking the water will especially help out with the mucus trapped in membranes in your neck and torso (beyond just your nasal cavities).
Helps with Digestion
Water in general helps your digestion by moving food down into your intestines and stomach, helping the waste elimination process. This applies to water of any temperature, but did you know that hot water in particular is helpful because it helps dissolve those hard-to-digest types of foods?
Relaxes your Central Nervous System
Drinking hot water is calming in many different senses. This is no different when it comes to your central nervous system, which has a lasting effect on various types of pain found throughout your body. It will even help with your brain staying calmer, and people with arthritis could actually have some less pain if they begin drinking hot water regularly.
Helps with Constipation
Along with digestion, hot water can have a positive effect on the processes further down the line. Hot water in general makes your intestines contract, which is a necessary aspect of getting waste to keep moving through. You can either start drinking hot water on a regular basis, or you can just drink it when you need that extra boost of help.
Could help you Lose Weight
Your body gets a kind of wake-up call when you drink hot water. Specifically, your metabolism is activated because it needs to “wake up” in order to start controlling your body temperature. When a hot liquid enters your body, the metabolism is required to balance out your temperature again. In addition to waking up your metabolism, hot water helps with the digestion and waste-ridding processes mentioned above. All of these things could help with losing weight.
Fun Fact: It’s possible that drinking hot water first thing in the morning can help you lose weight, especially with a lemon mixed in. This helps break down fat in your body and also eases your food cravings, thanks to the lemon.
Helps with Circulation
Both drinking and bathing in hot water can help out with your circulation. That means that blood travels more effectively through your veins and arteries, which means nutrients and oxygen are being transported better throughout your body. When the blood in your veins is flowing effectively, your risk of developing cardiovascular disease or high blood pressure is decreased.
While drinking hot water isn’t a magic potion to make all of your worries go away, hot water does tend to relax your body and mind both. It is a useful practice for having shortly before bed so you can drift off into a peaceful sleep. A consistently good night’s sleep helps you stay healthier both mentally and physically.
You may have already observed that drinking hot water sometimes makes you sweat. While no one really enjoys sweating, it does have a number of beneficial effects on your health. Sweating is a natural way of getting rid of those pesky toxins and irritants. While toxins can refer to a wide variety of substances, it generally just means harmful matter in your system that have negative effects on your body. These toxins might come from the world around you and could lead to various sensitivities or allergies.
Helps with Achalasia Symptoms
Achalasia is a condition of your esophagus that prevents your lower esophageal sphincter from opening up when you swallow. This means food builds up in your esophagus which can cause chest pain, heartburn, and general discomfort after eating. Hot water can help relieve these symptoms to a certain extent. It’s uncertain why this happens, exactly, but apparently it relieves some of the discomfort felt after eating.
One study of two patients with achalasia looked at their responses to drinking hot water and cold water. The study concluded that cold water could increase the negative effects of achalasia, while hot water helped relax the LES (lower esophageal sphincter) and thus relieved the symptoms more effectively. According to this study, eating hot food had a similar effect. Try drinking warm or hot water with your next meal to see if it feels better, and stick to warm meals instead of eating cold ones.
Is Drinking Cold Water Unhealthy?
It’s important to remember that drinking any kind of water is always a good thing. Your body needs a lot of water to keep operating fluidly, so if cold water is the only appetizing way for you to drink lots of water, then it’s still better to do that than cut down on your water intake.
Nonetheless, there are a few effects of drinking cold water that might make you want to switch to warm or hot water. Let’s look at a couple of those effects.
One study of 15 people examined mucus velocity and nasal airflow, and the effects of drinking cold and hot water on them. It concluded that hot water helped keep mucus moving, while cold water actually slowed it down quite a bit. In other words, drinking cold water when you’re trying to unblock your nose and sinuses could have an unhelpful (and maybe even negative) effect. This especially makes a difference when you’re congested from an illness. Make sure to drink warm or hot water instead of cold water.
Aggravating Pre-Existing Conditions
In addition to worsening your congestion, drinking cold water could actually make a condition that you already have worse. Women who are prone to headaches or migraines, for example, could make it worse by drinking cold water. One study examined exactly this question on 669 women and concluded that cold water commonly causes a headache in women (7.6% of the women studied). It also found that women who get migraines and had had at least one within the previous 12 months were much more likely to get a headache when they drank cold water.
As described above, achalasia symptoms can be worsened if the patient drinks cold water (which has the opposite effect of drinking hot water). This is especially the case if you drink cold water alongside eating, as seen in the study mentioned above.
Benefits of Drinking Cold Water
Of course, it’s not all bad news when it comes to drinking cold water. If you aren’t sick or don’t have one of the conditions mentioned, you might not notice any adverse effects at all. In fact, drinking cold water can actually be helpful if you’re exercising. It is beneficial because it keeps your body temperature lower without expending as much energy as is normally needed without the additional source of cold.
A study of 45 adult males who were physically fit looked at their responses to cold and room-temperature water after exercise. Their core temperature was measured four times over the course of their two 60-minute sessions of exercise. Both the cold group and the room temperature group had an increase in body temperature when they exercised, but the cold group didn’t have the temperature increase start until about 30 minutes into the exercise. The room temperature group, on the other hand, had their body temperature rise within the first 15 minutes of exercise. The study therefore concluded that drinking cold water helps the body temperature remain cool for longer during exercise.
Summary: What Should You Do Now?
There are a number of benefits to drinking both cold and hot water, so what you decide to drink should be based on your own lifestyle. If you are an athlete, for example, drinking cold water during your exercising might be a good idea. If you’re someone who suffers from allergies or headaches, on the other hand, you might want to start making a habit of drinking hot water daily.
If you’re like many people and have never consistently consumed hot water on a daily basis before, you might want to look at the following action steps. One simple change can lead to a number of natural, beneficial health effects. It certainly won’t do any harm, so why not try?
Action Steps: Tips for Drinking Hot Water Daily
- Drink a cup of hot water first thing in the morning or right before bed to get the most health benefits.
- Make sure the water isn’t scalding. It should be between 120 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Add in just one squeeze of lemon to make it even healthier (it adds vitamin C).
We all make decisions in our lives for how to feed and fuel our bodies, but sometimes the information isn’t known to make the healthiest choice. Now that you understand more about what hot water can do for your health, it’s time to change your habits and help others get informed, too. Good luck with your new, healthier lifestyle!
-  “What Are Toxins? A Detox Definition You Can Understand.” Gaia. <https://www.gaia.com/article/what-are-toxins-detox-definition>
-  “Achalasia.” HealthLine. <https://www.healthline.com/health/achalasia>
-  “Response of esophagus to high and low temperatures in patients with achalasia.” NCBI. <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23105999>
-  “Effects of drinking hot water, cold water, and chicken soup on nasal mucus velocity and nasal airflow resistance.” NCBI. <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/359266>
-  “Headache caused by drinking cold water is common and related to active migraine.” NCBI. <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11442559>
-  “The effect of a cold beverage during an exercise session combining both strength and energy systems development training on core temperature and markers of performance.” NCBI. <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3472188/>
- Fun Fact Source: “Do You Have Your Facts About Water Straight?” Shape. Accessed 23 March 2018. <https://www.shape.com/healthy-eating/healthy-drinks/myth-busters-do-you-have-your-facts-about-water-straight>
- Fun Fact Source: “Health Benefits Of Warm Water: 6 Ways Drinking Warm Water Can Heal Your Body.” Medical Daily. 14 May 2014. <http://www.medicaldaily.com/health-benefits-warm-water-6-ways-drinking-warm-water-can-heal-your-body-282218>
Alice is a diet and nutrition freelance writer who enjoys finding the next big health trend.