By Shannon Leingang, Acupuncturist
The first rule of acupuncture is…stop drinking ice water!
When patients come to see me with any sort of digestive complaints, one of the first things I ask them is if they drink cold or iced water. Often times the answer is yes, and frequently those who drink cold or iced water also feel very thirsty. I’m going to paint a picture of how thirst, digestion and cold/iced water correlate in Chinese Medicine.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine the stomach is visualized as the cauldron of the body. The kidneys provide the fire under the cauldron to cook the food. When you put ice water in the cauldron there has to be that much more fire to cook the food and water in the cauldron. Which means when we put ice water into our stomach our kidneys have to work that much harder to cook the food and water in our stomach in order for us to get the nutrients and hydration that we need. When the fire is blazing and we are only getting a fraction of the benefit from the ice water we are taking in, we have that much more thirst! And when our stomach does not have enough time to properly cook and digest our food, then this leads to digestive issues- diarrhea, constipation, gas, acid reflex, nausea, vomiting, indigestion etc.
The United States is one of the only places where water is served with ice. If you are having digestive issues, simply start with cutting out cold/ice water. For some this is very challenging, so I recommend going slowly. Start using less and less ice and work your way to room temperature water. The best thing you can do for your digestion is start the morning with a hot cup of water with honey. You can also add lime or lemon but note that having citrus everyday can cause some erosion of the enamel on your teeth. Drinking hot water in the morning helps heat up the cauldron, making the stomach and kidneys work less hard to digest your food and hydrate your body.
Always remember the first rule of acupuncture… stop drinking ice water.