It’s summer, the mercury is rising, and a glass of ice-cold water is what most of us are reaching for to quench our thirst and stay hydrated.
While staying hydrated is important, especially now, the temperature of the water you drink is also important as it can have an impact on your body.
Does drinking cold water have a soothing effect? Yes, but it can impact the nasal cavity, the digestive system, and even the nervous system.
Effect on our health
There is no evidence to suggest that drinking cold water is harmful to your health, although it may cause some temporary discomfort if you are not used to it.
Drinking cold water may also help lower your body temperature and prevent dehydration during hot weather.
However, it is important to note that drinking ice-cold water can cause your body to use more energy to warm it back up to your internal body temperature, which may not be ideal if you are already feeling overheated.
Additionally, if you have a sensitive stomach or digestive issues, drinking ice-cold water may exacerbate those symptoms.
Cold water and the nasal cavity
Speaking to South First, Dr Sudhir Kumar, a neurologist at Apollo Hospitals, Hyderabad, says, “Consumption of cold water is quite common and rarely are there complications from drinking it. However, If a person has underlying symptoms of cold and allergy after drinking cold water, nasal secretion throat irritation can increase. In some studies, it is also found that people get a headache after drinking cold water.”
Consultant Physician at Yashoda Hospitals in Hyderabad, Dr Venkatesh Billakanti elaborates to South First that for some people, drinking cold water can cause a temporary constriction of blood vessels in the nasal cavity, which can lead to a sensation of stuffiness or congestion in the sinuses.
This is because the cold temperature can cause the mucus membranes in the nose to become irritated and inflamed, leading to an increase in mucus production.
Cold water and the nervous system
And the nasal cavity is not the only part of the body that is affected by chilled water.
Just like consuming ice cream or crushed ice can cause a “brain freeze”, drinking ice-cold water can have a similar effect. This is because the cold temperature can trigger sensitive nerves in the spine, which then transmit signals to the brain, ultimately leading to headaches.
Dr Sudhir explains that when someone consumes a large amount of cold water or takes a cold bath, the blood vessels, at the time, constrict and the supply of blood to the brain decreases.
“At this point, the person can have syncope — lose consciousness for some time — and when the blood starts flowing normally again, they regain consciousness. However, it’s not lethal at all,” he adds.
Cold water and the digestive system
The experts also say that when we consume cold beverages, including chilled water, blood vessels may narrow, which can also hinder digestion.
The body may shift its focus — away from digesting food — towards regulating body temperature and processing the chilled water. This could potentially disrupt the natural absorption of nutrients during digestion.
“Drinking cold water will reduce food mobility. Food goes from the stomach to the intestines for digestion. The cold water delays mobility and, therefore, this affects digestion. It’s not that there won’t be digestion, however, there will be a delay in digestion and it may cause constipation,” explains Dr Sudhir.
He also adds that there are some good benefits to drinking chilled water — it increases one’s exercise capacity! It lowers the core body temperature and heart rate, which improves your exercise performance and recovery.
What’s the best temperature to drink water?
“While there is no one best temperature for drinking water during hot weather, it is generally recommended to drink water that is at room temperature,” says Dr Venkatesh.
“The ideal temperature would be 16 degree Celsius, which is around room temperature towards the cooler side, not to hot and not too cold,” says Dr Sudhir.
Dr Sudhir says that one or two glasses of chilled water is okay, but drinking a litre of it could be problematic and “iced water is also not a good idea as it will easily irritate your throat”.
The doctors also add that hydration is important so two litres of water is must during summer.