How Cold Food and Drink Affect Digestion

Ice water inhibits proper digestion

Properly functioning digestion is the center point of good health. It is the starting point of energy production that supports ongoing life, providing nutrition for our whole system. All other organs in our body are related to and supported by digestion and begin to function poorly when there are gut problems.

Digestion is a warm metabolic process. Human beings are warm-blooded, like all mammals. The physiological and biological activity of our bodies require warmth to function properly. 98.5 degrees Fahrenheit is our optimal operating temperature.

In nature, cold slows things down. Ice-cold fluids and refrigerator-temperature food slow down digestion. Slow digestion can cause bloating, constipation and diarrhea, hemorrhoids, indigestion and GERD, gastritis, gallbladder problems, obesity and weight gain, and impaired absorption of nutrients.

Chinese medicine describes our warm digestive process as digestive fire. Modern science describes this as hydrochloric acid in the stomach and digestive enzymes in the small intestine. The function of this fire is to ripen and to rot, both warm processes as we see with fresh vegetables in a warm climate. Keeping the digestive fire hot is the foundational principle of Chinese dietary understanding.

Digestion functions very much like a compost pile. Organic matter undergoes ripening and rotting caused by external heat and microbial fermentation. In winter, when heat is absent, compost ceases to break down. The pile grows larger not smaller as in summer. When digestion is cold we too accumulate undigested energy as fat.

Constantly drinking ice-cold fluids appears to be a uniquely American practice. This is likely due to our association of refrigeration with food safety and a historical linking of cold drinks with success and wealth. In European and Asian cultures there remains the understanding that cold drinks and food affect digestion causing ill-health. There is little cold drink and raw vegetable consumption.

Just like fresh vegetables in a cold refrigerator, the food in our digestive tracts ripens and rots very slowly in the presence of ice-cold temperatures caused by cold food and drink. For optimal health keep your digestive fire hot by keeping your food and drink warm.

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