The habit of drinking water during meals is so ingrained in some, that it will be difficult for them to nail it on one good reason. Scientifically (even in ancient Ayurveda) the importance of water for hydration, metabolism, and optimum digestive system functioning, is well documented.
The trick is not choosing between having or avoiding water but to know when and how much is beneficial. Too much water along with meals will interfere with necessary levels of bile and stomach acid, affecting optimal digestion leading to a buildup of toxic waste (ama), irrespective of what food you ingest.
Based on ancient wisdom, adopting the following habits should help you get the best nutrition from your food:
- Drink 30 minutes before your meals, hydrating the liver and the GI tract. This fluid reduces the dependence of water during meals and allowing digestive juices to work directly with food.
- A sattvic diet (water rich, mostly raw vegetarian diet) provides the hydration in the food itself while with a Rajasic and Tamasic diet drinking water during meals will be needed.
- In case you feel the need for water, take a few sips of water. Mixing in lime or apple cider vinegar to this water will boost digestion.
- Drink water 30 minutes after your meal replenishes the fluids lost in the digestion process and enables the smooth movement of digested food and nutrients through the GI tract.
- If you haven’t hydrated enough before the meal or during the day ensure that you drink water with your meal as dehydration will hamper digestion and cause problems like constipation and heartburn.
Rule: Water should always be at room temp (ideally lukewarm) and avoid aerated drinks and alcohol with food as they dry the saliva and dehydrate the body. Avoid cold water as it douses the digestive fire and can cause bloating, cramping and ama formation.
Even if this habit is deep rooted, try the above steps and notice any benefits. Try with varied combinations to something that you body feels comfortable with. The rewards from getting this right will be enormous. Listening to and being aware of your body feelers and needs is more important than staying rigid with routines. Keep your ears open and flow with it!!