If there is Water, there is life, is an ancient Indian proverb; Charak Samhita compares water to nectar1, which still holds true. Up to 60% of the human body is water, an integral part of our being; it nourishes and sustains us. It is amongst the five great elements (Pancha Mahabhutas). Water represents flow and fluidity. It is essential in multiple bodily processes like providing nutrition, hydration, and detoxifying toxins. While water is universally beneficial for drinking, Ayurveda goes a step ahead and explains how a person can make the most of the humble drinking water.
Water represents the lunar element and Soma (nourishing, cooling quality). It possesses qualities that can help balance all three doshas effectively, making it Tridoshic. Furthermore, Ayurveda identifies the following qualities of water, including Mrushta (pure), Jeevena (refreshing and enlivening), Tarpana (filling and satiating), and Hrudya (useful for heart health), Bhuddiprabhodana – activating mind.
When effectively absorbed by the body, Water can offer many benefits, including the ability to cool, help digestion, offer glow, detox, antioxidant effect, reduce constipation, and increase stamina2.
However, drinking water to get its benefits is not as simple as going to the kitchen and drinking a glass of it. How much water to drink and its temperature depend on various factors like body type, age, daily activity, etc. Similarly, drinking water the right way is equally important. Ayurveda states that the way water is consumed can significantly impact a person's health3.
Ayurvedic remedies are based on the three doshas, Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. These doshas are considered responsible for a person's physical, mental, and emotional health and well-being. Therefore, based on centuries of traditional practices and scriptures, Ayurveda draws the following links between the doshas4 and how a person must consume water. Water has the following impact on all three doshas; Vata, Pitta, and Kapha.
Pitta dosha: Pitta dosha (fire and water) is associated with metabolism, digestion, and transformation in the body. Hot, oily, light, sharp, etc are some properties or traits that people with Pitta dosha exhibit. An aggravated Pitta can cause the formation of excess stomach acid, heartburn, etc.; therefore, it is crucial to soothe and balance it. Drinking a sufficient amount of water, ideally at room temperature throughout the day, is what Ayurveda recommends to maintain heat and digestive health.
Read about Pitta Diet
Vata dosha: In Ayurveda, Vata dosha (air and space) is associated with the mind-body element and is cool and dry. It governs all movement and processes like blood flow, breathing, etc. When there is a Vata imbalance, people may experience issues like constipation, poor digestion, weakness, etc. Therefore, Ayurveda recommends that people with Vata dosha must drink water after an hour of having food. Since Vata is cool and people need heat to ensure good digestion, they must drink water after meals.
Read about Vata Diet
Kapha dosha: Kapha dosha (earth and water) is associated with structure, weight, nourishment, maintenance of body fluids, and lubrication in the mind and body. It is slow, stable, soft, cool, moist, heavy, smooth, etc. People with Kapha dosha are prone to overeating. Therefore, Ayurveda recommends drinking water before meals to reduce the chances of overeating.
Read about Kapha Diet
Ayurvedic scriptures, traditional medicine, and therapeutic practices mention some unique tips and tricks that a person can follow to experience and reap the medicinal and therapeutic health benefits5 of drinking water. Here are some tips to consider for drinking water the Ayurvedic way:
Timing your water intake: Ayurveda mentions Ushapana. Ushapana can be understood as a practice where a person drinks water first in the morning.The process is believed to naturally detox the body, flush toxins out of the system, and help eliminate diseases. Traditional medicine practitioners suggest that Ushapana can also help improve metabolism, fight constipation,6 and reduce food intake7 in the morning.
It is essential to limit water intake when dealing with aggravated doshas to balance them out. The timing of water intake before and after the meal is also significantly important. For example, people with Kapha dosha should consume water before meals to limit overeating8. Similarly, people with Vata are advised to consume water an hour before a meal to ensure the heat energy allows for the proper digestion of food. Similarly, Ayurveda suggests that people with Pitta dosha can drink water anytime through the day to regulate the Agni (heat) and digestive health. Therefore, the timing of water intake is crucial as it can help detox, improve digestion, and lose weight 9.
Sit and drink: The quality of water and the time we drink are vital for our health. Similarly, how we drink water is equally important. In our everyday life, we ignore the fact that there is a certain way in which we should drink water. Ayurveda recommends that a person must drink it when they are sitting. The reason behind it is that standing while drinking water may disrupt the balance of fluids in our body and cause the accumulation of fluids. Ayurveda suggests that the nervous system10 and muscles are relaxed when sitting down, allowing the body to absorb11 and digest nutrients and other fluids efficiently. Therefore, people can benefit significantly by altering their position while drinking water.
Take small sips, do not chug: Sip, swallow, breathe, repeat. Another aspect that Ayurveda mentions about drinking water the right way is the speed and way a person should drink it. Ayurvedic texts and experts suggest that a person should ideally take small and regular sips of water rather than gulping it down in one go. In order to regulate the Agni (heat) and digestive health, Ayurveda especially suggests people with Pitta dosha to drink small sips of water while having meals to avoid its aggravation.
The right temperature of water: The temperature of the water we drink plays a crucial role in delivering its benefits. Heating the water to a specific temperature can offer potential therapeutic benefits to the person drinking it. Ayurveda recommends to drink water either at room temperature or when it is warm. Boiled water becomes sharper and offers benefits that regular water or ice-cold water does not offer. Therefore, Ayurveda recommends to avoid drinking ice-cold water as it disturbs10 the ongoing digestion process and puts off the fire. Whereas warm water aids digestion, promotes weight loss, and reduces bloating. As per Ayurveda, people with Kapha dosha tend to overeat, and drinking warm/hot water can be very beneficial in such cases, as it gives a sensation of being full and triggers a decrease in fat accumulation. In a study11 conducted in 2016 it was highlighted that warm water can help improve digestion, intestinal movements and gas expulsion.
Drink when your body needs it: Multiple claims state that a person should drink at least 8-9 glasses of water daily, however, it may not necessarily be true. A significant aspect to consider is whether a person should drink water at regular intervals or wait until they feel thirsty12. Ayurveda suggests that a person must drink water only when feeling thirsty. Since every person is different, there can be no universal formula for water intake.
Ayurveda considers thirst as Vega (an urge), and attending to a natural urge is important. However, creating an urge unnecessarily is wrong. Therefore, as per Ayurveda, people must drink water whenever they feel thirsty. According to Ayurveda, excessive water intake can lead to impaired digestion and worsen Ama13 (toxin or undigested metabolic waste) created due to the body's compromised metabolic efficiency. This holds for people planning to lose weight since water cools down the fire element, which is necessary to digest food and burn fat. However, this does not suggest that people should dehydrate themselves; their thirst should guide them.
Storing drinking water: In addition, Ayurvedic texts and traditional practices also offer insights into the right way of storing Water we drink. Ayurveda suggests that the water we drink must be kept in a copper (Tamba) vessel. Ayurveda suggests placing water in a copper container can purify14 and positively charge the Water with antioxidants and anti-bacterial properties15 and infuse. Therefore, rather than placing drinking water in plastic bottles and stocking them in the fridge, a person can opt for a copper container.
All the organs of a body need water to sustain and function properly. The excess or lack of water can lead to severe health complications and impact our everyday life. Therefore, we must understand how valuable drinking water is and that there is a method of making the most out of it. So, the next time you see a glass of water, ensure you appreciate its benefits and consume it correctly.
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