Myths and Facts About the Effects of Cold Water on Digestion

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Cold water might hurt your stomach if you're sensitive to it.
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You might think there's nothing quite as refreshing as a cool glass of water. But can the water's cold temperature lead to stomach pain or bloating? Or, is cold water actually more beneficial, health-wise? Here are some common myths and facts about cold water and your digestion.

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Fact: Cold Water Might Hurt Your Stomach

Stomach pain from cold water really is a thing, says William J. Bulsiewicz, MD, a board-certified gastroenterologist in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, and author of ‌Fiber Fueled.

"It's possible that some people have sensitivity to temperature and can have stomach spasms as a result of cold water," Dr. Bulsiewicz says. "This is a completely individualized phenomenon, so if you drink cold water and notice discomfort, then you might consider opting for room-temperature water instead."

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Myth: Cold Water Causes Bloating

This one is false, Dr. Bulsiewicz says: Cold water does not cause bloating. "Water can cause bloating if it's carbonated or if you start chugging it, and in the process of taking big gulps swallow air in addition to the water."

However, there's no reason the water's temperature alone would cause such symptoms.

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Fact: Cold Water Burns Extra Calories

This is true, Dr. Bulsiewicz says, and there's some evidence that cold water can boost your metabolism.

Here's how: "Cold water needs to be warmed up to re-equilibrate at a body temperature of 98.6 degrees," he explains. "To do this, energy is spent, so yes, cold water does speed up your metabolism." Metabolism refers to the process by which your body converts what you eat into energy, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

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A very small but widely reported study years ago showed that drinking 48 ounces of cold water daily could help you burn about 50 extra calories a day, he says. Some studies since then, though, have noted a much smaller and very marginal effect from the cold temperature that likely wouldn't result in significant calorie burning or weight loss.

However, drinking enough water throughout the day may encourage weight loss regardless of temperature, especially if you choose water over other high-calorie beverages.

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People who drank the largest amount of plain water each day ate fewer total calories, drank fewer sweetened beverages and ate less fat, sugar, salt and cholesterol than their counterparts who drank less plain water in a February 2016 Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics study. Upping your water intake by 1 to 3 cups a day could decrease calorie intake by 68 to 205 calories a day, the researchers wrote.

The Importance of Staying Hydrated

Whether water is cold, warm or room temperature, drinking enough throughout the day is key to staving off dehydration, which can lead to headaches, dizziness or digestion problems, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

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Exactly how much water you need each day to stay hydrated varies. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggests between about 9 and 12 1/2 cups a day.

You also get plenty of water from foods. Foods rich in water include lettuce, leafy greens, cucumbers, bell peppers, summer squash, celery, berries and melons, according to Harvard Health Publishing.

Just avoid drinking too much water at night, Dr. Bulsiewicz says. "Nighttime is meant for rest — you want deep, uninterrupted sleep," he says. "Getting up to use the restroom is one of the things that can interrupt a great night's rest, and, therefore, the best time to be drinking water is during daylight hours."

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Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.

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