When my students ask, “What is the most beneficial diet for healthy living?”, I reply, “Leave out the ice, 冰/bing.” (Bing in Chinese means literally frozen water.) Most of the time, they are utterly puzzled by such an unexpected response. However, the best diet is the one that is free of harmful elements. In traditional Chinese Medicine, the habitual use of ice cubes in drinks is a harmful dietary custom. For digestion, our body needs the internal combustion of heat to transform the food and absorb the nutrients through our intestines. Ice, when ingested, becomes a coagulant and constricts our blood vessels and internal organs. The coldness of ice hinders the digestive process.
Another metaphor will illustrate this point quite succinctly. Imagine you are trying to cook a pot of bean soup and someone pours ice cubes into the pot. The bean soup will take twice as long to cook and taste too watery. The effect would be similar on the food inside our stomach. Our body must first heat up and melt the ice cubes in order to cook the ingested food. Often, we conclude a meal with a cold ice cream dessert which further compounds the constriction and cools the ingested food. It is no wonder that in the documentary film, “Super Size Me,” the actor who exclusively eats McDonald’s Big Macs becomes gravely ill after only one month. Besides his diet of fatty, processed foods, he is constantly drinking soda with ice.
This is a well known fact for the Chinese. In most Chinese restaurants in Chinatown with mostly Chinese clients, even in 100 degree weather in July, the waiter will serve you a hot pot of tea with your meal. Take out the bad stuff and you will be left with only good, beneficial food. In other words, perhaps the actor eating the Big Macs could have ordered tea instead of his iced drink and he might have fared somewhat better. However, the greasy, oily French Fries filled with trans fat cooking oil (at the time the movie was shot, trans fats were routinely used in frying) is more bad stuff which we will reserve for discussion in the next blog.
For digestion, our body needs the internal combustion of heat to transform the food and absorb the nutrients through our intestines. The coldness of ice blocks the whole digestive process.
In conclusion, you need internal heat to digest your food. If your digestion is already a bit slow or stagnant, then in accordance with Traditional Chinese Medicine, you should avoid all cold or cool foods like the plague. So, next time when you go to a restaurant, order a pot of tea with your meal instead.
Contributed By Sat Hon
Founder, New York Dantao Qigong School, author of “Healing Cancer with Qigong” and “Taoist Qigong for Health and Vitality.”
Let’s take a look at what cold water can do to the body
Your body is 37 degrees Celsius (98.6 degrees Fahrenheit). When you drink something very cold it takes energy to warm back up again. Drinking cold water has been touted as burning extra calories, which is true, but it also takes away from the ability to digest. So if you are going to drink cold water with ice, it is suggested to do it away from meals.
Drinking cold water can increase the risk of a headache. A migraine can be triggered by ice water consumption.
Cold water can cause mucus to build up leading to a sore throat.
Drinking ice water is taking a chance. Ice is often not purified and contains dirt particles and even fungus. Make sure to clean your trays often and if eating out, you may be safer ordering water with no ice.
Now, on the opposing side, how warm water affects the body
Drinking a cup of warm liquid is soothing and can help with pain reduction from muscle cramps including menstrual.
Done first thing in the morning, a cup of warm to hot water can boost your metabolism and lead to weight loss.
Drinking warm water can help cellular repair by improving skin elasticity, meaning you may just age better than your cold water gulping equals!
Hot water can help with digestion, hydration, and break down old stored food particles in the colon leading to better digestive health overall.
Hot water is a great treatment for colds and flu. It helps clear congestion.
Detoxify! Drinking hot water makes your body temperature rise. That helps clear your body by sweating out toxins through your pores and boosts your kidneys as well.
Surprisingly, hot beverages stimulate the pleasure areas of the brain. No wonder Starbucks is rocking the market… Hot drinks just feel good.
Choosing hot or cold drinks is very much personal preference and often based on weather. If you drink cold iced drinks try and space them between meals rather than drinking it while you eat. Your body may just thank you!
James O’Sullivan - that's me, a people friendly practitioner and lecturer of Integrated Medicine, serving my patients, my students and the public with the positive benefits of both Conventional Western Medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine.
It's a wonderful life
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to diagnose or assess. The information provided is not to be considered a substitute for consultation with a qualified health care practitioner.