How Much Water Should You Actually Drink? Ayurveda Opinion

“Sir, you have written in your book that drinking water only when one is thirsty is good. But I have read in one book that thirst destroys body mechanism. Feeling thirsty is a sign of body weakness. Grab for water in a day even if you don’t feel thirsty.”
“Many health experts advise that one should drink 8 glasses of water. Is that true? What Ayurveda says about it?”
These are the questions from Maa! From USA and Vivek Tandon.
Let’s analyse.

How Much Water Should We Drink?

There is no truth in thirst theory

We feel hungry. Does that destroy our body mechanism? Many people do food-less and water-less fasting. Have they caused injury to their bodies? No. So, there is no truth in saying that thirst is a sign of disaster.
We feel hungry, when the body needs food. Similarly we feel thirsty when the body needs water. As per Ayurveda, thirst is one of the “Vega” – an urge of the body, indicating a need.

Thirst is an urge

Ayurvedic Mantra – Supply only when there is an urge.
According to Ayurveda, thirst, hunger, sleep, sneezing, urination, defecation etc are called natural urges.
Ayurveda preaches that “Not attending a natural urge, when it is there, and initiating an urge, when it is not there leads to disease. “
For example, any healthy person should eat when he feels hungry. He should not eat, when there is no hunger.
Similarly, water should be had whenever there is thirst and it should not be had, when there isn’t any thirst.

How much water to drink?

How much water should I drink? 
There are some theories that if you drink 8 glasses of water, it will detoxify and flush of all the toxins in the body.
Excess of water drinking is good for skin, as it keeps it well nourished and hydrated.

But this is not true as per Ayurveda! As a co-incidence, researchers also have same opinion

Water is a coolant. Too much of water intake, even when you’re not feeling thirsty will cause indigestion and may cause or worsen a condition called as “Ama”. This is a product of improper digestion and metabolism at the level of digestive track and at the level of body tissues and cells. As per Ayurveda, ‘Ama’ is the precursor for a host of diseases.
Drinking a large quantity of water will cause increase of Kapha and Vata, and decrease of Pitta and digestion power.
Related reading – Greatest secret of Ayurveda

So, how much water to drink? 
Till you feel satiated. Stop it there. Satiation is a signal from your body to stop drinking.

Right time to drink water is, while taking food. Drinking water before food is not very recommended. After food, drink water only if you’re feeling thirsty.

Modern research

Associate Professor Michael Farrell from the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute oversaw the work by University of Melbourne PhD student Pascal Saker as part of a collaboration with several Melbourne institutes, regarding this issue about right quantity of water intake. Michael Farrel says – “If we just do what our body demands us to we’ll probably get it right – just drink according to thirst rather than an elaborate schedule,” Associate Professor Farrell said. (Source)

Excess water consumption

Is too much water harmful to the body?
How much water is good to the body? It is a never-ending debate and we have addressed this issue many times before. Here is the comparison between the modern scientific argument and where Ayurveda stands. Long story short, there are no discrepancies between the two theories, but Ayurveda puts furth some clauses and warns against generalization of rules.

Modern argument: 
Mild levels of dehydration can produce disruptions in mood and cognitive functioning (1). Brain is made up of 75% of water. So, dehydration affects the brain, so we should be drinking water frequently. 

It is a well-accepted theory that healthy people should be drinking sufficient quantities of water every day. But Ayurveda advises that one should wait for the thirst urge to occur to drink water. This principle is in line with the scarcity – abundance theory of Ayurveda. 

Whenever the body needs something, it will produce signals. Act on those signals.
Hunger, thirst, yawning, belching, flatus, urination, defecation etc are such signals. 

With thirst –
A health person
should drink water when we are thirsty.
should drink sufficient quantities of water till the thirst is quenched completely and the person should not drink water without the thirst signal. 

This does not mean that we should be limiting the water intake. It only means that we should wait for the urge to appear. 

This keeps the body to produce necessary signals at the right time and it keeps the body in perfect balance. 

It is true that dehydration leads to decreased brain functions. But going with the scarcity theory, it is fine to keep the brain functioning with limited resources. This is akin to fasting.
Brain requires glucose. It does not mean that we should be eating glucose all the time. 

Water and Agni –
Agni is the digestive component of the body.
Excess water intake can decrease agni and hunger. This is why, for people intending to lose weight, water is advised before food, so as to decrease hunger. For obese patients, who are trying to incorporate intermittent fasting, drinking excess water helps to keep the hunger under check. Extrapolating this theory into healthy people, it is not good to have a decreased Agni caused due to excess drinking of water. That is why, it is advised not to drink water excessively, except during summer and autumn seasons. Excess water not only dilutes Agni, it also dilutes and weakens Dhatus – tissues. 

What if someone does not get thirsty at all?
As per Ayurveda, lack of thirst signal is a sign of Pitta dosha depletion. Including healthy amounts of spices such as ginger, black pepper, cumin, fennel, asafoetida etc. can be helpful to finetune the thirst signal. 
What about diseases?
The above rules are applicable only to healthy people. In urinary tract infection, kidney stones etc., larger amounts of water is advised and in case of cardiomyopathy, renal damage etc, fluid restriction is advised. In such conditions, the above rule does not apply.

33 thoughts on “How Much Water Should You Actually Drink? Ayurveda Opinion”

  1. Very interesting article. Is that the same reason why in old times pregnant women were not allowed to drink too much water?

    Reply
    • I have not heard about this. But if such a belief system is there, then the reasons are same as above.

      Reply
  2. I have a doubt. I used to suffer from chronic constipation. I had read about the water therapy and started doing the following.
    As soon as I wake up, I drink around 800 ml of water on empty stomach. I then do some mild exercise. Within a week of following this, my constipation got cured and I started getting a proper bowel movement every morning soon after drinking water and doing the exercise. I also gave up drinking tea and coffee. I then found that I started feeling better and my migraines which I used to get atleast once in 10 days also decreased.

    Other than the water therapy in the morning, I drink whenever I feel thirsty. I normally try to drink about a glass of water an hour after every meal. Should I make any changes in my pattern of drinking water? Am I doing anything wrong?

    Reply
    • See, I was referring to drinking water by healthy people. In your case, you are using water for medicinal purpose, for your chronic constipation problem. Since you have found benefit from drinking that amount of water, I suggest you to continue the same.
      I do not think, you are doing any wrong.

      Reply
  3. What if, you are feeling thirsty, before taking food?-
    What if you are feeling hungry and thirsty at the same ?
    ‘HAVE WATER AND FOOD TOGETHER SO THAT THE DIGESTIVE JUICES ARE NOT DILUTED?’

    Reply
    • If you are too much thirsty before food, then take water, wait for 15 – 30 minutes, then take food.
      If you are feeling hungry and thirsty together, then, like you said, food and water can be had together. Or start with food then take water.

      Reply
  4. Is it okay to drink tea with the food or after meal ? Does it help in digestion in any way? Is there any adverse effect?

    Reply
    • It is ok to drink tea along with food, provided, you have the habit of it. If the quantity of sugar in the tea is very less, then it helps in digestion. I do not think there is any adverse effect with it.
      Tea after meals – If you have the habit of ending the meals with curds / curd rice / ice cream / any coolant food or drink, then it will not be a good idea to take tea after meals.

      Reply
      • I have heard that drinking tea along with food prevents the absorption of iron, especially in the case of vegetarians. Does Ayurveda have a different opinion?

        Reply
        • Dear Dr. Hebbar,
          How long after or before intaking tannins should one eat in order not to disrupt digestion nor inhibit nutritional absorption?
          Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge!
          Kiki

          Reply
  5. Dear Doctor,

    Want to clarify something, drink water should be 15-30 minutes before meal, can take food together with water/soup on same meal (ideal not limited 250cc?), can drink water 2 hours after meal. In fact, majority of health books in bookshop mention foods avoided to drink together. It affects indigestion even chinese medicine. This opposes with ayurveda medication

    Reply
  6. There are some days where one doesn’t feel thirsty at all for long hours and hence subsequently results in constipation. Any ideas on how to ‘break’ that long period of not drinking water?

    Reply
  7. Hi Dr,
    i am confused with ayurveda ways of drinking water. There are ayurveda’s that said we should drink water 30 minutes before and 2 hours after. And you said drinking in between meals is best and not before or after. There is also said that give at least 1 hour before drinking. So, is drinking in between and after meals really bad for our digestion? i have digestive problems like bloating, constipated and fluctuance and wanted my digestion to be better by drinking water or any other liquid in correct timing

    Reply
    • Dear Arnaz,
      Just remember that it is not good to drink water just before or soon after food.
      It is healthy to drink water while having meals.

      Reply
  8. is it advisable to stop a person from drinking water under the impression that he is drinking more? especially if that person is physically active or do we have to wait for this person’s natural satiation to stop drinking water ?

    Reply
  9. nice article!

    I think when you are having solid food, it becomes difficult to have food without water.One can take limited amount of water with food as it will help in digestion.

    I used to take large amounts of water mostly together with food(up to 1 litre) but little otherwise. Now i have switched to not having water 1 hour before or after food,i do take a few sips while having food. I am feeling better and my digestion has improved.

    Another observation is that if you avoid very spicy food, green chillies and pickle, which i used to have all the time, you won’t need too much water with food or afterwards.

    Reply
    • Nice points and observations.
      Just to make it clear, I am not saying that high amount of water is not needed. I am just saying that, high or low, the quantity of water should be consumed based on one’s thirst level. That is all.

      Reply
  10. Thank you Dr Hebbar for this wonderful article. Traditionally, we had boiled water but now every one wants RO or UV filtered water. Is it a marketing gimmick that most of the microbes are not killed on boiling and is there really heavy metals present in drinking water for which we need RO. What would be your take? What is your personal suggestion?

    Reply
  11. Dear Dr. Hebbar

    Your article contains very useful information. In contrast to your article, I have recently read about a practice called “Usha Paani Chikitsa” which recommends drinking 1.5 liters of water as soon as one wakes up. The list of diseases this claims to cure is long.

    Is “Usha paani chikitsa” an Ayurvedic practice? I would appreciate your comments on this practice and the claims it makes regarding curing various diseases.

    Reply
    • Hi, Usha paani Chikitsa is a derived Ayurvedic treatment concept. I can say this outright, because the term Paani is a Hindi word (and not Sanskrit).
      As a treatment method, if the patient requires lowering of digestive fire (Agni), this Usha Paani treatment can be adopted. However, I do not find its benefits in a healthy person.

      Reply
  12. DRINKING FOUR GLASSES OF WATER IN THE MORNING IS GOOD OR BAD?
    IF IT’S GOOD CAN A PERSON DRINK A GLASS OF LEMONADE WITH 3 GLASS OF SIMPLE WATER?

    Reply
    • As per Ayurveda it is not recommended to drink water if one is not thirsty. But some people are accustomed to drink water early in the morning so as to ease constipation. If that is the case then no problem in drinking water early in the morning. It is fine to drink a glass of lemonade with 3 glasses of water.

      Reply
  13. But it can be so that a person does not feel thirst, although he is drying up. What will be your advice?
    And another question: Can we replace water with soups and other drinks like smoothies and healthy cocktails?

    Reply
  14. Dear Doctor
    I drink daily around 250-300 ml boiled water by cooling it to body temperature, also use lemon (Nimbu) in water. is it good or bad ? does it create effect of body weight ? I am under weight person.

    Reply

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