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Drinking Water before or After food? A Wrong Habit – Ayurveda Proof

Dr JV Hebbar:
Mr Tarun asks – Most of the Ayurvedic personnel say different things. Some doctors advise not to drink water before food, in between food & at least for 1 hr after food. Some say that don’t take it before & after food but can be had in between meals. Can you please clarify this ? In my case I am drinking water in between meals & not before & after meals. Is this okay ?
Personally I too have seen in many online platforms, many Ayurvedic doctors suggesting to drink water after food. Let us nail this subject with authentic traditional reference once and for all. Let us empty out all doubts regarding this topic for once.

How much water should we actually drink?

I have written about this, in detail here.
To sum up, You are supposed to drink water only when thirsty. Thirst is a natural urge. Natural urges should be attended only when they arrive, as per Ayurveda. For example, we need to eat food only when we are hungry.
(Related article – why I skipped my lunch today? )
We need to urinate and defecate only when there is an urge for it. The purpose is to maintain the body’s natural circadian rhythm. To attune body to the nature based on signals given by nature. So, the point is, a normal person does not need excess of water to drink. However, in certain diseases, there are exceptions.

When to drink water, in relation to meal? 

Ashtanga Hrudayam explains this complex concept in just one line. 
समस्थूलकृशा भुक्तमध्यान्तप्रथमाम्बुपाः ।
sama-sthūla-kṛśā bhukta-madhyānta-prathamāmbupāḥ |

If we decipher this Sanskrit line, it gives the below meaning. 
bhukta  madhya ambupāḥ – When water is consumed while the person is having food, 
sama – the person will have a healthy body. 

bhukta anta ambupāḥ – When water is consumed at the end of meals, 
sthūla – the person becomes obese 

bhukta prathama ambupāḥ – When water is consumed before the meals, 
kṛśā – the person will be lean and weak.

water consumed during meals – Ensures that the food is well moistened and it makes the food get digested and absorbed easily. The nutritious part of food is well-utilized and the waste part is expelled out, so the person maintains good health. 

Water consumed after meal – The excess of water that is consumed after food will enter into the body tissues (Dhatu), along with the nutrition components. This excess water in the tissues is termed ‘āma’, which vitiates the fat tissue and blocks the nourishment to the rest of the tissues. This leads to obesity.

It affects both the quality of food and digestion strength. It gives a touch of coolant effect to whatever the food is eaten. Hence a person tends to become obese over a period of time, by this method. Hence it is not ideal.

Water consumed before meal – Dilutes the digestive juices, leading to weaker absorption of nutrition and thus the person becomes lean and weak. 
As per Ayurveda, drinking water before food dilutes and weakens the Agni (digestion strength) as water is coolant in nature. This coolant property of water is directly opposite to digestion strength. Hence taking water before food is not ideal.


It is ideal to avoid water 30 minutes before or after meals. 
If you feel excessively thirsty ahead of meal, have water, wait for at least 30 minutes then have a meal. 
If you have to take medicine with water, before or after a meal, it is better to take it at least 15 minutes before or after the meal.  
If you have increased appetite and wish to lose weight, then half a cup of water can be had ahead of meals. 
If you want to gain weight, it is not a good idea to drink water before or after food. 
Though water taken after food may help to gain weight, there will be a compromise on the quality of tissues. 
Hence, to gain weight, it is good to drink water during the meals and make sure to have high nutrition foods and avoid junk foods.

Many Ayurveda doctors, many science websites including ‘Discovery’ have advised not to drink water in between a meal. But as per Ayurveda, you are supposed to drink water between the meals only. (Let us get into its reference a bit later.)

Sanskrit verse

water before or after food

Reference: Ashtanga Hrudayam, Sutrasthana 5th chapter

Meaning –
Water should not be consumed / water should be consumed in very little quantity, by those suffering from poor digestive function, tumours of the abdomen, anaemia, enlargement of the abdomen, diarrhoea, haemorrhoids, diseases of the duodenum, dropsy.
Except during Sharad (autumn) and Nidagha (summer) even healthy persons should drink less quantity of water in the other seasons. 13-14

Jalapana Phala

Jalapana phala- (effects of drinking water with respect to meals)
Drinking water before meals – causes emaciation, weakness.
Drinking water after meals – causes obesity
Drinking water in between meals – healthy habit

If water is not to be had, then how to take medicines before meals?
While taking medicines, water, in required quantity can be had, 20 minutes before meals.

Drinking water after banana?

By Dr MS Krishnamurthy MD (Ayu), PhD
Many times, age old principles appear to be wrong  and baseless. We name them as unscientific. That is why people are not ready to accept those ideologies at a stretch as they are not having any lab reports or pharmacological reviews. Such reviews are usually sought by scientists or people with scientific attitude.

But keen observations made with the backing of ancient Ayurveda textbooks outweigh the modern research in almost all times. The above paragraph may surely irritate some people who are having a false mask of scientific attitude or those who need evidence for every matter.

Several Indian believes and traditional practices were still blamed as  unscientific. But once if such matters are approved with scientific inputs or findings they never give credit to the age old knowledge and instead they appreciate them as their own new finding.

One such example is explained below with the rationality of Ayurvedic principles (I do not need certificate of scientific approval because I have seen at least 100 such cases in my clinical practice).

Immediately after taking banana if  water (specially cold water) is taken or after drinking large amount of water immediately if banana is taken, it causes severe indigestion.

Reasons are –
a) They may be habituated
b) They may be of Pitta constitution (Prakruti,who have very good Agni – digestion strength) people or
c) Those who are not keen in their food and habits

Then how can this theory be universalized?
Even though above phenomenon is universal Pitta prakruti people are having voracious eating and digesting ability and hence they cannot recognize or they will not make this as a remarkable point.

In fact such a kind of indigestion is observed in them also; but the percentage of indigestion will be less! Where as the chances of indigestion is more with Kapha and Vata body type individuals.
Reasons are quite evident because both Vata and Kapha are having common feature of  Sheeta guna.

How it can cause severe indigestion?
By nature itself  banana possesses
Guru (heavy)
Snigdha (unctous)
Manda (slow)
Sandra (thick)
Sthira (stable)
Sheeta (cold)  qualities.
Read related: 8 Banana Remedies With Fruit, Stem, Leaf, Rhizome And Flower

When it is associated with water (that too cold water) which is also possessing similar qualities, immediately after or along with water certainly it is not digested (means, hard to digest). This causes severe indigestion is caused.

Instead if banana or water is taken with a gap of 10-15 minutes such inter mixing chances are reduced and hence chances of indigestion is also considerably less.

What about milk-curd or any juice, after banana?
Chances of indigestion still exist if milk or curd or any juice is consumed soon after banana. The chances of indigestion can be reduced if the individual takes any carminative or digestive substances such as black pepper, ginger, cumin, etc.

The intelligent mind will search further more rationalities in this respect and judicially incorporate in their words and practices.
Long live the tradition and practice.
Let it enrich by scientific inputs.Unnecessary criticism over the age old facts and practices are to be curbed. Also possible dimension should be thought of in such regards.
Click to consult Dr MS Krishnamurthy MD (Ayu), PhD

Drinking Water while Standing?

Is there any rule that water should not be consumed in standing position? Usually in our culture we eat food in sitting position only. So does the same apply for drinking water as well? 
Ideal time to drink water is along with meals.
Meals are taken in sitting position.
Ayurveda advises us to be careful with what goes into our mouth (and also into our mind).
Whenever anything is consumed, it should be consumed with full concentration. This is the reason, in many Indian households, talking during meals is prohibited.
Taking food or drinking water should not be done in a hurried manner.
Considering all these points, whenever you are thirsty, take an extra moment, sit by yourself and enjoy a cup of water 🙂

This is more of a friendly Ayurvedic guideline than a hardcore rule.
Read: Ushapana: Drinking Water Early in the Morning

Is boiled and cooled water equal to cold water?
Ayurvedaworks mainlywith a physics mindset. Any process done to any substance will bring in some physical or chemical changes to it.
If we line up lukewarm water, boiled and cooled water and cold water,
Lukewarm water is the hottest among the three, it balances Kapha and Vata well and stimulates Pitta and digestion strength.
Boiled and cooled water is cooler than lukewarm but hotter than cold water. So, it stands in between.
Cold water increases Kapha dosha and decreases Pitta and digestion strength.
Once boiled and cooled, it is advised to consume within 12 – 24 hours.

You indicated that it is best to drink water during meals. Should this be sipped as food is being chewed or is it better to eat a bit, drink a bit, then eat a bit more?

When we are chewing the food, it is better to concentrate only on chewing it.

It is better to eat a bit, then swallow, then take a sip or two of water, and so on.

It need not be – food piece, then water, then food piece etc.

Water consumption can be done at any random time, while having food / meals.

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