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.

Conclusions

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.

72 thoughts on “Drinking Water before or After food? A Wrong Habit – Ayurveda Proof”

  1. Excellent article doctor, there were so many confusions regarding this. Though I used to drink excess water somewhere I felt this is not correct and the article is here to solve confusions.
    Can you please write a article on the ancient Indian utensils like bronze and copper, recently there is a rave about goodness in cooking with these utensils, I definitely want to buy some.

    Reply
  2. please clarify how much litre to be taken in a day?.As per Japanese and ancient Chinese system drinking about 650 ml water early in the morning without brushing cleanses your lymphatic system and cut off much diseases. even i found this is useful for acidity and haemorrhoids. please clarify.
    thanks.

    Reply
  3. Dear Dr hebbar
    Sir
    Really it is good arcticle to resolve persons confusion regarding intake of water ,
    Suresh

    Reply
  4. Sir the thing is still not clear to me. For how long before & after meal the water isn’t to be taken. You haven’t mentioned the gap which is the most important aspect of this question put up by me. Waiting for your answer. Thanks

    Reply
  5. sir thanks for being informative but i have to clarify that whether the temp. of water to be taken is also mentioned in our ayurveda or we shd drink lukewarm water

    Reply
  6. This is a wonderful article,especially the clarification to drink when thirsty. This is the true virtue of Ayurveda to answer nature’s urges. There has been so much written on the amount of fluids to have per day, and it makes perfect sense..liquid before or after food will douse the fire of agni. Thank you for the time clarification for before and after food. Ayurvedic practitioners, students, and lay people are blessed with your knowledge. I keep a file of all your postings to assist me with my practice.
    With Gratitude.

    Reply
    • Hello Suzanne Maio, I feel my work satisfying when I receive comments from good Ayurveda practitioners like you, saying that they feel enabled to help their patients better with my articles. Thank you very much and wish you all the success. 🙂

      Reply
  7. If drinking water before or after the meal supposedly dilutes the Agni, will it not have the same effect, if taken during the course of the meal?

    Reply
      • Currently, there are 120 comments waiting for my reply. I cannot spend more than half an hour per day on this. My general time to reply to comments is one week.

        Reply
    • During the course of meal, the Agni will start interacting with the food to initiate the process of digestion. Hence, water consumed at this point would be used up by the food particles to disintegrate. There will be only less interaction between agni and the water at this point of time.

      Reply
  8. Dear Dr Hebber,

    The above article on “When to Drink Water in Relation to Meal” has been explained brilliantly in a very simple manner and solves all queries we had until this time. Your efforts and hard work are commendable.

    Best regards,
    Kunwar Singh

    Reply
  9. Sir, I take warm water (approx 4-5 glasses) in the morning without brushing my teeth or gargling & in my case too this has worked wonders in my acidity related complaints along with the medicines of course. I have followed only simple rules of Ayurveda & benefited by following them only. Didn’t read any book on Ayurveda for these simple rules. More than the medicines it’s the lifestyle & diet that helps us which is what I have analyzed. I think my body was able to revive because I never indulged in too many medicines also. After 2001 never took a single medicine(not even chyawanprash) till 2010. These last 3 yrs have been horrific as I haven’t taken medicines for such a long time(didn’t take it in large quantity till last 3 months also where I doubled my dosage as my body began to cope up after that & now is recovering faster) previously in my life. Now everything has come back. The pain towards liver side too has come down. Just a little problem is remaining which too will go away in this month itself I think. Long live Ayurveda & thanks Sir for sharing your knowledge with the whole world.

    Reply
  10. dear,sir,
    very good artical,i like it very much,please write about how many time we take food and how much please clear it.please

    Reply
  11. Hare Krishna. Namaskar, Doctor. Thank you very much. Would you kindly touch on the topic of hot water during meals and between meals? i understand it has a different effect than cold.

    Reply
  12. It is mentioned that drinking water either before, or after, meals dilutes the ‘Agni’. If so, please explain how drinking water during the course of the meals does not dilute the ‘agni’.

    Reply
    • While taking food Agni is indulged in reacting with food and the water that is taken will be used up to moisten and disintegrate large food particles into small chunks.

      Reply
  13. Dr JV Hebbar,

    I salute you for the exemplary work you are doing by publishing articles on various aspects of health and Ayurveda. Particularly, this article on the time of consumption of water is highly helpful.

    On behalf of many of your admirers, I request you to enlighten us on the “Water Therapy” being propagated and practiced in the recent years. I wonder how intake of around 3 ltrs. of water at a time in the morning helps in improving health!

    With respectful regards,

    Nitin K. Parekh

    Reply
  14. Namaste, a very thought provoking article, I thank for your efforts in giving good basic and at times details articles of ayurveda, I m a radiologist but with interest in herbal and ayurvedic medicine,regards

    Reply
  15. good morning Dr. Hebbar,
    Thanks for very helpful article.
    Use full in our daily life.
    I want to know about hives- reason and medicine and what type of care should be taken in Ahar-food ?
    sneha

    Reply
    • Dear Ms Sneha, as per Ayurveda, Hives occur due to imbalance of Kapha and Pitta.
      Regular use of turmeric, curry leaves, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger is useful to avoid hives.

      Reply
  16. Very useful information. Instead of going with the stream you have put the facts with proof for all to see. Thank you Dr. By the way is it possible to increase the Agni(Digestive power).

    Reply
    • There are many ways to increase agni.
      Fasting once in a while, regular exercise, including safe spices such as ginger, pepper, etc are a good ways to improve agni.
      Many Ayurvedic medicines are also used for this purpose.

      Reply
  17. Hi Sir,
    Im having problems with my digestive system, seems like my digestive fire is low or weak so i get bloated and fluctuance couple hours after meal.i really want to correct this by drinking water in appropriate times to i can increase my digestive fire, i also find it hard to gain weight. i want to ask Dr, If drinking water soon before and after a meal is bad for our digestion.could you tell me is the water or any other liquid that taken in between meal have limited quantity?could i drink 250ml of water or any other liquid in between the meals?

    Reply
    • Hi Arnaz, Like I have explained in the article, drinking water soon after or before food is not ideal. However, you can have 250 ml of water while taking a meal (in between).

      Reply
    • Hot water in small quantities can be had before food. But as a general rule, it is best to avoid any water – hot / cold just before food.

      Reply
    • Hi Dr,
      Okay then, Thank you very much for all of your answer to me.i will add this weight gaining foods into my diet

      Reply
  18. Hi, all the allopathic ENT doctors disapprove of putting ear drops in ear, fearing infection. If the oil is genuine and pure, I do not see a problem with oil ear drops.

    Reply
  19. “In western country most of there foods contains less liquids like pizza, bread, pasta, burger, sandwich etc.. so they will always have a liquid along with there meal like green tea, coak, soup or beer etc.. In india meals, Normally our food contains lot of water in itself example: idli, dosa with sambar or chutney , rice with sambar,rasam,butter milk etc..
    so a typlical indian meals dont need water in between meals (unless if something is more hot, salty or spicy…) also if we eat slowly and chew nicely we dont need water in between.” this is explantion from one of the ayurvedic doctor. but it was accepted that we should not have water immediately before or after meal.
    Problem with me is i am convinced with above statement and what you said regarding water in between meal is also logical. At last i am confused.:-)

    Reply
    • Hi, liquid in any form is good to have between meals and water before or after meals is not good. That is the bottom line.

      Reply
  20. I would like to clear up a misunderstanding. “In between meals” does not mean “during a meal”. It means between breakfast and lunch or lunch and tiffin or between tiffin and dinner or between dinner and supper. In yoga we were taught that we should avoid drinking water half or one hour before or after a meal and during the meal. One hour before or one hour after the meal one may drink water. Drinking water during the meal
    fills up the stomach and some people do it to diet. It is not a good practice as it affects the proper digestion of food. I usually drink water only when thirsty the doctor says.
    Hope I have clarified the matter.
    Regards to all. Happy eating! Happy Deepavali!
    L.Kalavathi B.Sc.(Hons) Physics, MBA, CAIIB, MA(Yoga)
    Retd. Bank Official
    Chennai, Tamilnadu, India
    30th October, 2016

    Reply
  21. Thanks for the educational article. I do have a query. I take a ayurvedic herb
    as a natural medicine to help me regularize my bowels.it is to be taken with water, after food. After how long should I take my medicine after my meal for it to be effective?

    Reply
    • Sir, According information collected from different sources, it is learnt that a small amount of water can be taken before start of food. Again small amount of water can be taken between different varieties of food taken. And also at the end of meal small amount of water can be taken. Before half of an of taking food and up to half of an hour after taking food, no water should be taken. This will help generation of sufficient saliva which will help digestion. If water is taken up to taking food, during the course of eating food and immediately after taking food, saliva can not be generated. Saliva only help digestion of food and not water.
      Thanks

      Reply
  22. Dr, Got confused by L.Kalavathi comment as i didnt see your reply on it, in between food means you are referring to during food only right?

    Reply
  23. Dr. Hebbar, your depth of understanding of Ayurveda makes you present complex facts in such an easy to understand manner… Brilliant Sir ! God bless .

    Reply
  24. Hi,
    1. The rule of not drinking before / after meals – is for healthy people without health complaints, to maintain their health.
    In people with acidity or any disorder, the rule may change.

    2. The ill effects explained does not show up on a short span. They are the long time effect.

    Reply
  25. Sir..from few days i have indigestion problem…any heavy food like chicken, fatty item when evr i take i hv indigestion issue along with acidity or gas problem sometimes

    Reply
  26. Dr Hebbar I agree with you, from my understanding also drinking water before breakfast will avoid the person to take breakfast as the hydrochloride acid in his stomach is diluted.

    Reply
  27. Thank you very much Sir, for this valuable information,
    I had to ask that in ayurveda is it not mentioned that we should
    drink no drop of water with food
    as Rajiv Dixit said or is it false that we should not drink a drop of water with food.

    Reply
  28. Thank you Sir.
    When now I drink water between food consumption I feel good.
    Previously I was misguided by Rajiv Dixit, many of his claims would be wrong then.

    Reply
  29. Thanks so much, doctor. A lot of confusion prevails both with regard to when and how much to drink. Authentic information from you

    Reply
  30. Amazing article undoubtedly Sir! But i have doubt. Is it not true that water is neutral in nature, it is neither alkaline nor acidic which means that it will have little or no impact on the digestive juices ( cannot dilute them like a base does) then how will it reduce the digestive fire? How can water have a cooling effect on the digestive strength then?

    Reply
    • the digestive juices operate in an acidic medium. If water is added to acid, acid gets diluted. There is difference between dilution and neutralization.
      The very nature of water is – coolant. Hence, wherever cold water is used, it exhibits coolant effect.

      Reply

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