Is drinking hot water good for you?

I feel that there’s nothing better than a cool glass of water on a hot day. But I’ve recently learnt that in the Chinese community, it’s a common practice to favour hot or warm water over cold, no matter the weather.

“People drink hot water for cultural, historical and medicinal reasons,” says Isabel Zhang, who works in cross-cultural research.

Warm water fits into the concept of yin and yang, the foundational principle of Chinese medicine. For a person to be healthy, these forces must be in balance, Ms Zhang says. “Cold water is considered to be yin, or cold. This is thought to disrupt internal organ and qi [vital energy] balance.”

Benefits of drinking hot water

Most health benefits of hot water are based on anecdotal reports, as there’s little scientific research in this area. That said, many people claim to feel the benefits, especially first thing in the morning or right before bed.

Warms you up in cold weather

A 2017 study found that drinking a warm beverage can help reduce shivering, a natural body response to cold conditions. During the study, participants donned specialised suits circulating water slightly above freezing, and they consumed water at various temperatures, some as hot as 52°C.

Researchers found that drinking the hot water quickly helped the subjects put less work into maintaining their body temperature. This could be useful for people working or exercising in cold conditions.

May relieve nasal congestion

A mug of hot water creates steam. Cupping a warm mug and inhaling this gentle steam could potentially alleviate congested sinuses and provide relief from sinus headaches. Since you have mucous membranes throughout your sinuses and throat, hot water may soothe a sore throat caused by mucus buildup.

According to a 2008 study, a hot drink, such as tea, provided quick, lasting relief from a runny nose, coughing, sore throat and tiredness. The hot drink was more effective than the same drink at room temperature.

May aid digestion

Hydration plays a vital role in maintaining the smooth functioning of your digestive system. As water moves through your stomach and intestines, it promotes the body’s process of waste elimination.

Some individuals claim that hot water, in particular, can be highly effective in kickstarting the digestive system. The concept behind this belief is that hot water may assist in breaking down and dispersing any food that your body might struggle to digest.

While additional research is required to firmly establish this potential benefit, a study conducted in 2016 did indicate that warm water might offer positive effects on intestinal movements and the expulsion of gas following surgery.

For those who find that sipping on hot water aids their digestion, there’s no harm in using this as a natural remedy.

May improve central nervous system function

Dehydration can negatively impact the functioning of your nervous system, which in turn, can have repercussions on your mood and brain function.

Research from 2019 has shown that proper hydration can enhance the activity of the central nervous system, leading to improvements in both mood and cognitive function. This research found that drinking water not only heightened participants’ brain activity during mentally demanding tasks but also led to a decrease in self-reported anxiety levels.

May improve circulation

Healthy blood flow affects everything from your blood pressure to your risk of cardiovascular disease.

Taking a warm bath encourages the expansion of your circulatory organs, namely your arteries and veins, meaning they carry blood more effectively throughout your body. Some people claim drinking hot water may have a similar effect. However, there’s little research that this is effective.

As a bonus, warmth from drinking hot water or bathing in the evening may help relax you and prepare you for restful sleep.

When drinking hot beverages, research recommends an optimal temperature of between 54 and 71°C. Temperatures above this can cause burns or scalds.

For an extra health boost and some vitamin C, try adding a twist of lemon to hot water to make lemon water.

Water is essential to life. And drinking it, whether hot, cold, or room temperature, keeps you hydrated and that’s the most important thing.

Do you enjoy drinking hot water? Do you add anything to it or drink it plain? Let us know in the comments section below.

Also read: Three signs you’re drinking too much water

Disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.

Ellie Baxter
Ellie Baxter
Writer and editor with interests in travel, health, wellbeing and food. Has knowledge of marketing psychology, social media management and is a keen observer and commentator on issues facing older Australians.
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