There has been a lot of debate on the time and amount of water you should be having before, with and after meals. A lot of people have the habit of downing umpteen glasses of water along with their meals, perhaps with the intention of washing down the food and hoping that this aids the digestive process. However, nutritionists across the world dismiss the idea strongly. Various studies show that the practice severely hampers digestion by diluting the essential gastric juices and causes an upsurge in insulin levels. The issue here is three-fold: consuming water before meals, consuming water alongside meals, and consuming water after meals.
Renowned nutritionist Dr. Anju Sood says, “It roughly takes two hours to digest what you eat. The food goes through your esophagus to the stomach, then to your colon before being flushed out of your system. There is a certain fluid-solid proportion in our gastric system. If you consume water before the meals, you are not only disturbing the fluid component by diluting what you eat, you are also fastening the digestion process as the food now enters the large intestine much sooner than it should. Hence it is not advisable to have water just before your meal.”
She also strongly dismisses the idea of having water alongside meals, as it not only fastens digestion but also tampers the natural absorption of nutrients after digestion. “Some people who drink water alongside meals have also shown a tendency to have an expanded colon,” she said.
Coming to the issue of drinking water right after your meals, Dr. Sood notes the ill effects, “By drinking water right after your meals, you are again tampering the natural time it takes for your food to digest. This also makes you feel hungrier faster than anticipated and results in overeating and bloating.” She recommends a 30 minute window both before and after your meals. “In these 30 minutes, your system proceeds to the next stage of digestion.”
Studies suggest that it is essential to maintain some gap after your meals as this helps in absorption of essential nutrients too. Consuming water right after the meal tends to dilute gastric juice. Though, our stomach is adept at absorbing water, but an excess intake of water after meal dilutes enzymes that are essential for digestion. This is responded by lesser secretion of digestive enzymes that in turn can lead to heartburn and acidity.
The hindered digestive process also leaves behind a lot of undigested food behind in the system. The glucose from this undigested food converts into fat and is stored in your body. This process leads to the upsurge of insulin, which causes a rise in the blood sugar levels of the body, and can lead to diabetes and obesity.
Therefore, while it is important to keep yourself hydrated and consume a minimum of two litres of water every day, you must also ensure you follow the right time to gulp down the wonder liquid.