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Why you shouldn’t drink cold water, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine

Do you guzzle down a cold beverage to quench your thirst when it’s hot out? Or maybe you’re used to drinking cold water in the morning to wake up. If so, you may be surprised to know that the habit is considered unhealthy by Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) standards. That’s right, drinking cold water is bad for you from a TCM perspective. This Pacific Prime article looks at why you shouldn’t drink cold water, according to TCM.

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Why cold water is bad for your health in TCM

If you’ve grown up thinking that cold water is refreshing and tastier than its warmer counterpart, you may be scratching your head at the notion of cold water being bad for you. Here are some ways that TCM believes cold water affects the body.

The spleen (and kidneys)

Cold water (and iced drinks in general) interferes with the spleen and stomach’s normal functions, says Traditional Chinese Medicine. The spleen is a vital organ for creating and circulating Qi, which is typically translated as “vital life force”. It’s responsible for distributing blood and nutrients throughout the entire body. Healthy Qi flow helps with digestion, absorption, blood circulation, and immunity protection – to name a few.

The spleen has an easier time adapting to warm and moderate temperatures since Qi circulates better in a warm environment. Conversely, cold environments can slow down or hinder Qi circulation. Since the spleen provides warmth to the kidneys so they can function optimally, the TCM answer to the question “is cold water bad for your kidneys?” is a resounding yes.

The stomach

But the side effects of drinking cold water don’t end there. TCM principles suggest that the stomach works optimally with warmth instead of coldness. To keep the stomach healthy, it’s best to consume foods that are warm and hot. Cold and ice foods should also be avoided as they are believed to be harmful to the stomach and can disturb digestive function.

TCM’s six pathogenic factors

There are six pathogenic factors in Chinese medicine, which are understood to be the six groups of environmental pathogenic elements that change a person’s physiology and cause disease. They can either invade the body individually or in different combinations. In TCM, these elements include:

  • Wind
  • Cold
  • Summer-heat
  • Dampness
  • Dryness
  • Fire

Since cold water is considered a “cold” pathogenic element, its coldness can slow down and disrupt the spleen’s Qi circulation. This could result in a weakened spleen, thereby causing poor digestion and nutrient absorption. At the same time, cold water can also affect the stomach’s temperature by causing it to create more heat to maintain a balance.

Reactions such as these prevent the stomach from working optimally, thereby affecting digestion. Consequently, cold water consumption harms the spleen and stomach, which can potentially lead to the following gastrointestinal issues:

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dyspepsia
  • Malabsorption

Cold water weakens immunity

Speaking of the spleen, did you know that the organ is an integral part of your immune system? The TCM perspective sees Qi as an immune system booster. It is also believed to keep pathogens and infectious diseases at bay. Since the spleen is responsible for Qi formation and protecting our bodies from the flu, common cold, and other diseases, drinking cold water could harm both your spleen and your immunity.

Cold water adds to dampness

What’s more, Qi circulation also plays a role in dampness catabolism. The cold nature of icy water and a damaged spleen can cause Qi circulation to slow down. Since Qi circulation isn’t effective at catabolizing dampness, it ends up accumulating and further hindering the spleen and stomach’s digestive process – thereby creating a harmful loop.

TCM theory states that signs and symptoms of accumulated dampness include:

  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Poor sleep quality
  • Venous insufficiency (heavy limbs)
  • Fluid retention
  • Obesity

Cold water can contribute to menstrual disorders

Chinese mothers advise their daughters against drinking cold beverages during their period, and this makes sense from a TCM perspective. Cold water’s cold nature can harm Qi circulation as well as impede blood flow. TCM experts say that obstructing Qi and accumulating blood are major contributing factors to menstrual disorders such as:

  • Menstrual pain
  • Endometriosis
  • Uterine fibroids
  • And more

Hot water vs. cold water

Now that you understand the TCM perspective, you’ll be less confused the next time you see a Chinese person order a hot drink on a summer day. In fact, Chinese people drink hot water throughout all seasons. While research suggests that increased metabolism, enhanced alertness, and improved hydration for physical activity are some benefits of drinking cold water, those who follow TCM principles believe that cold water is harmful to one’s health and increases susceptibility to many disorders.

If you want to get healthier from a TCM perspective, there’s one simple thing you can start doing today: swap your iced drinks for room temperature or warm water.

Is TCM covered by health insurance?

Since TCM has been used to treat COVID-19, more Westerners are catching onto the traditional medicine system. In fact, many people are wondering whether alternative medicines like TCM are covered by their health insurance. Since there is no straight answer to this question as each policy and provider is different, your best bet is to get in touch with a reputable insurance intermediary like Pacific Prime. We can also help you find individual health insurance in China or other insurance plans that you might need.

Contact us to find out more!

Disclaimer: Pacific Prime solely represents, operates, and manages locally regulated insurance products and services in the territory of PR China. Any references to Pacific Prime Global Company or Group, the international services, insurance products, or otherwise stated written or verbally, is for introduction purposes about our overseas network only as each entity is fully independent.

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Content Creator at Pacific Prime China
​​Jantra Jacobs is a content writer at Pacific Prime. On a typical workday, she writes and edits articles, guides, and anything else word-related. She loves creating content that is both easy to understand and enjoyable to read.

In her free time, she’s likely to be writing poetry and prose, geeking out on her latest interests, reading, or practicing yoga.