Chinese Medicine recommends avoiding cold beverages. Since this is new advice for Westerners, the wisdom may escape us. Sometimes not understanding “why” makes it more difficult to comply with unfamiliar instructions. Let us share the “why” in order to better understand the benefits.
Summer – the heat in can be oppressive. Many prefer drinking cold beverages in order to cool off. Cool water tastes better. Iced drinks seemingly, even more refreshing. However; before you think of adding a few ice cubes to beat the heat, consider wisdom passed down through the ages.
The Chinese have long understood the thermal nature of foods. Food as medicine is used to heal imbalances. To cool down, it is better to consume foods that have a cooling nature like watermelon or mint tea versus frozen, chilled, or iced drinks. “Cold beverages are neither healthy nor cooling; in fact, they cause the stomach to create more heat in order to break the foods down, which ultimately damages the entire digestive system. Even in Western nutritional theory, cold beverages are not as cooling as room-temperature ones, because cold causes vessels to contract so that they don’t absorb the liquid” according to Gail Reichstein, author of “Chinese Medicine in Everyday Life”.
Dr. Bo recommends patients to stop drinking cold beverages. Room temperature or heated is better, with sipping preferred. In Chinese Medicine, excess cold fluids deplete our digestive heat. This slows digestion creating sluggish bowel movements characterized by bloating and constipation. For those with excess moisture in their system, weight loss is even more challenging. The stomach-spleen supplies the kidney with the warmth to function optimally. Cold fluids weaken our kidneys and their ability to provide warmth.
Dr. Bo is often heard saying “Kidney’s don’t like cold”. Kidney’s, in Chinese Medicine, go way beyond that of Western physiology functioning. Cold weakens the bladder causing frequent urination and getting up to urinate in the middle of the night. Kidney imbalance affects all bone problems especially, knees, low back and teeth. Arthritis and joint pain are worsened in cold weather for this reason. Kidney’s also control hearing, the entire endocrine system, and even sexual function. On the emotional level, those with kidney imbalances experience excessive fears, insecurity, and lack of will power. Weak kidney conditions contribute to a tendency to be inactive and unproductive.
The first time I went to China in 1996, only warm tea was served at meals. Iced drinks were available only at MacDonald’s. Even Coca Cola sold on the street was room temperature. Suffice it to say, one never saw any Chinese walking around with 10 oz. cold drinks or even cold plastic water bottles. For those who are in the habit of guzzling many glasses of water per day, drinking fluids heated is a good way to slow it down. Listening to our bodies by drinking only when thirsty is always good medicine, too.
Bottom line, long-term consumption of cold drinks significantly influences long-term health. Kidneys represent the roots of the body, our foundation, and our batteries. Why rock our core for the short-lived pleasure of a cold drink? Seemingly small choices, in the aggregate, are of utmost importance for longevity. It is wise to follow wisdom passed down from countless generations. Enjoy drinks at room temperature to do your body good.