The verdict is in.
More often than not, eating isn’t a leisurely activity. There’s no savoring bites of charcuterie at midday while sipping chilled white wine. We're more likely to be found devouring a meal-prepped salad and washing it down with a bottle of water before getting on with the task at hand.
However, as of late, folks have been wondering if the whole “washing it down” component is actually bad for digestion. In other words, that maybe we shouldn’t be downing water in between bites, or even consuming it immediately before or after a meal. And we thought, “Wait, say what?” You’re telling us to put down the sweet tea (er, water) at the dinner table?
Apparently, certain claims assert that taking in water before, during, and after meals can dilute stomach acid needed to break down nutrients, inhibit immediate digestion, or promote digestive discomfort. To get to the bottom of this perplexing theory, we asked the experts: registered dieticians and nutritionists. The answer? Not exactly cut-and-dry, as most things go, but definitely better than our prognosis. Here’s what they had to say.
“We’re not aware of any findings that a reasonable amount of water would negatively impact digestion. The stomach maintains a very acidic environment and is quite adaptable. In healthy people, the stomach secretes enough fluid and acid to accommodate the meal and get the digestion process started,” explains Atlanta-based dietician Marisa Moore, MBA RDN.
However, she went on to say that if you deal with certain digestive issues such as acid reflux, taking in too much water during meals can aggravate symptoms. For those prone, it’s best to limit drinking during or at mealtimes in order to “to prevent any issues with excess volume which can cause stomach discomfort or reflux.”
On the flip side, consuming water before or during meals is actually a dietician-backed tip if you’re trying to shed a few pounds.
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Birmingham-based dietician Jessica Ivey, RDN said water might be a smart choice for those looking to curb an inclination to overindulge during mealtimes. “I suggest that clients who are trying to lose weight and struggle with overeating try drinking water before and during a meal, as it may help them to feel more full and, therefore, find it easier to control food portions.”
She went on to say, “Drinking during a meal can also be a method for slowing the pace of eating, giving time for the satiety hormones that are produced while eating to travel to the brain and give the signal that you’re getting full. Eating too quickly can lead to overeating."
With these pros and cons in mind, along with the knowledge that taking a swig mid-meal isn’t a life-threatening act, we’re going to continue drinking our water or iced tea moderately and mindfully whilst gathered around the dinner table.