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To Ice or Not To Ice

Summer is here and on hot days, we reach for ice water, ice tea/coffee, ice cream and smoothies with lots of ice to cool us down, right? Wrong!

What we put into our bodies is important, but what form it takes when it enters the body is equally critical. Water is a great example, because we consume it hot, warm, room temperature, cold, or frozen.

The nature of cold is to contract and constrict. Ice is on the extreme range of cold. Drinking ice water causes the blood vessels and nerves in the stomach and digestive tract to constrict, causing spasm, tightness and restricted circulation. Digestion requires heat or metabolic energy. Cold extinguishes this heat, preventing proper digestion and assimilation of food. Food feeds our Qi.

Difficulty digesting foods can also cause symptoms such as stomach cramps, hiccups, abdominal pain before bowel movements, or loose stools. You might notice your pants feeling too tight from abdominal bloating. Or you could feel tired and mentally fatigued.

For women, the uterus is the most fertile when it is warm. Drinking ice water leads to the cooling of the uterus, which reduces fertility. Symptoms can include painful menstrual cramps or an irregular menstrual cycle (too short, too long, or varied).

For men, too much cold in the abdomen can impair fertility by disrupting the production of quality sperm in the testes. Too much heat is not good for the testicles either. Balance is key, with the optimal temperature being a few degrees cooler than body temperature. This can be attained by drinking room temperature water.

Now that you know the effects of ice water on the body, keep in mind that other cold foods such as popsicles, ice cream, frozen yogurt, and iced smoothies have the same effect.

To keep your stomach warm and active, drinking warm liquids 30 minutes before a meal is a great idea. I drink hot water with lemon – just remember to use a straw to prevent teeth enamel erosion. Try it for a few days and see how you feel.

There will always be times when it is hard to resist that perfect ice cream or glass of ice water on a hot summer day. If you decide to indulge in any iced beverages or foods, do so sparingly and drink a warm liquid afterwards to keep your digestion from feeling the freeze!


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