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Why more water isn’t always better

Think of the last time you left a restaurant bloated, burping, and suffering from heartburn. You probably just blamed it on the restaurant food. Let me tell you, the food may not be the problem.

After years of working with clients suffering from digestive issues and food sensitivities, I know that it’s not just what you eat, but how you eat.

Your body does a lot of work to digest your food.

Even the smell of food or thinking about eating stimulates the release of a variety of hormones and enzymes that prepare your body for a meal.

When you eat a meal, your body secretes enzymes, acids, and hormones to digest it.

Most of us sit down to a meal with a beverage ready to go.

If you’re following the latest advice and trying to trick ourselves from overeating, you’re downing that water before the meal even arrives to “take up room” in our stomach.

Ok, what’s the problem? What’s wrong with water?

We all need to “drink more water” or “increase our fluid intake”, right?

Well, more water isn’t always better.

When you drink a bunch of liquids at mealtime, you dilute all the digestive juices your body has carefully prepared in anticipation of your meal.

Your body is especially attuned to the concentration of acid in the stomach, which is required to:

  • digest protein

  • kill off pathogens (save you from food poisoning)

  • absorb minerals

  • absorb vitamin B12

Too much liquid in your stomach changes this concentration, which forces your body to pump out even more acids and enzymes to compensate.

So now you have quite a mess: your stomach is full to the brim with half-chewed food, lots of water, and diluted acids and enzymes that can’t efficiently do their job.

You might already have heartburn and you are certainly bloated and unhappy. Your first reaction is probably to reach for an antacid, but that’s the opposite of what your body needs. More than likely the problems is not enough acid rather than too much.

Who knows, too much water might be the hidden cause of your heartburn, bloating, and digestive discomfort.

So here’s how to have your water and drink it too (without getting heartburn):

  • When you sit down to a meal, serve yourself a small glass of water – just enough to wash down whatever you’re eating (~4-6 ounces).

  • If you’re at a restaurant, order water, but don’t finish it. If you pay for a drink, you’ll be compelled to finish it. With water, who cares?

  • Aim to drink most of your liquids separate from meal time (at least 30 min before or 1 hour after your meals). You’ll be surprised how much better it feels.

  • Add a squeeze of fresh lemon to your water. Sour and acidic foods stimulate the release of digestive juices.

  • And of course, eat just enough food to satisfy your appetite, so your stomach isn’t over-filled. The Hunger Awareness Exercise is really helpful for this!

If you found this tip interesting and want to learn more about healing your digestion, grab your copy of my FREE guide: 30 Days To A Happy Tummy. It goes way beyond why more water isn’t always better and it’s not your typical list of foods to avoid (there are enough of those already!). It’s a step-by-step guide you can’t get anywhere else that helps you get to the root of your digestive issues.

Of if you don’t want to go it alone, are sick of dietary trial and error, and want to accurately uncover your hidden food sensitivities, you might like to work with me.

Now in the comments below, I’d love to hear from you:

  • Which of the 5 tips above are you going to try and why?
  • What other habits do you suspect contribute to your heartburn or bloating?

Your insight might be the solution to another reader’s digestive troubles, so do share!

Until next week,

lily-name

 

 

P.S. I’m excited to be one of 5 experts interviewed for “The Coaches Forum” on Thursday. If you’re a coach, nutritionist, or are interested in building a business that you love, Upgrade2Awesome has put together a great Q&A call focused on Building a Successful Coaching Practice.

Join is for a FREE Live Google Hangout on Thursday 3/27 at 11am PST. It’s pitch-free and 100% educational.

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Lily Nichols is a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist, Certified Diabetes Educator, researcher, and author with a passion for evidence-based prenatal nutrition and exercise. Her work is known for being research-focused, thorough, and unapologetically critical of outdated dietary guidelines. She is the author of two bestselling books, Real Food for Pregnancy and Real Food for Gestational Diabetes.

22 Comments

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  1. Great tips! I was a huge water drinker while eating before I moved to Europe. After awhile of frustration wondering why they rarely give water with meals (and when they do, it’s a tiny glass and never with ice), I decided to research if the American HUGE ice water thing isn’t actually great for us….and as you said- it sure isn’t! Thanks for the explanation!

    • So interesting, Leah! I was just discussing this with a friend who shared that some foreign exchange students from China scoffed at our oversized ice water served alongside meals. Sounds like the same is true in France.

  2. This is a great reminder. My problem is I sometimes ‘forget’ to drink outside of meals, then find I’m really thirsty when I start to eat! I’ve got out my water bottle and am sipping on it today to make sure I get enough in.
    And I love lemon in warm water, such a clean way to start the day.
    xx

    • Hey Sam – I’ve definitely fallen into that trap before. Like you, I carry a water bottle with me to stay hydrated.

  3. Lily,
    Great post! I sometimes get so caught up with whatever I am doing that I forget to drink. So, when I finally sit down to eat, I am reminded to drink. Thank you for the reminder to be more conscious at other times. Now that the weather is warming up, I will start to add lemons, cucumber and other fun flavors to my water…and drink it throughout the day.

    • It happens to all of us, Elise! I love infused water too, especially cucumber-mint water.

  4. Great article about being conscious of how you consume water and liquids around meal time!

    • Glad you found it useful, Sonja!

  5. It’s Russian folk wisdom to drink water only 20mins before or after meals and not during. My body loves to focus on digesting and I almost never have any gas or digestion problems. Great post Lily!

    • I love hearing about folk wisdom that later is proved true by modern science. Thanks for sharing, Lana!

  6. Lily, I often try to drink a large glass of water right before my meals. This was an eye opener that it may not be as healthy as I thought. Adding a lemon and waiting 30 minutes is my new plan. Great article and thanks for the tips!

    • Yep, that’s what we’ve all been told to do. I’m curious to hear how this little tweak to your meal makes a difference, Deb!

  7. I’m so glad you brought up this important point. Once we fix digestion the rest of our body easily can reach homeostasis.

    • So true, Krystal! So many health problems originate in the gut, which is why I love helping people fix their digestive problems. 🙂

  8. Interesting! I admit, I’m one of those people who tries to drink to “fill up.” Sounds like I’d be OK just doing it a bit earlier — maybe while I’m cooking! Thanks for the info!

    • Yes a bit earlier is all you need, Lacy. Test it out and let me know if you notice a difference.

      Besides, water doesn’t keep us full for very long. That’s what food is for!

  9. Hey Lily, great tips! I’m definately going to add a squeeze of lemon to my water from now on. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • Easy fix, right Sonja?

  10. Great advice, I’m going to try this! Thank you.

  11. I love this post. Every time I jump on the health bandwagon, chugging more water is THE first thing I do and that really is my undoing….more water means I am either starving or peeing the whole day 🙂

    good to know I am not the only one who doesnt feel “full” with water, just bloated!

    • Exactly, Bushra! And bloated is never a good feeling.

  12. My husband lets his water sit for most of the meal, and drinks it down at the end.
    I have always been one to drink throughout the meal. I like lemon in my water; he does not.
    Does the warning against too much water include flooding your system with water all at once at the end? Or has your stomach had enough time to start the digestive process?
    This article was very interesting and will make for an interesting discussion with hubby!

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