This was one of the very first things my naturopath taught me. And, I thought he was nuts… at first. I mean, it sounds really woo-woo, doesn’t it? We’ve all been raised to have at least a glass of water or milk with our meals, and likely told by our parents that it helps get the food down, right? That it’s a necessary part of a balanced meal? That it’s, well, healthy?!?
We couldn’t have been more wrong.
As my naturopath explained, have you ever seen an animal in the wild take a bite of food, lap water, when take another bite of food, and again lap water? I didn’t think I had, but I made it my mission to observe my not-so-wild kitty at meal times to make sure he was right. Over the next two weeks, I noticed that Julie would eat her food and then, between 15 and 20 minutes later, come back to her water bowl for a good, long drink. She never switched back and forth. Not once.
After a little learning, I now know it’s because we don’t want to dilute (water down) things like our stomach acid (hydrochloric acid) and certain enzymes (like pespsin which helps break down the protein in our food). We also don’t want to tinker with the pH (acid/alkaline) balance in our stomach — which can in turn mess with digestion signals further down the line. For instance, other substances will not get released (like bile from the gall bladder or bicarbonate from the pancreas) if the pH of the stuff coming out of the stomach isn’t just right. This will definitely affect your ability to absorb nutrients! When our food doesn’t get broken down into the right-sized components (ones the body recognizes as nutrition) by the time it reaches the small intestine, it can, over time, damage the intestinal lining and lead to big-time health issues like I had, such as Leaky Gut Syndrome. (Leaky Gut causes the kind of inflammation in our bodies which is, in part, responsible for many of the painful “-itis” conditions and other unpleasantness like food sensitivities and allergies.)
Bottom Line: Don’t drink anything for 30 minutes before you eat, or anything for at least an hour after you eat.
Your challenge this week is to get that glass off the table at meal times! It’s weird at first, sure. And it feels totally unnatural — I get it. Regardless, stick with it! Pretty soon you’ll develop the very healthy habit of drinking (water or organic herbal teas, please!) between meals, instead of with them.
For more useful health hacks, click here.
Creative Commons Photograph: “Catch!” courtesy of wabisabi2015