People have a habit of drinking ice and cold water in America. From the Chinese medicine view, it is a bad habit for your health. The effect cold temperature foods have on the human body have not been fully documented due to the need to open the body to observe what happens when cold foods are consumed. There have been a few studies which show that meal temperatures of 53 degrees F stay in the stomach for less time than meals of 99 degrees F. (The study was done by D.N Bateman at 1982 published at J. Physiol.) Ritschel & Erni used a PH- sensitive capsule as an indicator, they found that the capsule entered the small intestine much more rapidly with a cold drink than with a warm one. These experiments suggest that meal temperature effects adaptive relaxation mechanisms. Warm liquid resulted in greater relaxation of gastric muscles as indicated by the reduction the initial emptying of the stomach. This means if you drink cold water or eat cold meal it will give your digestion system less time to work on the food.
Scientists have found that digestive enzymes work best between 98-107F. Think of it like this, after you drink ice cold water your body has to immediately give up internal body temperature to warm the low temperatures of the food or drinks you just swallow. This is a lot of energy for your digestion system and your body to use just to counter act the cold foods. Your body has to use stored energy and acids to regulate the conditions for optimum digestion. In the mean time your intestine wall and blood vessels will contract from the cold, the intestine wall lining will contract and block the villi that will interrupt the foods absorption.
Thousands years ago Chinese medicine taught Chinese people not to drink cold water or ice water. This is especially true after hard work or a long run. If you drink too much cold or ice water it will cause water dampness to accumulate in your body. The water dampness can harm your spleen, heart Qi, cause Qi and blood stasis, and make people be over weight. If the dampness moves into the meridian then it will cause body ache and joint pain. That is why I always tell all my patients to stay away from ice or cold water and food!
©Dr. Li Zhang