I was recently interviewed by a breathing specialist regarding some of the causes of bloating and indigestion as they relate to the importance of adequate hydration. During the interview, I was asked why this almost universal recommendation, to drink more water, can be such a challenge for some. And as the host asked the question, I could just about guess what her audience was thinking:

Really? Another message telling me to drink more water?

And I understand their response. After all, for those of us who have been working toward optimal health for a while, the whole drink water thing can seem like a no brainer, old news. But I’ve learned something about this challenge from my clients, (as I always do!). While it may be true that the requirement for adequate hydration is well-accepted, for many, drinking water actually leaves them feeling unwell.

How do you feel after drinking a big glass of water? Refreshed? Or do you, like many of my clients feel bloated or experience indigestion? If so, it may be the way you’re hydrating. The good news is that bloating and indigestion improved with proper hydration.

Is there really a wrong way to drink water? Yes, as a matter of fact, there is. And, thankfully there is an easy fix. Three of them actually.

  1. Sip, don’t gulp. Have you ever found yourself feeling “behind” in your water goal for the day? Perhaps it’s noon and you realize you left your water bottle in the kitchen this morning. Your first inclination may be to get the bottle and drink it down. Unfortunately with this approach, you can also swallow a lot of air with the water, leaving you feeling over full. So start with small sips and don’t worry about “catching up” today. Just keep sipping and you’ll feel much more comfortable.
  2. Drink Between Meals, Not During Meals. Drinking water while eating is a major contributor to feelings of bloat and indigestion. Here is a very simplified description of what is supposed to happen when we eat. Digestion begins in the mouth where chewing and saliva begin to break down the food. The food then moves into the stomach where acids are secreted which helps with protein digestion. When there is enough acid for the desirable pH, digestive enzymes and bile are secreted. This further breaks the food down into useable nutrients for the body. Fabulous right? It’s an amazing system. But, what happens when we drink water while we are eating? Saliva becomes diluted, or we bypass the role of saliva and simply moisten our food with water. This eliminates the first important steps of digestion. As water enters the stomach, acids become diluted, causing digestive enzymes and bile secretion to be delayed or prevented. So undigested food remains in the stomach for a much longer time as well. This is what leads to indigestion and feeling bloated. So, enjoy your glass of water 30 minutes before a meal or at least 30 minutes after a meal. Clients who practiced this one tip found that feelings of bloating and indigestion improved significantly.
  3. Skip the Ice. Drinking room temperature or warm water is much easier on the digestive system. When you swallow very cold food or water the blood vessels of the esophagus and stomach temporarily contract. This slows the digestive process. This slow down may not be significant in someone with strong digestion. But if you’ve experienced bloating after drinking water, you may want to skip the ice and opt for some herbal tea.

So, if you feel bloated or experience indigestion when drinking water, experiment with these three easy solutions. There’s no additional time commitment or expense and no risk of side effects.

As always, I’d love to hear how these recommendations work for you.