During a recent trip to Boston I found myself caught in one of the heaviest snowstorms to hit the area this year. It was the end of a full day of attending lectures and I was tired, very cold, and in search of warm food. I found a nearby restaurant where I was able to remove my many layers of warmth and was seated at a table. I was greeted by a waiter who placed a large glass of ice water down in front of me. It was a comical gesture considering the below freezing temperatures outside, snowplows driving by every 10-15 minutes and all the winter layers I had draped over the chair next to me. After requesting a warm cup of water instead, I took a minute to see if any others opted out of the ice cold beverage being served with their meals on this snowy night and was not surprised to see that at every table in front of each patron was a tall glass of iced water.

So why is ice water so bad? There have been many studies proving that the consumption of cold food and beverages actually cause our blood vessels to constrict, slows peristalsis in the digestive tract, and solidifies the fats in food we eat, which all contribute to weakening the bodies ability to digest. One primary hypothesis is that consuming cold reduces our body’s core temperature. Where the science of these revealing studies ends the science Ayurveda is able to fill in.

A very important concept in Ayurvedic medicine is agni. Agni is the energy of metabolism, our digestive fire, turning everything we consume into fuel for living. A strong agni gives us the ability to not only properly digest food we eat but also take in and process mental and emotional experiences. Agni is not a physical structure that can be measured by any type of Western medical device – you won’t find it on an  ultrasound or a cat scan. It is an energy that exists in the lower curvature of the stomach. Our primary agni is the reason why the consumption of cold food and beverages is advised against because we need heat for biotransformation.

Have you ever set out to prepare a meal with grains and veggies or meat

with a pot of ice water instead of a pot of water cooking over a strong flame? Probably not. Nothing would break down, nothing would transform to a digestible state. When the agni in our gut is strong digestion improves; you don’t get bloated after a meal, you begin to experience healthy daily bowel movements and even experiences or traumas begin to “digest”. If you are  constantly in the habit of consuming cold and you are experiencing digestive issues, it might be time to consider the strength of your agni. One of the easiest methods to begin this repair is consuming foods that are well cooked instead of raw and room temperature or warmer beverages over cold. Quite possibly the easiest step in the right direction is just to forget the ice and drink your water at room temperature.