Does Drinking Hot Water Relieve Acid Reflux?
By Stu Leo︱Published May 19, 2022
The quick answer: No, there is currently no scientific evidence to support drinking hot water for GERD. In fact, you could get esophageal cancer if you like to drink your water hot.
Whoa. Slow down there turbo—what do you mean esophageal cancer? I mean current medical literature says that when you eat or drink something hot, it could over time, damage the inside of your esophagus(called thermal injury) and cause mutations.
Check out this study done with the National Cancer Institute in the US:
Apparently, this has been known since at least 1939, when a doctor, after examining the records of 771 esophageal cancer patients, noted, “thermal irritation is probably the most constant factor predisposing to the cancer of the esophagus.”
How Hot is Hot?
This is kind of subjective and likely varies from person to person, but most scientists agree that anything above 149 °F or 65 °C is “too hot” and can increase the risk for esophageal cancer. Some studies place the threshold even lower, at about 140 °F or 60 °C.
So does this mean you have to turn into some crazy person who carries a thermometer in their back pocket and measures the temperature of every single thing that passes through their lips?
Of course not. Personally, I believe diet is a much stronger factor for cancer risk than water temperature, but here’s a simple solution for you if you’re concerned:
Why not drink your beverages and eat your food warm, instead of piping hot?
That’s what I do. After cooking a hot meal, I crank my fridge up to 10 and put my food in the freezer(all the way back) for 4-6 minutes. This cools my food down to just about warm. Works great when I have a lot to do and need to eat fast.
Also, If you’re like me and you hate taking the time to blow on your food and then having to eat it slowly and carefully because it’s too hot, then give my “freezer hack” a try. This also works with hot beverages as well.
Taking Your Water Cold May Not Be So Good Either
If your acid reflux is related to indigestion, drinking your water cold may not be so good either. This study found that cold water when compared to warm water, actually slowed down gastric(stomach) contractions. This can lead to relatively slower digestion:
Slower digestion can cause you to feel bloated and full and this can exacerbate your GERD symptoms if you deal with heartburn and regurgitation. That’s why I like to drink warm water(around 110 °F) in the morning before I go to the bathroom.
I feel this helps move my digestion along better. Room temperature water works fine as well, but I prefer warmer water because it seems to soothe my voice(more on this next).
Warm Water Can Be Great for LPR
If you suffer from LPR, throat issues or vocal loss(I’m talkin’ to you singers and speakers!) warm water can bring you relief by relaxing your throat muscles and encouraging blood flow.
Cold water, on the other hand, tends to tighten up the throat and make vocal soreness worse. This is why singers drink warm water/tea to recover and soothe their voice.
Another way warm water can help with LPR is by diluting acidity levels in the stomach. A study from Athens University revealed that just one glass of water resulted in a rapid increase of stomach pH—comparable to the pH you get after taking an antacid:
So the next time your throat feels dry or if you get a sore throat, try sipping warm water and then swallowing slowly to relieve your symptoms.
But Are You Getting Enough Water?
Did you know that according to one survey poll of 2000 people, nearly 80% of adults aren’t drinking enough water? A deficiency in water not only increases the risk for multiple conditions such as osteoporosis, heart disease, and stroke, but can also increase the risk for indigestion and GERD.
The cause and effect relationship between hydration and digestion was covered in a study conducted by Dr. Klauser et al., who discovered that a lack of water intake lessens daily bowel moment:
Most medical papers recommend 8-11 cups of water per day for women and 10-15 cups per day for men. Note this guideline takes into account the water you get in your food as well.
A great way to make sure you meet this minimum requirement is to drink a tall glass of water first thing in the morning when you wake up so you don’t forget.
I drink about 13 ounces of warm water at my standing desk in the morning while I read the news. I prefer to drink my water standing because this seems to encourage bowel movement. Keepin’ it real.
DID YOU KNOW…
While getting adequate amounts of water is crucial for health and digestion, drinking more than necessary won’t help at all? In the paper, “Effect of increased fluid intake on stool output in normal healthy volunteers,” Dr. Chung et al. concluded:
Water + Fiber = Less GERD & Smooth Digestion
Though drinking water does help digestion, it cannot initiate it by itself. The second part of the equation is fiber. And not getting enough fiber in your diet could very well throw off your digestion.
In fact, Dr. Stephen from Addenbrooke’s Hospital in the UK said “[Fiber], more than any other dietary component, affects human large bowel function, causing an increase in stool output, dilution of colonic contents, a faster rate of passage through the gut and changes in the colonic metabolism of minerals, nitrogen, and bile acids.”
Fiber does this by drawing water into the intestines, softening the stool, and then “bulking” together the stool in your intestines for smooth transit.
The importance of fiber is so well-established in the medical literature that doctors worldwide regularly prescribe the popular supplement Metamucil(processed herb fiber) to treat constipation.
Here’s a fascinating video from Dr. Hsu of the popular YouTube channel, “chubbyemu” explaining how Metamucil works. The experiment performed in the video is fascinating to watch because it gives you a visual demonstration of how fiber operates in your gut.
This compels me to mention the advantages of a plant-based diet (regular readers—you saw this coming, didn’t you?)
Question for you: Why would you want to take a processed fiber supplement that could very well put you in the hospital if you take too much, when you can just get it naturally from a plant-based diet?
When you go plant-based, you won’t need to worry about the “dosage amount” of your fiber like users of Metamucil do(too much causes bloating and pain).
Just enjoy your food and your body will automatically use the natural fiber from plants to aid digestion. Plus, you’ll get a boatload of micronutrients and vitamins that Metamucil simply doesn’t have.
By the way, if you’re curious, the top three foods for fiber are whole grains, lentils/beans, and green peas. There are plenty of other fruits and vegetables that contain fiber, but the ones I just listed will give you the most “bang for your buck.”
Before concluding, I want to add that if you haven’t been eating a regular fiber-rich diet, it may take some time for your gut to adapt. Initially, after eating more fiber, it is not uncommon to experience some gas and bloating, but with time, this too, shall “pass.”
For more info, including how long it might take for your gut to adapt, check out this article I wrote about bananas and gut health.
So let’s summarize the main points of this article:
1. There is no evidence that suggests drinking hot water relieves acid reflux. In fact, if you drink beverages hot, it could increase your risk for esophageal cancer.
2. The safer route to go is to drink your water at room temperature to warm. And make sure you’re drinking enough water every day(8-11 cups for women and 10-15 cups for men).
3. Also, there is evidence that shows water can reduce acidity levels. Sipping on it can help produce more saliva and raise stomach pH.
4. With regards to digestion, remember: water works with fiber to move stool through your bowels. Therefore, if you desire smoother digestion, eating plenty of plants rich in fiber should “get the job done.”
Try incorporating these guidelines into your routine to get relief from heartburn and LPR!