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Hydration – Water in Chinese Medicine


Most people have heard the common advice, “drink eight glasses of water each day.” It’s been suggested across most of western civilization as the go-to hydration advice. It’s a simple, and generally effective approach. With that being said, a dive into Traditional Chinese Medicine can offer a deeper perspective. 


What is the TCM perspective on hydration?

Chinese Medicine suggests an elemental approach to hydration, in that water is part of the five elements present in the body, as well as in nature. The five elements, wood, fire, earth, metal, and water are each associated with certain body organs, as well as certain colors, tastes, and emotions among other things. 

As an element of TCM, water closely corresponds with the kidney organ. The kidney serves several important functions in the body:

  • Regulate the body’s fluids
  • Keep the body’s forces of yin and yang in balance
  • Store the life force energy known as Qi

A regulated supply of water in the body is necessary for the kidney to function correctly. 

The Importance of Drinking Warm/Hot Water in TCM

Drinking a glass of cold water often induces a feeling of refreshment in the body, but TCM suggests that consuming cold water may actually do more harm than good. 

Overconsumption of cold fluids before or after a meal can weaken the body’s digestive Qi. The coldness in the fluids can block meridian channels and even congeal blood circulation. It induces the same lack of blood flow that causes organs to shut down during hypothermia. The effects of drinking cold water are less severe of course. With that being said, certain data does show that an overconsumption of cold or icy water can diminish organ functioning to a range that is less than optimal. 

Instead of drinking cold water, Chinese Medicine experts suggest drinking warm/hot water, or at the very least, room temperature water. Drinking warm or hot water regularly can strengthen digestive power and reduce metabolic waste. While cold water can actually break down the important acids, heat, and decomposition process in the stomach, warm water can replenish them. 


How much water should you drink each day? 

There is no specific amount of water that each person should have each day because each of us are different. Chinese Medicine doctors suggest drinking water, usually in the form of hot tea, throughout the day. Amounts may vary between people, but normally it’s suggested to have a thermos full of water (around 1 liter) throughout each day. 



Are there problems with drinking too much water? 

An overconsumption of water (among other beverages) can cause digestive juices to be overly diluted and the stomach to be overfilled. This can induce feelings of discomfort and fatigue. Chinese Medicine doctors also warn about the negative effects that too much water can have on the spleen. The spleen, which is essential in the production of Qi in the body, can be damaged by too much moisture, further effecting the digestive process. 



Recommendations for Ensuring Sufficient Hydration 

To ensure sufficient, and not just adequate hydration, there are a number of recommendations that Chinese Medicine experts have. 

  • Eat foods that occur in nature, and are naturally high in water: vegetables, grass-fed meats, eggs, whole grains.
  • Eat bone broth. 
  • Eliminate dry, inflammatory, and processed foods from diet: gluten containing grains, sugar, and dairy products. 
  • Try consuming a daily amount of water equivalent to ½ ounce of water per pound of body weight. 
  • Avoid drinking coffee and opt for green tea instead. 

Get personalised advice from TCM specialists for free! 

* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. We can’t guarantee the treatment result, as the symptoms of conditions are unpredictable and vary greatly from person to person. The treatment length and recovery time also varies for individual. Please visit our consultation page where a specialists will discuss your care and provide a consultation, and the treatment will be designed to meet your individual needs.

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