Drinking water is super important. Most folks enjoy a cold refreshing glass of H2O. You may not know that some folks also enjoy a refreshing glass of hot water. But are its health benefits anything to write home about?
“Surely not,” we hear you cry. “Cold water for life!” Before you start reaching for the pitchforks and torches, there are plenty of health benefits to drinking water that isn’t cold enough to have come from a polar ice flow.
Let’s take a dip in the warm springs of truth.
First thing’s first, drinking water at any reasonable temperature is good for you. Over half your body is water. Doing pretty much anything depletes your body’s water supply, so you need to top it up on the regs.
Some benefits are specific to hot and warm water — and these might surprise you. When we say hot, we mean water between 130 and 160°F (54 and 71°C). Don’t drink water that’s hotter than this. There are literally no health problems you can manage by scalding your mouth and throat.
It’s worth mentioning that most of the evidence for these benefits is anecdotal. The hard science jury is still out in a lot of cases.
However, drinking water is super good for you. We’re going to lose zero sleep encouraging you to drink more of it, regardless of the temperature.
1. A cup of hot water for congestion relief
Having a stuffy nose sucks. It’s one of the worst things about catching a cold. A cup of hot water could help you with decongestion.
Inhaling the steam from hot water can help unclog your sinuses by making them a bit looser. This can work wonders for relieving sinus headaches. It’s one of the few times you can inhale something and admit to it without scuppering your future political career.
Hot drinks in general have shown themselves to be a foe of the common cold. There’s no cure for the common cold, but a mug of hot water (or tea, or cocoa) can help relieve symptoms while you wait for it to go the heck away.
Science heads have found that warm drinks can:
- clear mucus buildup (which can help relieve a sore throat)
- stem runny noses
- put a pause on coughing fits
- generally relieve common cold symptoms
2. Constipation relief from hot water
Dehydration is one of the main reasons for constipation. Drinking water of any temperature is a good way to get your bowels moving again by breaking down all that clogged-up poop (it’s gross, but you asked).
Anybody who had to clean a grill at a fast food joint will tell you that hot water is better at breaking down crap than cold water. Studies have put some science behind the fry-cook wisdom, too. Water of any temperature is good for constipation, but hot water is better qualified.
So, if your sh*t chute is all sh*t and no chute, a glass or two of hot water may be just what you need.
3. Drinking hot water for smooth digestion
The benefits of hot water for your digestive system may not stop at the bowels.
The same studies that have shown warm water can help ease constipation also indicate that it’s generally good for the digestive process.
Your whole GI tract is purpose-built for breaking down food. If warm water is good for breaking stuff down, having some in your guts is going to make their job a whole bunch easier.
We know (thanks to physics) that warm water dissolves stuff way faster than cold water. This includes sugar, which is notoriously difficult for your body to digest.
The theory is that drinking hot water will dissolve stuff in your stomach that your digestive system might otherwise struggle to break down. The evidence for this is still quite anecdotal.
That doesn’t mean we won’t recommend drinking warm water though, because as we said, drinking water of any temperature is good.
One of the major risks of dehydration is damage to the nervous system. Like literally everything else in your body, your nerves need water, warm or cold.
There’s some evidence to suggest that drinking water may boost nervous system function. May as well be warm.
This isn’t going to infer Charles Xavier level psychic powers anytime soon. But it may have a positive impact on your mood and brain activity. The science is inconclusive, though.
5. Staying hydrated with hot water
Listen, you caught us. Cold water is probably actually better for hydration. We admit it.
But here’s the thing: Drinking water of any temperature is good. All water is going to hydrate you. The only exception is seawater. Don’t drink that.
We can’t express just how important it is to drink water. There’s been little research into this for obvious ethical reasons, but the general consensus is that going 3 days without drinking any water (or liquid that contains water) will likely kill you.
So yeah. Hydration is a benefit that comes with water of any temperature. Make sure you drink more of it.
6. Hot water reduces shivering
When you’re cold you shiver. It’s one of the ways your body tries to warm itself up.
It’s not a pleasant sensation, and it can be a pain in the backside for folks like telecoms engineers who do tasks that need steady hands in freezing outdoor temperatures.
There’s strong scientific evidence that drinking a hot drink can stop or reduce shivering when you’re cold. Having some warm water in your belly raises your body’s core temperature. This satisfies your body’s heat management responses enough to put the shivers and shakes on pause for a bit.
This is a benefit that has no real scientific backing but is generally accepted given what we know about the cardiovascular system and blood flow.
Warm temperatures make arteries and veins expand, increasing blood flow. This is why a warm bath makes your muscles all nice and tingly.
There’s a chance that drinking hot or warm water has the same effect but deeper in you system. As we said though, as of yet there’s practically no hard research to prove this.
If you were wondering why this is good, healthy circulation and a steady blood flow are some of the best defenses against arterial and cardiovascular diseases. So there’s that.
The possible nervous system benefits of drinking water may be why some people report that drinking it helps reduce their stress levels.
Some folks that took part in a 2014 study reported that drinking less water trashed their mood. They felt more agitated, less calm, and were generally grumpy as hell.
Further studies have shown a correlation between drinking water and lower rates of depression and anxiety in adult humans.
There’s also now some certifiable science behind hot tea being good for your mood. (And who doesn’t feel better after a cuppa?) So taking your warm water as an earthy herby beverage is A-OK as far as your mental well-being is concerned.
And if you feel better after drinking hot water, who are we to judge? Stick with the sh*t that works for you. Especially if it’s as harmless as drinking water.
9. Drinking hot water to detox
While there have not been studies that directly link hot or warm water to detoxification, we do know that drinking water is hella good for your kidneys.
Studies have shown that drinking water helps the kidneys filter the toxins from your blood so you can pee them out. This is pretty much the kidney’s job, keeping your blood as toxin-free as possible.
Warm water can also raise your body temperature, which may make you sweat. There’s some evidence to suggest that sweating may have health benefits beyond keeping your body temp in check. This might include helping your bod detox.
10. Relieving achalasia symptoms by drinking warm water
Did you know you have a sphincter in your upper GI tract? Several in fact. One of these non-butt sphincters is the lower esophageal sphincter (LES).
Your mouth sphincters do pretty much the same thing as your butt sphincter: contract and expand to move food further along the digestive tract.
Achalasia is a condition that affects the LES that makes it all contract, not expand. This causes a backup of food that should be heading to the stomach, making it hard to swallow.
There’s limited evidence to suggest that warm water helps ease achalasia symptoms for folks going through it. Cold water and food might increase these contractions, making achalasia worse.
There’s also some promising evidence that coffee can help reduce the risk of all sorts of nasty sh*t like Parkinson’s disease, a few types of cancer, type 2 diabetes, and a variety of heart and liver problems.
Not bad going for something as simple as a cup o’ joe.
Tea comes with its own benefits. Hot tea doesn’t only chill you out. Further studies found that tea may have similar properties to coffee in keeping risks of serious conditions such as stroke and cardiovascular disease low. And green tea has a heap of possible health benefits.
However, the evidence for this is very limited, so don’t treat tea and coffee as an all-healing elixir. But give hot water its flowers for getting involved with such deliciousness.
The main risk with hot water is burning or scalding yourself. Don’t just trust a finger dip. Water that feels perfectly fine on your skin can still be too hot for your mouth or throat. Take small sips before drinking to be sure.
Avoid drinking hot or cold water to excess. Even though water is super-hella-mega good for you, overhydration is still a thing.
Be aware of it, and put down that steaming mug of warm H2O if you’re showing symptoms including:
- scotoma (aka a blind spot in your field of vision)
- cold skin
- a puffy face
Yes, drinking hot water is good for you. But this is mainly because drinking water of any temperature is good for you. (Well, almost any temperature. Please don’t go and drink boiling water.)
There’s some evidence that hot water is better at providing some of these benefits than cold water, but there’s still not been too much research into the subject.
The evidence is mainly based on anecdotal accounts and generally accepted knowledge (like warm drinks being good for sleep). However, when researched and tested, these societal assumptions appear to hold true, so the science so far is promising.
tl;dr: Drink more water.