Living beings cannot live without water. Thus irrespective of whether the body is healthy or sick, water is indispensable to all creatures, man being no exception. Ayurveda states that water consumed in appropriate quantity works as nectar to the body. On the contrary, if one drinks too much, water can be as harmful as a toxin.
It is through the mechanism of thirst that the body tells you when it needs water. Ideally one should drink water only when one feels thirsty and furthermore, drink only that much which will quench the thirst. Also, ensure that you drink the water slowly, don’t gulp it down in one go. This is because a parched mouth gives the sensation of thirst. Hence, if you toss down water quickly, in essence you are drinking more than what is required to assuage the thirst.
There is a prevalent misconception that drinking more and more water is good for the body. But remember, too much of water can impair your digestive system. As per Ayurveda, just as food needs to be digested, so does water. Hunger and thirst are natural urges which guide us to eat and drink as and when needed. One should take heed of this fact and consume food and water accordingly.
If one drinks water more than what is necessary to quench thirst, this can lead to aggravation of kapha and pitta. Excessive intake of water leads to increased undigested food residue (āma) in the body. This will give rise to somnolence, bloating, heaviness in the body, loss of appetite, nausea, breathlessness, cough, sinusitis etc.
Any person who is debilitated due to illness should not drink unboiled water as this can vitiate all three bio-energic forces. Those suffering from poor digestion, which means subdued digestive fire (loss of appetite, impaired digestion) should not drink much water. Likewise, those who are suffering from anaemia, ascites, piles, irritable bowel syndrome, tuberculosis etc. should also not drink much water. If thirsty or if the person is feeble, then one should drink small quantity of water which has been appropriately supplemented as per the underlying ailment. Healthy people too should, generally speaking, consume less water except in the months of summer and autumn.
WATER, IN CONTEXT OF FOOD
Fire is doused by water. A similar effect is seen on digestive fire which deals with food digestion. That is why one should not drink water before eating. And drinking water immediately after meals leads to increase in kapha in the upper part of the stomach, with ensuing kapha related diseases. Taking small sips of water during a meal is nourishing to the body, and the bio-energic forces as well as tissue elements stay in a balanced state. Some people don’t drink water whilst eating – this makes the food dry and it doesn’t get digested properly, which leads to burning in stomach, constipation etc. Hence, one should take sips of water, around half a glass or so, with meals.
Now, how much water should one drink in a day, one may ask. Well, this varies from person to person. One needs to take into account factors like innate prakriti, age, profession, season and mental state of the individual. Those wanting to maintain their body weight should take sips of warm water with meals. Those suffering from ailments like cough, cold and breathlessness should not drink water immediately after food. For such folk it is best to take sips of warm water around half an hour after eating food.
From the book ‘Principles of Ayurveda’