If you have ever been to a physician, there’s one favourite question after seeing your tongue, “Do you drink water first thing in the morning after waking up / brushing your teeth?” Contrary to what many think, drinking water on an empty stomach in the morning, called ‘Ushahpaan‘ in Ayurveda, is a strictly contra-indicated practice. How? Why? Today we analyse the arguments and counter arguments.
But why do people do so in the first place?
People who have a high basal metabolic rate (typically slender, overactive people) often find themselves dehydrated in the morning, if they hadn’t had much water in their stomach while going to bed. They are the biggest Ushahpaan habituates.
Another group is those who find it difficult to pass bowel motions without drinking something on waking up. This habit works around the so-called “gastro-colic reflex” in physiology, whereby the brain orders bowel motions when the stomach gets distended by stuff suddenly. They all fall prey to the vicious cycle of ‘Aam dosh’ by doing so. (Whoa.. what’s that? Read on.)
Why Ayurveda prohibits Ushahpaan –
In Ayurvedic theory, cool water is described as harder than normal to digest (Yes, water too, has to be digested, unless it is distilled and warm water). It increases ‘Kapha’, the ‘Water element’ in the body, that can cause indigestion, drowsiness, even obesity amongst other nasty things if increased beyond normal. Couple it with the fact that Kapha is naturally at its peak levels in the body in early morning; and you invite a double trouble of excess Kapha by drinking that refreshing glass of cool water.
In Ayurveda, this is also said to result in the formation of ‘Aam Dosh’, that is, improperly digested metabolites that the body is unable to excrete naturally. These are the nasty things that once formed, clog up your systems, disturbing the normal metabolism, creating more of their kind, causing a hellful of nuisances, right from the white plaques on your tongue, to the acne on your skin, to even gout and diabetes, if sustained for longer time
… And drinking water first thing in the morning can be a major trigger for their formation. (Brownie points to those who already guessed that doctors judge your Aam status by looking up the tongue 🙂 ).
So, Ayurveda strictly prohibits Ushahpaan.
What modern science says about it –
Modern science advises drinking enough water to hydrate yourself sufficiently, whatever be the time. However, even modern science restricts drinking a lot of water on an empty hungry stomach, lest it can dilute the gastric juice (that is essentially made up of hydrochloric acid) when you eat something afterwards, and make it harder to digest the food properly, leaving it incompletely digested. Sounds a lot like what Ayurveda tells about Aam? Because it is! As for the gastro-colic reflex part, it is sadly true for many. Let us see what we can do for it.
The Dr. Herbz prescription –
So to sum up, we want you to –
* Rehydrate properly
* quench your thirst
* pass smooth motions
* Increasing Kapha Dosha abnormally
* generating Aam to clog your systems
* causing indigestion
How we achieve it? Here’s how –
“Drink a glassful of warm water that has been freshly boiled and allowed to stand until warm.”
What can be even better is if you squeeze half a lemon into it. It can also give some taste to the tasteless boiled water.
How does that work ?
Warm water being more fluid (in the modern as well Ayurvedic meaning of the term) than cool water, can enter even the tiniest spaces in your digestive systems to erase even the already accumulated Aam, leave apart creating any new. Boiling also makes water easier to digest by breaking down the hard salt traces it contains and killing any bacteria present.
Adding lemon gives two benefits –
1. Lemon juice being an appetizer, you make up for some for the dilution of gastric acids you cause by drinking water on empty stomach.
2. Lemon being a rich source of Vitamin C and other antioxidants, you get a daily detox against ageing, and it ramps up your systems for the day’s hustles.
Bonus tip for those who are looking to lose weight – Drink the water hot instead of warm. Hot water has the property of aggressively expelling Aam from your systems, and melting away the accumulated Kapha. Obesity, in Ayurveda, is caused by Kapha getting excessively deposited in tissues due to obstruction in its natural metabolism by Aam. The modern correlation of this can make a separate article, so won’t explain it here. Someday later, maybe. Till then, try it out, it works wonderfully.
… And don’t forget to share your experience in the comments!
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About the Author –
Dr. Harshad Rajandekar, BAMS, CMA Inter., is a practitioner of Integrative Medicine based out of Nasik, India. He is trained and licensed to practice Ayurvedic and modern medicine in the state of Maharashtra, India; and believes in combining the best of old and new to give holistic cure and wellness to his patients.