Some claim that drinking beverages with meals is bad for your digestion. Others say it can cause toxins to accumulate, leading to a variety of health issues. Naturally, you may wonder if a simple glass of water with your meal could have negative effects — or if that’s just another myth.
There are a few main claims as to why you shouldn’t drink while eating meals.
Claim 1: Alcohol and acidic drinks negatively affect saliva. Some people argue that drinking acidic or alcoholic drinks with meals dries up saliva, making it more difficult for your body to digest food. Alcohol does decrease saliva flow by 10–15% per unit of alcohol. Yet, this mainly refers to hard liquor — not the low alcohol concentrations in beer and wine. On the other hand, acidic drinks seem to increase saliva secretion.
Debunked: There’s no scientific evidence that either alcohol or acidic drinks, when consumed in moderation, negatively affect the digestion or absorption of nutrients.
Claim 2: Water, stomach acid, and digestive enzymes. Many claim that drinking water with meals dilutes stomach acid and digestive enzymes, making it more difficult for your body to digest food.
Debunked: This claim implies that your digestive system is unable to adapt its secretions to the consistency of a meal, which is false.
Claim 3: Liquids and speed of digestion. A third popular argument against drinking liquids with meals states that fluids increase the speed at which solid foods exit your stomach. This is thought to reduce the meal’s contact time with stomach acid and digestive enzymes, resulting in poor digestion.
Debunked: No scientific research supports this claim. A study that analyzed stomach emptying observed that, although liquids do pass through your digestive system more quickly than solids, they have no effect on the digestion speed of solid food.
Drinking with meals can improve digestion and water can help reduce appetite and calorie intake.