Ever visited an eastern country and noticed the locals drinking hot tea, even on boiling summer days?
It looks crazy to us. But to someone who understands the human body from the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine, westerners are committing the most ridiculous crime of them all: drinking iced drinks.
Ok, so here’s why. The stomach is a ‘yang’ organ, meaning it has hot and active properties. It’s like the stove of the body; our internal fire must be kept burning in order to maintain our metabolism and energy. We need that fire to digest and assimilate food into nutrients for the entire bodily system.
Water is ‘yin’, or cold, by nature. So the more we pour cold water into our bodies, the weaker that internal fire gets.
Because the body is a mini-universe, if one thing is out of order, eventually everything else falls out of place. Here are some reasons according to Traditional Chinese Medicine why replacing your ice water with a cup of warm tea is the ultimate act of self-love:
1. It Cools You Down
This may sound like the biggest paradox: ice actually triggers your body to heat up. When we drink cold water in summer, our bodies have to compensate for the difference in temperature by heating up more, which leads to even more overheating and related conditions like sunstroke and dizziness. Drinking warm tea allows the body to relax, calm down, and cool itself down to a normal homeostatic temperature (equilibrium) without needing to compensate for the difference in temperature.
2. It Helps you Digest.
In hot, humid, summer weather, our bodies can accumulate too much internal ‘heat’ and ‘damp’ energies that can become pathogenic and cause illness. The digestive organs are particularly vulnerable to this. Consuming icy food and drinks weaken our digestive function, especially after a meal, as they restrict blood flow to the digestive system. Sipping warm tea during and after meals helps to keep your digestive organs happy.
3. It Keeps Your Immune System Strong.
Warm teas promote circulation and nutrient absorption in the body. Consuming cold drinks speed up the gastrointestinal tract, so organs cannot properly absorb nutrition. Over time, if the body isn’t receiving sufficient nutrients needed for growth and repair, organs become more vulnerable to coldness and related illnesses.
4. It Keeps Your Lungs Healthy.
Yep, lung disease is not just related to smoking and genetics. Long term accumulation of cold in the body can really weaken lung function to the point of developing chronic diseases like sinus infections, allergies, hay fever and asthma. TCM teaches that the stomach is the ‘mother’ of the lung; a strong stomach is needed for healthy lung function. On a more immediate level, excessive cold entering the body also causes blood vessels in the throat to constrict, and a weak throat is vulnerable to invasion by pathogenic energies. This is why you were hopefully fed chicken soup instead of ice cream when you had colds as a child! Warmer body = healthier lungs.
5. It Prevents Reproductive Issues.
Drinking warm tea promotes healthy blood flow. Excessive consumption of cold water can negatively affect the reproductive system, causing menstrual disorders, cramps and eventually impaired physiological functions like infertility. Over-accumulation of cold also creates moisture and dampness: the perfect conditions for things like bacteria, Candida, and parasites.
6. It Helps You Lose Weight!
One of the silliest things I heard growing up was that ice water speeds up your metabolism. Not only does ice literally extinguish the internal heat that is your metabolism, cold environments literally help to solidify fat within your body. Think of how the fat goes hard when you put sautéed food in the fridge. No need to do that to your stomach too. Warm liquids can help to ensure that fat stores are used for energy, which is why teas are considered a major aid in weight loss. And if portion control is your issue, ditching the ice can help you get back into touch with your body’s fullness signals: putting ice on your stomach is going to reduce sensations and swelling in the same way as when you ice a bruise.
Ok – drinking warm tea instead of an iced drink in summer may take some getting used to (although it is so very important). Ease into it. You don’t need to force down boiling hot tea when you’re sunbathing: TCM suggests that our drinks only need to be as warm as body temperature in order to help balance energy in the stomach.
Try it out, and see how you feel. It’s always interesting to notice which health practices are maintained as customary in different cultures: could the longevity of these traditions be a sign of how well they work? It may be sad to say goodbye to your jumbo iced-teas, but give this eastern health tip a chance. It comes from civilizations that have evolved to survive the hottest, desert climates.
Work with your body, and see how it changes!
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