To Drink or not to Drink, That is the Question.


There is an ongoing debate whether to drink liquids during a meal. I offer my advice on this subject to be placed along side of the other medical personnel.


 Let me explain the digestion process (without the technical stuff). As you know it starts in the mouth with proper chewing. The salivary glands produce the enzyme amylase which starts breaking down the starches. The food is chewed until it becomes "slurry” and then swallowed. No water should be consumed with the food at this point unless a person has filled their mouth too full for the three glands to secrete enough saliva to sufficiently moisten the food until it has become the “slurry”. People do drink water because they fill their mouth too full and to expedite their eating, drink water to “wash” the food down. Three things happen with this scenario; One, the food is chewed into chunks which are too big for the enzymes in the saliva to fully start the digestion process. Two, water dilutes the saliva in which the enzymes reside. What is not accomplished in the mouth creates an added burden to the rest of the digestive process. Three, the water can dilute the stomach acid which is critical for proper digestion. This may leave some food particles undigested which puts a strain on the GI tract.

The stomach receives the “slurry” into the upper part of the stomach which is called the cardiac section. In this section the food with the enzymes (from body, supplements, or food) continue to be digested between 45 minutes to 60 minutes. The food is brought into the lower section of the stomach which is called the pyloric. It is here that hydrochloric acid is secreted along with the enzymes pepsin and others.


The mouth starts the breakdown of starches and the stomach starts the breakdown of proteins. If water is consumed during this time, it should only be enough to clear the throat. There is no need for water to help the digestive process. The body is on autopilot and knows what is to be secreted.


When the stomach has completed its’ part of the digestion process, the bolus (the food) is sent to the small intestines where the final part of digestion occurs. In the first part of the small intestines (jejunum) bicarbonate of soda and enzymes are added to help complete the process. In the last part of the small intestines (ileum) more soda and enzymes are added to finalize the digestion. During the journey through the small intestines absorption is also taking place.


I prefer to sip my water during a meal, but never to use water as a replacement for proper chewing or overloading my mouth to the point of being too dry and needing water to wash it down. When doctors have this debate about to drink or not to drink, generally, this issue is not brought up. My preference is to drink a glass of water one hour before eating or two hours after eating. As you noticed I use the term “water” and it means water but everyone has their own preference.