Ahmed Al Balooshi, an Emirati living in Dubai, always drinks water when he works out, whether it’s cardio or weightlifting. But there’s one extra step he takes, to make sure his body is ready to receive that hydration and that it isn’t doing him any harm.
“I always insist on sitting down when I drink water whether I’m at home, at the gym or at work,” he says. “I learned this from my family, especially my mother. If my mother catches me drinking water while standing, she calls me out on it and says ‘Ahmed, sit down!’”
Why? Ahmed explains the guidance is actually rooted in his religion.
“Our Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him), advised against drinking water, or eating, while standing.”
A call to a mufti from the General Authority of Islamic Affairs & Endowments’ Call for Fatwa service confirms it.
“The act of drinking or eating while standing is frowned upon in Islam,” the mufti explains, due to “its adverse effects on our health”.
This is also the wisdom from Ayurveda, a natural system of medicine that originated in India more than 3,000 years ago. According to Ayurveda, drinking water while standing prevents the body from absorbing any sort of benefit from the water, as it flows down with pressure through the esophagus to the lower stomach, bypassing other important organs.
While it aids in digestion, we do well to remember that water is absorbed, rather than digested. And as you drink, it enters your stomach and is quickly processed through to your small intestine, while the colon, or large intestine, also absorbs some. Nearly all the water is absorbed into the bloodstream from the small intestine.
This designed track can only be reached when we are seated. Only then can our bodies benefit from the crucial functions of water including filtering toxins effectively, maintaining cerebral functions and skin health. Drinking while standing means our bodies and tissues are in a state of tension and therefore won’t get the required nutrition as it will flow down rapidly and cause a disruption in the existing balance of fluids.
Dr Nasr Al-Jafari, the medical director of DNA Health Clinic, and his co-host on the Wellevate Life Podcast, health and wellness cultivator, Irina Sharma, confirm that our organs just aren’t receiving the water they need — in the way they need — if we are standing while drinking.
“When you drink while you are standing, the water doesn’t go down a protocol of the right organs, especially the kidney first,” explains Sharma. “Water, just like food, should be mindful.”
Also, our nervous systems function differently when we are standing, she explains. We are more alert, and less capable of the more relaxed state needed for digestion.
“Everything is being done on the go” these days and the impact on our bodies is not good, explains Dr Al-Jafari.
“I see a lot of gut issues in my practice like bloating, indigestion or change in bowels, namely IBS,” says Dr Al-Jafari. “This all has a strong correlation with stress, and even the small habit of standing up while drinking puts you in that state.”
Aysha Salem, a Dubai-based analyst, had no idea that her way of hydrating during fast-paced workouts could actually be causing harm.
“There’s no time to sit down,” she explains. “Usually I’ll grab the bottle, drink for a second or two, and go back to what I’m doing.”
Become aware and mindful of how drinking on the go can harm our digestion and intestines, particularly the liver, takes time — but it’s worth it, says Al Balooshi.
“It’s a very important habit I’ve built in my life — to sit down while I eat or drink,” he says. “And if I forget, I always remind myself.”
Other things to remember about water:
• “Most of us unfortunately are drinking water from the bottle, so the first message we’re receiving is from the plastic that goes directly to our mouth,” says Sharma. “That is already a very toxic message, because saliva plays a huge role in digestion of whether it’s water or food, so when the saliva doesn’t actually come in contact with what we are consuming and doesn’t recognize it, there is a mixed message that is already alarming to the body.”
• Ayurveda highlights the importance of water’s temperature. And that’s why Ayurveda never supports cold or chilled drinking water as it effects the stomach negatively.
• Food gets all the attention, says Dr Al-Jafari, but water is more important. “It is 70 percent of our bodies, so it would be naïve to think there is no difference on whether our water is from a tap, a bottle, water that has been blessed or mineralized.”
• There is a lot further to go when it comes to making sure the water we drink is in the best state possible for our body to incorporate it. “Something we’ve talked about on our podcast, Wellevate Life, is if we speak to our water or sing to our water and let the water settle down, then that’s the way it will settle in your body. And there is science behind this. Doctors are working with equipment to energize water so that people with diseases can consume water with that energy.”