VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Video about drinking water after eating NEEDS CONTEXT

Needs context

Editor’s Note: This fact-check was updated on Feb. 24 to take into consideration both Ayurvedic and conventional medicinal practices. A previous version of the article rated as False some of the claims made in the circulating video. They have since been updated to reflect a Needs Context rating. We thank our reader for asking VERA Files Fact Check to revisit its assessment of the claims made.

(UPDATED) A TikTok video claimed that drinking water right after a meal could weaken the stomach’s digestive juices and affect digestion.

Citing an ancient Indian medical system called Ayurveda, it also claimed that drinking water after eating could lead to intestinal issues, weight gain and reduced skin glow. 

Bakit bawal uminom ng tubig (Why should you not drink water) AFTER EATING,” the video’s in-text caption read. 

This needs context. The practices of Ayurveda differ from what conventional medicine prescribes. 

“I am not discrediting traditional medicine because it can be applied to patients. But the problem is if these treatments don’t come from randomized clinical control trials or they don’t come from intensive years of study, that’s where the risks are piling up,” Jake Brandon Andal, a registered nutritionist-dietitian, told VERA Files Fact Check in an interview. 

VERA Files Fact Check consulted health experts and Ayurveda references to discuss each of the five claims from a Jan. 20 video of Tiktok user Clara Day-Herrera (claradayh). Day-Herrera claims to be UK-certified in plant-based nutrition.

Claim Rating
Drinking water right after eating could reduce one’s skin glow  NEEDS CONTEXT

“Drinking water can [cause] acidity, gas formation… and of course it will affect your skin,” Sona Roy, founder of alternative and holistic health service Shanti Ayurveda Philippines, told VERA Files Fact Check via phone call. 

Drinking water one-and-a-half hours after eating a meal, when the body has digested food, is important, Roy, an Ayurveda practitioner, added.

“A higher water input in a regular diet positively impacts the normal skin physiology and overall skin health,” Racquel Jahn Cordero, Media Production Specialist II of the National Nutrition Council’s Nutrition Information and Education Division, told VERA Files Fact Check via email. 

Cordero added there is limited evidence linking drinking more water to improving skin appearance. However, a 2015 study found that drinking more water does keep the skin hydrated.

The body maintains skin health through hormones, nutrition, and the immune system. None of these will be affected by drinking water after a meal, Andal pointed out.

Claim Rating
Drinking water weakens the strong digestive juices within the stomach that help with food digestion NEEDS CONTEXT 

Ayurvedic practice recommends that one-third of the stomach should be filled with food, another third with water, and the rest with air to maintain digestive fire or agni, European Ayurveda practitioner Hans Rhyner said in his 2017 book Llewellyn’s Complete Book of Ayurveda.

Drinking water before a meal or consumed in large amounts with a meal will inhibit digestion, Ayurveda practitioner Todd Caldecott said in his 2006 book Ayurveda: The Science of Life. Sipping a small amount of water is recommended during a meal, Caldecott adds. 

Cordero said water is absorbed and does not dilute digestive juices during digestion.

“Even if you had a stomach full of water, it would not interfere with digestion of the food,” Deborah D. Proctor, medical director for the Inflammatory Bowel Disease Program at Yale University, was quoted saying in a 2019 Washington Post article

Drinking water, and even eating food, momentarily makes the stomach slightly less acidic but the body will produce as much stomach acid it needs to help digest the meal, American-registered dietitian Tamara Duker said in the same article.

Claim Rating
Drinking water right after eating could lead to poor digestion and interrupt the digestive system’s absorption process  NEEDS CONTEXT 

Drinking water right after a meal is discouraged in Ayurveda because it supposedly slows down digestion, Ayurvedic practitioner Vasant Lad wrote in his 1999 book The Complete Book of Ayurvedic Home Remedies. 

But there is no evidence in conventional medicine that drinking liquids during a meal affects the speed of digestion, according to health experts from the non-profit organization Meedan.

Water helps food move down the esophagus easily. It also aids in preventing constipation and breaking down food, Cordero explained. 

“Water is an essential component for saliva in your mouth and hydrochloric acid in your stomach – both of which help break down food and promote digestion,” Russell Dean Havranek, a board-certified gastroenterologist in San Antonio, Texas, explained in 2018.

“If you don’t have water after you consume a meal, you will use your own body’s water… and you will be dehydrated. And when you are dehydrated, you are constipated,” Andal explained.

Claim Rating
Drinking water right after eating could lead to weight gain NEEDS CONTEXT 

Ayurveda states that drinking water after a meal will lead to obesity or accumulation of unhealthy weight, according to Ayurvedic practitioners Rhyner and Aiswarya Santhosh. Conventional medicine disagrees with this notion. 

“Water doesn’t put in any calories, it won’t contribute to any physiological process that could contribute to weight gain,” Andal, a member of the Philippine Society of Nutritionist-Dietitians, said.

One of the reasons behind weight gain is calorie surplus, where the intake of calories or energy is more than what the body can burn. This causes hormones such as insulin to deposit fat, he pointed out. 

Studies have shown that drinking more water may promote weight loss through appetite suppression and increased metabolism. However, health experts from Meedan warned that these benefits are still being studied and may not apply to everyone. 

Claim Rating
Drinking water right after eating could lead to some intestinal issues  NEEDS CONTEXT 

Drinking water immediately after a meal could create ama or toxic byproducts that the body cannot eliminate, Lad wrote in his book.

In Ayurvedic practice, ama is a toxic, sticky substance made from undigested, unabsorbed food particles which accumulates in the intestines. Its creation is attributed to a weak agni or digestive fire, Lad added. Agni converts food into energy and is involved in digestion.

But Andal counters that water does not cause intestinal issues.

“If your water source is not clean, then that’s the time you get infections or intestinal issues after drinking water in a meal. But given the fact that almost all of us have access to sterile, potable water, none of these can contribute to intestinal issues,” Andal said.

The TikTok video that needs context was reuploaded on Facebook on Jan. 23. Both videos, which appeared as a part of a series of health tips, collectively got a total of 1.12 million interactions. 

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(Editor’s Note: VERA Files has partnered with Facebook to fight the spread of disinformation. Find out more about this partnership and our methodology.)