Sluggish digestion? Sleepy after meals? Changing this one unsuspecting habit may make all the difference…

What do ice water, salads and antibiotics all have in common? They are all COLD and can wreak havoc on your digestive system.  “Cold? What do you mean Cold?”

Let me back up. 

I want you to think about a fondue pot for a minute. Raw meats and vegetables go in, mix with some liquid over high heat for awhile, and eventually become a thoroughly cooked and edible meal. Our stomachs are no different. We ingest food, which mixes with digestive juices until a satisfactory product is sent to the small intestines for nutrient absorption. But what happens if your fondue pot isn’t hot enough? The meats and veggies don’t cook and you end up with a soggy, oily mess that can make you sick if you eat it.  The same is true for our gut. 

A cascade of metabolic processes create an ideal environment in which the nutritional breakdown-process can function at full throttle. Drinking ice water or eating raw vegetables can interfere with this regulatory thermostat, requiring additional energy from the rest of your body just to warm up the pot again. If you become sleepy after each meal, chances are it is because your body is stealing your energy to focus on the task at hand: warming the pot to digest your food.

From a Chinese medical perspective, all foods (as well as herbs and medications) have either a hot, warm, neutral, cool, or cold energetic property. This may be obvious, such as COLD ice water or HOT cinnamon, but it may not be so obvious for other foods, such as WARM mustard greens and COOL Swiss chard. While it is not realistic to know every temperature of every food, it is favorable to eliminate excessively cold food and drink to ensure proper digestion and assimilation can take place. 

It is best to avoid liquids altogether while you are eating, as this can dilute digestive juices and interfere with the energetic temperature of your gut. Room temperature water and salads are an improvement, but the best approach is to drink warm water or tea 20 minutes before or after a meal and lightly stir-fry or steam your vegetables. I know, you may be asking “But don’t you lose all the healthy vitamins and enzymes when you cook vegetables?” This is true if you cook your veggies down to a mushy, soggy heap. This is not true if you flash-steam or sauté for a few minutes. If your broccoli is warm but still has a slight crunch, you’re in good shape.


It is important not only to focus on the quality foods we put in our body, but also the quality of the body that accepts these foods. 


Kate Kronisch is a licensed acupuncturist and clinical herbalist. She specializes in the treatment of internal health concerns, with specific focus on digestive wellness, anxiety & stress, women’s health and pediatrics. 

Eastern Traditions Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine 1643 Boulder Street, Suite 104. Denver, CO 80211. (720) 551-8408