I remember an incident from many moons ago when I was offered a glass of water at an acquaintance’s house. As I was just about to have a sip, a voice thundered from across the room. “NO! Don’t drink water while you are standing!”The lady of the house meant well even though she gave me a semi heart attack in the process. “It’s bad for your health,” she said with a look of concern while the other members of the household nodded in agreement.
Holding me by my shoulders, she gently coaxed me over to a chair and made sure I was seated while I finished the rest of the drink. “You are an educated girl. You should know these things,” she said, maintaining the same tone.
While our conversations veered elsewhere, neither the well-intentioned lady nor the rest of her family had answers to why drinking water while standing up was bad for my health.
This isn’t an isolated case. Many in India believe that drinking water standing up can cause some mysterious circuits to blow up in your system, damaging your health in the process. The most commonly-held belief is that it disrupts digestion and absorption of nutrients.
It stayed in my mind for years. Every time I had to have a sip of water, I wanted to be seated. Eventually, over time, I realised how ridiculous it was getting, searching for a chair every time I felt thirsty.
What the internet says about drinking water standing up
As always, I turned to the internet for answers. Initially shocked to see the number of articles online supporting the belief, it dawned upon me why many Indians believe that they are doing their bodies a great disservice by sipping water standing. Reputable publications were endorsing the view; the less said about the readers the better.
An article in one of India’s leading publication cites Ayurveda, which purportedly says that human bodies are designed to get maximum benefits while sitting down.
Then there was some drivel about water not reaching the organs: “When you drink water standing up, the water which goes in passes through the system with a straight gush, not really reaching the organs where it is supposed to do the job. Hence, the impurities which are supposed to go out get deposited in the kidneys and the bladder.”
It doesn’t take a degree in human anatomy to know that this argument doesn’t hold water (pun intended). Water doesn’t make a straight dash for the kidneys; it’s physically impossible.
One website also stated that drinking water while standing up can also cause arthritis by “disrupting the balance of fluids in the body.” It gets weirder. Some said that it also reduces blood supply to the brain.
What the doctor says
I realised that may be internet is the wrong place to turn to. We need a gastroenterologist to tell us what’s right. That’s why I reached out to Dr Keyur Sheth, Gastroenterologist at Apollo Spectra, Mumbai, who didn’t miss a beat before saying that it is a myth.
“Drinking water in a standing position neither affects digestion nor reduces blood supply to the brain,” he states empathically.
With that out of the way, I also dared to ask another pertinent question: “If not standing, is there an ideal position to drink water?”
Luckily, I got a convincing answer from Dr Sheth: “The optimal position will be erect posture. The water flows down the food pipe along with the gravity to the stomach. The chances of reflux of water to food pipe are also fewer.”
But he does warn against drinking water in a reclined position: ” It can cause reflux of water and gastric secretions to food pipe or lungs which can cause cough or infection.”
So there you have it. It’s fine to drink water standing up as long as you maintain an erect posture.