Drinking water, hot or cold, keeps your body healthy and hydrated.
Some people claim that hot water specifically can help improve digestion, relieve congestion, and even promote relaxation, compared with drinking cold water.
Most health benefits of hot water are based on anecdotal reports, as there’s little scientific research in this area. That said, many people feel benefits from this remedy, especially first thing in the morning or right before bed.
When drinking hot beverages, research recommends an optimal temperature of between 130 and 160°F (54 and 71°C). Temperatures above this can cause burns or scalds.
For an extra health boost and some vitamin C, try adding a twist of lemon to hot water to make lemon water.
This article looks at 10 ways that drinking hot water may benefit you.
1. May Relieve Nasal Congestion
A cup of hot water creates steam. Holding a cup of hot water and taking a deep inhale of this gentle vapor may help loosen clogged sinuses and even relieve a sinus headache.
Since you have mucous membranes throughout your sinuses and throat, drinking hot water may help warm that area and soothe a sore throat caused by mucus buildup.
According to an older 2008 study, a hot drink, such as tea, provided quick, lasting relief from a runny nose, coughing, sore throat, and tiredness. The hot drink was more effective than the same drink at room temperature.
2. May Aid Digestion
Drinking water helps to keep the digestive system moving. As the water moves through your stomach and intestines, the body is better able to eliminate waste.
Some believe that drinking hot water is especially effective for activating the digestive system.
The theory is that hot water can also dissolve and dissipate the food you’ve eaten that your body might have had trouble digesting.
More research is needed to prove this benefit, though a 2016 study showed that warm water may have favorable effects on intestinal movements and gas expulsion after surgery.
In the meantime, if you feel like drinking hot water helps aid your digestion, there is no harm in using this as a remedy.
3. May Improve Central Nervous System Function
Not getting enough water, hot or cold, can have negative effects on your nervous system functioning, ultimately affecting mood and brain function.
Research from 2019 has shown that drinking water can improve central nervous system activity, as well as mood.
This research showed that drinking water boosted participants’ brain activity during demanding activities and also reduced their self-reported anxiety.
4. May Help Relieve Constipation
Dehydration is a common cause of constipation. In many cases, drinking water is an effective way to relieve and prevent constipation. Staying hydrated helps soften stool and makes it easier to pass.
Drinking hot water regularly may help keep your bowel movements regular.
5. Keeps You Hydrated
Although some evidence shows that cool water is best for rehydration, drinking water at any temperature will help keep you hydrated.
The Institute of Medicine recommends that women get 78 ounces (2.3 liters) of water each day and that men get 112 ounces (3.3 liters) daily. Those figures include water from food like fruits, veggies, and anything that melts.
You also need much more water if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, engaging in strenuous activity, or working in a hot environment.
Try starting the day with a serving of hot water and ending it with another. Your body needs water to perform basically every essential function, so the value of that can’t be overstated.
6. Reduces Shivering In The Cold
A 2017 study found that while the body’s natural response in cold conditions is to shiver, drinking warm fluids can help reduce shivering.
Subjects wore suits circulated with water that was a bit above freezing, then drank water at a variety of temperatures, including up to 126°F (52°C).
Researchers found that drinking hot water quickly helped the subjects put less work into maintaining their body temperature. That could be handy, the study notes, for people working or exercising in cold conditions.
7. Improves Circulation
Healthy blood flow affects everything from your blood pressure to your risk of cardiovascular disease.
Taking a warm bath helps your circulatory organs — your arteries and veins — expand and carry blood more effectively throughout your body.
Drinking hot water may have a similar effect. However, there’s little research that this is effective.
As a bonus, warmth from drinking hot water or bathing at nighttime may help relax you and prepare you for restful sleep.
8. May Decrease Stress Levels
Since drinking hot water helps improve central nervous system functions, you might end up feeling less anxious if you drink it.
According to a 2014 study, drinking less water resulted in reduced feelings of calmness, satisfaction, and positive emotions.
Staying hydrated may therefore improve your mood and relaxation levels.
9. May Help The Body’s Detoxification Systems
While there’s no definitive evidence hot water has a specific benefit in this regard, a 2020 study found drinking more water can help protect the kidneys while diluting waste materials in the blood.
And according to the Arthritis Foundation, drinking water is important for flushing out your body. It can also help fight inflammation, keep the joints well lubricated, and prevent gout.
10. May Help Relieve Symptoms Of Achalasia
Achalasia is a condition during which your esophagus has trouble moving food down into your stomach.
People with achalasia have trouble swallowing. They may feel as though foods get stuck in their esophagus instead of moving to the stomach. This is called dysphagia.
Researchers aren’t sure why, but an older 2012 study found drinking warm water may help people with achalasia digest more comfortably.
What Are The Risks?
Drinking water that’s too hot can damage the tissue in your esophagus, burn your taste buds, and scald your tongue. Be very careful when drinking hot water. Drinking cool, not hot, water is best for rehydration.
Generally, though, drinking hot water has no harmful effects and is safe to use as a remedy.
The Bottom Line
While there’s little direct research into the benefits of hot versus cold water, drinking hot water is considered safe, and can be a good way to make sure you stay hydrated throughout the day.
Getting into the habit of drinking hot water is easy. Try starting your day with a cup of boiled water, left to cool for a while. If you’re not a tea or coffee drinker, try hot water with lemon.
Add a light session of stretching to your routine, and you’ll feel more energized and better equipped to tackle the day.
If the taste of warm water doesn’t appeal to you, add a twist of citrus — like lemon or lime — to the beverage before you drink it.
Drinking warm water before bed is a great way to wind down after a busy day. Knowing about the health benefits will have you sleeping soundly.