We add it to beverages. We use it to chill food. We apply it topically and we use it in food, like smoothies. The question is, is ice the best for our health?
In traditional Chinese medicine, ice is considered a “poison” when ingested. Ayurveda says the same. Why would these age-old medical systems say something against what so many of us have found great pleasure in? I mean, we use ice in smoothies, cocktails, chilled water with our meals and other similar instances. Why would ice be looked down upon?
According to Ayurveda, ice/chill/cold substances possess the quality of astringent and causes vasoconstriction, or narrowing of the blood vessels. When we ingest ice, it enters into the cavern of the mouth, which has a direct relationship to important organs in the brain, such as the hypothalamus and pituitary gland. It also works with hormones, immunity and mood regulation being that the primary organs of the endocrine system are pituitary, thalamus, hypothalamus, thyroid and eventually adrenals. This cold substance contributes to a dysregulation of these systems because the body recognizes this extreme temperature drop as a stress. The body temperature is affected, and the body has to work harder to compensate for this temperature difference. Additionally, drinking cold causes the heat of the body to go deeper and be trapped in its core. Hot water as an ingested substance helps to stimulate that core and release the heat as heat molecules are expansive in nature and dissipate causing the body to feel cooler.
This stress to the body and the re-occurrence of the incidence of ice has a cumulative effect. Ayurveda states that the quality of an individual’s health is contingent upon the strength and quality of digestion. Ayurveda categorizes digestion according to balanced, weak, sharp/high and/or variable. Balanced digestion is self-evident and implies that the body is mainly balanced in health. When there is stress, this can have various effects on digestion, dictating the health of not only the body but also the mind. If the body doesn’t obtain the crucial nutrients it needs, we suffer.
Ingesting ice can negatively affect our quality of health. Imagine you have a burner with the flame on any level and you add a piece or two of ice. What happens? The fire goes out. When we ingest ice, we weaken or even douse our digestive fire. Ayurveda, along with other recent Western studies, has linked health issues such as diabetes, obesity (because anything cold can cause fat deposits to increase), mucous, depression, anxiety, respiratory infections, allergies, and other digestive issues to the effects of ice.
In Ayurveda, it is said that the nectar of life is hot water and the poison of life is cold water. For example, cleaning pipes out is more effective with hot water versus cold. Through Ayurvedic practices, when we want to stimulate metabolism and promote weight loss through optimal digestion, we take in hot water. Cold water has the opposite effect and lowers metabolism, causing digestion to weaken and weight to increase eventually and quicker for some than others based on constitution and season.
The other main cause of health issues, according to Ayurveda is, what is called Prajnaparadha, which translates to “crimes against wisdom.” In other words, it’s knowing what is right for us but choosing something different. Bringing anything cold into the body can affect our naturally maintained warm inner environment, so a second thought may give us the opportunity to make a different choice.
Next time you’re at the restaurant, ask for warm or hot water instead of the chilled ice water. Try smoothies without ice or at room temperature. As for cocktails, ask for less ice; though there is still ice, at least there is less of it. Ideally, it would be great not to have ice but practically speaking it's not really that possible. Drinking less would be a better solution. Who needs all that sugar and fermentation anyways?
Save the cold for application to a wound, fever or burn — since this is how ice works best.