Drinking with Meals

Couple drinking with meal

Expert advice on drinking with meals

I recently read a blog addressing the question, “Should we drink beverages with our meals?” The expert answer was that including a drink with meals is fine since we need water for digestion, and the water will help us feel full, so we will eat less.

Hmm… Although there is some wisdom in this answer, it doesn’t really address all of the implications of drinking with meals. Like most eating habits, this is a very individual issue. Some people can drink with their meals with no ill effects, others may find that drinking with meals can cause digestive problems.

Drinking with meals may be drinking to indigestion.

If you often find yourself with indigestion or “acid reflux” after meals, before resorting to medications, try not drinking with your meals, especially if you are over 40. The problem is that when you drink with your meals, you tend to wash the food down with the beverage and you don’t chew it as thoroughly, making it more difficult to digest.

Also, if you drink water or other beverages with your meal you may dilute the saliva in your mouth and the digestive juices in your stomach, making digestion more difficult. This is particularly true if you gulp water to wash your food down, rather than chewing it thoroughly and mixing it with saliva in the process. Although your body does require water during digestion, too much water can upset the balance needed for proper digestion.

Finally, the sheer volume you are putting into your stomach is increased if you eat a typical meal and drink a large glass of water or two, making it more likely that the contents of your stomach will reflux into your esophagus.


I have an acquaintance who suffered with acid reflux/heartburn on a regular basis. When I shared lunch with her, I noticed that she washed down her food with at least two glasses of some beverage throughout the meal. I suggested that she try not drinking with her meals, which she did for a while, and her indigestion went away. However, she missed drinking with her meals so much, she went back to her old habits, and now takes an over-the-counter medication for her acid reflux.

This is an issue that affects me personally. I do not drink with meals and have not for a number of years. I was having digestive problems including acid reflux and heartburn, and when I stopped drinking with my meals, the problem cleared up completely. Having said that, I understand that this does not apply to everyone. It's possible that if we carefully chew food and only sip water in between bites, that the problem will not occur.

I also should note that I start each day with a large glass of water and make a point of drinking throughout the day--just not when I'm eating!!"

Important: Chronic indigestion may indicate a serious problem, so be sure to consult your physician if you are experiencing unusual or long-lasting discomfort. Chronic acid reflux can damage your esophagus and even lead to cancer.

What about medication?

The FDA has recently mandated that acid-reflux medications (also called proton pump inhibitors) must carry a warning label about the increased risk of bone fractures associated with their use. This group of drugs includes Prevacid, Prilosec, and Nexium.

The problem with them is that these medications make it more difficult for the body to absorb calcium and so the bones may become fragile.

In addition, a report has come out showing a possible link with these medications to  an increased risk for dementia and Alzheimer's Disease.

The moral of the story

You may have no problem drinking with meals, especially if you are young or are a careful eater. It is certainly the norm in our culture to do so. However, if you are experiencing indigestion, you might try drinking in between your meals rather than during the meal. If you do continue to drink with your meals, consider sipping your beverage and only in between bites after you have chewed and swallowed your food.

Just something for you to consider that may help.

Eat and be healthy with my warmest regards,

Click here to go from Drinking with Meals page to Digestion Tips page.