Animals and so-called primitive peoples do not drink with their meals and there is every reason to consider this instinctive practice to be best.
Laboratory tests have determined that water leaves the stomach in about ten minutes after its ingestion. It carries the diluted, and consequently weakened, digestive juices along with it, thereby interfering seriously with digestion. It is often argued that water drinking at meals stimulates the flow of gastric juice and thereby enhances digestion. The answer to this is (1) It is not the natural way to stimulate the secretion of digestive juices and results sooner or later in an impairment of the secretory power of the glands; and (2) It is of no value to digestion to increase the secretion of digestive fluids, only to have them carried out of the stomach, into the intestine, before they have had time to act upon the food.
Water taken two hours after a meal enters the stomach at a time when the gastric juice is there in abundance and the reactions are proceeding nicely. The water sweeps these on into the intestine and retards digestion. Take your water ten to fifteen minutes before a meal, thirty minutes after fruit meals, two hours after starch meals, and at least four hours after protein meals.
Drinking at meals also leads to the bolting habit. Instead of thoroughly masticating and insalivating his food the one who drinks with his meals soon learns to wash it down half chewed. This practice should be avoided at all costs. Milk is a food and should be slowly sipped and held in the mouth until thoroughly insalivated before swallowing. No other food should be taken in the mouth with the milk. Thoroughly chew, insalivate and taste all food before swallowing. Food that is treated in this way can be swallowed without the aid of a liquid.
Cold drinks, water, lemonade, punch, iced tea, etc., that are often consumed with meals, impair and retard digestion. Cold stops the action of the enzymes which must wait until the temperature of the stomach has been raised to normal before they can resume their action. When the cold drink is first introduced into the stomach this is shocked and chilled. After it is sent out of the stomach and the reaction sets in, there is a feverish state resulting in great thirst. Ice cream acts in these same ways. Eating ice cream is like putting an ice pack to the stomach.
Hot drinks weaken and enervate the stomach. These destroy the tone of the tissues of the stomach and weaken its power to act mechanically upon the food. The weakening of its tissues in this way often helps in producing prolapsus of the stomach.
Extremes of heat and cold interfere with the secretion of the digestive juices. The functional powers of the secretory glands are at their highest when working in a temperature conforming to that of the normal body temperature, or at least, when the temperature does not exceed 100 degrees F.
Water in coffee, tea, cocoa, lemonade, etc., is water still. These drinks also stimulate the appetite and lead to overeating. Aside from this, the first three named each contain powerful poisons that act as excitants. Their habitual use impairs digestion, wrecks the nervous system and injures the kidneys. The coffee and tea user, as a rule, perspires excessively in summer.
A splendid rule for drinking is to drink all the water desired ten to fifteen minutes before meals, thirty minutes after fruit meals, two hours after starch meals and four hours after protein meals.