Among the myriad overhyped health myths around drinking water is the idea that slamming it first thing in the morning will lead to more regular bowel movements. Those who swear by this simple act argue that, among other things, it kick-starts your metabolism and digestion, hydrates your empty stomach and intestines, purifies the colon, boosts immunity and flushes out the toxins.
Their argument makes some sense. After all, you’ve just slept for numerous hours in a row without taking in any liquids, so it reasons that a big glass of H2O is exactly what your body is craving when you open your eyes. But is that sweet, sweet faucet nectar really so magical that it can deliver all the benefits promised above?
First, the big-picture stuff. “Water both lubricates the lining of the small and large intestine, as well as keeps the cells that line the intestines working properly, so that they can carry on their normal functions, such as absorption and electrolyte balance,” says Jesse Houghton, senior medical director of gastroenterology at the Southern Ohio Medical Center, there is some credence to the theory.
Basically, proper hydration “helps to keep things moving in the gastrointestinal tract,” adds Nicole Conteduca, a dietitian nutritionist in Chicago. “When you’re dehydrated, the colon pulls water from your stool, which, in turn, leads to constipation.”
Okay, got it. That, however, is water and hydration in general. How much does the “first thing in the morning” aspect matter?
“I don’t know any reason why drinking water first thing in the morning on an empty stomach would have any effect on keeping regular,” Conteduca says. “The main goal is to get enough fluid throughout the entire day. The time of day shouldn’t make a difference as long as your overall daily intake was adequate.”
Houghton agrees, but does add that “soda pop or any caffeinated beverage should be avoided, as they won’t hydrate our bodies.” If anything, then, it’d be a good idea to drink a good amount of water just to make sure all that coffee you drink isn’t dehydrating you.
While we’re at it, some of the morning-water chuggers argue with each other about whether warm or cold water better “kick-starts your metabolism.” “There are no well-designed, large studies indicating that either timing of drinking water — such as time of day or before or after meals — or water temperature makes a significant difference in hydration or our bodily functions,” Houghton says.
Again, water and staying hydrated are just important pieces to the overall digestive puzzle of taking great, healthy, regular poops. “If you’re actively exercising or trying to increase your dietary fiber without also increasing your water intake, you may actually feel worse than before,” Houghton says. “Fiber may bind you up if you don’t also increase your water intake, and you’re much more likely to become dehydrated if you exercise without drinking plenty of water.”
So to recap: Will an ice-cold glass of water in the morning wake you up? Sure! Will it lube up your bowels like hose-water running down the Cannonball Slide at Action Park? Not any more than steadily drinking water throughout the day.
Sorry to break it to you, but once again, it’s better to just drink water whenever you’re thirsty — even when in pursuit of a great B.M.