Is drinking tea with your meals good for your digestive system?

Last Updated on August 8, 2020

Restaurants often serve iced lemon tea or carbonated drinks as a set meal package with their dishes such as spaghetti, pizza, burger and chips, fish and chips, steak, etc. It may be a satisfying feeling,  to down a cup of ice lemon tea together with a hot meal especially on a hot day.

But after that, do you notice that you feel sleepy, lazy and lethargic?

Long term of taking cold drinks with your meals would result in digestive issues such as bloating, acid reflux and constipation. Maybe a little knee pain or joint pain elsewhere.

In olden Chinese custom, we always have a cup of hot tea to accompany oily meals like fried rice and noodles. If my grandaunt was still alive, she would flip if she ever catches me downing my favourite meal with anything other than warm water or tea.

Does it mean hot Chinese tea or any other tea is good for health?

Chinese tea is best taken with oily meals. Hence if you visit a bak kut teh (pork, with a lot of fatty meat cooked in Chinese herbal mix) restaurant, folks would order the pipping hot dish with Chinese tea of their choice. We have been taught to take Chinese tea with other oily dishes like Hokkien fried and even Western dishes like carbonara, fish and chips, fried chicken and anything with lots of coconut milk or cheese dressing.

However, if you have a relatively bland or “healthy’ diet of plain non oily/spicy food, taking too much tea may work the opposite way. The function of the tea is to wash away the oil from the food to prevent the buildup of sludge and food residues along your digestive track.

The same for the Indian and Punjabi community where a lot of herbs and spices as well as ghee is used in cooking. Hot tea (Ceylonese tea) often accompany their meals. Because of their diet that is very spicy, their body would be ‘heaty’ in nature and tea helps to balance out the effect.

If your diet is already healthy, the Chinese tea or any other form of tea may end up being too ‘corrosive’. You would find yourself developing health condition such as painful joints, pain in kidney/lower back areas and incontinence or pain in your urinary track/womb area as the tea, now not clearing the track, gets absorbed straight into the body.

When my brother was young, he disliked drinking water. Basically he drank tea like how people would drink water. He was eating mostly my mom’s cooking which was healthy not oily type of cooking. Because both my parents were working, they were too busy to notice about my brother’s liquid intake habits. With time, my brother grew more and more pale. By the time my brother was about 13 years old, he was diagnosed with childhood anemia. But the only thing the doctors could do is to prescribe iron pills for him.

My mom was determined not to have my brother grow up with this condition. Aside from giving him iron tablets, my mother literally force him to replace his Chinese tea intake with water. She also boiled Chinese soups using pork liver or lungs (which I loathed). With dietary changes, my brother was cleared of anemia within the same year (you can read more about the story in this post).

Can the Chinese tea be taken cold?

No, it must be taken hot. Occasionally if the weather is too hot, alright if you must have your ice lemon tea or iced tea. But as much as you can, refrain from taking them with your meals.

Because if you always have cold drinks with your meals, you will develop issues with your digestive system such as acid reflux, stomach cramps and constipation. Your digestive track needs heat to help digest food and you are doing yourself huge damage by literally pouring cold water into it. With age, you will start feeling it in your joints and develop arthritis. I am not kidding as Chinese healing system always caution against taking cold drinks.

To have an idea how bad cold drinks can be, try pouring iced water on oily dishes such as carbonara and Hokkien fried noddles then see how the water kind of cause fermentation.

Above: Hokkien fried noddles. Yes, it is as delicious as it looks. But we always take it with a cup of hot Chinese tea.

Occasionally, I still have a cup of my favourite iced milk tea but I would avoid taking them with my meals. I would take it about few hours later after my meal, usually on a blazing hot day.

In summary

When taking oily food like fried rice, drink a cup of hot tea to help with your digestion. Avoid cold drinks like iced lemon tea which is commonly offered as a set meal in restaurants. Alternatively, you can also squeeze a little lime on warm water instead of tea.

But if you are eating healthily, then too much of intake of tea may result in the opposite effect. Food can be medicine but if taken in wrong combination, it can end up affecting our health.

Love Chinese and Malaysian food? Check out the calorie content of your favourite Malaysian food:

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