Why Cold Foods May Be Wrecking Your Health


I have a post for you today with some information that threw me for a loop when I first learned it. Eating and drinking too many cold/frozen things can seriously impact your health in a negative way. Yes, too many salads, cold smoothies, raw juices, and iced beverages are actually bad for you. I'm not just talking about digestive disorders, I'm talking about your entire body on a systemic level.  Here are some things that can be affected:

  • Pain levels

  • Inability to lose weight 

  • All things uterus related (cramps, endometriosis, fibroids, cysts, fertility, etc.)

  • Digestion

This information did a number on me because for as long as I could remember I was told over and over again to eat more salads and drink more green juices. Now, I'm not suggesting you run away screaming if someone offers you a raw juice. I'm just saying that you need to be aware of your body and you need to keep your food choices balanced. 

Obviously, what I'm saying is based on Eastern Medicine. Please do not walk into your doctor's office tomorrow and tell her that the cold salad and iced tea you had last night for dinner are the cause of all your ailments, but please hear me out. Thousands of years of Chinese Medicine observation,  theory, and treatment have to count for something, right?

Why Is Coldness A Potential Problem?

Coldness slows things down and it also constricts. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) we find that too much internal coldness impacts the circulation of blood and fluids *think slow moving iceberg or imagine trying to drink a frozen slushie through a straw*. Things just aren't moving as fast or as smoothly as they should.  In TCM we often talk about 'blood stasis'  resulting from too much coldness in the body. This simply means that your blood is not circulating at its optimal potential. Again, this is from an Eastern perspective. This does not mean that you are losing all blood flow to your body parts. However, too much stagnation in women can manifest as endometriosis, fibroids, cysts, menstrual clots/cramps, fertility issues, etc.

The constriction and lack of movement caused by coldness can make pain conditions worse. It can also create a situation where an acute injury turns chronic because there is not healthy circulation in and out of the region. For example, you have a minor injury but the pain goes on and on. Maybe the X-Ray, MRI shows 'nothing is wrong', but you are still in constant pain months (or years) later.  Do your aches and pains hurt significantly more in the winter? Could be a sign that your need to internally warm things up a bit. Ladies, do you reach for that hot water bottle or heating pad each month to help your cramps? Yes, from a TCM perspective that warmth helps to balance out the coldness. 

Now, this is a gross oversimplification of Chinese Medicine theory, and yes, there are MANY other reasons in Chinese Medicine diagnosis as to why some of the ailments mentioned above may be happening to you (see your local acupuncturist to learn more), but today I want to focus on cold.

Who Is Impacted?

Some people have more heat in their bodies (in TCM we say they have more yang energy), and they might not be as sensitive to cold foods. Other people may immediately get stomach upset if they drink or eat too many cold things.  In my experience, both women and men who eat/drink an overabundance of cold things often have digestion issues as a result (constant bloating, indigestion, changes in appetite, even changes in bowel movements).

I find that women tend to be more susceptible to feeling coldness within their bodies and voicing it as an issue. For example, constant cold hands/feet or always needing sweaters or the heat turned up when everyone else seems to be fine. From a western diagnostic view, something like hypothyroidism can easily fall into the category of an imbalance of coldness in in the body.  Symptoms of hypothyroid such as lack of energy, weight gain (or low metabolic heat), relative feeling of constant coldness, actual temperature changes in hands/feet, lack of motivation, etc. are signs that things may be imbalanced in the body.

If you think you may have too much coldness in your body, you can start by making these simple changes.

5 Easy Things You Can Do

  1. DO NOT drink iced or cold beverages with your meals. Seriously. If you decide you don't want to change anything else, please at least give this one tip a try. Try drinking room temperature water instead. Also, try drinking more room temperature beverages through the day. Constantly sipping on that ice water is not doing you any favors.
  2. Balance out your raw vegetable consumption with cooked veggies. Eating the occasional salad or dipping those raw veggies in guacamole is fine, but try changing it up by also eating things like steamed and roasted veggies. How about a soup/stew chock-full of vegetables now and again?
  3. Mix warm things with the cold stuff. If you do have something raw/cold to eat or drink, balance it out by drinking warm tea, bone broth, or eating soup/stew along with it. Maybe eat that fresh ginger (a warming herb) along with your sushi or sashimi or add some cinnamon (also a warming herb) to that smoothie. 
  4. Eat for the seasons: eating a salad on a hot summer day is more balanced than eating one on a cold, damp winter day.  Reserve your colder meals/drinks for days when it's warm and sunny.
  5. Time your eating: Try eating or drinking your cold stuff near 12:00pm rather than first thing in the morning or late into the evening (noon is the most yang/warming part of the day and can help balance out the yin/cold nature of the food/drink).

Overall, you want to be sure to balance out your meals:

Imbalanced Day
Breakfast: Smoothie with frozen fruit or ice
Lunch: Salad with iced tea
Mid-Afternoon: Iced Coffee
Dinner: Ice Cream or frozen yogurt for dessert. Maybe some ice water with your dinner
*notice that every meal has something cold 

More Balanced Day
Breakfast: Add ginger or cinnamon  ('warming' herbs) into your smoothie. Or better yet, have something warm to eat
Lunch: Cooked/steamed/roasted veggies. If you eat raw veggies, drink hot tea
Dinner: If you decide to have ice cream or frozen yogurt, skip the iced/cold beverage

    The Good News

    The good news is that there are wonderful acupuncture treatments and Chinese herbal formulas that can help you in addition to making some of the changes listed above. The best part is that when you see your local herbalist he/she will give you a formula designed for your specific situation. Also, with acupuncture, there is a modality called moxibustion where we use warming herbs to heat up the acupuncture points and this helps to warm up the body as a whole. I first wrote about this subject of cold foods back in 2015, but I figured it was time for a more summarized and updated post. If you want a little more information about the TCM physiology aspect you can go here. 

    At the end of the day it's simply about balance. Too much of anything is never good. Just be aware of when you may be overdoing one type of food or drink, and be sure to change it up now and again.  I hope this information helps you to create more balance in your daily food choices. 


    The information on this website is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified healthcare professional. The information and opinions presented are intended for educational purposes only and they are not intended to be medical advice. It is advised you contact your healthcare provider prior to starting any type of program or protocol, starting or stopping supplements/herbs/medications, making any major dietary changes, or beginning any new form of physical activity. If you are pregnant, nursing, taking medication, or have a medical condition, consult your health care provider before using products or protocols based on this content.

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    Posted on January 23, 2018 and filed under digestion, nutrition, women's health.