You’ve just eaten a big, delicious meal, and now it’s time to unwind for the night. What could be more appealing before you crawl into your sheets than a long, relaxing bath or a nice, hot shower?
Except there’s one problem: Maybe you’ve been told that taking a bath or shower right after you eat is actually not recommended.
Because of the way that your body works to digest food, an after-meal soak or shower could give you stomach cramps and indigestion. Let’s weigh the pros and cons of bathing after eating.
Is it bad to bathe right after eating? The answer isn’t as straightforward as a simple yes or no.
When you take a warm bath or shower, a process called
In a more general sense, hyperthermic action is
- stimulate your immune system
- relax your nervous system
- stimulate your sweat glands to flush out toxins
After you eat, your body is already at a slightly increased body temperature. That gentle warmth you feel in your body after a satisfying meal is actually your body directing increased blood flow to your digestive organs.
A bath can also increase your heart rate, which feels uncomfortable on a full stomach.
Anecdotally, people say that taking a bath or shower confuses your body because instead of that increased blood flow to your digestive tract, your body is experiencing hyperthermic action caused by the water.
Theoretically, this would slow down or interrupt your digestion, leading to sluggishness. There’s no conclusive scientific evidence that proves or disproves this idea.
If you subscribe to this theory, you may want to consider what it is that you’ve eaten before you completely rule out a bath afterward.
A meal with dense protein, heavy fiber content, lots of fat, or refined carbohydrates may cause bloating as your body digests, creating a situation that puts pressure on your chest and makes cramps and heartburn becomes more likely.
If the theory holds true, then taking a shower after some fruit, broth, or a salad probably wouldn’t be as bad.
It can’t be conclusively shown that taking a hot shower is bad for you after eating, but one way to play it on the safe side is to take a cold or lukewarm shower instead of a hot one.
Taking a cold shower
If you’re concerned about interrupting your body’s natural digestive timeline, you can simply wait awhile before you hop in the tub after eating.
Conventional wisdom typically advises 20 minutes after eating before any water immersion, but there aren’t any studies available to suggest an exact timeline.
Of course, showering and bathing after a meal aren’t the only things that are anecdotally not so good for digestion. Some of them are more research-backed than others.
Brushing your teeth
This actually holds some weight. Brushing your teeth after you eat can cover your teeth with particles of highly acidic foods. Instead of protecting your teeth with fluoride, you end up harming your enamel when you brush your teeth right after eating.
It’s best to wait 30 minutes, or brush your teeth right when you wake up and right before going to sleep.
There’s simply not a lot of evidence to suggest that you need to wait to go swimming after eating, especially if it’s a casual swim.
When you swim in cold water, you’re typically not elevating your heart rate, and your core temperature is being brought down, not up. Your body has plenty of blood volume to support a dip in the pool and digestive activity at the same time.
This one is hotly debated. Working out after you’ve eaten may, in some cases, improve your workout performance. But you probably don’t want to hit the gym immediately after you’ve downed a significant amount of calories.
Waiting at least 45 minutes to start your workout after a heavy meal is recommended, both for your workout and for your digestion.
This one is also up for debate. Reclining right after you eat may not be good for the lining of your esophagus. You should wait until your body has had a chance to begin digestion and move the food into the intestines before you lie down in bed.
This will also help prevent reflux of stomach acid into the esophagus.
Research has yet to provide clarity on if it’s really that bad to take a hot shower or bath after eating. At the very least, it’s a possibility that you may experience discomfort and stomach cramping if you get in the tub before your food starts to digest.
To avoid any digestive discomfort, you might want to wait 20 minutes to an hour after you eat to bathe.