How Drinking Hot Water Can Heal Your Gut (& Your Anxiety)

Hot water is pretty amazing.

It’s a bit of miracle worker for improving digestion AND it can also relieve anxiety and stress.

Let’s see why!

‘4 Pints of Hot Water A Day’ Cures All Diseases?

A couple of months ago I stumbled upon a fascinating book from the 19th century called “What Must I Do to Get Well? How Can I Keep So?”, written by Elma Stuart.

(The book is available here for free as a downloadable PDF – it’s a great read!)

Here’s the gist of it.

In the late 1800’s, Dr. James Salisbury (physician and inventor of the Salisbury steak) found that he could get very sick people to become healthy again with a strict regimen consisting of:

a) 4 pints of hot water per day.

b) a diet consisting entirely of lean beef patties (similar to the zero carb, carnivore diet).

It sounds kind of nuts — I get it.

But being a curious person, and interested in ALL things that can potentially improve my overall health, I decided to try at least half of the protocol; namely the hot water drinking.

In the past I’d already tried a 100% meat diet, which didn’t work so well for me personally, so I wasn’t very keen on doing that again.


It’s now been around 3 months of religiously drinking 4 pints of hot water EVERY day, and the results have been nothing short of amazing.

Quoting from the book:

“...In all chronic diseases hot water is the foundation of Dr. Salisbury’s treatment, who, as its discoverer and from long experiences of its virtues, declares, that if he were limited to but one remedy that one would be hot water.

…The longer you take the hot water the more will you feel the benefit, and usually you begin to be conscious of improvement almost at once.”

This matches my experience; more or less immediately upon starting the “hot water protocol” I noticed benefits such as improved digestive health.

So, how exactly does this magical beverage work, and how can it help reduce anxiety?

The Link Between Gut Health & Mental Health

Do you feel anxious, sad or moody for ‘seemingly no reason’?

In my experience, these anxious feelings can often be traced back to some sort of gut issue.

Here’s why:

Your gut health, and your mental health, are very closely linked.

The gut and mind are always chatting with each other through the “gut-brain-microbiome” axis.

Meaning – your gut health (your digestion and gut microbiome) massively influences your mood and emotions, and how you think and feel and act!

So, in a way, your gut acts as a kind of ‘second brain’.

And if you feel anxious and moody or depressed for “seemingly no reason”…

…well, there probably is a reason… your gut!

Research shows that gut dysbiosis (i.e imbalanced gut microbiome with loss of beneficial bacteria) and gut inflammation have been linked to both anxiety and depression!

(In this article here I discuss the importance of good digestion as well as a healthy gut microbiome for reducing stress, anxiety and depression.)

To put things in a nutshell:

For anyone struggling with anxiety, or really any kind of health issue, my recommendation would be to make gut health a 1# priority!

And here’s where hot water comes in:

9 Awesome Benefits of Hot Water Drinking

Drinking hot water is truly one of the best things you can do for strengthening digestion and reducing IBS, SIBO, bloating, acid reflux, etc.

I’ve tried pretty much every gut protocol out there — different herbs, antibiotics, probiotics, vitamins, minerals, you name it — and while some it helped, I honestly don’t think any had quite the same impact as drinking 4 daily pints of plain ol’ hot water.

Specifically, the hot water drinking has made a HUGE difference for improving bile flow (which I feel had downstream benefits for balancing my gut microbiome).

I even found this study showing that warm water can improve growth and optimize the gut microbiome in rabbits!

So – who can benefit from hot water drinking?

I’d reckon a lot of people!

Here I’ve pulled 9 quotations directly from the book on the benefits and uses of hot water (and added some comments of my own):

1. It washes out the stomach, thouroughly cleansing away all the sour yeast, ‘spoiled stuff’ and slime remaining after food, leaving it sweet and quiet for sleep, and so clean that nothing shall be between the gastic juices and the food at the next meal. This is why it so soon cures indigestion, heart-burn and flatulence, and makes you enjoy your food as rarely ever before.

Note: Hot water is a great idea if you have issues with SIBO/SIFO or GERD (acid reflux).

2. It stimulates the sluggish liver, inciting the downward flow of the bile through the proper ducts and channels. A man in health secretes from 1.5 – 2 pints of bile a day; it is important that it should not be permitted to go fooling around all over the system to be absorbed into and contaminate the blood-stream, which is the life-stream.

Note: Proper bile flow is ESSENTIAL for good digestion. Bile acids help with digestion of fats and fat soluble vitamins, and it acts as an antimicrobial to clean out the small intestine. A sluggish gallbladder and poor bile flow can cause all sorts of health problems. For me, hot water worked better than any digestive bitter, or taurine or TUDCA to promote healthy bile flow.

3. It causes a flow of urine sufficient to keep in the solution those deposits which when the urine flows scantily are precipitated as ‘red sand’; the water very soon becomes plentiful, pale in colour, clear and inodorous, making evident to the meanest capacity how greatly it needs must lighten the filtering work the kidneys have to perform.

4. The hot water promotes downward peristalsis and so keeps the undigested food moving on and gets it out of the body before it has time to take on other fermentations.

Note: Stimulates intestinal peristalsis which is really important for avoiding SIBO.

5. It liquifies and purifies the blood, thus largely assisting circulating and vitality; imparting an unwonted sensation of comfort and warmth to the body and inuring it against colds and chills.

6. It washes out the uric acid from the joints, which deposit causes in gout, rheumatism, etc., such distress and helplessness, and it keeps the articulations free and lissom.

7. It greatly lightens the labour of the heart, making much easier the handling of pure liquid blood than when it is sluggish, sticky and congested. I have invariably found it strengthen patients’ hearts; never ‘weaken’ them;- if not taken to foolish excess.

8. It quickly diminishes pain, soothes and strengthens the shattered nerves, gives calm, cheerfulness and strength to the mind through the good work it does to the body; and…

Note: Hot water is really fantastic for relieving tension and stress in the body.

9. O boon unspeakable! it induces, thanks to a clean untroubled stomach, sound refreshing sleep. It is soothing and invigorating in fatigue and exhaustion.

Note: Sleep problems can be caused by gut dysbiosis/leaky gut.

How Hot Water, And Hot Food, Boosts Your Digestive Fire

Dr. James Salisbury was certainly not the first person to discover the benefits of drinking hot water.

In both Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda – systems of medicine/healing with knowledge dating back thousands of years – it’s considered common sense to avoid cold drinks (and food) and instead drink hot beverages, tea, etc.

Here’s the rationale:

You can think of your digestive apparatus as a cauldron resting over a fire.

Healthy, strong digestion means having a roaring digestive fire that will quickly consume any logs (foods) you put in; thus you are able to break down and make use of the nutrition in foods.

Vice versa – weak digestion is like a camp fire on a wet and soggy day, it is not able to burn any logs you put in.

(In fact, adding in too many heavy logs might extinguish a weak digestive fire.)

In this state you are not able to extract any ENERGY or NUTRIENTS from food, which over time will deplete your body of resources required to deal with stress.

Very bad for an individual prone to anxiety!

The Problem With Consuming Too Much Cold Food & Drinks

So, this is not really rocket science…

Consuming too much physically cold foods like fruit juice, cold water, ice cream, cold milk straight from the fridge, etc, is going to dampen your digestive fire.

It’s like pouring a bunch of ice water on your digestive fire!

And a dampened digestive fire = greater risk of developing digestive issues such as IBS, SIBO, GERD, etc.

The key to improving digestion is to stoke your digestive fire.

In other words: increasing your stomach acid, bile flow, digestive enzymes and speeding up gut motility.

You do this by focusing on drinking hot beverages and eating warm, tasty, cooked food (not necessarily spicy), while avoiding too much cold foods and drinks.

…And certainly, making a habit of drinking plenty of hot water, or tea, is a fantastic way of stoking one’s digestive fire.

How To Get Started With Hot Water Drinking

Honestly I can’t see why anyone would NOT want to get on the ‘hot water-drinking- bandwagon’.

It’s cheap (I mean, it’s hot water), great for hydration, boosts digestion like nothing else, as mentioned it may even help optimize your gut microbiome, has zero side effects, it tastes really good if you make herbal teas or ginger tea, and so on and so forth.

But, there are a couple of important rules to abide by.

Let’s see what the good book says…

“But if a meal-time is near, only 6 oz. should then be drunk. In great fatigue it were wiser to take your pint, and then rest for an hour before eating. It is a fact that no other drink quenches thirst so well as hot water. It fulfils all these and many other beneficent offices for the sick as also for those in health who desire to keep so ; for well or ill everybody needs an internal bath even more than one externally ;- ‘Even comparatively healthy persons find it of great benefits’ (Salisbury).”

“It is foolish to take the water ‘as hot as you can bear it.’ It should be just comfortably warm ; like your tea and coffee in fact, that is, from 100 F to 130 F as it suits you best. Nor should it be swallowed quickly, but slowly sipped, to obviate weight and distension.”

So, here are the basic rules of hot water drinking:

  • DO NOT drink your hot water with your meals, drink it in between meals! This is really important because you do not want to dilute your stomach acid with a bunch of liquid.
  • You can have smaller quantities of tea or water or coffee with meals, but keep your 4 pints of water in between meals.
  • I like to split it up with: having 1 pint directly after waking up, 1 pint in the AM, 1 pint in the afternoon, 1 pint before bed. Sometimes I only manage 3 pints but I really think the magic is in getting down all 4 pints on a daily basis (especially if you have some more serious digestive/health issue)
  • You don’t want your hot water to be scorching hot, and you should sip it over 15-30 minutes.
  • Herbal teas are fine! It makes getting down the full 4 pints a bit easier. I like drinking ginger tea. Coffee is not ‘hot water’.

Conclusion – Start Downing 4 Pints of Hot Water Today

Regularly taking hot water has improved my digestion by 1500% and increased my ability to eat more foods, and it’s just overall made me feel a lot better/healthier.

Try out the hot water drinking for a couple of weeks and see if your mind isn’t blown!

And let me know how you get on it with it in the comments.

See you next time 🙂

7 thoughts on “How Drinking Hot Water Can Heal Your Gut (& Your Anxiety)”

    • I agree wholeheartedly – hot water is truly amazing! Thank you for reading the article and taking the time to comment 😀

      Cheers, Alex

    • Hi Peter, I don’t think there would be much difference between drinking hot water and tea, so if you enjoy tea better then drink that instead!

      Cheers, Alex

  1. Thank you, Alex. I appreciate the absolute simplicity of this. I have not managed 4 pints, merely reaching 2 pints per day, but certainly experience the nerve soothing effect as well as definite digestive improvement not paralleled by herbal supplements. Your site is one of the most thoughtful and encompassing on subjects of interest to me.

    • Thank you Brigette for the kind words – it means a lot to me to hear that someone finds these articles useful and/or enjoyable. Maybe I should write some new articles, I do have a couple ideas in my head (e.g. nightshades and cholinesterase inhibitors sensitivity and how it can cause stress and tension).

      Anyways…. I hope you see continued success with the hot water drinking!


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