Remember the last time you were exhausted, dripping with sweat, and you found a glass of cold water. Remember how the water tasted like elixir, soothing the parched muscles of your throat and bringing peace to your entire body? Water is one of the sources of life, it keeps us alive. But how beneficial could it be to have a diet of only water for a certain amount of time?
Let’s find out!
Water fasting, also known as a water cleanse, is a type of fasting in which you consume only water for a set period of time. Many cleansing diets are referred to as fasts, but in water fasting, you take in zero calories. It’s distinct from caloric restriction in which a person’s daily caloric intake is reduced by 20–40%.
Of course, in the long-term, it’s impossible to live on water alone. Your body can’t function without calories and nutrients; they’re the batteries and building blocks of life. However, a carefully planned, short-term water fast can help reset certain biological processes and reinvigorate your health.
In ancient Greece, Pythagoras was among many who extolled the virtues of fasting. During the fourteenth century it was practised by St Catherine of Siena, while the Renaissance doctor Paracelsus called it the “physican within”. Indeed, fasting in one form or another is a distinguished tradition and throughout the centuries, devotees have claimed it brings physical and spiritual renewal.
In primitive cultures, a fast was often demanded before going to war, or as part of a coming-of-age ritual. It was used to assuage angry deities and by native north Americans, as a rite to avoid catastrophes such as famine.
Fasting has played a key role in all the world’s major religions (apart from Zoroastrianism which prohibits it), being associated with penitence and other forms of self control. Judaism has several annual fast days including Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonements; in Islam, Muslims fast during the holy month of Ramadan, while Roman Catholics and Eastern orthodoxy observe a 40 day fast during Lent, the period when Christ fasted 40 days in the desert.
Julian of Norwich, an English anchoress and mystic who lived in the fourteenth century used it as a means of communicating with Christ. In other belief systems, the gods were thought to reveal their divine teaching in dreams and visions only after a fast by the temple priests.
But the practice has also had its dark side, having been exploited by exhibitionists and fraudsters, and foisted on the gullible. Take “Doctor” Linda Burfield Hazzard, from Minnesota, thought to have caused the death of over 40 patients whom she put on strict fasts, before being convicted of manslaughter in 1912. She died from her own fasting regime in 1938. Then there were the Victorian “fasting girls” who claimed to be able to survive indefinitely without food; one of them, Sarah Jacobs, was allowed to starve to death aged 12 as doctors tested her claims in hospital.
Therapeutic fasting – in which fasting is used to either treat or prevent ill health, with medical supervision – became popular in the 19th century as part of the “Natural Hygiene Movement” in the US. Dr Herbert Shelton was one revered pioneer, opening “Dr Shelton’s Health school” in San Antonio, Texas, in 1928. He claimed to have helped 40,000 patients recover their health with a water fast.
In the UK, too, fasting became part of the “Nature Cure”, an approach which also stressed the importance of exercise, diet, sunshine, fresh air and “positive thinking”.
“Fasting was at its most popular here in the 1920s,” according to Tom Greenfield, a naturopath who runs a clinic in Canterbury. “The first Nature Cure clinic to offer fasting opened in Edinburgh and I still have one or two patients who fasted there many decades ago.”
Other clinics which offered therapeutic fasting included the legendary Tyringham Hall in Buckinghamshire, now closed, and Champneys in Tring, Hertforshire – in those days a naturopathic centre, now a destination spa.
More recently, interest in fasting has revived in the UK, and other parts of the world.
Greenfield welcomes the renewed interest and says: “If people can do a one day fast for a minimum of twice a year – maybe one in spring and one in the autumn and setting aside a day they can rest, when they just drink water – this will help mitigate the toxic effects of daily living.”
Reviews of Water Fasting
1- Katie tried water fasting
“The short answer is that overall, water fasting was an amazing experience and I’ll definitely do it again.
I researched quite a bit and talked to several experts before jumping in to a water-only fast. Like I said, I’m not suggesting this for anyone else, just sharing my personal experience. Anyone considering water fasting should do additional research and talk to or be overseen by a qualified professional.
The first few days of fasting are not fun. At all. But they also aren’t as bad as you might think.
The few days before the fast, we focused on eating a lot more green veggies, drinking enough water, and taking supplements (they aren’t allowed on a water fast either). We also made sure our electrolytes were up with homemade electrolyte drinks and adding salt to our food.”
2) Kristine Crouch tried a 25 days water fast
For the first few days she had an abundance of energy due to full glycogen stores and remained active during the day, cleaning her room and doing small jobs.
Around Days 4-5, She started to feel the initial effects of ketosis (when the body uses fat, instead of glucose, as its primary fuel). However, no physical signs of hunger were observed.
By Days 6-11
She’d wake up feeling weak, but good. Blood pressure was low(er). Long, great quality sleeps (~8-10 hours). Lower energy, feeling mellow and chill. She felt desires to lie down all day, not wanting to look at a screen. She felt thoughtful and reflective. Reading and journaling more. No longer skipping up steps; walking is tiring, sitting / lying down is fine. Still no hunger.
Around Days 12-19 her eyes appeared brighter. Skin cleared. Felt energised. Spent lots of time outdoors getting fresh air and sunshine. Dreams more vivid – e.g. buying groceries, looking at food but never actually eating it. Vitals were good, weight decreased at a steady rate. Muscles became sore (especially arms) due to daily use (e.g. holding books, using my phone).
By the final few days, that is, days 20-25 she was physically weak but very mentally clear. Dreams were still vivid. She felt positive. Days felt slower. Still no hunger but desire to get back into the social world became strong.
What many people do not realise is the importance of breaking an extended fast. Once the body realises it isn’t getting any food, the digestive system goes to sleep. During this time, bacteria in the gut diminishes significantly. As such, food must be introduced in a slow and gentle manner to wake the system up and allow for digestive enzymes to repopulate.
“I broke my fast on watermelon, and spent my first week eating very small, frequent meals of high-water content fruits that were hydrating and easily digestible. I used Loren Lockman’s plan as a guide.”
3- 10 Days of Water Fasting
The first few days were rough.
It was during this time that the detoxifying symptoms were the worst. There was hunger, splitting headaches… it was rough.
I am a coffee lover and nothing beats pouring a hot cup of freshly brewed coffee into a ceramic mug, sipping the java goodness before starting the day.
I attribute the pure misery of days 1-3 to caffeine withdrawal.
These days were relatively easy.
By this time my digestive system had shut down and the hunger pains had disappeared. My tongue was often coated with a thick white film. This is apparently normal and another detoxification symptom.
I started losing weight, 1 – 1 1/2 pounds per day, but there was no problem going to work, playing guitar at church or performing any other daily physical functions.
I will never forget this day – ever. This was the most miserable day I have ever lived on planet earth.
I came home from work feeling great, not hungry, thinking clearly… And then my life was flipped upside down.
My wonderful wife pulled a freshly baked loaf of rosemary olive oil bread from the oven. I was immediately angry and I wanted that bread. But it wasn’t even possible at this point.
Once your digestive system shuts down around day 3, it takes a few days to bring it back up to speed. You do this by very slowly introducing food to your digestive system… drinking juice for 1-2 days, fresh fruit for another couple days, steamed vegetables for another day or two.
The process of reintroducing food can take anywhere from 7-14 days before your digestive system back up to fully operational. Eating any solid food while in a fasted state can lead to severe discomfort and even hospitalization!
These days were almost an exact replica of days 4-6. By the end of day 10, I had lost 15 pounds and was ready to eat again
4) Jose Kawage
After reading about water fasting and how it improved your health I decided to give it a try.
I fasted for twenty days, and this is my experience.
First day was rather easy, as in used to skip breakfast, and sometimes lunch. Second and third day were a bit difficult, and cravings start to pop in my head, food and eating invade your thoughts.for the fourth day, I was in a “wow, I’m doing this, and I think that’s when ketosis kicks in, and suddenly hunger goes away, I started feeling little dizzy and light headed, but generally speaking, I felt very well, despite the fact of not eating anything for 100 hours.
Days from five to thirteen were easy, and what I did to satisfy my cravings, was to cook them for my kids, BLT? Cook them a BLT, chorizo bread and cheese, the same, also for my weekend BBQ, I still did them, but “eat” water, while my friends enjoyed the meat and beer.
Two weekends I did that, while Monday to Friday I was really busy, and I took a nap while the family ate, other than that, I think hunger wasn’t showing.
On the scale, I lost like 30 pounds, but regained 8 in the first 3 days, water, poop and a working intestine does that.
What the water fasting really does to your body and mind is amazing, I got my cholesterol levels from dangerously high ( over 400) down to 140. My triglycerides from a whopping 1300 to 130. Also prongs now are reasonable, completely changed my point of view for snacks, sodas, chips, and other junk food.
I think I’ll do another fast pretty soon.
Due to religious reasons and its many health benefits, it is popular globally, and in countries like India, US, UK etc.
- Weight Loss
The benefit that interests most people is weight loss. While it may seem obvious that not eating will lead to less body fat, let’s take a closer look at exactly how water fasting can help. Ketosis is the state in which your body begins using energy from your internal fat stores instead of food. Water fasting helps your body reach ketosis more quickly than dieting. When you refrain from eating calories, your body is forced to burn fat cells for energy.
- Slows Aging
While we know of no force on earth that can halt or reverse the aging process, it is certainly true that some people age more gracefully than others. Animal studies have found that intermittent fasting can extend lifespan by up to 80% over control groups. In humans, fasting has been found to reduce oxidative damage and inflammation.
- Improved Cell Recycling
Autophagy is your body’s normal, natural process for recycling unnecessary or dysfunctional components. Water fasting forces your system into an autophagic state. With the severely reduced caloric intake, your body is forced to be more selective in which cells it protects.This means that fasting can encourage your body’s natural healing mechanisms to actively destroy and recycle damaged tissues, which may have a positive effect on several serious conditions.There is bountiful anecdotal evidence from people who claim that water fasting helped them overcome debilitating disorders. Current research backs up many of these claims. Animal studies have found that alternate day fasting caused a major reduction in the incidence of cancer and metabolic syndrome. Rodents placed on an intermittent fast had fewer incidences of neurological disorders
Risks of Water Fasting
Water fasting, as appealing as it sounds, also has some certain risks associated with it, and can even prove fatal
Medically recorded health complications during water fasting :
A breakdown in electrolyte homoeostasis is one of the first medically recorded problems of water fasting
Then there’s cardiac arrhythmias, urate nephrolithiasis, and gout.
Furthermore, we have severe orthostatic hypotension, severe normocytic, normochromic anemia, and gouty arthritis.
Orthostatic hypotension is that temporary feeling of lightheadedness or dizziness that can surprise you if you stand up too quickly during a water fast. It’s caused by a drop in blood pressure and usually only lasts a couple of seconds.
One death case was recorded back when water fasting was still used in medical circles to treat obesity. In this case, death was caused by a severe case of “lactic acidosis”.
Two obese people, who also used water fasting for weight loss, died of sudden death as well. One of those deaths happened as early as 3 weeks into a fast (and the other one 8 weeks in). But to be fair, both of those people went into a water fast with a pre-existing heart conditions.
A young woman also tried to lose weight through water fasting, but unfortunately passed away soon AFTER her fast . While she did reach her weight loss goal, 7 days after breaking off the fast her heart simply gave out.
There’s more cases like these, but I think 4 recorded deaths are more than enough to prove water fasting is not a walk in the park.
Would you want to try?
You know how uncomfortable water fasting can be, but you also now know how beneficial it can be for you. Given all these facts, are you willing to try it out?