Water fasting has been part of the human philosophy for thousands of years. Throughout time, people have chosen to fast for spiritual and religious reasons or to raise awareness for a cause. But recently people have been turning to fasting for medical reasons and even weight loss. So, what exactly does water fasting involve, and is it really healthy for the body? Let’s dig a little deeper into fasting and see what the experts have to say about this somewhat extreme weight loss practice.
So, what is a water-fast?
Many cleansing diets are referred to as fasts. But with a water fast, you consume zero calories. Water fasting involves a complete abstinence from all foods and beverages for a period of time, except of course, for pure water. While there is no set limit as to how long you can fast, according to Medical News, you can do it for as little as one day or as much as three days.
On the other hand, Dr. Alan Goldhamer, who specializes in water fasting and is the founder and education director of True North Health Center in Santa Rosa, California, says a water fast can last for up to 40 days! Basically, you can do it as long as needed, to accomplish your desired goals. That said, although the human body is capable of amazing things, 40 days without nutrients is extreme. In fact, a water fast that lasts more than three days should be medically supervised.
When it comes time to end a water fast, Dr. Goldhamer suggests gradually reintroducing food back into your diet. Doing so reinforces good dietary habits. Adding food back into your diet should typically take about one-half the length of the fast.
Water fasting for food addiction and weight loss
Are you addicted to sugar? Are processed foods your nemesis? Chemicals, oils and sugar added to processed foods can artificially stimulate dopamine in the brain, turning you into a sugar or junk food addict. And food addiction leads to weight gain and obesity.
The best way to combat excess weight is by adopting a healthy diet packed with whole natural foods. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy getting back into a healthy routine. Especially when processed and fast foods are everywhere these days. Here’s where water fasting can help.
If your goal is to lose excess weight and you’re having trouble implementing healthy foods in your diet, a period of fasting may help. Proponents of water fasting suggest it’s effective for taming food addiction. According to Goldhamer, water fasting can reboot your system, making whole natural foods appealing, once more.
Water fasting may also be beneficial for reducing body fat. The reason: ketosis. Ketosis is the state in which your body turns to internal fat stores instead of food for energy. Water fasting also helps your body reach ketosis faster than simply dieting. Basically, when you stop eating calories, your body is forced to burn fat cells for energy.
Water fasting for high blood pressure
Beyond helping you lose weight and reducing body fat, water fasting also has a positive effect on certain potentially serious health conditions like cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure. A study published in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics looked at 174 patients with high blood pressure.
Patients participated in a treatment program that consisted of a short pre-fasting faze. For approximately two to three days, food consumption was limited to fruits and vegetables. This period was followed by medically supervised water-fast that lasted about 10 to 11 days and a refeeding period that lasted about six to seven days, which included a low-fat, low-sodium, vegan diet.
Almost 90 percent of the participants achieved blood pressure lower than 140/90 mm Hg by the end of the treatment program. All of the participants who were taking blood pressure meds successfully discontinued the use of medication.
Water fasting may help you live longer
Do you want to live longer? Most people do. Animal studies find that intermittent or periodic fasting may protect against diabetes, cancers, heart disease and neurodegeneration. Meanwhile, human studies have found that fasting also helps reduce obesity, hypertension, asthma and rheumatoid arthritis. Thus, you’ll age slower, say experts, and liver longer.
Intermittent fasting, according to a USC study, may even play a role in regenerating stem cells. Stem cells exist throughout the body and are found in various tissue like the brain, bone marrow, blood, blood vessels, skeletal muscles, skin and the liver. Evidence suggests that through water fasting, stem cells will shift from a dormant state to a state of self-renewal.
Water fasting isn’t for everyone
Your body consists of about 60 percent water. You continually lose it through sweat, digestion and even when you breathe. In fact, your cells, organs and tissues depend on it, which is why dehydration is so bad for health.
Nevertheless, you can’t live on water alone. Your body will cease to exist without calories and nutrients. And of course, water fasting may not be for everyone. Some medical conditions do not respond well to fasting. Genetic disorders and certain types of kidney disease, for example, may not improve with fasting.
The bottom line
That said, a short-term water fast can help reset certain biological processes and even improve your overall health. In fact, some common causes of premature death like diabetes and even drug addiction do respond well to water fasting, and often with amazing results, suggests Goldhamer.
Moreover, fasting may help symptoms of autoimmune disorders like arthritis, lupus, colitis, Crohn’s disease, asthma, eczema, psoriasis and environmental allergies. If you think water fasting may be something you want to try, talk to your doctor and then start slow. After 24 hours, reintroduce some healthy whole foods back into your diet and see what happens. Happy fasting!
— Katherine Marko