Water fasting is where you consume almost nothing but water for an extended period of time. There are other items which you will still need to consume but in small quantities. Fasting has become more popular over the past few years, as many are beginning to discover the benefits.
Water fasting is essentially taking regular fasting to a new level. While there are simpler forms of fasting, water fasting consists of longer periods, ranging from 10 days to extended fasts which can last for over 30 days!
Why would I want to try water fasting?
Water fasting is known to help your body detoxify itself and give your system a “reboot”. It is a good way to get your body to cleanse itself in a natural way. This will let it do all the detoxification work instead of relying on outside sources to do the cleaning.
Water fasting is also known to have additional benefits. These range from lowering your risk of heart disease to lowering your cholesterol and blood pressure levels. There is also the added benefit of weight loss due to the significant reduction in calorie intake.
Another potential benefit is giving your body time while water fasting to detox from unwanted or harmful items. These are typically the types of things you may have accumulated as a part of your lifestyle.
By fasting and avoiding these things, you give your body a chance to break down addictions to these items. These could range from chocolate to snack foods or even alcohol or tobacco!
Is a water fast for everyone?
Water fasting is not for everyone. It takes preparation to undertake a water fast as you need to ensure your nutrient levels are adequate to last the entirety of the fast.
There are also medical conditions which don’t correlate with fasting and can cause serious health issues. It is not recommended that you water fast if:
- You are under 18 years of age
A growing body needs nutrition, water fasting provides very little nutrition.
- You have diabetes
Fasting can increase the risk of negative side effects in both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
- You suffer from an eating disorder
This goes for both under-eaters and over-eaters. Under needs as many calories as possible and over may cause health issues due to the sudden decrease in caloric intake.
- You have chronic kidney disease
Water fasting can cause significant damage to the kidneys if you are suffering from kidney disease.
- You suffer from gout
Water fasting can increase uric acid production, which leads to a higher risk of gout attacks
- You suffer from heartburn
Water fasting can still lead to stomach acid production. With no food to break down, the excess acid can lead to heartburn.
So how do I actually water fast?
Firstly there is some preparation which must be completed to prepare yourself for the water fast:
- Begin to eat smaller meals
Leading up to the water fast (one to two weeks prior). You need to get your body used to small meals before omitting them all together with the fast. You also need to ensure that these meals are nutrient and mineral packed. This will give your body the stores it needs throughout the fast.
- Get a blood test
Before starting to ensure you have adequate minerals and nutrients. This is vital as you need to know that you have adequate stores to last the length of the fast.
- Consider a colon cleanse
A colon cleanse or a colonoscopy is a good way to help with the detoxification process. It kick starts the body’s ability to purge toxins by flushing out waste and removing what may be one of the biggest problems.
- Have the right foods ready
Having the right foods on hand to ingest if the fast needs to end early is a great idea to consider. There is the risk of re-feeding syndrome after coming off such a fast. If you have to come off the fast in an emergency, eat a small handful of food (to not overdo it) and seek the advice of your doctor.
- Seek medical advice
And most importantly, check in with your doctor before beginning your fast. They will know you and your health history. They will also be able to provide individually tailored information based on your body and background.
Water fasting is not a great idea if you are a beginner in the subject of fasting. If it is your first time trying fasting, it would be best to try an alternative fast which can be shorter or more flexible. This will allow you to get a feel for how fasting works, but not overexert yourself. It will also lower the risk of re-feeding syndrome.
If you are interested in water fasting but are unsure about the possible issues that could arise, there are retreats out there where you can do a water fast under medical supervision. Although they can be costly, they are a worthwhile investment as you gain the knowledge and experience of water fasting while being regularly checked up on by a health professional!
As for the fast
To begin, follow the above preparation. The quality of preparation you do will determine how long you will be able to water fast for. To get any sort of benefit from water fasting, it will need to last a minimum of 10 days. By this stage, the body will have begun its process of detoxifying.
During the fast, you will need to consume somewhere between 2-3 liters of water most days. As you are only consuming water you want to ensure its as high of quality as possible. The best kind of water you can drink is water that has been purified by shungite to clean the water, otherwise, try to use alkalized water If you can’t get either of these then purified water is the next best option.
As you will deplete your body of nutrients and minerals, it becomes vital to replenish these but can be tricky to do while not eating any foods. The most important thing with water fasting is keeping your electrolytes up during the fast without breaking the fast.
The minerals specifically related to electrolytes are:
- Natrium Chloride
To get these minerals and remain in a fasted state, there are a few methods which can be useful:
The most common is to use a high-grade salt such as Pink Himalayan Salt or Celtic Lake/Sea Salt. These can both be consumed by mixing them with water or by placing pieces in your mouth and letting them dissolve.
The alternative method is to use Sea Moss to get your nutrient intake. Similar to the salt, Sea Moss can be placed in your mouth, although it is advised to mix with water as the minerals can be consumed over a longer period of time.
Finally, you can use supplements that come in forms of capsules or tablets. While not recommended as there are more natural alternatives available, they can be useful at keeping your nutrient and mineral levels up while fasting.
As a part of the detoxifying process, you may suffer from:
- Feelings of weakness
- Smelly body odor
- “Gunk” in your mouth
All of the above are fairly normal reactions to the change within your body. Remember, this type of fast is used to clean the “crap” out of your body. Some of the above are a result of this process and can be uncomfortable.
However, these will pass as the body runs out of toxins to excrete. If you suffer from these for an extended period check in with your doctor to ensure everything is on track.
You will feel a few things while doing this fast:
The first and most obvious is hunger. Hunger can lead to a range of emotions. Usually makes us much more irritable (hangry is the “official” term).
It can also make it harder to concentrate and lead to a feeling of weakness. You can also suffer from dizzy spells if you stand up too quickly from a seated position.
How long should my water fast be?
There are limits as to how long you should fast. While the world record fast is a whopping 382 days, don’t expect that you will be able to last this long.
For men and women, the recommended maximum is different. Men are encouraged not to exceed 40 days as it can actually become unhealthy to fast after this point. Women are encouraged to not exceed 24 days due to their menstrual cycle.
While you can do a water fast for a shorter period of time, you need to do it for a minimum of 10 days to receive the true benefits of a water fast.
Anything I should avoid?
There are some things that you should not do while water fasting. While doing a water fast you should avoid:
This will put additional pressure on the body during a vulnerable time. Avoid stressful activities and situation as much as possible.
- Strenuous physical exercise
While light exercise such as walking or stretching is OK, lifting heavy weights or running is discouraged due to the lack of energy intake.
- Come off the fast too quickly
We will discuss below how to handle this, but re-feeding syndrome can occur. If you are coming off the fast early ensure you don’t overeat no matter how hungry you become, you must take it slow.
On a side note, what you can do to help yourself is:
Using meditation is a great way to take your mind off cravings. Additionally, meditation also provides a host of other benefits.
- Get some good books
Another way to take your mind off things is to read a book. Provided the content is educational, not only will it distract you but also be a good chance to learn something new.
- Remove temptations
If you know you will be tempted to break your fast for a certain food or drink, then completely remove it from your household. The temptation could lead to excess eating to break the fast and result in health consequences.
How do I come off a water fast?
Coming off a water fast requires patience and discipline to ensure you don’t overeat. There is a stepped process you will need to follow to come off a water fast in a healthy way. The rate at which you move from step to step (or level to level) will depend on the length of the fast.
The levels of re-feeding
For a short fast, you should be able to safely move between levels within half a day to a day. Longer fasts will require you to spend up to a few days at each level before moving onto the next. If you are unsure check in with your doctor for advice.
Your first few meals need to be water-based and very light. Things such as juices (no added sugars) made of either fruits or vegetables and diluted with water are a good start. You can progressively from your first juice begin to add less and less water to add more density to the food intake.
From juices, moving to things such as broths (either vegetable or meat based) for nutrients is a good step. Adding lighter items to such as a few wafer biscuits or a small amount of bread can help keep the process moving.
Once you are confident that you can stomach a bit of a heavier meal, move to eating soups such as minestrone or vegetable. These are a bit denser and will assist in getting back to normal eating.
Moving on from here, begin to incorporate solid foods such as fruits and vegetables. Nuts and seeds can also be useful as light snacks in between your main meals. Depending on your normal diet, at this stage you should be safe to add dairy products such as milk, yogurts or cheeses back into your diet.
And finally, once you are feeling hunger cravings for heavier foods again, begin to eat your normal diet again (meats, plants and everything in between!)
Water fasting is a great way to cleanse the body and receive numerous additional benefits. Although this kind of fast is only for a well seasoned faster. While there is nothing stopping you from water fasting for a few days, to receive the full benefits you will need to do it for a minimum of a 10 day period.
If you are interested in water fasting, check in with your doctor and look at ways you can prepare yourself for a successful water fast. Alternatively, by looking online you should be able to find a retreat that offers the chance to fast under medical/professional supervision.
Have you attempted or completed a water fast before? Let us know in the comments below what you found to be the most beneficial aspect of your fast!