Studies show that fasting has a wide range of health benefits including detoxing, rebooting and rejuvenating, weight loss, lower blood sugar, lower cholesterol and heart health, improved brain function and cancer prevention. Fasting dates back centuries in religious and spiritual contexts and fasting diets as a way for fitness and wight loss have been popular since the early 1900s. One of the most popular liquid diets, The Master Cleanser, was created in the 1940s by Stanley Burrough, a self-taught alternative medicine practitioner.
Amongst different fasting diets, water fasting has gained extra popularity in recent years. It should be noted here that water fasting is not at all the same as starvation. Starvation crosses the line from unhealthy to downright lethal and dangerous. People with certain medical conditions should not attempt to water fast without a physician’s supervision.
Water fasting is exactly that! Having nothing except water for a set period of time…That means no food, no coffee, no tea, no alcohol, no zero-calorie sports drinks or flavored waters, or any other drinks. Just keeping up with the ample consumption of water to support the body. Water fasts can last anywhere from 1-3 days. Extended water fasting of up to 40 days should always be performed under medical team’s supervision to ensure that it is both appropriate and aligns with an individual’s particular biology and health needs.
For novice water fasters, who are only beginning to explore the practice, it’s important to start small and test the waters, so to speak. The best way to get mentally and emotionally ready for water fasting is to start with “intermittent fasting” (IF). A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine confirms the amazing benefits of “IF” on health, disease, aging and life span. There are several”IF” methods:
- The 16/8 method (my favorite method) involves restricting your daily eating period to 8 hours, such as 8-4 p.m. Then you fast the remaining 16 hours. In this method, timing of the fast is key. For best result, eat earlier in the day like 7 am to 3 pm, or 10 am to 6 pm the latest. Our metabolism is in sync with our circadian rhythm of daytime eating and nighttime sleeping. Nighttime eating is well associated with a higher risk of obesity.
- The 5:2 diet in which you consume only 500–600 calories on two non-consecutive days of the week, and eat normally the other 5 days.
- Eat-Stop-Eat involves fasting for 24 hours, once or twice a week, like not eating from dinner one day until dinner the next day.
Germany, Russia, Switzerland and the United States have all treated chronic illnesses such as asthma, hypertension and obesity through fasts that can last as many as 12 to 14 days. In theory, it’s a simple, effortless task of not eating any food and only consuming water. In practice, perhaps the most important component is the mental preparation and ongoing task of staying on track and keeping feelings of hunger or hunger anxiety at bay.
Regular intermittent fasting can be very effective in weigh loss but contrary to popular belief, water fasting is not a weight loss tool. You will temporarily shed pounds in water fasting but as soon as you start eating as usual, you will gain the weight back.
Fasting, especially longer term fasting, aids in the body’s natural healing process. When food is removed from the body, it instinctively begins to create physiological, chemical environment necessary for cell regeneration and repair. In fact, the body contains quite a bit of food and energy reserves that it begins to tap into during the fasting process. This shift in functions helps clean our internal systems, do a kind of sweep of all functions and patch things up as needed. Think of it like a reset, a way for the body to unplug, debug, and re-energize. Each body is of course different and marches to its own beat, but at its core, water fasting can produce some predictable heath benefits across the board.
Just as our minds, and bodies need rest, sleep and relaxation, as do our organs and all the rest of our body’s intricate, internal mechanisms. They too need a break from all the filtering, processing, digesting and purging tasks they are constantly working toward each time we consume another full meal, snack or even a beverage. Again, everyone is different and should experiment with how long and how often they should practice water fasting. Although water fasting has been, time and time again, proven to be an incredible agent for health improvements, remember to always proceed with caution in tandem with doctor’s recommendations.
In my future blog, I will share my personal experience with water fasting for a period of 3 days and 10 days. I did the fasting not for a weight loss purpose but mainly for detoxing, rebooting and regenerating! Above all, what I gained out of my fasting experiments was my belief in myself and my will power over food. It is truly transformative.
I would love to hear your personal experience on fasting. Have you tried intermittent fasting or water fasting? What have your experience been like?