We amend our eating habits and engage in different physical activities just to remain healthy. It works for some and not for others. We sometimes following different concepts, theories and lifestyle changes that promise emotional and physical benefits.
One such concept is Fasting by only taking water. Though fasting has been in existence for centuries, water fasting is new to our generation and becoming increasingly well-known.
Fasting with water is practiced by many. It provides many health benefits and also lowers the risk of some chronic diseases. On the other hand, we are cautioned of the Little-known health dangers of water fasting.
Such assertions about this type of fasting might be correct and other claims not. Through this article we bring forward some truths. This article demystifies water fasting and explains different benefits, risks, and the correct way to practice it.
What is Water Fasting?
This is a form of fasting where we do not consume anything except water. It is believed that water by only taking in water, cleanses our body, protects us from several health-related risks, and promotes weight loss. The best thing though is that we gain these benefits without incurring any costs.
Duration of Water Fasting
There is no fixed duration. A 1-3 day water fast brings positive results. Searching the following terms on the internet provides us with more information:
- 48-hour fast
- water fasting results
- 3 day water fast results
- 7 day water fast results
- 5 day water fast weight loss results
- Long time fasting
- And others…
What Makes Us Choose Water Fasting?
The primary reasons we practice this fasting are:
- Weight loss.
- To remove harmful elements from our body.
- Spiritual beliefs.
- Health benefits.
- To prevent the risks of heart disease, obesity, diabetes, blood pressure, and other critical diseases.
- Certain medical procedures.
Different Versions of Water Fasting
Different versions of this fasting have evolved over time. Some of them are:
- Salt water fasting
- Three day water fast or 72 hours water fast
- 5 day water fast
- 7 day water fast
- Coconut water fast
- Juice fasting
- And many more…
Benefits of Water Fasting
Here are some of the many benefits:
Detoxes our Body
We constantly eat and drink things that aren’t beneficial, especially alcohol and sugar. In addition, fresh fruit and vegetables we purchase from supermarkets have chemicals and pesticides on them. All these leave toxins which are stored in our body over the years. During fasting, our body flushes out these toxins.
Our Digestive System Gets a Rest
Whatever food we eat, it needs to be digested and for digestion, our body requires a good percentage of energy. During fasting, our digestive system gets a rest. Instead, the energy required for digestion is utilized for cleansing our body or healing damaged parts.
Lowers The Risk of Heart Disease
Consuming only water for a short period lowers our levels of triglycerides and cholesterol. These are the biggest causes of heart disease. A study using a Randomized cross-over trial of short-term water-only fasting: metabolic and cardiovascular consequences proves it.
Lowers The Risk of Developing Diabetes
Leptin and insulin are two vital hormones. Leptin, the “starvation hormone” or “satiety hormone” helps us feel full and insulin helps to maintain sugar levels. It is believed that consuming only water for a short period of time improves the functioning of these hormones. Our body becomes more efficient.
Stress contributes to several health conditions in our body. For example, diseases related to arteries, neurons in the brain, aging, and cancer. Fasting on water reduces the balance between oxygen containing molecules and important substances leading to stress. A study about the Effects of complete water fasting and regeneration diet on kidney function, oxidative stress and antioxidants explains this.
Health benefits supported by different claims and researches are the biggest reasons behind the praise of water fasting. Yet, according to Dr. Merry (FRCPI Ph.D), Research Is Inconclusive on Whether Water Fasting Has Health Benefits.
Risks Of Water Fasting
To find out whether it is safe, we explored “Is fasting safe? A chart review of adverse events during medically supervised, water-only fasting”. This study shows that mild to moderate Adverse Events (AEs) were experienced during the period of fasting. Fasting however, is not free from the following risks:
Any kind of fasting puts us at risk of nutrient deficiency. When fasting on water, our body is deprived os certain calories and essential minerals, vitamins, amino acids, as well as fatty acids.
Weight Loss but the Wrong Type
When we drink water for a specific period, we quickly lose weight. Instead of fat, sometimes the weight loss is muscle mass or the weight from carbs. Also, sudden weight loss leads to muscle loss, dull chemical reactions in the body, nutritional deficiencies, and other medical conditions.
This type of fasting might cause dehydration. Contribution of Water from Food and Fluids to Total Water Intake: Analysis of a French and UK Population Surveys, proves it. 20%-30% of the water in our body comes from food. When we do not eat anything and consume only water, our body misses out on the 20%-30% water and this causes dehydration.
Low Sodium Blood Levels
Fasting often reduces the sodium level in our blood. This happens when water and salt are substituted by only water. Experts usually suggest that we not exercise during fasting because it leads to feeling tired and causes sweating. And, we all know that sweating leads to the loss of salt and water.
This type of fasting might also lead to hypotension. This is the opposite of high blood pressure and in this condition, the blood pressure of our body drops notably. Some suffer from orthostatic hypotension. This condition occurs when we stand and our blood pressure suddenly drops.
The Best Way To Water Fast
One way is to do it under the guidance of an experienced medical professional. This is because there are different water fasting stages. If a healthcare professional is not available, follow these steps:
Step 1: Plan Before Fasting
Planning involves the following:
- Figure out the hours of fasting.
- The next important thing is to note that it does not interfere with our daily routine.
- Prepare ourselves mentally. It is suggested that we read relevant books and interact with others who have undergone this fasting.
Step 2: Start Small
This step in itself is a step-by-step process. The better strategy is to slowly start removing sugar, caffeine, and processed foods from our diet, at least 2-4 days before fasting.
When we decrease our meals several days or weeks before the fast, our body gets prepared in advance.
Step 3: Begin The Fast
This article titled Water: How much should you drink every day? contains useful information. It explains the ideal amount of fluid a person needs every day. The daily average water required for men is 3.7 liters (or 15.5 cups) and 2.7 liters (or 11.5 cups) for women.
Since 20% comes from food, we decrease this amount during fasting. Therefore, a man needs 3 liters of water and a woman 2.2 liters during this fasting.
Avoid drinking all the water at once. Instead, divide it into small portions and drink it throughout the day. Also, drinking more than the recommended amount might cause an imbalance in the ratio of minerals and salt in our body.
Note: We might get strong food cravings while fasting. If that occurs, drinking one or two glasses of water is useful to combat those cravings.
How To Break a Water Fast
Whether our fasting is for one day, or 72 hours or more, the procedure to break it is slow and gradual. Lemon or orange juice is most helpful. Introduce food gradually – small amounts after every two hours. It is important to start with easy to digest food and slowly move towards harder to digest options.
- The length of this process depends directly on the length of our fast.
- If we start eating high-sugar and high-fat foods after the water fast, the benefits are reversed.
- It is important to continuously eat healthy.
How To Remain Safe During the Fast?
In order to remain safe, take certain precautions. The most common ones are:
- If uncertain, consult a doctor or healthcare professional before starting with the fast.
- Preferably a doctor experienced in water fasting and follow his/ her instructions.
- Prevent dizziness by getting up slowly or breathing deeply before standing.
- Expect normal side effects such as nausea, mild weakness, dizziness, or occasional heartbeat palpitations. Seek medical attention when uncertain.
- Rest well during the fasting period.
- Avoid vigorous exercise during this period.
- Consider consuming sea salt in a glass of diluted water.
Water fasting is quite popular and provides health benefits, prepare well to mitigate associated uncertainties. Prepare yourself by practicing intermittent fasting.
However, when uncertain, proceed with your water fasting under the supervision of a doctor or healthcare professional, thus proceed with caution.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Explain dry fasting vs water fasting?
Dry fasting means not consuming food, as well as water for a specific time. And, water fasting means consuming only water for a particular time.
2. Is salt water fasting equivalent to water fasting?
Fasting on salt water is different. Some people prefer salt water fasting over water fasting.
3. How do you break a 3 day water fast gently?
A slow and gradual approach is the best.
4. What are some commonly practiced short term forms of water fasting?
Some common ones are:
- 24 hour water fast
- 48 hour water fast
- 72 hour water fast
5. What are some commonly practiced long term water fasting practices?
Some common ones are:
- 14 day water fast
- 21 day water fast
- 25 day water fast
- 40 day water fast
6. Does lemon water break a fast?
It is safe to drink lemon water during fasting.