If you’re not quite sure what water fasting is, there are few potential health benefits and risks you need to be aware of before giving it a shot. Here’s everything you need to know.
Water Fasting 101
Fasting is nothing new. In fact it is one of the oldest healing traditions in human history. Virtually every culture and religion on earth has practiced it in some form or another for either spiritual, cultural, or health reasons.
In Western society, it has become popular in the health community as a quick way to shed a few pounds, to jump start a new diet, and to flush out your system. While there are several ways people fast (juice cleansing, the lemonade diet, etc.), the easiest and probably most recognizable is the water fast.
The water fast is as simple as it sounds: drink only water for a period of time. This means no tea, coffee, zero-calories drinks, and no food of any sort! Generally people practicing a water fast do it anywhere between 24 hours to 72 hours (anymore than this should be cleared by a medical professional and supervised).
If you want to try it out, there are a few key things you need to do. While it’s not completely necessary, it makes it a lot easier if you start reducing your caloric intake a couple of days before the fast.
During the fast, try to drink at least two liters or water, if not three. People often get dehydrated because a lot of the water you consume if through food.
When the fast is over, don’t eat a huge meal! After calorically restricting yourself, a big meal can cause major discomfort or nausea. Instead opt for small meals or snacks to ease yourself back in.
So why is water fasting so popular? Yea, you’ll probably lose a few pounds. However, the better reason to fast is because of these potential benefits.
Studies have shown that water fasting could promote autophagy.1 Autophagy is a process in which your body breaks down and recycles old parts of your cells, and this process has been linked to protection against Alzheimer’s and heart disease.23
While these studies regarding fasting and autophagy are promising, research is currently lacking on human subjects. More experimentation is needed, though the animal tests have been successful.
Reduces Blood Pressure
Several studies have shown that “medically supervised water-only fasting appears to be a safe and effective means of normalizing blood pressure and may assist in motivating health-promoting diet and lifestyle changes.”45
These studies used a range of 10 to 14 days of fasting. The results showed substantial reductions in blood pressure. However, the studies are lacking when it comes to short term fasting.
High cholesterol is undoubtedly linked to a risk of developing a variety of diseases including heart disease, peripheral vascular disease, diabetes, and more.
One study used 30 healthy adults to show how a 24 hour fast significantly lowers blood levels of cholesterol and triglycerides.6
It’s important to note that water fasting certainly isn’t safe for everyone. If you suffer from either type of diabetes, gout, kidney disease, or any eating disorder, do not attempt a water fast! In addition, water fasting shouldn’t be practiced by pregnant women, seniors, or children.
Because between 20-30% of your daily water intake comes from food, you can actually become dehydrated by doing this fast! This can cause headaches, constipation, dizziness, brain fog, and a range of other symptoms.
During the fast, you may experience dizziness and weakness simply due to a lack of food. This can make it difficult to carry out normal everyday activities. You can even experience light headedness or fainting when standing up too quickly.
In addition, for people with the diseases mentioned earlier, a water fast can actually worsen your medical condition.
Water fasting does have some potential benefits, but it’s not for everyone! Give it a try and reap the benefits, but know your limits! If you’re looking to introduce fasting into your life, intermittent fasting is a less intense option!