For the most intense fasting experience.
Water fasting offers the quickest detox and strongest therapeutic effect. It is also the most challenging
fast to perform in the first few days. Careful preparation in the days before a water fast can make all the
difference in your level of comfort, but the emotional challenge will still be great. Getting professional
supervision is an option and is recommended for a water fast longer than 3 days. See the
Who Can Fast page to make sure you meet the
criteria necessary for fasting.
A true water fast maintains a zero caloric intake. This means water only, nothing added to it. Some call
water fasting the only "true" fast and believe that any food allowed into the bodily system prevents the
complete resting state desired, compromising the level of cleansing and detox attained. While it is true
that water fasting is the most intense path to detoxification and therapeutic benefit, other types of fasting,
and even cleansing diets, detox and heal as
well. What differs is the intensity and speed of the experience.
Water fasting isn't for everyone, nor is it appropriate at all times. The more toxic your body is, the
more intense your discomfort will be in those early days if you haven't
It can be difficult to continue on your own if the symptoms have become frightening.
The speed at which old conditions can right themselves during a water fast is incredible. It's amazing the little
health "issues" that just go away--the mole that just drops off, the shoulder that's been achy for years suddenly
feels well again, that little patch of "weird" skin you've grown accustomed to vanishes without a trace...and those
are just the little things. Fasting can even
alleviate some "big" things, but if you have major health conditions, you may benefit from having professional
Water fasters are advised to consume one to two quarts
per day of the purest water available or to use distilled water. (While distilled water is not good for everyday
consumption, it is good during a fast for its increased ability to bind to toxins.) The first few days of a fast
are the most difficult. Besides the emotional challenge of going without food, these first days may have the most
intense and uncomfortable symptoms of detoxification. After that, the body adjusts to the new fasting state, and
most individuals feel little further discomfort, even hunger disappears.
After 2-3 days, the body goes
into a state called ketosis, where
it begins to fuel itself internally by burning fat cells. Ketosis occurs around 48 hours for women and 72 hours
for men according to Dr. Joel Fuhrman, author of Fasting and Eating for Health. The length of time one can
safely operate in ketosis varies from person to person. When hunger returns,
often called "true hunger", it will
be an unmistakable call of the body for nourishment, and is a signal to end the fast.
Considering a supervised fastIf you're fasting to alleviate serious conditions and diseases, you should
consider a supervised water fast. Water fasting can be dangerous, and I repeat, can be, but isn't usually.
According to Fuhrman, the most frequent serious problem comes from sustaining an injury from passing out because
you got up too quickly. But there are also tests that can be done before fasting to be sure you don't have
any physical issues that could complicate a fast.
Another reason to seek supervision is if you are extremely overweight and are wanting to fast to lose weight. Obesity
presents its own unique challenges in what are likely more severe eating patterns and addictions. Emotional issues are
highly intertwined with attitudes about food. One must be careful to not support a behavior that could lead to an eating
disorder, but to promote a healthy lifestyle that can be maintained long-term.
How to find someone to supervise your water fastThe International Association of Hygienic Physicians is a
professional association of primary care physicians who offer fasting supervision. On their website,
www.iahp.net, is their Professional Referral List where you can check for a physician
in your area. Some are certified, meaning they have completed an internship and meet certain criteria for experience
level. Some only offer supervision through their clinics or retreats, so you must travel to their part of the world
to do your supervised fast. This can be a great thing; getting away from the responsibilities of your ordinary life
can make the fasting experience more enjoyable.
For those who cannot or do not want to travel, some of these physicians offer phone consultations to guide and supervise
you through a fast you do at home. Depending on your medical condition, they may require you visit with your regular local doctor at some point before
or during the fast.
Another option is to talk to your own doctor and see if s/he would be willing to oversee your health during a water fast,
but keep in mind that s/he may not be as familiar with the situations, both physical and emotional, that are unique to
fasting. You would need to do quite a bit of your own homework, maybe even provide your doctor with a copy of Dr.
Your local phone book is another source depending on how big your city is. Look under "naturopaths", "naturopathic
physicians", "holistic practitioners", "alternative medicine and health practitioners", and even "fasting" if your city
is big enough.
Going it aloneWhile professional supervision may be the ideal method for a water fast, especially a longer one,
many individuals are successful with self-supervision. A rational approach coupled with your intuitional knowledge of your
body can be sufficient to stay out of danger.
Don't bite off too much at once. Don't start with a 10-day water fast, tomorrow, if you've never fasted before.
Start with short, one day easier fasts, like fruit or
brown rice. Or start with
intermittent fasting, like "unto the 9th hour" or one
meal a day plans. If your eating habits have been really poor, you may want to do a
cleansing diet for a week or two, or even a month or
more if you feel you may be very toxic.
After you've prepared yourself with these other methods and gained some experience and knowledge about what it takes
to fast, you can try occasional one-day water fasts. (Fast no more often than one day per week.)
All of these shorter excursions will be very informative and clarifying on your relationship to food--good and bad
(but mostly bad). Fasting in all forms offers great personal gifts unique to each of us. If you have no desire to
do long-term fasts ever in your life, you can stick with shorter fasts and the rewards will deepen over time.
If you're going to water fast on your own, honor the rules about rest and recuperation and attention to increasing
bodily awareness. You must slow down. You must honor your body and its needs and messages. You must give every opportunity
for this to be a healing experience--on all levels--and you know intuitively what you need to do and what you need to let
go of to allow this.
Due to the intense nature of water fasting, it is more important to educate yourself with further reading.
There are a couple of really informative books on water
fasting that are recommended.
Fasting is a personal journey--you are not competing with anyone. Your body dictates how long you can safely fast,
not your head.Annmarie Colbin, author of Food and Healing, states her last water fast ended early after just four
days. She sets a good example for the rest of us in listening to her own inner guidance and signals, and not pushing
herself counter to her best judgment or succumbing to the pressure we feel because others are watching.
Colbin shares another story about a friend on a 28-day fast who wanted to stop at 10 days. This friend allowed her
advising doctor to convince her to continue. It was winter in New York and she was holding down regular hours at work.
She completed the fast, but became so depleted, she "estimates that it took her two years to undo the damage and feel
normal once again."
Tips for water fasting:
- Preparation - See the Water Fasting Tips for
Success page, which includes information on preparation and implementation. Keep in mind that the toughest part of a water fast is actually
beginning it. But many long term dieters say fasting is easier than dieting, after the first few days.
- Water - Drink at least one quart of water per day, some recommend 2 quarts/day. Use the highest quality available
or distilled. Some water fasters add a slice of lemon to their water, as it not only imparts a bit of flavor, but it adds beneficial
enzymes and is cleansing in nature. This only contributes a couple of calories.
Weight loss - Weight comes off quickly at first, mostly water weight, then weight loss tapers off. After the fast, you will
put water weight back on just as quickly.
Taking into account this water weight fluctuation, the average sustained weight loss
from longer term fasts is one pound per day. See Fasting to Lose Weight
for more information.
And for insight into the changes fasting creates around our weight, see Using
Fasting for Weight Loss.
Rest - It is important to allow plenty of opportunity for rest, both physical and emotional. Reading is an ideal activity especially if the
material is uplifting in nature. Give yourself permission to nap if ever you feel the need. It is best to avoid emotionally upsetting circumstances
Some people need to slow down and rest more than others during a water fast; some actually should not drive a car, while
for others, it is fine. Usually, overweight individuals feel more energetic during a water fast, while thinner individuals
will usually feel more tired as their body seeks to conserve energy.
Light exercise, such as walking or yoga or stretching, may be fine, and it may be too much. Be willing to
listen to your body's messages.
- Detox - Start practicing dry skin brushing and
breathing exercises to enhance the body's ability to
detox through both the skin and the lungs. As cleansing of the body progresses, there develops a natural aversion to unhealthful
substances--not just inferior foods, but also alcohol and tobacco.
Colon health - Contrary to popular belief, enemas are not necessary during a fast. The bowels can take care of themselves, and it
is ok to not have a bowel movement during a fast. Both Dr. Joel Fuhrman and Herbert Shelton, who each fasted thousands
of individuals, recommend leaving the bowels alone.
What can be helpful, however, is taking some sort of natural laxative both before and after the actual fast. Psyllium
is excellent for this. The best colon cleanse recipe
utilizing psyllium can be found here.
And other methods of fasting colon cleansing can be
found here. There are over-the-counter suppositories available, as well, to facilitate the first bowel movement.
Breaking the fast - Coming off a water fast requires the utmost care. Begin with small pieces of juicy
fruit, such as watermelon, every 2 hours. The length of the fast performed will dictate how many days you take to re-acclimate
your body to regular eating. See Guidelines to Breaking a Fast for more
After the fast - Pay attention to the subtle signals from your body as they can guide you to the
foods most appropriate for your needs. Check out the Recipe Section
of this site for ideas.
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