Since water fasting is the most intense of the fasting methods, it's important to learn as much as you can before beginning one. The two authors below have supervised the water fasts of thousands of individuals. Their familiarity with the process is unparalleled.
And if you're serious about trying a long-term therapeutic water fast, this should be considered "required reading".
First and foremost, read Dr. Joel Fuhrman's book Fasting and Eating for Health: A Medical Doctor's Program for Conquering Disease, published in 1995.
It covers a broad array of modern diseases and how water fasting and/or nutritional therapy can improve or even heal those conditions. There are whole chapters on diabetes, heart disease, autoimmune diseases, and obesity. There's a chapter on headaches/migraines and hypoglycemia, covered together because of their close symptomatic relationship. If you have any of these conditions, you MUST read this book!
Fuhrman's book cites current research and studies, not to mention, draws on his years of experience at supervising fasts for thousands of individuals. Because he is an MD, his approach to the subject is thorough and cautious, explaining the science of why and how the body does what it does. I recommend reading his book so you have all the facts, so you gain a scientific understanding of the process as a whole.
Dr. Fuhrman's approach makes it clear that we cannot discuss fasting as medical therapy without balancing it with what to do when not fasting--in other words, what to eat, or nutritional therapy. His newer book, Eat to Live, expands on his ideas about nutritional therapy and is directed mostly at those wishing to lose weight, but see green box below.
Fasting and Eating for Health is highly referenced and researched. You will get a good education from reading it.
As much as I believe Fuhrman is THE source for credible fasting information, I don't recommend him for eating information such as is in his newer book, Eat To Live. He seems to have an incredible bias against animal products. I was pro-vegetarian at the time I read this book, and yet was dismayed at his lack of scientific objectivity. It was clear by his presentation of the "facts" which way he wanted you to think. I just wanted to know the truth.
Since then, I've eaten the way he suggests: whole grains, beans, vegetables, low fat, etc. Sure enough, I lost weight, but I was dying a slow death. The work of Sally Fallon, Mary Enig, and many others saved me from that diet. I learned, first from them and then from my own experience, that I needed natural saturated fats to function, and a lot of them (by mainstream standards). That story is here.
What that story doesn't share, is how I felt when I started adding meat back into my diet. I got physically stronger. In a very real sense. What my puny arm couldn't pick up one day, could pick up easily after a week of eating moderate amounts of quality meat. That old saying I heard when I was little (in the 1960s), directed at the little boys, "eat your meat so you'll be strong", I was bemused to find was true.
I remember when I was reading Fuhrman's rant against meat, a voice in my head kept saying, "but the people in these studies he's quoting were eating from the mainstream meat supply, animals on antibiotics and growth hormones, raised on unhealthy feedlots, sick animals. What would these studies show if the participants ate quality healthy meat?" The work of the Weston A. Price Foundation (and Sally Fallon) answers that question: they don't suffer the same symptoms.
I've since heard, merely "heard", that Fuhrman is a big supporter of PETA. I understand. I love animals too, and I hate animal cruelty. But I had to face the reality that meat and animal by-products, such as milk, are necessary and vital foods to at least some people. And animals CAN be raised without cruelty.
Perhaps Fuhrman feels he is enjoying optimum health on his prescribed diet, but one diet doesn't necessarily work for all, or at all times of life. We each need to discover which foods support us best.
If you're morbidly obese and need to lose weight for medical reasons, Fuhrman's methodology may in fact be able to help you, but for others, you need to watch closely for symptoms of undernourishment such as I experienced. Before trying Fuhrman's approach, read Eat Fat, Lose Fat, by Enig and Fallon, for another viewpoint. (Amazon link below.)
For a another explanation of where I stand on meat-eating, see Is AllAboutFasting Pro-Meat or Vegan?, which is a response to reader email.
Considered a classic on the subject of fasting, Herbert Shelton's book, Fasting Can Save Your Life is packed with a lot of information.
Shelton (1895-1985) was a pioneer in fasting in the modern Western world. He ran a fasting retreat in Texas and wrote several books and articles on Natural Hygiene--a comprehensive health care system based on ideas dating back as far as the 1830s.
These "ideas" were radical for the 1800s. They made the assertion that health is a product of lifestyle and environment. That sunshine, clean air and water, a quality diet of fresh vegetables, fruits, nuts, grains and seeds, make for a healthy individual. Also necessary are sufficient rest and exercise, emotional poise, and self esteem.
Not such radical ideas anymore. We now know the truth of those assertions.
As important as the therapy of water fasting was to Shelton, he did not advocate it as an isolated therapy but as a part of his overall system of Natural Hygiene. The patient was taught how to make healthier life choices.
Even though the last edition of this book was copyrighted 1978, this work is far from irrelevant. One can't overlook the level of experience Shelton had gained from supervising fasts. He claimed to have conducted over 25,000 fasts (some places say 40,000) in 30 years. No one else can rival that amount of experience in the study of fasting for the purpose of healing disease.
But it is true that some information in this book should be taken with an understanding of the context in which it is given. Medical knowledge of the human body is far greater today than in 1978. And, in my opinion, his cautions seem weak, as there clearly can be complications during a fast, but then, I must remind myself, he never recommends water fasting without professional supervision by those trained in the process.
Some feel it is an outdated notion to not give enemas to those fasting, which is what Shelton advises, but here is where Dr. Fuhrman's experience and medical expertise can help. In his more recent experience with supervising fasts, he confirms that enemas are not necessary, that toxins are not reabsorbed into the system, that it is fine to let the colon "take care of itself".
Fasting Can Save Your Life is a very inspiring read that is full of case study after case study. Shelton had a lot of cases from which to draw--as many as 40,000! All cases demonstrating the body's ability to heal itself. After reading this book, you will be motivated to begin a water fast.
Reading both of these books would be ideal, but if you only time to read one, read Fuhrman's. His more modern approach and terminology would be the most helpful to those preparing for water fasting.