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 properly prepared. 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 supervision.
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.
"The Science of Fasting" is a documentary created in 2016 which covers the studies done in Russia, the Buchinger Clinic in Germany, the study of penguins who routinely fast for 3-4 months at a time, and a California biologist studying the effects of fasting on rats. It could be a little dry for some, but has some excellent information. It is available on Amazon.com for online streaming. If you're thinking about fasting, it's well worth $1.99 to check it out.
The one line that sticks with me the most, and I'm paraphrasing, "Animals and humans seem to adapt better to a lack of food than to an over-abundance of food."
If 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.
Even if you don't have any particular health issues that complicate a fast, it's never a bad idea to get fasting supervision, especially if it's your first fast. Having an expert oversee the process will alleviate any lingering fears and uncertainties about it. Those who professionally supervise fasts are familiar with a variety of health issues and how they respond to the fasting process, so they can offer you procedures and practices suited especially to your needs. They can also advise you if, in fact, fasting is not advisable for you.
Most fasting supervision practitioners will require you travel to their clinics or retreats, but a select few offer this service via phone or Skype while you fast in the comfort of your own 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. Fuhrman's book.
While 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).
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.
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."
Here's a few Amazon products that may assist you during your fast. The tongue cleaner will help rid your mouth of bacteria and should be used at least once a day during a fast. For dry skin brushing during your fast, use a natural bristle brush similar to the one below. And, of course, Dr. Fuhrman's book to help you stay motivated and informed during your fast.
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