The Truth About Awesome Water Fasting Benefits

The concept of water fasting has emerged as a powerful antidote to reset our bodies and rejuvenate our overall well-being. Derived from ancient traditions, water fasting is gaining significant recognition as a natural approach to improving health and achieving numerous physiological benefits.

I have been asked many questions during the clinical consultation regarding What is water fasting and what are the water fasting benefits?

  • What to expect on a 7-day water fasting?
  • How much weight will I lose on a 7 day water fast?
  • What are the benefits of 7 days of water fasting?
  • Can you lose weight by water fasting?
  • Is water fasting good for the body?
  • How long can you water fast for?
  • Can a human fast for 21 days?

Therapeutic water fasting is a practice that involves abstaining from food and only consuming water for several days to a few weeks. After fasting, the body enters a state of regeneration that continues for the same duration as the fasting period.

“Instead of using medicine, rather, fast a day.”
                                               – Plutarch

Did you know that when animals, like dogs or cats, fall ill, their instinct is to reject food? Once the crisis subsides and the internal healing process is complete, their appetite naturally returns, as if on its own accord. I observed this behavior in my dog.

Have you ever considered water fasting as an alternative way to lose weight, reset your metabolism, and even improve your overall health? While the notion of abstaining from all food for several days may seem daunting, many people are turning to this practice in search of rejuvenation, healing, and improved well-being.

In this blog post, we will discuss the science behind water fasting, its potential benefits, who can benefit most from it, and how to safely do a water fast.

Read on for more information about what is perhaps one of nature’s most balanced therapy practices!

Overview of Water Fasting benefits – What It Is and Its Origins

Water fasting is an ancient practice of refraining from eating any food and instead drinking only water for a set period of time.

Water fasting has been used for centuries in many cultures around the world as part of religious observances or to detoxify the body and mind.

Various religious groups practice fasting as part of their rituals. For example, during the month of Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn until dusk, while Christians, Jews, Buddhists, and Hindus traditionally observe fasting on specific days of the week or throughout the calendar year.

For centuries, fasting has been a well-practiced tradition.

Many clinics now have physicians or nutritionist monitoring patients during water-only or very low-calorie (less than 200 kcal/day) fasting periods that span one week or longer. This approach is employed for weight management, as well as disease prevention and treatment.

Water fasting benefits

The concept of “fasting dietary therapy” was introduced in Russia by Dr. Yuri S. Nikolayev in the early 1950s This therapeutic approach has been widely implemented in specialized hospitals, aimed at promoting human life extension.

In therapeutic water fasting, the body undergoes a healing process by adapting to endogenous nutrition, relying on its reserves, and mobilizing the body’s defense mechanisms. The benefits of therapeutic water fasting include the removal of fat, salt, old, and diseased cells, as well as the cleansing and regeneration of body organs and systems.

This therapeutic method has shown positive results in various health conditions such as mental health and mental disorders, cardiovascular diseases, asthma, indigestion, intestinal infections, rheumatology, endocrinology, toxicology (including alcoholism, smoking, and drug addiction), and obesity management
By engaging in therapeutic water fasting, individuals can experience comprehensive health benefits, attaining not only physical rejuvenation but also mental and emotional well-being.

Water Fasting Benefits- How it Improves Overall Health

water fasting benefits

Recent studies have provided new evidence of its profound impact on our bodies. Fasting triggers adaptive cellular responses that effectively reduce oxidative damage and inflammation, optimize energy metabolism, and strengthen cellular protection.

Even in lower eukaryotes, chronic fasting has been found to enhance longevity by reprogramming metabolic and stress resistance pathways.
In the case of rodents, intermittent or periodic fasting has demonstrated remarkable protective effects against diabetes, cancers, heart disease, and neurodegeneration.

In humans, fasting plays a transformative role in reducing obesity, hypertension, cardiovascular, asthma, and even rheumatoid arthritis. This remarkable practice has the potential to delay aging and offers an avenue for preventing and treating diseases. The best part? It achieves all of this while minimizing the side effects often associated with chronic dietary interventions.

The gut microbiota plays a pivotal role in maintaining overall health, being a significant environmental factor. Changes in the composition and activity of the gut microbiome have been demonstrated to contribute to the development of various diseases.

Numerous studies have extensively explored the gut microbiota, showing a strong link between particular microorganisms and metabolic diseases like overweight, obesity, and type 2 diabetes, as well as gastrointestinal disorders, neurodegenerative diseases, and even cancer. Dietary interventions aimed at reducing inflammation and enhancing metabolic health receive an extra boost when preceded by fasting.

  • Water Fasting and Weight Loss

Are you tired of the same boring weight loss methods? Periodic fasting refers to the practice of restricting food intake for a specific duration, typically ranging from 5 to 14 consecutive days. This may involve a complete fast with only water consumption or following protocols like the Buchinger method or religious fasting. These fasting periods may occur monthly or be undertaken once or a few times each year. The science behind this fasting method indicates that it activates the body’s natural cleansing mechanisms, promoting autophagy, and reducing inflammation.

Water fasting refers to the practice of abstaining from food consumption, allowing only purified water to be consumed as desired or needed during a state of complete relaxation. This ancient therapeutic technique traces back to the 5th century BC, when Hippocrates recommended refraining from eating and drinking as a means to address various health conditions associated with overeating.

The gut microbiota plays a pivotal role in maintaining overall health, being a significant environmental factor. Changes in the composition and activity of the gut microbiome have been demonstrated to contribute to the development of various diseases.

Numerous studies have extensively explored the gut microbiota, showing a strong link between particular microorganisms and metabolic diseases like overweight, obesity, and type 2 diabetes, as well as gastrointestinal disorders, neurodegenerative diseases, and even cancer. Dietary interventions aimed at reducing inflammation and enhancing metabolic health receive an extra boost when preceded by fasting.

As a professional nutritionist, I am constantly seeking ways to improve the health of my clients. Water fasting has become an area of interest for many individuals looking to lose weight, manage diabetes, increase the growth hormone, improve their metabolism, and address insulin resistance. Intermittent fasting, which involves limiting calorie intake for a set period, has been linked to improved insulin sensitivity, reduced inflammation, and weight loss.

Water fasting takes this a step further by eliminating calorie intake for a set period. The benefits of water fasting become noticeable within just three days, demonstrating its quick impact on the body.

water fasting benefits

  • Blood pressure

Numerous studies have documented the notable blood pressure-reducing impact of total fasting, also known as water fasting. Additionally, epidemiological studies have shown that regular periodic fasting, characterized by shorter fasting periods of 1-2 days as observed in certain religious communities, is linked to a decreased risk of coronary artery disease in patients undergoing coronary angiography.

  • Cancer

Fasting can have positive effects on cancer prevention and treatment. Fasting shows promise for cancer prevention and treatment. By reducing IGF-1, insulin, and glucose levels while increasing IGFBP1 and ketone body levels, it may create a protective environment against DNA damage and carcinogenesis. Additionally, fasting can create hostile conditions for tumor and pre-cancerous cells. Human data on the effects of fasting in cancer prevention is limited.

  • Neurodegenerative diseases

Compared to ad libitum-fed controls, rats and mice maintained on an intermittent fasting (IF) diet exhibit remarkable benefits. They showcase reduced neuronal dysfunction and degeneration, along with diminished clinical symptoms in models of Alzheimer’s disease (AD), Parkinson’s disease (PD), and Huntington’s disease (HD). This highlights the tremendous potential of an IF diet in promoting brain health and potentially mitigating the progression of these debilitating conditions.

  • Improves insulin sensitivity and leptin sensitivity

12 to 24 hours of fasting in humans often leads to a significant decrease of 20% or more in blood glucose levels and depletion of liver glycogen. This fasting state triggers a metabolic shift, utilizing non-hepatic glucose, ketone bodies from fat, and free fatty acids as the primary sources of energy.

During the complete water fasting period, the liver enzymes responsible for the storage of glycogen are downregulated, resulting in a reduction in glycogen levels. At the same time, the synthesis of enzymes involved in gluconeogenesis, the process of glucose production, is upregulated. As the day’s progresses, the body activates defense and adaptation mechanisms to protect proteins and minimize the loss of essential trace elements. Furthermore, in the absence of glucose, the brain undergoes a metabolic shift where it starts utilizing ketone bodies as an alternative fuel source instead of relying solely on glucose. This intricate balance of biochemical processes highlights the remarkable adaptability of the human body during extended fasting periods.

A study on 11 subjects found that complete water fasting for 11 days followed by a regeneration diet for 4 days had several benefits. These included lower blood pressure, increased levels of uric acid, reduced oxidative stress, body weight, and blood pressure. However, it also resulted in decreased muscle mass and concentrations of CoQ10-TOTAL and α-tocopherol, and caused hyperuricemia.

Water fasting results 3 days

During the next 48–96 h, the organism initiates several self-protective adaptations designed to maximize the use of its fuel resources, protect protein mass, and minimize the loss of essential micronutrients. Primary amongst these is the induction of enzymes that allow the brain to utilize ketone bodies in place of glucose. This reduces the need for gluconeogenesis and hence the rate of protein breakdown. Other adaptations include a reduction in metabolic rate mediated by a T3/T4 shunt in thyroid metabolism (Prentice et al., 1991).

After these first 4 or 5 days of fasting, the system reaches a state of relative stability in the rate at which it loses vital resources though there is a series of further behavioral adaptations that come into play when survival is seriously threatened by famine (Prentice, 2001).

If you are considering doing a water fast, it is important to understand the water fasting benefits. After three days of fasting, most people experience increased mental clarity and alertness due to the detoxifying effects and decreased inflammation. Many also report improved digestion and increased energy levels. People who practice water fasting for several days may also benefit from improved metabolism, better sleep quality, reduced

Benefits of water fasting for 7 days

Obesity-associated complications that respond to weight reduction

Type 2 diabetes
Hypertension
Dyslipidaemia
Obstructive sleep apnoea
Asthma
Coronary heart disease
NAFLD- NAFLD, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
Osteoarthritis
Polycystic ovary syndrome

Metabolic syndrome, or MetS, is a condition characterized by insulin resistance, glucose intolerance, dyslipidemia, hypertension, and obesity.

Living with obesity is associated with a greater risk of developing non-communicable diseases (NCDs). These NCDs can have a huge impact on the health and well-being of sufferers, affecting daily lives and the ability to carry out activities. In 2020, Bulgaria, Ukraine, and North Macedonia had the highest rates of disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) in Europe attributable to high BMI.

Excess body weight increases the risk of 13 types of cancer.

In the United States, this problem is severe, with an extremely high prevalence of obesity among both males and females.

Obesity is a major health concern in Europe. In 2019, the percentage of overweight or obese adults varied from 40 to over 65 across European countries. Iceland had the highest rate, with almost two-thirds of adults affected.

Childhood obesity is also prevalent in Europe, and obesity increases the risk of conditions like diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and certain cancers. 4.4 million children under 5 years old, representing 7.9% in this age group, are affected by overweight and obesity.

Excess weight and adult weight gain significantly elevate the risk of various diseases, including diabetes, cardiovascular conditions, stroke, and dementia, and can even contribute to premature death. While weight control is crucial in reducing the incidence and progression of these diseases, the issue of poor compliance with weight loss programs is well recognized.

This prospective study investigated the effects of 7-day fasting (7-day water fast before and after) on the cardiometabolic, endocrine, and psychological effects on middle-aged female outpatients with MetS. The fasting resulted in significant weight loss (5.5%) and showed positive impacts on glucoregulatory control, cardiometabolic health, and endocrine profile. Furthermore, the study found improvements in the leptin-to-adiponectin ratio, which is associated with insulin sensitivity.

Fasting has shown positive effects on mood, providing relief from depression and anxiety. Patients with MetS experience improvements in blood pressure, cholesterol, sleep quality, and more. Overall, fasting for 7 days promotes beneficial health adaptations in the human body.

Health benefits of long term water fasting

There is a substantial body of empirical and observational evidence indicating that medically supervised modified fasting, can be highly effective in the treatment of various conditions such as rheumatic diseases, chronic pain syndromes, hypertension, and metabolic syndrome. This approach typically involves fasting for periods ranging from 7 to 21 days. Moreover, the positive impacts of fasting followed by a vegetarian diet on rheumatoid arthritis have been confirmed through rigorous randomized controlled trials. These findings highlight the potential benefits and therapeutic value of incorporating fasting as a part of a comprehensive treatment plan for individuals with these health issues. 

One of the best demonstrations of the beneficial effects of long-term water fasting lasting one to 3 weeks is in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis .

 Various identified mechanisms of fasting point to its potential health-promoting effects. For instance, fasting induces neuroendocrine activation and hormetic stress response, which can enhance overall well-being. Furthermore, fasting promotes the increased production of neurotrophic factors, which play a crucial role in brain health.

Additionally, it reduces mitochondrial oxidative stress and decreases signals associated with aging, contributing to overall rejuvenation.

Water fasting and autophagy offer a multitude of remarkable benefits, one of which is a natural cellular cleansing process. These cumulative effects make fasting a powerful tool for optimizing health and vitality.

How to break the water fast?

Small portions, continue to drink water with lemon in the morning, drink water during the day, drink herbal teas (dandelion teas)

  • Regeneration diet after complete water fasting
Food g/day12-34-56-78-1011-1516-30
Juices: carrot, apple, grape5001000500600
Grated fruits500600450375500
Grated carrots500600300200
Kefir, buttermilk300400600
Vegetable soup with brown rice250400700700700
Honey606075
Nuts70100100
Vinegret salad: (beetroot, onion, potatoes, carrots, pickles)300400400500
Raw vegetable salad400400400
Fresh butter202020

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How Long Can Someone Perform Water Fasting?

The human body can rely on ketone bodies, free fatty acids, and gluconeogenesis to sustain survival for 30+ days without food, depending on body weight and composition.

During this period a person will have water fasts from one day onwards to a maximum of 40 days. However, the duration for water fasts varies depending on the goals and experience. If you’re just learning about fasting , you can get started with short fasts. Time-restricted feeding (TRF) is a relatively short-distance water-based fast that runs from a couple of days to three days. You can start with 24 h water fasting. These would be a better choice for new users. Prolonged fasting is advisable for medical use only.

Side effects of water fasting and contraindications

During water fasting, certain side effects may arise as a result of acidosis, which occurs when the body’s alkaline reserves are depleted. Common symptoms include headaches, nausea, and a feeling of weakness. However, it is important to note that these effects are typically temporary. On the positive side, the phagocytic activity of leukocytes is gradually boosted, enabling the removal of worn-out and diseased cells.

Consequently, the body undergoes a regenerative process. In the initial days of water fasting, acidosis is intensified, leading to what is known as an “acidic crisis.” Subsequently, between days 7–14, there is a gradual decrease in acidosis and weakness, accompanied by an increase in glucose concentration in urine and a decrease in levels of acetone and ammonia.

After the acidic crisis subsides, pH decreases and blood glucose level increases as the body produces glucose from fat and protein stores. Metabolism improves, ketones in the blood decrease, and acidosis remains stable with minimal fluctuations.

However, it can be avoided by walking in the fresh air, swimming, massage, lymphatic drainage massage, breathing exercises to intensify lung ventilation, enhancing breathing out ketones more intensively, and alleviating symptoms of acidosis

Water fasting contraindications may include malignant tumors, leukemia, liver cirrhosis, renal impairment, central nervous system diseases, acute appendicitis, colitis, cysts, gangrene, severe tuberculosis, exhaustion, cachexia in older adults, pregnancy, breastfeeding, and immobility in any disease.

Water diet plan during the fast (24–72 hours)

During a water fast, it is recommended to consume water and various herbal teas, such as dandelion tea and nettle tea. Another option is to infuse water with the refreshing taste of lemon. However, it is advisable to avoid consuming coffee during this fasting period to fully embrace the benefits of the cleanse.

  • Water fasting and medication

It is important to understand that water fasting should only be done under a doctor’s or nutritionist’s guidance. Never start water fasting without consulting with a health professional first, as it could be dangerous if you take medication. While taking medication, it is important to make sure there are no unpleasant side effects such as nausea when taking them. Speak with your doctor about how best to manage any potential side effects and ensure you are getting the most benefit from the medication. It is also important to stay hydrated during the fast, as this can help reduce any side effects or discomfort from taking the medication.

If you do not brake the fasting, you might suffer of the side effect of medication during the detox liver. The liver during the fast is starting the detox process.

  • Water fasting benefits journal

While practicing water fasting, it is important to pay close attention to your emotions, and your body response and make necessary adjustments. If you find the process challenging, consider gradually increasing your water intake instead. Doing so will help you better manage the experience

  • Eat mindfully before you start your water fast

For individuals who are overweight, it is common for nutritionists to recommend fasting-based interventions that align with their patients’ daily and weekly schedules. These interventions may include following the ‘5:2’ intermittent fasting (IF) diet, adopting the alternate-day modified fasting diet, or even opting for a 4-5 day fast or a low-calorie, high-nutrition fasting-mimicking diet once every 1-3 months. Alternatively, patients may choose to skip one major meal each day if necessary. These varied approaches cater to individual preferences and enable patients to find a fasting regimen that suits their needs and promotes weight management effectively.

Conclusion

Over time, the practice of water fasting has grown increasingly popular as an attempt to achieve weight loss and overall health benefits. Visible effects on the body are generally seen after a fasting period of at least 3 days, continuing to benefit for some time afterward. Benefits include improved mental clarity and enhanced energy levels, as well as lower cardiovascular risk markers and naturally detoxifying the body from toxins.

Water fasting should be done safely, under the consultation of a medical professional to prevent health risks associated with extreme dietary protocols. It is also important to ease back into eating solid foods once you’ve finished your fast. Pharmacological interventions can have potent effects on disease risk factors, but are often accompanied by adverse side effects and may not lower mortality. Water fasting offers an alternative strategy with strong effects across multiple risk factors, supporting the prevention of metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and potentially neurodegenerative diseases.

With this knowledge and understanding of water fasting in mind, we ask a simple question: do you plan to try water fasting? For those who choose to provide their bodies with a metabolic rest from overconsumption habits, the rewards can prove to offer much far beyond weight loss – health improvements that may even last throughout life.

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Madelena Tapliga
Madelena Tapliga

MSc Clinical Nutritionist, accredited Nutritionist of UK from Association for Nutrition (AfN)
Clinical Lead
Herbal Medicine
MLD therapy My specialities: Malnutrition (diet advice weight gain), Weight management (weight loss, fat loss nutrition, difficulty losing weight, high cholesterol), bariatric surgery recovery and lifestyle advices, recovery post surgery, gastrointestinal and colorectal health, cardiac disease, diabetes type 2, food sensitivities, food intolerances, food intolerance testing, healthy skin, family and meal planning, nutrient deficiencies, thyroid disorders, digestive health SIBO, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), Hypochlorhydria (low acid gastric), Immune system, Arthritis, relationship with food, nutritional support, vegetarian and vegan diets, mindfulness eating, stress management, dietary advice, recipe developer, personalised nutrition. Intermittent Fasting, evidence based nutrition, sounds therapy, manual lymphatic drainage .

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