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Pros and Cons of Water Fasting: What You Need to Know from Personal Experience

Several years ago, I started experimenting with water fasting. Over the years, I’ve found it to be an amazing experience, so much so that I continue to do it every year, several times a year. I’ve seen so many benefits, not just health-wise but also mentally and spiritually. It’s been a fun journey to take as I’ve learned more and grown stronger with each fast I take. Before I share more about my experience with water fasting, I must emphasize that this is MY experience. While fasting is generally considered safe for short amounts of time, not everyone can or should try it. What works for one of us might not work for everyone.

Table of Contents

This is what worked for me.

What is Water Fasting?

As the name suggests, it’s fasting while only consuming water. Nothing but water. Herbal teas, black coffee, calorie-free drinks, and supplements are not part of water fasting. Just water. You can add in Himalayan salt to your water, which is helpful to maintain electrolytes, especially in the first three days when you lose a lot of water. This type of fasting is also called block fasting or long-term fasting.

How Long Does a Water Fast Last?

Water fasting can vary in duration. Short-term fasts of 24-72 hours are considered safe for most people. Prolonged fasting includes fasts of five, seven, or even forty days. I started with a shorter fast of 24 hours to begin and then worked my way up. Now, I typically do a five-day water fast once a quarter and a longer seven-day water fast to start each year off. The longest I’ve fasted is ten days.

Why I Decided to Fast on Water Only

Throughout history, people have fasted by default when access to food was limited or during travel when food was unavailable. In addition, every major religion recommends (or requires) fasting in some way. But in modern times, the idea of voluntarily going without eating seems absurd to some. I decided to experiment with fasting because of all the health benefits. However, I found that I actually felt more mental and spiritual benefits from it than I was expecting.

The Benefits of Water Fasting

Although I’ve researched several types of fasts (intermittent fasting, fasting mimicking diet), I decided to experiment with water fasting because of all the benefits experts have discovered. Studies show many positive effects of fasting, including: autophagy in the body, lowered age-induced inflammation in the body, reduced oxidative damage, lowered NF-kB activation, and boosted immune system. It creates
autophagy in the body. Lowers age-induced inflammation in the body. Reduces oxidative damage. Lowers NF-kB activation. Boosts the immune system.

What is Autophagy?

Autophagy literally means “self-eating”. Essentially, during autophagy, the body recycles old parts to create new parts. Research shows that autophagy is a key part of the body’s ability to detoxify and regenerate itself. Fasting and high-intensity exercise both stimulate it. Even intermittent fasting can have benefits, though the biggest results seem to come from longer-term fasting.

Lower Inflammation and Oxidative Damage

Increased inflammation and oxidative damage correlate to early death, while reduced levels equate to longer life. People who live to be 100+ years old share the common factor of low levels of inflammation in the body. Studies show that fasting reduces pro-inflammatory cytokines and inflammation in the body. Specifically, researchers at Yale School of Medicine found that a compound called beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) inhibits NLRP3.

Reduce Cancer & Heart Disease Risk

Emerging research shows a link between fasting and reduced cancer risk. This is likely due to the two factors listed above: increased autophagy and reduced oxidative damage/inflammation. Research also shows that water fasting may slow or halt tumor growth, as well as improve the chemotherapy effects and reduce the side effects. Yet another study found that water fasting can help protect the heart against damage from free radicals.

Boost the Immune System

A 2014 study found that water fasting for just three days could regenerate the immune system. This research makes fasting promising for those with immune problems, those undergoing chemo, and all of us as we age since immune function declines with age.

Improve Brain Function

When fasting, the body switches from burning glucose to burning fat. Instead of glucose, the brain uses ketones for fuel. Ketones are largely considered a more efficient fuel for the brain. For this reason, fasting is associated with increased mental clarity, focus, and concentration.

My Experience Fasting on Water Only

Before jumping into a water-only fast, I researched the potential benefits and talked to several experts. Like I said, I’m not suggesting this type of fast for anyone else; I’m just sharing my personal experience. Anyone considering it should do their own research and talk to a qualified healthcare professional.

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