Water Fasting – Is It Beneficial or Risky?
In a world where there are a number of different diets and cleanses, the water fast is one that is quickly gaining popularity. It is a fast that has numerous benefits and risks and can be dangerous if done incorrectly or for prolonged periods of time. Restrictive diets carry major risks that can not just harm your body in the short term but can cause irreparable damage to your body in the long term as well.
This is why most of these fasts, cleanses and diets are only recommended in extreme situations and under the care of highly trained medical professionals. The most important thing before starting a fast like this is understanding what it consists of and how it works.
What is Water Fasting?
Though there are numerous techniques for food-restricted fasting, one of the most popular ones is water fasting. This is a diet form that restricts any form of dietary intake that isn’t water or water-based. This form of diet is usually controversial and not recommended by doctors due to the imbalance it can create in your body. If you are planning to partake in a water fasting treatment plan you must first ensure you get some blood tests done to check where you are in terms of your health. Then it is important that you consult a certified nutritionist and a medical professional.
Why Do People Try Water Fasting?
People believe that water fasting effects are immensely beneficial. Here are some reasons that people try water fasting.
- It helps with rapid weight loss.
- It helps improve kidney functionality.
- It improves liver health.
- It hydrates your body.
- It cleanses your body of unhealthy toxins.
Benefits of Water Fasting
Water fasting is thought to have some major health benefits if done correctly and under the supervision of doctors.
1. Weight Loss
Water fasting is considered a great way to lose weight if it’s done correctly. You can observe this fast one day every 7 days. Never try losing more than 1.1 kg per week as that can cause major immune system issues.
A day-long water cleanse is known to help detoxify your liver, kidney and bladder. Doing this is risky though, and must be done under medical supervision.
3. Eases the Stomach
A water fast is known to help hydrate your body when you have food poisoning or any food-related or gut-related issues. It is essential that you add effervescent supplements and ion supplements in the water for this to be beneficial.
4. Can Help Lower Blood Pressure
Studies have shown that medically supervised water fasts that are done in a safe environment can be extremely beneficial for people with borderline or high blood pressure. This is still risky in other ways though, and must be approached with care.
5. Improves Insulin Sensitivity
Water fasting can also help balance sugar levels. It can also help with insulin production. During a water fast, your body’s metabolism becomes quicker. Insulin is essential as it stores minerals. This step also helps your body maintain leptin levels. Leptin helps your body feel full.
How to Perform Water Fasting
Here are some effective water fasting tips to help you perform a water fast.
1. 24-72 Hours
This is the maximum amount of time you can actually follow a water fast for at a time. After 72 hours, doctors recommend you slowly resume your normal diet before attempting a water fast again with a gap of at least 10 days. Never attempt a water fast without informing your medical care advisors and never try it when on sensitive medication.
2. Post Fast
While it is important to carefully monitor water-fasting results, it is also important to remember that these results vary from person to person. Do not try forcing results onto your fast and overextending yourself during the fast. That can become dangerous. Please consult your doctor during the fast regularly. Also, don’t break your fast with a big meal; instead, opt for smoothie bowls or small, healthy snacks instead.
Are There Any Risks Associated with Water Fasting?
Like with any mineral restrictive or nutrient restrictive diet, water fasting can have risks, and if done incorrectly, these risks could be major. Here are a few examples:
- It could lead to major vitamin deficiencies.
- The lack of any other nutrients can cause mineral deficiencies.
- The lack of complex carbs could lead to an unhealthy loss of weight and a drastically weaker immune system.
- The lack of healthy fats could lead to a ketogenic breakdown of fats that can be harmful to your body.
- With no prebiotics coming from natural foods and no probiotics, your gut could become imbalanced.
- The lack of sufficient nutrition can lead to dizzy spells.
- The lack of protein could cause muscle and limb pain.
- Water fasting restricts you from ingesting minerals important in cholesterol breakdowns, which can cause cholesterol problems and lead to heart disease.
- A prolonged water fast can lead to thyroid dysfunction.
- Water fasts can pressure your bladder a lot which can lead to UTIs.
- This kind of fast can lead to major hormonal disorders.
- A water fast can ironically, dehydrate you. When you drink too much water it is forced out of your body. It’s fibre that is gained from your daily diet which retains the required amount of water. The food you eat generally also accounts for 30% of your water. The restriction of this leads to dehydration.
- The wrong weight can be lost – you may not be losing bad fat but rather, the muscle and water weight which can be regained quickly.
- You may experience a condition known as orthostatic hypotension. This happens when your blood pressure drops quickly and can lead to accidents in the workplace or at home.
- The rise in water consumption during a water fast can increase your body’s production of uric acid, leading to further complications.
- The biggest of risks in performing a water fast is that it can increase the chances of diabetes and chronic kidney disease.
- When you drink water and stop eating, the body still produces the required components to break down food. This includes stomach acids. This can cause major heartburn and GERD.
- Water fasts do not guarantee the loss of fats from your body.
- Fatigue, exhaustion, migraines and so on are other side effects.
It is very important to address questions about this fast and be aware of important details before partaking in it. Talk to your doctor for accurate information. Here are answers to some common questions.
1. How Long Can I Stay on a Water Fast?
This kind of fasting should never be done continuously for over 72 hours at one time. It is recommended that you maintain a gap of 10 days from the previous water fast.
2. When Should People Avoid Water Fasting?
There are a few medical conditions that do not permit water fasting, these are:
- Cardiovascular Conditions
- Low Blood Sugar
- High Blood Sugar
3. How is Water Fasting Different From Juice Fasting?
Water fasting restricts your body to only water and possibly tea, while a juice fast can include different vegetable and fruit juices. Juice fasts keep your energy up easier and maintain your blood sugar balance if done right. If not, however, it can cause unstable blood sugar levels. Water fasting can also do a lot of harm if you aren’t careful while doing it.
4. Can I Drink Tea on a Water Fast?
Water fasts, in their purest form, is only water-based. This means no juice or tea. It doesn’t do harm to your body if you include tea in your water fast though and may actually be beneficial because it adds nutrients naturally. Try avoiding milk tea and drink water infused teas only.
5. How Much Water Should I Drink During a Water Fast?
It is recommended that you drink plenty of water during a water fast to flush out toxins and maintain energy levels. Most people drink 2-3 litres in a day. It’s important to never drink more than 200ml at once.
6. Can I Exercise on a Water Fast?
It is recommended that you avoid exercise during a water fast as you may lose nutrients that you cannot regain on water alone. You can exercise if you use supplements during the fast. It is essential that you seek clearance from a doctor before attempting this.
7. How Should I Start a Water Fast?
Plan out how many days you want to fast. It is ideal to begin by fasting for one day. Start gradually by preparing your body for the fast. Eliminate sugar, skip breakfast one day, skip breakfast and lunch another day and skip all three meals and consume only water on the day you want to fast. Remember not to drink more water than what is recommended – 2.2 litres for women, 3 litres for men).
8. How Much Weight Can I Lose on a Water Fast?
This is dependent on your body. As per medical recommendations, water fasting to lose weight should be done under the supervision of a doctor and a target weight loss of 1.1 kg per week should be maintained.
When attempting to partake in any kind of new diet or fast that is restrictive, it is important that you seek appropriate medical advice first. These diets are called crash diets and can lead to harmful consequences instead of benefits.
Remember, any diet that is not balanced cannot work in the long term, so never attempt to begin these tasks without researching it thoroughly and getting clearance from your healthcare professionals. Before starting this diet, please inform your doctor about all the medications you may be on and any pre-existing conditions you may be facing. If your doctor advises against the fast, do not force the diet against medical advice.