Water fasting is defined as complete abstinence from food intake with the exception of distilled water, which is drunk as much or as often as wanted or necessary in an entirely restful atmosphere.
People have voluntarily abstained from regular meals and some beverages for medicinal, religious, or political reasons for decades. The first mention of therapeutic fasting dates back to the 5th century BCE when the great Greek physician Hippocrates prescribed abstention from food and beverages for ailments he believed were caused by overeating.
Dr. Herbert Shelton popularized water fasting as a type of medical therapy in America during the nineteenth century. By the mid-twentieth century, it was being applied to weight loss in severely obese individuals in a medically approved clinical setting. However, water fasting as a nutritional strategy quickly fell out of favor due to a lack of effectiveness and safety concerns.
The resurgence of fasting research since the 1980s has uncovered possible physiologic advantages of intermittent fasting that may be beneficial in the treatment of metabolic illnesses, chronic inflammatory diseases, cardiovascular diseases, pain syndromes, and even psychological problems. Furthermore, intermittent water fasting combined with a balanced diet and lifestyle adjustments was discovered to be an efficient technique for weight loss.
What is Water fasting?
Water-only fasting, sometimes known as a “zero-calorie diet,” is a kind of intermittent fasting that demands you to refrain from eating for an extended period of time, generally between 16 and 72 hours, while sipping only water. During water fasting, no solid meals are permitted, and liquid calories such as juices and sodas are also prohibited.
When you fast on water, your body utilizes stored body fat as energy after depleting the glucose it accumulated after your previous meal. This results in weight loss as well as other health advantages.
Benefits of Water fasting
1. Losing weight is possible through water fasting
According to the only long-term study (1 year) of time-restricted eating, participants who restricted their eating to an 8-hour window lost 9% of their body weight after 12 months, and those who did not restrict their eating lost 7.2%. It has been shown that eating within an eight-hour window will result in a 3-4% loss of weight within eight weeks. In a study conducted in 2015, participants who ate within an 8-hour window lost 2.3 kg more than those who ate over 12 hours in 14 weeks.
2. Reduces insulin resistance, which improves blood sugar management.
Numerous studies have suggested that fasting improves blood sugar management, which might be especially beneficial for diabetes patients.
One research of ten persons with type 2 diabetes found that short-term intermittent fasting reduced blood sugar levels considerably.
Meanwhile, another 2014 study showed that intermittent fasting and alternate-day fasting were equally effective in lowering insulin resistance as calorie restriction.
Reduced insulin resistance can boost your body’s sensitivity to insulin, enabling it to move glucose more effectively from your bloodstream to your organs.
3. May improve brain function and help to avoid neurodegenerative diseases.
Whereas most studies have been conducted on animals, some investigations have discovered that fasting may have a significant impact on brain function.
The research found that intermittent fasting for 11 months increased both brain function and brain anatomy.
Other research has found that fasting can improve cognitive performance by protecting brain health and increasing nerve cell production.
Fasting could also help ease inflammation, which might also benefit the prevention of neurodegenerative illnesses.
Fasting, in particular, appears to protect against and enhance results in tests for illnesses such as Alzheimer’s.
More research is needed, however, to assess the impact of fasting on brain function in individuals.
4. Improves health by combating inflammation
While acute inflammation is a natural immune response used to help fight infections, persistent inflammation can have major health repercussions.
According to research, inflammation may have a role in the development of chronic illnesses such as heart disease, cancer, and rheumatoid arthritis.
Several studies from several places have shown that fasting can reduce inflammation and promote better health.
A meta-analysis of 18 research discovered that intermittent fasting might considerably lower levels of C-reactive protein, a measure of inflammation.
Another small study revealed that adopting intermittent fasting for a year was more successful than a control group at lowering inflammation and some risk factors for heart disease.
Risks of Water Fasting
1. Increases the risk of several health problems
Water fasting can intensify certain health issues and is not recommended. Gout is the most known example. Gout is a disorder in which elevated uric acid levels in the blood cause uric acid crystal deposits to build in joints, resulting in acute bouts of severe inflammation.
The accelerated cell breakdown during water fasting causes an excess of uric acid synthesis, which can induce gout. As a result, gout sufferers should refrain from fasting on water.
Water fasting can further intensify illnesses such as active infection, diabetes mellitus, anorexia nervosa, and other eating disorders, as well as severe diseases of the cerebrovascular, renal, and hepatic systems.
2. Electrolyte abnormalities and dehydration
During water fasting, not drinking enough water or replenishing electrolytes can cause headaches, muscular cramps, sore throat, weariness, and dizziness.
Drink sufficient water to fulfill your appetite and keep your urine light yellow when fasting. Electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, and magnesium are also recommended.
3. Hypotension caused by orthostatic pressure
Orthostatic hypotension occurs when your blood pressure drops suddenly after sitting or standing up rapidly. If you use blood pressure medicine, you may be more prone to this problem during fasting times.
If you use blood pressure medication, speak with your doctor before attempting fasting. They may recommend that you be closely watched during fasting or that you avoid water fasting entirely.
4. Risk of refeeding syndrome
Though unusual, those who reintroduce calories too rapidly after a prolonged fast is at an increased risk of refeeding syndrome, a potentially deadly illness that includes rapid metabolic changes, mainly in very malnourished patients.
Refeeding syndrome is a common concern among those suffering from eating disorders. To avoid refeeding syndrome, some professional guidelines recommend reintroducing calories slowly (using nutritional supplements and increasing by just 10 to 30 calories per day).
5. Loses the Wrong Kind of Weight
If addressed wrong, using water for weight reduction via water fasting might result in not just the destruction or metabolism of fat cells but also protein from muscles and visceral organs. This sort of weight loss is “wrong” since it causes muscular atrophy.
As a result, water fasting must be done in a pleasant and tranquil atmosphere free of outside pressures. Stress may raise the body’s energy demands, which may necessitate the breakdown of protein storage from bones and internal organs in addition to lipids.
Water fasting for long periods of time is safe, right?
Water-only fasting on alternate days under medical supervision has been demonstrated to be well-maintained for up to 6-months. However, research is limited. Therefore, we suggest undertaking these sorts of fasts under the supervision of a healthcare expert. Fasting on water solely on alternate days is ideal for the first few months of a significant weight loss program. Some people can keep it up for a long time, but many return to time-restricted eating once they’ve dropped the majority of their weight.
Fasts of more than one day are typically well tolerated, although they must be medically managed. It is critical to maintain fluid and electrolyte levels during extended water fasting to avoid dehydration.
Mild-to-moderate tiredness, nausea, sleeplessness, headache, dizziness, indigestion, and back pain have all been recorded as adverse effects of water fasts lasting 2-22 days. Extensive fasting has several health hazards, including low blood pressure. High uric acid production and electrolyte imbalance following an 8-day water fast have also been documented in investigations.
Uric acid induces oxidative stress in cells and can cause issues such as high blood pressure and nephritis, which is why persons with renal illness should avoid fasting for lengthy periods on just water. Hyponatremia, or low sodium levels in the blood, is another major adverse effect that can be deadly.
Long-term water fasting may be stressful on the body, and as with most things in life, more isn’t necessarily better. Long-term studies of repeated cycles of long-term water fasting are sparse, and the long-term health effects of calorie restriction for protracted durations are unknown. Before undertaking a lengthy water fast, consult with your healthcare professional and ensure you are under a doctor’s supervision.
Wrapping It Up
Water fasting for weight reduction can surely help speed up the process, but it comes with dangers and disadvantages.
For one thing, water fasting may be both physically and psychologically exhausting. It’s also possible that it’s unsuitable for people who have pre-existing medical issues. Extending the fast for longer than three days may potentially put you at risk of medical issues. Before considering it, speak with a doctor.
If you wish to lose weight by fasting, more comprehensive methods such as intermittent fasting and alternate-day fasting may be preferable to explore.