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Little-known health dangers of water fasting

Little-known health dangers of water fasting

In this article, I will briefly go over the health risks you’ll be taking on if you ever decide to do a water fast.

I, for example, spent quite a few years in the water fasting community before I found out just how dangerous water fasting can get.

Before I knew what you’re about to read, I actually thought it would be a great personal achievement if I could pull off a 21-day water fast.

Today, I wouldn’t do that for the world.

Once you see what science has to say about the dangers of water fasting, you’ll probably feel the same way.

Medically recorded health complications during water fasting

If you know where to look, you can find a lot information on the side effects and complications of water fasting in the archives of medical science.

A breakdown in electrolyte homoeostasis is one of the first medically recorded problems of water fasting [1].

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Then there’s cardiac arrhythmias, urate nephrolithiasis, and gout [2].

Furthermore, we have severe orthostatic hypotension, severe normocytic, normochromic anemia, and gouty arthritis [3].

Out of all these complications, I’ve only seen “orthostatic hypotension” discussed often in the water fasting community.

Orthostatic hypotension is that temporary feeling of lightheadedness or dizziness that can surprise you if you stand up too quickly during a water fast. It’s caused by a drop in blood pressure and usually only lasts a couple of seconds.

I’m not going to go into the details on the rest of the possible complications, because that’s not really the point of this article.

But I did want to give you a list of stuff that could go wrong. So if you’ll still be interested in doing a water fast after reading this article, at least now you can do your own research from here.

Let’s move on to the really interesting part of this article, the fatal complications that have been recorded in connection with water fasting.

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The chance of “sudden death” during a water fast

One death case [4] was recorded back when water fasting was still used in medical circles to treat obesity. In this case, death was caused by a severe case of “lactic acidosis”.

Two obese people, who also used water fasting for weight loss, died of sudden death as well [5]. One of those deaths happened as early as 3 weeks into a fast (and the other one 8 weeks in). But to be fair, both of those people went into a water fast with a pre-existing heart conditions.

A young woman also tried to lose weight through water fasting, but unfortunately passed away soon AFTER her fast [6]. While she did reach her weight loss goal, 7 days after breaking off the fast her heart simply gave out.

There’s more cases like these, but I think 4 recorded deaths are more than enough to PROVE water fasting is NOT a walk in the park.

Is water fasting any safer if you still have a lot of body fat to lose?

Another crazy thing about these recorded deaths, is that some of those people still had huge body fat reserves at the time of their deaths.

This happens because, no matter how much energy you still have stored away in your body fat reserves, your body will keep burning away some of your “structural protein” for energy throughout the fast [7].

Structural protein are the basic building blocks of your muscle mass and vital organ tissue, which means your body will literally be eating itself away to keep you alive during a water fast.

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But if you wipe out too much of your protein reserves, sudden death can happen regardless of how much body fat you’re still holding on to [8].

So if you’re like me, who had been led to believe that you can fast for as long as you still have enough body fat left, I suggest you let go of that dangerous logic right away.

A safer alternative to pure water fasting

Personally, I don’t do pure water fasts anymore, even though I still like to fast from time to time.

Instead of pure water fasting, I now do something called muscle sparing fasting (scientists also call this protein-sparing modified fasting).

This basically means, I eat a small amount of protein during my fast (usually in liquid form).

I get in between 1.2-1.4 grams of protein per kilogram of my ideal body weight. That’s just enough protein to fully reverse that destruction of structural protein during a fast [9], but not enough to slow down those high fat burn rates that can only be reached in full fasting ketosis.

Muscle sparing fasting has a much better safety record, because no fatalities have been reported in over 10,000 medically recorded cases [10] (but that’s only true when high-quality protein sources are used, when fasting is limited to 3 months or less and done under medical supervision).

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But explaining all the details on how to do a muscle sparing fast correctly would definitely be beyond the scope of this article, so let me just wrap all this up.

Is pure water fasting safe at all?

Given a huge number of people who fast all over the world (and live to tell about it), pure water fasting may not be all that likely to actually kill you.

If you’re still considering doing a water fast after reading this article, here’s a couple of suggestions you can follow to make sure you stay on the safe side with water fasting:

  • keep your fasts short (preferably under 72 hours)
  • don’t fast too often (space your fasts at least three weeks apart)
  • if you can afford to, check into a fasting retreat (so you’ll fast under medical supervision)
  • consider safer fasting alternatives (muscle sparing fasting, intermittent fasting, alternate day fasting)
  • whatever you ultimately decide to do, consult your physician first (I am not saying this just because I am required to do so by law, but because that could actually save you a lot of trouble down the road)

I realize this whole article might make water fasting seem much worse than it really is, but I’ve seen first hand how people in the water fasting community can paint a too rosy picture on fasting.

And if I have been misled into believing that water fasting is some miracle, cure-all path to perfect health (where absolutely nothing can go wrong), then I’m sure there’s more people like me out there.

If you know anyone like that, make sure you let them know about this collection of science-based facts about the dangers of water fasting right away.

Featured photo credit: priyanka98742 @ Pixabay.com via pixabay.com

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Last Updated on March 25, 2020

How to Live Longer? 21 Ways to Live a Long Life

How to Live Longer? 21 Ways to Live a Long Life

When it comes to living long, genes aren’t everything. Research has revealed a number of simple lifestyle changes you can make that could help to extend your life, and some of them may surprise you.

So, how to live longer? Here are 21 ways to help you live a long life

1. Exercise

It’s no secret that physical activity is good for you. Exercise helps you maintain a healthy body weight and lowers your blood pressure, both of which contribute to heart health and a reduced risk of heart disease–the top worldwide cause of death.

2. Drink in Moderation

I know you’re probably picturing a glass of red wine right now, but recent research suggests that indulging in one to three glasses of any type of alcohol every day may help to increase longevity.[1] Studies have found that heavy drinkers as well as abstainers seem to have a higher risk of early mortality than moderate drinkers.

3. Reduce Stress in Your Life

Stress causes your body to release a hormone called cortisol. At high levels, this hormone can increase blood pressure and cause storage of abdominal fat, both of which can lead to an increased risk of heart disease.

4. Watch Less Television

A 2008 study found that people who watch six hours of television per day will likely die an average of 4.8 years earlier than those who don’t.[2] It also found that, after the age of 25, every hour of television watched decreases life expectancy by 22 minutes.

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Television promotes inactivity and disengagement from the world, both of which can shorten your lifespan.

5. Eat Less Red Meat

Red meat consumption is linked to an increased risk of heart disease and cancer.[3] Swapping out your steaks for healthy proteins, like fish, may help to increase longevity.

If you can’t stand the idea of a steak-free life, reducing your consumption to less than two to three servings a week can still incur health benefits.

6. Don’t Smoke

This isn’t exactly a revelation. As you probably well know, smoking significantly increases your risk of cancer.

7. Socialize

Studies suggest that having social relationships promotes longevity.[4] Although scientists are unsure of the reasons behind this, they speculate that socializing leads to increased self esteem as well as peer pressure to maintain health.

8. Eat Foods Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids decrease the risk of heart disease[5] and perhaps even Alzheimer’s disease.[6] Salmon and walnuts are two of the best sources of Omega-3s.

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9. Be Optimistic

Studies suggest that optimists are at a lower risk for heart disease and, generally, live longer than pessimists.[7] Researchers speculate that optimists have a healthier approach to life in general–exercising more, socializing, and actively seeking out medical advice. Thus, their risk of early mortality is lower.

10. Own a Pet

Having a furry-friend leads to decreased stress, increased immunity, and a lessened risk of heart disease.[8] Depending on the type of pet, they can also motivate you to be more active.

11. Drink Coffee

Studies have found a link between coffee consumption and longer life.[9] Although the reasons for this aren’t entirely clear, coffee’s high levels of antioxidants may play a role. Remember, though, drowning your cup of joe in sugar and whipped cream could counter whatever health benefits it may hold.

12. Eat Less

Japan has the longest average lifespan in the world, and the longest lived of the Japanese–the natives of the Ryukyu Islands–stop eating when they’re 80% full. Limiting your calorie intake means lower overall stress on the body.

13. Meditate

Meditation leads to stress reduction and lowered blood pressure.[10] Research suggests that it could also increase the activity of an enzyme associated with longevity.[11]

Taking as little as 15 minutes a day to find your zen can have significant health benefits, and may even extend your life.

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How to meditate? Here’re 8 Meditation Techniques for Complete Beginners

14. Maintain a Healthy Weight

Being overweight puts stress on your cardiovascular system, increasing your risk of heart disease.[12] It may also increase the risk of cancer.[13] Maintaining a healthy weight is important for heart health and living a long and healthy life.

15. Laugh Often

Laughter reduces the levels of stress hormones, like cortisol, in your body. High levels of these hormones can weaken your immune system.

16. Don’t Spend Too Much Time in the Sun

Too much time in the sun can lead to an increased risk of skin cancer. However, sun exposure is an excellent way to increase levels of vitamin D, so soaking up a few rays–perhaps for around 15 minutes a day–can be healthy. The key is moderation.

17. Cook Your Own Food

When you eat at restaurants, you surrender control over your diet. Even salads tend to have a large number of additives, from sugar to saturated fats. Eating at home will enable you to monitor your food intake and ensure a healthy diet.

Take a look at these 14 Healthy Easy Recipes for People on the Go and start to cook your own food.

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18. Eat Mushrooms

Mushrooms are a central ingredient in Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s GOMBS disease fighting diet. They boost the immune system and may even reduce the risk of cancer.[14]

19. Floss

Flossing helps to stave off gum disease, which is linked to an increased risk of cancer.[15]

20. Eat Foods Rich in Antioxidants

Antioxidants fight against the harmful effects of free-radicals, toxins which can cause cell damage and an increased risk of disease when they accumulate in the body. Berries, green tea and broccoli are three excellent sources of antioxidants.

Find out more antiosidants-rich foods here: 13 Delicious Antioxidant Foods That Are Great for Your Health

21. Have Sex

Getting down and dirty two to three times a week can have significant health benefits. Sex burns calories, decreases stress, improves sleep, and may even protect against heart disease.[16] It’s an easy and effective way to get exercise–so love long and prosper!

More Health Tips

Featured photo credit: Sweethearts/Patrick via flickr.com

Reference

[1] Wiley Online Library: Late‐Life Alcohol Consumption and 20‐Year Mortality
[2] BMJ Journals: Television viewing time and reduced life expectancy: a life table analysis
[3] Arch Intern Med.: Red Meat Consumption and Mortality
[4] PLOS Medicine: Social Relationships and Mortality Risk: A Meta-analytic Review
[5] JAMA: Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acid Intake and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease in Women
[6] NCBI: Effects of Omega‐3 Fatty Acids on Cognitive Function with Aging, Dementia, and Neurological Diseases: Summary
[7] Mayo Clinic Proc: Prediction of all-cause mortality by the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory Optimism-Pessimism Scale scores: study of a college sample during a 40-year follow-up period.
[8] Med Hypotheses.: Pet ownership protects against the risks and consequences of coronary heart disease.
[9] The New England Journal of Medicine: Association of Coffee Drinking with Total and Cause-Specific Mortality
[10] American Journal of Hypertension: Blood Pressure Response to Transcendental Meditation: A Meta-analysis
[11] Science Direct: Intensive meditation training, immune cell telomerase activity, and psychological mediators
[12] JAMA: The Disease Burden Associated With Overweight and Obesity
[13] JAMA: The Disease Burden Associated With Overweight and Obesity
[14] African Journal of Biotechnology: Anti-cancer effect of polysaccharides isolated from higher basidiomycetes mushrooms
[15] Science Direct: Periodontal disease, tooth loss, and cancer risk in male health professionals: a prospective cohort study
[16] AHA Journals: Sexual Activity and Cardiovascular Disease

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