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Little-known health dangers of water fasting

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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 November 22, 2021

Thanksgiving: It’s About The Simple Things

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Thanksgiving: It’s About The Simple Things

Thanksgiving, a day of pure gluttony, football, and possible uncomfortable situations with family members that you may or may not like. Oh, yeah, and the whole “know and reflect on what it is to be thankful and grateful.”

During the holiday season many people forget what this time of year is bout and are too worried about getting the “early-bird” deals on Black Friday and making sure that they have the perfect gifts for their loved ones. I am sort of a “Grinch” when it comes to the holiday season, mostly because of that mentality by many of the poeple around me.

But instead of being grinch-like this holiday season, I decided to simplify things and get back to what this time of year is actually is about; being thankful for what I have and what I can give.

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Simplify

I’m not a “minimalist” in any real sense, but in the last few months the talks of Patrick Rhone and others have got me to rethink my stance. Can you really have too much stuff?

Absolutely.

And with all that stuff comes the burden and the weight of it on your back.

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If you feel that the things around you are out of control, maybe it’s time to simplify and be thankful and grateful for what you have and use. Here are a few things that you can do to simplify:

  • You know those gadgets in the drawer that you said you were going to sell? Well, time to get the listing on eBay and sell them. Or, send them to a place like Gazelle. Even if they are old and won’t get money, you can at least recycle them.
  • Get rid of things you don’t need. Like old books, clothes, tools, etc. Have something that’s been laying around forever with no use? Donate it to a charity or church. If you aren’t using it, someone else could be.
  • Find your productivity tools and stick with them. Use tools and gadgets that serve multiple purposes so you can simplify your tool set.

Be Mindful

You don’t have to be a master Buddhist or meditator to be mindful (although, it can definitely help). Being mindful comes down to being cognizant of the present and not keeping yourself in the past or future. It’s about living in the moment and being aware of yourself and everything around you. It’s just being.

Without getting too “California” on you, it is super important to be mindful during the holiday rush. Rather than worrying about the things that you forgot at your house on the way to relatives or thinking about the next stop in your endless holiday travels, just breath and think about what you are currently doing.

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Spend the time with your family and friends and don’t crush the moment. Try not to concentrate so hard on getting the perfect photo of the “awesome moment” of the day and actually miss the awesome moment.

Being mindful over the holidays will help you be with your families, friends, and yourself allowing you to enjoy your time.

Reflect

As the year is coming to a close (yes, it really is that close!) it’s a great time to start reflecting on what you have accomplished and what you haven’t. Within the next few weeks we will have a more throrough reflection article here at Lifehack.org, but reflecting every now and then over your holiday break is a great way to see where you have been doing well in your life and where you need to improve.

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Reflection shouldn’t be used to “get down” on yourself. Reflection should be used to take an honset inventory of what you have accomplished, how you handeled situations, and what you can do better. If you journal everyday (a daily form of reflection) it may be a good time to start going over some of the things that you have written and start to put together a year’s end journal entry. I mean, how else will you write your autobiography?

But, seriously, reflecting on yourself makes you aware of your successes and faults and helps you plan and make goals for the coming year. It makes you a better person.

So, while you are stuffing your face with bird, stuffing, and mashed taters’, remember that the holidays are much more than the superficial things. Use this holiday to become a better person.

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Featured photo credit: Libby Penner via unsplash.com

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