If you’ve been looking up ways to lose weight, you’ve probably heard about water fasting. It has recently become a popular method for speedy weight loss. Social media is all the rage about it, with before and after transformation photos popping up daily.
The practice of fasting has been around for centuries. During water fasting, you cannot consume anything besides water. Various studies have shown that water fasting has health benefits such as reduced inflammation, stable blood sugar levels, and good heart health. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at what water fasting is and its 8 incredible benefits.
Keep reading to learn more!
What Is Water Fasting?
Water fasting is a type of fast that restricts the consumption of everything except water. Most water fasts last 24–72 hours. Fasts longer than this should be done under medical supervision.
Even herbal teas, black coffee, calorie-free drinks, and supplements are not allowed during water fasting. The juice cleanse and lemon detox cleanse are other methods modeled after this fast.
The water-only fast method is somewhat inspired by intermittent fasting, which has shown well-documented and evidence-based results for weight loss, immune system, and metabolism. The studies cited below apply to all types of intermittent fasting, a category that water fasting falls under.
Benefits of Water Fasting
1. Activates Autophagy
Autophagy is a fundamental process of cleaning out damaged cells, to regenerate newer, healthier cells. Basically, your body’s cells eat themselves and clean out any unnecessary or damaged cellular components. If these damaged parts accumulate in the cell, they can make it difficult for your cells to repair themselves and regrow vital structures, which is a risk factor for many cancers. This is why autophagy is essential for keeping cells healthy. It can help prevent cancer cells from growing. Several animal studies suggest that autophagy may also help protect against diseases like Alzheimer’s, and heart disease.
The nutrient deficit is a key activator of autophagy which is why water fasting activates it. Food restriction for 24 or 48 hours induces fatty change and autophagy in the liver. It peaks around 32 to 48 hours of fasting after which its intensity drops and stabilizes.
2. Helps in Lowering Blood Pressure
Water fasting is considered a safe and effective method of bringing high blood pressure to a normal level. This is one of the water fasting benefits that is also useful in helping people to take on health-promoting behavioral changes in their day-to-day lives.
This study shows that longer, medically supervised water fasts may help people with high blood pressure to lower their blood pressure.
In another study, 68 people with borderline high blood pressure water fasted for around 14 days under medical supervision. At the end of the fast, 82% of people had a blood pressure that was now within a healthier range. Additionally, the average drop in blood pressure was also significant.
Other studies exist that prove the same, which only strengthens the idea that water fasting could lower your blood pressure.
3. Induces Ketosis and Fat Loss
When your body doesn’t have enough carbohydrates to burn for energy, it goes through a process called Ketosis. During this process, your body burns the stored fat to make ketones, which are used for fuel. Ketosis is a metabolic process that forces your body to use up the fat is stored in case you’d have no food in the future. This results in fat loss, which is one of the most sought-after water fasting benefits.
In the first 24-48 hours of water fasting, your body burns the stored glycogen for energy. After day two, your body enters into the state of ketosis. Water fasting induces ketosis more quickly than through Keto or other low-carb diets.
4. Improves Insulin and Leptin Sensitivity
Diabetes is a disorder in the way the body uses glucose, a sugar that is required to generate fuel for the body. When blood sugar levels rise, the pancreas produces insulin, the hormone which signals cells to take sugar from the blood. Fat cells store extra glucose in the form of fats. In the common type 2 form of diabetes, cells lose their insulin sensitivity. This is also called insulin resistance which is recognized as a predictor of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.
Insulin and leptin are both important hormones for metabolism. The former helps the body store nutrients from the bloodstream, while the latter helps the body feel full.
This study shows that water fasting can make your body more sensitive to leptin and insulin, making these hormones more effective.
5. Reduces the Symptoms of Metabolic Syndrome
A metabolic syndrome is a group of risk factors that raises the risk for heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and other illnesses. These risk factors occur together when your body is unable to regulate cholesterol, certain proteins, and glucose properly. Most people with this syndrome already have insulin resistance that we mentioned earlier.
Heart disease is a condition in which a waxy substance called plaque, builds up in the arteries that supply blood to the heart. It hardens and narrows the arteries, reducing the blood flow. This can lead to chest pain, heart attack, heart damage, or even death.
This study shows that water fasting helps reduce or eliminate the symptoms of metabolic syndrome. The results of the study are promising as the 5-day water fasting showed many critical beneficial effects without toxicity.
6. Lowers the Risk of Several Chronic Diseases
There is evidence that water fasting can lower the risk of chronic diseases like diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. Water fasting can significantly lower your blood levels of cholesterol and triglycerides — two risk factors for heart disease.
Several animal studies have found that water fasting may protect the heart against damage from free radicals. Free radicals are reactive atoms that contribute to tissue damage in the body. They play a significant role in many chronic diseases.
Another animal study has also found that water fasting may suppress genes that help cancer cells grow. It may also improve the effects of chemotherapy.
Dr. Frank Sabatino, current contributor and special guest host of the Balance for Life Retreat Program, discusses the benefits of water fasting for fighting cancer in this interview.
7. Improves Quality of Sleep
Melatonin, also called the sleep hormone, plays an important role in the body’s sleep-wake cycle. Its production increases with evening darkness, promoting healthy sleep and regulating your circadian rhythm.
Scientists believe that insulin and melatonin have a hostile relationship, meaning they take turns suppressing each other. Insulin levels drop at night in response to an increase in melatonin and melatonin levels are low during the day in response to high insulin levels.
A study shows that short-term modified water fasting can improve sleep patterns and daytime alertness. It causes your insulin levels to drop and melatonin levels to rise, which helps you sleep better and on time.
8. Reduces Inflammation
Inflammation is another word for swelling. It is a reaction from your white blood cells to safeguard your body from viruses, bacteria, and other foreign invaders that can make you ill. Thus, normal levels of inflammation within the body are necessary as your immune system depends on it. But when the body goes through the inflammation process even when there are no invaders to combat, it might begin attacking otherwise healthy tissue. Inflammation can be acute or chronic. Having diseases and/or conditions such as Alzheimer’s, asthma, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer puts you at a higher risk of developing chronic inflammation.
This study has shown that water fasting is effective in treating inflammation since it induces large anti-inflammatory actions in the body.
Many foods like processed meat, alcohol, refined carbohydrates, seed and vegetable oils, etc can worsen inflammatory symptoms. When you eat mindfully or avoid all food with a water-only fast, it is possible to lessen your inflammatory symptoms. This happens due to autophagy, a process mentioned earlier, during which your cells eat their old and damaged parts so the remaining cell is healthier. If the cell can’t be salvaged, it is completely destroyed. Thus, more monocytes aka the largest white blood cells are regenerated to prevent unnecessary immune system responses.
Water Fasting Benefits Galore
Water fasting is quite popular in the wellness world. Longer fasts are recommended in traditional medicine like naturopathy as they have shown significant health benefits. But fasts longer than 24–72 hours should be approached with care, under the supervision of a qualified doctor, and by following their instructions.
After a three-day water fast, you need about 3 – 4 days to slowly come back to regular eating habits. Hence, it is advised to plan for a total of 6 – 7 days for the complete process. Ideally, a retreat or a quiet holiday is a good way to attempt this fast and reap all the water fasting benefits. The water fasting retreat from Balance for Life is one such holistic program that provides supervised water fasting. It includes a lot of perks that help you to continue your wellness journey beyond the retreat.