By definition, water-only fasting means the abstinence from all food and liquids, except water, for some extended period of time. I myself have fasted thousands of people over the past 40 years for a wide variety of health concerns. Now I can appreciate that in our culture of gluttony and overeating, the idea of voluntarily abstaining from food-unless there is some enforced famine-may seem absurd and mind-blowing. Yet, there is an extensive body of evidence supporting the use of water-only fasting in a wide range of health problems including obesity.
There is an Extensive Body of Evidence Supporting the Use of Water-only Fasting in a Wide Range of Health Problems Including Obesity.
The loss of appetite and fasting are natural to all animals, including humans, in response to disease and stress. If you observe animals in the wild, or even your own house pets, you will notice that when they are injured or diseased they will often retire to a quiet and comfortable place, stop the intake of all food and continue drinking water only. When less energy is required for eating, digesting and procuring food, more energy is available for healing and repair.
The body has a deep rooted need for energy and the sugar that provides it. The way food, and the lack of food, is handled to meet this need speaks directly to the role of fasting in health, fat and weight loss. When food comes into the body, the sugar that it contains basically goes in 3 directions:
- Bloodstream , to maintain adequate blood glucose
- Liver, where it is stored as the starch, glycogen
- Fat Cells, as long term energy storage
When you stop eating, the first thing that happens is that blood sugar levels begin to drop. This is a primary stress and threat to the body. The most significant blood sugar drop occurs in the first few days of fasting. As a result, the body begins to access the sugar that is stored in the liver to replenish the declining blood sugar level. However, the sugar reserve in the liver can only last for 24-36 hours, and if you fast longer than that, the body satisfies its blood sugar and energy needs with protein in our muscles, and fat in our fat cells.
There is more protein metabolism and lean muscle breakdown in the first few days of fasting, but within a few days protein loss begins to slow down as the body shifts to fat metabolism. So that by the end of the first week, the energy needs of the body are derived almost exclusively from fat. And the ketones produced by fat metabolism in the fast are used directly by the brain as primary source of energy during extensive periods of fasting. The loss of protein and the depletion of blood sugar is more comfortably regulated by insuring that the fasting person maintains maximum rest. If the person attempts too much activity on a fast, there will be more rapid muscle loss and blood sugar decline.
In fact, it is important to see fasting as a deep physiological resting process. In fasting, the body shifts from a typical phase of growth to a phase of energy conservation maintenance and repair. As evidence of this, the growth factor, Insulin-like growth factor (IGLF), which is abnormally increased by eating refined foods and animal products, and can promote cancer and tumor growth in adults, is reduced during fasting. This reduction of IGLF, combined with the process of self-digestion, autophagy, that occurs during the fast, can even promote the reduction or elimination of tumors and growths.
Not only is fat an available energy reserve in the body, but it also serves as vehicle for the storage of waste and toxic fat-soluble chemicals that we are routinely exposed to. Every second of every day, the cells of the body are taking in nutrients and eliminating waste and by-products of routine metabolism. In addition to this internal toxemia (toxic debris in the bloodstream), there are a variety of chemical poisons that come into your body from the outside, e.g. pesticides, pollution, additives in foods, toxic foods, drugs that you’re taking etc., that also need to be eliminated from the body. Many of the environmental toxins, and even internal waste products, are able to be dissolved in fat. So not only do fat cells of the body provide a primary source of energy, but they also work like a garbage dump, hiding and storing our toxic load.
The energy that is harbored in the fasting process can also enhance the mobilization of waste from storage areas, and the removal of this waste through organs and tissues of elimination in a process of detoxification. The respiratory surface of the lungs and the skin are the largest organs of the body. So it is very common to see discharge, drainage and symptoms of elimination via these organs including mucous discharge, cysts, rashes and boils. In fasting, not only are the processes of detoxification and elimination enhanced, but the body also demonstrates an intelligent and very selective control over these processes.During fasting the body will utilize what it needs least to provide support for what it needs most. It needs heart, and lungs, and kidneys, and bowels etc., but it doesn’t need cysts, tumors, stones, and growths. So through autophagy, it will break down a tumor or a cyst, take from it what it can use to support the vital organs of the body, and eliminate the rest. That’s why we often see cysts, tumors, and stones break down and dissolve during fasting.
What makes fasting even more beneficial is that while many pathological conditions are improved, there is also significant fat and weight loss. In the early days of fasting, weight loss can be as much as 1-2 pounds a day. However, this weight loss will taper off to some degree as the fast ensues, often reducing to a half a pound a day in the latter stages of more extensive fasts. Typically, the more obese the individual is at the start, the more dramatic the initial weight loss is. I have had people lose 20 pounds in two weeks of fasting, and as much as 30 pounds or more in a month.
Fasting is not a mystical process. Although it has been used by a variety of spiritual traditions as a tool for introspective evaluation and spiritual growth, fasting is truly just a profoundly simple process of deep physiological rest.The goal is to harbor as much energy as possible for the healing work at hand. That means rest on every level, including all the senses. The more time spent being quiet, serene, and introspective the better.
Sometimes, only by slowing everything down and stepping back from the chaos and distractions around us, can we feel, question and change the patterns and choices of our lives. For this reason fasting is also a profound tool for creating a more mindful self-aware life, and resolving compulsive addictive behavior
Fasting promotes fat breakdown, detoxification, and repair like nothing else. It enhances the balance and function of the hormonal (endocrine) system, while significantly improving the metabolic efficiency of the liver and digestive systems, thereby promoting improved calorie use and fat loss across time. Fasting can be also be one of the most powerful approaches for resolving inflammation and the complications of autoimmune disease. The body-mind changes evoked by the fasting process make it one of the most efficient and powerful tools to jump start any new health program in general, and a significant and successful long term weight loss program in particular.
Balance for Life Florida…
…is one of just a few places in the world, and the only oceanfront health retreat, where you can experience supervised water-only fasting.
please Call us at 1-(800)-663-9292 for program and reservation information, and see if you are a candidate for the profound benefits of water-only fasting.
By Dr. Frank Sabatino, Health Director of Balance for Life Florida.