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 communitybefore 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].

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.

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.

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).

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.

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