Should you water only fast, to achieve great health?
10 May 2017
Dr Jason Fung of Boston wrote an interesting book called the Complete Guide to Fasting, which addresses many of the aspects of fasting, mainly for weight loss and potentially cure or prevent Type 2 diabetes. The longest water only fast was 382 days (apart from some multivitamins and tea), done for weight loss, and the weight has stayed off.
Based on this I undertook a 7 day water only fast, with only green or other teas, mainly for weight loss and weight management. It was very effective for weight loss and quite easy.
Why water fast?
Water fast for general health, weight loss, or to cure a specific ailment eg diabetes type 2.
The general health benefits are said to be:
- Weight loss
- Longer life (reduced calories and fat are said to do this)
- Autophagy ie the “spring cleaning” of your body
- Curing a range of ailments, from Type 2 diabetes, to epilepsy and intestinal disorders.
Longer fasts of 7 to 10 days a year are believed by Dr Seyfried to prevent cancer.
Fung states that to cure diabetes, or to stop diabetes, one needs to resensitize your body to insulin, and one does this by getting your blood glucose level to drop to 3 to 4 mmoL as often as possible. It took me until day 3 for this to occur. Diabetes (type 2) is apparently often caused by just having too much sugar or carbs over a long period (decades?), which spikes your blood glucose continuously, and makes your cells resistant to insulin, so more and more insulin is needed to push the glucose in to the cells, eventually resulting in Diabetes Type 2.
Issues during the water fast?
Not eating anything is actually quite easy, at least it was for me, especially after day three. I went in to ketosis ie fat being burnt instead of glucose, from late on day two. Apparently this happens when your existing liver store of glycogen (glucose) is burned through, apparently about 2,000 calories.
I had a mild headache at the end of day one, probably as I stopped my 3 plus cups of coffee a day, and got very cold hands and feet. I assume the cold extremities was because my heart rate dropped too much, so I addressed this by walking around a lot, and having some hot baths.
Constructive comments on what to improve
One constructive comment I would like to make about Dr Fungs book on fasting, is that it might be useful to have more detail on the type and quantity of foods to eat in the days before entering the fast, and more foods and protocols for finishing the fast, especially how to stay in ketosis, as if one goes for say 4 days or more one has to be careful in starting up the digestive system again with small amounts of easy to eat foods, as if one eats too much too soon or the wrong foods then they can get very sick (or even die!).
In addition, addressing other potential issues whilst doing a longer fast ie over 3 days, such as possible uric acid build up (drink lots of water), potential cardiac muscle loss, or electrolyte loss eg loss of potassium. Fung addresses the “you could lose muscle through fasting" concern, and believes there will be minimal muscle loss.
Blood glucose and Fat in the bloodstream ie Ketone- Measuring Equipment
In London, a simple and cheap blood glucose monitor, available in Boots, such as the Accu-Chek Performa Nano, can tell you what youe blood glucose levels are. To measure ketones -the fat in your blood stream- then a blood ketone reader such as Abbotts Freestyle Optium Neo works (you need to check for the accuracy range), but each Ketone measuring stick can cost a few pounds. This device does blood glucose and ketones- with different sticks. A cheap way of measuring ketones is using Ketostix (urine based) but that only has increments of 4 mmoL, so not that accurate. The optimal ketones range is said to be 1.5 to 3 mmoL, higher levels are said not to make much difference, but I have trouble believing that.
Or if you want to avoid jabbing your finger frequently and drawing blood, you can order Abbotts Freestyle Libre arm scanner. This can also measure blood glucose on a stick and ketones, so probably a good investment. With this you attach a circular “patch” to the back of your arm (like a large 50p coin) and it reads your blood glucose whenever you swipe the reader past the “patch”. So you can take dozens of measurements throughout the day, and test which foods make your blood glucose react the most or least. When I first tried this (note that I am not diabetic or pre diabetic) the scanner did not really work on the first day, giving very low / too low, readings, and at the end of the 14 days you are supposed to be using the scanner the accuracy dropped away. And the arm scanners are very expensive (over £50 each, less if you are an official diabetic).
I would recommend reading Dr Funds book and looking at Dr Seyfried of Bostons work and consider their findings, as if correct, their hypotheses and protocols can make you very healthy over the long term, possibly preventing cancer and diabetes from occurring. If you prefer, youtube has a number of videos by them. In addition, do more research yourself for your particular situation to make sure that what you are doing is safe.
If you are London based, there is a healthy food company called CRUSSH, and they offer bone broths- useful for longer fasts, but also wheatgrass and other good green juices, which could be very useful for “refeeding”, when you start slowly eating again. Bone broths are very important for longer fasts to maintain your electrolytes.
IMPORTANT: make sure you obtain medical advice before fasting, especially if you have a medical condition. However many Doctors have no or little experience of fasting so you may need to search out a Doctor familiar with fasting and its benefits and risks.
Wishing you the best of health!