Just after Christmas this past year, I did a water fast for 10 days – 10 DAYS!
Was it because there was so much excellent food over the holidays that my body couldn’t digest all that was in it? No.
Did I grow a large hump on my back (like a camel), that allowed me to feast off of its fat reserves? Nope.
Was I hungry? Absolutely for the first 3 days, but then not so much.
You see, several months prior, my wife and I decided to fast as a way of detoxifying our bodies and giving our digestive track a chance to rest and heal itself. We had never attempted such a feat before and heard mixed reviews about fasting, but we figured it couldn’t hurt to give it a try.
Why water fast?
A few years ago I had the pleasure of working with a gentleman from Europe who wasn’t too far from his 60th birthday. We talked about a variety of topics: finance, economics, health, nutrition… pretty much everything under the sun.
His views were so wildly different than mine, obviously since he was from another country, but talking with him helped to broaden my own horizons on the various topics.
One of them was water fasting.
One afternoon he shared that twenty years ago, he was diagnosed with late stage prostate cancer. He was in excellent health, was an active biker and ate a mostly vegetarian diet. Yet he had cancer.
His oncologist at the time had recommended various treatments, ranging from chemotherapy and radiation to surgery and even the removal the prostate.
My co-worker wasn’t sold on the recommendations of the oncologist, so he looked into alternative methods of treating and even possibly curing the cancer. One of those methods was fasting.
Against the advice of his doctor, he was determined to fight his cancer naturally. He embarked on a water fast for 40 days, consuming no food and nothing to drink other than water.
Now approximately 18 years from his original diagnosis, his cancer remains in remission and he lives a pretty normal life.
So what changed? He integrated water fasts into his lifestyle.
He routinely and regularly completes long water fasts and permanently changed his diet to include more wholesome, nutrient dense foods. He still keeps a fasting schedule to this day.
The Decision to Water Fast
Curious and skeptical at the time, I began combing the web to validate his fascination and love of fasting. Article after article, page after page was filled with testimonials of people who love fasting.
They raved about the health benefits, spiritual benefits and so on. You’ll even find that some declare fasting will cure cancer, HIV/Aids, acne, depression and fibromyalgia. Whether or not this information is true, I have no idea.
Despite all the nitty gritty details that the web will produce, my friend had exposed me to something I thought I’d never try: water fasting.
Immediately after researching the benefits, I boldly declared to my wife, “I’M GOING ON A 7 DAY WATER FAST!”
She thought I was crazy.
No, I didn’t have cancer. And in reality, I just wanted to try it since the benefits seemed great and there were virtually no risks. To ease into the water fast, I first started with the master cleanse.
According to US News, the master cleanse consists of water, freshly squeeze lemons, cayenne pepper and maple syrup. You drink 6-10 glasses a day for at least 10 days, and include an herbal laxative tea at night.
I honestly found this protocol unpleasant.
While some love the taste of this concoction, the cayenne pepper made me gag and the laxative tea had me up at 3am. My first attempt at fasting lasted 3 days before indulging in a burrito from a local taco shop.
Fast forward a few years and the idea of water fasting resurfaced between my wife and myself and we both decided to fast after the holidays. My plan was a 7-10 day water fast while hers was a modified 5 day smoothie fast.
I chose to water fast for several reasons:
- Water fasts are generally the quickest way to detoxify. Some even consider this the only “real” way to detoxify your body and bring it back in check.
- Water fasts are the most difficult. I thought if I could go ten days on water alone, all future fasts of juice or smoothies would be easy in comparison.
Health Benefits of a Water Fast
In my research of the health benefits of a water fast, I found many articles. Some were backed up by research, and some were not. I summarized my findings here, but if you prefer to see the research for yourself, I recommend reading “Water Fasting for Wellness.” It’s a very helpful book with lots of research articles on the topic of water fasting.
For a doctor’s viewpoint of water fasting, “Fasting and Eating for Health” would be top pick.
After your body has used all the excess calories, it begins burning fat. By default, when you burn fat, you lose weight.
Fasting merely to lose weight is a highly debated topic. Because your metabolism slows to a crawl, you must be EXTREMELY careful when you resume eating. Otherwise the weight will come right back.
However, if food is reintroduced properly and in moderation, keeping the weight off is possible.
High Blood Pressure
This was one of the main reasons I chose to complete a fast this year. My blood pressure had been creeping up towards the 130/80 range, sometimes slightly higher. Fasting quickly brought it down to the 115/70 range.
It fluctuates depending on the day, but bringing it down 15 points was nice!
This is probably a side effect of your body not working very hard and in turn causing immense relaxation, but you are able to think much more clearly when fasting compared to regular eating habits.
Decisions were easy to make and “stressful” situations were much more manageable. I found that fasting helped me to put things in perspective.
Yes, your vision can sharpen! An odd, but pleasant side effect.
It doesn’t mean you can quit wearing your contacts or throw your glasses in the trash can, but it’s possible for your eyes to function more efficiently.
A 2008 study at the University of California at Berkeley found that eating every other day decreased the rate at which cells produced, an effect known to reduce the development of cancers.
In animal models, intermittent fasting was found to reduce cancer growth on the skin and in breast tissue.
If fasting has the potential to treat and even possibly cure cancer, why isn’t this being evaluated more often instead of the latest and greatest drug?
It’s hard to explain the science behind this one, but research shows that those who fast live longer.
Does simply going without eating prolong life? Probably not. My guess would be the continuous removal of toxins and allowing the body to rest from its daily work.
Isn’t this the new craze? People across the world are jumping on the “let’s detox and be healthy” bandwagon, shouting for their food to be void of GMOs and pesticides.
What these people don’t realize is that their “fad” is truth – fasting allows the body to rid itself of toxins.
Introducing and maintaining a proper diet filled with real and nutritious food really is better for you.
Note: Now that my fast is over, I don’t want to fall back into poor habits. To regularly detoxify my body from the occasional splurge, I incorporate detox smoothies and detox baths into my weekly routine.
Your digestive system will love you for fasting. It takes about three days into the fast for your system to completely shut down. Liquids in, liquid out.
After breaking the fast (safely and carefully of course), you’ll find that your bowel movements behave as if they’re on steroids. I’ll spare you the details, but it’s pretty incredible!
If You’re Only Drinking Water, Check the Quality
My dad was a plumber and he was always very particular about the quality of water we drank.
A part of his concern still runs through me, and the quality of your water is worth mentioning if it’s all you’ll be drinking for a period of time.
Berkey water filters are the cream of the crop, known for taking arsenic, uranium, aluminum and fluoride out of ordinary tap water. While it’s on the pricier side, it’s definitely worth considering not just for water fasting, but for improving the water in your home as a whole.
If you’re not a big water drinker in the first place and you don’t think water tastes good, consider an infuser water bottle. You can add slices of fruit that will flavor the water, making it more palatable. There are infuser water pitchers too, for making bigger batches of flavored water. My favorite flavor combination is cucumber + mint + lemon.
My Personal Experience With a 10 Day Water Fast
The first few days were rough.
It was during this time that the detoxifying symptoms were the worst. There was hunger, splitting headaches… it was rough.
I am a coffee lover and nothing beats pouring a hot cup of freshly brewed coffee into a ceramic mug, sipping the java goodness before starting the day.
I attribute the pure misery of days 1-3 to caffeine withdrawal. At the same time, Mrs. Crumbs cooking dinner for the kids and knowing I couldn’t eat was brutal.
These days were relatively easy.
By this time my digestive system had shut down and the hunger pains had disappeared. My tongue was often coated with a thick white film. This is apparently normal and another detoxification symptom.
I started losing weight, 1 – 1 1/2 pounds per day, but there was no problem going to work, playing guitar at church or performing any other daily physical functions.
I will never forget this day – ever. This was the most miserable day I have ever lived on planet earth.
I came home from work feeling great, not hungry, thinking clearly… And then my life was flipped upside down.
My wonderful wife pulled a freshly baked loaf of rosemary olive oil bread from the oven. I was immediately angry and I wanted that bread. But it wasn’t even possible at this point.
Once your digestive system shuts down around day 3, it takes a few days to bring it back up to speed. You do this by very slowly introducing food to your digestive system… drinking juice for 1-2 days, fresh fruit for another couple days, steamed vegetables for another day or two.
The process of reintroducing food can take anywhere from 7-14 days before your digestive system back up to fully operational. Eating any solid food while in a fasted state can lead to severe discomfort and even hospitalization!
These days were almost an exact replica of days 4-6. By the end of day 10, I had lost 15 pounds and was ready to eat again.
Water Fast: The Bottom Line
All in all, I enjoyed my 10 day water fast. It was challenging, but the health benefits were well worth it.
My digestion improved, blood pressure was lowered and I may have reduced the possibility of getting cancer. I plan on doing it again later this year, and probably continue to fast at least once or twice a year from now on.
My wife likes food too much to do a water fast, be she’s committed to doing a smoothie fast with me whenever I water fast. That might be an option for you if the idea of a water fast is a bit daunting!
Written by Mr. Crumbs.