Water Fasting: Benefits and Dangers

Author: Healthline: Authority Nutrition

- Water fasting is a type of fasting or food restriction that restricts everything except water. It's become really popular in the last few years as a quick way to lose weight. But are there actually health benefits and are there any risks? That's what I'm looking at in this video. (musical chimes) Water fasting is a type of fast that as the name suggests you can't consume anything other than water. Most water fasts last between 24 to 72 hours. You should not follow a water fast for longer than this without medical supervision. Now, people usually try water fasting for religious or spiritual reasons, to lose weight, for detoxing, for its health benefits, or preparing for a medical procedure.

The main reason why people try water fasting is for its reported health benefits though, which I'll get to in a moment. How do you water fast? There are no scientific guidelines on how to start water fasting, but basically for 24 to 72 hours you stop eating or drinking anything other than water. Most people will have two to three liters of water in a day. Some may feel weak or dizzy during a water fast and may want to avoid operating heavy machinery and driving to avoid causing an accident.

After the water fast you're advised to resist the urge to eat a big meal. This is because eating a large meal after a fast may cause uncomfortable symptoms. Instead, break your fast with, like a smoothie or a smaller meal, and then you can gradually increase your intake through the remainder of the day. The post-fast phase is especially important after a longer fast. Now, this is because you may actually be at risk of what's called refeeding syndrome, a potentially fatal condition where the body undergoes rapid changes in fluid and electrolytes.

And this phase normally lasts a day, but people who fast for extended period of time, like up to three days, may need a few days to feel comfortable and eat normally again. Potential benefits of water fasting. Water fasting has been linked to a range of health benefits in animal and human studies, mostly animal studies. The first is that it may promote what's called autophagy, which is where old cells are broken down and recycled in your body. Several studies have found that autophagy may help protect against diseases like cancer, alzheimer's disease, and heart disease.

Water Fasting: Benefits and Dangers

Now, that said, there are very few human studies on water fasting autophagy and disease prevention in general. It's pretty much just animal studies which don't always apply to humans, so keep that in mind. Research also shows that a longer, medically supervised fast may help those with high blood pressure to lower their blood pressure.

In this study 174 people with high blood pressure water fasted for an average of 10 to 11 days. At the end of the fast 90% of the people achieved a blood pressure lower than 140/90 mm of mercury or points. And now, that's the limits used to diagnose high blood pressure if you're above that. Additionally the average fall in systolic blood pressure, the upper value, the first value, was a substantial 37 points. Unfortunately, there are no human studies that investigate the link between short term water fasts, like 24 to 72 hours, and blood pressure. As I said, these studies, you know, are medically supervised and they typically go about 10 days. Water fasting may also influence insulin and leptin sensitivity, which are important hormones, are involved in your body's metabolism. Basically, insulin helps your body store nutrients from the blood stream and leptin makes you feel full.

For example, being more insulin sensitive means your body is more efficient at reducing blood sugar, taking sugar out of the blood. Meanwhile, being more leptin sensitive could help your body process hunger signals more efficiently and in turn may lower your risk of obesity because you won't have such a strong appetite. Dangers and risks of water fasting. Obviously, although water fasting may have some benefits, it has quite a few risks as well. Although it can help you lose weight rapidly, most of the weight you lose will come from water, carbs, and muscle mass, rather than fat. Now, of course, this is the wrong type of weight loss. If you want the benefits of fasting but also wanna lose weight, you should probably try intermittent fasting instead.

Orthostatic hypotension is also common among people who water fast. It's defined as a drop in blood pressure that happens when you suddenly stand up and can leave you dizzy, light headed, and at risk of fainting. So, if you suffer from orthostatic hypotension while fasting you may need to avoid driving or operating heavy machinery. The dizziness and risk of fainting can lead to an accident, of course. Lastly, there are a few health conditions that can be aggravated by water fasting. They include gout, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, acid reflux, and of course eating disorders. Personally I feel if you want to get the benefits of fasting you're better off trying a safer method, such as intermittent fasting which at least allows you to eat some food during the day, and is actually an eating pattern that you could potentially maintain long term. Thanks for watching, make sure to give this video a thumbs up if you found it informative, and don't forget to subscribe to Healthline's Authority Nutrition YouTube channel by clicking the red subscribe button below this video.

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