Don's mention of his recent spontaneous fasting inspired me to ponder on this interesting topic, again.
I have water fasted for a few days only myself, and this was many years ago, when I was in my 20s. Some consider eating fruit only fasting, and I certainly have had many periods of eating fruit only, but I do not consider this fasting. Also, some consider eating juice only fasting, and I have done this too, but do not think of this as fasting either. So I have never really fasted for any extended periods of time, although I have contemplated doing it. Somehow, I always do like to eat, and have never been drawn spontaneously to fast for longer than a day or two.
I did hear about the benefits of water fasting of course, from various sources (but have not found any hardcore data on this). At the same time, some serious concerns were expressed on the topic too (linsufficient medical support, deaths even) and we know these all too well.
I read this argument by some fasting promoters, that fasting can resolve B12 deficiency issue. I find it hard to imagine however that fasting should be considered as a medium of treatment in a situation when someone is malnourished and requires proper feeding rather than fasting.
So I do wonder about water fasting. It's safety and benefits in particular.
Anne does regular orange juice fasting, which I believe are spontaneously driven and come during the season when oranges are nice and yummy. I understand that juice fasting can bring considerable benefits, without some dangers that water fasting might bring.
So, what are your thoughts on the topic?
As someone who has come to know a few things about "fasting", I'll weigh in here. Like most things I've researched, there's a lot of introspection and rational, critical thinking that I put into the issues that I look into, and this is done with open questioning, no authorities, no biases, honesty, transparency, and reliance on evidence... in short, the ethos of science.
Since my wheelhouse seems to be debunking myth and misinformation (of which there is a lot), I must start this post by saying that there are prominent fasting practitioners who maintain that I can have nothing to say on the subject of fasting because I've never fasted anyone. How absurd. To my mind, saying this discredits a fasting practitioner. Why would they say this? Because they don't like some of the things I say. For example, I maintain there are two basic categories of fasting: body-initiated and intentional. How a fasting practitioner can argue this point is beyond me (well, actually the reason becomes clear when you vet their motives for running a fasting center). I also distinguish between the different types of fasting: basic fasting (water-only), juice fasting (aka juice meals), the "half-fast", and the nutritionally supported fast. True, many millennia ago there was only water fasting (like all other animals do today), but we're not living when and where we once did; our reality today requires certain compensatory behaviors and practices because we're no longer living in our biological "eco-niche", which is what our physiology is adapted to.
First, I think it's important to understand what accounts for the benefit of fasting. Many of use know this already, but it's an important issue to keep in mind when considering the other types of fasting that we have today. Like all bodily processes, healing requires nervous system energy (aka "nerve energy), and we only have a finite amount of it in a day. Technically, it's being replenished 24/7, but during our waking hours we use more than the "charging" can provide. It's during the deepest phase of sleep where that charging can gain a goodly amount of ground and do some serious recharging of our batteries. And that's the main reason we sleep. So the more nerve energy available in a day, the more is available to the body for healing. Unless you're over-exercising, digestion is unarguably the most energy intensive process there is for the body. So when we shut down digestion completely, there is boatloads more nerve energy available in a day for healing. Now, if we instead drink green juices and coconut water as our "fast", there will be some digestion, but not nearly as much as if we had continued eating our normal diet. And THIS is key. We don't require zero digestion for a fast to be beneficial, but many fasting aficionados imply that it's an all or nothing at all deal; that ANY digestion thwarts the body's efforts at increased healing. Not so. And juice fasting may be more beneficial than water fasting in some cases, which I'll address in a moment.
How is fasting today different than the fasting humans must have done many millennia ago?
1. Most people who truly need to do a water-only fast can't fast "to completion" because there is so much wrong with them - physiologically - that their body does not have the resources to fast until it can resolve everything. So care must be taken to discover when the fast must be broken before the body starts using muscle (protein) for fuel). Today I can fast to completion because of my level of health. I've done 7 and 21 day body-initiated fasts, and as I write this, I'm on Day 15 of a basic fast (water only). How many days will I be fasting? Only my body knows; and it doesn't know this in advance. And a difference between someone coming off the typical Western diet doing a fast, and my fast? At Day 15 I've got plenty of energy, I can swim in the ocean and go for long walks if I want... but I shouldn't... this is a time for resting.
2. Many people who do a water fast come to it with some serious issues... issues they wouldn't have had many millennia ago. So a fast might not be as straightforward as it would have been back then... there can be complications. And this underscores the prudence of having medical supervision on hand. Some fasting centers pooh-pooh this notion reminding us that the medical industry is one of the things that is wrong with today's society, and inferring that modern medicine is at odds with fasting. Bull cookies! (Sorry). If one of these people who say this were hit by a bus, I'm reasonably sure they'd want to be taken to an emergency room by an ambulance staffed with paramedics, rather than left to bleed out by the side of the road. So acute intervention for life-saving purposes, and a "better to be safe than sorry" philosophy is called for in a fasting facility... and personally, I wouldn't go to one that doesn't offer this, even if I'm very sure I won't need it. Why? Because the lack of it says something about the credibility of the fasting practitioner IMO.
3. Some people who go for a water fast go into it "behind" in certain nutrients. Hopefully there aren't any trolls or "Natural Hygiene Fundamentalists" here who will start the bashing brigade, and there are only those who want to deal with reality, so I'll propose that some folks are walking around with various nutritional insufficiencies courtesy of the nutritionally sub-par fruit they’re eating, which they likely wouldn't have had many millennia ago. So going into a scenario where you take in zero nutrients for up to three weeks would deepen nutritional insufficiencies, driving some over the line into deficiency. Logical? Of course it is. Yet this self evident notion is ridiculed by some fasting practitioners who say that the ONLY way to have nutritional deficiencies is to eat the typical Western diet and/or have a gut malabsorption issue (which they say can be resolved by supervised water fasting). Horse-hockey! (Again, sorry). You can be eating a diet consisting of the foods of our biological adaptation and have nutritional insufficiencies/deficiencies. How do I know? With what is known about "Supply & Demand" as it relates to human nutrition, and from the empirical evidence of those I've counseled who were in these scenarios and the experiences of others, the sad reality of it is that this is not only possible, it exists. How does this relate to fasting? Some people find that a lengthy water-only fast is helpful in some respects and harmful in others, so on balance, for some people, this kind of fast can do more harm than good. Do fasting practitioners take "incoming" nutritional sufficiency into account before starting the fast? No. Why? Well, when I help "prepare" someone for a water fast that they want to do, very often they no longer feel they need the water fast because their complaints have resolved. What did I do? Resolve some diagnosed nutritional deficiencies, and shore up their general nutrient status. And fasting practitioners hate losing a client who asks for their deposit back. Understandable. Wait, *not* understandable; they should be happy for the person, no? (Reason for the editorializing? There are way too many hidden agendas and far too much miseducation in the fasting industry, and I abhor seeing people being taken advantage of, for the sake of profit, at the expense of their health.)
So those are my basic thoughts. If you want more specifics about the different types of fasting I've outlined, the two articles here are a good place to start. IMO.
BTW, there's a part of me that misses food, and a part of me that's just fine with not eating. These two mindsets emanate from two different parts of the brain. And one way to know you're engaged in a body-initiated fast is that I don't salivate when seeing photos of food that would normally make me salivate. Fascinating!
Yes, I know this feeling too. If I had a luxury of some longer time spare to myself I probably would try water fasting too. I do think that juice fasting is a great alternative, and I will do it again some time too. I invited others to this discussion so hopefully they will share their thoughts too. This has been a little controversial topic, but I think it is good to talk openly about these things. So thank you for sharing Don!
By the way, I started doing search for some scientific studies. It is not easy to find something relevant on human water fasting. Here is something I found, somewhat related, but not quite what I am after though. I have not had time to read inside these articles as yet (busy time of the academic year here):
 "Fasting has been practiced for millennia, but, only recently, studies have shed light on its role in adaptive cellular responses that reduce oxidative damage and inflammation, optimize energy metabolism, and bolster cellular protection. In lower eukaryotes, chronic fasting extends longevity, in part, by reprogramming metabolic and stress resistance pathways. In rodents intermittent or periodic fasting protects against diabetes, cancers, heart disease, and neurodegeneration, while in humans it helps reduce obesity, hypertension, asthma, and rheumatoid arthritis. Thus, fasting has the potential to delay aging and help prevent and treat diseases while minimizing the side effects caused by chronic dietary interventions."
Fasting: Molecular mechanisms and clinical applications. Longo V.D., Mattson M.P. (2014) Cell Metabolism, 19 (2) , pp. 181-192.
 "Reduced food intake, avoiding malnutrition, can ameliorate aging and aging-associated diseases in invertebrate model organisms, rodents, primates, and humans. Recent findings indicate that meal timing is crucial, with both intermittent fasting and adjusted diurnal rhythm of feeding improving health and function, in the absence of changes in overall intake. Lowered intake of particular nutrients rather than of overall calories is also key, with protein and specific amino acids playing prominent roles. Nutritional modulation of the microbiome can also be important, and there are long-term, including inter-generational, effects of diet. The metabolic, molecular, and cellular mechanisms that mediate both improvement in health during aging to diet and genetic variation in the response to diet are being identified. These new findings are opening the way to specific dietary and pharmacological interventions to recapture the full potential benefits of dietary restriction, which humans can find difficult to maintain voluntarily."
Promoting health and longevity through diet: From model organisms to humans. Fontana L., Partridge L. (2015) Cell, 161 (1) , art. no. 8051 , pp. 106-118.
I like the statement, "Reduced food intake, avoiding malnutrition, can ameliorate aging and aging-associated diseases...in humans." because it acknowledges that when lowering of calories we still need to get enough of all the nutrients the body requires for optimal nutrition.
Also, we need to be vigilant to look at a study's perspective. If the foods they are talking about reducing are non-human foods like meat, dairy, and grain products, then yes, reducing non-health-enhancing foods is a good idea, and fasting, where you don't eat any of these health degrading foods, should prove to be beneficial. Unfortunately, there will not likely be studies on fasting with people who eat the diet we're designed to eat. So the results of the studies done on people eating a typical Western diet don't necessarily apply to those eating what we're biologically adapted to eat, i.e., apples-to-apples comparisons can't be made across the board. And BTW, "caloric restriction" means to me: 1. reduce the calories coming from non-human food, and this will surely be beneficial. 2. reduce the amount of physical activity you do to an appropriate amount for a human being so that caloric intake can be reduced to an amount appropriate to fuel that appropriate level of activity, because, in general, the less digestion, the longer and healthier we'll be.
Yes indeed. This is an issue with many studies and I am yet to check these in detail. There seem to be many studies on calorie restriction or intermittent fasting, but I am hoping to find something on water fasting specifically. Also, I am not so keen on the term calorie restriction in a situation when one does not feel hunger. It seems to me that this is not a 'restriction' as such, but a normal, healthy response.
I agree. I only made those comments re: "caloric restriction" because there is so much misrepresentation of the term in the literature, making some people think that they should eat slightly less fruit 'n greens than the amount of calories that would provide them with an ideal weight. And this is not the take-away from those studies. If anything, I take it to mean that we should restrict our calories to those foods that we're designed to eat (i.e. restrict calories to mainly carbs and not mainly fat), and restrict the amount of calories to just what's necessary to fuel an appropriate level of physical activity for a human (people running marathons every few days are eating an appropriate amount of calories for their level of activity, but too many calories for their design).
Yes, I realize that this is what you meant. :)
I just take the issue with the literature.
I look forward to hearing how you went with your fast. :)
"So care must be taken to discover when the fast must be broken before the body starts using muscle (protein) for fuel)" What are the signs the body gives for us to know it is time to break the fast? (considering a long-term raw foodist with no health issues)
Natacha, normally, when the body no longer needs to continue to fast, true hunger would return, indicating you should eat. And for me, this has happened on all the body-initiated fasts I've done (because I'm relatively healthy compared to the gen pop). This is termed "fasting to completion". This is what all other animals in the wild experience, and what we no doubt experienced a very long time ago when we lived in the wild. But when a person today develops so much ill-health, and then decides to "go raw" and to do a fast, it is doubtful they will have the bodily resources to "fast to completion". Now, you may assume that when the body realizes this scenario is taking place, the body will stop the fast prematurely by returning hunger so the person will begin to eat and will not start utilizing protein for fuel, but this is not the case with the type of people I've described. So why *wouldn't* the body have this mechanism, when it clearly has a mechanism to break the fast when it no longer needs to fast? A theory is that since it never needed such a mechanism (because it could always fast to completion many millennia ago) we simply don't have that mechanism today. This is why if hunger hasn't returned by the time all available fat supplies have been used for fuel, to prevent the body from turning to protein for fuel, the fast is broken prematurely. And this is why monitoring must be done towards the latter part of extended water-only fasts for people who are not robustly healthy who go on a body-initiated fast. For long-term raw foodists with no health issues, they should be able to do a body-initiated fast and fast to completion.
I didn't read the comments; I'll just comment on the OP (original post).
Okay I was thinking of all I was going to write and then....there is just so much. I think I'll make a video about my experience with it and post it here instead. lol. I'll try to do that this week.
Perhaps you could give us the bullet points of what to expect? Look forward to your video!
Interesting that you find video making a more comfortable medium. For me, I guess, it is the other way around. But this could change one day yet.
Day 17. Still no hunger, but lots of errands to run. I know, I should be resting, but I'm fully carbed (body fat being turned into carbs for cell fuel. And wouldn't you know it, the organic grapes and peaches are in. I know these aren't exactly tropical fruits, but I was raised on them, and love 'em. But it's funny how they aren't making me salivate like they would when I'm not fasting. So I love seeing them intellectually and emotionally, but not physiologically. Hey, let's start a pool as to what day my hunger returns! :) Put me down for Day 19 (wishful thinking).
For me 17 is a lot, 2 weeks more than I ever did. I am currently enjoying Black Muscat grapes. Not organic unfortunately, but still very yummy. Would me mentioning this be considered teasing?