You’ve probably heard various celebrities and fitness experts tout the benefits of fasting. The principle is pretty straightforward: you don’t eat for a set period of time.
But what’s dry fasting?
Consider this your guide to the practice. Discover purported benefits, potential side effects, and how to do it. We also discuss who should and shouldn’t try this technique and why.
What to know about dry fasting:
- Health benefits.
- How to do it.
- Who shouldn’t do dry fasting?
Table of Contents
What Is Dry Fasting?
Dry fasting—also known as waterless fasting—might be new to you, but it’s existed for centuries.
Physicians have advocated fasting both for health and spirituality as far back as the Ancient Romans.
Now you know there’s a precedent to the custom—but why should you do it?
What Can You Gain?
If you’re not piously-inclined, you might be wondering what the point of depriving yourself of water is.
Intermittent fasting (IF), which involves various methods of limiting your food intake, is established to have beneficial effects on health. This TED Talk covers more about it:
Dry fasting has similar perks you can enjoy. Here are a few motivating factors that could pique your interest:
There have been plenty of studies confirming that IF promotes weight loss. Dry fasting can accomplish the same.
Overweight or obese Muslims weighed after the month of Ramadan showed a significant fat loss. Take into account that there were no changes to exercise levels or diet.
Eliminating water from the equation can result in more significant weight loss than fasting from food alone.
Better Brain Function
Regular fasting from foodstuffs only can improve the way your brain functions. Specifically, it can enhance your cognition, mood and help to protect your brain from injury and disease.
Waterless fasting has also been proven to decrease fatigue, limit daytime sleepiness, and give your state of mind a boost.
Waterless fasting, like IF, can combat inflammation in the body. Both animal and human trials have confirmed that the practice inhibits inflammatory substances in the body.
Good Bone Health
There’s a chance that going without water could be an advantage for your skeletal health. Fasting Muslims were found to produce a certain biological marker that could be good for bones.
Refraining from drinking and eating temporarily can encourage cell regeneration—yes, you read that right.
Admittedly, these remarkable results were on mice rather than humans—but it’s still promising.
Lower Risk of Disease
Other positive contributions include lower blood pressure and decreased oxidative stress.
As you know, both cholesterol and blood pressure are tied to your cardiovascular health. For that reason, fasting is considered a viable approach to fight heart disease.
You could also stall or slow down the inevitable age-related cognitive decline.
Potentially Live Longer
You can possibly increase your lifespan through restriction—plenty of organisms have shown these effects to be true.
It’s thought to be due to fasting limiting oxidative stress, inflammation, and other factors responsible for speeding up aging.
Side Effects and Risks
Dry fasting is the most restrictive—and hence, most extreme—type. It’s important to know what side effects you can encounter; and the potential risks.
Any lifestyle change involving your body will include side effects as you adapt to your new reality. Here are the common ones you should anticipate:
Even if you’ve been fasting long-term, eliminating water may result in the unwanted return of hunger pangs.
Firstly, water can keep you feeling fuller and decrease appetite. Next, you may be used to chugging a glass to quiet a rumbling stomach—which you won’t be able to do.
You might find that dry fasting alters your mood for the worse, at least initially. Symptoms can include irritability, tiredness, and decreased ability to focus.
However, the average healthy person should adapt and begin to compensate for these dehydration-induced effects over time.
Don’t be shocked the first time you use the bathroom while dry fasting. Your urine will likely be dark yellow, indicating dehydration.
You’ll probably also make far fewer trips to relieve yourself during the day than you’re used to.
The primary risk of waterless fasting is, of course, dehydration. Long-term dehydration puts you at risk for developing or worsening chronic kidney diseases.
That’s why it’s essential to rehydrate yourself correctly when you end your fast.
Who Should and Shouldn’t Dry Fast?
Much like there’s no universal diet to suit everyone, dietary practices like dry fasting won’t be compatible with every person.
We detail more about who can and can’t partake in this age-old tradition here.
Try It Out
If you’re a healthy individual, you can opt to incorporate dry fasting in to your life—or give it a trial run.
Nonetheless, it isn’t something you can jump into on a whim. Ideally, you should already have acclimatized to another type of fasting first.
You might find that, despite being in good shape, you can’t tolerate limiting your eating hours. If that turns out to apply to you, you can imagine how difficult you’ll find getting through the day without fluids too.
Two methods of intermittent fasting you can try before taking the plunge include:
- Time-restricted feeding: You refrain from eating for at least 16 hours, indulging in food for a maximum of eight hours daily. You can do this every day, or several times a week—similarly, you can fast for longer than 16 hours if you want.
- Alternate-day fasting: Every 24 hours, you eat for a specific period of time—and for the next 24 hours, you don’t.
Don’t Do It
Find an alternative route to achieve your health goals if any of these apply to you:
If You’ve Never Fasted Before
We think this one bears repeating: don’t decide to wake up and dry fast with zero preparation. Try food deprivation first before you level up to restricting water.
If You’re a Caffeine-Addict
Your first experience will likely be a terrible one if you don’t wean yourself off caffeine first. Going from multiple caffeinated beverages a day to zero will hit you hard.
Symptoms of caffeine withdrawal syndrome (CWS) include an increased risk of headaches, not to mention overall fogginess and irritability.
You may notice that these overlap with the possible side effects of dry fasting. There’s no hurry—take the time to acclimatize to caffeine-free days first.
If You Take Certain Medications
Are you on a medication you need to take several times a day that that explicitly mentions “take with water?”
Don’t ignore that or decide to dry-swallow it.
For one, your pill can get stuck in your esophagus—aside from being painful, it won’t work as quickly. Non-coated, non-gel capsules, in particular, can be excruciating to try to force down a parched throat.
What about if you only have to take your medicine once a day?
Well, certain drugs can provoke dehydration—which can be dangerous if you’re not consuming water at all. You can read the leaflet to check, but it’s preferable to ask your doctor if dry fasting is safe for you.
If You’re Pregnant or Breastfeeding
If you’re a breastfeeding mother or about to become one, you’ll need to wait until your baby is born and weaned off breast milk.
You need a higher fluid intake during pregnancy to support your little one, and breastfeeding moms are encouraged to drink whenever thirst hits.
If You Have These Illnesses
Kidney troubles, diabetes, and cystic fibrosis can all encourage more frequent urination and sweating. That translates to quicker dehydration—which isn’t wise when your body is already under stress.
Migraine and chronic headache sufferers will also want to avoid limiting water intake. Dehydration is a possible trigger behind these head-splitting conditions.
A history of eye issues will put you at risk for complications from waterless fasts. The total lack of fluids can increase eye pressure, which can worsen glaucoma.
Intermittent fasting can also heighten the chances of eating disorder behaviors, such as binge eating and bulimia.
Generally, anyone with a diagnosed ailment needs to clear dry fasting with their physician. It’s best to proceed with caution.
If Your Job is Physically Hard
If your job is labor-intensive, going without water means hazarding severe dehydration.
The harder you work, the more you sweat—and you won’t be replenishing the fluid loss.
When it’s hot outside, your chances of heat stroke are high if you wilfully avoid rehydrating yourself.
Plus, your performance will suffer as a result. Based on what sort of work you’re doing, that can endanger you and your fellow colleagues.
How to Dry Fast
Are you ready to try waterless fasting? Follow our steps to ease your way into a successful and safe fast:
Step 1: Know Your Limits
This question is for those of you with a diagnosed illness: did you clear waterless fasting with your physician?
If the answer is no, please do so. There’s no justifiable reason to put your health on the line.
For the rest of you, prepare yourself mentally. Don’t be hard on yourself if you have to break your fast earlier than expected, or if you decide it isn’t right for you.
Step 2: Prepare Your Body
Don’t forget all the vital preparations we discussed earlier. These aren’t things you can accomplish in a single day, so set aside at least one week for:
- Acclimating to regular fasting: Get your body used to going without food first to make the transition easier. Try one of the intermittent fasting methods we detail above.
- Decreasing caffeine intake: Yes, we’re sorry to report coffee and tea count as fluids. Slowly reduce your consumption of these beverages, so that caffeine withdrawal doesn’t knock you out.
Step 3: Begin Your Dry Fast
Aim to go without water for the same amount of time that you’re not eating: at least 16 hours; or more for experienced fasters. Don’t expect to do a waterless fast every day of the week, at least at first.
If the typical side effects we mentioned earlier crop up, you can try alleviating them with mindfulness or meditation. This video suggests tips to cope and maximize your experience if you’re interested in the spiritual side:
Step 4: Monitor Yourself and Be Realistic
A typical question is: how long can you fast without water?
Dry fasting isn’t something you should aim to push to the extreme limits. Depriving yourself of water will prove fatal in a few days or less, depending on the individual.
For that reason, you must never force yourself to go without water for more than 24 hours—at the absolute maximum.
Remember, you’re not in competition with anyone. Pay attention to your body—if you develop migraines or feel incapable of carrying on, cut it short and start drinking.
On the same note, now isn’t the best time for a visit to the gym or a long-distance run. Save the physical stuff for after you break your fast.
Step 4: Break Your Fast Safely
Breaking your fast the wrong way can have disastrous consequences. Although it may be tempting, drinking and eating everything in sight isn’t the way to do it.
That is unless you want to end up bloated or vomit up everything you consume. Or, gaining weight because you went overboard eating more than you need.
Select healthy, filling foods rich in fiber, protein, and water and eat slowly. Rehydrate yourself gradually and aim to hit the recommended daily water intake—that’s 2.7 liters for women and 3.7 liters for men.
When Will You See Results?
How fast you see results and what sort you experience (e.g., lower blood sugar) will depend on a few things. These will vary according to the individual:
- Your starting weight.
- Your general health.
- What you eat when breaking your fast.
- How often you perform waterless fasts.
Aim to avoid processed, sugary foods; and never go without water for more than one day. If you’re obese or severely overweight, be patient with yourself.
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