Water Content. Most water sold in plastic bottles from grocery stores and gas stations is basically distilled water, meaning they have no minerals at all in them. This is completely unnatural. (Not to mention phthalates and other toxic chemicals in plastic).The main problem with drinking distilled or low mineral content water is that the body loses minerals hourly through the making of urine and sweat. Depleting your body’s minerals is dangerous!
Your kidneys cannot make “distilled water” urine. Your kidneys must excrete salt to make urine. Further, your kidneys MUST make some urine to stay alive or you damage the kidneys. You can see that with time, as you make urine throughout the day, if you were not putting salt into your body, that you would eventually lower your salt content in your blood and rest of body too. Salt changes (electrolytes) in the body cause nausea, weakness, vertigo, heart rhythm problems and eventually death. So water fasting can be deadly if done very long or improperly.
If you drank too much water without enough salt, you would also deplete your salt in the body as your kidneys have limits as to how much water they can get rid of relative to salt. That’s why the urine chemstrips are so important a safety item in your fasting kit. They keep you in a safe range of hydration!
Blood pressure and pulse problems. Your body operates, in part, under a well regulated hydraulic system maintained by the amount of salt and water in your blood vessels. Drinking water only, may throw off this system quickly, causing changes in your pulse and then blood pressure. This may cause exhaustion or fainting. Fainting and falling are big risks for people fasting, as you can hit your head if you fall.
Prior Health. There are a few medical conditions where salt and water balances are problematic. These medical conditions are: any type of renal disease, liver problems, heart failure, heart rhythm problems, Addison’s disease, chronic dehydration, pregnancy, and diabetes. Having any prior salt and water balancing medical conditions will make water fasting particularly dangerous.
Medications. Some medications you could be on, like diuretics, affect water, salt and kidney function dramatically.
Length of Time. Obviously, we go without drinking water for various lengths of time continually throughout the day. So how long one could do a water fast is a relative question. The longer one goes on a water fast, the more likely electrolyte balances can become abnormal. For example, potassium levels are crucial for heart contractions. If your potassium levels were to go lower or too high, doing a water fast would be very risky.
The longer one goes without calories, the more rapidly your body will need to shift into alternate fuel sources. This can be very stressful for your body if you have limited experience in fasting. I recommend gentle fasting for body, contemplation and meditation purposes. Water has no calories.
Zero calorie intake may be very distracting for your mood and your ability to meditate, contemplate or be active at all. This can cause great weakness and anxiety which may make your fasting experience negative emotionally and unproductive.
Neurotransmitter dysfunction. Your body needs amino acids throughout the day to make vital neurotransmitters for nerve function, endocrine function and mood maintenance. Without any supply of these amino acids you may deteriorate quickly and increase muscle wasting, which is usually undesirable and makes it harder to recover.
Muscle Wasting. Muscles are important for proper health and sugar metabolism. Your body will sacrifice your muscles to harvest amino acids for other more vital neurotransmitters and neurohormones if you are not consuming some amino acids during the day.
Gallbladder problems. Some people will develop gallbladder colic if they do not get a small amount of “food” through their gastrointestinal system daily. We recommend a very small supplemented “green drink” or “basic blend” (see the book Original Fasting on how to make) while fasting. It is not enough calories to interfere with fasting, but enough to provide a baseline of organ function and preserve muscle mass.
Mark E. Laursen MD
Mark E Laursen MD is a medical doctor graduate from the University of Iowa College of Medicine. Dr. Laursen is the first doctor in the United States to obtain both a MD medical degree and naturopathic medical certification. He is the author of Original Fasting – Rest Your Body, Awaken Your Mind. Dr. Laursen has used fasting for many years, completing a 45 day fast in 2003.
Dr. Laursen is an educator in natural and holistic health, authoring the books: Start Living, Stop Dying – 10 Steps to natural Health, and the author of The Inside Outside Diet – Lose the Mental Weight, Lose the Emotional Weight, Lose the Physical Weight – Permanently. Dr Laursen is also the creator the Golden Weight Loss Program.