I have waited to post this for a long time because I know it’s a serious topic and also there’s just so much information to cover! Back in June 2018, I decided to embark on a multiple day, water-only fast.
*Note I am NOT an expert and am simply sharing my personal experience. I do not recommend fasting without consulting your doctor, especially one longer than 24 hours.
When your body is constantly inflamed, everything takes a lot of work. And it’s hard for your body to focus on healing inflammation (basically any condition) when it needs to use all its energy for digesting food constantly. So when we give our bodies a break from that job, our cells become available to do so many other important things! They begin to regenerate and look for things to heal within the body.
Some back story: I had already been doing some intermittent fasting. My ND actually recommended I try an extended fast, and their office specifically recommends a three day fasting program that involves drinking a combination of water and a green tea concoction. At first this idea terrified me. It seemed too extreme and also counter intuitive since I’ve have some pretty severe adrenal fatigue and blood sugar issues. And it just seemed hard. Not eating for three full days?! There’s no way. However, after some of my own research, it started to make a lot of sense. It would give my body a huge opportunity to heal from the inside and reset. It would give it a break. Which sounded right. It sounded exactly like what my body needed. But after my independent research, I decided to make a tweak to the plan. I would be only drinking water.
I planned to do a three day water-only fast, but spoiler: I ended up extending it to 6 days.
I made a list of things I could do during my fast (basically to help me get through it when I felt like quitting). This included meditate, light yoga, dry brush, walk, sit outside, read, breathing exercises, warm showers, positive affirmations. I also set my intentions for the fast and wrote them down. This included total healing in all systems. I affirmed that this fast would give me exactly what my body needed. A total reset and healing on all levels. I wrote down how I would feel after the fast (strong, healthy, repaired, renewed). I thanked the universe and my body in advance for this. After I wrote all this down, I continued to look back at it and repeat it both in my head and out loud throughout the fast. I also constantly pictured in my head how I would look and feel after the fast and imagined all the little cells in my body working hard to heal me and bring balance to my system. I found all this very helpful.
I left myself post it notes around that said things like “you can do it” and “it always seems impossible until it’s done” and also made a little daily check list to track how much water I was drinking.
I stopped eating at around 9 pm the day before my fast (I never eat this late anymore but I think I was nervous about the fast and ended up making dinner later than planned – I’d recommend stopping at 6 pm). I made sure I ate something very nourishing and filling. For me, this was green veggies and potato. I’ve since read potato isn’t the best idea as it can make your blood sugar crash later, but I think it was a good combination for me and we all have to do what’s best for our bodies.
Here’s a breakdown of how each day went for me:
Most of the day wasn’t so bad. I had already been practicing intermittent fasting for quite some time so I didn’t really feel anything until about 4 pm. At that time I started to get a light headache and some shakiness. I noted at 6 pm it was a bit hard to concentrate on work but overall it wasn’t bad and I didn’t feel any stomach burning. I got a massage earlier in the day (1 pm) to help stimulate the lymphatic system and de-stress. Then that evening I dry brushed and did a epsom salt foot soak.
The nighttime was more difficult. I got up to pee in the middle of the night and felt a bit weak. My heartbeat felt very strong throughout the night but in a distracting/slightly uncomfortable way. I had some trouble sleeping because of this.
The morning wasn’t too bad and I noted that my concentration actually seemed better, as long as I stayed busy and didn’t think about the fast. At 2 pm I went on a walk. At this point I was feeling pretty positive, calm and confident. By 8 pm, my muscles were starting to feel sore and fatigued and I had some “hunger burns” every now and then.
Concentration was on point. But unfortunately not while working. I just didn’t feel like putting my energy towards that and it felt draining. Instead I felt like reading about fasting, planning my re-feeding phase and reintroduction of foods, watching funny tv, stretching, doing some slow walking, meditating and reading. While sitting I felt pretty good, but while standing I would become more aware of the muscle fatigue and weakness. I thought I would be very irritable but I was actually pretty calm emotionally. It was almost like I didn’t have the energy to be irritable or worked up. Plus I knew I needed to be calm and not get my stress hormones going if I wanted to heal. But I really felt a sense of peace at this time. I wrote that I felt like I could handle anything. And then decided I would extend the fast (at this time I planned to extend one more full day, and eating at lunch on the 5th day).
This is where I started to feel more of the spiritual stuff. I journaled about how I was letting go of things that didn’t serve me and freeing myself from fear and old stories. At the same time, it’s interesting because I thought I’d spend all day everyday on this fast listening to guided meditations and transforming podcasts. But instead, I found it easier to distract myself with reality tv, research and work. I thought about banning instagram and tv during the fast but instead I just didn’t want to put pressure on myself. I went with what I was feeling. And I guess I was feeling Sex and the City and The Real Housewives. That’s okay. The changes were still happening and I was still constantly talking to my little hardworking cells and picturing how I’d feel at the end of this journey. Also, day 4 was when I was starting to feel some physical stuff. Bad taste in my mouth and white tongue. Mouth feels dry. Having some breathing issues… Like hard to take any deep breaths; instead breathing is very shallow and feels restricted. Heartbeat feels heavy and pounding. Also I’ve been very very cold. It was 90 degrees outside but I had the temperature in my home on a warm 80 degrees and was wearing thick sweatshirts while staying under blankets and I was still cold. All these symptoms really started by Day 2 and just gradually increased.
Have been having trouble sleeping. The heartbeat and breathing issues seem to keep me up. I thought I’d get tons of sleep on this fast but it was actually the opposite. Also some muscle weakness and cramping, especially in my thighs. At this point I was really just pushing through and keeping my eye on the prize. Things were getting pretty uncomfortable. I was going to break my fast on the evening of the 5th day (which would technically be a full 5 days since I started the fast at 9 pm the day before Day 1) but I decided I didn’t want to end the fast so late at night in case I had some unpredictable GI consequences and the re-feeding really needed to be done in phases. I actually went to a movie on this day… And it was interesting. I hadn’t really left the house since Day 1. I have stairs up to my apartment and even while taking them superrr slowly, I felt a bit sick after getting to the top. I was feeling weak and jello-like.
Last night was rough. Just breathing is taking effort. At this point, I was very ready to end the fast as I was feeling weaker and more depleted. I ended the fast at 11:30 am with homemade veggie broth. Then had some soup (pureed summer squash) a few hours later, at around 3 pm. Total fasting time about 134 hours.
At this point I had not had a bm since the morning of the first day. I never never go a day without a bm but this makes since while fasting as you’re not eating and your body is focusing on other things. Also started bleeding dark blood during the fast.
I read that the re-feeding process should take half the time of the total fasting time. So, almost six days of fasting would equal almost three days for the re-feeding process. I started VERY slowly. The last thing you want is to go too fast and your system is overwhelmed. So first up: homemade vegetable broth (I made it the day before so it would be ready). I sipped a few cups of this (heated) and then a few hours later introduced some very basic soup, which I made by blending some yellow summer squash (lightly roasted) and more of the broth. A couple hours after that, boiled carrots (the ones I used to make my broth). I tried to keep my sugar intake in the beginning very low. I figured my body went into ketosis during my fast and decided to try to keep that going as long as I could. I also wanted to make sure I was feeding and rebuilding my good bacteria with everything I consumed post-fast. Basically, I felt this fast was a chance at a clean slate for my entire system, so I wanted to do all the right things and took the reintroduction of foods (and eventually supplements) very seriously. In fact, the over-researcher in me spent a lot of those six days reading everything I could find about fasting and re-feeding. This is also a good time to test for intolerances since you’re already in a process of re-introducing literally everything. Again, this whole process is just as important as that fasting itself.
I think the preparation I took (discussed above), as well as my mindset practices throughout, ended up playing a big role in my healing experience. I kept all this up throughout the fast. Although I didn’t meditate AS much as I thought I would, I did journal daily (if anything so I could keep up with all my symptoms but often it lead to affirmations and deeper things). You might wonder how someone could get through this. It really is just state of mind. And there is real scientific evidence proving that our thoughts can help us heal! So not including this as part of my fasting journey would have made it less effective (and honestly, I probably wouldn’t have made it that long). I found it very important for my success of this fast to constantly “talk” to my little cells. To imagine them happily moving around inside of me, working to heal everything up. To thank them for working so hard and doing such a good job. I also imagined myself healed and what that would feel like/look like/etc. I paid very close attention to where my thoughts were going. If I spent my time feeling stressed and thinking “wow this is crazy and usual, I should be eating!” my body would have responded to this and anxiety would have followed. But instead, I focused on remaining calm and decided to embrace the process. You’re either fighting the wave or you’re riding it. That perception can lead to either peace (and therefore a chance to heal) or panic (which means more cortisol, which means more inflammation, which is exactly what we’re trying to heal here!)
FASTING AND PAST EATING DISORDERS:
As someone who used to struggle with an eating disorder for many years in my past, I understand this can seem dangerous for some. For me personally, I knew that I’m in a place where this would be entirely okay for me and I was doing it for all the right reasons (giving my body the time to rest and heal itself that it really, really needed). Even without a doubt in my mind in that area, I still made sure to constantly check in with myself and listen to my body throughout the experience. For me, this was way beyond “not eating”. Again, this was a therapeutic water fast and was all about giving my body what it needed to heal.
If you’re reading this and are interested in learning more about fasting, I suggest you talk to your doctor (I recommend a naturopathic or functional medicine doctor) and also do your own research on the topic. There is so much out there on the science of it and it’s really incredible what OUR BODIES can do!
And if you have any questions about my personal experience, just let me know.