Is Fasting Safe?

Interested in fasting, but not sure if it’s safe? According to the authors of this chart review, this is the most comprehensive analysis of adverse events (ie side effects) experienced during medically supervised, water-only fasting conducted to date.

Key points, from my perspective:

1. In the right setting and under supervision, this protocol can be safely implemented with minimal risk of a severe or serious adverse event.

2. Adverse events experienced were mild to moderate in nature and KNOWN reactions to fasting…”AEs that were commonly experienced during visits, including nausea, headache, insomnia, back pain, dyspepsia, and fatigue, were predominately mild, grade 1 events and are reactions that are known to occur during fasting”.

3. The median fasting length was 7 days; the shortest fast was 2 days and longest fast was 41 days.

4. Quality of life, including prevention and fatigue, was the primary reason patients visited the clinic.

5. During the fast, patients remained on site, drank a minimum of 40 ounces of distilled water per day (which is almost 2 L), and minimized physical activity.

6. The “pre-fast”, “fast”, and “post-fast” protocols are included under supplementary materials.

I can not emphasize enough how important the “pre-fast” preparation phase is for an intervention like this – even in terms of mindset. Jumping into a water fast from a typical western diet (and without supervision) can be very challenging. If you’re interested in this intervention, there are guidelines that medical professionals follow. These guidelines ensure your safety.

Personal side note: I’m 86 hours into a 5 day water fast. The most challenging aspect (for me personally) has not been hunger or fatigue or any of the known side effects reported in this paper. I just miss the social aspect of eating – cooking, preparing, sitting down to a meal, the aromas… It is interesting to note that in the absence of hunger, I still want to eat. I love food. Food is powerful, and should be respected for all that it can offer our minds, bodies, and souls! And so too should fasting.

Fasting is a safe medical intervention as well as a lifestyle regimen which can improve our health in many ways.

Full article can be found here

Reference: Finnell, J. S., Saul, B. C., Goldhamer, A. C., & Myers, T. R. (2018). Is fasting safe? A chart review of adverse events during medically supervised, water-only fasting. BMC complementary and alternative medicine, 18(1), 67. doi:10.1186/s12906-018-2136-6

Dr. Stefania ND