by Rob Hanna
First, all fasting is water only or nothing at all – everything else is dieting.
The longest fast I've completed is 28 days.
My mentor ran a fasting sanitarium in New York and the longest recorded water fast he conducted with medical supervision for a patient was 93 days. The patient was obese. Fasting to 60 days is not unheard of or that remarkable, but it is uncommon today.
The health effects to water fasting are myriad and dependent upon your underlying health and well-being, not on the maximum number of days you choose to fast. In other words, fasting to completion* was the expected curative intervention (i.e. beyond complete symptom alleviation for illnesses, disease and injuries) until the body desired to resume eating. This has been the traditional recommendation and practice of professional naturopaths over the previous two centuries.
However, in the last 50 or so years there have arisen some fundamental issues that naturopaths cited to challenge this open-ended approach as always advisable:
- environmental degradation, i.e. lack of pure air, pure water and stress-free convalescing environments under which to conduct the fast; and,
- high levels of toxins accumulated in the adipose tissues of patients (because of above) that are then released during the fast...
Because our natural environments today are far more pervasively polluted by a wide array of accumulated toxins it makes sense that long fasts (i.e. those over 40 days) will confront possibilities of negative experiences and not purely positive health effects.
That said, lengthy fasts to completion have been documented to "cure" all manner of physical and mental health problems as well as routinely improve enduring well-being. Take your pick of positive health effects from fasting as the list is long, the gains well-documented... and yet the practice of long fasts has all but become extinct today.
If I were to suggest a modern day guideline for fasting for positive health effects it would be to fast (when one is a veteran practitioner) only:
- to completion where one could be in pristine nature with pure air and water and a secure, convalescing environment; or,
- between 10 to 14 days and then do a modified recovery diet as the upper limit for positive gains, (i.e. due to our less than pristine surroundings of the modern world).
[* in fasting to completion the body signals the appropriate end to the fast by reanimating very strong feelings of true hunger, which are typically absent during long fasts. It is impossible to enter starvation without experiencing these feelings of true hunger first. Contrary to popular ignorance, one does not simply fast into starvation and die. After 28 days I wanted to keep fasting... but alas, had to get back to this world and take care of business.]