Water Fasting and Autophagy – Accelerating Benefits of a Fast

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Written by Riri

November 3, 2020

What is water fasting?

Water fasting is the complete abandonment of food for a certain period and drinks only water. Water fast has been practiced for thousands of years and has been passed down from generation to generation, especially among religious populations. 

The therapeutic effects of water fasting have been known since ancient times – we can have cleansing effects both at the physical body level and at the level of the energetic, spiritual body. 

Fasting and healing are more complex than it seems. Through fasting, we don’t eliminate just the food but also the cravings, the desires generated by our minds, and the addictions we have created throughout our lives.

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Water fasting symptoms

Classical medicine has not explained how fasting can cure so many diseases for a long time.

Water fasting currently became a subject studied by science due to its miraculous effects that can be measured and studied by modern medical technology.

In some renowned specialized clinics in Russia, United States, Switzerland, or Austria, patients are treated by fasting, in combination with other natural therapies, according to a rigorous program and continuous monitoring.

In general, people are a bit circumspect of water fasting, convinced that they would not resist because of hunger. 

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Early stages of fasting give these symptoms: fatigue, sweating, nausea, vomiting, tremors, nervousness, headache, heavily loaded tongue, and bad breath. All these are real signs that the body is beginning to get rid of accumulated toxins.

Hunger can become very intense in this first phase of fasting. To prevent this, you can make an enema because it helps the body quickly adapt to fasting, ending digestion in the colon.

Suppose you are not afraid of these symptoms, and you will not interrupt the fast. In this case, you will find afterward that your body works much better, many functions and processes have been adjusted, and you feel fresh and regenerated. A qualitative leap is happening at the consciousness level due to poisons’ intense burning, explains Ayurvedic doctors’ tradition.

Water fast longer than three days should be done under the supervision of a naturopath or in clinics open to such therapies.

Water fasting recommendations

Water fasting is not recommended for underweight people with low vitality, hypotensive, with severe deficiencies of minerals and vitamins. In these cases, diets with vegetable and fruit juices are preferable.

It is essential how you return to solid food after long water fast. Usually, a gradual return is indicated in the same number of days as the water fast lasted. On the first days, you should ‘eat” many liquids, diluted vegetables, or cereal soups. 

George Bernard Shaw, the famous English writer who was a follower of the vegetarian diet, said: “Anyone can fast, but only a wise man can do the right thing when he returns from fasting.”

In his book “Living Food,” Ernest Gunther wrote that fasting is the oldest and most natural way of healing of all.

“It must be taken into account that an animal, when it gets sick, retreats somewhere and does not eat at all for several days. If a patient fasts, he will get rid of the disease much faster than if he ate even raw food.”

The main effect of fasting is that the entire digestive tract is resting, facilitating internal processes and exchanges, eliminating metabolic waste, and purifying the whole being.

Water fasting science

Recent scientific research shows that fasting also has antioxidant virtues.

Researchers at the National Institute on Aging in Baltimore, USA, found that people who fast for a day or two a week live longer and are protected from brain conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

A very interesting study was conducted by researchers at the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles.

This study on mice showed that a 2-4 day fasting protects against chemotherapy’s toxic effects.

This means that water fasting causes the immune system’s stem cells to come out of the dormant state and become active.

The body uses its reserves of glucose, fat, and ketones and recycles damaged or used immune cells, which have become ineffective. It creates, practically, a new immune system.

Some believe that chemotherapy can save lives (in cancer cases), but it is known that chemotherapy destroys the immune system. The team conducting these studies has shown that a 3-day fast can greatly regenerate the immune system by creating a new set of white blood cells.

Scientists at the University of Southern California say that water fasting is also extremely beneficial for the elderly, whose immune systems are becoming weaker and weaker. They get very easily infected with common diseases.

 The researchers also observed that a long fast (3 days) reduces the enzyme PKA (protein kinase A), which is linked to aging and a hormone that increases the risk of cancer and tumor growth.

Dr. Valter Longo explains, “PKA is the key gene that must be annihilated for these stem cells to begin to proliferate and rebuild the entire system.”

A pilot study conducted on a small group of patients who fasted 72 hours before chemotherapy led Dr. Longo to find that fasting protects against toxicity.

Researchers at the Intermountain Heart Institute at Intermountain Medical Center in Murray, Utah, conducted a study that showed that after 10-12 hours of fasting, the body enters a self-protection state and begins to look for other energy sources in the body to sustain themselves.

One of the actions is to extract and eliminate LDL (“bad” cholesterol) from the body’s cells. Thus, diabetes and the risk of cardiovascular disease can be combated.

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What is the difference between diet and water fasting?

Allopathic medicine, in general, passes the fast to the category of diet, but, in reality, it is not possible to make an equivalence between fasting and diet because the notion of fasting is much broader.

We will give some criteria to differentiate between fasting and diet, and for this, we need to understand what a diet is.

1. The diet generally aims at eliminating some bad eating habits that have generated the predominance and downgrading the disease; then, through the corrections given by the new diet, the patient extracts his nutrients so that the disease is cured. So when we consume food within 24 hours, fasting becomes a diet, more or less severe.

2. In fasting, it penetrates much deeper into the layers of human consciousness, generating profound mutations, both in the physical body and in the mind and soul. Beyond the superficial general opinion about fasting as food deprivation, there is an impressive complexity of phenomena generated by human beings’ conscious engagement.

How to start water fasting?

There are no scientific guidelines on how to start the water fast.

However, many categories of people should not start fast with water without medical supervision.

This category includes people with gout, diabetes (both types 1 and 2), eating disorders, older adults, pregnant women, and children.

If you have never fasted water before, it is a good idea to spend 3-4 days preparing your body to be without food.

You can do this by eating smaller portions at each meal or fasting for part of the day.

Both human and animal studies have linked water fasting to a variety of health benefits.

Here are some health benefits of water fasting.

1. Water fasting can promote autophagy.

Autophagy is a process in which old parts of your cells are broken down and recycled.

Several animal studies suggest that autophagy may help protect against diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s, and heart disease.

For example, autophagy can prevent the accumulation of damaged parts of cells, which is a risk factor for many cancers. This means that autophagy can help prevent the growth of cancer cells.

Animal studies have consistently found that water fasting helps promote autophagy. Animal studies also show that autophagy may contribute to extended lifespan.

That being said, there are very few human studies on water fasting, autophagy, and disease prevention. More research is needed before recommending it to promote autophagy.

2. Water fasting can help lower blood pressure.

Research shows that longer, medically supervised water stations can help people with high blood pressure lower their blood pressure.

In one study, 68 people who had water at the limit of high blood pressure fasted for almost 14 days under medical supervision.

At the end of fasting, 82% of people saw their blood pressure drop to healthy levels (120/80 mmHg or less). The mean decrease in blood pressure was 20 mmHg for systolic (upper value) and seven mmHg for diastolic (lower value), which is significant.

In another study, 174 people with high blood pressure fasted for an average of 10-11 days.

At the end of fasting, 90% of people have a blood pressure of less than 140/90 mmHg – the limits used to diagnose high blood pressure. Also, the mean decrease in systolic blood pressure (upper value) was a substantial 37 mmHg.

Unfortunately, no human study has investigated the link between short-term water fasting (24-72 hours) and blood pressure.

3. Water fasting may improve insulin and leptin sensitivity.

Insulin and leptin are important hormones that affect the body’s metabolism. Insulin helps the body store nutrients in the blood, while leptin helps the body feel full.

Research shows that fasting with water could make the body more sensitive to leptin and insulin. Higher sensitivity makes these hormones more effective.

For example, being more sensitive to insulin means that your body is more effective at lowering your blood sugar. Meanwhile, being more sensitive to leptin can help your body process hunger signals more efficiently and, in turn, lower your risk of obesity.

4. Water fasting can reduce the risk of more chronic diseases.

There is some evidence that water fasting can reduce chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.

In one study, 30 healthy adults followed water fast for 24 hours. After fasting, they had significantly lower cholesterol levels and triglycerides in the blood – two risk factors for heart disease.

Several animal studies have also found that water fasting can protect the heart from free radical damage.

Free radicals are unstable molecules that can damage parts of cells. It is known to play a role in many chronic diseases.

Moreover, animal research has found that water fasting can suppress genes that help cancer cells grow. It can also improve the effects of chemotherapy.

Remember, only a handful of studies have looked at the effects of fasting on humans. More research is needed in humans before making recommendations.

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