The dangers of water fasting
Fasting is a practice that has been around for thousands of years. It’s referred to as ‘sawm’ by Muslims, who due to their Islamic beliefs abstain from food and drink during daylight hours throughout Ramadan.
Water fasting for non-religious reasons however has risen in popularity in recent years, but for all the reported benefits, there is a long list of dangers.
There are many reasons why people may choose to abstain from consuming anything but water. These include for spiritual reasons, weight loss, detox or to prepare for a medical procedure.
Water fasts have been linked to improved autophagy, lower blood pressure, enhanced sensitivity to leptin and insulin (which makes each more effectively used within the body), and a decreased risk of various diseases, such as heart disease and cancer. It is important to note that these benefits have not been backed up scientifically.
Despite water fasts only lasting for up to 72 hours, there are several health risks associated with the process. Below, we explore the dangers of this worrying drinking water trend…
Existing conditions may worsen
Water fasting can cause other health issues to worsen. Gout, chronic kidney disease, diabetes, gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD), and eating disorders could all be exacerbated by water fasting.
You can become dehydrated
You may be very surprised to hear that you can become dehydrated during a water fast. As a large proportion of the water we consume comes from the water-rich foods we eat, you could be unwittingly consuming much less water during your fast.
Moreover, it’s not just food that is restricted during a water fast. Water fasts don’t permit the consumption of tea, coffee, sports drinks, and other drinks, which could also leave you drinking less water than you usually would.
Dehydration can cause a number of short and long term issues. Knowing how to spot the signs of dehydration and acting fast is vital.
Here Medical News Today reveals the symptoms of dehydration:
“The first symptoms of dehydration include thirst, darker urine, and decreased urine production. In fact, urine color is one of the best indicators of a person’s hydration level – clear urine means you are well hydrated and darker urine means you are dehydrated.
However, it is important to note that, particularly in older adults, dehydration can occur without thirst. This is why it is important to drink more water when ill, or during hotter weather.”
Your blood pressure may drop significantly
At the other end of the spectrum, drinking too much water can result in a number of negative effects. Drinking too much water during a water fast can lead to hypotension or extremely low blood pressure, a condition more commonly experienced by diabetes sufferers. Hypotension will leave you dizzy, nauseous, weak, confused, and faint.
You could develop hyponatremia
Hyponatremia is commonly associated with water intoxication, a condition that occurs due to drinking too much water. Increased water intake will cause the sodium in your blood to become diluted leading to a drop in vital sodium levels. If left untreated, hyponatremia results in nausea, vomiting, fatigue, headaches, cramps, spasms, and even seizures and coma.
Water fasting is associated with several dangers and risks. Although it is said to unlock selected health benefits, water fasting for weight loss, detox, non-religious, or non-medical reasons does more harm than good.
Teaming great hydration with regular exercise and a varied, balanced diet is the key to unlocking major plus-points for your health and wellbeing without risk.