(HealthyResearch.com) – Dry fasting is a new, controversial diet fad. The concept is based on the idea that not drinking water will make you lose weight faster by causing you to burn fat for both energy and hydration. Supporters tout numerous health benefits, including weight loss and lower levels of inflammation. But is dry fasting healthy or safe? Let’s take a closer look at the science of dry fasting and what the experts have to say.
What Is Dry Fasting?
During fasting, you don’t eat. Dry fasting requires you to stop eating and drinking. Like intermittent fasting, there are different types of dry fasting. To some degree, the new fad mimics the religious fast practiced by Muslims during Ramadan: they do not eat or drink between dawn and sunset (from 11-16 hours per day, depending on where you live and the time of year). But with the newest dry fasting trend, as with intermittent fasting, you can also choose to extend your dry fast — up to 36 hours. And this extended dry fast is what seems to have taken social media proponents by storm. There are even some participants of dry fasting who refuse any contact with water during their fasting periods in what is called a hard or absolute dry fast.
Are There Benefits to Dry Fasting?
Dry fasting has gained attention from social media influencers, who claim this type of fasting leads to numerous benefits, ranging from weight loss to reduced inflammation.
Susan Schenk, the author of The Live Food Factor: The Comprehensive Guide to the Ultimate Diet for Body, Mind, Spirit & Planet told Healthline that she believes inflammation cannot survive without water. Schenk also believes dry fasting leads to detoxification by allowing bad bacteria and viruses to exit the body.
Alice Copilet, a self-proclaimed dry fasting and detox specialist, told the NY Post she hasn’t drunk water in four years — instead she gets her fluids from coconuts, fruits, vegetables and herbs. Copilet believes water flushes acidity from the body, rather than hydrating the cells.
While neither of these advocates might have the science right, there have been five medical studies, most of which were performed with people who were fasting for Ramadan. One study that focused on different physiological responses, in particular, showed there might be some advantages to limited periods of dry fasting for some people. Those advantages include weight loss, decreased edema, decreased blood glucose levels and decreased blood lipid levels. But these same advantages could be achieved by other diets, as well. For example, a low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet could provide the same advantages and could be easier for the body to sustain over longer periods.
The study above also observed an increase of C reactive proteins, ACTH (a hormone that stimulates the release of adrenaline), and cortisol. These increases might indicate inflammation in the body but might also indicate a more active immune system — the implications over the five-day study were unclear. Clear-cut disadvantages included drops in Vitamin C levels, EPO levels (a hormone that stimulates red blood cell production) and the number of red blood cells. There was also a marked increase in uric acid and creatinine levels, which could lead to gout or kidney stones. The studies concluded that dry fasting would be dangerous for those with kidney disease, pituitary dysfunction or adrenal insufficiency, In general, the medical risks of dehydration may include kidney stones, urinary tract infections, low blood pressure, low blood volume and seizures. It may even lead to organ failure or death in extreme cases.
As noted, almost all of the research was centered around those fasting for Ramadan. So why isn’t there more research on dry fasting as it’s advocated on social media in 24-hour to 36-hour (or longer) stints? It’s dangerous, according to Valter Longo in an interview with the LA Times. Longo, the director of the Longevity Institute at the University of South Carolina, has studied fasting, starvation and calorie restriction for almost 30 years. While he believes fasting is an effective means of weight loss, he won’t even consider studying dry fasting due to the risks. Longo says that just 24 hours of dry fasting could lead to kidney stones, and dry fasting longer than that can have deadly consequences.
What the Doctors Say
Medical experts not only disagree with the dry fasting trend as touted on social media, they believe it’s dangerous. Dr. Pauline Yi treats patients in their teens and 20s. While she encourages them to explore intermittent fasting, she firmly tells them to hydrate. She (along with other doctors) recommends drinking at least 68 ounces of water each day to flush waste products from your body and to maintain your homeostasis, or the functioning balance of your body’s systems.
Some who practice dry fasting believe it will decrease water retention and bloating. However, because dehydration disturbs your balance, dry fasting could actually cause your body to hold onto fluid and reduce urine output.
And getting water only from the foods you eat could also be a problem. In order to take in the daily recommended volume of water, you would have to eat approximately 17 oranges — each containing approximately half a cup of water. It would take about 13.6 cups of watermelon or 12.8 cups of strawberries.
So, is dry fasting a healthy means of weight loss? Not likely. There is a greater likelihood that dry fasting as touted on social media could result in suffering from dehydration, low blood pressure, kidney stones or even death. There are many safer diets out there. If you’re unsure which diet is best for you, be sure to talk to your doctor.
~Here’s to Your Health & Safety!
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