Extended Medical Dry Fasting: How Going Without Food And Water For Seven Days Healed Me
A few years ago I turned to the fruitarian lifestyle combined with herbs and a consistent practice of medical dry fasting in an attempt to clear up a number of conditions and ailments, which had plagued me for most of my life. Having been on this healing journey for a few years now, I have made great strides toward wellness, though I still have much to accomplish. If I could credit one thing that's made the greatest impact on my progress, it would be fasting. Although a fast growing trend in the natural health community, fasting for health wasn't just recently discovered by naturopathic healers or invented by Instagram fitness influencers. Fasting is a self regulating biological mechanism that's deeply embedded not only within our human DNA, but also within the DNA of every complex living organism. It's more of a survival instinct, really; much like our natural drive for food and sex. Controlled, regulated starvation is like a factory installed back up system, designed to reboot our internal machinery when it becomes faulty and begins to malfunction. You could think of it as a failsafe mechanism, which becomes activated during system overload, and is programmed to identify problem areas, fix bugs and glitches, and restore proper function. You need not look further than your pets to know that when sick, every animal will automatically refuse food and water until they get better. Because not eating and drinking is how they get better. There's a reason that every religion employs fasting as a part of its edict. Clearly our ancestors knew something that we have forgotten in the age of ever growing appetites and insatiable consumerism. Fueled by near limitless access to supply, our desire for instant gratification often goes unchecked by any sensibility or restraint, and is partly responsible for the explosion of autoimmune and neurological conditions that have become so prevalent within the last 3 decades.
For me, fasting proved to be transformational not only physically, but emotionally and spiritually as well. I decided to chronicle my recent experience with extended dry fasting, which went on uninterrupted for seven full days (168 hours). But wait, how is that possible, you might ask? Google will tell you that a human being can only survive three to five days without water. Maybe I'm dead and don't know it, like Bruce Willis' character in The Sixth Sense, and writing this article from the great beyond. I suppose that would give the term ghost writer a whole new meaning. All jokes aside, the truth is that scores of people have endured extended periods of dry fasting (supervised of course), not only without suffering any permanent adverse effects, but having actually healed many different conditions as a result. Dr. Filonov is a Russian physician who operates a dry fasting clinic in the Altai Mountains, fasting people up to twelve days. YouTuber Ray Maor was followed and filmed 24/7 documenting his 8-day dry fast, as a part of a wager, which he ended up winning. Maor now facilitates regular retreats, initiating groups of people into the breatharian lifestyle. If you do your research, you'll find that medical starvation isn't so crazy after all, and more and more people, including doctors, are recognizing the benefits of going without food and water for extended periods of time.
This seven day fast was my longest to date, and it was what’s known as the hard or absolute dry fast, where aside from zero consumption of food and drink, one also abstains from all physical contact with water. This means that there’s no bathing, brushing teeth, or washing hands. I'd like to make clear that I’m not making this experience public because I'm looking for attention or because I want a pat on the back. There's not much upside in disclosing my private bodily functions to the world while opening myself up to likely skepticism, disapproval and even ridicule from those who might write me off as mentally unstable or suffering from an eating disorder, because they can't comprehend what would possess someone to starve and dehydrate themselves for a week. I'm mostly sharing this because of the recent death of Dr. Robert Lockhart, and because of the requests I received from my coaching clients along with some members from various Facebook detoxification groups, which I am also a part of.
Lockhart's death had many people in detox communities panicking and blaming the fasting, as well as spreading misinformation and fear mongering about this extraordinarily powerful healing method. Ironically (though not surprisingly), most of the naysayers offering their uninformed opinions on the purported dangers of extended dry fasting have had zero firsthand experience with this type of fasting themselves. If you think about it, lots of innocuous, commonplace things can be dangerous and even deadly if you don’t know how to use them. A car can become a weapon of mass destruction in untrained, reckless hands, and even a simple can opener could kill you if used in a manner that isn't appropriate or sensible. So I’m sharing the details of this very personal experience with all of you to show that medical dry fasting can be extremely effective, beneficial and safe when implemented correctly and judiciously. But first, a little background.
I began dry fasting nearly 3 years ago with a mere 24 hours per week. I stuck to the 24 hour window for about 6 months before slowly increasing it. In between the fasts I was on a raw food diet consisting of mainly fruits, some veggie fruits (cucumbers, avocado and tomatoes), and herbs to assist in cleansing and regenerating my body. As I continued my detox, I started to incrementally extend the duration of my fasts, first going up to 30 hours, then to 36, 48, and so on. Each time I met a new benchmark, I stuck with it for a minimum of 3 fasts to acclimate my body and make it comfortable with the increased timeframe of abstinence from food and water. Within a few months I had worked up to 4 consecutive days and was doing 96-hour dry fasts weekly for several months. It took a little more than a year to get to five days, and for about two years 5 days was the top end of my fasting window. I would do 5-day dry fasts only several times per year, otherwise sticking mainly to the 4-day intervals. The reason for this was economics rather than endurance. I did the longer fasts during the holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, Labor/Memorial day, etc.), when I could line up more consecutive days off from work without having to officially call in sick or take vacation days. It wasn't possible to fast and work at the same time for a couple of reasons:
1) Because these were hard dry fasts, there was no bathing or brushing teeth, which is hardly conducive to social contact;
2) My adrenals were so weak that by the third day I would lose my voice, my breathing would get shallow, and I would get really weak and dizzy upon standing. This made the most basic physical activity challenging, forcing me to spend my days either sitting or lying down.
Even though it was always my goal to go beyond 5 days (and a couple of times I went nearly 6, falling short by only 3 hours), the perfect opportunity didn't present itself until the Christmas/New Years break of 2019. But before I go into the details of my big fast, let me back up a little so that I can set the stage for what transpired that led up to it.
In September 2019 I went on an extended juice fast with the intention to really dig deep into my bowels and get my GI track cleaned up once and for all. I was also planning on doing extended dry fasts since we were coming up on three major holidays at the end of the year (Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year), which meant time off from work and, therefore, the perfect opportunity to fast. Seventy five days into my juice fast I had dropped a significant amount of weight and was becoming concerned that it could pose a problem for my upcoming 5-day Thanksgiving dry fast. To offset this weight loss I started adding a powdered superfood blend to my juices. After a week of doing that I noticed no change in my body mass, so I broke my juice fast by adding an orange juice and banana smoothie daily. My number one priority were the dry fasts, and I decided that I could always circle back around to juicing afterwards. So for about two weeks leading up to the first dry fast, I subsisted on juices and thin/watery smoothies. I purposely stuck to the semi-liquid diet because I knew that it was going to enhance the dry fasts that followed, allowing the body to go deeper into detox. The five day Thanksgiving fast went off without a hitch. Nothing unusual transpired apart from the transient headache, some nausea, and the typical weakness and dizziness. Once this fast was completed, I immediately began preparing for the next one, which I decided was going to be seven days.
Since both Christmas and New Years fell in the middle of the week in 2019 (Tuesday and Wednesday), I decided that taking some additional days off would make it possible to finally line up a continuous block of time that would allow for a week-long dry fast, with a few days to spare for recovery. After breaking the Thanksgiving dry fast, I remained on the diet of juices and smoothies. My weight remained a concern because I got even thinner after doing the 5-day dry fast so close on the heels of the juice fast. I briefly considered going back to eating vegetables and fats, but in the end I decided against it because I didn't want to slow my system down too much with solid food. It was also important to keep my GI track as unencumbered as possible, as this would enhance the body's ability to clean and heal itself. For this reason, during the last two days I consumed nothing but juice. To help decongest the head, I candled my ears, using about 8-9 candles on each side over the period of two weeks leading up to the main event. Several hours before starting the fast I also did 3 enemas - 2 with plain water and one retention enema prepared with papaya leaf powder and diluted lemon juice (1lemon per 2 quarts). This kind of "unloading" prep is very important and makes a tremendous difference not only in the efficacy of the fast but can also make your experience either easier and more productive, or unnecessarily unpleasant and cumbersome.
To better understand this, imagine that you've set out to renovate your garage - patch and paint the walls, replace the floors, install new shelving and storage, etc. Are you going to be able to do it while the space is filled with all kinds of junk laying around? You can't get to the walls if they are lined with boxes that are overflowing with stuff, and you certainly won't be able to strip and replace the floor if you have to step around the stuff that's scattered all over it. The best and most efficient way to go about your project would be to declutter and get everything out before getting started. So the same principle applies here: you want to unburden the system as much as possible, ensuring that nothing is blocking the elimination pathways. This creates space, allowing unobstructed access to tissues and cells. Otherwise, if you're holding waste in your colon, you're likely to experience headaches and cravings; if your liver is overloaded, you may experience nausea.
Aside from the physical, there's the emotional and mental prep. Realize that the body has its own consciousness. Every single cell is an autonomous entity with a unique purpose and self awareness. It's in a relationship with other cells and microorganisms, as well as with the soul. While the mind is a command center, it can only delegate tasks but doesn't control organs or their actual performance. We don't have the ability to mechanically override or alter cellular functions at will. One of the reason we can't force our cells to do anything is that we don't actually know on a conscious level how they do it. For example, when we want to make a fist, our mind sends the request, and the body complies by producing the movement, which we perceive as instant and effortless. Arrogantly we take credit for it, thinking that we are the ones making the fist. But is this really the case? About a quarter of the motor cortex in the human brain (the part of the brain which controls all movement in the body) is devoted to the muscles of the hands. We can't even begin to fathom the complex mechanism that's involved in the brain's signaling to specific muscles, tendons and nerves causing movement and contraction in the wrist and hand that makes the seemingly simple clenching gesture possible. The brain controls the body, but who or what controls the brain? This is why I recommend that prior to a fast you communicate with the body and it's individual cells to enlist their help and cooperation, asking them to work in concert with you for the common goal of clearing and healing. You must create an agreement by setting specific objectives as well as limiting conditions and parameters for the upcoming fast. Ask yourself:
How many days/hours are you going to fast? Is it going to be a hard-dry or a soft-dry fast?
(*A soft-dry fast allows for skin contact with water)
It's extremely important that you stick to the terms of this agreement and not extend the duration or the level of intensity beyond your original, agreed upon goal. Once you program the body with its upper limits, expanding them is going to upset the organism's internal homeostasis, causing more harm than good. Think about it as a binding contract. It's okay, however, to do less time and break the fast early if you're having a hard time or aren't feeling well.
(*Note: if you haven’t produced urine in 12 hours or longer while dry fasting, you must break your dry fast)
Even though my goal was aimed at completing seven full days, I reassured my body that it would be ok if we could only do five. No pressure. Talk to your body and it’s cells to prepare them for the absence of food and water and ask them to heal and repair themselves. Don't forget to prepare yourself psychologically for the absence of food and water as well. Thank your body ahead of time for the hard work it's going to do, and continue to mentally communicate with it throughout the entire process by sending it thoughts of love and encouragement.
Prepare your home. Make sure that everything is neat and clean. Going through such an intense process while confined to a pigsty is not only unpleasant, but it's also not conducive to healing. If you're doing a hard dry fast, make sure that you have disposable gloves on hand, especially if you have pets and have to take care and clean up after them.
Another important consideration that you must take into account is the preparation for what happens after you're finished. You'll have to have everything that you are going to need to break your fast, ready and lined up, ahead of time. This is especially true if you're fasting for more than two days, or live alone and can't enlist the help of another person. This means that you have to have your fruits and juices prepared or in place, because you may feel too weak to go to the store to buy food or make your own juice immediately after the fast. I bought organic concord grape juice and stocked the fridge with apples, oranges and lemons, because they keep well and have a longer shelf life than some other fruits.
I started the clock at 3PM on Friday, December 27. Normally, the first two days of the fast are fairly easy and uneventful for me, which proved to be the case this time as well. Not to sound arrogant, but at this point I can do 48 hours standing on my head, without any difficulty or discomfort. It's normal for cravings to crop up, but if you've done your prep, they are fleeting and manageable. I find that if instead of denying your cravings and trying to push them away, you validate them and tell your body that it will be able to indulge after the fast, the obsessive desire for food lets up. I actually go deep into the fantasy about the food I am craving, imagining vividly and in great detail what it will look and taste like once I am able to have it. If it's something I would have to prepare myself, I think about shopping for the ingredients and then preparing it. If it's a craving for a dish from a certain cuisine or a restaurant, then I fantasize about ordering it. Whatever the case, I immerse myself fully into the fantasy, amplifying the imagined pleasurable sensations and feelings, all the while promising my body that it will get what it wants after it does it's part by getting me through the agreed upon period of fasting. So instead of flat out rejecting any idea of cravings, you're essentially making a deal to delay the desired gratification. Since most of our cravings are an attempt to suppress negative or uncomfortable emotions, if you allow the feelings to be there without denying them and covering them up with food, they pass, and so do the cravings brought on by them; and if you create enough space and wait long enough, the hankering goes away and you may end up wondering why you found that food so appealing in the first place. This technique is called ego bargaining. Instead of slapping your petulant ego down, you recognize and validate it's needs allowing it to relax, and stop insisting that they be satisfied immediately. Much like dealing with a child who's throwing a tantrum, you convince your ego to eat its vegetables before being rewarded with an ice cream. Except, inevitably, you end up losing your appetite for the ice cream. These days my fasting cravings are mainly for fruit and juices.
Three days of fasting is an interesting threshold because this is when things begin to shift. For example, it's par for the course for me to lose my voice at this point in the game. Breathing becomes shallow, making it hard to inhale deeply. This is also where I would start to get dizzy upon standing. When this happens, my vision often fades into complete blackness, followed by bright bursts of colorful auras, as I experience what feels like surges of electricity coursing through my body. Normally, I manage such episodes by holding onto objects to maintain my balance and avoid falling. Sometimes I steady myself by leaning against a wall as I wait for the blood flow to my brain to be restored. Getting around the apartment becomes challenging due to muscle weakness and a general lack of energy and vitality. All of these symptoms are the result of extremely weak and chronic adrenal glands. Complicating things even further, after three days sleep becomes difficult, making it nearly impossible to stay asleep longer than 3-4 hour stretches. Unlike my previous fasts, this time days 3 and 4 were especially tough emotionally, as well as in terms of cravings and thirst. I struggled quite a bit and even considered breaking the fast early. Ironically, my ego was one of the biggest motivators that kept me going. I pressed on simply because I couldn't allow myself to fail so early into the process, considering that I took two days off from work to make this fast possible. Quitting at this point would have proved to be an unjustifiable waste of time, not to mention loss of income. I told myself that I had to at least complete my standard 5 days to not have this attempt be a total failure. So I persevered. If you do extended dry fasts with any regularity, you'll find that most of the work is mental with a lot of ego bargaining and negotiating. One of the greatest challenges with extended absolute dry fasting is boredom - usually you're either too weak or too smelly/greasy to go out and do anything in public. This is where the spiritual component comes into play. The true test of maturity is in being able to stay present instead of looking for ways to distract yourself and avoid your feelings. How comfortable and content can you be, completely alone, while confined to your home with nothing to do? Stillness is the name of the game and I had seven days to play it.
By day four I realized that something different was happening: a significant and exciting breakthrough. For the first time in the three years that I've been dry fasting, I had zero weakness or dizziness and my mobility was excellent. I was cleaning and vacuuming my apartment daily throughout the entire duration of the fast without any strain (I have 2 cats and they can create a bit of a mess). My voice, which normally goes away by day 3, was only minimally diminished, and I had no difficulty speaking for extended periods of time, as has normally been the case. My breathing also remained normal, never becoming shallow or labored. This meant that my adrenal glands were getting their mojo back. However, despite all these incredible improvements, I was still experiencing a plethora of healing crises. I had lower back and kidney pain days 2 through 4, which is a consistently recurring symptom for me during dry fasting. My throat was painfully sore 5 out of 7 days. Ears were popping and ringing, with fluid draining on both sides. My joints were coming loose and cracking. I felt contractions and motility in my GI track, as well as rumbling, regurgitating, etc. There was hard, dehydrated mucus coming out of my nose, some of it black and bloody. When blowing my nose, I could actually smell the inside of my sinus cavity, and it smelled necrotic. Yikes!
Once I got over the hump of day 5, things let up considerably. My mood improved and I had more energy. I actually felt euphoric. Upon completing day 5, I told myself that if all I could do was just another 24 hours, I'd be perfectly content with my achievement. Twenty four hours sounds much more manageable than two days and relieves some of the pressure. By the time I finished day 6, another 24 hours didn’t seem like too much of a stretch, and I could finally see the finish line. I would also like to add that from the fourth day on I felt like I was on fire. The windchill factor in New York was in the 20s, yet I was burning up; and this is despite the fact that I have very low thyroid function and have always felt freezing cold. Nonetheless, I was expelling rancid sweat and feeling like I might combust. Several times I went outside in slippers and a t-shirt to get some relief. The rest of the time I was hanging out of the window in my underwear, trying to cool down. This temperature phenomenon, which is usually experienced on days 4 or 5, is a sign of deep healing, and Dr. Filonov talks about it at length in his book Dry Medical Fasting - Myths And Reality. The excessive heat is the result of a type of internal combustion where all the metabolic processes are greatly accelerated. The body is burning up toxins and destroying damaged cells, creating clean energy. During this period I was practicing Wim Hoff's breathing method, which brought intense relief and felt like an invigorating breath of life. However, keep in mind that if you're going to do this type of deep breathing, breathe through your nose and not the mouth, or it will dry out your mucosa and increase the feeling of thirst.
I finally broke my fast on Friday, January 3 with a glass of water. An hour after that I had pasteurized grape juice mixed with fresh lemon juice. When you dry fast for more than 2 days you should break your fast with liquids only, and refrain from solid food for at least a day or two. Within a few hours of having your first juice you should have a bowel movement. If you had done a good job of cleaning out the colon before the fast, your first bowel movement is going to be liquid.
People think that as soon as they break the fast, they will instantly feel better - invigorated and energized, but in my experience the opposite has been true when fasting longer than 3-4 days. Sometimes breaking the fast can be excruciating, and the longer the fast, the more time you'll need to recover. Most often you will feel much weaker than you felt during the fast. On many occasions I have experienced intense pain all over my body. The only way I can describe it is that it feels like someone is pulling and twisting my muscles while scraping the marrow out of my bones with a dull implement, like a spoon. Another unpleasant after-effect is the severe intestinal discomfort, which usually follows within 15 minutes of having my first juice. Recovery is uncomfortable and I would often curl up in a fetal position all day. That is why I recommend that you give yourself an extra day after breaking any dry fast lasting longer than 3 days before returning to work, or you may have a very tough time handling your regular responsibilities.
Another interesting shift that happens is that after not having been able to sleep for days, all of a sudden you are overcome with lethargy and irresistible need for rest. It feels like you could stay asleep forever. What happens once you break the fast, is that the body floods the system with stem cells to replace and rebuild the damaged cells that were incinerated during autophagy. This means that a lot of energy is directed toward refurbishing of the tissues and organs, and therefore it's vital that you give your body adequate time to readjust by taking things slow. During this critical time you don't want to bog the body down with digestion, and staying on a liquid diet will aid in the recovery process. Naturally, you want to stick with fresh fruit juices during this time, because what you consume now is going to be used as the building blocks of the new structures replacing the old ones. I continued with nothing but juices for the first four days. I'd like to note that on day three of re-feeding on juices, I had a large solid bowel movement that was black and sticky. It was old waste that got loosened up during the fast, and was then dislodged with the help of juice. On day five I added one smoothie per day, which consisted of fresh squeezed orange juice and one banana, plus a scoop of a superfood blend. I had my first fully solid meal of mandarins eight days after breaking the fast. However, I decided to go back to juices and smoothies because I felt much better on a semi liquid diet. I would eat whole fruit only intermittently for a few more weeks before increasing the solid food ratio in my diet.
Below is the list of improvements in my health that were achieved as a result of my seven day hard dry fast:
Enlarged lymph nodes that have been swollen under my jaw since early childhood shrunk to the point that I couldn’t feel them anymore
Floaters in eyes completely gone
The heels of my feet, which were rough, cracked and dry, completely regenerated and became smooth
Cracked, dry fingertips that had skin peeling off - completely regenerated
Brittle, splitting fingernails strengthened
Teeth became much whiter and stronger, with visible signs of enamel regeneration
A varicosity on the back of my left calf disappeared by day 6
Improved adrenal function, as evidenced by the lack of dizziness or muscle weakness; increased energy and vitality, and absence of breathing issues
Improved thyroid function. My core body temp has risen permanently, leveling off at a normal degree, and I no longer feel as cold. My metabolic rate also notably increased, which is reflected in the bowel transit time
My digestion is the best it's ever been (I have had a long history of severe constipation and pancreatic/liver/gallbladder weaknesses)
Zero hair loss. I had suffered severe hair loss for many years prior to starting on the fruitarian/ breatharian healing journey. I finally stopped shedding 2 years into the detox, but would still experience it during extended dry fasts. This time around I had no shedding during or after the fast
I would also like to note that I was supposed to get my period on January 2, which would have been day 6 of the fast. However, my period never came and I didn't get it back till March. When it finally did return, it was back on the date that would have been my regular cycle
The reason that this fast was so effective doesn't just boil down to its duration. In fact, I don't think that I could have lasted seven days if it weren't for the cumulative effect of the actions taken prior to the fast. The extended juice fast that was followed by a five day dry fast, and then a semi liquid diet afterwards (not to mention ear candling and colon irrigation), all built upon each other, setting up optimal conditions for the fasting experience, which in turn allowed for a deeper healing to occur. Below are the pictures I took of myself upon completing day seven of the fast (before I broke it), and then on day four of re-feeding on juices only. Both photos are time stamped to show the time lapse.
If you wish to incorporate extended dry fasting into your natural health practice, please educate yourself. Don't jump into it without achieving a certain level of intra-cellular hydration first. This means being on a raw fruit diet for at least a month, not including the transition time from the standard American diet. Below is the list of conditions and instances wherein extended dry fasting is contraindicated, as outlined by Dr. Filonov:
- Malignant neoplasms and hemoblastoses
- Active pulmonary tuberculosis or other TB infections
- Thyrotoxicosis and other endocrine diseases
- Active, acute and chronic hepatitis, as well as cirrhosis
- Purulent-inflammatory diseases of the respiratory system and abdominal cavity
- Pneumonia and other pulmonary infections
- Thrombophlebitis and thrombosis
- Circulatory failure of second and third degree
- Stage 4 cancer
- Persistent disturbances in heart rate and conduction
- Pregnancy and lactation
- Severely underweight
- Children under 14 years of age and seniors over 70 years old
- Advanced Alzheimer’s
- Patient isn't able to service him/herself
In conclusion, having considered the discomfort, risks and contraindications of dry medical fasting, I would still recommend it to those who suffer from serious chronic conditions or who want to rebuild and regenerate their bodies in order to live a healthier and more fulfilling life. In terms of healing, dry fasting is at the top of the pyramid as it offers an unsurpassed capacity to heal at the deepest level. As long as you exercise good judgment and use a good measure of caution, it can be a life changing practice.