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Is Long Term Fasting Safe?

By Kristin Wood
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Long term fasting can be safe, even healthy, if supervised by a trained physician. There are several types of fasting used to both prevent and treat disease. Many doctors recommend fasting as a method to free the body from toxins. Although some critics claim that the body cannot tell the difference between starvation and fasting, other doctors insist that fasting and starvation are two separate processes.

There is some debate on how many days a fast must last to be considered long term fasting. Some people believe that anything over three days is long term, while others think a long term fast will stretch past 30 days. Many factors influence how quickly a fast will affect the body, such as body weight and metabolism. The line that separates a short-term fast from a long-term fast might be different for each individual.

Experts recommend consulting a doctor if a fast will last longer than three days. If a person intends to fast for longer than three days, most doctors will recommend regular checkups to ensure that the patient's electrolyte and potassium levels do not drop. The doctor will help his patient decide how closely the fast should be monitored.

A doctor might ask his patient to discontinue long term fasting if any signs of starvation begin to occur. Although fasting can sometimes last several months, it is not considered safe for the body to reach starvation mode. A healthy body can usually last at least 40 days without experiencing signs of starvation, even with little body fat. Signs of starvation include vomiting, anxiety, heartburn, difficulty breathing or a weak pulse.

Several different kinds of fasting are available. The most extreme is called a dry fast, which does not permit any food or water. A dry fast is usually not recommended for long term fasting, although it can be incorporated into a few days. Water only fasting is another option. During this fast, no calories are ingested, but water is still consumed regularly.

Juice fasting is also a common practice. People can still maintain a minimal calorie intake without eating any food. The easiest fast focuses on just one kind of food, such as raw food only. A raw food fast might supply a normal calorie intake, but its participants will still go through a detox period.

Doctors typically do not recommend long term fasting for children or pregnant women, because daily nutrients are needed for growing bodies. Fasting might also be discouraged for people suffering from certain diseases, such as cancer, AIDS or tuberculosis. Fasting might actually help with other ailments such as fatigue, arthritis, diabetes, insomnia or the flu. Fasting is also done in some religious practices.

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Discussion Comments
By Sporkasia — On Jun 08, 2014

Before you do any long term fasting for better health you should see whether you have any symptoms that show that you need to fast. Some of these symptoms might be feeling tired all the time, increase in allergic reactions, skin irritations, bloating, mental confusion and more. You can find a complete list of symptoms to look out for if you do a little research.

By Animandel — On Jun 07, 2014

@Laotionne - When it is done the right way, fasting can be a great way to cleanse the body. You should look at the the warnings in the last paragraph of this article, and if you are either a child or pregnant then fasting should not be considered.

I do a fasting juice diet once a year and I really feel better afterward. Fasting is a great way to clean out your blood and remove toxins from your body in general. And it can also help you lose a few pounds, but hopefully that's not your primary goal for fasting. There are other ways to lose weight, like eating smaller portions and exercising more.

By Laotionne — On Jun 06, 2014

A friend has asked me to do a fasting cleanse with her before she starts her new diet. She plans on eating mostly fruits and vegetables after the cleanse. I am all for helping her out, and I might benefit from the fasting, too, but I am concerned about some of the possible negative effects of fasting for a long period of time.

It makes me glad to read the opening of this article where it says that long term fasting can be safe and even healthy. However, we're not going to have a trained doctor watching us, so I am wondering whether fasting is really worth the effort it takes to do it. Does anyone out there have any personal experience with fasting to clean out your system?

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