My 72-hour-long Water Fast Experience
Growing up in India we hear about fasting from childhood. All of us have memories of moms, aunts, grannies fasting for one reason or other – mostly religious. Frankly, I was never too gung- ho about it. Being a foodie, the prospect of going without food was unfathomable. Even on Karwa Chauth, on my MILs insistence, I would eagerly wait for evening puja to be over before having my tea with much relief. So, why then did I do a water fast for 72 hours?
It was an act of love for my body. Sometime mid of last year, I had health issues that made me realize that, ever so busy with mundane things in life, we treat our body with disdain and take it so much for granted. I started reading about how to maintain health and vitality and came across articles on fasting. Lo and behold, I was hooked! The problem was that with working full time and a very busy lifestyle, going without food for three days was unthinkable. And then came the lockdown. It was an opportunity not to be missed. I did my first 72 hour water fast in April, almost a month after I turned 50 and repeated it again this month. It was much easier the second time!
What is Water Fasting?
During a water fast, you can’t consume anything but water. When you stop eating food, all the energy that you use to metabolize it is used for healing, regeneration and restoration. Often times, people think that fasting is for losing weight. Although weight loss is natural byproduct of the process, the benefit of 72 hours water fast is literally growing a new immune system. And that is the reason I did it.
Let’s talk about what is going on inside our body when we fast. Technically fasting commences after your last meal. Twelve hours after you stop eating, growth hormones kick in. Between 13 to 15 hours body moves from burning sugar to burning fat. Ketones start going up. At around 17 hours autophagy starts – Autophagy is process of ‘cellular housekeeping’ in which the body’s cells clean out any damaged or unnecessary components. And then at around 24 hours magic starts! Major organs start repair. As per an MIT study, intestinal stem cells start to regenerate. In Brain a protein called BDNF –also known as fertilizer for brain starts going up along with Serotonin – the happy hormone. Neurons and dendrite repair starts which helps with memory, lack of focus etc. Also, around this time CRP level starts to go down meaning the inflammation in body starts reducing. At 36 – 48 hours GABA neurotransmitter production goes up and you feel more and more calm. This is also a beneficial period for weight loss resistant people. At 72 hours stem cell production kicks in and WBCs are recycled and regenerated. Remember that for all of the above, it’s like a switch going on around those intervals and it keeps working until you start eating again.
The Challenges & Effects
The mental component of fasting is the hardest part. If you have never done a water fast before you might want to prepare your body by radically decreasing sugar and calorie intake for a few days leading up to the fast. I start the fast after having dinner at around 7 PM. From mid-day on second day I add a pinch or two of Himalayan sea salt to my water a few times to maintain sodium levels. It is important to gradually introduce food at the end of the fast, starting with coconut water, soups or fresh juices and streamed vegetables. I would recommend you do your own research and seek guidance of an expert like a dietician or a naturopath before starting the fast. It should not be done if you are under 18, if you have health complications or eating disorders. Also avoid if you are alone and have never fasted before.
The Health Benefits
I have personally felt the benefits of fasting in the way of great focus, energy, calmness and weight loss. It isn’t easy but when done safely, has many potential benefits like cellular rejuvenation and disease prevention. So if you are motivated, go for it but under supervision of an expert.
(Opinion expressed are of the writer, Both Transformative & the writer suggest to consult your doctor before going for water fasting…) Follow Sema Hastir; http://instagram.com/seemahastir