Dry fasting? Does that mean not even water? For how long? Won’t I be thirsty? This is the typical response I get from my patients when I talk to them about the benefits of dry fasting.
Fasting is quickly becoming the new health rage… and with good reason. The research just keeps pouring in. Fasting can help you lose weight, reset your gut microbiome, regenerate old, injured tissues, give you a massive influx of stem cells, and help your brain grow new neurons.
And there are all kinds of ways to fast: water fasting, intermittent fasting, 24-hour fasts. The interesting part of fasting is that each one of these fasts does something different to your body.
So, how do you know which one is best for you?
I’ve done several videos on fasting to help you navigate which one of these fasts is right for you. You can find them on my YouTube channel.
But, today, I want to zero in on a new fasting method that’s starting to gain more attention… DRY FASTING.
What is dry fasting?
Dry fasting is exactly what it sounds like: no food or water for an extended period of time. At first glance, this might sound torturous. But let me walk you through the benefits of dry fasting and you might just find that this is the most powerful fast you can do.
The first thing you should know about dry fasting is that people have been dry fasting for centuries, primarily for religious reasons. The Muslim faith, for example, encourages dry fasts from sun up to sun down during Ramadan.
The second thing to know about dry fasting is that when it’s done for short periods, it can be incredibly safe and even more effective than a longer water fast.
What are the benefits of dry fasting?
Your body is so incredibly well designed.
When you go extended periods without food, your cells will eat the toxins inside of it to survive.
So check this out: you know that extra water weight you feel like you are carrying around with you all day long?
When you go extended periods of time without food or water, your body will speed up the metabolism of fat to access the water that resides within your fat cells.
That means that one of the most exciting benefits of dry fasting is an increase in fat metabolism.
But the benefits of dry fasting don’t end there. Research is proving that dry fasting can have the following miraculous effects on your body:
1. Dry fasting lowers inflammation in your body
One of the most important benefits of dry fasting is that your inflammation levels significantly drop.
In fact, studies show dry fasts significantly lower the concentration of inflammatory markers like these:
- TNF-α: This molecule is able to induce fever, inflammation, and cell death. It can increase the chance of Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, psoriasis, and inflammatory bowel diseases when it’s not properly regulated.
- CRP: High levels of CRP are associated with an increased risk of diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease
- IL-1b: Important mediator of inflammation and is linked to heart failure.
- IL-6: This pro-inflammatory molecule can worsen autoimmune diseases and infections. It’s associated with a higher risk of diabetes, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, and further malignant growths in people with breast cancer.
- CXC Chemokines: Molecules that cause inflammation when unregulated.
2. Dry fasting helps you grow new brain cells
Dry fasting promotes the release of a chemical in your brain called BDNF. This is like Miracle-Gro for your brain.
The benefits of BDNF on your brain are profound. BDNF is known to:
- Improve memory and learning.
- Increase brain plasticity.
- Increase the creation of new neurons.
- Protect against degeneration of brain cells.
Another benefit of dry fasting is that you tend to get higher ketone production on a dry fast. Ketones are incredibly healing to brain tissue and will reduce the excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate. This can have a dramatic calming effect on conditions such as anxiety where the brain is overstimulated.
3. Dry fasting balances cholesterol levels
Many people who go on a ketogenic diet fear an increase in cholesterol. What I see in my clinic is that the opposite actually happens, especially if you apply the low carb, high-fat principles of a ketogenic diet with short intermittent periods of dry fasting.
Several studies show that after dry fasting:
- HDL (good) cholesterol levels increase in women.
- Total cholesterol and triglycerides decrease in men.
- LDL (bad) cholesterol decrease in both sexes.
4. Dry fasting lowers blood sugar levels
When your blood sugar is too high, it’s damaging to your body and brain. When I first start working with a patient, our goal is to get their morning blood sugar somewhere between 70-90.
When I see numbers higher than that, I know it’s time to throw in some fasting. Multiple studies have found that after a dry fast, people have decreased blood glucose levels and increased insulin sensitivity.
5. Dry fasting prevents Osteoporosis
Another cool benefit of dry fasting is the impact it can have on your bone health.
Your body will secrete a hormone called Parathyroid Hormone (PTH) during an intermittent dry fast. PTH helps with bone reabsorption, bone formation, and increases calcium levels in your blood.
How long should you dry fast?
I think this is a really important question to ask. Dry fasting is not a fast you should do for a long period of time. I recommend to my patients that they start with a 12-hour dry fast and then work up to a 24-hour dry fast.
I have started a ritual of dry fasting every Monday. The way I do my dry fast is to get up at 5 am, have a glass of water and a cup of my buttered organic coffee. Usually, I am done with my coffee by 6 am, so I don’t eat or drink anything again until 6 am Tuesday morning.
How do you prepare for a dry fast?
I recommend that in the days leading up to your dry fast, you increase your hydration. Just be mindful to add in a few extra glasses of water each day. This way you don’t go into your dry fast dehydrated.
How do you break your dry fast?
Dry fasting is a more intense fasting experience for your body so my first recommendation is that if at any point in your dry fast you feel dizzy, light-headed, or like you are going to pass out, it’s time to break the fast.
I had this happen to me the second time I attempted a 24-hour dry fast. About 12 hours in, I crashed. My muscles felt fatigued. I was exhausted. And something inside me said that I needed to eat and drink. So I listened to my body and broke my fast.
I normally break my dry fast with a probiotic-rich drink like raw kefir water or a sauerkraut juice. After any fast, there is this unique opportunity to get good bacteria in your gut to help grow a healthy microbiome.
How often can you dry fast?
There are no set rules to how often you can dry fast. But the because the benefits of dry fasting are so powerful, I have added dry fasting to my weekly routine. Mondays are my busiest days, so I do a 24-hour dry fast every Monday.
I recommend to my patients that they constantly vary their diet. There should be low carb days, high protein days, short intermittent fasting days, longer 24 hour fasting days, and now I am including dry fasting days.
There you have it, the scoop on the benefits of dry fasting. As with all fasts, I highly recommend you have a coach or health professional oversee you during a fast. And as always, listen to your body when fasting, especially dry fasting.
Happy dry fasting! Reach out if you have any questions. I always love hearing about your fasting experiences.
INTERMITTENT FASTING AND HUMAN METABOLIC HEALTH
Ramadan Fasting Exerts Immunomodulatory Effects: Insights from a Systematic Review
Is Ramadan fasting related to health outcomes? A review on the related evidence
Effect of Ramadan fasting in Saudi Arabia on serum bone profile and immunoglobulins
When should you do a dry fast?