March 25, 2022

What is dry fasting?

Dry fasting, commonly called absolute fasting, refers to restricting both food and liquid (water, tea, and broth) intake for a particular time. The unique distinction of this kind of fast over other forms is the withdrawal of water and liquid.

Variations of Dry Fasting

  • 16/8 intermittent dry fasting: The 16/8 intermittent fasting method cycles between 16 hours of food abstinence and 8 hours of food intake, which also means 16 hours of dry fasting if you restrict water intake.
  • 20/4 Dry Fasting: In this variant of dry fast, you only eat foods and liquid within a 4-hour period per day and abstain from food and fluids for the remaining 20 hours.
  • Ramadan Intermittent Fasting (RIF): This is an 11 to 14 hour fast done by Muslims during the month of Ramadan. It involves abstaining from food and fluid within the stated fasting hours for 30 days. This is one of the most known variant of dry fasting and many scientific research were particularly focused on the Ramadan Intermittent Fasting.
  • Prolonged Dry Fasting: The prolonged dry fasting is the most extreme variant. it requires staying without food and water for more than 24 hours.

Top 7 Benefits of Dry Fasting

Weight Loss

Weight loss is one of the foremost and most popular benefits of dry fasting. Dry fasting is supposedly effective for weight loss because an abstinence from food implies a decrease in calorie intake; thus, lower fat storage and quick burning down of stored fats.

Another possible reason is that a withdrawal from food causes the body’s insulin level to go down. Hence, as an inflammatory response, it switches into a fat-burning mode. Finally, sustained low insulin level, from fasting for more than 24 hours, can trigger the body into ketosis- a metabolic shift that lets the body burn stored fats for fuel instead of glucose.

There are a handful of studies and medical publications that links dry fasting to weight reduction. One is a 2013 research on the effect of Ramadan fast on body composition. The results indicated that almost all of the 240 participants had a reduction in body mass index a week after the 30-day fast.    

A research published on the National Library of Medicine shows a positive link between dry fasting and obesity reversal. In the synthesis, all 27 obese patient got a weight loss between 0.8 to 13.0% of their baseline weight without any adverse effect.

Sadly, other studies indicates quick regain of weight lost during Ramadan dry fast only after a week of completion. Worse yet, it is possible to lose all the benefits of fasting, including a possible reduction of BMI if you don’t break the fast in a healthy way. You can check out our article on how to fast in a healthy way in Ramadan for more information.  

Autophagy

Autophagy refers to a cell regeneration process where damaged cells are replaced, including cell structures like endoplasmic reticulum, peroxisomes and mitochondria, creating healthier and more functional cell structures.

Autophagy is triggered by high glucagon levels. Fasting reduces insulin secretion, increases glucagon production and stimulates a cell regeneration process. It is even believed that dry fasting can stimulate autophagy up three times more than other forms of fasting.    

Balanced Lipids and Lower Risk of Coronary Heart Disease

A 2016 research show that dry fasting can balance lips, including increasing HDL (good) cholesterol and reducing LDL (bad) cholesterol, triglycerides and Total cholesterol.

Two markers sets the stage for cardiovascular diseases, including the coronary heart disease- High LDL cholesterol and inflammation. Dry fasting addresses both markers and ultimately reduces the risk of heart-related conditions. In fact, a study indicates that people who fast for 24 hours have lower prevalence of coronary heart disease compared to those who do not, even after adjusting other risk factors.

Improved Immune Function

Dry fasting strengthens the body’s immune system in so many ways. Firstly, fasting for 30 days, as with the Ramadan Intermittent fasting, can stimulate the production of new white blood cells(2), causing somewhat of a regeneration of the entire immune system. Thus, improving the body’s natural defense and fight against bacterial and viral infections alongside other diseases (3).  

Lower Inflammation

Inflammation is the body’s natural defense system against things that can harm it. This includes infections, injuries, toxins from food and more. Dry fasting link to reduced inflammation in so many ways.

First, the body wouldn’t have to trigger any low-grade inflammatory response caused by food intake like secreting insulin. More significantly, a 2012 study measures the degree of pro-inflammatory cytokines among 50 adults in a Ramadan dry fast. Results from this analysis indicates that pro-inflammatory cytokines were significantly lower in the third week of Ramadan than before and after the fast.

Insulin Resistance Reversal

Various research show that dry fating can be one of the quickest methods to reverse insulin resistance. Though the time taken for this reversal varied in each research, and some required a minimum of 36 hours to three days prolonged fast to initiate the process in some persons (4).

One of these studies indicate significant decrease in blood sugar level up to 3 - 6% and insulin levels by 20 - 31%.

Dry fasting reverses insulin by increasing the levels of tropomyosin (TPM) 1, 3 and 4. TPM 1, 3, and 4 play vital role in autophagy and improving the body’s insulin sensitivity after a minimum of 15 hours of fast as part of Ramadan (5).

Anti-aging

It is quite fascinating that both water intake and dry fasting promotes healthy skin and reverses age-related challenges. This is possible for two reasons.

First, studies indicate that calorie restriction during Ramadan fasting, prolonged fasting and other forms of fast reduces the biomarkers for aging, slowing down skin-aging symptoms like reduced skin strength and elasticity. 

Secondly, fasting’s benefits to the immune system as well as in cell generation also fosters the body’s overall health, including that of the skin.  

Dry Fasting Risks

While intermittent fasting and other forms of fasting can be altered and are considered fairly safe, dry fasting involves restricting fluid intake and isn’t suitable for everyone. Below are some risks associated with dry fasting.

Dehydration:

As a standard, women need 11.5 cups of water daily and men, about 15.5 cups for their bodies to function properly and water from food makes up 20% of this requirement. Dry fasting restricts both food and water, causing dehydration and symptoms including muscle cramps, weakness, and decreased kidney function.

Kidney Stones

Kidney stones form when the body has less than enough water to prevent stone-forming crystals from sticking together. As you would guess, dehydration is a significant cause of both kidney stones and urinary tract infections. Both of which could lead to kidney damage if not treated properly and quickly.

Reduced Cognitive Performance

According to a 2019 study, not drinking water for up to 36 hours can lead to short-term memory loss, lack of concentration, mental fog, fatigue and delayed reaction times (6).  

Nutrient Deficiency

Key notes

  • It is not recommendable to go without water for more than three days. A novice should start with no longer than a 12-hour fast and extend the fast time slowly.
  • Do not start a dry fast with too many toxins in your body because it will increase your chances of fatigue, dizziness and nausea. It is recommendable to detox (check out my free 3-days mini cleanse) but you could also prepare for the fast by hydrating properly few days before you begin.
  • How you break your fast is equally as important as the fast. That is because, breaking your fast wrongly might deprive you of all its health benefits. You can click the article- how to fast in a healthy way in Ramadan for useful, practical and enjoyable methods to break your dry fast.

Benefits of Dry Fasting vs Intermittent Fasting

Autophagy

The human body has numerous back-up systems to deal with lack of food and water. For food, it gets into a process called ketosis and would start to burn fat cells for energy. Similarly, when lacking in water for an extended period, it would create and absorb water from cells by burning fatty acids via a process called beta oxidation to release hydrogen atoms from glycerol.

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About the author 

Aayah Khalaf

A health coach and detox specialist, CEO and founder of Bee Nourished a health and weight-loss initiative. I help women and mothers achieve their health and weight-loss goals with life changing programs that are uniquely yours.

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