What is Dry Fasting, Know its 7 Health Benefits, Side Effects and Complications

What is Dry Fasting?

Fasting is the process of willingly avoiding the intake of food. Fasting has been practiced by people for thousands of years for religious purposes. However, today fasting has become a popular way of losing weight.

Dry fasting, also known as absolute fasting, limits the intake of both food and liquid. Dry fasting is a very restrictive form of fasting that does not allow consumption of any fluids, be it broth, tea, or even water itself.

What is Dry Fasting?

There are many ways to fast and dry fasting can be done in many different ways, including:

  • Intermittent Fasting: Intermittent fasting cycles between periods of fasting and eating. Many people follow the 16/8 method of intermittent fasting, which limits food intake for 16 hours and then allows you to eat during an 8-hour window.
  • Alternate Day Fasting: This fasting method involves fasting every other day. It is a type of 1-day fasting.
  • Eat-Stop-Eat: In this method of dry fasting, you will fast for 24 hours once or twice a week.
  • Periodic Fasting: Food intake in periodic fasting is limited for a set number of days. For example, a 3-day fast to be practiced once a month.

There is some evidence that indicates that fasting offers benefits such as weight loss and slower aging.

However, dry fasting can be a potentially dangerous method of weight loss, mainly because you are not allowed to drink water or any other beverages.(1) This increases the risk of dehydration and other complications as well.

There is not adequate research to support the benefits of dry fasting.

Potential Benefits of Dry Fasting

Potential Benefits of Dry Fasting

Proponents of dry fasting claim to have experienced the following benefits from dry fasting. Let us take a look at the science behind these claims and whether there is research to back up these claims.

Weight Loss

Supporters of dry fasting believe it to be an effective method for weight loss. This is believed to be so because of the extreme restriction of calories propagated by dry fasting.

There is some amount of research on dry fasting and weight loss. In 2013, a study was published in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics.(2) The researchers of the study looked into the effects of fasting during the month-long period of Ramadan. People who fast during Ramadan also follow a type of dry fasting itself as they refrain from eating or drinking anything from sunrise to sunset for an entire month.

The study included 240 healthy adult participants who fasted for nearly 20 days. A week before the start of Ramadan, the researchers measured the participants’ body weight and also calculated their body mass index (BMI).

One week after the end of Ramadan, the researchers again carried out the same measurements and found that there was a drop in body weight and BMI in nearly all the participants.

However, the thing is that while the participants practiced dry fasting, it was done on an intermittent basis. Also, Ramadan fasting is only done for one month, so this is not continuous fasting. Furthermore, this is only practiced by healthy adults.

The findings of the study indicate that intermittent dry fasting can lead to weight loss in the short term. Otherwise, there is not enough scientific proof available to confirm that repeated and regular dry fasting is effective or even safe.

Better Immune Function

Many people believe that dry fasting helps boost the body’s immune system, making it stronger. The idea behind this is that fasting resets the immune system and removes any damaged cells, which allows the body to build new ones.

Additionally, there is also evidence that restricting calories can help improve inflammation, which protects the immune system. However, this is not applicable to limiting water intake. Complete calorie restriction is thought to have the same results as limiting calories to protect the immune system.

Cell Regeneration

When it comes to cell regeneration, a 2014 animal study carried out by the University of Southern California and published in Cell Stem Cell,(3) found that prolonged fasting triggers cell regeneration in mice. Afterward, a phase I human trial carried out by the same researching team found similar results in people with cancer who were undergoing chemotherapy.

However, the human trial is still in its early stages, and the study did not provide any information about whether water was allowed during this period. Further research is needed to determine if the same regeneration effect also occurs in healthy humans while they are dry fasting.

Improvement in Inflammation

The association between reduced inflammation and dry fasting was examined by a research team from the University of Hail in Scotland in 2012.(4) The study, published in Nutrition Research, measured the level of proinflammatory cytokines in 50 healthy adults one week before the start of Ramadan. The measurements were repeated during the third week of the one-week festival and then again one month after the participants dry fasted for Ramadan.

The results of the study found that the participants’ level of proinflammatory cytokines were the lowest during the third week of dry fasting. This indicates that there is a reduction in inflammation while dry fasting, which is known to improve the immune system. However, again, the dry fasting during Ramadan is not continuous, and you are allowed to have water at certain times.

Again, there is more research required to prove the link between dry fasting and an improvement in immune function.

Benefits for Skin

Even though water is known to promote healthier skin, it is also believed that dry fasting also has skin benefits. This is likely because of the purported effects of fasting on your immune system. A 2019 study published in Nutrients journal and carried out by the University of Genoa in Italy,(5) the increased level of immune activity due to fasting, helps in wound healing. Furthermore, another 2011 study done on animals and published in Wounds journal, also discovered that temporary and repeated fasting helps speed up wound healing in mice.(6)

However, conflicting results are also there as in 2012, the National Institute on Aging in the US found in an animal study that calorie restriction actually worked to slow down wound healing in rats.(7)

There is also a group of proponents who think that fasting slows down age-related changes in the body, including aging of the skin. This is believed to be due to the association of calorie restriction with slower aging. According to a small study done in 2018 and published in Cell Metabolism, calorie restriction helped decrease biomarkers of aging in 53 healthy young adults.(8)

In spite of these findings, research has still not been able to find any specific skin benefits related to dry fasting. Most of the research was also done on mice, and more studies, specifically human studies, are needed to confirm that fasting without water can benefit human skin.

Enhancement of Spirituality

Many people believe that dry fasting enhances spirituality, which is why there are many people who practice religious fasting.

Supporters of this belief also report experiencing many spiritual benefits, including:

  • Deeper faith
  • Increased gratitude
  • Opportunity for prayer
  • Improved awareness

Interestingly, both religious and non-religious people have reported experiencing spiritual benefits after undergoing dry fasting.

Faster Results

People have claimed to experience the benefits of dry fasting only with regular and repeated sessions. However, it is believed that dry fasting also delivers the quickest results since dry fasting is one of the most extreme forms of fasting.

However, this is only a general belief, and there is no scientific proof of this. To date, research has only researched the effects of intermittent dry fasting during the period of Ramadan and have compared it with other types of fasting. In 2019, a study published in the Eastern Mediterranean Health Journal(9) found that different types of fasting also produce the same results.

Nevertheless, further studies are needed to determine whether dry fasting yields the quickest and also the safest results.

What are the Side Effects of Dry Fasting?

What are the Side Effects of Dry Fasting?

Just like all types of fasting, dry fasting also has some side effects. While dry fasting, you may experience the following side effects:

Feeling hungry: Hunger is a common side effect of any fast, not just dry fasting. Avoiding water, though, will make you feel even hungrier since water is one factor that increases your satiety.

Irritability: As you start feeling hungry, you will begin to feel cranky, causing you to get irritated at the smallest of things.

Fatigue: It is but natural that when you don’t eat food or drink water, you will not have sufficient fuel to power your body. This will lead to feeling tired, dizzy, and weak.

Headaches: Limiting the intake of caffeine and nutrients, especially carbohydrates, can cause persistent headaches.

Lack of Concentration: When you are feeling hungry and tired, it becomes difficult to concentrate at work or school.

Reduced Urination: Eliminating all fluids from your diet is going to make you urinate less. If you notice that your urine is dark and smelly, then this is a serious sign of dehydration. You should stop your fast and drink water to combat dehydration before it becomes serious.

Are There Any Complications of Dry Fasting?

If you continue to dry fast or you repeatedly fast, then there can be some serious complications of dry fasting, including:

Urinary and Kidney Problems: Dehydration can lead to urinary tract infections and even kidney stones.

Dehydration: Prolonged periods of dry fasting can lead to dehydration. Dehydration can also result in electrolyte imbalance in the body and low blood pressure, which can be a life-threatening situation.

Fainting: Dehydration and low blood sugar can increase the risk of fainting.

Nutrient Deficiencies: Vitamin and mineral deficiencies is familiar with repeated or continuous fasting.

Eating Disorders: Some people are more likely than others to binge eat after fasting, which increases your risk of developing eating disorders.

What Results Can You Expect From Dry Fasting?

Dry fasting tends to affect different people in different ways, and this is why there is no specific research to indicate how long it takes for results to become visible.

Results from dry fasting also depend on other factors, such as:

  • Age
  • Overall health
  • Daily level of physical activity
  • How often you are fasting

Conclusion

Dry fasting is a fasting method that requires you to avoid food as well as liquids. Proponents of this fasting firmly believe that it helps you lose weight and also boosts your immunity. However, there is a lack of scientific evidence to support these claims.

It is essential to know that dry fasting can prove to be very dangerous, and it can also lead to dehydration and other complications, especially if you are frequently fasting.

There are many healthier and safer ways of losing weight or fasting. If you are interested in fasting, then you should discuss it with your doctor to find a safe way to fast or lose weight.

References:

  1. Perfect Keto. (2019). Dry Fasting: The Truth About This New Health Industry Trend. [online] Available at: https://perfectketo.com/dry-fasting/ [Accessed 17 Dec. 2019]. Norouzy, A., Salehi, M., Philippou, E., Arabi, H., Shiva, F., Mehrnoosh, S., Mohajeri, S.M.R., Mohajeri, S.R., Motaghedi Larijani, A. and Nematy, M., 2013. Effect of fasting in R amadan on body composition and nutritional intake: a prospective study. Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, 26, pp.97-104.
  2. Cheng, C.W., Adams, G.B., Perin, L., Wei, M., Zhou, X., Lam, B.S., Da Sacco, S., Mirisola, M., Quinn, D.I., Dorff, T.B. and Kopchick, J.J., 2014. Prolonged fasting reduces IGF-1/PKA to promote hematopoietic-stem-cell-based regeneration and reverse immunosuppression. Cell stem cell, 14(6), pp.810-823.
  3. Kacimi, S., Ref’at, A., Fararjeh, M.A., Bustanji, Y.K., Mohammad, M.K. and Salem, M.L., 2012. Intermittent fasting during Ramadan attenuates proinflammatory cytokines and immune cells in healthy subjects. Nutrition research, 32(12), pp.947-955.
  4. Bragazzi, N.L., Sellami, M., Salem, I., Conic, R., Kimak, M., Pigatto, P.D.M. and Damiani, G., 2019. Fasting and its impact on skin anatomy, physiology, and physiopathology: A comprehensive review of the literature. Nutrients, 11(2), p.249.
  5. Hayati, F., Maleki, M., Pourmohammad, M., Sardari, K., Mohri, M. and Afkhami, A., 2011. Influence of short-term, repeated fasting on the skin wound healing of female mice. Wounds, 23(2), p.38.
  6. Hunt, N.D., Li, G.D., Zhu, M., Levette, A., Chachich, M.E., Spangler, E.L., Allard, J.S., Hyun, D.H., Ingram, D.K. and de Cabo, R., 2012. Effect of calorie restriction and refeeding on skin wound healing in the rat. Age, 34(6), pp.1453-1458.
  7. Redman, L.M., Smith, S.R., Burton, J.H., Martin, C.K., Il’yasova, D. and Ravussin, E., 2018. Metabolic slowing and reduced oxidative damage with sustained caloric restriction support the rate of living and oxidative damage theories of aging. Cell metabolism, 27(4), pp.805-815.
  8. Emro.who.int. (2019). WHO EMRO | Comparison of time-restricted feeding and Islamic fasting: a scoping review | Volume 25, issue 4 | EMHJ volume 25, 2019. [online] Available at: http://www.emro.who.int/emhj-volume-25-2019/volume-25-issue-4/comparison-of-time-restricted-feeding-and-islamic-fasting-a-scoping-review.html [Accessed 17 Dec. 2019].

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