Dry Fasting FAQ
Table of contents:
- What are the benefits of dry fasting?
- Is dry fasting dangerous?
- Is dry fasting scientifically justified?
- Importance of the refeeding period for dry fasting results
- Dry fasting for weight loss
- Can I brush my teeth and take a shower while fasting?
- The first two days of fasting can be difficult. Will it become even more difficult further on?
- Physical activity on fasting days
- Can you start dry fasting at any time? Can you break a fast intuitively?
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What are the benefits of dry fasting?
Fasting in general and dry fasting in particular is considered a powerful non-drug method of healing and rejuvenating the entire body. In addition, it is used to treat and prevent a range of chronic diseases. There are several hypotheses that explain the therapeutic effect of fasting. One claims that the benefits of fasting are related to the physiological stress it causes.
In everyday life, the word “stress” usually has a negative connotation. It most often refers to mental trauma resulting from anxiety, overexertion and other negative influences in the emotional sphere. However, scientists believe that stress is not only an emotional, but also a physiological reaction of a living organism to the effects of cold, heat, hunger and other unfavorable factors. This reaction triggers mechanisms of the body’s adaptation to the altered conditions. It activates hormonal processes, forcing the body to fight. To a certain extent, such stress is “positive,” it is good for the body and makes it younger and healthier. Morning runs, exercising in the gym, and fasting are all factors that lead to “positive” stress. It is clear that they must be limited in strength and duration, so that the body can cope with adjustment. If the body’s capabilities are insufficient for this purpose, “positive” stress will turn into “negative.” Dry fasting results in greater physiological stress than water fasting. It is more effective and it takes less time to launch the mechanisms in the body that contribute to its rejuvenation, recovery and disease prevention.
Perhaps greater stress is associated with the more significant effect that dry fasting has in the treatment of certain chronic diseases.
Dr. Sergey Filonov has been using dry fasting in his work for over 20 years. In an interview we recorded in 2021, listed the diseases that respond best to dry fasting: “Bronchial asthma is the most responsive. If a person has not received a lot of hormone therapy, treatment effectiveness may reach 98%. It doesn’t even depend on the duration of the illness. We have treated patients who have had asthma for 30 and 40 years. Bronchopulmonary diseases are in the first place.
The second place goes to the diseases of the gastrointestinal tract. These include gastritis, ulcers and inflammatory processes. The gastrointestinal tract is primarily involved in the fasting process. It gets rest, and an apparent healing effect is thus achieved. Autoimmune diseases, which have recently become very common, are in the third place. This is due to the monstrous ecological problems and stress, which have already become commonplace. Unfortunately, modern medicine does not cure these diseases, and patients are forced to constantly take hormones and other medications. Autoimmune processes develop in a polluted body that has been contaminated with toxic substances. These substances affect internal organs and systems, resulting in the development of an autoimmune process. In this case, a global cleansing of the body is required, and that’s exactly what happens during fasting. Diseases such as ankylosing spondylitis, rheumatoid arthritis, myasthenia gravis, multiple sclerosis respond well to fasting. If a disease is at an early stage, the treatment is highly effective. Moreover, these diseases can only be cured by fasting. There are no other methods in nature that can help.
Obesity also responds very well to fasting treatment. However, I think that it makes no sense to come here for obesity treatment. It can be conducted at home, since obesity does not require prolonged periods of fasting. Daily fasting twice a week is sufficient. On the day of fasting, you should walk 10 kilometers – specifically on the day of fasting. If this regime is observed, even in the presence of nutritional disorders, people lose 10-20 kilograms in two to three months. They lose weight naturally and reliably.”
Is dry fasting dangerous?
The idea of dry fasting is more intimidating for beginners than the idea of water fasting. Dehydration of the body is usually considered the greatest danger, as peoplebelieve that 2-3 days without water will lead to death. At the same time, the thought of water fasting does not cause significant fear, since everyone can easily verify the presence of a supply of nutrients in their body in the form of fat, while the presence of a water reserve is far less obvious. But fat serves as a reserve of water as well – approximately a liter of endogenous (metabolic) water is formed in the body from the oxidation of one kilo of fat, which partly compensates for the lack of fluid during dry fasting.
Curious fact: The champions in supplying themselves with metabolic water are the kangaroo rats, native to the North American deserts. They can go without drinking at all, eating only seeds and dry grass. Their fluid requirements are almost entirely covered by this metabolic process. Experiments have shown that by digesting and oxidizing 100 g of dry seeds, a rat’s body obtains 53.7 g of metabolic water, even though the moisture content of the seeds themselves is only 3.7%.
Human beings do not have the phenomenal abilities of kangaroo rats. Nevertheless, since metabolic water is produced while burning fat during dry fasting, the fluid deficit in the human body does not exceed 0.5-1 liters per day. Such a deficiency is physiologically acceptable in conditions of reduced basal metabolism (I. Khoroshilov). For comparison, workers in hot shops lose up to 5 liters of fluid per shift. However, there are other dangers in dry fasting. First, there are a number of chronic diseases that constitute absolute or relative contraindications for this method. Before you start fasting, read about them (see details here). Secondly, even if your tolerance is good, you should not fast independently for longer than 2-3 days (according to I. Khoroshilov) or 5 days (according to S. Filonov). Thirdly, an incorrect exit from a fast can pose a serious danger (see details here).
Is dry fasting scientifically justified?
The scientific approach was first applied to the problem of medical fasting by Soviet scientists in mid-20 th century. The term “scientific” means that the basis for the claims about the effects of fasting were formed by patient observations, rather than general ideas about its benefits and harm. The number of patients was statistically significant, and the observation data were measurable, which excluded their subjective interpretation. Before and after fasting, the state of the patients’ cardiovascular, digestive and urinary systems was monitored, along with the state of protein, carbohydrate, lipid and water-mineral metabolism and the changes in the neurohumoral regulation of the body. It is important that several hundred doctors in different Soviet cities were engaged in studying therapeutic fasting in those years, rather than just one group of doctors. They published scientific papers, organized conferences, and shared their experiences. Public discussion of this work within the scientific community significantly increased the objectivity and reliability of the conclusions from the results obtained.
These studies usually attempted to incorporate fasting in the treatment of various chronic diseases in the fields of pulmonology, cardiology, gastroenterology, neurology and psychiatry. After obtaining the first successful results in the treatment of a particular disease, the researchers focused their subsequent work on finding the optimal fastingconditions in each case. After that, they developed guidelines for medical specialists who treated this disease, but were not familiar with the fasting method. These recommendations were approved by the Ministry of Health, after which medical specialists could apply this method in their practice.
Dry fasting gained ground in the USSR only in the early 1990s thanks to the naturopath Leonid Shchennikov. While he was not a doctor, Shchennikov has been using dry fasting unofficially to treat his patients since the 1970s. At first, official medicine ignored this method, since Shchennikov worked outside medical structures and did not have the opportunity to scientifically prove the safety and effectiveness of dry fasting.
However, in a short period of time in the early 1990s, several researchers grew interested in this subject. In 1990, Valery Zakirov published the results of combined fasting (dry followed by water fasting) for the treatment of asthma in a group of 120 patients. In 1994, Igor Khoroshilov published the results of a comprehensive study of the effect of 3-day fasting on the condition of healthy volunteers. This study provided the first powerful evidence of the safety of dry fasting in the open press. In 1996, Gennady Dorokhov used dry fasting as part of a combined fasting in a group of 18 obese patients. In addition, in 1992, Shchennikov sought permission to demonstrate to an expert commission the effect of his method in a clinical setting in a group of 20 patients and received an approval of this method.
The group included 20 patients 20-63 years old, who suffered from hypertension, osteochondrosis, cardiovascular diseases, bronchial asthma, indigestion, stomach ulcers, metabolic disorders, uterine myoma and other chronic diseases. The period of their abstinence from food and water ranged from 7 to 11 days. Fasting was accompanied by the monitoring of biochemical, immunological and physiological parameters. The dynamics of blood, urine and blood pressure indicators and changes in body weight were recorded. At the end of fasting, 18 out of 20 patients experienced an improvement in their condition. The expert commission gave a positive opinion. Soon, Shchennikov applied for a patent, and two years later one was issued to him.
In all the works listed above, the researchers noted a good tolerance of dry fasting by patients and its higher treatment efficacy in comparison with water fasting. Researchers of both dry and wet fasting devoted all their attention to the practical application of this method in disease treatment, but its action mechanism was not examined in detail. Several relevant hypotheses were proposed, but they were not duly substantiated. In other words, Soviet doctors proved that fasting worked, but did not properly explain why. This situation is often encountered in the history of science: inventions and discoveries usually appear much earlier than theory is able to explain them. Gunpowder was invented long before the theory of combustion was proposed, and the first vaccine against smallpox appeared long before the causative agent of this disease itself was discovered. Thomas Edison was able to invent a light bulb without knowing what particles caused the heating of its filament, since electrons were only discovered 18 years later. Let’s hope that the curative effect of fasting, which has been known to mankind for thousands of years, will be explained by medical science in due time.
The contraindications listed below are the result of many years of work by the doctors of the Russian school of fasting, which was founded in mid-20th century by Professor Yu. Nikolaev. These doctors viewed fasting primarily as a promising treatment for certain chronic diseases, for which the drug approach had provenineffective. In their work, they conducted medical fasting with people suffering from serious ailments. It is clear that in this case, special attention was heeded not to harm the patients. Through observation of the patients’ tolerance of fasting and the results brought by this treatment method, the researchers compiled a list of contraindications, first for water fasting, and then for dry fasting. This list dwindled as doctors gained more positive experience with a variety of diseases. As for dry fasting, below is a list of absolute contraindications compiled by Dr. Filonov:
- • marked body mass deficit (over 15% from the expected value);
- malignant tumors;
- active tuberculosis of the lungs and other organs;
- systemic diseases of the blood;
- type I diabetes mellitus;
- disorders of the heart rhythm and / or of the pulse propagation of any origin;
- post-focal myocardial infarction;
- heart failure of II B – III degree;
- chronic hepatitis and cirrhosis of the liver;
- chronic renal failure and renal failure of any genesis;
In addition, according to S. Filonov, there are relative contraindications, which means that the decision on the feasibility of a patient undergoing dry fasting is made by a doctor who is well-acquainted with this method.
Importance of the refeeding period for dry fasting results
The term “to break a fast” may lead one to think that fasting is over when the patient starts eating. But the doctors of the Russian school of fasting, which flourished in the second half of the 20 th century, thought differently. They believed that curative fasting comprises three stages: the preparatory period, the actual fasting, and the refeeding stage. The patient was required to comply with a number of rules at each of these three stages, particularly at the last one. Why did doctors attach such great importance to the proper coming out of a fast, both dry and water? It’s not just about the need to avoid the “refeeding syndrome”, which can lead to dire consequences. It is equally important for fasting to provide the positive results anticipated by the patient. One of these results is the renewal and rejuvenation of the body.
In this regard, Doctor of Biological Sciences Professor L. V. Polezhayev, the most prominent specialist in animal limb regeneration, who developed a method of recovering lost limbs, tails, i.e., in amphibians, writes: “Fasting is a process of intensified physiological regeneration, renewal of all cells, their molecular and chemical makeup. Interestingly, the biochemical changes during fasting and reparative regeneration are very similar. In both cases, there are two phases: destruction and recovery. With sufficient foundation, we can consider fasting a natural stimulatory factor of physiological regeneration. At the basis of fasting there is a biological process that leads to the renewal and rejuvenation of the tissues of the whole body”. However, new cells grow especially intensively during the refeeding period.
That is why this period is so important. According to the doctors of the Russian school, in the case of water fasting, the refeeding period should last as many days as fasting itself did, and in the case of dry fasting – twice as long. Doctors have developed a variety of dietary regimes for this period, in which types of food, specific dishes and their quantities are designated by day and hour (i.e., (ссылка). These recommendations are not based on common nutritional beliefs about “proper nutrition.” They are compiled by fasting experts with experience in refeeding their patients or in the rehabilitation of victims of prolonged forced fasting (starvation) in emergency situations. By following these recommendations, the patient will not only break the fast safely, but will also get the maximum effect from it.
Breaking a dry fast certainly has its specific features. It starts with very slow intermittent hydration of the body by drinking one glass in small sips over a course of 15 minutes (Dr. Filonov’s recommendation). 4 hours after the beginning of hydration, you may start eating, following one of the detailed refeeding regimes. There is a widespread misconception that you may rely on your own intuition and simply listen to your body, rather than on doctors’ recommendations. Unfortunately, intuition often fails in a situation this unfamiliar for the body. Often, the patient “breaks down” and begins to overeat at the very beginning of the recovery period. But the digestive tract of a person who just fasted grows unaccustomed to food. Thus, if refeeding is not gradual, the patient may end up needing surgery.
Dry fasting for weight loss
From an interview with Sergey Filonov on April 20, 2021: “Dry fasting is more effective for weight loss than wet fasting, because during wet fasting, muscle mass is lost to a greater extent, and during dry fasting, mostly fat is lost. And if, after fasting, a person observes a proper diet, does not gorge himself on cakes and meat, the adipose tissue will not reappear in the same amount. In addition, during dry fasting more powerful processes occur affecting the liver (the liver is one of the causes of obesity) and the stomach, which is distended in obese people. Thus, the easiest and most reliable method of losing weight that I know is fasting and walking: 1-day dry fasting and 10 km on foot on fasting days. If a person follows this regime, the effect is guaranteed.”
Can I brush my teeth and take a shower while fasting?
The recommendation to avoid total contact with water, including brushing your teeth and showering, applies to those who want to get the maximum therapeutic effect. But don’t be discouraged if this strict fasting option gives you serious discomfort. Contact of the skin and oral cavity with water has some effect on the fasting results, but not a great one. These water treatments are allowed, but the key is to avoid swallowing water in the process. While conducting collective fasting with patients, in recent years Dr. Filonov has even recommended daily dousing with cold water.
The first two days of fasting can be difficult. Will it become even more difficult further on?
Starting from the moment when a fasting patient stops taking food, he goes through three stages. This happens during both water fasting and dry fasting. Sometimes there is significant discomfort during the first two stages, but the third stage is usually well tolerated. One of the advantages of dry fasting is that the duration of the first two stages is reduced two to threefold, thus, the discomfort goes away much faster than during a water fast. The first stage is the stage of food arousal. At this time, patients are irritated by conversations about food, the sight and smell of food, the sound of tableware. The patient may experience an excessive flow of saliva, rumbling in the abdomen, an empty feeling in the epigastric region and general weakness. Hunger sensations, increased irritability, worsening mood, sleep disturbance (Yu. Nikolaev) are typical. During water fasting, this stage lasts 2-3 days, and during dry fasting – less than a day (S. Filonov). The second stage is that of increasing acidosis. The hunger sensation usually decreases, and sometimes disappears completely. In most patients, there is a growing general psychomotor retardation. Sometimes, especially in the morning, some patients complain of headache, dizziness, nausea, feeling of weakness. Walks outside and drinking alkaline water (when water fasting) help significantly reduce these phenomena or even completely eliminate them. During water fasting, this stage lasts up to 7-10 days of fasting (Yu. Nikolaev), and during dry fasting – up to 2-3 days (S. Filonov). At the end of the second stage, the body completes the readjustment to internal nutrition. As a result, a sharp improvement in the patient’s condition usually occurs, and fasting becomes comfortable.
Physical activity on fasting days
“Nature walks are mandatory, it’s been noted that if you spend the entire fasting day at home, the subjective feeling of well-being decreases, while weakness and chilliness increase. On the other hand, walks or working in the fresh air may lead to physical tiredness, while the mood and subjective feelings of well-being improve, the person is buoyant and vivacious. However, as I always tell my patients, one should walk like a cat. Your movements should be soft, smooth and calm. There shouldn’t be any sharp ascents, and any excessive physical strain and efforts should be excluded,” says Dr. Filonov.
Can you start dry fasting at any time? Can you break a fast intuitively?
Here are some tips from Sergey Filonov:
- Before you start dry fasting, you should try a water fast to see how your body can handle it.
- 24 hours is the minimum period of fasting that can be expected to have an effect on the body.
- If you have no experience with dry fasting, you need to start with a 1-day fast, gradually moving on to 2,3 and 4-day fasting. If you endured these fasts well, then you can fast for 5 days. We do not recommend fasting for over 5 days at home without professional supervision.
- Under no circumstances should you extend the pre-planned fasting period, as it corresponds to the psychological state that you’ve created. For instance, if you set your mind on a two-day fast, you shouldn’t switch to a three-day fast, even if you are feeling very well. However, if you are not tolerating the fast well, you can always get exit the fast early, strictly observing the relevant rules.
- The length of the exit period should be twice the duration of abstinence from food and water.
- Do not start a new fast until you complete the exit from the previous fast.
- Combined fasting is allowed: first, conduct a 3-day dry fast, then, when the body cleansing mechanism is launched, move on to fasting on water. But never in reverse order!