Water fasting is an extremely powerful tool to overcome addictions caused by smoking, drinking and drugs in general, as well as any addictions relating to food, such as sugar, caffeine, chocolate, flavour enhancers… Unfortunately, the list is almost endless.
Addictions are composed of both physical and emotional elements. Physically, addictive substances cause changes to your biochemistry which induce your body to demand more of the given substance in order to sustain homeostasis – that is, the stability of your metabolism. Emotionally, addictive substances manipulate the way you relate to food, drink or drugs by playing on the ego’s tendency to become attached to objects in the world around you (more info here). In short, you feel you need the given substance. Sounds familiar?
All too often, addictions end up dragging you into a downward spiral with seemingly no way out…
Water fasting works like a “reset” button to bring addiction to an end. As your body’s healing metabolism catalyses and intensifies the natural process of detox, the biochemical cycles which cause addiction are cut short in their tracks. It is the ultimate cold turkey. This means that, in order to reduce any unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, it’s usually a good idea to try to reduce the consumption of addiction-forming substances prior to a water fast. For most people this simply means adjusting their diet to avoid too much caffeine and sugar.
If you use a water fast specifically to tackle a physical addiction, tapering the given substance prior to the fast can definitely help. I won’t lie to you. Withdrawal symptoms are inevitable – it’s the price you pay for any addiction. Often this manifests purely emotionally, with simple cravings for the given substance. Of course, physical withdrawal symptoms are also possible. Although these can be nasty, causing headaches, nausea, blurred vision and severe swings of mood, they are rarely dangerous.*
In order to maximise the chances of success, I would definitely recommend that anyone suffering from a serious addiction – whether drugs, alcohol or food – consult with an expert, and then carry out the water fast under the personal supervision of a mentor. This applies especially to those suffering from eating disorders. If applied wisely, water fasting can certainly help to alleviate and, in time, even overcome the abuse of food. But it is also all too easy for such a person to abuse water fasting, thereby leading to a deterioration of the situation. There are several ways for this to happen, such as attempting to undertake too ambitious a fast, thereby leading to failure. Or it may simply arise from the fact that abstaining from food through a water fast already too closely resembles the illness itself – for in a way the withholding of food in an eating disorder already constitutes a kind of fast, albeit misguided. There are many potential pitfalls along the way, but a mentor can help you from falling into them.
Once you’ve cleansed the addictive substance from your body, your endocrine/hormonal system has a chance to fully re-balance during the remainder of the water fast. In other words, since you aren’t ingesting anything during this time (except for pure water), no external factors are able to influence what your body already knows is best for you. This hormonal “reset” capability is also one reason why water fasting can resolve issues as wide and varied as infertility, insulin intolerance and Type II diabetes, not to mention resolving chronic cases of both obesity and underweight malnutrition (assuming a healthy diet after the fast).
The length of fast required to clear an addiction depends on the given substance, as well as the degree of severity of the addiction. Once you’ve succeeded, though, you’ll be able to experience the substance for what it is. After a water fast, alcohol tastes like poison, tobacco is noxious, refined sugar is sickly sweet. Of course, for anyone with a serious addiction, it’s best to avoid the given substance altogether at this point – but a successful water fast should reduce or even eliminate the temptation to fall back in the first place. You’ll simply be able to enjoy the gifts of mother nature without the need for anything more. The gift of simple food. The gift of life itself. The joy of freedom from the physical and emotional chains of addiction.
What can be better than that?
*A few drugs, such as alcohol, benzodiazepines (eg. Xanax, Valium) and certain opiates (eg. Methadone) can cause serious complications and even death if detoxing takes place too rapidly. ALWAYS consult your doctor before undertaking a fast to tackle a serious addiction!