To boost your immune system specifically against coronavirus Covid-19, please see this separate article HERE.
- How water fasting strengthens your immune system
- Fasting to heal auto-immune issues
- How to use water fasting to cure the flu or a common cold
- How long does it take to fast out the flu or a common cold?
If you suffer from a weak immune system, water fasting is one of the best things you can do to strengthen it.
Similarly, water fasting is one of the oldest and most effective methods to regain health if your immune system is facing an infection such the flu. Personally, it’s what I do the moment I feel a virus beginning to stir inside me. And nine times out of ten the fast does its magic – and, miraculously, I stay healthy.
In fact, in the days before vaccines, fasting was even successfully applied in treating life-threatening diseases such as smallpox and typhoid. And during the era of the bubonic plague, doctors acquainted with fasting did just that in order to raise the chances of not becoming infected by their patients.
How water fasting strengthens your immune system
The secret to why water fasting is the strongest method for strengthening your immune system lies in the intestines. In everyday life, up to 80% of the cells comprising the entire immune system reside in the gut wall. This is because the gut wall is the single most vulnerable part of the human body to pathogens. It’s true that during flu season, airborne bacteria and viruses can and do penetrate the lungs. But every single time you eat – that is, three times a day, every day – your intestines are exposed to pathogens which are capable of breaching the gut wall as nutrients are absorbed into the blood. When you stop eating, however, this systematic exposure to pathogens ceases, allowing your vast army of defense cells to leave their usual guard duty and spread throughout the whole body in search of foreign bacteria and viruses.
In combination with this, the energy which would otherwise have been required for digestion is similarly freed up. This accounts for approximately 30% of the body’s total daily energy requirements. You won’t, however, feel this huge energy surplus in terms of extra physical strength. Rather, your body applies it to boosting detox and cleansing, which are managed primarily by the immune system, the lymphatic system, along with the liver and kidneys.
It takes about 24-36 hours after your last meal to start releasing cells of the immune system from the digestive system, as well as to strengthen detox and cleansing across the whole body. At this point, your immune system searches out and destroys not only the foreign invaders which cause illness and disease, but also the malfunctioning and dying cells of your own body. This process of ‘house cleaning’ is known as autolysis, and begins with the immune system itself. Blood tests, for instance, frequently show that the white blood cell count actually tends to decrease in the first few days of a fast. This doesn’t happen because your immune system is weakening but precisely the opposite: through culling those white blood cells which aren’t operating in top form. In other words, you end up with a leaner and meaner immune system.
This explains why increased levels of immunity continue not only during a fast but also for a significant period afterwards as well. Similarly, immunity against pathogens increases from fast to fast, as the strength of the immune system increases with each successive fast. I’ve noticed such a shift gradually take place within my own body. When I first began water fasting, I was always the first in my family to come down with niggling colds and coughs, but over the years it’s reached the point where I hardly ever get ill at all.
(In a moment we’ll take a look at how you too can strengthen your own immune system to fight off colds and the flu, as well stay generally healthy.)
Fasting to heal auto-immune issues
In addition to the long-term boosting of the immune system, fasting also brings the immune system into balance. This is the reason that fasting can prove so effective in cases of auto-immune illnesses, in which the immune system no longer functions to protect the body or, in some cases, actually turns against and wages war against the body. I’ve had clients who have suffered from auto-immune issues as wide-ranging as ulcerative colitis, Hashimotos, multiple sclerosis (MS) and chronic fatigue syndrome (ME), and there isn’t a single case which hasn’t at least improved through water fasting. Sometimes you have to be patient, perhaps undertaking a series of fasts over many months – and especially so when a lot of healing must take place – but good things come to those who wait. (For fasting to heal from illness, please see the article ‘Self-healing through water fasting.’)
How to use water fasting to cure the flu or a common cold
Although some aficionados of water fasting might have you believe that every fast can provide an instant and almost magical cure to colds or the flu, this simply isn’t always true. There are a few key points you need to know before diving in the deep end!
I would advise anyone new to fasting not to tackle a common cold or flu this way, because over the first few water fasts a lot of your energy is devoted to clearing out a lifetime’s worth of accumulated toxins. Your kidneys are working overtime. Your liver is working overtime. Fasting with a virus or bacteria in your system only drains your energy further. You’ll feel truly lousy! Instead, begin by building up some water fasting experience while you’re healthy. This will start the process of strengthening your immune system, preparing it to act more effectively when illness does strike. It also means that when you do tackle a virus through fasting, your immune system won’t get dragged down by having to do a lot of maintenance cleansing as well. Instead, your body will be able to focus solely on clearing the pathogen.
As I found out myself, fasting out a minor illness does eventually become easier, but you’ll never feel as good compared to fasting while healthy. In order to reach the point where such a fast doesn’t completely knock you out, you’ll probably need to have enough experience that you’re already comfortable in undertaking 7-10 day fasts. This doesn’t mean you’ll actually need to fast for 7-10 days in order to cure yourself of a flu (see below). But it does mean that you’ll need to have done the kind of maintenance cleansing achieved through one or more 7-10 day fasts. I know I did.
It’s important to begin such a fast as soon as you feel the pathogen in your body. As with so many other things, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and starting your fast early on in the illness will accelerate the healing process, reducing the necessary length of the fast.
It’s important to continue the fast at least until all symptoms have stopped. If, for whatever reason, you discontinue the fast beforehand, the pathogen may well regain momentum against you. To be on the safe side, it’s worth continuing the fast for at least an additional 24 hours after symptoms have disappeared, depending on the particular pathogen.
(A more detailed explanation of these three points can be found in the article: Fasting against Coronavirus: how to boost immunity and maximize health.)
Check out the webshop on waterfasting.org
The webshop offers downloadable fasting plans and guides to help make your water fast a success.
How long does it take to fast out the flu or a common cold?
Anyone thinking of applying a water fast to a cold or the flu is bound to ask: ‘how long am I going to have to fast?’ There’s no fixed answer here.
First there’s you. The more experienced in fasting you are, the quicker your body will shut down the digestive system, step up cleansing and begin to fight the illness. Also, the more fasting you’ve done, the less energy you’ll have to waste on maintenance cleansing.
Then there’s the pathogen. The more virulent the pathogen, the longer you’ll need to fast. If you begin the fast early enough, two days may suffice for minor colds. In my experience, this is the minimum time required for any pathogen, because in any case you need 24-36 hours to release the immune system from the gut (see above).
For the flu, I find that three days or so is more likely. For something as serious as typhoid, the famous Dr. Herbert Shelton says that a fast of 7-10 days is enough, with patients stabilizing around the third or fourth day (The Science and Fine Arts of Fasting, p. 429). In any case, it will take experience in applying water fasting to minor illnesses before you’re able to get a better feel for how you react and how long you’ll need. Every illness is different. Every fast is different. The strength of every immune system is different. Practice makes perfect!