Extended healing fasts (14-40 days)

Dr Tallis Barker, water fasting coach

Why in the world would you ever want to fast for two weeks or more?

If only a tiny percentage of people in the Western world ever undertake a water fast of any kind, then only a tiny percentage of people who water-fast will ever undertake an extended healing fast of 14 days or more. Why? There’s simply no need. For everyday cleansing and healing, occasional 7-10 day fasts combined with regular short fasts such as the one-day (36-hour ) water fast should keep you in excellent health.

Benefits of extended water fasts (14-40 days):

However, in order to reach the deepest possible level of healing and reap the greatest benefits, it is necessary to dig deeper with a longer fast. For instance, certain serious physical illnesses – those often deemed incurable by Western medicine – require the cleansing of an extended fast in order to permanently heal. Despite what allopathic doctors may tell you, conditions as wide and varied as Type II diabetes, multiple sclerosis, chronic high blood pressure, autoimmune disorders, as well as certain types of tumors are all potentially curable. Yes, these illnesses and many more can be healed permanently through water fasting. As a water fasting coach, I’m privileged to witness this miraculous healing potential of the human body!

Beyond physical healing, the deepest spiritual cleansing can similarly take place only through the sheer length of an extended fast. Although nowadays we tend to remember only the Biblical 40-day fasts of Moses and Jesus, the fact is that many spiritual traditions over the millennia have demanded 40-day water fasts. Even Pythagorus required potential students to undertake a 40-day fast before he was willing to accept them. As much as we balk at the idea of giving up food for such a long time, it’s mostly just a question of unwillingness to forgo the addictions and pleasures of life. Don’t believe the voice of your fears and reluctant ego. You won’t starve to death. Unless you’re seriously malnourished and underweight to begin with, you carry the better part of 100,000 calories on you, locked in your fat tissue and waiting to be released through ketosis. That’s enough to last you well over 40 days. If you’re overweight, you could potentially fast for much longer (although in most cases this is not advisable).

Experiencing a healing crisis:

Although in one respect an extended fast simply continues the notion of a 7-10 day water fast, it is also much more powerful because it gives you the opportunity to experience deeper ‘healing crises‘. As described in the article on the 7-10 day water fast, a healing crisis often occurs towards the end of the first week of water fasting, as the symptoms of old illnesses, injuries and traumas resurface, before being permanently expelled from your body. A similar process often occurs around the end of the second week of fasting – and this is the reason that if you decide to extend a 7-10 day water fast, it’s worth aiming for at least 14 days. This second healing crisis tends to call forth deeper issues than the first healing crisis, or, alternatively, finishes resolving those issues which were not fully cleared during the first healing crisis. In other words, it’s from the beginning of the second week of water fasting that your body can begin to heal from more serious health issues. Simply, up until this point, your body has been cleansing the toxins of everyday life (and especially so if you haven’t been fasting regularly).

For the deepest and most serious health issues, whether physical or spiritual, healing crises often occur much later into the fast, whether 20, 30 or even 40 days. There’s no way to accurately predict when they will occur. You can only trust your body and let nature take its course…

Occasionally, healing crises can be extremely intense, especially when they occur late into a fast. When this happens, it’s critically important to be able to (continues below)


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tell the difference between a healing crisis and a sign from your body urging you to stop the fast. This is where working with an experienced water fasting coach can really help. If it’s a healing crisis, you should ideally try and push through. If it’s not, you should stop immediately!

Not every healing is accompanied by a dramatic healing crisis. Sometimes symptoms of illness and trauma simply begin to disappear. In cases like this – when no clear sign indicates that you’ve obviously freed yourself from a health issue – it can be difficult to know when to end the fast. This is another reason why it’s advisable to consider conducting any extended fast under some kind of supervision: from (1) a fasting coach like myself and, ideally, also from (2) a medical doctor who understands water fasting. The other main reason for working with a professional is to make sure you don’t overstep your body’s nutritional capabilities, as a prolonged fast begins to reach its physical limits.

The dangers of fasting too long:

If you continue fasting indefinitely there comes a point where the fast turns into starvation. You obviously don’t want to overstep this mark! For when your fat stores are finally depleted, the body has no choice other than to devour muscle tissue, as well as feed from your inner organs. You’ll do yourself serious damage. Fortunately, though, the body sends a clear sign: extreme hunger. Although it’s unlikely you’ll miss this red flag, two other less obvious scenarios also demand the end of a fast – and it’s here, again, that fasting under supervision can help. The first possibility is that you run out of muscle tissue before you deplete your fat stores. In order to power your body as a whole, it’s true that ketosis is extremely efficient. The problem is that the brain demands another fuel entirely: glucose. And this cannot easily be metabolised from fat tissue. Instead, the body must extract it out of muscle. The second possibility is that you deplete your electrolytes (blood salts). Although unlikely, it’s extremely dangerous! For this reason it’s advisable to have your blood tested at relatively regular intervals after the first 7-10 days of fasting.

Refeeding:

After you break an extended fast, it’s extremely important to follow a well structured meal plan. If you return too quickly to a normal diet, you risk encountering both digestive problems as well as ‘refeeding syndrome’. This is a potentially fatal complication caused by the change from ketosis back to your everyday metabolism. After an extended fast, the body cannot be rushed in this process. If you have any doubts, I offer a downloadable PDF which covers refeeding for any length of fast (link here).

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97 Comments

  1. J Swanson says

    Hi, thanks for the article! Could you share anything you’ve heard about stretch marks and loose skin healing and tightening up during/after a long water fast? Also, can there be any effect on moles or other skin blemishes? Thanks.

    • Tallis Barker Ph.D. says

      Hi,
      Glad you enjoyed the article. To answer your question, I’ve not specifically come upon the issue of stretch marks or loose skin from rapid weight loss. As far as moles or other skin blemishes go: absolutely, an extended water fast often works wonders. Clients often tell me about how they notice that a mole has simply disappeared or has fallen off. I’ve just finished working with a client who told me that a small facial scar disappeared during her 7-day water fast. This is extremely quick, even by water fasting standards, but scars and other skin issues do clear up on longer fasts. Serious eczema and psoriasis also respond well to extended water fasting.
      Hope this helps,
      Tallis

  2. Richard Graham says

    Hi Tallis,

    My wife just started fasting about 30 hours ago to relieve inflammation but she doesn’t have a gallbladder and she’s had fairly consistent diarrhea since she started the fast. What advice would you give to someone that wants to fast but has had their gallbladder removed? Thanks!

    • Tallis Barker Ph.D. says

      Hi Richard,

      I’ve had clients who have had their gallbladders removed, and it doesn’t cause a problem per se. I’m afraid I can’t speak for the particulars of your wife. Some people simply experience diarrhea for a day or two as the cleansing begins – especially if the pre-fast diet wasn’t the best. Theoretically, a lack of a gallbladder could accelerate the flow of bile (which during a water fast contains toxins) into the GI tract, and, if so, this could lead to diarrhea. However, this does seem unlikely here, considering that the diarrhea begin so soon after beginning the fast. There wouldn’t really have been enough time for that degree of cleansing to take place.

      Hope it clears up soon. If she continues the fast it would be important to make sure she hydrates well. Also, if she’s planning on specifically an extended fast, it might be worth checking her electrolytes. Electrolytes normally remain extremely stable during a fast, but it’s possible that the diarrhea has led to a loss of certain mineral salts.

      All the best,
      Tallis

  3. Robin Beers says

    I am wondering if you have any insights into extended fasting to cure epilepsy. I have had a seizure disorder since age 22 (now 59). It has gotten progressively better as I cleaned up my diet, went keto, lost all my excess weight, and now I have gone carnivore. I’m now on a one-meal-a-day protocol with a 2-3 day fast about twice a month. So, I’m pretty good at fasting and not afraid of it. I have been able to reduce my epilepsy meds substantially, now on 1/5 of what I used to take by milligrams.
    Any pointers?

    • Tallis Barker Ph.D. says

      Hi Robin,

      That’s a good question. I would suspect that if you’ve noticed that dietary change has improved your symptoms, then it’s likely that an extended water fast would likewise make a difference. The two often go hand in hand.

      That’s great you’ve already been able to reduce your meds by so much. Let’s hope you can go the final mile to full health!

      All the best,
      Tallis

      • Robin Beers says

        Thank you, Tallis
        Yes, neurological meds are very tricky to titrate off of because they can actually be addictive to the brain and cause seizures if withdrawn hastily. How messed up is that? Medication that is supposed to help your seizures can actually give you seizures.

        Any insights into how the body metabolizes medications while fasting? More slowly or faster?

        Robin

        • Tallis Barker Ph.D. says

          Hi again Robin,
          It’s going to depend on the pathways of the individual drug. The main thing is, it sounds like you’re going to need to come off the meds gradually. Nothing wrong with that!
          Tallis

  4. Shannon says

    How long to fast for lupus like symptoms. Could I fast for 2 days a week for a few months versus a 2 or 3 week fast

    • Tallis Barker Ph.D. says

      Hi Shannon,
      For any health issue which looks like Lupus or another chronic ‘autoimmune’ condition, an extended fast is almost always going to be much more effective. Depending on the severity of symptoms and the length of time you’ve had them, two days a week MAY start to have an impact over a much longer period of time. But in this case it could be at least several months before you saw much change. The best approach would be to start with the longest possible fast you can manage. If you don’t reach a full healing, you could follow it up with either (1) another extended fast later or (2) frequent shorter fasts.
      Hope this helps,
      Tallis

  5. Kevin says

    Hi Tallis, excellent site you have here! I’ve been learning a lot. A quick question for you – do you know of any precedent for someone being healed of tinnitus (ringing in the ears) through fasting. Mine started a few years back – not due to any loud noises. Doctors said it sometimes “just happens”. How about prostate issues? I’m 15 days into a water fast – going well. Just curious if these are things you’ve heard of successes in the past. Thanks!

    • Tallis Barker Ph.D. says

      Hi Kevin,

      Thanks for writing. I’m afraid I don’t have any direct experience with people fasting in order to heal tinnitus, but I suspect that an extended water fast would help. I do have clients who notice that they develop a degree of tinnitus during a water fast, which then resolves itself either later on during the fast itself or during the refeeding process. This is often caused by shifting electrolytes during the fast, which affects the way nervous impulses are passed through the body. It’s also quite common to experience tingling in the arms from time to time. The fact that fasting does impact on the nervous system, though, does suggest that given enough time the fast will help you resolve this issue!

      All the best on your fast,
      Tallis

  6. Hi Tallis, I’m on day 13 of my water fast. I am clinically obese, have celiac, and migraines and have been popping ibuprofen like candy for years since nothing else works with the migraines. I suffered a tbi after being hit by a drunk driver a few years ago and rather than just “accept my new normal” as doctors advised I wanted to try this for healing. I haven’t had any pain meds since starting the fast but I’m wondering how long it would take to heal my gut, brain, internal organs. I am still constantly bloated even two weeks in. I’ve lost about 15 lbs but have stalled. I’ve had itchy skin rashes joint pain but epsom salt baths have helped that. The hard stomach bloat bothers me and I’m surprised I still have it this far in. Any advice?

    • Tallis Barker Ph.D. says

      Hi Wildmountainthyme,

      Thanks for sharing. There’s no question that an extended fast is probably the best thing you can do to heal your gut, brain and internal organs. It does take time, though. For gut issues relating to IBS or colitis, you should start to see improvements from around 14 days, but often it takes closer to a month to enjoy long-term benefits or a full healing. If you’re referring to injuries to your gut, brain and internal organs caused by the accident, a lot is going to depend on their severity. For neurological issues, you might need 40 days, or even two extended fasts. As daunting as this might sound, this is surely still better than just accepting “the new normal”.

      Without having coached you until now, it’s hard to say what is causing the hard stomach bloat. The day-to-day contact of coaching would have made it easier to venture a guess, and then, based on this, come up with a solution to address it. However, it may relate to a build-up of toxins in the gut or gasses from gut flora, as they die off.

      Hope this helps,
      Tallis

      • Steph says

        How closely together can you do two extended fasts? I am wanting to do a 30 day detox/healing fast in March, but would really like to do another 14-30 days in May. Is this ok to do?

        • Tallis Barker Ph.D. says

          Hi Steph,

          Good question! The way I would look at it is that if you can do 40+ days on a single fast, then there’s no reason why you couldn’t manage what you’re proposing (assuming that you’re a generally healthy person with no serious medical conditions).

          What I usually recommend to clients is that they wait at least until they’ve returned to their pre-fast weight before taking on another fast. If you’re fasting to lose weight, then I would usually recommend that you wait at least double the length of the fast itself before doing another fast. This is really just playing it safe, to make sure that you have time to stock up on all the nutrients you won’t be receiving during the subsequent fast.

          For shorter fasts, there’s no need to stick to this ‘rule’ of doubling the time between fasts. Often a 1:1 ratio is plenty. For instance, I’ve had clients who have thrived on a 3-day fast every week for over a year. (This is not something to be recommended for everyone, but for specific chronic health problems it can be the best way forward.)

          All the best,
          Tallis

  7. Leah says

    I’m on day 11 of an extended fast. I’m very overweight, obese, and have been dealing with severe allergies for the last couple of years…which I swear made me fatter!
    Anyway, I’m feeling worse today than I have the whole fast. I suspect I’m in a healing crisis. I don’t look forward to these, but after reading your article, I’m prepared to go the long haul and recover from the damage I and my parents inflicted on my body.
    So far, I’ve lost 22 pounds. The last two days I haven’t lost anything, but last night and today I’m seeing more fecal matter expelled. I assume my intestines are clearing out completely. Very happy about that.

    • Tallis Barker Ph.D. says

      Hi Leah,
      Thanks for sharing. It’s often around Day 10-ish that toxic build-up can occur in the gut, which is what sounds like is happening in your case as well – especially if you’ve also been experiencing nausea and/or a heaviness/bloated feeling in the lower abdomen. When this happens the best thing is almost always to do an enema or colonic. This should fix things in literally a matter of minutes.
      Hang in there!
      Tallis

  8. Tosha says

    Hi,

    I am looking into fasting to help heal chronic viral infections characterized by swollen painful, lymph nodes, burning eyes and head and achiness everywhere. I have five children and homeschool. I can take a break from that but am constantly on my feet cooking, cleaning and taking care of my family. Would I still be able to take care of my family while doing a ten day water fast?

    I also have low blood sugar and have been told that I should never fast but I feel like the water fast would be good for me. Thanks.

    Tosha

    • Tallis Barker Ph.D. says

      Hi Tosha,

      It sounds like a water fast would help things, especially given that your symptomology affects your whole body, indicating that your poor immune system is struggling. There’s a good chance you could manage a 10-day water fast at home, but if you don’t mind me saying so, it sounds like you would benefit from the support and daily advice of coaching.

      Low blood sugar probably isn’t an issue, but is something which should be discussed before you do fast, as it will certainly impact on the first few days of how you experience things.

      All the best,
      Tallis

  9. C says

    as a sufferer of pcos i have all the issues involved, weight gain, hirtusim, insulin resistance & more. will fasting help? & if so how long until i see relief ?

    • Tallis Barker Ph.D. says

      Hi C,
      I’ve worked with numerous clients with ovarian cysts, and fasting does tend to bring significant improvement, including full healing. There’s no way to guarantee that by day ‘x’ you’ll have healed, but in my experience an extended fast is always necessary: somewhere in the region of a month or so, depending on general health, age, toxic load, etc. Using elements of dry fasting within the water fast can accelerate healing further, but this is not something I would recommend without expert guidance.
      All the best,
      Tallis

  10. Jessa says

    I have a cystic kidney disease (PKD)… Doctors say it’s incurable, Biological Father dies from it… I have meddled in fast due to obedience to God but wonder if an extended fast would cure this….

    • Tallis Barker Ph.D. says

      Hi Jessa,

      Thanks for writing. I’ve never worked with anyone who suffers from polycystic kidney disease, and so can’t speak from direct experience. What I can say is that I’ve frequently seen the way that fasts can cleanse/heal the body from cysts in general. However, in order for this to be successful most people need to fast for an extended period (several weeks not days). I’ve also developed a method of fasting which includes periods of dry fasting within an extended water fast. This greatly increases the efficacy of the fast, especially when dealing with cysts and other pathological growths within the body. Having said this, PKD is caused by genetic factors, and so I suspect that unfortunately any cysts healed by the fast would likely be replaced by new ones in time.

      So, to answer your question about whether an extended fast would fully cure this: I really don’t know. I suspect that you could improve your condition, but the problem would be in the long term return of the disease.

      All the best,
      Tallis

  11. Jon Walz says

    I very much enjoyed this article, When I fast for 4-5 days I experience severe intestinal cramping at the end of the fast. What can I do to prevent this?

    • Tallis Barker Ph.D. says

      Hi Jon,
      There can be various reasons for why cramping can occur during refeeding, but it’s almost always a question of overloading your digestive system before it’s ready. This can be in terms of (1) reintroducing particular food groups before your body is able to produce the enzymes necessary to digest them and/or (2) simply reintroducing too much of any food. If you need more help, I offer a pdf on refeeding in the waterfasting.org shop.
      All the best,
      Tallis

  12. Emily C. says

    Hi Tallis,

    I’m wondering if extended fasting (and coaching) will be helpful for me.

    According to my dentist I have an abscessed tooth which was due to a deep filling that presumably got infected. The tooth has been “hot” for a couple of years – ever since they did the filling.

    The dentist says nothing is to be done except root canal or extraction, both of which I would like to avoid.

    Prior to going that route, I have started fasting and doing some other home remedies for it (urine, MMS, Oil Pulling), etc. I’m on day 3 of my fast and am wondering how long to go. My family is very nervous both about my fasting and the tooth infection spreading.

    So far, my tooth has stopped hurting but the gums around the root are still sensitive to pressure. The dentist said it could be hurting less because the nerve is dying back and also she doesn’t think infection inside the tooth can be fixed. (She doesn’t know how to address it).

    I’m wondering if you think this is something that can be successfully addressed by fasting.

    I look forward to your feedback.

    Have a wonderful day!

    Emily

    • Tallis Barker Ph.D. says

      Hi Emily,

      Hope your tooth isn’t causing you too much grief at the moment!

      The reason that it’s not hurting so much now is because by Day 3 of a water fast, the inflammation caused by the abscess will have already improved. This in turn puts less pressure on the nerve and so it doesn’t hurt so much. I suspect it has absolutely nothing to do with the nerve dying back!

      In terms of the bigger issue – the infection itself – it’s unlikely that much has really happened at this point. Your body simply hasn’t had enough time to do the work: (1) your healing metabolism is still only coming to life and (2) your body will prioritize general cleansing before turning to deeper, specific health issues.

      Despite this, I have seen abscesses heal from water fasting. In my experience, though, this is something which is more likely to take place much later into a fast: usually from around Day 20. There are never any guarantees with water fasting, but my advice would be to continue fasting (unless there are contraindications) until you start to feel the pain receding more fully, at which point it would be worth working with a sympathetic dentist who could check whether the infection has completely healed. Do be prepared for a long-ish haul, though.

      Hope this helps,
      Tallis

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