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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34 Comments

  1. 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

  2. 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

  3. 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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