The 7-10 day water fast

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After you feel comfortable with 3 day water fasts and your body can make the switch to ketosis without much fuss (more info here), then it’s time to consider the 7-10 day water fast. For it’s only after you begin drawing solely on the energy of fat cells that the process of detoxification can kick into a higher gear (more info here) and you can reap the greatest benefits of a water fast. This means that a 3 day fast simply isn’t enough to confront any deeper issues you want to heal.

If you’ve found it difficult to get through your first few three-day water fasts, it’s only understandable that the thought of a 7-10 day fast seems even more daunting. For this reason, I offer private online consultations and coaching for water fasting. Alternatively – and even better for getting the deepest experience out of your fast – is to attend a fasting retreat.

What happens during a 7-10 day water fast?

Despite any doubts and fears emotionally, physically 7-10 day fasts tend to go more smoothly than you might first expect (so long as you’re healthy and don’t have any serious issues with detox). This is because your body does the hardest work in the first three days while it establishes ketosis – during which your fuel tanks are also running on empty. From the third day on, ketosis continues to become increasingly efficient, and so you’ll begin to feel lighter and fuller with energy. Increasingly, the fast feels like a celebration of freedom from the daily need to eat food. This freedom, as well as a lighter body and clearer consciousness, can feel so good that many people actually experience a sense of reluctance in returning to food at the end of the fast. There really is a beautiful purity about just being, without the needs and addictions of food distracting you, weighing you down.

As your healing metabolism firmly establishes itself by the end of the third day, the digestive system is in the midst of shutting down its normal function. As a result, most hunger pangs usually (but not always) subside significantly after this point. Given that digestion comes to a halt, it’s also extremely important to consider how and what you eat in the transition period both before and after any fast longer than three days. The transition into a fast is important because you don’t want your digestive system to shut down with food still remaining inside the intestines. It will rot inside you. Not a pretty thought. And as it rots, the toxic by-products aren’t going to help your body – precisely when you’re trying to detoxify. The transition out of a fast is important because (continued below)


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your digestive system is hibernating. It can’t digest. You have to wake it up slowly and with respect, eating small portions of easily digestible foods. Otherwise, you’ll be sorry! Just as any food remaining in the gut at the beginning of a longer fast will rot, so a similar situation can occur now too. Anything other than juices or the simplest fruits and vegetables will sit in your stomach, until your digestive system is able to cope. This can and will take days. After fasting, I find that the transition time back to normal eating with a normal appetite is similar in length to that of the fast itself.

I remember the exuberance of celebrating the end of my very first 7 day water fast by eating pizza. It weighed like an anchor in my stomach for literally days afterwards… Needless to say, I learned my lesson afterwards!

The 7-10 day water fast in greater detail:

Days 1-3:
Of course, the first three days of a 7-10 day water fast generally follows the process described in the three-day water fast. With experience, though, it will become much easier – even enjoyable – and the process to complete the switch to ketosis will accelerate.

Days 4-6:
After fully entering ketosis, your body can devote greater resources to healing and detox. You’ll know when this happens ;-). Your breath will stink. Your sweat and general body odour will stink, as your skin releases toxins which may have been locked up inside you for literally most of your life. No, it’s not a very social occupation! But directly experiencing the repulsive things coming out of your body can make you appreciate how good it is to be free of them! It will give you the willpower to continue fasting in the future, no matter how hard it may have been in the beginning. I myself became a convert to water fasting on day four / five of my first seven day water fast, when my tongue began to produce a foul metallic-tasting froth. It tasted literally like poison.

Detox can also make the kidneys and muscles ache, but generally this is much more bearable than during the first three days, when you’re lower on energy. You’ll probably find there are periods when physically you actually feel great, with a clear and still consciousness, and then this will pass into a period of deeper cleansing when you feel weaker and heavier. During longer fasts, things always change. From hour to hour. From day to day. There’s no apparent logic to it, so don’t try to analyse. Just trust your body and go with the flow. It knows what it’s doing: how and what to detox, where to heal, and when to take breaks in between these more intensive periods.

Days 7-10:
You might be wondering why I’ve not listed a ‘5 day water fast’ or something similar here on this website. If you’d like to try four or five days, then by all means do! Every day of fasting does you good! But it’s because of the benefits of what often happens around the end of the first week of fasting that, in my opinion, it’s worth aiming for a period of 7-10 days. It’s at this point that you may experience a so-called ‘healing crisis‘. This occurs when your body has moved beyond the simple ‘house-cleaning’ of everyday toxins, and has started to tackle deeper illnesses, injuries and traumas (both physical and emotional). This is also described in the article on extended fasts.

What is a healing crisis?

A healing crisis consists of symptoms of an (old) illness returning or temporarily intensifying during the fast itself. This can be a little worrying, especially if you don’t understand what’s happening to you at the time. Nevertheless, it is perfectly normal. Think of it like this: fasting calls the illness forth from where it is otherwise locked physically into the depths of your body and/or emotionally into your subconscious. In calling it forth, you may temporarily experience the symptoms of the illness more acutely, but it is precisely through shaking it loose that you are then able to permanently expel the illness and truly heal. Western medicine can hardly ever achieve this to the same degree, because toxic (allopathic) drugs and physical procedures tend only to reduce or suppress symptoms. They do not deal with root causes of illness!

Occasionally, healing crises can be extremely intense. When this happens, it’s critically important to be able to 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 fasting coach like myself can really help. If it’s a healing crisis, you should ideally try and push through. If it’s not, you should stop immediately!

What about water fasts longer than 7-10 days?

Given the degree of detox and depth of healing which occurs during a 7-10 day water fast, there’s no need to contemplate longer fasts unless you’d like to address a serious medical issue or unless you feel the need to go deeper into your being spiritually. A weekly 24- or 36-hour fast (or regular intermittent fasting instead) combined with an occasional 7-10 day fast should be all that’s necessary in order to preserve good health. Exactly how frequently you conduct a 7-10 day fast is up to you, but please don’t violate your body by fasting before it’s ready – even if your rational mind believes it’s for a good cause. Once you’ve faced and overcome the basic physical and emotional challenges on shorter 1-3 day water fasts, you can begin to trust your body and what it wants. At this point, your body always knows best. When the time is right, you’ll feel an inner urge welling up inside yourself to do a 7-10 day fast. You’ll look forward to it. For some people this may be only once every few years, for others up to a couple of times per year. Just follow your inner calling.


— A stronger immune system (click here)
— Deeper states of consciousness (click here)
— The deepest detox (click here)
— Extended healing fasts (click here)

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212 responses to “The 7-10 day water fast”

  1. I have what might be a foolish question. In two of my fasts I had great constipation. The most recent, a ten day fast on the ninth day I felt strongly that I needed to poop. I tried to but I couldn’t, and it was very painful.

    I did an enema and was able to poop, but it was very painful, and the poop was large and hard. My prefast diet was mainly fruit and vegetables, however, three to four days before the fast I had a small steak. Is this possibly the cause of my constipation?

    I have done many fasts and this only occurred on two of them.

  2. This is great information. I recently went on a forty day fast, but on the thirty third day I had some problems, which turned out to be sodium defficiency. I only took water the entire 33 days, but I quit at the end of day 33.

    I know of many who claim on the internet you need to take salt every day. I think that’s foolish, but evidently I needed to take a little salt … had I done that I think I could have made my 40 days. I’m planning another 40 day fast, but this time I’m considering taking one himilayan salt water drink on the third week. Yout thoughts?

    1. Tallis Barker, D.Phil. Avatar
      Tallis Barker, D.Phil.

      Hi Adel,
      Thanks for writing. I’ve never had a client run into sodium deficiency except on rare occasions at around 40 days of fasting. Your pre-fasting diet may have played a role, as well as your pre-fasting intake of added sodium.
      Under normal circumstances, humans are designed to fast on plain water – just as we’ve done for hundreds of thousands of years, before the days that companies started trying to sell us electrolytes. Furthermore, taking electrolytes is usually not only unnecessary, but it also decreases the strength of both cleansing and healing.
      My suggestion would be to focus on your pre-fasting protocol next time.
      All the best,

  3. Thank you for your insightful post, Tallis. I am currently on day 5 of a water fast and am considering how long to go. Do you know of peer-reviewed literature that discusses the benefits at 6,7,8,9,10, etc. days relative to the benefits I am already seeing?

    1. Tallis Barker, D.Phil. Avatar
      Tallis Barker, D.Phil.

      Hi Stephen,
      Thanks for your question. No, I don’t know of any peer-reviewed literature covering specific benefits over specific days of a fast. Although you can find such claims on random blogs and on fasting apps, the truth is that I don’t believe any of it! Over the years of working with hundreds of clients, it’s clear that (1) different people experience different benefits at a different rate and (2) a fast doesn’t work on ‘x’ and then ‘y’ + ‘z’ sequentially. Rather, the fast works on multiple layers simultaneously, and it’s only a question of which particular level of cleansing/healing appears in the foreground in terms of symptoms and healing crises.
      Hope this helps,

  4. I water fast regularly, maybe 2-3 times a year. It always amazes me how it kicks inflammation and helps refocus my attitude toward eating healthier foods.
    I do have an issue that I don’t hear discussed so I wonder if it’s abnormal. I pretty much consistently dump bile throughout the fast via a bright yellow liquid
    through the bowels. Is this abnormal?

    1. Tallis Barker, D.Phil. Avatar
      Tallis Barker, D.Phil.

      Hi CJ,
      Thanks for writing. Glad that you find fasting to be a useful tool.
      One of the biggest changes which takes place during a fast is liver function, and this also has a knock-on effect to bile. For many people this does lead to a lot of it being produced during the fast, and clearly your body does not want to hold on to it – which is perfectly normal. However, it does suggest that perhaps your liver is overworked or stressed in everyday life, because a ‘happy’ liver would have less need to produce such a large quantity of bile while fasting.
      All the best,

  5. Love your site. Sharp contrast to the tonne of un-informed and mis-informed info around on this topic. I just wound up a 7-day water+sea salt (+1c/d coffee) water fast. Previously did a couple of 5-D, one 7-D and one 10-D, all quite easy. But this one kicked my butt. Extensive reading/googling can’t find relevant advice/explanations. Pre-fast 2 days of OMAD, low-carb. Fast day 1,2 smooth sailing, including moderate exercise. D3 ok, but excessive belching started. D4-5 belching worsened, deep and painful, 8-10/hr, with increasing acid reflux, also energy WAY down (previous fasts D3+ was energy up). D5 tried 1-2 spoons of homemade live yogurt and chamomile tea to quell the acid. Very slight improvement. D6 acid finally gone, belching down ~40%, flatulence replaced it. Energy still like the walking dead. D7, prior to evening fast-break, energy still awful, partner thought I was going to collapse. Broke with 3 very small feeds of roasted carrot/burdock root and avocado w/olive oil/vinegar dressing, spaced several hours. Energy and dizziness somewhat improved, expect tmrw should improve further. What the heck was going on? Suspect all this was somehow an epic battle amongst various gut denizens, but what might they have been metabolizing to convert to huge volumes of gas? My own intestinal epithelium or one another ? None of the experts in the several fasting books and many website have anything relevant. Wonder if you’ve any thoughts.. Thx

    1. Tallis Barker, D.Phil. Avatar
      Tallis Barker, D.Phil.

      Hi Reg,
      Thanks for sharing, and glad you’ve found the website useful. There are a variety of causes for gas during a fast. Yes, it might be die-off from your gut biome. It might also simply be from remnants of your last few meals, especially if you were on a keto diet and didn’t do much in the way of a dietary transition. Gas is also caused simply through the process of detox. Without going too much into the biochemistry of this, CO2 is a natural end-product of detox, and this takes place when the building blocks of acids (produced by cleansing) leach through the epithelial lining of the GI tract and react with the layer of mucous there.
      All the best,

  6. Hi, thanks for great info! I’m on my 6th day and have some questions.
    – My urine smells awful, like pork gone bad, is this normal? toxins?
    – The reason for fasting, is chronic inflammation in the knees, do you think this might cure it? How long would you recommend to go? I’ve already had some tension release in my back!

    1. Tallis Barker, D.Phil. Avatar
      Tallis Barker, D.Phil.

      Hi Aleks,
      Thanks for writing. Glad you’ve noticed some changes taking place :-). Yes, it’s totally normal for the smell of urine to change. It reflects higher acidity and toxins, and may well say something about your diet prior to the fast as well. To answer your other question: fasting is great for lowering inflammation, and I’m sure it will help your knees. The only question is whether the improvement will be temporary or permanent. It’s hard to say how long you’d need to fast, since this depends on how severe the issue is, how many other issues your body also has to work on (including simple toxic load if you’ve not already done much fasting) and the overall strength of your immune system.
      All the best,

  7. Hello, great site with great info. I have been doing 24H water fasts for almost 10 years. I decided to try 7 day fast. I feel normal, just slightly missing food. I am at the end of day 5. What i dont understand why there is no bowel movement from days before fasting. I feel warm feeling in my stomach or intestines but no bowel movement. I feel some urge but nothing is happening. Is not this unhealthy to hold to food that was processed and should be removed naturally? Why body stopped and does not empty the bowels?
    Any way to help it?

    1. Tallis Barker, D.Phil. Avatar
      Tallis Barker, D.Phil.

      Hi Bart,
      Apologies for the delay in responding. There’s been a glitch with messaging on the website recently.
      If your digestion switched off particularly quickly or if you didn’t introduce a pre-fasting dietary transition, then it certainly is possible to experience no bowel movements from the onset of the fast. Whether this is a problem or not is going to depend on the length of the fast and the quantity/quality of food you’d been eating before the fast. If it does turn out to be a problem, you’ll start to feel progressively lower energy levels (which can be difficult to distinguish from the normal lower energy levels of a fast) and some kind of abdominal symptom. If you have any doubts, you can always do a simple enema to solve the problem.
      All the best,

      1. thx for the reply. Digestion kicked in on the 6th day and I had 2 bowel movements that day. I felt great during the fast like nothing happened except the feeling of a need to go to the bathroom with no success at the begining. Was little bored due to no food but all went well. Slept well felt good. At day 7 and 20H body was signaling maybe you should continue but I stopped as I planned the food already. I used the recipes posted on your website to break it and it was all fantastic. Tomato soup was so simple and so good. Hard to tell if how my body benefited from it but I am glad that I tried and now I understand what means to not to eat for a longer time. Truth is I still don’t know what is starvation (7-8 days is too short) and I am grateful for all the food I always have.

        1. Tallis Barker, D.Phil. Avatar
          Tallis Barker, D.Phil.

          Hi again Bart,
          Glad everything went smoothly. There will definitely be health benefits, even if they’re not clearly visible on the surface. But even if the only benefit was a greater gratitude for the food you eat, that in itself is a huge gift 🙂

  8. HI, I am on day 8 of an intended 14+ day water only fast. I have had an embarrassing issue today, and am wondering if it means I am doing something wrong, or should end my fast immediately. First 7 days, as expected, nothing in, nothing out (on the solid side) but today at work I felt like I needed to pass gas, and I sharted (hope you are familiar with the term). Why, and how could I prevent this moving forward?

    1. Tallis Barker, D.Phil. Avatar
      Tallis Barker, D.Phil.

      Hi Phil,
      Thanks for sharing. Don’t worry, you’re not doing anything wrong. What’s happening is that, for a variety of reasons, toxins and waste-products are accumulating in the gut. This can lead to gas, mucous and liquid bile build-up, which can want to come out. The rest speaks for itself!
      No need to change anything – except to fast regularly, which will prevent toxins from excessively building up in the first place. Also, having an appropriate dietary transition before the fast can help.
      All the best,

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