7-Day Water fast and its Benefits
A 7-day (one-week) water fast can be taken up by those who are well versed with the benefits of the shorter one day and three day water fasts. A 1-week fast is more intense than a 3 day fast, but is definitely easy for those who have prior experience with shorter fasts. It is advisable to take help from a doctor or a certified naturopath before undertaking long fasts. If done with care, a one week fast can give immense physical, mental and spiritual benefits.
Preparation for a one week (7 day) water fast
Longer fasts are recommended in traditional medicine like naturopathy for its various health benefits. In such cases, the fasting is done under the supervision of a qualified doctor and one can follow the instructions from the doctor. You may do this at home, if you have prior experience with at least a 5 day fast. Ideally it should be done in a naturopathy center, under the supervision of a certified instructor.
Please note that breaking the fast is equally important. It may take roughly 4 – 5 days to come back to normal diet after the fast. So, be prepared to spend a total of 11 – 12 days for the entire process.
The first and foremost is preparing your mind for the practice. The first step is to overcome the fears about attempting long fasts. Get guidance from an expert to gain the confidence. It is good to understand the basic principles of fasting and the various bodily reactions during the fast. There are plenty of books on natural healing to help you with that. Also, read up on the testimonials of those who have attempted long fasts and learn about their experiences. That will give one confidence, to take up this practice.
A healthy human being can go for weeks without food. Hence a one week fast should not be difficult, if done carefully. Once you complete the fast, you will experience the great health benefits that accompany it. If you have a serious illness, consult your physician first, before you attempt fasting. Those with certain contraindications like tuberculosis and other deficiency diseases should not take up long term fasts. Also pregnant women should avoid long term fasts.
How to do a one week (7 day) water fast?
In a one week fast, you must drink only water for 7 full days. No solid food or other liquids that contain nutrition (like fruit juices, milk, etc.) are allowed. Simple pure mineral water is good. You can also use boiled and cooled water. One should drink enough plain water (an average of 2 or more liters) in one full day, according to one’s capacity. Slightly warm water is also good to aid the cleansing process.
Continue this for 7 full days.
Body reactions and experiences during a one week (7 day) fast
If you are attempting a one week fast for the first time, be prepared for few body reactions during the process. As a habit, the body is used to consuming food at regular intervals. When there is sudden lack of food intake, you may feel weakness, dizziness, nausea, etc which is quite normal. Sometimes you may feel very energetic, but the very next moment you may feel weak. These fluctuations are common and normal. There may be also a drop in blood pressure and slight headaches. One need not get frightened with these reactions. You should take rest or lie down, when ever these symptoms become intense. Consult a doctor if these reactions are too intense.
One may even feel a sudden bout of hunger. To overcome it, just drink one or two glasses of water. Then lie down and take rest. The hunger should go away in a short time. If the hunger keeps recurring, consult your doctor. You can discontinue the fast if the hunger is unbearable. But in most cases, it is not a serious issue.
These symptoms are more intense in the first 3 – 5 days. After about 3 days the digestive fire begins to slow down and becomes weak. Usually after 3 -5 days the hunger bouts may disappear. After 5 days one may even feel very light with total lack of hunger. This may vary from person to person. One may feel a great sense of well- being. One may even feel energetic enough to play a game of badminton. But do not exert yourself at this stage. You may take light walks instead. Do some light tasks like working on your laptop or watching television instead.
Food craving is another common reaction. One starts thinking of various types of tasty food and how to prepare them. You may experience this even if you are not feeling hungry. One may even day dream of going to various restaurants and eating some special dishes. These are normal. Do not fight these thoughts. Just give some distraction to the mind, like watching a movie, television, music, etc.
Fasting is a time for intense cleansing at physical and mental level. The body has a natural mechanism to throw out toxins from the body during the healing process. These toxins are mostly thrown out through digestive system into the intestines. At this time, one gets a thick white coating on the tongue. The coating may remain even after scrapping the tongue. This is a sign that the toxins are being eliminated.
An enema, few times a week (or on alternate days), is advised by the doctors during this time to speed up the removal of toxins which are accumulated in the large intestine.
The toxins may also get removed through the lungs. At that time one may get foul breath which may last for a day or two.
One may feel nausea at times, which may be caused by acidity in the stomach. This acidity can be removed by cleaning the stomach through a simple process. Just drink a liter or more of slightly warm salt water and vomit it all out. This is called Kunjal Kriya or Vaman Kriya in yoga and is a common practice in both ayurveda and naturopathy to cleanse the stomach.
During the seven days, the mind can also throw up lot of impressions from the subconscious and unconscious mind. These impressions can cause strong emotions. One has to take a witness attitude towards these thoughts and emotions. Remember, the mind is going through a cleansing process. Give the mind some healthy distraction during such times and it should be fine.
Please understand that these are normal reactions during long term fasts. Continue the 7-day fast with courage.
How to break a one week (7 day) fast?
Breaking the fast is as important as the fast itself. When the body goes without food for seven days, the digestive fire becomes weak. At that time, one cannot eat or digest large quantities of food. It will be like a shock to the system, if you consume solid food. So one has to gradually increase the digestive fire and bring it back to normal.
The first step is to increase the digestive fire. This is done by breaking the fast by drinking lemon juice or orange juice. Only lemon or orange juice should be taken about 3 – 5 times in a day. If one feels too much hunger, add half a spoon of pure honey to the juice, to get some calories.
Continue this for the second day too.
On the third day after the fast, one can go on light vegetable soups, coconut water or fruit juice 3 – 5 times in a day. Some may also be able to take light milk (milk with equal amount of water), while some may find it hard to digest.
On the fourth day, one can have fruits and boiled vegetables as they are easy to digest.
On the fifth day onwards one can get back to normal diet along with fruits and boiled vegetables. At this point one has to be careful. There is a tendency to overeat and overload the stomach. One can eat smaller amounts a number of times, rather than eating too much once or twice. One should eat in moderation and slowly come back to the regular food habits.
Benefits of a one week (7 day) Water Fast
- Long term water fasts are known to solve chronic health problems like dyspepsia, loss of appetite, diarrhea, colic, gastritis, inflammation of bowels, sinusitis, allergies, skin problems, diabetes, migraine, joint pains, gas problem, constipation, etc. One should consult a qualified doctor or naturopath and discuss one’s health issues before attempting long term fasts.
- Fasts give a much needed rest to the digestive system. It helps to repair and heal all the organs of the body. Toxins are removed and one feels improved energy and vigor.
- Fasting can improve immunity and gives longevity. It can improve the texture and glow of the skin.
- Fasting is the easiest way to lose weight. One may lose anything from 3 – 5 kg during a 7-day fast. But you will gain back most of this weight once you return to normal food. Following a controlled diet after the fast can help in maintaining the reduced weight. Fasting can also be integrated with yoga management for further benefits. See articles – Obesity and Yoga Management & Pranayama for Weight Loss.
- During the fast, one gets to observe the mind closely. It helps to understand of our food habits and cravings. This understanding helps to control the diet after the fast, thereby helping in weight loss.
- Many practice long term fasts for spiritual reasons. Fasting is a time of introspection and emotional cleansing. One has to maintain the witness attitude and watch the various thoughts and emotions thrown out from the subconscious mind. By witnessing, the blocked energies are released and the negative mental impressions become weaker.