Safety is critical in many areas of our lives – fasting is one of them.

I fast every month for a minimum of 72 hours. Most months, I end up over 100 hours. I fast by drinking only water and unsweetened iced tea. Once I reach 72 hours without food, I decide whether I want to go further. Last month I went 142 hours.

Why do I do it? The prime reason is to reset my immune system. I also do it to improve my insulin resistance. And, of course, there are those three or four pounds that get lost along the way. I have been doing this for at least three years. Is extended fasting safe?

Safety in Long Duration Fasting? Two years ago, a study was published by the United States National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health (NIH) about safety, health improvement, and well-being during fasts from four to twenty-one days. This study reviewed over 1,400 participants in a medically supervised specialized clinic.

The fasting was slightly different than the 72-hour-fast I do monthly and allowed low-calorie meals that simulated fasting. Dr. Valter Longo, Professor of Gerontology and Biological Sciences at the University of California has a similar program that he calls fasting-mimicking – the body thinks it is on a total fast (no food) but is eating limited calories at each meal.

This NIH study used the Buchinger Wilhelmi therapeutic fasting program as the fasting protocol. ( The program lasted one year and the test subjects were grouped into fasting lengths – five, ten, fifteen, and twenty-day groups. Each person was limited to 200-250 calories daily. Clinical evaluations of health and well-being were recorded daily.

Weight, abdominal circumference, blood pressure, pulse, hunger, complaints, and more were examined. Blood tests included ketone bodies, lipids, glucose, triglycerides, cholesterol, white blood cells, red blood cells, hemoglobin, c-reactive protein, electrolytes, and more.

Prolonged Fasting and Longevity Animal studies demonstrated that intermittent and extended fasting increases the lifespan of many animals. Cognitive performance, cardiovascular health, physical performance, diabetes, obesity, tissue damage, and more were assessed on several longevity studies involving both intermittent and extended fasting.

Health benefits such as blood pressure, resting heart rate, maintain muscle mass, running endurance, as well as diabetes, and obesity prevention were observed in all scenarios.

Prolonged Fasting Safety Regardless of our lifestyle choices, we should always be wary of making immediate and substantive changes. Skipping a meal now and then is one thing. However, going on a water-only diet for two weeks is another. I started out with a 24-hour fast, then increased it to 48 hours, then onto my goal of 72 hours.

Be safe and sensible about any attempt at fasting for more than 24 hours, otherwise, the law of unintended consequences can bite you in the butt. If not in good health, do not start any type of intermittent or extended fast without consulting your doctor.

When we limit calories, our bodies shift from a glucose-based energy system to a ketone-based system to meet our daily energy needs. We live on the nutrients we have stored in our bodies. Many people love the ketogenic diet because they lose weight and inches quickly. However, if you are not overweight, the fat storage on your body might be a factor to consider.

Hydration is a critical item when fasting for more than 24 hours. Electrolyte depletion can be an issue. Our bodies need calcium, chloride, magnesium, phosphates, potassium, and sodium.

Food provides these minerals. Restricting food can create an electrolyte disorder with symptoms of fast or irregular heartbeat, fatigue, lethargy, nausea, vomiting, confusion, irritability, muscle cramping or weakness, and many more. When these symptoms occur, stop fasting! Seek medical attention immediately before serious health issues arise.

Be smart about what you are doing to your body. A 24-hour fast may be as much as you can do to start. Lots of people fast for 15-18 hours daily (intermittent fast). Others may fast on specific days of the week – Wednesdays and Saturdays. There are many options. Research the topic of extended fasting so you are aware of any symptoms that can put you in danger. Done properly, extended fasting can improve metabolic disease, increase clarity and focus, as well as dropping a few pounds and inches. However, it can be a two-edged sword that can slice the wrong way when done without knowledge and preparation.


I see different schools of thought in researching this topic. Nutritionists see nothing but danger and damage for anything associated with an extended fast (multiple days). Some researchers see the results and want to develop a drug that will accomplish the same thing. However, health scientists and researchers have conducted extended fasting and longevity studies and found remarkable health and anti-aging benefits.

Some scientists and nutritionists believe that the body must be fed daily. Some advocate four, five, or six meals a day. I believe that hurts the body because it keeps your blood glucose levels high and exacerbates the liver by working without any rest and recovery.

An extended fast causes several changes in the body. As the body goes into starvation mode, it signals for the destruction and removal of non-functioning cells and inefficient DNA. If the body will have to survive without food for longer periods of time, it wants all systems working properly, not supporting cells in the body that are not adding any value to survival.

The immune system white blood cells are depleted during an extended fast. Upon reaching a specific lower level, the immune system activates stem cells to regenerate new white blood cells. This process was confirmed repeatedly over a six-month period.

The University of California has been testing the use of an extended 72-hour fast in conjunction with chemotherapy. The extended fast and chemo individually produce similar results. When combined, the results are superior to individual treatments.

Some people have difficulty fasting for 24 hours. I spend about two days visualizing what I want to do regarding fasting. I drink unsweetened iced tea and water only during my fasts. I have no hunger pangs or even inclinations to eat. During my normal eating cycles, I can drive by a restaurant or grocery store and see/feel/almost taste something that I want to eat. When on an extended fast, I have no such inclinations. It is like my memory cells have been erased from those pleasures.

Many studies show that extended fasting can yield exceptional health and wellness benefits. For those who want to know, the longest fast on record was done in 1971 when a medically supervised water-only diet allowed a man to fast for 382 days. He went from 456 to 180 pounds.

Live Longer & Enjoy Life! – Red O’Laughlin –



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