A Fast Way to Health -- Water-only Fasting

Alan Goldhamer, D.C., Director TrueNorth Health Center | 04/24/12

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Fasting to achieve physical and psychological health benefits has been practiced for thousands of years. However, until recently, scientists had not systematically evaluated its effectiveness. Ongoing research is now confirming that fasting, in conjunction with other important healthful practices--such as eating a plant-based, SOS-free diet (salt, oil, and sugar-free diet)--offers tremendous benefits. As the director of TrueNorth Health Center, the oldest and largest inpatient facility specializing in medically-supervised fasting in the United States, I have seen how effective fasting can be in both building and restoring health. Over the past thirty years, I have supervised the fasts of over 10,000 patients.

Fasting defined
Therapeutic fasting (also called “water-only fasting”) is the complete abstinence from all substances except pure water in an environment of complete rest. It is important to emphasize that simply abstaining from food—even for a few days—while continuing to work, exercise, and worry about day-to-day cares is not therapeutic fasting. Likewise, eating only certain foods or drinking only juices is not therapeutic fasting. Juice diets and “elimination” diets can be healthful, but they are not the same as therapeutic fasting. The physiological and clinical benefits are different.

When to fast
The clearest indication for fasting is the loss of appetite that characterizes acute disease. Fasting is extremely effective in helping to quickly resolve the problems that cause symptoms like fever, inflammation, and other temporary pains. It can be very helpful to stop eating until the crisis has resolved and hunger returns. That might mean skipping a meal or two, or it might mean skipping many meals. Fasting also has been proven to be effective in a variety of other situations, including helping the body to heal itself from high blood pressure, diabetes, and autoimmune diseases including lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, asthma, eczema, and psoriasis. Fasting gives your body the opportunity to purify and heal its tissues and to eliminate undesirable tissue accumulations and growths.

The most important advice for anyone considering a fast is this: If you are going to fast, do it right, or don’t do it at all. To maximize the benefits of therapeutic fasting, complete rest is essential. Complete rest is hard to get in a noisy, high stress, and/or nonsupportive environment, so finding a safe, supportive environment is necessary if you want to get the most from your body’s self-healing mechanisms.

Who should fast
The decision to undertake a fast should be made in consultation with a knowledgeable physician, ideally one who is certified in fasting supervision. The procedure we follow at TrueNorth Health Center is to review the patient’s medical history and perform a comprehensive physical examination, including appropriate laboratory and specialized diagnostic tests. The findings then are reviewed with the patient, and appropriate recommendations are made. These may include dietary and lifestyle changes, exercise programs, and, when indicated, fasting.

You don’t have to be seriously ill to benefit from a supervised fast. A fast can be of great help if you need to make lifestyle changes to achieve improved health. Fasting for as few as five days often will dramatically shorten the time it takes to make the transition from a conventional diet and lifestyle (with all of the associated addictions, pains, fatigue, and disease) to the independent and energetic state associated with healthful living. People who undertake a fast in a supervised setting tend to achieve health more quickly than those who attempt changes without a fast.

Where to fast
Once you have made a decision to fast, selecting a facility that will meet your requirements is paramount. TrueNorth Health Center provides an ideal environment for those undertaking a fast. In addition, it provides knowledgeable medical, psychological, and other therapeutic care as needed and (when you start eating again) healthful meals designed especially for you by expert chefs. As a bonus, TrueNorth Health Center provides daily lectures on healthful living that will teach you how to continue living healthfully when you return home.

For more information, visit the TrueNorth Health Center website or get a copy of our book, The Pleasure Trap.

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About the author
Dr. Alan Goldhamer is the founder and director of TrueNorth Health Center, a state-of-the-art facility that provides medical, naturopathic, chiropractic, and psychotherapy services.

Dr. Goldhamer has supervised the fasts of more than 10,000 patients. Under his guidance, TrueNorth has become one of the premier training facilities for doctors wishing to gain certification in the supervision of therapeutic fasting. He is on the faculty at Bastyr University where he teaches the course on clinical fasting. He was the principal investigator in two landmark studies: “Medically Supervised Water-Only Fasting in the Treatment of Hypertension,” Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics June 2001 and "Medically Supervised Water-Only Fasting in the Treatment of Borderline Hypertension," Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine October 2002. Currently, he is directing a prospective study on cost and clinical outcomes in the treatment of diabetes and high blood pressure with fasting and a plant-based, SOS-free diet.

Dr. Goldhamer is a graduate of Western States Chiropractic College in Portland, Oregon. He is the co-author of The Pleasure Trap: Mastering The Hidden Force That Undermines Health and Happiness and the author of The Health Promoting Cookbook.


6 Comments | Leave a comment


Water fasted a few days on my own, it was terrible, wouldn't want do it for a long stretch, I can see why people go to fasting clinics. But it did help shrink my stomach and helped me stop overeating, now I eat 3 reasonable meals a day and stop when I'm full and get full much quicker.


I did a fast alone without anyone's help. I researched it online for information before doing it.

I fasted 10 days on water alone. On the third day there is a smell of alcohol from your mouth, when the body switches to ketosis. I only was hungry for the first day. From the second day no hunger at all, and you have no appetite.

Every day at evening I did an enema. This must be done in order to get out the small pieces of waste that the body generates by eating the bad tissues. If you don't do it then after the 3rd day the toxins from the waste start to get into the bloodstream and you can have headaches and intoxication. If you do the enemas there won't be this problem.

When doing the enemas a careful note should be put upon doing it right. The small intestine should be also irrigated. This should be done by relaxing to let the Ileocecal valve to open and get the water to the small intestine. If you don't do it then actually you don't do the enema to the whole colon.

I have lost 7kg (15lb) in 10 days. Careful note should be put on the food you eat when breaking the fast. The longer the fast the more gradual the returning to your ordinary diet should be.

I broke it with baby food. If you eat a peace of bread when breaking the fast, you can die. The stomach is weak.

Rest and calm environment is necessary also because there is also the moral, psychological effect of the fast. I believe if it's not done right in calm environment without stress, It can do harm.

After doing the fast for half a year I felt a kind of euphoria, lightness, more strength, energy, clear mind and calmness. This was so amazing that only if you do it, you will understand me.

The water only, Therapeutic fasting is called the "Surgeons blade of the nature" because it allows the body to "eat" bad tissue grows of many kinds in the body and heal itself without surgery.

Hope it helps someone.


The liver uses nutrients from example cruciferous vegetables to bind to toxins so the toxins can be eliminated in the stool. With "water" only nutrition, how is the liver going to be able to remove toxins? We gradually shifted to a vegan diet no detox required.


Detoxification takes place throughout the body. The liver is just one component in the system of toxin elimination. Also, detoxification is always taking place, not just when fasting.

Not taking in nutrients does not mean that the body has no nutrients at its disposal. The body has stores of nutrients in different places. Protein is stored in muscles, fat in fat depots, carbohydrates as glycogen in the liver and in muscles. Fat-soluble vitamins are stored with fat, and other vitamins and minerals are stored in the bones and in other cells. With adequate dietary nutrition the body stores all of the nutrients it needs continue functioning optimally through a fast. So the liver, blood, and other tissues and cells that are continually detoxifying call upon bodily stores of nutrients (and metabolism shifts to ketosis).

When water fasting, the body continues detoxification, just as it was doing before the fast. The difference is that the toxic load is reduced. All foods (and air, water) contain toxins that the body must eliminate, else humans would not breath, urinate or defecate. The difference is that the incoming toxic load is reduced since no food is being taken in. A portion of the energy of those bodily processes that are involved in detoxification, which previously was directed at food, is redirected to tissues of the body.

Your body was and is detoxing, both before and after your switch to a vegan diet.


Oh, we exercise 6 days a week, my wife triathlons and does 5k races she's 73. I bike hills, I'm 77 plus fitness exercise. We certainly need healthy nutrition before biking so we don't "bonk" on the hills, and nutrition after exercising with weights & cardio to replace energy consumed. We feel fine. No meds. As in previous comment, we're vegans, no detox called for. No way "water" nutrition will work for us. And our BMI's are spot on (well, my wife is a bit light).


very good

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