Doctor Explains The Insane Benefits of Water-Only Fasting (Dr. Goldhamer)

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Doctor Explains The Insane Benefits of Water-Only Fasting
The Insane Benefits of Water-Only Fasting – Dr. Alan Goldhamer Graphic © Background photo: Pixabay (PD)

In a famous 1989 article by the Los Angeles Times, the U.S. surgeon general reported that the country had virtually eliminated most health problems associated with nutritional deficiencies. This was good news! But he also pointed out that a new threat had taken root—and it was related to dietary excess. As the article put it, “we are eating ourselves to death.” [1]

He was not exaggerating.

With the abundance of food supply that comes with modern conveniences, people are consuming more nutrients than the body needs for optimal metabolism, development, and growth. It gets more concerning when this nutritional excess is coupled with unhealthy food choices and sedentary lifestyle habits.

“Humans evolved in a very different environment than the one we live in today. Our bodies and our minds were perfectly designed for an environment of scarcity,” says Dr. Alan Goldhamer in an interview on the Rich Roll podcast. In the conversation, Dr. Goldhamer elaborates on the issue of overstimulation from dietary excess and how it’s linked to several health problems that plague our world today. He goes on to recommend water-only fasting as a remedy to help people get back on track to healthful living.

This article digs deeper into the idea of water-only fasting—including its potential benefits according to existing research and how to go about it

Water-Only Fasting

Water-only fasting is a restrictive food intake protocol tha, as the name states, encourages abstinence from all caloric substances.

You’re only supposed to drink pure water for the duration of the fast. Dr. Goldhamer also points out that rest is a key part of water-only fasting: It helps avoid unnecessary mobilization of nutrient reserves.

Most water fasts last between 24-72 hours – but some may last longer under medical supervision. [2] In such a clinical environment, healthcare practitioners typically perform important, regular physical, urine, and blood tests to monitor for any signs of distress.

What Are The Potential Benefits Of Water Fasting?

There are several reasons for water fasting. This includes weight loss, ‘detoxing’, preparation for a medical procedure, and spiritual reasons. But perhaps one of the most widely pushed motives for water-only fasting is its potential health benefits, including:

May Promote Autophagy:

Studies suggest that water fasting may promote autophagy, which is a process whereby cells are broken down and recycled. By preventing damaged cells from accumulating, autophagy may help protect the body against diseases like cancer, heart disease, and neurodegeneration. [3][4][5] However, it’s important to note that human studies on the subject are limited.

May Improve Insulin Sensitivity:

Water fasting may help protect you from diabetes by improving insulin sensitivity. [6][7][8] Being more insulin sensitive means that your body is more effective at regulating blood sugar levels. This is the opposite of insulin resistance, which is a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes.

May Lower Blood Pressure:

According to a study by Dr. Goldhamer published in The Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine, medically-supervised water-only fasting may be an effective and safe way to normalize blood pressure. The researchers monitored 68 people with borderline high blood pressure. And after 14 days of water-only fasting, around 82% of them saw a drop in blood pressure to healthy levels. [9]

This doesn’t come as much of a surprise, considering a reduced consumption of salt and a higher intake of water is associated with lower blood pressure readings.

May Reduce the Risk of Heart Disease:

Several animal studies suggest that fasting may lower the risk of heart disease by offering protection against harmful free radicals. [10][11]

And in a study appearing in the journal Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases, researchers found that 24-hour water fast helped reduce the level of triglycerides and cholesterol in the blood—factors linked to an increased risk of heart disease. The study concluded by recommending short-term water-only fasting as a possible preventative treatment for its potential to reduce metabolic disease risk. [12]

How Do You Water Fast?

While research shows that water-only fasting may hold some benefits, there’s also a ‘dark side’ to the practice. It’s important to consider the potential dangers of water-only fasting before deciding to follow the diet.

Some negative health effects of water-only fasting may include loss of the wrong type of body weight, risky drops in blood pressure, decreased physical performance, nutrient deficiencies, and fatigue. [13][14][15]
Additionally, people with eating disorders, gout, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, heartburn, older adults, and pregnant women are advised against the diet practice as water-only fasting may have adverse effects on their conditions. [16]

When it comes to the water fasting process, you can categorize it into three main parts:

• Pre-Fast: It is a good idea to prepare the body before restricting calorie intake. Try spending a few days fasting for several hours or eating smaller portions of each meal.
• Water-Only Fasting Period: As mentioned earlier, water-only fasting strictly discourages the intake of calories during the fasting period. Only drink 2-3 liters of pure water with no additives.
• Post-Fast: Avoid eating heavy meals right away when you break the fast. This may lead to rapid metabolic changes, which put you at risk of a dangerous condition known as refeeding syndrome. [17]

In summary, water-only fasting may hold health benefits that—according to Dr. Goldhamer—may remedy the issue of diet excess and create an internal environment that supports the body to heal itself. But the practice also comes with its fair share of risks, especially if you perform it at home without the safety net of medical supervision.



[1] Los Angeles Times:

[2] Gustafson, C. (2014). Alan Goldhamer, dc: Water Fasting—The Clinical Effectiveness of Rebooting Your Body. Integrative Medicine: A Clinician’s Journal, 13(3), 52:

[3] Alirezaei, M., Kemball, C. C., Flynn, C. T., Wood, M. R., Whitton, J. L., & Kiosses, W. B. (2010). Short-term fasting induces profound neuronal autophagy. Autophagy, 6(6), 702-710:

[4] Brandhorst, S., Choi, I. Y., Wei, M., Cheng, C. W., Sedrakyan, S., Navarrete, G., … & Longo, V. D. (2015). A periodic diet that mimics fasting promotes multi-system regeneration, enhanced cognitive performance, and healthspan. Cell metabolism, 22(1), 86-99:

[5] Levine, B., & Kroemer, G. (2008). Autophagy in the pathogenesis of disease. Cell, 132(1), 27-42:

[6] Anson, R. M., Guo, Z., de Cabo, R., Iyun, T., Rios, M., Hagepanos, A., … & Mattson, M. P. (2003). Intermittent fasting dissociates beneficial effects of dietary restriction on glucose metabolism and neuronal resistance to injury from calorie intake. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 100(10), 6216-6220:

[7] Kim, M. J., Hwang, J. H., Ko, H. J., Na, H. B., & Kim, J. H. (2015). Lemon detox diet reduced body fat, insulin resistance, and serum hs-CRP level without hematological changes in overweight Korean women. Nutrition research, 35(5), 409-420:

[8] Longo, V. D., & Mattson, M. P. (2014). Fasting: molecular mechanisms and clinical applications. Cell metabolism, 19(2), 181-192:

[9] Goldhamer, A. C., Lisle, D. J., Sultana, P., Anderson, S. V., Parpia, B., Hughes, B., & Campbell, T. C. (2002). Medically supervised water-only fasting in the treatment of borderline hypertension. The Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine, 8(5), 643-650:

[10] Ahmet, I., Wan, R., Mattson, M. P., Lakatta, E. G., & Talan, M. (2005). Cardioprotection by intermittent fasting in rats. Circulation, 112(20), 3115-3121:

[11] Castello, L., Froio, T., Maina, M., Cavallini, G., Biasi, F., Leonarduzzi, G., … & Chiarpotto, E. (2010). Alternate-day fasting protects the rat heart against age-induced inflammation and fibrosis by inhibiting oxidative damage and NF-kB activation. Free Radical Biology and Medicine, 48(1), 47-54:

[12] Horne, B. D., Muhlestein, J. B., Lappe, D. L., May, H. T., Carlquist, J. F., Galenko, O., … & Anderson, J. L. (2013). Randomized cross-over trial of short-term water-only fasting: metabolic and cardiovascular consequences. Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases, 23(11), 1050-1057:

[13] Kerndt, P. R., Naughton, J. L., Driscoll, C. E., & Loxterkamp, D. A. (1982). Fasting: the history, pathophysiology and complications. Western Journal of Medicine, 137(5), 379:

[14] Finnell, J. S., Saul, B. C., Goldhamer, A. C., & Myers, T. R. (2018). Is fasting safe? A chart review of adverse events during medically supervised, water-only fasting. BMC complementary and alternative medicine, 18(1), 1-9:

[15] Zouhal, H., Saeidi, A., Salhi, A., Li, H., Essop, M. F., Laher, I., … & Abderrahman, A. B. (2020). Exercise training and fasting: current insights. Open access journal of sports medicine, 11, 1:

[16] Kerndt, P. R., Naughton, J. L., Driscoll, C. E., & Loxterkamp, D. A. (1982). Fasting: the history, pathophysiology and complications. Western Journal of Medicine, 137(5), 379:

[17] Mehanna, H. M., Moledina, J., & Travis, J. (2008). Refeeding syndrome: what it is, and how to prevent and treat it. Bmj, 336(7659), 1495-1498:

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