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How to Conduct a Five Day Water Fast

Last December, right before Christmas, I went to the TrueNorth Health Center in California to undergo a five-day water fast.

I stayed 7 days at the center (five days of fasting and two days of re-feeding), and thoroughly enjoyed my experience.

This is not the first time I fasted. I’ve done several 3-day fasts, and a long 23-day fast, back in 2005.

I find that occasional water fasting is a great “reset button” and for me acts as a powerful spiritual practice.

During a fast, I always find clarity about what I should do next in my life. In this sense, every fast has been a most incredible experience.

I didn’t do it for health reasons, although earlier last year I experienced some bouts of insomnia. During the fast, I slept like crazy!

And if you fast in a controlled environment like the TrueNorth center, you get lots of support and meet amazing people. This in itself is a good enough reason to try a water fast.

The TrueNorth Center has a team of top-notch physicians that overlook every aspect of your fast.

Dr. Michael Klaper, one of the most trained M.Ds and big-time plant-based diet advocate, works full-time here at the center.
Dr. Alan Goldhamer is an extremely knowledgeable MD who directs this center and is one of the worldwide experts on water fasting.
There are other extremely qualified health professional here as well.

The fast is fully supervised. Blood tests and a full consultation with one of the doctors insures that you’re healthy enough for fasting. And every day doctors come to check up on you.

There are daily health lectures to keep you busy, and of course you get to meet people from all over the world who are also here fasting, or during another type of cure like a juice fast.

The most incredible thing is to hear the stories of people who have fasted and recovered from serious conditions, when nothing else they tried has worked before. I’ve already heard several of those stories first-hand from people here, at different stages of their health journey.

Why Not a Juice Fast?

Some people go to TrueNorth to do a juice fast. But I find water fasting to be more powerful. Five days of water fasting probably gives you the same results as 10 days or more of juice fasting, because of the unique physiological adaptations that occur only during fasting.

1) During a water fast your body goes into full fat-burning mode. If you stay inactive during the fast there is no muscle loss.
2) A water fast activates the detox systems. Enzymatic changes occur in the body that boost your “detox systems” – getting rid of unwanted substances in the body (excess cholesterol, uric acid, and environmental toxins, etc.). These changes persist after a fast.
3) Insulin sensitivity improves during a fast. A water fast has a powerful effect on insulin, making it more effective.
4) A water fast flushes out excess sodium and dramatically lowers blood pressure. It’s the most powerful, clinically-proven cure for high-blood pressure.
5) Fasting has a normalizing effect on the autonomic nervous system. In simple terms: it lowers or eliminates stress-related problems such as anxiety and digestive disturbances.
6) Water fasting creates neuroadaptation to healthier food. After a fast, any food tastes good! Including plain lettuce. It makes it much easier to switch to a healthier, lower salt, oil-free diet. That’s certainly the reward of the faster: every simple meal after the fast tastes like heaven!

How to Conduct a 5-Day Fast

All the physicians working at TrueNorth do not formally advise anyone to fast without supervision for more than three days. And of course, many people should never fast (ask your doctor).

A five-day fast, however, is generally safe and could technically be conducted at home if you have previous experience with fasting and are in a state of good health.

During the fast, I didn’t experience any major negative symptoms. I had no nausea, no headaches, no insomnia, and no physical discomforts. I only felt a bit dizzy after the first two days when getting up, and had of course much lower physical energy, and lots of thoughts about food.

Day 1

I started the fast before I showed up at the center, so by the time I arrived, I was already 18 hours into my fast. The first day is generally easy. You can be active and thoughts about food fade away relatively quickly.

Day 2

The second day is more difficult due to the fact that the body has not yet shifted into fasting metabolism. I was thinking about food and finding every hour extremely long and boring! I entertained myself by watching a lot of health lectures.

Day 3

Day three went similar to day 2, but with reduced hunger.

Day 4

On day four I had massive cravings at night. I could not stop thinking about food!

Day 5

The last day of the fast went great! I had decent energy and almost no food thoughts.

I broke the fast on the morning of day 6 with a watermelon-celery juice that tasted like heaven. I only had juice and a salad that day.

On the second day of refeeding I also had fruit and some steamed vegetables.

It took me about a week after the fast to feel like my body and digestion was fully back to “normal.” I did not have any bowel movement during the fast, but it all resumed during the refeeding period.

During the first three days of the fast, it was a mental game more than anything. Although I had no physical symptoms, my mind was tricking me into thoughts of “giving up.” I wasn’t even considering giving up, but maybe I would have if I had attempted the fast at home.

Fasting is like a marathon. It’s a mental game. But at some point, you get a “second wind” and the fast becomes easy.

Of course, fasting should never be viewed like a marathon where you’re attempting to break some kind of goal. One must fast in a very scientific matter, for health reasons only.

During the fast, I had LOTS of ideas. I wrote a lot, organized, and also slept a lot, with very vivid dreams.

I think fasting five days was a great experience that I would easily do again every year or two. Fasting 23 days, like I did at the age of 28, was much more difficult and not something I feel ready to attempt again anytime soon.

Fasting is not a “fun” thing to do by any stretch of the imagination. It’s hard work. But it yields amazing health benefits if you do it correctly.

The only fasting center that I recommend is the True North Health Center. To find out more, go to:

Note: I’m in no way affiliated with the True North Health Center. I do not get any compensation for writing this article. 

Frederic Patenaude
Frederic Patenaude
Frederic Patenaude has been an important influence in the raw food and natural health movement since he started writing and publishing in 1998, first by being the editor of Just Eat an Apple magazine. He is the author of over 20 books, including The Raw Secrets, the Sunfood Cuisine and Raw Food Controversies. Since 2013 he’s been the Editor-in-Chief of Renegade Health.

Frederic loves to relentlessly debunk nutritional myths. He advocates a low-fat, plant-based diet and has had over 10 years of experience with raw vegan diets. He lives in Montreal, Canada.