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Water Fast or Water Cleanse for Weight Loss: What are the Benefits and Dangers?

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A water cleanse is very different to a water fast and can help you attain steady weight loss as opposed to fast weight loss; which you will probably gain back. When combined with a healthy diet and a good amount of exercise, frequent water cleanses work really well in flushing your body of toxins, preventing the damages caused by free radicals. However, if you have any pre-existing conditions such as those mentioned in this article, it is best to seek medical advice before partaking in a water fast or a cleanse. 


A water cleanse may be considered extreme; however, the degree of extremeness depends on the duration for which you go on a water cleanse; and as to whether you are confused with the difference between a water fast and a water cleanse. When you consider going on a week-long water fast, this means the only thing you will be consuming for the entire week is water. Though told to have benefits for your body, this long of a water fast can be dangerous for your health. We’ll discuss the variance between a water cleanse and a water fast and underline the various dangers of both as we try to unravel the best one of weight loss.  


You do stand to lose weight when you go on a week-long water fast, however the trouble with going on a water fast for too long is, you stand to gain the weight back as soon as you start eating again. 


Water cleansing is considered cheaper as opposed to say juice cleanses. However, juice cleanses may be healthier since you would be consuming some calories throughout the day, though at a dangerously low level.  


To be fair, humans need water to survive and there are various benefits of getting enough water every day. However going on a week-long zero-calorie diet, could bring with it various dangers, which is what we will be looking further into in this article. Not just that, we will recommend what is considered good practice to ensure that your water cleansing not only effectively flushes your body of toxins, but also maintain optimum levels of health for your overall wellbeing and effective weight loss. 


Before we consider anything further, it is best to first understand what a water cleanse is, since it can be rather confusing considering the degree of length these cleanses or fasts last. 


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What is a Water Cleanse?


A water cleanse is a health practice where the partaking individual drinks a large amount of water for the duration of the cleanse, be it a few hours, a day or few days. It may involve fasting up to 24 hours, or coupled with healthy eating habits such as fresh fruits and vegetables. A water cleanse including only water and nothing else can last up to 24 hours, after which it is best termed as a water fast. The aim of a water cleanse is to flush out toxins from the body; toxins that have accumulated in our bodies from an unhealthy diet and eating patterns. The process involves drinking a large amount of water in hopes of removing toxins from your body through urination.


In more recent years, water fasting has been observed to be an effective means to lose weight and that too quickly. However, in comparison to this, the primary intention behind a water cleanse is to detox your body from harmful toxins that have gathered in your body over the years. 


Though considered a fad, there is science behind the practice of going on a water cleanse. This is because the more water you drink, the easier it gets for your body to flush out toxins. The fad element however comes with the idea of losing weight. In hopes of losing weight fast, people go on week-long water fast where they only drink water and eat nothing. To better clarify, when a water cleanse is dragged on for this long without the consumption of food, the term to best describe the practice is a water fast; not exactly a water cleanse. Though all water fasts are water cleanses, all water cleanses are not water fasts. You can cleanse your body by consuming a large amount of water and continue to eat high fibre fruits and vegetables. This is not a fast, this is a cleanse. 


A water cleanse is also varied to detox water cleanses. A water cleanse only relies on water, whereas a detox water cleanse uses a combination of water with either slices of fruit, vegetables or herbs. There are various ways to make delicious detox water.


However, a water cleanse only relies on water as the primary means to detox the body. Is it better in comparison to water fasting and is varied in comparison to detox water cleanses. We will explore the comparison between both in further sections of this article. 


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How is a Water Cleanse Different to Water Fasting? Is a Water Fast Dangerous?


With it established that a water fast is more effective in quickly losing weight, you may be more inclined towards a water fast as opposed to a water cleanse. If that is the case, you may want to consider some of the dangers of a prolonged water fast. However, before that, it is best to reiterate the difference between a water cleanse and a water fast. 
A water fast is a period of fasting where the participant only consumes water for the duration of the fast. A water fast can last from a 12 hours to a day or even a week or two. In comparison to this, a water cleanse usually requires you to consume more water than you generally would, coupled with either short term, intermittent fasting or a healthy diet of fruits and vegetables. Though on a water fast you have to starve yourself completely, on a water cleanse this is not always true. A cleanse can be a great way to start eating healthy and make the necessary changes to your diet to start fresh. In comparison to a water fast that lasts even for weeks, a water cleanse if carried forth as a fast is a short duration practice of about 8 to 12 hours; at most a day. 


With the difference between a water cleanse and a water fast established, let’s take a deeper look into the dangers of water fasting. 


Though water fasting can help you lose weight fast, it comes with plenty of health risks, which is why it is considered so extreme. When you consider the severity of water fasting, the seriousness of the practice rests on how it may work to worsen several existing health conditions. When it comes to these health conditions, a water fast is not recommended; even a water cleanse may be too much for your body to handle. If you do want to go on a fasting water cleanse, even if it is for a short period of time, it is better to consult a healthcare professional before trying such a water cleanse. For those who suffer from these pre-existing conditions, it is better to do a water cleanse where you aren’t fasting, but are consuming fresh fruits and vegetables during your cleanse. Either way, it is better to consult a healthcare professional first, if you suffer from any of these health conditions. 


  • Eating disorders – If you suffer from bulimia or binge eating disorder, then it is advisable to not consider a water fast; you may want to consider a water cleanse coupled with healthy eating habits during the cleanse. This will help you to learn about healthy eating and heal the effects of the eating disorder. However, if you do notice that you tend to eat more after a cleanse, this could be due to binge eating disorder, which is why it is generally recommended to consult a health care professional first if you suffer from an eating disorder. 
  • Diabetes – Fasting is generally risky if you suffer from diabetes. This is because the act of fasting can cause irregularities in your blood glucose levels, which could impact your condition, interfering with any medication that you may be taking. If you suffer from diabetes, it is best to consult a healthcare professional before you make a practice out of water fasting. As for water cleansing, if you maintain healthy amounts of food consumption during the cleanse, you should be safe. However, it is best to consult a healthcare professional before partaking in any form of fasting. 
  • Gout – This form of arthritis is caused by excessive amounts of uric acid in your bloodstream. Uric acid crystals are formed in the joints of these individuals which brings about the symptoms experienced; pain and discomfort. Water fasting can increase the production of uric acid which places you at a greater risk of gout attacks. Hence if you are prone to gout, then it is best to consult a healthcare professional before undertaking any fast. A water cleanse which includes the consumption of a healthy diet including wholesome amounts of water should be safe. However, it is best to consult a healthcare professional first. 
Fasting, including water fasting, can cause your blood pressure to drop. You may begin to experience orthostatic hypotension, which is a sudden drop of blood pressure that you usually experience when you suddenly stand up. You feel lightheaded and dizzy and run the risk of fainting. This is a common trait in those who go on extreme fasts lasting days and weeks. It can become dangerous to drive if you are experiencing orthostatic hypotension; your dizziness may cause an accident. It is best to avoid water fasting if you experience these symptoms. 
Strange as it is, you can actually become dehydrated during a water fast. This is because on average, 20% to 30% of the water that your body intakes is attained through food that you eat. If you drink the same amount of water during a fast and not consume the food that you normally would, you stand with the possibility of not getting enough water; leaving your body dehydrated. If you experience nausea, headaches, constipation or low blood pressure, this may be due to dehydration. This is why during a water cleanse as opposed to a water fast, you are instructed to drink more water than usual, coupled to eating a healthy dose of high fibre fruits and vegetables. 
The problem with the weight that you lose during a water fast is, it tends to be either water weight, carbohydrates or protein weight. Rarely do you burn fat during a water fast. Hence when you start consuming food again, the weight usually comes back on. Though you can stand to lose a certain amount of weight on a water fast, you will lose weight from the wrong sources. As opposed to this, a water cleanse works to maintain a healthy calorie deficit by incorporating healthy fibrous fruits and vegetables. Further to the fact that a cleanse is not conducted for a duration of more than 24 hours, you work to train your body to lose weight at a steady pace as opposed to a fast pace, thereby preventing weight loss from the wrong sources. 


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What Are the Benefits of a Water Cleanse?

When it comes to the benefits of a water cleanse, there are a few worth mentioning. Primarily, water cleanses help to rid your body of toxin. Toxin build up in your body could have damaging effects, which is why a detox by way of a water cleanse could help you prevent diseases brought about by toxin accumulation. 
A water cleanse can help you prevent various chronic diseases which are caused by the accumulation of toxins in your body. Chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease can be prevented by flushing your body of toxins on a regular basis. By this, we mean doing short water cleanses, which last no longer than 8 to 12 hours, repeated practised on a weekly basis in combination with a healthy diet and lifestyle. Obvious to state, eating all the unhealthy food and doing a water cleanse every week is not going to have any effect on making you healthier. If you are looking to sidestep the risks of chronic illnesses, then it is obviously best to start eating healthy. A water cleanse works to aid the protection of your health alongside a healthy diet, which is integral. 
In one study, individuals who underwent a 24-hour water cleanse, had significantly lower levels of triglycerides and cholesterol in their body; two factors that increase the risk of developing heart disease. 
Toxins in our body are found in the form of free radicals, which are unstable compounds that can damage cell structure, thereby decreasing cell efficiency and functionality. It is the build-up of free radicals in our body that leads to chronic illnesses such as cancer. 


A water cleanse can also be good for your metabolism. This is because a water cleanse works to improve the sensitivity of two hormones in your body, insulin and leptin. Insulin works to store nutrients from the bloodstream, while leptin is the hormone linked with the feeling of being full. The greater sensitivity of both these hormones means that they work at a more effective rate. Greater insulin sensitivity means, your body will be more capable of lowering blood sugar levels, thereby better regulating your blood glucose levels. Greater sensitivity of leptin works to regulate appetite more efficiently, thereby preventing overeating which leads to obesity.


Though this isn’t a clear cut benefit of a water cleanse, long-duration water fasting has been proven to lower blood pressure in people who have high blood pressure. This study conducted over a period of 14 days under medical supervision, is not something that you should emulate or try at home without medical supervision. However, the findings do lead to the inclination that a water cleanse could help you better regulate your blood pressure, naturally. 


Another benefit of a water cleanse is how it aids in the breaking down and recycling of old cells. This mechanism is known as autophagy. A study conducted on animals has proven a link between water fasting and greater efficiency of autophagy, which brings with it the reduced risk of developing cancer and heart disease. Since this is not a human study, the findings are inconclusive, however do incline to state that a water cleanse could help you improve the process of autophagy in your body. 


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How Does a Water Cleanse Help with Weight Loss?


Obvious to state that water fasting can help you lose weight and that too quite fast. However, there are various risks involved in doing a water fast, which is why in the article we differentiate and recommend occasional water cleanses. Repeatedly practised water cleanses without fasting could help you lose weight, and is considered more effective in keeping the weight off in comparison to a water fast. Though you tend to lose quite a bit of weight during a water fast, the weight usually comes back on as soon as you start eating. This is because a water fast messes with your metabolic rate and the act of starvation causes your body to store as much food consumed as possible in the form of fat. 


As opposed to a water fast, a water cleanse is considered short term. Not just that, you don’t necessarily have to only drink water like a fast during a cleanse. During a water cleanse, you have to ensure that you are consuming a good amount of water, more than you would consume on a regular basis. This can be coupled with light healthy meals which are mostly fibre based. This would include food such as fruits and vegetables. Hence during a water cleanse, unlike a fast, you are allowed to consume healthy fruits and vegetables.


This means that the cleanse does not work to reduce your body weight immediately. In fact, if you compare a 48-hour water fast to a 12-hour water cleanse, obvious to state the amount of weight loss will be greater on the water fast as opposed to the water cleanse. However, the chances of maintaining the weight loss is significantly lower in a water fast in comparison to a water cleanse. Though you would not lose noticeable amounts of weight, a water cleanse works to lower your body weight in a controlled manner, thereby preventing any shocks to your system. 


If you repeat a 24-hour water cleanse without fasting every week for a month, then you may see some noticeable results in your weight. The 24-hour window is sufficient time for your body to start breaking down fat in your body to produce energy. That being the case, you are only going to see results of weight loss based on your levels of exercise and healthy diet, which are integral. If you do a water cleanse every week and eat everything you can get your hands on, you will not lose weight.


A water cleanse is a commonly practised means of aiding your weight loss ambitions. However, a water cleanse only works alongside a healthy diet and sufficient exercise. 


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How is a Water Cleanse Different to a Detox Water Cleanses?

A water cleanse only uses water as the means to hydrate your body and flush your toxins. A detox water cleanse on the other hand uses a concocted detox water using slices of fruits and vegetables and even herbs. This is more like a juice, however the fruits and other components are not blended into the water, rather allowed to soak in water, allowing for the vitamins to be absorbed in trace quantities. 
As with a water cleanse, a detox water cleanse can be conducted for a short period of time. It can also be conducted in the form of a fast, where you only consume detox water for the duration of the detox. Detox water cleanses are usually best practised in the morning as the first thing consumed, thereafter, normal consumption of food occurs. 


When you consider going on a water cleanse, many people find it difficult to drink large amounts of water due to the tasteless nature of water. For such people, the detox water cleanse would work wonders since these detox waters are usually rather tasty. You could add a few slices of lemon, some mint leaves and even add some cucumber and allow the water to soak all the nutrients from these ingredients before you drink it. It is the enhanced flavour of detox water that makes it more popular to water cleanses.


When you consider the grand scale of both, they are both effective as a means to detox your body and can help with weight loss ambitions. 


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How Safe is a Water Cleanse? What are the Dangers?

Water cleanses in comparison to water fasts are predominantly safer. This is because firstly, a water cleanse only lasts for a short period of time (usually 8 to 12 hours). Secondly, during a water cleanse, you don’t necessarily have to fast, but ensure that you consume more water than usual coupled with healthy eating. A water cleanse usually involves eating fresh fruits and vegetables and drinking a wholesome amount of water. 
That being the case, when you undergo a water cleanse without intaking any food, there are some risks involved as iterated above. Especially if you have a pre-existing health condition such as diabetes, gout or an eating disorder. You may experience dizziness and your blood pressure may drop, hence though the cleanse without any food can be effective in weight loss, it is best recommended in combination with a healthy diet. 
Though there are some risks involved, just the idea of losing weight may draw you towards the idea of a water cleanse with fasting or a water fast. As mentioned previously within this article, weight loss from a water fast often doesn’t last; you would probably gain it back as soon as you start eating again. Weight loss from a water cleanse without fasting is steady and safe when done right. 
We don’t recommend that you do a water cleanse without eating anything. You stand to gain more by doing a water cleanse incorporating a healthy diet alongside it. If you have been considering doing a water cleanse in order to boost your weight loss, obvious to state you must have already started a healthy diet by now, hence do a cleanse alongside the diet. Try to drink more water than usual and consume more fresh fruits and vegetables. This will provide your body with a wholesome amount of water which will work to flush the toxins from your body, thereby facilitating steady and more permanent weight loss. 
Remember, when you are considering the safety of a water cleanse, moderation is key. Try to steer clear of extremes in your search for weight loss. In fact, simply intaking more water than usual have been shown to facilitate the process of detoxing; this means drinking more water while maintaining a healthy diet. Another way that you can detox your body is by simply drinking green tea. If you would like a better idea of how green tea helps with detoxing and weight loss, read our article on, ‘Does Green Tea Help with Weight Loss?
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Should I Try a Water Cleanse?


You can most certainly try a water cleanse; unless you suffer from diabetes, gout or an eating disorder, in which case we do recommend that you consult a healthcare professional. If you plan on doing a water cleanse by simply drinking more water and not incorporating fasting, then that should be fine. It is the process of fasting that can have various health implications, especially for those who already suffer from a health condition. 
The best way to go about doing a water cleanse is simply ensuring that you drink a wholesome amount of water; more than usual, alongside a healthy and reliable diet. Though you can do a water cleanse incorporating fasting, we don’t recommend that you starve yourself; especially no longer than 12 hours. Even this may sound extreme to some people, which is why is it best recommended to incorporate a water cleanse alongside a healthy meal plan. 
If you find water too bland, you can always tweak it up a little and make yourself some delicious healing detox water. Again, even with the detox water, we recommend that you drink this first thing in the morning and combine it with a healthy meal plan. 
The point is, we don’t recommend that you starve yourself. Even though a water fast is sure to show results in weight loss, it is not a healthy loss of weight and comes with various health conditions. So make wise choices when it comes to losing weight and do what will ensure steady weight loss, that you are more likely to keep off. Sure you can lose 10 pounds by going on an extreme 10-day water fast, however, it is dangerous and is not recommended within this article in any way, shape or form.
We hope you found this article useful and that it has shed some light on whether you should do a water fast or a water cleanse (with or without fasting). We do hope that you succeed in your weight loss journey and manage to incorporate healthy practices which will not only keep diseases at bay but also ensure you are healthy through the process of weight loss. Remember, it isn’t always a sprint to the finish line when it comes to effective weight loss, it is more like a marathon, hence pace yourself. 
Happy Living!

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