Saturday, 20 July 2013

Water Fasting Dangers For Adrenal Fatigue

Something ive wanted to discuss for a while now, is the many so called health experts blanket recommendations of water fasting for treating sub-optimal adrenal insufficiency or adrenal fatigue as it is often known in the alternative health fields.

One individual who regularly recommends water fasting for adrenal insufficiency is 80/10/10 author Dr Doug Graham. As someone who suffered for over a decade with adrenal insufficiency, i have to say i disagree with his recommendation of water fasting here. Im not a huge fan of any pro-longed water fasting or most common "cleansing" methods anyway, but for those who are in disordered state such as with adrenal insufficiency, i personally feel this is a VERY dangerous thing to do and i urge caution here.

Clearly these people have no understanding about adrenal insufficiency as a condition or the physiological risks that come from having low cortisol and other adrenal hormones, poor blood sugar/electrolyte regulation and lack of stress tolerance, which are major concerns here.

Those with adrenal insufficiency and hypocortisolism often have a hard enough job regulating blood sugar levels with food, let alone under-taking a prolonged water only fast. Fasting places a big enough stress on a healthy individual and i am confident in saying that someone with severe adrenal insufficiency would not be able to cope with the stress involved during water fasting. This type of blanket recommendation is not only very dangerous but could result in death.

Poor blood sugar regulation isn't the only prominent concern with water fasting here, poor electrolyte balance is another common feature of adrenal insufficiency. Those with adrenal insufficiency often have lowered levels of an adrenal steroid hormone called Aldosterone, which primary role is to regulate blood pressure and sodium/potassium balance. Like i say i doubt very much that someone with adrenal insufficiency would be able to cope with the serious stressful demands that water fasting places on the body.

Not just taking the above dangers into account, there is no evidence to suggest that water fasting is particularly helpful for adrenal fatigue anyway or any logic to suggest it would be worthwhile. In fact i would harbor my bets that the increased stress from trying to regulate blood sugar in absence of food, would cause the adrenal glands to crash further. Infact my own experiments with water fasting back when i had adrenal fatigue, would confirm this. You will feel dizzy, begin to get cold, panicky from the surge of adrenaline which is trying to raise blood sugar and eventually you will likely pass out or worse. Experts and advocates will tell you that these adverse symptoms are "detox" or your body going through detoxification, when actually they are symptoms of low blood sugar.

Adrenal insufficiency is not a condition that you can essentially "detox" yourself out of. It is true that toxic heavy metals are often implicated and nutritional balancing is in most cases required to restore yourself from this condition. That being said water fasting is of little use here for detoxification of heavy metals, lack of nutrition would only further exacerbate the problem here.

I understand the frustration that many go through and willingness to trial any sort of therapy whilst chronically ill. I spent over £40,000 on misguided, random supplements and therapies, which most often than not caused problems through mis-use at the time. Seeking a professional who understands your condition is essential with any complex health disorders, if your current doctor isn't helping then find someone who can. 

So yeah i urge caution to those thinking about water fasting if they suffer from adrenal insufficiency. The significant potential dangers far out-weigh any potential benefits that would cross over to increased adrenal health.


  1. I did a 20 day water fast and i have severely depleted adrenal function. Now i am experiencing severe nutritional deficiencies and fatigue worse than i experienced prior to the fast. Would it be possible to contact you for further advice? I could use real help now on how to turn this around and there are so few who have any knowledge or expertise in these areas especially extended water fasting.

  2. Hey Rochelle, Im sorry to hear about that.

    Unfortunately im not a qualified professional so i probably couldn't help. Id try to find a good natural orientated MD if you can.

    As you can see from my article im not a great fan of prolonged water fasts, most individuals are too nutritionally depleted and toxic to be able to handle the stress involved.

    I wish you a speedy recovery :).

  3. Thanks for this - I had the same experience after an 8 day water fast. I am now worse than I was before.
    I know you can't give medical advice but could you speak a bit about your own experience with what foods helped you?
    My doc has recommend James L. Wilson's book (Adrenal Fatigue). I am a high carb, low fat vegan so the dietary plan seems quite difficult for me.

    Thanks again,

  4. Hey Julia,

    Im sorry to hear about your experience with water fasting.

    There is another Dr Wilson, called Lawrence Wilson. You should check out his information. Unfortunately a high carb, low fat vegan diet isn't very conductive to adrenal fatigue, too low in minerals such as zinc and even cholesterol, which is a vital precursor to adrenal steroid hormones such as cortisol. Vegan diets can cause copper/zinc imbalances, which is another potential problem and causes lowered adrenal and thyroid function.

    I couldn't recommend Dr Lawrence Wilson's nutritional balancing information enough, to anyone suffering from these type of health problems.

    As always best to consult a qualified practitioner. Here is another post on foods and herbs to support the adrenal glands, that may be of help - Herbs & Foods For Nourishing The Adrenal Glands.