Q & A Library

Print this page | Sign up for free e-bulletins
Q
Is Fasting Right for You?
I started fasting once a week, but I had to give it up because I was getting severe headaches. Could you suggest anything I can do to prevent the headaches and continue fasting?
A
Answer (Published 9/29/2003)

Updated on 3/21/2005

Related Weil Products
The Weil Vitamin Advisor for Your Body - Foods, herbs and drugs can all interact, sometimes in unexpected ways. The Weil Vitamin Advisor takes known interactions into account when developing recommendations, to help safeguard against adverse effects. Get your free, personalized Weil Vitamin Advisor recommendation today. Start now!

You don’t say why you want to fast once a week. I have experimented with fasting one day a week as a useful physical and psychological discipline. Many people experience a clearer mental state and increased energy after a short-term fast. When I did my weekly one-day fasts, I consumed nothing but water or herb tea. The first thing I would ask is how much water you were drinking during your fast. You should be drinking at least eight 8- to 12-ounce glasses of water or unsweetened herbal tea. Drinking less than that might explain your headaches.

I hope you were not fasting in an effort to lose weight. Fasting isn’t an effective diet tool – it alters your metabolism in a way that actually may make it harder for you to lose weight. Most people compensate for the deprivation of the fast by increasing their caloric consumption afterward.

If you’re a coffee drinker or normally consume beverages that contain caffeine, your fasting headaches could be the result of caffeine withdrawal. If that’s the case, I would suggest weaning yourself off caffeine before trying to fast again.

Not everyone does well with fasting – thin people and those who are particularly sensitive to cold have a more difficult time. If that’s the case, you probably should reconsider fasting. I would also caution about being overly active during a fast. Not only should you rest your digestive system, but you should also take time to rest your entire body. Too much physical activity during this time may also be a cause of headache.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved Creative Commons Copyright Notice
A portion of the original material created by Weil Lifestyle on DrWeil.com (specifically, all question and answer-type articles in the Dr. Weil Q&A Library) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.