Water fasting and depression (+How does it work)

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Page last updated: 10/11/2022

Water fasting and depression (+How does it work)

This article will discuss what water fasting is, and how it works. Aside from that, it will discuss how it can affect a person’s mental and body health. The article will also explain what depression is, what are other types of treatment for it there are, and what influence water fasting has on depression.

What is water fasting?

Water fasting is a method of fasting in which the person removes all drinks and foods from her diet, except water, for a certain period. It is usually recommended for a person to start fasting during their sleeping hours, between 7 pm and 7 am, and from that, a person can go on extending those hours by starting their meals later in the day.

Studies have shown there are various benefits to Calorie Restriction. They showed that a reduction of 30-40% of the calories intake can favor the body’s fat distribution, body temperature, and fasting insulin. It also reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease and cognitive function.

Fasting also has a great impact on a person’s mood, sleep quality, and daytime concentration. As it can make a person’s experience of negative thoughts less intense.

Although it has its benefits, when someone wants to start water fasting or any type of Calorie Restriction diet, they should look for a professional to understand how to do it in an adequate way that will be beneficial to your mental and body health.

What is depression?

Depression is a mental illness that affects about 5% of the world’s population. It can affect men and women, at any time of their life, but women tend to develop depression more frequently than men.

Developing depression is a multi-factor situation. It can happen because of genetics, meaning that when a person has a family member with depression, they have a higher risk to develop it as well. It is also related to an imbalance in the chemistry of the person’s brain.

Another factor that can contribute to a person getting depressed is that they are going through a trauma in their life. It can be the loss of a loved one, a divorce, or a financial or legal problem.

Aside from that, people that have gone through a previous depressive episode have a higher chance of developing a new episode than someone that has never gone through one before.

Depression is a mental illness that gives the person an intense sense of sadness. Along with that, the person might feel empty, have less pleasure in doing things they used to like, and lose hope in the future and life.

Not only that, depression might make a person feel a diminished sense of self-worth, and it may also feel decreased self-esteem. Besides that, a person is considered to be depressed when they intensely present their symptoms for more than two weeks.

Aside from what’s been said, other symptoms are common to a person with depression. They are:

  • Change in appetite pattern
  • Change in sleeping pattern
  • Lack of ability to focus
  • Isolation
  • Irritability
  • Lack of purpose
  • Excessive crying or difficulty crying even if they want to
  • Pains and headaches
  • Thought of death and suicide.

There are many types of depression, and intensity. It can be mild or severe. And depending on how it manifests itself, different treatments are suggested. 

It might be important to go through a psychiatrist consultation, because, depending on how intense the depression is, medication might be necessary. It will soften the intensity of the symptoms to maybe increase your quality of life.

Aside from medication, going through therapy can be a good way to have a safe and supportive space. In it, with the help of a professional, you will be able to understand what could have triggered your depression, what causes your symptoms to be worse, and it will help you create strategies to deal with it.

Water fasting and depression (+How does it work)

What are the benefits of water fasting on depression?

Through studies it was shown that fasting can create an intercellular signaling pathway that involves stress response, demonstrating that it can affect depression.

Through studies, it was shown that fasting can reduce negative emotions in people living with eating disorders. It can decrease anger, tension, and confusion. And it can give the person a sense of euphoria among aging men.

Research has also shown that a Calorie Restriction of about 25% over 6 months can reduce depressive symptoms while not creating any negative effects on the mood. In another research, a cut of calories brought an improvement in the symptoms of depression in 80% of the participants.

The antidepressant effect of fasting was noted due to the increased availability of neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, endogenous opioids.

Although many studies are showing the beneficial factors of fasting on people going through depression, some caution is necessary. Studies have also shown that prolonged and sudden calorie reduction can increase the chance of a person developing depression, along with impairing people’s cognitive function and lowering their quality of life.

With that, it is, once again, important to highlight the importance of considering fasting, as a part of depression treatment, with the help of a health professional.

Frequently Asked Question(FAQ): Does water fasting help with depression?

How fasting can negatively impact me?

Although there are many benefits to it, fasting, when done in the wrong way, can bring some problems to the person. It can make you worry about what you eat, which is called orthorexia. It can also be prejudicial to your sleep pattern which can lead to problems with your mood, memory, and learning ability.

Once you start fasting, you can feel more alert. It is a natural response that you are looking for food, but over time, you might start to realize you are less focused, that will happen because you don’t have enough energy in your body. It can also lead to dizziness and concentration problems.

Some people might develop some bad feelings, like shame and guilt. It can start to show when they blame themselves for eating something out of the eating window. This can turn too fast into a suffering experience. 

Along with that, you can feel more stressed if you fast too long. That is because when you fast for too long, your body processes too much cortisol, which can cause you to feel stressed.

If you are in it too much, it can bring anxiety, depression, or anti-social feelings. It might also cause hair loss and change the woman’s period pattern. Those are all situations that give you the alert that fasting might be becoming an eating disorder.

Does fasting decrease anxiety?

Yes, fasting can be responsible for decreasing anxiety-like behavior. It can also be related to better memory. It has been related to an overall improvement of a person’s sense of well-being.

But for some people that have low blood sugar concerns, fasting can cause them to develop hypoglycemia, and that can lead to irritability, anxiety, and poor concentration.

What are the other benefits of fasting?

Aside from all that’s been said already, fasting can be beneficial in other ways. While fasting, your body will go through a cleaning process, it turns on a process called autophagy, which means it will detox your brain, and clean out old cells.

Fasting is also a way to reduce inflammations on your body, and although inflammations are usually related to a mental condition, such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or Alzheimer’s. Having your body clear itself of those inflammations can also contribute to your sense of well-being.

It will also have an impact on your high blood sugar. It will improve your insulin sensitivity, which can lead to a smaller chance of developing type 2 diabetes. Along with that, fasting will lower blood pressure at night, which is good for your heart, and that can benefit your brain as well.

It will also burn your excess fat, and that is also good for your brain’s health, because once you start accumulating more fat, your brain tends to imbalance, giving you a higher chance of developing depression, panic disorder, and bipolar disorder.

Is it normal to feel shaky when you are fasting? 

It might happen and it can be related to the levels of sugar in your blood. It is important to highlight that fasting should be done in a healthy one, not only as a diet but as a process to clean and improve your body. 

With that said, when one wants to start fasting, they need to make sure they have a balanced diet. If you usually just eat carbohydrates and go on fasting, it may cause you to just want to binge eat more.

So before you start fasting, work on your regular diet, with enough nutrition for you. After that, once you are fasting, if you extend the period of not eating in a prolonged manner, it can lead to headaches, fatigue, anemia, and dizziness. 

It is also important to check your blood sugar levels, to make sure you won’t become hypoglycemic because this can be the source of your shaking, it can also cause you to feel sweaty, lightheaded, and confused.

And if a person starts experiencing intense side-effects to their fasting, they should break it and look for a doctor to orient them in a better way.

Can fasting impact my medication?

Yes, depending on what medication you are taking, fasting is not something you should do. If you take medications that need to be taken every day at the same time or with meals, it might not be okay to fast. 

An example of that is the progestin-only birth control pills, if you are fasting, it can affect how efficient the pill will be. Not only those but blood thinners, antipsychotics, and antidepressants can be influenced by fasting.

Other types of medications, the ones that need to be taken with food, are not suitable for someone who is fasting. An example of those is fat-soluble vitamins, such as vitamins A, E, and C. They need food so they can be absorbed, and they can also upset your stomach if taken without food.

So if you are considering fasting, look for your doctor and try to discuss with them what are your possibilities for maybe trying to fast and keep your treatment.

Conclusion

This article showed how water fasting is, how it works and how studies have indicated that calorie reduction can impact depression as well as other mental and body conditions. To clarify the effects of water fasting, the article also explained what depression is.

References

Zhang Y, Liu C, Zhao Y, Zhang X, Li B, Cui R.The Effects of Calorie Restriction in Depression and Potential Mechanisms. Curr Neuropharmacol. 2015 Jul; 13(4): 536–542.

https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/depression