A dry fast is an absolute, true fast in which you abstain from both food and water. This is the type of fast that was practiced by Moses (Exodus 34:28 & Deuteronomy 9:18, both times for 40 days), Ezra (Ezra 10:6, length undisclosed), the Nation of Israel (Esther 4:16, 3 days), Elijah (1 Kings 19:18, 40 days), the Ninevites and their animals (Jonah 3:7-10), most likely Jonah himself when he spent 3 days in the belly of the whale (Jonah 1:17), the Apostle Paul (Acts: 9:9, 3 days), and Jesus Christ (Matt 4:2, 40 days). More than likely, dry fasting has been practiced by many cultures and religious traditions throughout history.
Dry fasting has been practiced by the Russians for a very long time. There is quite a bit of literature available on dry fasting in the Russian language. However, none of these writings has been professionally translated. I was first introduced to the concept of dry fast by Tanya Zavasta (a native Russian speaker) in her book Quantum Eating. I found the information fascinating, but did not really know where to go with it. Then I discovered the web community forum The Fasting Connection where I met Milena Albert (a native Russian speaker) who had been practicing dry fasting and was in contact with Dr. Sergei Filonov, a Russian medical doctor who has been conducting dry fasts with his patients for 20 years. Then, I was referred to a Google translation of his 400 page book Dry Medical Fasting: Myths & Reality. While the translation leaves much to be desired (being computer generated), enough of the essence comes through to make it a very worthwhile read for anyone who in interested in embarking on this path.
There are two kinds of dry fasts: hard and soft. With a hard dry fast, the faster does not allow any water to touch their body, i.e. no washing dishes, no taking baths or shower, no brushing teeth, etc. With a softer dry fast, the faster can allow their body to come in contact with water. When you go on a dry fast, the pours of your skin develop a greater capacity to absorb water through the skin and in a good clean environment will readily absorb moisture from the air. It is for this reason that Dr. Filonov highly recommends undertaking a long dry fast in the mountains where the air if fresh, moist, and pure. He encourages many of his patients to sleep outside next to a stream of running water during their long dry fasts.
While several of our Biblical forefathers fasted for 40 days, the longest dry fast on record in modern times is 18 days. However, most modern practitioners of dry fasting do not recommend dry fasting for longer than 12 days. Dr. Filonov always recommends doing several water fasts before ever attempting a dry fast. Then he recommends that a person start with very short dry fasts, 36-hours once a week. After doing this for a while, then a person can gradually do longer dry fasts of 2, 3, and 4 days. Finally, to affect deep cleansing of the tissues and healing of serious chronic illnesses, he recommends a protocol known as a "fractionated" dry fast in which the person does a dry fast for 5-7 days, re-hydrates for 3 days, then does a second dry fast for 9-11 days. He has found this method to be extremely safe over time.
In order to achieve permanent healing results, a person must traverse two separate "acidotic" crises, the first between 3-5 days and the second between 9-11 days. So, by breaking up the fast, the "fractionated" method allows the person to go through the first crisis during the first fast and the second crisis during the second fast, thus reducing the stress on the body from too many toxins needing to be eliminated at one time. It should be noted that Dr. Filonov never recommend doing a dry fast for longer than 5 days without supervision. The problem with this is that there is are no medical doctors with experience in dry fastin in the United States. So, we are pretty much on our own if we want to use this method of healing.
Another method of dry fasting that Dr. Filonov has found to be extremely safe and beneficial is a protocol he calls "cascade" dry fasting in which the person begins by fasting 1 day and eating 1 day alternately. Then, he has the person fast 2 days and eat 2 days alternately, then fast 3 day and eat 3 days alternately, then fast 4 days and eat 4 days alternately, then fast 5 days and eat 5 days alternately. With this protocol the person is literally fasting one half of every month. In his book, Dr. Filonov says he personally knows a medical doctor who cured himself of a blood cancer by doing 5/5 protocol for a full year.
There was an interesting book published a few years ago called The Alternate Day Diet by Dr. James Johnson which advocates eating every other day for weight management and health maintenance. Although he did not have his patients fast completely on alternate days, but had them restrict their calories to 20% of metabolic requirements, his patient have experienced remarkable benefits and many have overcome severe inflammatory illnesses such as asthma (no longer needing medication). I don't agree with his protocol of feeding on alternate days, and he even says that the results would be far greater if his patients did not eat anything on alternate days, but he feels that no one would be willing to fast every other day (perhaps he underestimates his patients?). His patients consume as much water as they desire.
I have communicated with a young man through The Fasting Connection who has suffered from severe irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) for a number of years. He decided to start water fasting every other day and has experienced remarkable improvements. After four months of doing this, he says that his IBS symptoms are 70% less than they were prior to instituting alternate day fasting. He has not changed his diet which he tells me is far from optimal. I wonder if he would get even better results if he dry fasted?
In a dry fast, the body does not eliminate toxins in the same manner as it does during a water fast. Instead of removing toxins through the normal channels of elimination, skin, liver, kidneys, urine, and bowels, it actually turns each cell into a tiny incinerator and burns the toxins up inside of the cell. One thing I have noticed since I started dry fasting is that I have almost no body odor or bad breath during a dry fast, while I always experienced this during a water fast. Each day of a dry fast is said to be equivalent to 3 days of a water fast in terms of detoxification, so you accomplish much more in a shorter time. The good thing about this is that a person does not need to take a long absence from their normal life, so it costs less both for the fast itself (if you are going to a facility to be supervised) and for the time taken off from work. Also, you lose less muscle mass and more body fat with dry fasting, than you do with water fasting, and the recovery time is quicker. Returning to normal function after a 10 day dry fast is much faster than after a 30 day water fast.
Nevertheless, a person should plan for a re-building time of twice the length of the dry fast. So, for example, if you do a 7 day dry fast, you should plan for a 2 week recovery period. After my first 4 day dry fast, I had so much energy on day 2 of re-feeding that I decided to go dig up a garden bed I wanted to plant and ended up pulling a muscle in my forearm because I was not properly re-hydrated. It took a week to heal and I learned my lesson. Do not overestimate your capabilities after a dry fast and make sure you give your body sufficient time to recover before engaging in any strenuous physical activity.
How you exit a dry fast is extremely important. If you do it incorrectly you can definitely harm yourself. In his book, Dr. Filonov says to drink two liters of pure water very slowly, holding each sip in your mouth as long as possible, over a two hour period. After that you can start to reintroduce other foods and liquids. He recommends making a fruit compote out of dried figs, prunes, apricots, and raisins (all unsulfured and organic) cooked in water to soften and then eat, vegetable soup, fish broth, and raw milk kefir. You don't have to do it exactly like he says, but this should give you some ideas to work with. I personally use juicy fruits, steamed vegetables and green smoothies made in a Vita-Mix (which is necessary to complete grind the leafy greens). Just make sure to hydrate yourself well before trying to eat anything too dense and eat slowly. Dr. Filonov says to continue drinking water for the next 12 hours a little bit at a time.
Coconut water from fresh, young, green coconuts (not canned or boxed) is also be a very good rehydration fluid, but it is too concentrated in electrolytes to use exclusively after a long dry fast. I broke an 8-day dry fast with straight, undiluted coconut water and after 12 hours I had a very severe migraine. While I never had any problems using it to brake my shorter fasts of 1.5, 2, 3.5 days, I did get a very mild migraine after breaking my 5 day dry fast with undiluted coconut water. However, it did not make the connection until after my experience of breaking my 8 day dry fast. Coconut water is a fantastic rehydration formula (made by God and Mother Nature--and better than any man-made formula on the market), but don't use it exclusively. I find that a 3:1 dilution works best (3 parts plain water to 1 part coconut water). To read more about coconut water and its many benefits, I will refer you to Dr. Bruce Fife's book Coconut Water: For Health and Healing. An excellent source of coconut water is a raw, organic, frozen product packaged by Exotic Superfoods. It ends up costing about $12 a liter after you return the shipping box.
Dry fasting itself is not a "cure," but it provides the right conditions to allow the body to activate all of its own, God-given, healing powers. Dr. Filonov has seen many illnesses heal through dry fasting; below is a list of the ones he mentions in his book:
irritable bowel syndrome
non-insulin dependent diabetes
**Please note: There are a number of conditions for which dry fasting is contraindicated; namely, malignant tumors or blood conditions, tuberculosis, hyperthyroidism and other endocrine diseases, cirrhosis of the liver, heart arrhythmia, circulatory failure degrees II & III, underweight, pregancy and lactation, being younger than 14 or older than 70 years of age. And, as always, is best to check with a qualified medical practioner before deciding to embark upon fast of any kind.