"This is hard-core, a diet of nothing, a full-body reboot," Ben Marcus wrote for GQ about participating in a week-long water cleanse at TrueNorth Healing Center, America's only medically supervised fasting clinic. During the week, Marcus was told to chew his water, and he observes that water fasters cling to the walls from fatigue and disorientation. He also urinates "the day away."
Water cleansing is the cheaper and purer form of juice cleansing, in which fasters drink only water for several days in an attempt to flush out toxins from our gluttonous modern lives via urination, according to Women's Health. The supporting scientific theory behind water fasting is that the body would survive on stored fat, according to the Washington Post.
News flash: Humans need water to survive. Good ole water helps optimize how well our bodies run, including kidney function, clear skin and digestion, according to Greatist. But, as common knowledge might suggest, drinking only zero caloric water mainly leaves fasters dizzy and tired, and such a diet is an unsustainable form of weight loss, according to Women's Health.
"The healthy body has kidneys, a liver, skin, even lungs that are detoxifying as we speak," Edzard Ernst, emeritus professor of complementary medicine at Exeter University, told the Guardian. There is no known way — certainly not through detox treatments — to make something that works perfectly well in a healthy body work better."
Sometimes the water is decorated with lemon juice or cayenne pepper and maple syrup, like with the Master Cleanse, according to Medical Daily. But drinking so much acidic lemon can actually erode tooth enamel, according to the Huffington Post. Plus, adding said acid to an empty stomach can cause stomach pains.
For weight loss, water cleanses are an extreme choice, causing rapid weight loss but also probable weight gain once off the diet, according to Today. What was lost was probably just water weight anyway.
Still, toward the end of and immediately following his water fast, Marcus claims his food cravings were killed, and that he began to more wisely see food as medicine.
Researchers have found some few benefits to small doses of fasting, which could be more sustainable — but they still have much to discover about the long-term benefits and what the ideal amount of time might be. In 2011, a study found that periodic fasting of 24 hours was associated with lower cardiovascular heart disease, according to the New York Times. Possible causes were that those who fast lead healthier lifestyles overall, or that short-term fasting actually could improve one's metabolic rates. Other studies have found intermittent fasting to alleviate inflammation and asthma symptoms, but also increase blood glucose levels, according to Scientific American.
If detoxing is really on your mind, a more sustainable choice is limiting intake of processed and sugary foods, and turning to whole foods instead, according to WebMD.