Luke Coutinho is a holistic lifestyle coach based in India who co-wrote the 2018 book The Dry Fasting Miracle with Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Ali Rashid Al Nuaimi, also known as the Green Sheikh. During an appearance on The Livehealthy Podcast he spoke about the benefits of the practice, how to get started and what to watch out for.
Why is dry fasting a miracle?
Because a lot of us today are either drinking too much water or eating too much at the wrong times. When we give a break to the entire body at every level, spiritual, physical, emotional, magic happens in the body. Today, there’s more and more science proving this. That’s why certain hospitals in the US also have fasting wards, where terminally ill patients are fasting for three, five, nine days.
We’ve seen it work brilliantly, but again, it’s multifactorial. It plays a massive role if I want more energy for healing, but that energy is going through constant digestion of my food, because I’m eating and snacking all the time. I’m depriving my body of energy that can go towards healing. Fasting is therapeutic.
How should you start?
I think when we fast, we should start off with eight hours, sunset, stop drinking water, stop eating.
After sunrise, start drinking water, stop eating. This will inspire you. During the day you fill up on your 10 to 12 to 14 glasses of water, you’re not going to dehydrate. Get day one right. Day two is going to be easier, day three is going to be a breeze. The amount of energy that you find in this body coming from every cell of your body. Finally, you will be doing 15, 16, 17 hours. You will feel that, what have I done all my life? Just eating so much, drinking so much. Again, it’s not for everyone. Sometimes if you’re not mentally ready for it, don’t do it.
The Green Sheikh, his son is five years old, he dry-fasts as well, because it’s driven with faith. It’s not seen as no food, no water, it’s seen as ‘I’m doing this with faith, I’m going to be looked after’. Faith is such a powerful thing. It doesn’t have to come from religion alone. It can come from spirituality, come from faith in the universe. If anyone wants to inspire themselves to dry fast for 12 hours, don’t think of anything, just know that you will be looked after.
That’s the only way, you don’t need motivation. Motivation is for people who have not yet decided that they really want to achieve that goal. Put faith first. Know that you own the power, that after nine hours if you’re thirsty, you can drink water, no one’s stopping you. Know that you have that power to do it. This also teaches you a lot of self-discipline.The book talks about medical cases, science, everything in the simplest way possible. Everybody’s unique. You may be able to do it for 12 hours today, tomorrow maybe 18 hours.
So there’s no set amount of time?
Today, I can do it for 14, tomorrow for 20 because the human body is constantly dynamically changing. We can’t put ourselves into a box of 16 hours, 17. People love to put themselves in boxes, not understanding that the human body is dynamically changing. This is the beauty of dry fasting.
How do you get started if you’ve never done it?
If you’ve never dry fasted, start off with water, just have water, and then integrate. I teach people to start with six hours of no food and water. If you’re thirsty, then start having water but still continue fasting. Six hours of dry, six hours of wet, and tomorrow, maybe you’ll increase it. Listen to your body; fasting is an inner physician that every human being has, but we’re not using it. It is therapeutic when people want to anti-age, better skin, and better hormonal health, the number one thing is eat less. Don’t stop, eat less, which means build a fasting period, your body will produce magic.
What are just some immediate benefits?
In eight hours, the only benefit you’re really going to get is giving a break to your digestive system, so you can allow the acids to settle, your digestive enzymes, your pancreas to relax, which is also great for you. Inflammation coming down, the immune system getting well-trained and stronger will kick in after 16 to 18 hours. That’s where the magic happens.
The removal of dead cells from your body, repair of things, all of that. After 24 hours, of course, you’re giving your body a lot more time to heal. It’s different for everyone. For extreme breakdown of tumors, when you’re doing a longer fast, under supervision, we may go into 48 hours, sometimes 72 hours. It’s incredible how the body starts to break down tumors for more energy to remove dead cells, the immune system starts to get smarter. Again, this is all supervised the right way because you don’t want your vitals or your pressure falling, or your blood sugar levels going too low.
I like to teach people through self-realization. What does that mean? It sounds great, but why don’t you do it and see how you feel? Then I have a self-realization that, ‘Wow, I did 18 hours and I feel incredible’. Now you don’t have to be motivated, because you’re inspired. We’ve just got to start off by trying.
Is this something that women have to be more careful about, due to hormonal shifts?
Yes. Absolutely. See, everyone has to be assessed for this. Now, someone’s going through adrenal fatigue. That’s a big hormonal problem that’s linked to PCOS, and thyroid, and all of that stuff, fasting may not be the best thing for you, but you can still reduce your overall calories. I think where people go wrong, fasting is therapeutic honestly, for everyone, unless you have a specific instruction to eat at a particular time.
People don’t know how to draw the line between fasting and starving. They fast for 12 to 14 hours, and then they realize that, ‘Wow, I fast and now it’s time to eat’. Maybe I’ll eat a little less, so my body will lose that little fat, they go into starvation mode. When you’re fasting, you’re fasting, when you’re eating, you’re in the building phase. Your body has an expectation of nutrients and energy. Now, if you deprive it, the body goes into stress mode, because it needs food and energy, but you’re not giving it.
That’s when you have a bigger hormonal balance. For women, that’s also great, start off with 12 hours. You can’t go wrong with the circadian rhythm of fasting, which means sunset, stop eating, only eat after sunrise. This is in every religion. It’s beautiful because it’s connected with the science of the human body. We don’t have the receptors to break down food late at night. Our blood sugar levels go all over the place when we eat late. We can stop eating with sunset or maybe an hour after sunset and then only eat our first meal after sunrise. Even that is brilliant. It’s a brilliant start for all of us.
Editor’s note: Always check with your doctor before embarking on a new health regime or a fasting regimen.
Ann Marie McQueen
Ann Marie McQueen is the founding editor-in-chief of Livehealthy and host of The Livehealthy Podcast. She is a veteran Canadian digital journalist who has worked in North America and the Middle East. Her past roles include features editor for The National, trends writer and columnist for the Canadian newspaper chain Sun Media, and correspondent for CBC Radio.