How long can someone go without eating?

In this brief guide, we will answer the query, “How long can someone go without eating?” We will also discuss how not eating affects your body and how long someone can go without water.

How long can someone go without eating?

Generally speaking, a person can go from one to two months without eating. We can’t pinpoint a certain number because different factors are responsible for the amount of time you can go on without eating which is different for every individual. 

Unlike other studies, researching starvation is not particularly right from an ethical point of view, so not much research has been done on this. However, a few conclusions have been derived from different hunger strike observations so far. 

According to a report in Archiv Fur Kriminologie, a person can go 8 to 21 days without food or water and up to two months if they have access to enough water. The body mass index (BMI) scale appears to have a “minimum” value for survival. According to the Nutrition Journal, to sustain life men require at least 13 BMI, and women need at least 11.

During the first three days of starvation, people who have a normal body weight will lose a higher percentage of weight and muscle tissue faster than people who are above the average body weight. The Nutrition Journal also claims that women can endure starvation longer due to their body composition.

How does not eating affect your body?

Not eating slows down all of the vital processes that is an important part of the body mechanism. Eventually, your symptom starts functioning overall if you haven’t eaten anything long enough. Let us discuss the different parts of the body affected by starvation:

Cardiovascular system

When you don’t eat anything for an extended period, your body uses its tissue as fuel to compensate for the lack of food. Muscle tissue, including heart muscle, maybe a part of this process.

Since the heart lacks the fuel it requires to pump blood around the body due to the absence of food, the process is not as efficient as it should. Eventually, the pulse and blood pressure fall rapidly resulting in heart failure due to ineffective pumping.

Gastrointestinal system

The unavailability of food affects the stomach’s ability to digest food and empty itself. It may result in bloating, stomach pain, vomiting, nausea, fluctuations in blood sugar levels, and bacterial infections.

Constipation can also result from chronically poor nutrition because it weakens the muscles in the digestive tract. The muscles may be too weak to force food that has been digested through the gut. Pancreatitis which is an inflammation of the pancreas that results in pain, nausea, and vomiting, is another risk that comes with starvation.

Central nervous system

Lack of food in your system will not just affect you physically but it can also be mentally draining. The brain also requires a certain portion of energy to function properly. When it does not get enough energy, it may affect some of your cognitive abilities. Lack of energy in the brain can cause difficulty concentrating as well as sleeping problems.

Endocrine system

The endocrine system produces different important hormones like thyroid hormones, testosterone, and estrogen. To produce them in an adequate amount required by the body, the endocrine system needs fat and cholesterol which comes from different food sources. 

So, the absence of food results in lower secretion of these important hormones, which further causes many health problems. Some of the common problems are:

  • Your bones can deteriorate.
  • Menstruation may become irregular or cease altogether.
  • Your metabolic rate may lower.
  • Hypothermia may result from a decrease in core temperature.

How long can someone go without water?

Just like with food, it is difficult to pinpoint how long someone can live without water. However, one thing is clear, you may survive for a long period of time without food, but lack of water in your system can be very harmful. 

The exact amount of time that a person could survive varies depending on their unique body composition. Your body requires a constant flow of water to perform different vital functions like cell maintenance and repair, but when you are dehydrated these processes can slow down and stop altogether eventually causing death. Learn more about dehydration here.


In this brief guide, we have answered the query, “How long can someone go without eating?” We have also discussed how not eating affects your body and how long someone can go without water.