How long can you go without eating?

In this brief blog we will answer the question,”How long can you go without eating?” We will discuss how the human body fights starvation. We will also look at some side effects and risks of restricted eating.

How long can you go without eating?

Researchers say that you can live for 8 to 21 days without food and water and around 2 months without food but adequate amounts of water. This is because even without food the human body looks for alternate ways to obtain energy and fuel, this can be from fats or even the muscle stores.

Food and water are very important for bodily functions and human life. Food provides the body with the requisite energy requirement and water plays many vital roles. However, the human body is able to survive for some days without water and weeks without food as the body will adjust its metabolism and energy requirements.

Going without food and water for a significant amount of time is referred to as starvation. Your body begins to starve after 1 to 2 days without any food or water. It will then begin to adapt by functioning differently so as to limit the amount of energy it burns. However, this will eventually result in death.

How does the human body fight starvation?

The human body makes use of energy sources such as glucose or sugar primarily. If you don’t consume food then the glucose reserves will be depleted just within a day.

Thereafter the body will release a hormone known as glucagon. This is a hormone produced by the pancreas to assist in regulation of blood glucose levels and it sends signals to the liver to produce glucose. The glucose produced is mainly fed by the brain.

If after 2 to 3 days, you still havent eaten. The body now starts to break down the fatty tissue, with the muscles using the fatty acids created during this process as their primary source of fuel.

The fatty acids are used to make ketones in the liver. Ketones are chemicals that are produced in the liver as mentioned when the body doesn’t have enough insulin to convert sugar or glucose into energy.

The ketones are released into the bloodstream and are used by the brain for fuel, this cuts out the need for glucose.

When the fatty acid reserves are depleted the body now switches to protein. It does this by breaking down muscles. As this happens the body begins to lose the functionality of the heart, kidney and liver. This ultimately results in death.

What influences the time period of survival during starvation?

Different people can survive for different time periods. There are limited studies on this because some people view this study as unethical. However some studies have been done on people who chose to starve themselves.

Based on the studies, some factors that affect how long people can live without food are;

  • The starting weight; lean people can handle a loss of uoto 18 percent of their body mass with obese people handling more at over 20 percent
  • Gender; Females can survive much longer
  • Age; Children at high risk of dying from starvation

What are some side effects and risks of restricted eating?

There are many bad effects of living without adequate food and water to the body. The body’s systems will start deteriorating and might even shut down if prolonged. Some of the side effects of starvation include:

  • Fatigue
  • Faintness
  • Drop in blood pressure
  • Dizziness
  • Impaired cognitive performance such as poor concentration
  • Slow heart rate
  • Hypotension
  • Cold intolerance
  • Weakness
  • Poor emotional and social functioning
  • Dehydration
  • Body temperature fluctuation
  • Abdominal pain
  • Thyroid malfunction
  • Post-traumatic stress or depression
  • Low potassium
  • Organ failure
  • Heart attack

People that starve for a prolonged period of time cannot start to consume normal portions of foods immediately. This is because the body will require to slowly ease and adapt to eating again to avoid chronic reactions known as refeeding syndrome.

These reactions include;

  • neurological conditions
  • heart conditions
  • swelling of the body’s tissue

Resumption of consumption of foods after starvation requires a health practitioner’s supervision and it can include consumption of lactose-free foods, boiled veggies and a low protein and low sugar diet.


In this brief blog we have answered the question,”How long can you go without eating?” We have discussed how the human body fights starvation. We have also looked at some side effects and risks of restricted eating.


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