I’d like to tell you about a place called 1 Bed Avenue. It’s where I used to live—sometimes for months at a time. Diagnosed with Lyme disease in 2012, I received outstanding care from the specialists I saw. All the same, I didn’t get better.
I lived in Connecticut just miles from the town of Lyme, where the disease was first diagnosed in 1977. Ticks are now ubiquitous in Connecticut and Massachusetts, my stomping grounds for long walks in the woods.
Over the years, Lyme had sucked the marrow out of me and spat me out like an enervated double of my old self. I could no longer endure the Sisyphean battle of waking up feeling depleted, hardly able to struggle through the most basic tasks, only to have to repeat the cycle the next day.
I had read every health study, every health book, every medical journal. I had experimented on my own body as if I were a laboratory animal. I had exhausted every known and unknown treatment. I had no options left to try, except one.
I had heard about Russian physician Sergey Filonov and his dry fasting therapy—refraining from eating or drinking anything, including water—for a period of time. His website said he cured diseases with extended dry fasts of nine days or more, and he described an elaborate preparatory protocol that should take place over a period of months, involving progressively longer water fasts. I didn’t have a month, though.
Through my husband Dimitri, who was born in Russia and fluent in Russian, we contacted Dr Filonov, who said I needed to come to his clinic in Siberia as soon as possible, while it was still summer. By mid-August, my husband and I made the trip to Russia and eventually to Siberia.
Dr Filonov listened to my heart and murmured his approval, then started to give me a “liver massage.” He said the massages would be used to support the liver throughout the extreme detoxification process that dry fasting would activate.
This was followed by cupping, which I knew to be an ancient Chinese—and apparently, Siberian—method for decongesting cells and draining the lymphatic system.
Dr Filonov had already instructed Dmitri that I was to walk 10 km every day and sleep outside while dry fasting. Since the body isn’t being nourished by an external power supply of food or water, it capitalizes on moisture in the air. Ideally, the patient should fast in a pure mountainous area with rivers.
After my fast started, Dr Filonov also drove me to a special meditation site in the woods at the confluence of the three rivers, convinced that meditation would energize me.
I spent several hours there, visualizing that I was breathing healing white light into my body. When I exhaled, I imagined that I was releasing diseased cells. I would continue this healing meditation every day throughout my fast.
Later, I got a tent and had it pitched there so I could sleep outside.
I was gaining energy as the days went by. This was bewildering to me. I was not eating, I was not drinking, I was walking 10 km a day, and yet my energy was now picking up. How could this be?
I was nearing the mythic ninth day and there had been no crises. I had no pain, no thirst, and nothing bothering me in my physical body. I had trained for this marathon; I had cleaned enough debris out of my body to sustain this power scrubbing.
Day eight was phenomenal. I bounded out into the misty, sunlit morning with more energy than I had had thus far.
Dr Filonov reminded us frequently that day nine was the most critical day for healing and that the cells become incinerators on this day—he calls it the “acidotic crisis that stimulates cellular destruction.” The incineration of diseased cells accelerates and is accompanied by a glow in the patient.
That happened to me, and once I’d reached the finished line, I was given a cold water bath and then instructed to drink hot water to break the fast. On the next day, I was given a bowl of broccoli, carrot and potato soup. Just as I was finishing my soup, I was told that Dr Filonov was leaving soon and wanted to give me my take-home instructions, my personal exit lecture, including how to do my own liver massage.
He said that in 21 days we would see the full effects of this fast. Then I would be in “phenomenal condition.” Twenty-one days. Not so long to wait. Then I’d know if the Lyme was eradicated.
For the first time in years, I experienced no pain on the flight; I was not wincing or shifting my back in the seat. I bounded toward my husband Dimitri at the airport. He grinned and lifted me into the air. “It worked! Look at you! I can’t believe it! It’s really true!”
Dr Filonov had prepared me for the upcoming journey by telling me that I would have to repeat the nine-day dry fast at home. He told me that people mistakenly think just a single dry fast of seven or nine days will cure years of illness.
When I was back home in the Berkshires, I repeated my fast. I walked outside every day and slept on the screened-in porch in my sleeping bag. The more dry fasting I did, the easier it became and the stronger I felt, although I still experienced moments of discouragement.
A white, foamy mucus lined the sides of my tongue, while a thick, lacquer-like pea-green mucus coated the center of my tongue. There were also clumps of yellow mucus lacquered on my front teeth, as there had been in Siberia.
I broke the fast at 5:00 a.m. with an ice-cold bath and drank only hot water. As I drank, the mucus on my tongue slowly ebbed over days to reveal a shiny pink tongue.
When you fast, you’re depriving the body of its external nutrient or power supply, which is the key to igniting the cleansing process of cellular autophagy.
Dry fasting eradicates accumulated waste across the entire body, and as a result, chronic fatigue, inflammation and brain fog vanish.
Lyme, caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi (named after the researcher Willy Burgdorfer, who first identified it), is the most prevalent vector-borne disease in the United States. If a person is bitten by a microscopic tick in the genus Ixodes that is infected with the bacteria, they have a high likelihood of contracting the disease.
The Borrelia bacterium is a spirochete, one of the most aggressive bacterial forms. Its coiled shape allows it to spiral through the body, employing sophisticated ways of burrowing into the joints, cells and organs—and even crossing the blood-brain barrier. Because of the miniscule size of the tick, which makes it hard to find once it has burrowed into the body, and the invisible war the spirochetes wage from within, diagnosing Lyme disease is challenging.
The common symptoms of fever, migraines, headaches and fatigue (among multiple others) lead many patients to seek medical attention, but these symptoms can be attributed to numerous other diseases as well. If a patient undergoes laboratory testing and is treated immediately, Lyme disease has a higher chance of being eradicated with antibiotics.
But if Lyme disease is undetected and remains untreated, as mine was, the infection becomes chronic and can spread to the joints, heart, brain and nervous system.
For two weeks before embarking on the first dry fast, take two tablets of activated charcoal on an empty stomach either in the morning or in the evening. Upon waking, have 1 teaspoon of aluminum-free baking soda in an 8-oz cup of hot water each day for two weeks.
Increase your water intake to at least 2 L per day of high-quality spring or filtered water—no tap water that is chlorinated.
You may do dry skin brushing, far infrared saunas, cryotherapy, colonics or any cleansing rituals that you may already have in place.
Eliminate any sugar, processed foods, fast foods, junk food and snacks from your diet. When you feel confident in these new practices, avoid heavy meat-based meals and simple starches. I veer from gluten and dairy. Gravitate toward low-glycemic berries for breakfast, light salads for lunch, and steamed vegetables with wild-caught, low-mercury fish like salmon or cod for dinner.
As an introduction to dry fasting, Dr Filonov teaches his patients, “Do not dry fast without attempting to water fast first.” I even recommend green juice fasting for a few days before you start water fasting.
On the day before your first water or dry fast, drink only liquids, beginning with fresh-squeezed lemon juice in warm water upon waking. Dr Filonov and many others advocate doing this each morning. Follow this with a fresh-squeezed vegetable juice or a pureed vegetable soup for lunch, and perhaps conclude the day with a homemade vegetable broth for dinner.
The shorter 24-hour and three-day water and dry fasts can be conducted nearly anywhere. Based on Dr Filonov’s advice and my experience, a seven- or nine-day dry fast should take place only in nature, preferably in the mountains near streams and ideally under Dr Filonov’s guidance. The body will absorb any pollution in the air while dry fasting, and the environment must be very pure.
To water fast, after conducting the careful preparation and tapering your food intake, choose a designated day, and consume water only from the time you wake up until the following morning. Ease into eating again with a piece of non-citrus fruit for breakfast, followed by a finely chopped salad for lunch and dinner.
On the evening before your dry fast, take a shower and use coconut oil to seal in your body’s moisture.
Your first 24-hour dry fast will begin when you go to sleep in the evening, so it’s slightly longer than 24 hours. If you begin on a Friday night, then you will not consume anything until Sunday morning when you wake up. Remember that you will not have any contact with any substances while you are training to dry fast, so there will be no brushing of teeth, showering, or applying lip balm or lotion.
Dr Filonov says one day of dry fasting is more effective for clearing cellular detritus than three days of water fasting. While you’re training your body to dry fast for extended periods, you may incorporate cold-water therapy through ice baths, ice-cold showers or dunking in icy rivers.
Exiting the fast
When you wake on Sunday morning of your 24-hour dry fast, for example, you will break your fast.
Take a cold shower. Then prepare a thermos of tea-temperature spring water.
Dr Filonov recommends conducting a 24-hour dry fast several times before continuing on to a three-day fast.
Short fasts do not require much buildup as there is still a lot of detritus to destroy in the body until one has completed a series of nine-day dry fasts. After 24 hours of dry fasting, Dr Filonov says that human growth hormone gets released, which produces a rejuvenating effect. Although dry fasting stimulates the metabolism during the exit period, use caution to avoid overeating after one-day fasts.
The exit is critical, for, as Dr Filonov explains, “it holds 70 percent of the therapeutic value; it must be conducted perfectly.” The fast is not over when you start drinking. That’s when the hard work happens as you navigate the minefield of food choices and quantities that are available to you. The body will take back calories very quickly since it’s been in a deprived state. I brought a wooden bowl back from Siberia that fits no more than one and a half cups of food, and I eat strictly from that bowl during my exits.
When exiting a one-day dry fast, after consuming hot water for the morning, you may have a piece of fresh fruit for lunch and fresh vegetables for dinner if you’re hungry. If hunger doesn’t return, remain on liquids until it does. I can’t shock my body with solid food—rather, I taper slowly. Remain on a plant-based diet to continue cleansing, especially if you’re preparing for longer dry fasts.
On the second day after you exit, you may have a small portion of millet or buckwheat kasha for breakfast, vegetable soup for lunch with no salt or oil, and salad with no dressing for dinner. “If a person only eats plant foods, the effect of starvation continues during the meals,” Dr Filonov explains.
In the first two to three weeks after fasting, depending on the length of the fast, exclude alcohol, caffeine, spicy foods, fat, canned food, smoked food, salt, and oil.
After a nine-day fast, abstain from meat for one month, and consider cutting out sugar for the long term.
Dr Filonov doesn’t recommend dry fasting for more than five days at home alone the first time without his supervision.
Dr Sergey Filonov explains how dry fasting heals the body
Michelle arrived at my clinic with terrible symptoms. She had been bedridden intermittently for several months and could not walk. She had debilitating pain in the joints of her arms and legs, and because of this, she could not sleep at night. She also had constant chronic fatigue from her illness, as well as brain fog and headaches, so she could not think clearly.
I doubted very much that such a thin girl from America would be able to go through such a hard, dry fast, but fortunately, I was wrong. She had great motivation and a great desire to recover.
Why did dry fasting help Michelle and the many other Lyme patients I have since treated? Inflammation cannot exist without water. Any inflamed area of the body swells with water. Only in a moist environment can microbes and viruses multiply. Water deficiency is detrimental to inflammation or any kind of pathological fluid (edema). When the body is dehydrated, a strong competition for water between body cells and pathogens begins. Body cells take water from microorganisms, as well as from the air, absorbing it through the skin.
Healthy, strong cells receive additional energy and water, while diseased cells, viruses and bacteria cannot do this. Dry fasting also suppresses inflammation through the action of glucocorticoid hormones, the body’s most powerful anti-inflammatory agent.
Glucocorticoid hormones and sex hormones are 70 percent bound by blood transport albumins, and only 30 percent circulate in the blood in a free state. During dry fasting, transport albumins break down and their amino acids focus on vital functions, especially in the brain and the cardiovascular system. This releases a massive amount of hormones, which circulate in the blood in a free state.
The glucocorticoids flooding the blood have a strong anti-inflammatory effect on autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis. In addition, during dry fasting, toxins are burned in their own furnace; each cell, in the absence of water, triggers an internal thermonuclear reaction. It undergoes an extreme internal process of destruction: everything that is superfluous gets destroyed.
At a higher temperature, all metabolic processes in the body are accelerated, so the toxins that cause disease disappear faster, and even cancer cells completely stop their vital activity.
With an increase in temperature, interferon is more actively released, which gives the body the ability to fight viruses. At high temperatures, antibodies that protect against disease are more actively produced, and phagocytic, bactericidal and lymphocytic activity increases.
Put simply, dry fasting gives the immune system a great rest.
Michelle B. Slater, PhD, is a comparative literature scholar and the president of the nonprofit Mayapple Center for the Arts and Humanities. She details her Lyme disease journey in her book Starving to Heal in Siberia (Greenleaf Book Group, 2022).