How Long Can You Survive without Food?

How Long Can You Survive without Food?

Food.

Voedsel. Φαγητό. Bwyd. питание.

Chakula. 餐飲. Aliments. Mat. Comida. طعام.

غذا. Makanan. Cibo. フード. Ushqim. Meaai.

Kadaharan. Món ăn. Kos. Manje.

No matter where you live, no matter what language you speak, everyone in the entire world cannot live without it: food.

Our bodies must have sustenance and fuel daily, or our functionality will go down drastically.

But how quickly does that functionality go down without food? How long can a person last without it?

Of course, because our bodies are all so different, this is a hard question to answer, and it is even more difficult to research due to the ethical nature behind such research.

However, from November 19, 1944 to December 20, 1945, a study on starvation was conducted by the University of Minnesota. It was titled the Minnesota Starvation Experiment, or the Minnesota Semi-Starvation Experiment. This clinical study was aimed at understanding the effects of human starvation. Out of 200 volunteers, 36 men were chosen to participate and had to lose 25% of their normal body weight (American Psychological Association).

That’s insane, right? Not to mention incredibly unethical—to starve people for the sake of research. Why in the world would someone sign up for that?

However, as crazy and unethical as it sounds, this study was conducted for one purpose: to help people. World War II and the deprivation it scourged was the reason this study was even started. Researchers and scientists wanted to figure out how to help those who had suffered through starvation periods recover in the most healthy way possible.  

But what exactly happens, physiologically, when a person enters into starvation mode?

The Bright Side, a YouTube channel that creates educational videos and has 27 million subscribers, posted a video titled, “What Will Happen If You Eat Nothing for 7 Days.” The effects on the body after even the first few days are startling. Here is a summary of what happens in bulleted format:

  • As soon as you’ve begun your “no food” period, nothing much will happen within those first 6 hours. You are going to be fine and will probably not experience anything detrimental to your health.
  • After the 6-hour mark, your body will begin to notice that something is wrong. There is no food, and your body, as if turning on a switch, will begin to starve itself since there is not enough glucose in your blood. (For those wondering what glucose is, Merriam-Webster states that it is “the sweet, colorless, soluble form that occurs widely in nature and is the usual form in which carbohydrate is assimilated by animals). Basically, it is a very important energy source in living organisms that is a component of many carbohydrates (Dictonary.com). It’s responsible for fueling your brain, muscle tissue, and red blood cells.
  • After 6 hours of not eating, your body will enter a process called Ketosis. The only way for your body to survive is to begin breaking down fat to use as energy.
  • Your fat will be broken down into fatty acids, but unfortunately, your brain cannot use these acids as fuel.
  • So as another resort, your brain will turn to Ketone bodies for energy. It works for a moment, but not for long. Ketone bodies cannot replace glucose because Ketones are “acids made when your body begins using fat instead of carbohydrates for energy. This happens because there is not enough insulin to get sugar from the blood into the cells, and the body turns fat into energy. When fat is broken down, Ketone bodies are made and can accumulate in the body (Diabetes Research Institute Foundation).
  • All of this leads to cognitive functioning impairment.
  • After about 3 days without food, it’s your brain that goes into another extreme: it starts to break down your body’s protein. Proteins release amino acids, which can then be converted into glucose your body really needs in order to keep up functionality.
  • So your brain is finally happy, but now it’s your body that suffers.
  • After that, your body will start to cannibalize itself and will begin to eat away at muscle mass.
  • Women’s menstrual cycles may pause at this stage.
  • Both genders bone density begins to diminish.
  • After about a week of not eating food, your immune system is seriously weakened. It can no longer block the path to your system and keep away all diseases and viruses. No vitamins or minerals are coming in, and it is focusing all its faculties on staying alive.
  • Most people can die from disease at this stage because their bodies can no longer fight off diseases, even if it’s just a small disease.
  • After one week of no eating, a person’s body will become more and more fragile by day (The Bright Side).

This is quite a scary process.

Even though this is the factual, physical process of what happens to the body when a person begins to starve, that process can either be gradual or accelerated depending on the health the person is in at the time. Which, again, is why it is so incredibly hard to know for certain how long a person can last without food. Scientific American notes that the “duration of survival without food is greatly influenced by factors such as body weight, genetic variation, other health considerations, and, most importantly, the presence or absence of dehydration.”

From famous historical figures such as Mahatma Ghandi who fasted for a period of 21 days or hunger strikes such as the 1980 or 1981 Irish hunger strikes, the 2000 Death Fast in Turkey, or the 2012 Kurdish prisoner’s hunger strike, it is difficult to say just how long a person’s body can go without food, but one study in the British Medical Journal cited that there were “several hunger strikes that ended after 21 to 40 days.” The reason being is that participants of the hunger strikes were experiencing severe, life-threatening symptoms and therefore had to end the strike.

However, in an article published by the Independent, people who are starving will feel “faint, suffer lightheadedness, and dizzy spells, will feel weak and often cold.” Days 35-42 are considered to be the “most unpleasant phase to those who have survived prolonged fasting” because they can bring bouts of vertigo, vomiting, and difficulty drinking water. “After seven weeks without food, you can expect confusion, loss of hearing and/or eyesight, and internal hemorrhaging. And behond 45 days? Expect death at any point.”

Additionally, D News states that children are the most risk to adverse reactions to starvation. Because children are growing, their bodies suck up all the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals they can to enhance growth. But starvation can permanently affect a child’s development and has been known to cause death more quickly. “Children can only last 32 days without food. Adults can last approximately 70 days” (D News). However, these numbers are—again—only estimates. A person’s health before starvation could greatly affect the time he or she is able to survive without food. This theory is underscored by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) which explains in an article that it “seems possible to survive without food and drink within a time span of 8 to 21 days.” However NCBI affirms that “if a person is only deprived of food, the survival time may even go up to about two months, although this is influenced by many factors.”

Food.

It is insane, for those of us who are extremely blessed and fortunate to have food be part of our daily lives, to even imagine this ever happening. But hunger is far more widespread than many people realize, even in today’s world. The UN World Food Programme reports that 1 in every 9 people do not have enough to eat and that 795 million people suffer from malnourishment.

Let’s just think about that for a moment: 795 million people.

That’s a lot.

That’s why it is so important to have the knowledge, even if you live in a land of plenty, of growing your own food. Learn how to take care of yourself and your family so that, if such times should ever arise, you will have the satisfaction of knowing that you are prepared for food shortages and famines. You will be able to provide for your family and keep them fed. And although it may be difficult to know how you can even help those who are suffering in foreign lands, you can. It may be small contributions here and there where you can afford it, but helping even a little bit can make a difference in someone’s life, however small it may be.

That’s what we’re about here are Survivable.com. We want to teach others how they can plan and prepare so the people they love can be safe. It’s not about doomsday prepping or teaching people to be territorial over their provisions. We want everyone to be able to learn survival skills so that we can all be prepared and succeed together because one thing is for certain: we’re stronger when we’re united.

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Why YOU Should Learn Survival Skills

Why YOU Should Learn Survival Skills

For many of us, we live in a world of luxury, of plenty, of comfort. We have everything we could possibly need. We live in a world where we walk into a store filled with all different kinds of fruits, vegetables, meats, dairy products, and sweets. With hardly a thought at all, we go to the store and just know that there will be copious amounts of supplies for all of us to have. And we know, with a small measure of faith, that if the supplies runs out today, it will—as if by magic—be there tomorrow.

But, what if there is no tomorrow?

What if we can’t go to the store and get the food and water and supplies we need to properly take care of our bodies? What if, after a long day spent in the heat, you turn the sink on at home, hoping for a cool glass of water, and nothing comes out? The sink hisses and gurgles, trying to work, but it’s dry. What if you go to the kitchen early in the morning, bleary-eyed and sleepy to make breakfast, attempt to turn on the light and…nothing. Confused, you flick the switch on and off five or six times, hoping it will somehow magically turn on. And when it doesn’t, you become annoyed, frustrated even, and you look at the stove to notice there are no small blue numbers to show you the time. The power is out. “Ah, it’ll turn on in a bit,” you voice to no one. You then walk slowly to the pantry, feeling your way through the dark to grab the house’s only flashlight. But what if the light’s never turn back on? Does your flashlight even work? Do you have spare batteries for it?

As a child, and even now at times, whenever the power would go out, I would find it exciting, comical even. We now had to figure out a way to “survive” without it for a time, but we knew that it would be back on in a while, and we could go back to flushing the toilet without a 2-liter container of old water and stop drinking the bottled Arrowhead water we kept in the cool, dry basement. It was fun, for a bit—figuring out a way to live without the daily necessities. But after about three or four hours, it grew tiresome.

There are hundreds of thousands of people in the world who do not have access to fresh water daily, who do not have food readily available to them, or who go without proper sanitation and hygiene. “More than a quarter of the world’s population—about 2.1 billion people—lack access to clean water, according to a report released…by the World Health Organization and UNICEF” (Hubbard Radio Washington D.C., 2017). Additionally, about “2.3 billion people still do not have basic sanitation facilities such as toilets or latrines, and of these, 892 million still defecate in the open, for example in street gutters, behind bushes, or into open bodies of water.” It is estimated that at least “10% of the world’s population is thought to consume food irrigated by wastewater” (World Health Organization).

Those numbers are terrifying.

Some of us are so blessed to live in a world where we have all these things and more. And as you’re reading this article, you might be thinking, “Goodness, those numbers are terrifying; I want to do something,” or “I’m glad I don’t have that problem where I live.”

You’re wrong.

Yes, you may not have those problems, and it’s true, you may never be faced with them. But what if you are? In my opinion, it is a huge blessing, but it can also be a curse—in a sort of way—to live in a country where we don’t have to worry about those things. Why? Because it makes us complacent. It makes us forget those back-to-basic skills. It makes it so that, if there is a huge disaster that strikes and there is no clean water, many people will go into crisis mode because they don’t know what to do. They haven’t been equipped with the proper tools, if you will, of survival.

Now, calling it a “curse” might be a bit extreme to some (and yes, I would rather have access to clean water and sanitation any day of the week), but technology practically renders survival skills moot. They are a thing of the past. Unnecessary. Forgotten. But really, survival skills are just as important today as they were 100 years ago. As we’ve seen in the past, history repeats itself time and time again. The skills that some would say are irrelevant will most certainly become necessary one day. And really, if you think about it, it’s only been the last few hundred years in which these skills have slowly started to deteriorate and fade. Technology, as great as it is, has made us slightly useless when it comes to taking care of ourselves and the basics: food, shelter, water.

Now, when you think of survival skills, I’m sure one of the first people that comes to your mind is Bear Grylls, E.J. “Skullcrusher” Snyder, Mykel Hawke, or Dave Canterbury to name a few. There are many doomsdayers out there who are prepping for the zombie apocalypse. These are the people that go off the grid and have their own little sanctuary out in the middle of nowhere that is completely self-sustainable. They have a huge garden, an arsenal, livestock perhaps, years worth of food storage, and other supplies. While there are some people who have more merit than others when it comes to survival skills and emergency preparedness, some of these people can seem like extremist examples. You may be thinking, “How could I ever become like them?” or “Why would I want to be that extreme? I don’t need those skills.” I know, because I’ve thought those same things before.

But what if you’re someone like me?

I mean sure, I probably have a bit more knowledge than some of our city neighbors (maybe), but I really didn’t start learning about survival and emergency preparedness skills till I got to college. I’d always had a deep love for the outdoors, and I spent every moment I could outside. My last semester, I took one survival skills class and was hooked ever since. I learned that survival skills wasn’t just for the doomsdayers or the professionals. The everyday person can learn survival skills too and be good at it. Furthermore, I learned that knowing these skills is extremely valuable for our day and age too.

There will come a day when your sink will not run, that your lights won’t turn on, and the grocery aisles will not be filled with food. Water even, our most precious and valuable resource, will be fought over tooth and nail. Indeed, only 2.5% of the Earth’s total water is drinkable. With all the billions of people and animals, that’s not very much water when you think about it really. And as humans, we can only go three to four days without freshwater. That’s not very long. And in an emergency situation where you suddenly realize you need water, you can bet that everyone else surrounding you is thinking the exact same thing. It’s like when you’ve gone to the movies, thinking it’s a good time and that no one else will be there, when you show up, and about 500 other people thought the exact same thing you did. That’s merely an entertainment example.

Now, put that analogy into a survival situation. When it comes to survival, people’s brains are suddenly rewired or some innate button is pressed within them. The instinct to survive in all of us is strong, and it brings people out in different ways. You can bet, 110% that if you are faced without running water for weeks on end that the majority of water from the stores will be gone before you’ve had time to put your shoes on.

I share these statistics not to scare you, but to prepare you—to open your eyes, even if it’s just a little, to the absolute necessity of learning survival skills in the 21st century. You won’t be afraid of the future if you are prepared. And really, what better time than to start now? Anyone, anywhere, at any age, can learn these skills. And you don’t have to have some sort of military background or outdoor love for that matter to learn how.

You can become a survival expert. You can do this. I use the word “expert” not in jest either. It literally means “a person who has a comprehensive knowledge of or skill in a particular area.” If you prepare well, and do all you can to know what is out there, you’ll be labeled an expert. Yes, you. The everyday, seemingly ordinary person. Why? Because you’re doing this to prepare so the people you love will be safe. That’s what it is all about. That’s what we’re going to help you learn how to do here at Survivable.com. Here, emergency preparedness and survival skills are made simple.

Comment, like, and share this article! Anything else you would add? Share your thoughts on why you think survival skills and emergency preparedness are important skills to learn in today’s world.

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