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I started fasting on Yom Kippur as an adult, about 10 years ago.

A couple times I had to drink a glass of water either after Kol Nidre or before Shacharit, because I felt completely dehydrated (I did go on with the fast after that)

What steps do you recommend to avoid this situation? Foods to avoid during the previous meal? Specific hydration steps?

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4 Answers 4

up vote 11 down vote accepted

Please see "The Segal Guide to Fasting For Yom Kippur (from a Medical Perspective)," written by a physician. The very first point he deals with is the thirst issue you raised.

Hope you have a successful and meaningful fast this year!

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There are many articles online about this. E.g.: jpost.com/Health/Article.aspx?id=240719 –  Ariel K Oct 6 '11 at 16:23
    
Excellent guide. This is exactly what I was looking for. –  מרדכי בן דניאל Oct 7 '11 at 1:16
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I realize that this is an old answer, but it's effectively a link-only answer. You might want to edit in the relevant information, so that the answer can stand by itself. Thanks! –  Shokhet Dec 18 at 3:00

From a personal perspective, I have found that the easiest fasts I have had, came when Yom Kippur was on a Monday, and Sunday morning I did a 3-4 hour run (training for a fall marathon).

My theory is that knowing how dumb an idea it is to do a 3-4 hour run, mere hours before a 25 hour fast, I try to compensate by drinking the rest of the day, every 10-20 minutes having a mouthful or two of water at time.

This is actually how I try to optimize hydration during long distance races, but doing it before Yom Kippur seems to have helped.

Based on a comment from Monica Cellio I feel I should add that the reasoning behind hydrating in the described fashion is based on the uptake rate of the typical persons gastrointestinal tract is about 800 mL to 1 litre an hour. So drinking more than that at once means your kidneys will just discard it.

For your stomach to effectively absorb water you want to keep it constantly absorbing, with a small amount of physical pressure. A couple of mouthfuls at a time keeps the stomach somewhat occupied, and the physical presence helps generate a very small amount of pressure that helps the absorption process.

Thus doing this every 10 minutes or so keeps the pressure up, and maximizes the time your body has to absorb the water.

Of course expect to visit the potty a lot as a consequence of this!

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I begin increased hydration (as part of ramping down caffeine) starting right after Rosh Hashana, with the greatest amount of water on the last two days (today and tomorrow). It doesn't reliably solve the headache problem, but it does seem to help with thirst. What you can't do is just chug a half-gallon of water right before the fast (spoken from experience). –  Monica Cellio Oct 6 '11 at 17:26
    
This is good advice too (accepted Dave's answer as more complete) –  מרדכי בן דניאל Oct 7 '11 at 1:17

I heard a Segula from Baba Sale Zatsal (R. Yaakov Abouah'sera) but I never tried it :

Drink a glass of water in front of the Mezuzah of the room.

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The key to not getting dehydrated while fasting is to thoroughly hydrate in the days leading up to it. If you drink a lot of caffeine (or alcohol) especially, gradually back off from that and replace it with water. I start the day after Rosh Hashana, replacing other drinks with water or fruit juice over the course of the week. In the last 24 hours before the fast I drink no caffeine at all, and I drink plenty of water -- a couple quarts over the course of the day. Supplementing this with watery foods (like fruits) is also good. (I'm focusing here on the drinking aspects; there are other questions on this site about foods to eat or avoid eating.)

You'll still be hungry, and thirsty. You may well get a caffeine headache. But if I do this I don't feel parched and desperate to drink something.

If you still feel like you need to drink some water, ask your rabbi if it would be ok to swish some water around in your mouth and then spit it out instead of swallowing. Depending on your situation he might be able to offer you that leniency, and that might be enough to trick your body so the feeling abates.

This is all assuming that there is no health issue, of course. If you have something special going on, consult your rabbi and your physician before Yom Kippur to find out what you need to do.

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