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A remarkably significant fact, which I pointed out some years ago, is that those extreme conditions of malnutrition or "deficiency diseases," which laboratory men dwell upon, never develop during the most prolonged fast, and are not met with during a prolonged fruit or green vegetable diet. They develop quickly enough on a pure carbohydrate or on a pure protein diet. Mineral depletion is the probable explanation of such conditions.
In experiments with animals fed on mineral free diets, it was found that they became weak, dull, listless, had fits and died. They reached a point where they refused to eat. Forced feeding was resorted to. It was found that the animals that were forced to eat the mineral-free diet, after their instincts had put out a stop sign, died quicker than animals not fed at all. In experiments of this nature it was found that the nervous system suffered most. A dog so fed showed sudden fits of madness, became weak and uncertain of his movements, trembled and showed signs of nervousness, and grew weaker and weaker until he could hardly crawl.
Years ago Dr. Foster's experiments proved that pigeons and dogs develop symptoms of auto-intoxication and die sooner when fed on foods artificially deprived of their minerals, than when given no food at all. Dogs fed on demineralized food died in twenty-six to thirty days; whereas dogs completely deprived of all food lived for forty to sixty days.
One will starve to death with just as much certainty and much more speedily, if one attempts to live upon foods containing only one or two elements of nutrition, as if one were totally abstaining from food. A diet of white flour and water, or white sugar and water, will result in death much sooner than a diet of water only. If no food is eaten the body feeds upon its own food reserves, but it has no provision for meeting the exigencies created by prolonged subsistence on one-sided diets.
If no food is taken the body feeds upon its stored reserves and its less vital tissues. If necessary, until the skeleton condition is reached, it is able to maintain a balance between its elements and will not develop, beyond emaciation, any of the "deficiency diseases." Indeed, judicious fasting is distinctly beneficial in such "diseases."
But nature has made no adequate provision for properly nourishing a body that is fed indefinitely upon half-foods. The body does not contain within itself the elements needed to compensate for the deficiency created by denatured foods. Indeed, as pointed out elsewhere, one may starve to death much quicker on some diets, than one will if totally abstaining from food. One will die quicker on a diet of white bread than from fasting, and the more bread one consumes, the more severe will be one's suffering and the sooner will one die. Such foods draw so heavily on certain of the body's reserve elements that these are soon exhausted and body chemistry badly unbalanced.
In innutrition and undernutrition we have a failure to balance the physiological expenditures of the organism. The diet is either inadequate as a whole, or else it is lacking in some essential components. This results in malnutrition. In this condition, there is an unbalanced demand upon the stored reserves of the body caused by the presence of most of the body's needs in the food eaten, with a deficiency of some of its needs. There is, as a consequence, a basic difference between the processes of metabolism under the two sets of conditions.
The contrary phenomena occur when the body is fasting. The body easily controls the use and loss of its reserves, using some of them comparatively rapidly, while conserving, hoarding and redistributing others. In this manner chemical balance is maintained and no "deficiency disease" is produced and no organ is crippled. In total fasting, the body's reserves are drawn upon in a balanced manner, or else, those elements that are most abundant are used most rapidly, so that balance is preserved, or is restored, as a consequence.
Prof. Morgulis says that "our observation that the chronically underfed dog became debilitated in a measure not commonly noted in animals which undergo a straight fast is also borne out by the more extensive study of this matter by Benedict, Miles, Roth and Smith."
This bears out my contention that fasting does not produce the same deplorable results in the body that underfeeding or unbalanced feeding does. Fasting tends to maintain and even to restore chemical balance; whereas, the unbalanced or inadequate diet tends to unbalance the body's chemistry.
Scurvy, typhus, spotted fever, influenza and diarrhea, are reported to develop in famine districts. Following in the wake of the famine and persisting long afterwards, rickets, diarrhea, various skin eruptions and purulent inflammation of the eyes are found in nearly all children. The famine of 1848 in Ireland left a large number of blind women and men behind. The number of blind increased from 13,812 in 1848 to 45,947 in 1851.
It is such experiences as these that have served to prejudice thousands against fasting. They have not known that the most prolonged fasting never produces such results. Fasting never produces blindness, deafness, idiocy, insanity, eye "diseases," rickets, bowel disorders, etc., that follow in the wake of famine. So long as no food is consumed, the organism seems to be able to supply from its stored reserves the elements needed to sustain the vital organs and their functions and to supply these elements in correct proportions. These evils are out-growths, not of complete abstinence from food, but of a very one-sided or unbalanced diet. We meet with them in the absence of famine, right here in America, as a result of such diets. Purulent inflammation of the eyes and various skin eruptions are frequent out-growths of carbohydrate excess. Sore eyes, "simple" or "purulent," develop almost wholly in children who eat lots of sugar, syrup, white bread, etc., and who do not get fresh fruits and vegetables. Not even an inadequate diet of fruits and green vegetables ever produces such conditions.
Jackson points out that the teeth are "especially susceptible to rickets and scurvy" and that in both animals and man, there are slight changes in chemical composition, especially in chronic (incomplete) inanition. In the young, such inanition may delay the process of dentition, but persistent growth and development of the teeth (as of the skeleton) occur in young rabbits held at a constant body weight by underfeeding.
"The effects of partial inanition have been studied in rickets and in scurvy. In both human and animal rickets there is delayed and abnormal dentition. Both enamel and dentine may be defective and imperfectly calcified."
Without additional quotations about the effects of deficient diets (partial inanition) upon the teeth in rickets and in scurvy, let us point out that dentists who have studied the effects of inadequate and deficient diets upon the teeth and do not know that fasting does not produce the same results as such diets are likely to conclude that fasting injures the teeth. Indeed, there is a tendency in all who study the effects of dietary inadequacies and deficiencies to run away from fasting; for, they reason, "if a defective diet produces such undesirable results, no food at all should produce much worse results." They are blissfully unaware that fasting not only does not produce any of the so-called deficiency "diseases," but that it is actually beneficial in everyone of them.
Dr. Jackson says that: "In scurvy, the gums are markedly congested and swollen in about 80 per cent of adult human cases, * * * The alveolar bone and peridental membrane undergoes necrosis, with consequent loosening of the teeth, and ulcerations or pyorrhea may occur.
In pyorrhea we see inflammation and ulceration of the gums, pus formation, loosening of the teeth, necrosis of the jaw, and even falling out of the teeth. In numerous cases of pyorrhea that we have cared for, the gum inflammation has subsided, the ulcers have healed, pus formation has ceased and the loosened teeth have become firmly fixed in their sockets, and all of this has occurred while the patient was fasting. The effects of fasting must not be confused with the effects of a white-flour-lard-pie-pasteurized-milk-mashed-potato-diet.
Not only do such conditions not develop during even a prolonged fast, but they are improved and many of their symptoms completely removed by a fast. This remarkable evidence of the value of fasting is explained by the fact that there is a disproportionate loss of the various constituent elements of the body during the fast and a redistribution of some of these, which results in a near approach to normal body chemistry.
It is quite probable that it is much easier for the body to secure and utilize its mineral reserves during a fast than on a onesided diet. Several years ago, Prof. Forster, of Munchen, who made experiments upon fasting animals and animals fed on mineral-free diets and found that animals fed on mineral-free diets died quicker than animals not fed at all, explained that if no food is eaten the body is nourished on itself and, consequently, a supply of mineral is obtained from the broken down tissues, but if the body is nourished on foods freed of their organic salts, there is no demand made upon the tissues for albumen and carbohydrates and so no minerals are derived from the broken down tissue.
The body possesses a reserve from which, in emergency, it may, for a time, draw the required minerals, vitamins and other elements. Animals fed on demineralized foods are compelled to expend their reserves in two directions--(1) in the regular processes of life; and (2) in balancing up the mineral-poor foods they are consuming--while animals deprived of all foods (fasting) are forced to expend their reserves only in carrying on the ordinary (though somewhat reduced) processes of life. The reserves of the fasting animal last much longer and the body's chemical balance is also maintained.
We know, of course, that the body fed on a denatured diet, is capable of extracting minerals from its own tissues, but its mineral reserve is never great enough to meet the constant demands made upon it by a mineral-free diet. The mineral-free diet exhausts these reserves very rapidly. During a fast no such demand is made upon the body's mineral reserves. The body's vitamin and complettin reserves, supposed to be stored in the liver and a few other internal organs, are also exhausted much more quickly on a deficient diet than on a fast.
Experiments with deficient diets must be carried out over sufficiently long periods of time to exhaust the body's possibilities of self-help before the effects of the diet can be seen. Its own reserves must first be exhausted before the deficiency will begin to be manifest. However, when a nitrogen-free diet is given the body, it is forced to draw upon its own stores for material. We know that under these circumstances the most important elements are vigorously retained by the body and an intensive nitrogen hunger is induced. The ability to utilize nitrogen is actually improved.
During fasting the same retention of the most important constituents of the body's stored material takes place even more efficiently than when on an inadequate diet. For, while the fast compels the body to draw upon its reserves, the denatured or unbalanced diets draw excessively upon certain of these stores and compel their more rapid utilization. Indeed, the more of the elements supplied by the diet are given, the greater is the demand made upon the stored material not supplied by the diet. It is largely for this reason that death can be produced quicker by a diet of white flour, or white sugar, or meat soup, etc., than by starvation. During the fast the body can regulate the expenditure of its stored materials in its own best interest and can conserve these in such a manner as to make them hold out longest. On a denatured diet, the demand for stored material is such that this regulation is impossible. The stored reserves are soon exhausted by those elements contained in the diet and become as denatured, or inadequate, or unbalanced, or deficient as the diet itself.
There is more malnutrition due to overfeeding with an embargo on assimilation than to underfeeding. More often there is a loss of power to assimilate special elements than an absence of them in the diet.
Animal experimentation has shown that when animals are fed mineral-free diets their nervous systems suffer most of all. Nervousness, weak and uncertain movements and fits of madness develop as a result of such diets. On the other hand, the nervous system suffers least of all (almost none at all) in animals that are given no food of any kind, except water, until they die of starvation. This marked difference between the effects of fasting, even of starvation, and the effects of deficient diets may be seen in man if we contrast a case of beri-beri (multiple neuritis) or of pellagra with a man who has fasted forty, fifty or sixty days. Nothing could more clearly demonstrate the terrible drain upon the body's mineral reserves caused by the deficient diet than such a contrast.
In beri beri, for example, paresis, especially in the lower extremities, paresthesia (diminished feeling), hyperesthesia (excess feeling), tenderness of the nerve trunks and loss of deep reflexes are the chief nervous symptoms present. In its advanced stage, pellagra also presents symptoms referable to widespread changes in the brain and cord.
The fasting patient, after a most prolonged fast, not only does not present these or other nervous symptoms, but has lost all or nearly all of the nervous symptoms he may have had at the beginning of the fast. Almost all the effects of fasting, with the exception of the loss of weight and sometimes a temporary loss of strength, are exactly opposite to the effects of the deficient or denatured diet.
Pashutin says that he has found in his experiment on dogs, that "when mineral salts are purposely withheld from the animal's food for long periods, other food from which all mineral salts have been removed being given, the animal will use the mineral salts in the body over and over, none being excreted or passed in the urine, as occurs when the animal has a plentiful supply of mineral salts in its food."
This is only partially true. Whether the animal is fasting or on a mineral-free diet, it seeks to retain its minerals as long as possible. There is, however, a day by day loss of more or less of these, so that in the case of the mineral-free diet, minerals must sooner or later be added to the diet or serious trouble results. The mineral exhaustion of the organism occurs much more rapidly, as previously shown, on a denatured diet than on a fast.
Dr. Kellogg offers, among his many objections to fasting, this one: "The body is also continually losing vitamins which are essential for the promotion of the processes of repair and the maintenance of the various vital functions. The daily supply of vitamins is as necessary as the daily supply of air and water. Vitamins cannot be produced by the animal body. They are an exclusive product of plant life. The liver hoards a small store of vitamins sufficient to serve in emergency, but the supply is not sufficient to last indefinitely, and, as shown by the experience of sailors who contract scurvy and those who become the victims of beri-beri through living upon polished rice, the vitamin store of the liver soon becomes exhausted and the body then falls into serious disorder. Fasting deprives the body of vitamins and this involves the risk of serious injury for which no adequate compensation is offered. The total loss of all vitamins must certainly involve greater damage than the loss of one only, yet the absence of but one of the three known vitamins for even a short period produces noticeable injury. Certainly the body can be in no way benefited by the deprivation of food iron, food lime, and other food salts, and of the precious vitamins, the activators of the vital processes."
We have no means of knowing how much of a reserve store of vitamins the body possesses, nor do we know where all of these reserves are stored; still less do we know about how much of these vitamins are lost to the body during a fast. All of this is as unknown to Kellogg and to the writer as to the reader, but we may be sure of one thing:--namely, these stores are sufficient to outlast the most prolonged fast. We know that scurvy and beri-beri never develop on a fast. We know that rickets is positively benefited by fasting. Kellogg overlooks an important difference between fasting and a polished rice diet--namely, that, whereas, in both, the body is deprived of its daily supply of vitamins, fasting makes little if any demand upon its vitamin reserves, while the polished rice diet rapidly consumes these. If he could show that fasting, even the most prolonged fasting, ever produces "deficiency disease," then his objection would have some weight. As it is, the facts of experience must silence the voice of his theory.
Vitamin deficient diets compel the body to consume its vitamin stores; but we do not know that the body is forced to consume these stores in living off its own internal resources. We cannot say positively that these reserve stores do not contain the vitamins necessary to their utilization. We only know that pathological conditions attributed to avitaminosis do not develop as a result of prolonged fasting. Since there are no such injuries, they do not require adequate compensation.
Fasting does not produce deep-seated and hidden injuries that make themselves felt at a later date. There is no harmful destruction of important or vital tissues from fasting.
Weger says: "Even though vitamins are in a small degree consumed by fasting, we consider this factor quite negligible compared with the refinement of body chemistry and the overwhelming influences for general good that takes place. After a fast the tissues are more receptive and readily assimilate as well as utilize vitamins that are necessary elements contained in vital or base-forming foods."--Defense of Rational Fasting.
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