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Special periods of life and certain conditions of the body are often regarded as bars to fasting, even by those who profess a belief in the beneficial efficacy of the practice. Let us consider a few of them.
I take the position that the time to fast is when it is needed. I am of the decided opinion that delay pays no dividends; that, due to the fact that the progressive development of pathological changes in the structures of the body with the consequent impairment of its functions does not cease until its cause has been completely and thoroughly removed, putting off the time for a fast only invites added troubles and makes a longer fast necessary, if indeed, it does not make the fast futile. I do not believe that any condition of impaired health should be tolerated and permitted to become greater. Now is the time to begin the work of restoring good health; not next week, next summer, or next year.
There has been much discussion of what time of year is best in which to fast. Mr. Purinton advises all prospective fasters to "choose summer or spring for the conquest fast," but, while I agree with him that warm weather is, on the whole, the best time for a fast, I advise that no sufferer delay a needed fast until spring or summer, but to take it when needed. As Oswald says: "Winter is not the worst time for a fast, it may even be the best, to judge from the phenomena of hibernation."--Fasting, Hydrotherapy and Exercise, p. 65. Louis Kuhne called attention to the fact that many animals eat far less in winter than in summer. Theoretically, at least, less food is required to maintain body heat in summer than in winter; but the winter faster who is kept warm may fast with the greatest of ease.
I agree, however, with Carrington that it is easier to fast in summer than in winter. The sense of chilliness that the faster experiences is greater in winter than it is in the warm months. Although this sense of chilliness does not correspond with the real cold of the outside or room temperature and, curiously enough, a thermometer will often show that the temperature of the faster is one or more degrees higher than before he undertook the fast, in spite of the fact that he has the feeling of being cold. He should be kept warm.
This, in my opinion, should not deter the man or woman who needs a fast from taking one at any season of the year. A fast should not be delayed because of some slight discomfort. If the faster is kept in bed, as he should be, with a hot jug to his feet, the feeling of coldness is easily controlled.
Certain advocates of flesh eating, particularly one who lectures on the radio and gives away hams as a means of securing an audience, caution vegetarians against fasting. They tell vegetarians that they are the last who should fast. Why? Because fasting is "more likely to cause serious acidosis in vegetarians and others with low protein reserves. Diets high in protein of poor quality may be more harmful than low protein diets which provide the essential amino acids in good proportions."
This objection to fasting by vegetarians is not based on experience and observation, but is purely theoretical. This is one of those instances where "the facts of experience silence the voice of theory." It is not only true that vegetarians stand fasting better than heavy flesh eaters, it is equally true that light meat eaters stand fasting better than heavy consumers of flesh. Every advocate of fasting from Jennings, Graham and Trall to the present is in agreement on this.
Trall said of his observations in conducting his establishment, "containing more than a hundred inmates on the average, about half of whom were either vegetarian in principle, or were restricted to an exclusively vegetable diet by special prescription, that such patients can bear fasting for a time much better than the flesh eaters; and they usually suffer but little, in comparison with those who enjoyed a mixed diet, from the craving sensation of the stomach, on the approach of the dinner or supper hour. To this rule I have never known one exception."
Replying to the question: may babies be safely treated by fasting, Carrington says: babies not only can be "treated safely by this method, but it is unsafe not to treat them by this means, when they become unwell." Fortunately, few infants require more than two to three days of fasting. I have had but few cases that required an extended fast. When nature cuts off the appetite of the infant, it should be permitted to fast until there is again a demand for food. If there is pain, fever, or inflammation, no food should be given. Infants may fast for days without harm. They lose weight rapidly and regain it equally so. They seldom have to fast as long as an adult. I have never hesitated to permit a sick infant to fast, and I have yet to see one harmed by it.
The sick child that is not fed rests peacefully and sleeps most of the time. Parents do not realize how much unnecessary suffering they cause their feverish children and how much avoidable anxiety they cause themselves by feeding them when sick.
Complications result almost wholly from feeding and drugging. They almost never develop in cases that are not fed and not drugged. If fasting is instituted at the very outset of whooping cough the child may never whoop. Vomiting does not occur in whooping cough when no food is given. Scarlet fever ends in four to five days and no complications develop. Measles, pneumonia, diphtheria, smallpox, etc., soon end if no food is given.
I have fasted numerous children and babies, in both acute and chronic diseases (no infants in chronic disease) and it is my observation that they bear fasting well, often making much less fuss about it than adults. It has been noted by all fasting advocates that children rarely require as long a fast as an adult suffering with the same disease. Being young, they have greater recuperative power, they are less toxic, and their organs are commonly less damaged.
Babies and children are habitually over-fed. Indeed, over-feeding is perhaps, the greatest curse of infant and child life. As overfeeding builds disease in babies, it helps to account for a great amount of sickness among them and for many otherwise avoidable deaths. Certainly our children should be as healthy and vigorous as the young of other species, but such is not true. Our children are fed more, on the assumption that, as they are growing, they need much food to supply the materials of growth. How absurd are our feeding practices, based on this assumption, may be demonstrated by a little mathematics. A child growing twelve pounds a year grows but a half an ounce a day, or less, and he certainly needs but little extra food with which to provide this increase in growth.
The above pictures of little Michael de Bellis of New York State, were taken during and after a fast of 47 days taken in February and March, 1941 for what was thought to be poliomyelitis. His last meal was taken February 15 (age 2 years, 3 months and 1 week), and he did not again taste food until noon of the 47th day. He was first able to move (slightly) the paralyzed left leg on the 30th day of the fast. No enemas were employed; he had a bowel movement on each of the 28th and 30th days. The above photograph taken on the 30th day shows he was then able to sit up without support. He was still able to sit up on the bed and play with his toys on the 35th day. Weight before he became ill was 32 lbs.; at completion of the fast 15 lbs. He has been kept on uncooked foods since. Sun baths were given during and after the fast.
Master Michael de Bellis at the age of ten. This picture of Michael de Bellis was taken November 1, 1948, in California, where he and his parents are now living. He has been reared Hygienically following his fast
When the overfed child has become sick nature indicates in every possible manner that food is not desired. The pain, fever, dry mouth and tongue, coated tongue, foul breath, lack of desire for food, nausea, vomiting, and other evidences that digestion is impossible, indicate in the strongest possible manner that no food should be urged upon the baby or child.
Infants and children recover more rapidly while fasting than do adults and do not require to fast so long. There should be no hesitancy in withholding food until they are again ready to take it. To feed them under conditions of acute disease is not to nourish them.
"In childhood," says Dr. Oswald, "chronic dyspepsia is in nearly all cases the effect of chronic medication. Indigestion is not an hereditary complaint. A dietetic sin per excessum, a quantitative surfeit with sweet meats and pastry, may derange the digestive process for a few hours or so but the trouble passes by with the holiday. Lock up the short-cakes, administer a glass of cold water, and, my life for yours, that on Monday morning the little glutton will be ready to climb the steepest hill in the country. But stuff him with liver-pills, drench him with cough-syrup, and paregoric, and in a month or two he will not be able to satisfy the cravings of the inner boy without 'assisting nature,' with a patent stimulant." --Nature's Household Remedies, p. 60.
Where their troubles are light and there is still some demand for food they will not fast without considerable fuss. In such cases fruit juices or vegetable juices (raw or broths) may be permitted them. At one period I attempted to use diluted milk (50-50) instead of these juices, but it was never satisfactory. A short fast when baby is irritable, "out-of-sorts," or feverish, instead of the usual feeding and drugging, will save much suffering and prevent small discomforts from developing into more formidable bonfires.
It has been fully demonstrated that repeated short fasts, of one to three days, in growing animals, when recovery is complete between fasts, produce better growth and greater strength. Children are not harmed by fasting, but only by starvation.
We often meet with the objection that a patient is too old to fast. I have conducted a number of fasts in patients from seventy years to over eighty-five years of age and I have found no reason to consider aged persons to be in a class by themselves. Adult animals of any species, including Homo Sapiens, can fast much longer than the young of the same species. Old people actually stand fasting best. Growing children stand it least, although they stand it well. Patients do not get too old to fast. The regenerating effects of fasting are especially apparent in the old.
I have conducted numerous fasts in both men and women whose ages ranged from sixty-five to eighty-five. Many of these patients have had long fasts of from thirty to over forty days. Dewey reported several cases of elderly people who fasted under his care with positive benefit. Carrington says that he has observed several such cases.
I agree with Carrington, however, when he says: "Notwithstanding, I should recommend fasting with great caution in persons over sixty years of age," but not for the same reasons he adduces. I do not hesitate to place old people upon a fast, but I watch them more closely than I do younger people, not because they do not stand fasting well, but because they are often possessed of hidden weaknesses that render it inadvisable to carry the fast to great lengths.
In another volume we have called attention to the fact that chronic "disease," even that form called tuberculosis, frequently abates during pregnancy. Great changes, developmental changes akin to those of puberty and adolescence, take place in a woman's body during pregnancy. Weak hearts, weak lungs, weak kidneys, weak nervous systems are strengthened. Glands long dormant awaken to activity. Her whole body undergoes a strengthening, renovating process.
This is the meaning of the nausea, vomiting, ("morning sickness"), lack of appetite and other symptoms that so many women experience during the early weeks of pregnancy. No woman in good health, who is living sensibly, ever has the slightest trace of these symptoms. No woman who has undergone a thorough renovation just prior to becoming pregnant, and who lives sensibly during this time, ever experiences these "symptoms of pregnancy."
They are not symptoms of pregnancy. They are symptoms of renovation. They indicate that nature is undertaking a house cleaning, that the body is to be put into its best shape preparatory to pregnancy and parturition. If they are heeded all will be well. If they are not heeded, nature will usually succeed in her work in spite of opposition and interference. Sometimes she fails. Always her success is more complete and more satisfactory if we cooperate with her.
The development of these symptoms is a sure sign that a house-cleaning is necessary. When anorexia, nausea and vomiting develop, absolutely no food but water should be taken until these have disappeared and there is a distinct call for food. There should be no fears about fasting. You may be sure that these symptoms will end and nature will call for food as soon as her renovating work is completed and long before there has been any damage to mother or fetus. A fast is just what she is calling for in the plainest possible manner, and a fast she usually gets even if she has to keep throwing the food back into the woman's face as often as she eats it for days. Rest is called for as loudly as the fast and should be had.
If this renovating work is permitted full sway and the woman will eat and live sensibly, afterward, there will be no necessity for another fast during pregnancy. She will continue in good health. But if she "eats for two" (six), and lives the conventional, unhygienic life, she will suffer from a sour stomach, gas, dizziness, headaches, constipation and frequently more serious difficulties. She may develop an acute "disease." In such a case the hygiene of the "disease" is the same as it would be were it to develop in any other period of life. The pregnant woman should not hesitate to fast for as long as nature indicates if she is suffering with an acute eliminating crisis. Let her be assured that to do so will shorten her period of illness, and that it will harm neither her nor her child. On the other hand, to eat will not help either her or the child.
The ridiculous advice to pregnant mothers to "eat for two," is beginning to lose its assumed validity. Suppose a baby weighs nine pounds at birth (three pounds too much); this is an average gain of a pound a month during the period of pregnancy. To meet the requirements of the baby growing at such a relatively slow rate, the mother is urged to eat two, three or more extra pounds of food a day. Instead of this being helpful to her and the evolving baby, it helps to make her sick, provides for a fat, hence oversized baby, reduces the health and elasticity of her tissues, and provides for great pains in childbirth. During pregnancy she has nausea, vomiting, sour stomach, swollen ankles, varicose veins, hemorrhoids, eclampsia, etc., as a consequence of such unintelligent eating.
In vomiting during pregnancy, physicians are afraid of both starvation and dehydration, hence they keep the woman plied with fluids and foods. All manners of clean and unclean things are introduced into the woman's stomach, in addition to the inordinate drugging that usually accompanies such cases when cared for by regular physicians. There should be no wonder that the vomiting continues.
There is no danger of starvation and we may be sure that the vomiting will cease before any marked or dangerous dehydration can occur, providing the woman is not fed. Indeed, in the absence of food, she will usually be able to take water. Nothing succeeds like fasting in morning sickness.
Chronic "disease" should not be handled differently during pregnancy to the manner in which it is handled at other times. The author would object to a long fast in chronic "disease" during this period. There can, however, be no objection to a short fast, but a long fast involves elements that one should seek to avoid.
Dr. Hazzard says: "When a pregnant woman fasts, her tissues, even including such essential ones as the heart and brain, will be utilized as may be necessary to properly nourish the child." This can be true only after the exhaustion of her internal reserves; for, true to the principle that the tissues are sacrificed in inverse order to their importance, the essential organs are not damaged until it becomes necessary to sacrifice them for the child. But a woman does not want to lose her hair, or nails, or teeth, nor should she be asked to where this can be avoided. Under the modern plan of feeding, most women lose a tooth and develop a few cavities during pregnancy, anyway.
A short fast, where one is necessary, or will be of benefit, should be entered upon without hesitancy by the pregnant woman suffering with a chronic "disease," but a long one should be avoided unless acute "disease" makes it necessary. Feeding in acute "disease" does not feed, anyway.
If fasting is necessary during lactation, it should be done, but if not necessary it should be avoided, for the reason that it stops the secretion of milk and even the diminution of this secretion resulting from a fast of three or four days is seldom overcome by a return to eating.
If only one of the essential elements of nutrition is withdrawn from the diet of hens, they immediately cease laying. By these means the great amount of food lost to the body through the production of eggs is conserved and life prolonged. A similar thing is seen in fasting mammals in which milk production ceases. In all animals, scarcity of food limits reproduction.
It is usually readily granted that the strong may fast for a certain length of time, perhaps, with impunity, but it is usually objected that the weak should not fast. Here, again, we are met with the contention that these weak individuals need to be nourished. They require to be "built up." The fact that these people have grown weak while overeating on "plenty of good, nourishing food" is completely overlooked. If food builds and maintains strength, how do the well-fed become weak?
Mr. Sinclair says that people would write him and say that they would like to try a fast but that they were "too weak and too far gone to stand it." Everyone who employs fasting meets this objection quite frequently. Mr. Sinclair's answer to this objection, with which I fully concur, will therefore, be interesting. He says: "There is no greater delusion than that a person needs strength to fast. The weaker you are from the disease, the more certain it is that you need to fast, the more certain it is that your body has not strength enough to digest the food you are taking into it. If you fast under these circumstances, you will grow not weaker, but stronger. In fact, my experience seems to indicate that the people who have the least trouble on the fast are the people who are the most in need of it. The system which has been exhausted by the efforts to digest the foods that are piled into it, simply lies down with a sigh of relief and goes to sleep."
There is the foolish notion, fostered by the medical profession and shared all too faithfully by nurses and fond relatives of the sick, that the weak patient must be fed, and that if he cannot eat, he must have some medicine, some digestant or some tonic to "give him an appetite," or else he must be coaxed and cajoled, even forced, to eat. It is argued that if the patient does not eat, his strength can not be sustained; that he must, therefore, inevitably sink from weakness; he must be fed, even if he cannot digest what he consumes.
The patient is so weak in many cases that he is unable to turn over in bed, he can hardly move hand or foot, there is little muscular action, yet it is insisted that he be fed three times a day. His digestive system, though equally prostrated, is expected to go on with its regular work as though there is the regular need for food.
Will such a patient die of starvation? Never. Will he recover if fed? Not so surely as if he is permitted to fast. He may die of intestinal intoxication if he is fed; he may die if not fed, but he cannot be nourished by feeding, no matter what foods are given. He may be so weak that he will die if he gets much weaker, still he should fast. The surest way to make him weaker is to feed him.
It is a fact that has been demonstrated hundreds of times, that many invalids, instead of losing strength while fasting, gain it. Invalids that are growing weaker on the many and varied "nourishing diets" prescribed by physicians will frequently grow stronger as soon as fasting is resorted to.
Paradoxical as it may seem, the weakest persons often derive the greatest benefit from a fast. The weakness of the average person is not due to lack of food but to toxin poisoning. The elimination of these while fasting often registers a great increase in strength while the fast is in progress. This is to say, the patient grows stronger while he is still fasting and completes the fast stronger than when he began it. No matter how strong the man, if he becomes ill, he is weak. A Hercules may be prostrated in pneumonia or typhoid fever. Muscular strength is suspended during such periods.
The notion that the more food we can get a sick person to swallow the better for him is wholly wrong and is the source of much mischief. The very reverse represents the truth. When digestion ceases, nothing but misery and danger can come out of pouring food into the stomach. The fact is that it is in those cases that are the weakest that we often see the most surprising gains in strength.
Eating appears to give an amazing amount of strength to certain chronic invalids. These may feel weak and exhausted. They eat a meal and immediately they are energetic and strong. This is more likely to be the case if they are suffering from disease of the stomach than if the stomach is in near normal condition. This "gain of strength" is undoubtedly mere stimulation. Experimental fasts have shown that after a fast, less food is required to maintain physical energies, physiological activities, weight and nitrogen balance. Fasting produces a more efficient "machine."
Shall emaciated persons fast? By all means. Emaciation is rarely due to a lack of food, but almost always is a result of sickness. Dewey, Carrington, Macfadden, Rabagliatti, Sinclair and many others have pointed out that in numerous instances, the first gains in weight some of these emaciated individuals make, despite much effort and many different kinds of weight-gaining diets, comes after a fast. I have seen many such cases in my own experience. It is easily possible to exaggerate the importance of weight in any consideration of fasting. Some extremely emaciated patients surprise us by the length of fasting they can safely and profitably undergo.
Great emaciation is not a bar to fasting. I have fasted numerous very thin people. One man, an asthmatic, who was veritably "skin and bones" when reaching my institution, fasted seventeen days and became practically free of asthma of nine years' standing. A subsequent fast completed his restoration. This man actually grew stronger during the fast.
Indeed, in some cases of wasting "disease," no amount and kind of feeding produces any improvement until a fast, or a greatly reduced diet (a starvation diet), has first been employed. Page, Rabagliati, Kieth, Nichols and others record many such cases. Many deaths in tuberculosis are the result of starvation from overfeeding.
Sinclair records the case of an Episcopal clergyman who, "was so emaciated that he could hardly creep around" and was contemplating suicide. "He fasted eleven days and then gained thirty pounds."
Dr. Eales says: "If you are thin and below normal weight, a fast will help you. Do not think that fasting is beneficial only for fleshy people. Thin people, as well as fleshy people are in an abnormal condition, and will derive great benefit from a fast. Numerous instances are on record of thin people fasting and gaining rapidly in health and weight after a fast."
I had one case to gain thirty pounds in four weeks, after a fast of nine days. This gain was made on a diet that few people would consider sufficient to meet their needs. This patient had suffered with gastric hyperacidity, gastro-enteritis, colitis, gas, constipation, poor circulation, emaciation and mental depression for seven years before consulting me.
The fast, particularly a complete fast, remedies both emaciation and obesity. After a complete fast the body tends to attain and then maintain its ideal weight. Formerly fat patients do not regain their excess weight; whereas, those who were thin often gain a pound or more a day for a month or longer.
Prof. Agostino Levanzin, B.A., Ph. C. says: "It is contended in many quarters that thin people do not need fasting; that what they need is 'building up' and 'nourishing' food. I am convinced, on the contrary, that many thin persons need fasting more than corpulent persons--for their condition shows that they have been under-nourished as a direct result of over-feeding for years. This must be checked at once, and this is best done by a fast, which will allow the nutritive organs to return to a condition in which they are capable of appropriating the food."
If food builds flesh, how do the well-fed become emaciated? How many greatly emaciated people do we meet every day who are eating like harvest hands? Many of them are weak and unable to work. If food gives strength, why are they so weak and skinny? Often these people make their only gains in weight and strength after a fast. Carrington points out that in hundreds of cases of emaciation (cases that are slowly starving while overeating) fasting will enable them to gain weight; thus actually preventing starvation. In this connection it is worthy of note that nature cuts off the desire for food in deficiency diseases--a plain indication that no more food should be taken. The great improvement seen in anemia, when fasting is resorted to, while overfeeding causes these patients to grow worse, should convince even the most skeptical of the superiority of the fast.
Great emaciation is due to impairment of health and the degree of emaciation is commonly proportionate to the degree of impairment. Such cases frequently make no gains in weight until after a fast. "Starvation from overfeeding" is a common, but rarely recognized phenomenon. Large numbers of habitually over-fed individuals have long since lost their power of digesting food at all, or they do it in a very imperfect manner. Oswald said of this: "The overfed organism is under-nourished to a degree that reveals itself in the rapid emaciation of the patient."--Household Remedies, p. 57.
The objection is frequently made in the case of emaciated patients that they are already weak and under-nourished and need "building up," rather than a fast. "Plenty of good, nourishing food" is thought to be the great need in these cases. But "plenty of good, nourishing food" is precisely what these emaciated individuals have been taking in the majority of instances. Instead of fasting being suicidal and criminal, as the average physician contends in such instances, the results of taking "plenty of good, nourishing food" has proved to be suicidal.
The fact is that, we rarely see a man or woman who is emaciated from taking too little food. Most of them are heavy eaters, even eating excessively in an effort to gain weight. Their emaciation is due, not to a lack of food ingested, but to failure to digest, absorb and assimilate the food eaten. In order for these individuals to gain weight, they must be given, not more food, but added capacity to utilize food. This can be acquired only by remedying the functional and structural impairments that have crippled their nutritive powers. Too often this cannot be done while the patient is taking "plenty of good, nourishing food." It is a curious fact that in great numbers of cases of emaciation, we must supply them with less food in order to nourish them more.
Emaciation may be so extreme that only a short fast is possible; but we are often surprised at how well the emaciated person holds up under a fast that goes much beyond the time we think is possible. Dr. Oswald once remarked: "Energy and emaciation seem to go hand in hand."
As knowledge of the causes of "disease" increases, it becomes increasingly evident that there are certain forms of "disease" which are in part due to food deficiencies--beri-beri, scurvy, rickets, etc. What these cases need is better nutrition, better food. Yet one can not always arbitrarily rule out the fast in "deficiency diseases." For, sometimes they are due to a lack of assimilating power on the part of the body and this is remedied by the fast. Dr. Weger, who has had much experience with fasting says: "If the body, because of its crowded nutrition, cannot assimilate vitamin-bearing food, it can be brought into the condition to do this by a purifying fast."
The value of the fast in rickets and certain "diseases" of childhood is well established. Its value in anemia has been discussed elsewhere. There is no reason why fasting cannot be employed in dietary deficiencies with great benefit. Indeed the loss of appetite seen in men and animals fed on greatly deficient diets indicates strongly that a fast is called for.
The experienced practitioner need not hesitate to place his patients upon a fast although some of them will require careful watching. If he lacks experience, some of his patients may be handled without the fast.
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