Breaking the Fast


   The proper conduct of the fast is vitally important. There are really very few practitioners of any school who know how to conduct a fast or how to properly break one. A naturopath in New York City broke the fasts of a mother and daughter, who had been fasting sixteen and thirteen days respectively, on chocolate candy. The gastric and intestinal acidity resulting from this caused great distress throughout the body. I was called in on these cases, and it required four to five days of fasting to get them back into a comfortable condition. This method of breaking a fast is nothing short of criminal.

   A friend of my wife describes to me how she fasted seventeen days under the direction of a chiropractor in California and worked hard during the fast. She worked for the chiropractor and he would not permit her leave from work while fasting. He broke her fast with toast and acid fruit. This woman immediately developed a case of malnutritional edema. This is one of the very few cases of this kind I have ever known to follow a fast, and I know of no other such case recorded in all Nature Cure works on fasting.

   This case should thoroughly emphasize the necessity of placing one's self under the care of a competent and experienced man, if one is to take a long fast. A chiropractor who knows nothing of either fasting or dietetics, and few of them know anything of either of these, and who experiments with patients in this manner, cannot be too strongly condemned. If chiropractors want to practice natural methods let them qualify themselves for this by proper training. This goes also for osteopaths and medical men. I would not attempt a surgical operation without first qualifying myself for the work, and I am certain that no chiropractor, osteopath or medical man should attempt a long fast, or attempt to employ any other natural method, without first equipping himself for the work. Chiropractors who go to school and learn to punch spines and then, finding spine punching to be inefficacious, attempt to prescribe diet, etc., after reading a book or two on these methods, are in the same position as would be the medical man who attempted to "adjust" spines after reading a book on chiropractic. He is really dishonest and untrustworthy.

   Dr. Wm. F. Havard records the following cases: "A young man twenty-four years of age who had suffered from chronic constipation and indigestion, fasted twenty-seven days after reading an article in a popular health publication. On the twenty-eighth day he ate a meal of beefsteak, potatoes, bread and butter and coffee. He was seized with violent vomiting spells and could not tolerate even a teaspoonful of water on the stomach. When called on the case I discovered an intense soreness of the entire abdomen and every indication of acute gastritis." "A young man about thirty who had fasted on his own initiative for forty-two days attempted to break the fast on coarse bread with the result that vomiting occurred and the stomach became so irritable that nothing could be retained. There was marked emaciation and extreme weakness and every indication for immediate nourishment."

   An Associated Press dispatch dated Aug. 28, (1929) recounts the death of Chris. Solberg, 40 years old art model, following a 31 days fast, which he broke by "consuming several sandwiches." The sandwiches, a later report stated, contained beef. Ignorance and lack of self-control killed this man. The dispatch tells us that "his fast (of 31 days) had reduced him from 160 to 85 pounds," or an average loss of more than two pounds a day. This loss I believe to be impossible. The average losses for a fast of such length vary between twenty-five pounds and thirty-six pounds.

   "Prof." Arnold Ehret tells of seeing two cases killed by injudicious breaking of the fast. He says "A one-sided, meat-eater, suffering from diabetes broke his fast which lasted about a week by eating dates and died from the effects. A man of over sixty years of age fasted twenty-eight days (too long); his first meal of vegetarian foods consisting mainly of boiled potatoes."

   Ignoring the absurd explanations for these deaths, given by the "professor," we would say that the diabetic patient threw too much sugar (from the dates) into his body and died as a result of hyper-glycemia. He probably passed out in a diabetic coma. He explains that the second patient fasted too long for a man of his age, and that an "operation showed that the potatoes were kept in contracted intestines by thick, sticky mucus so strong that a piece had to be cut off and the patient died shortly after the operation." "Professor" Ehret was so fond of mucus he could never see anything else. This fast was badly broken but the patient, in all likelihood, would have lived had he not been operated on. The fast was not too long for a man of that age. "Prof." Ehret really knew but little of either fasting or dietetics.

   These cases help to influence many against fasting and yet they are the results of the worst type of ignorance and inexperience. Who but an ignoramus would feed a diabetic case a meal of dates after a week of fasting? Surely fasting cannot be blamed for this result. Before we talk of the evils and dangers of fasting let us be sure that these really belong to fasting and not to something else.

   Sinclair says: "I know another man who broke his fast on a hamburger steak, and this is also not to be recommended."

   I had one patient to break a fast of over twenty days by eating a pound and a half of nuts the first day. Although no harm, not even slight discomfort, came from it in this particular case, this method of breaking a fast is certainly not to be recommended generally.

   In some cases of fasting where efforts are made to feed the patient towards the latter end of a prolonged fast, but before hunger has returned, there has been noted a failure of the stomach to function. Dr. Dewey mentions such cases, who were induced by friends or physicians to eat, and who were absolutely unable to digest food, but vomited everything eaten. Fasting was resumed and continued until the return of natural hunger, with the result that digestion proceeded nicely.

   The usual indications for breaking the fast (these help to determine the dividing line between fasting and starving), are as follow:

   Hunger invariably returns.

   The Breath, which during all or most of the fast has been offensive, becomes sweet and clean.

   The Tongue becomes clean. The thick coating which remained on it throughout most of the fast vanishes.

   The Temperature, which may have been sub-normal or above normal, returns to exactly normal, where it remains.

   The Pulse becomes normal in time and rhythm.

   The Skin reactions and other reactions become normal.

   The Bad Taste in the mouth ceases.

   Salivary Secretion becomes normal.

   The Eyes become bright and eye sight improves.

   The Excreta loses its odor. The Urine becomes light.

   Besides the usual signs that it is time to break the fast, Prof. Levanzin lists a feeling of cheer and elation as a manifestation that the time has arrived for the termination of the fast. I cannot do better than quote Carrington's description of the feelings of the patient at this stage. He says, Vitality, Fasting and Nutrition, p. 544: "A sudden and complete rejuvenation; a feeling of lightness, buoyancy, and good health steals over the patient in an irresistable wave; bringing contentment and a general feeling of well-being, and of the possession of a superabundance of animal spirits."

   Circulation improves, as is seen by the resumption of the normal pinkness under the fingernails. The increased rapidity with which the blood flows back into the skin, when this has been forced out by pressure, is another indication of the rejuvenating effect of the finish fast.

   The primary indication that the fast is to be broken is the return of hunger; all the other indications which I have enumerated are secondary. Often one or more of these secondary signs are absent when hunger returns, but one should not refrain from breaking the fast when there is an unmistakable demand for food, merely because the tongue, for example, is not clean. Inasmuch as all the signs do not invariably appear in each case, do not hesitate to break the fast when hunger returns.

   In general I agree with Carrington that "natural hunger, and that alone should indicate the terminus of the fast; when the fast is ready to be broken. * * * The artificial breaking of the fast; the taking of food in the absence of real hunger, for the reason that the ignorant attendant thinks the patient has 'fasted long enough,' is an abomination, and an outrage upon the system which cannot be too strongly deprecated." Most fasts are broken too soon; that is, before the work of renovation is completed.

   The care that must be exercised in breaking a fast is in proportion to the length of the fast and to the general condition of the fasting individual. The approved plan is to break the fast on liquid food, using for this purpose fruit juice, or tomato juice, or watermelon juice, or vegetable broths. Fruit juice--usually orange juice--is used most often.

   Orange juice, grapefruit juice, or fresh tomato juice are excellent with which to break a fast. Watermelon juice or the juice of the fresh pineapple or of fresh grapes may also be used. A half a glass may be given at the start. After an hour, another half glass may be given. Juice may be given every hour the first day. The second day a whole glass of juice every two hours may be employed. On the third and fourth days give the whole orange or grapefruit and on the fifth day other foods may be added. Large meals should not be attempted in less than a week. These instructions are for the long fast. A short fast requires less care in breaking and is usually followed for several days by an eliminating diet.

   There is a tendency on the part of the faster to overeat, not alone because he is hungry, but also because he is desirous of regaining his weight. His friends also urge him to eat. Sinclair truly says: "A person at the end of a (long) fast is an agitating sight to his neighbors, and their one impulse is to get a 'square meal' into him as quickly as possible."

   Almost any food may be employed in breaking a fast, although greater care must be exercised if the concentrated types of food are employed for this purpose. There are individual factors that must receive attention. Sinclair tells of breaking a fast on a large, thoroughly ripe Japanese persimmon, and says that "it doubled me up with the most alarming cramps." A friend of his had the same experience from the juice of an orange; "but he was a man with whom acid fruits had always disagreed." The tendency of the long fast is to remove these digestive shortcomings, but it is not always completely successful, and this is especially so where the fast has not been carried to completion.

   A few fallacies about breaking a fast deserve attention. Dr. Kritzer says: "In breaking a long fast it is wise to consult the patient's wishes as to the particular food desired for the first meal. Any food wished for should be granted--even if it is meat, ice cream, chocolate or any other food outside of the fruit and vegetable kingdom.

   "In this instance the patient's appetite is fully reliable and the food thus craved may supply an essential need. Should such a request be denied, the patient's improvement may be retarded."

   It is true that a long fast tends to restore taste and food desires to a more healthful condition and render them more reliable; but many patients crave the foods they have previously been in the habit of consuming. These reversions to the old habit-cravings are distinctly not to be respected on any specious notion that the foods "craved" supply some essential need. It is a common experience to see a faster crave, at the end of a fast, the foods he has always eaten. Fed differently and given a second fast, he craves at the end of the second fast, the foods he had following the first fast.

   There are no food elements in chocolate that cannot be supplied by other foods and one would be foolish to permit his patient to return to his disease building diet. I saw two fasts broken on chocolate and I don't care to see it done again; neither do I care to see a fast broken on ice cream.

   If we assume that the "patient's appetite is fully reliable after a long fast," there is no reason why we should limit the satisfaction of his desires to the first meal. We may permit him to follow the lead of his appetite at every meal and have all the chocolate and ice cream he desires. Not only should we permit him to have the food his appetite calls for, but, we should also permit him to have as much as his appetite calls for. Yet we all know that this cannot be done. A man breaks a long fast on bread and meat sandwiches and is dead in twenty-four hours. His appetite simply was not reliable.

   In breaking a fast it is always wiser to play safe and use tried and tested methods and follow this up with an adequate diet and not go off after wild theories and funny notions.

   Dr. Kritzer also says: "It is best to break a fast at five o'clock in the afternoon, thus the patient has an opportunity of thoroughly digesting his meal before retiring. It also affords the digestive organs a considerable rest between the first and second meals."

   There is no time of day that is best for breaking a fast. There is no reason why the meal should be thoroughly digested before retiring. If the fast is properly broken, there will be no need for twelve to fourteen hours of rest for the stomach, between the first meal and the second. The second dose of orange juice may be given one hour after the first, instead of a day later. I would not hesitate to break a fast at midnight, or at any time upon the return of hunger. If the fast is broken before the return of hunger, it may be broken at any hour during the day. Ritualistic feeding following the fast, is no more necessary than at other times. Let us employ our intelligence.


   My experience agrees well with that of Carrington, who says that after a long fast the faster is ravenous and "eating must be kept under control at all costs for the few days during which it lasts." He adds that after the first few days, if controlled, "the extreme" voraciousness will disappear and "will not return." He refers to this period as the "danger period," and says that, once it has passed, there is no longer the desire "for the great bulk of food which previously existed." He points out that there is also the absence of the pre-fasting "craving" for "hot, or spicy, or stimulating viands."

   This agrees well with my own experiences and observations. The period of hunger that follows a long fast lasts two weeks and more. The patient continually complains that he is not getting enough to eat. He will gain in strength and weight, he will feel good in general, but there will be that persistent demand for more food. It is not wise to try to satisfy this demand; to do so will invariably lead to overeating and often to trouble. The demand for food will be satisfied by moderate eating in two weeks or less in most cases, after which the patient will no longer be troubled by the persistent hunger. Patients who refuse to control their eating during this period, but who eat on the sly and fill up to their belly's content, commonly put on weight very rapidly, the face and other parts of the body becoming puffy, indicating a water-logged condition, and, in all cases, they undo much of the benefits they derived from the period of abstinence.

   The most difficult patients to handle after the fast are those who are anxious to gain weight in a hurry. Gaining weight often becomes an obsession with these patients. They demand great quantities of food, worry because they are not gaining faster, rapidly develop into gluttons, and defeat their own ends by their over-eating, worry and tension.

   The secret of the past popularity of the milk diet seems to lie here. Patients were given a fast and then put on a milk diet. They were given milk at half hour intervals all through the day and, while this over-feeding on milk destroyed much of the benefits of the fast, it satisfied the hunger of the person who had just ended a long fast. The patients put on weight in a hurry, although it was more water than flesh they accumulated, and the weight would not hold up under working conditions, the diet was a psychological success and caused the doctors who employed it less trouble then they experienced in trying to feed their patients rationally.

   Professor Russel H. Chittenden confirms the view that the fast destroys the "craving" for abnormal substances and large quantities of foods. He says: "In the latter part of September, 1903, Doctor Underhill attempted to return to his original mode of living, but found difficulty in consuming the daily quantities of food he had formerly been in the habit of eating."--Physiological Economy in Nutrition, p. 78. Dr. Underhill had not been on a fast, but had been on a controlled diet for a prolonged period.

   Dr. Chas. E. Page says: "Accustomed to distention from the bulky character of the old diet, if only a physiological ration of the pure and more nutritious food be swallowed, the stomach misses the stimulus of distention; time will be required (in some cases) for the stomach to remodel itself as regards size--unless a large proportion of fruit is used in conjunction with the cereals." After the preliminary period of persistent hunger has been successfully passed, the stomach seems to rest content with less food. If the patient will control himself during this period, all will be well thereafter.


   After a fast the diet should be of the very best from the standpoint of its nutritive qualities. No canned and bottled juices should be used in breaking the fast. Only fresh fruits and fresh vegetables should be used. If any dried foods are to be employed in the diet, only sun-dried foods should be used. Certainly every food employed should have its full content of vitamins and minerals. Canned foods, sulphured fruits, denatured foods of all kinds, over-cooked foods, and foods that have been hashed or mangled, so that they have sustained vital losses through oxidation, are not to be considered. The loss of minerals and vitamins cannot possibly be compensated by the use of vitamin pills of whatever nature nor by the use of mineral preparations from any source. These things must be obtained from natural foods.

   There is greater need for protein after a long fast than for carbohydrates. As the fasting individual who has had a long fast will build tissue rapidly, he will require more protein than that contained in a maintenance diet. High grade proteins will be required and these should be as fresh and wholesome as the market affords. It should hardly be necessary to add that the full portion of protein daily cannot be started from the first day the fast is broken. Caution must be observed in breaking an extended fast and the patient brought gradually from the fast to full meals.