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Organisms capitalize the results of the joint work of their several organs and physiological systems in the form of capacities and valuable stored substances. They may learn to use this stored capital, this biological raw material which they have woven into their fabric and built into their flesh and blood, in the interest of the whole organism, or in doing useful work; or, they may consume it in wasteful expenditures of one kind or another, or they may use it under circumstances, such as "disease" or famine, when food cannot be digested or is not to be had.
In Persia, there exists a variety of sheep called fat-tailed sheep, that has an enormous tail made up of fat and other stored food elements. During seasons of plenty the sheep stores up large quantities of food in its tail--prize specimens often developing such heavy tails that their owners provide them with small carts which are placed under the tails and fastened to prevent the tails from dragging the ground. When pasturage becomes scarce the sheep draw upon the food reserves stored in their tails for nutriment. This is a literal example of "cutting off the tail of a hungry dog and feeding it to him."
The tail of the Gila Monster, a poisonous reptile (lizard) of the American Southwest and Mexico, serves as a storehouse of reserve food. A well-fed Monster possesses a thick, heavy tail. In barren years the Monster may be found with its tail thinned down almost to the spine. Like the big-tailed sheep of Persia, the Monster stores food in its tail when food is plentiful and subsists off its tail when food is scarce. They are capable of going for long periods without food, having been kept in cages without food for upwards of six weeks.
Fasting female birds and fish will absorb the eggs stored in their bodies and utilize these as food. Morgulis, experimenting with the newt, Duemyctium, found that the "ripe" female withstands starvation best, because she actually absorbs and utilizes the large reserve of stored food in the mature eggs and thereby saves her other organs and tissues from wasting. Heidkamp found, in experiments with Tritoncristatus, a fresh water salmon, that when the female is denied food the fully developed eggs in her body are the first to be absorbed.
These specialized provisions for storing food reserves are analogous to the provision possessed by the camel for storing water. There are other animals which have other specialized storages for food reserves upon which they may draw in times of food scarcity. Although such specialized structures are not universal in the animal kingdom, nature provides in all animals for the storing of food reserves, even though there is no specialized structure provided for this purpose; for food is as likely to be scarce for one animal as for another. All hibernating animals are equipped with specialized apparatus for storing up food reserves. It has been urged against fasting by man that he is not a hibernating animal. It is quite true that man possesses no specialized food reserves, as does the Russian bear, for example; but he does possess generalized food reserves, like all animals. The dog, cat, cow, horse, elephant, etc., are not hibernating animals, yet all of these instinctively refuse food when ill or wounded. Hibernating animals are inactive and have stored food reserves which have been put away for just this period; but there are other animals which go for long periods of time without food and which are vigorously active at the same time. The Alaskan fur-seal bull and the salmon are remarkable examples of this. The fact is that, all animals, man included, are provided with food reserves which are held in store against a period of forced or necessary abstinence from food.
There is an economical tendency of the organism to accumulate reserve stores in the body so that under stress or strain or deprivation and want, it shall be able to go on for sometime without the ordinary supplies of food. Man or animal in case of famine, shipwreck, or under other circumstances in which food cannot be secured, would perish forthwith, except for these generalized food reserves stored in the body.
We saw in a previous chapter that each cell and each organ has its own private food reserve. In addition to this there is a considerable quantity of glycogen stored in the liver, much surplus protein and other food substances carried in the blood and lymph, several pounds of fat in the body (even thin people have considerable fat) and much food reserve in the marrow of the bones. In the glands there is stored a considerable supply of vitamins. It is possible that the body can retain and re-use its vitamins as it can its iron and certain other minerals. Collectively, the above stores constitute a reserve food store that is capable of sustaining the vital organs and their functions through an emergency of considerable length.
The ensemble of the body's food reserves is well balanced with respect to the various nutritive elements, salts, vitamins, etc. They are capable of meeting the nutritive needs of the vital tissues for long periods.
There is still another source of foods, which, in some animals may amount to several days' supply. In ruminants the food residues (undigested food) in the intestinal tract are usually very large (so large, indeed, that the variability in "fill" contained in the digestive canal disguises the true body weight and has been a constant cause of uncertainty in determining changes in the body tissues, and amounting often in the case of the steer to one-fifth of the entire body weight) and serve as a source of food for a considerable period after food has been withdrawn, so that the immediate demands upon the body's actual reserves are not great.
The reserves of omnivorous animals, although usually plentiful, are quickly exhausted when food is denied. In dogs and man the alvine canal is almost immediately exhausted of its food supply, so that the true fasting period is more quickly reached. The whole expense of fasting is thrown upon the food reserves in their bodies almost from the outset.
Hibernation differs from ordinary fasting in that the hibernating animal possesses special stores for the period, and in that the metabolic rate is decreased much more in hibernation, thus lessening the need for food.
The fasting organism subsists on materials previously stored in its tissues. It would be erroneous to suppose that during a fast, under whatever condition, the processes of nutrition are suspended. Only those concerned with the digestion and absorption of raw materials are interrupted.
The fasting organism is nourished as truly off its accumulated reserves as if it daily consumed an abundance from the fat of the land. Prof. Morgulis says, indeed, that "inanition must be regarded as a special--perhaps, the simplest,--form of nutrition." He adds that materials for growth and repair of tissue, energy for maintenance and energy for work, are supplied "under the conditions of inanition" from the "rich deposit of nutritive substances" which "every organism contains in its tissues" and "which constitute the common foods when they serve to nourish another organism."
Prof. Morgulis further says: "Active growth and regeneration are not incompatible with inanition, and the wear and tear, at least in some organs, is so completely repaired as to evade for a long time the effect of a nutritional stringency. Inanition does not preclude the ability for extreme and sustained exertion."
Under ordinary circumstances, the generalized food reserves of man and animal are capable of sustaining functional and structural integrity for a considerable time without more food being consumed. Under the most favorable circumstances of quiet, rest and mental poise, these reserves are capable of holding out much longer. There is a sense in which the utilization of these reserves is analogous to cutting off the tail of a hungry dog and feeding it to him, but the analogy will not go on all fours. These reserves are stored up for just such uses and there are times and conditions when they must be used. Indeed there are conditions of "disease" in which it is impossible to make use of food from any other source--conditions in which the body is unable to take the raw materials and make use of them.
Not only are these food reserves capable of nourishing the vital tissues of the body for long periods, but the body does not permit any of its vital tissues to be damaged or consumed so long as these stores hold out. It is only after these reserves have been exhausted that nature will permit any of the vital or functioning tissues of the body to be damaged. There is no danger of damage to the vital organs from a prolonged fast. Fear of fasting is unfounded and based on ignorance or misinformation.
Abstaining from all food except water until these food reserves are consumed, is fasting. Abstaining from food after these food reserves have been consumed, is starving.
Discussing the death of president Garfield, who lived eighty days after he was shot, and who wasted until "all that seemed to be left of the great president when he drew his last breath on the night of the 80th day at Elberson was a thin skin covering a skeleton," Dr. Dewey asks: "What became of the tissues in this case? Did they evaporate?"
When food is withdrawn from man or animal, the demand for substance with which to maintain the structures and functions of the vital tissues is thrown upon the reserves of the fasting organism.
The fasting organism makes the most of the material at hand--it spins out the inevitable loss as far as possible; indeed, those substances which are absolutely essential for the preservation of the vital spark, or for the continuance of the motion of such necessary organs as the heart and central nervous system, are only used up when the supply from other organs has almost entirely failed. Fats and any store of glycogen are first used up, along with part of the proteins, until, when from a quarter to a half of the total body weight has been lost, the machine stops for want of motive power.
If the fasting continues, readjustments are made to secure minimum demands upon the nutritive stores; as the fast progresses, the body tends to conserve its supplies by lessening activity both physical and physiological, so that the rate of loss gradually diminishes.
In cold-blooded animals, in which fasting is a regular physiological occurrence in the life-cycle, the reserves are usually plentiful and the demand made upon them is small, so that they may fast for long intervals without being forced to renew their stores. In warm-blooded animals, whose reserves are frequently lower and whose greater activities make greater demands upon these, the reserves are more rapidly depleted. However, it is only after all these reserves are exhausted that the organized tissues are requisitioned as nutritive substances.
The reserves last much longer if the faster rests, than if he is active during the fast. Better results are achieved in the fast if rest is observed. Work, long walks, strenuous exercise, etc., waste the body's reserves without producing any compensating benefits.
Physical effort, external cold, worry and strong emotions increase the rate with which the body's reserves are utilized. Fever, perhaps does the same, at least in most if not not all acute states.
Nelsons Encyclopedia says: "The observations made during the fast of Succi and others show that the body wastes less rapidly when the patient is kept warm and at rest. The fatty tissues are the first to be used up, and later the proteids of the skeletal and intestinal muscles. The heart muscle does not dimmish appreciably and probably it derives its substance from the less essential muscles. In long continued fasts the tissues waste more rapidly during the first few days. Later the body uses its reserves of nourishment more economically."
Previous fasting seems to train the body to a more economical use of its reserves. The enormous economy of an educated disposal of the body's forces is thus seen. A second or third fast is also almost always more comfortable than the first fast, although in many first fasts there is no discomfort at all.
"Human flesh," says Dr. Page (The Natural Cure, page 73), "by absorption, constitutes a most appropriate diet in certain conditions of disease. The absorption and excretion of diseased tissue is, under some circumstances, the only work that nature can with safety undertake, and in these cases, no building up can be accomplished until a solid foundation is reached and the debris removed; and not then, unless while this good work is going on, the nutritive organs are given an opportunity to virtually renew themselves."
Human flesh, by absorption, becomes the bill-of-fare of the sick and in all serious acute illnesses the only possible bill-of-fare. Dr. Dewey was Acting Assistant Surgeon, U.S.A., in charge of a ward in the Chattanooga Field Hospital in 1864, where, he says, "postmortems were the rule" and that they were numerous. In discussing these post-mortems he says, "there was one fact revealed in every post-mortem of tremendous significance, that failed to make any impression on my mind other than to remember it. The fact that no matter how emaciated the body, even if the skeleton condition had been reached, the brain, the heart, the lungs, except themselves diseased, never received any loss."
These soldiers according to the theories of the time, were fed "plenty of good nourishing food," to "keep up their strength." They "wasted" as do all such patients, because the vital tissues of their bodies were feeding off the less vital or non-vital tissues. The vital tissues so fed themselves because there was no other possible way for them to feed.
These studies reveal to us that there are alimentary reserve stores in the body gathered to guard against times of need. These nutritive reserves are ready for use at short notice and with little energy expenditure by the body. They are capable of supplying all essential needs for the time being, and can be replenished at leisure, after the work of reconstruction has been completed.
If the adipose tissue and other reserves are abundantly present, one may fast thirty to ninety or more days without consuming one cell of the essential tissues of the body.
"With no digestive drudgery on hand," says Oswald, "Nature employs the long-desired leisure for general house-cleaning purposes. The accumulations of superfluous tissues are overhauled and analyzed; the available component parts are turned over to the department of nutrition, the refuse to be thoroughly and permanently removed."
Organisms capitalize the results of the joint work of their several organs both in the form of increased capacities and valuable stored substances and are able to use their stored capital as though to some extent independent of immediate external supply. This stored capital, or biological raw material, is woven into the inner fabric of organisms by the reciprocal labors of their various parts and is ready for instant utilization when need arises.
The aggregate tissues of the organism may be regarded as a reservoir of nutriment capable of being called in any direction or to any point, as needed. The ability of the body to nourish its vital tissues off its food reserves and its less vital tissues, is of extreme importance to the sick man who is unable to digest and absorb food. Except for this ability, the acutely ill would perish of starvation.
Pashutin records the case of a girl 19 years old who starved to death after ruining her digestive tract by drinking some sulphuric acid. He says "her dead body was like a skeleton, but mammary glands remained unaffected." He also records that in cases of hibernating animals, the growth of granulation tissue in wounds continues during the deepest slumber, even when every other function seems almost to have ceased. The heart may beat as slow as one beat in five to eight minutes, and the blood circulation be so slow that cuts made in the flesh bleed very slightly, yet the cuts heal.
Contrary to popular (and even professional) opinion, the vital tissues of the fasting organism do not begin to break down from starvation immediately upon the withdrawal of food. The fasting body does lose weight, but "live weight" losses are not reliable indications of tissue changes within the organism. The largest draft upon the body stores during a fast is made upon the fat and in both man and animals the rapid loss of weight during the first one to four days of a fast, particularly noticeable in the fat person, is due to the tendency of fat to fall off rapidly.
Thus, it is seen that the vital tissues are nourished first off the food reserves and, when these are exhausted, off the less vital tissues. No damage will or can occur in any of the vital tissues of the body so long as its reserves are adequate to meet the nutritive needs of these tissues. This varies from a few days in very emaciated people to a few months in very fat individuals. There need be no fear of fasting, even the most prolonged fasting, under experienced and intelligent guidance. The human body may have stored within it such enormous resources of energy that it will be able to fast many days.
Because they are ignorant of the reserves of the animal body, which are available for sustenance, when, for any reason it is denied food, physicians, nurses, patients, their relatives and friends, are afraid of fasting and insist that the sick must eat to "keep up their strength." Never was there a greater fallacy entertained.
One important feature about fasting has been entirely overlooked by all the so-called scientific investigators of fasting. I refer to the manner in which it causes the breaking down, absorption and elimination or use of abnormal growths, effusions, exudates, deposits, etc. The scientists have conducted all their experiment's on healthy animals or healthy men and are, for this reason, in no position to know its effects in the sick body.
They learned that useless fat and the less essential tissues are consumed first, and the most essential tissues of the body are hardly touched, even where death from starvation results. But never having watched the process they cannot know anything of the rapidity with which dropsical fluid, for example, is absorbed from the cavities or tissues and utilized as food. They cannot know how tumor-like growths are often rapidly absorbed and how, even large tumors are reduced in size. Resolution in pneumonia is hastened, the process taking place so rapidly, often that it would be difficult to believe unless one should see it. "Diseased" tissues are broken down, exudates, effusions and deposits are absorbed and either used or eliminated. The body utilizes everything it can dispense with during a fast in order to preserve the integrity of the essential tissues. The useless and least essential things are sacrificed first.
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