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From what has gone before about the body's reserves, its ability to autolyze these reserves and its less important tissues, its ability to shift its materials from one part of the body to another, it should not surprise the intelligent reader to learn that tissues and organs are repaired during a fast; even, that they are often repaired more rapidly than while eating the accustomed amounts of "good nourishing food."
The body has a vast store of reserve foods which are designed for use in emergencies and which may be utilized under such conditions with greater ease and with less tax upon the body than food secured through the laborious process of digestion, for, it is less expensive to the organism to supply the requisite sustenance from its nutritive reserves than to do it by the digestive machinery from raw material. These reserves are available for use in repairing tissue.
Repair not only takes place during a fast but it often occurs more rapidly during a fast than when one is eating. Indeed, I have seen wounds and old sores that had long refused to heal, completely and rapidly heal during a fast. I witnessed an operation on a child that had been fasting. The surgeon that performed the operation was puzzled by the unusual rapidity with which the wound healed and remarked to me that he could not explain it. It was no new phenomenon to me and I think that the explanation is very simple. I am sure that the blood-cleansing and tissue rejuvenating work of the fast improves the qualities of the blood and tissues.
Cases of repair of wounds, broken bones and healing of open sores during a fast are too numerous for us to doubt for one instant that even during a fast there is still constructive work going on. Aaron reports that the brain and the bones actually grow during a fast. Dr. Oswald reported a case of a young dog which fell from a high barn loft onto the pavement below and broke two legs and three ribs and apparently injured its lungs. It refused all food except water for twenty days, at the end of which time it took some milk. Not until the twenty-sixth day would it take meat. The bones knit, the lungs healed and the dog was able to run and bark as lustily as before. Cases of knitting of bones in the absence of food are very common in the animal kingdom and numerous cases are on record as occurring in man. This shows unmistakably that the body utilizes the less important tissues to support the most essential ones. "I saw in human bodies," says Dr. Dewey, "a vast reserve of predigested food, with the brain in possession of power so to absorb as to maintain structural integrity in the absence of food or power to digest it. This eliminated the brain entirely as an organ that needs to be fed from light diet kitchens in times of acute sickness. Only in this self-feeding power of the brain is found the explanation of its functional clearness where bodies have become skeletons."
Aaron found that the bones and brain will grow during a fast. My observations show that the hair growth is slow during a fast and that the beard is much softer than at other times, the body sacrificing the hair in the interest of the more important structures, although fasting frequently stops the falling-out of hair.
Pashutin records that in cases of hibernating animals the growth of granulation tissues in wounds goes on during the deepest slumber, even when all functions seem almost to have ceased and the heart may beat as slow as 1 beat in 5 to 8 minutes, the blood circulation being so slow that cuts made in the flesh bleed very slightly.
Fasting planarians live upon themselves, growing smaller meanwhile--this is to say, they draw upon their tissues and convert these, little by little, into food to meet their needs. The higher animals--birds, dogs, men--can do this to a more limited extent, calling first, as before pointed out, upon their reserve stores of fat and glycogen and lastly, upon the actual living substance of glands and muscles and to a less extent upon connective tissue.
In these higher life forms certain parts are so essential to life that they cannot or must not be liquidated. The heart is little affected even in starvation. The brain cells are not damaged. The bones are not liquidated or hurt. It is only in the starvation period that the muscles waste enough that they are unable to move the parts and the glands waste until they are no longer able to produce their secretions and death results.
If a small oblong piece be cut from the body of a planarian, the piece will throw out an army of new and active cells on both its new frontiers and these, dividing, growing and differentiating, at the expense of the rest, for the piece has no mouth and cannot eat, form themselves into a head and a tail end. At the beginning the new parts are too small for the body, but a remodeling process goes on both in the new parts and in the original fragment. They grow, it shrinks. They both alter their shapes, until finally, what was at first a helpless fragment is a well-proportioned little flat-worm.
The building up of new structures and redistribution of nutritive matter seen in the foregoing case of regeneration is common to a greater or lesser degree to all forms of animal life during a fast. We have, in the case of the fragment of a planarian becoming a new worm, the complete construction of a new organism out of food stored in the fragment without receiving fresh supplies from without.
A starfish may grow new tube feet, new arms, or even a new stomach, if it loses its old one. This animal feeds by holding open the hinged valves of a clam or oyster, everting its stomach and performing the preliminary digestion within the shell of its victim. It sometimes has its stomach pinched off in the process and is forced to fast while growing a new one.
The sea cucumber frequently dispenses with its digestive apparatus, by casting it out, when forced to exist in stale water. It fasts while growing another digestive apparatus. During the fasting period the water may improve and, as biologists tell us "the trick (of discarding its digestive system) may save its life."
The remarkable changes which insects undergo in their metamorphosis from one form into another are accomplished while fasting. In some states, even where there is no change of form, the softness of their cutting organs prevents feeding. This is seen in the case of caterpillars. Where considerable changes are evolved the period of fasting is prolonged, leading to the existence of a third state, the pupa stage, intermediate between the other two.
During these periods of great organizational changes, when old structures are torn down and new structures built up, so that the resulting form is wholly different from and much more complex than the preceding form, no food is consumed. The food reserves stored in the body of the metamorphosing insect and the material contained in the discarded structures are employed as materials out of which to build the new structures.
The growth of whole new organs, and new digestive systems, the building up of new forms of life in metamorphosing insects and the construction of whole new organisms from the stores in a fragment of a worm, all while fasting, are remarkable examples of the internal resources of the living organism, and its power to meet emergencies and to even use these for its own betterment.
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