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PURE JOYS never pall; uniformity is uniform happiness if the even tenor of our way is the way of nature. And nature herself will guide our steps if the exigence of abnormal circumstances should require a deviation from the beaten path. Remedial instincts are not confined to the lower animals; man has his full share of them; the self-regulating power of the human system is as wonderful in the variety as in the simplicity of its resources. Have you ever observed the weather-wisdom of the black bind-weed?--how its flowers open in the morning sun and close at the approach of the noontide glare; how its tendrils expand their spirals in a calm, but contract and cling, as with hands, to their support when the storm-wind sweeps the woods? With the same certainty our dietetic instincts respond to the varying demands of our daily life. Without the aid of art, without the assistance of our own experience, they even adapt themselves to the exigencies of our abnormal conditions, and our interference alone often prevents them from counteracting the tendency of dire abuses.
All dietetic needs of our body thus announce themselves in a versatile language of their own, and he who has learned to interpret that language, nor willfully disregards its just appeals, may avoid all digestive disorders--not by fasting if he is hungry, or forcing food upon his protesting stomach, not by convulsing his bowels with nauseous drugs, but by quietly following the guidance of his instincts.
Nature's health laws are simple. The road to health and happiness is not the labyrinthine maze described by our medical mystagogues. In pursuing their dietetic cedes one is fairly bewildered by a mass of incongruous precepts and prescriptions, laborious compromises between old and new theories, arbitrary rules, and illogical exceptions, anti-natural restrictions and anti-natural remedies. Their view of the constitution of man suggests the King of Aragon's remark about the cycles and epicycles of the Ptolemaic system: "It strikes me the Creator might have arranged this business in a simpler way."
--FELIX L. OSWALD
In presenting this volume on fasting I am well aware of existing prejudices against the procedure. It has long been the practice to feed the sick and to stuff the weak on the theory that "the sick must eat to keep up their strength." It is very unpleasant to many to see long established customs broken, and long cherished prejudices set at naught, even when a great good is to be achieved.
"Shall we not respect the accumulated wisdom of the three thousand years," ask the defenders of the regular school and their feeding and drugging practices.
Where, we ask, is the wisdom for us to respect? We see little more than an accumulation of absurdities and barbarities. "The accumulated wisdom of three thousand years!" Look at sick humanity around you; look at the mortality reports; look at generation after generation, cut off in the very spring-time of life, and then talk of wisdom or science!
In this volume we offer you real wisdom and true science--we offer you the accumulated wisdom of many thousands of years, wisdom that will still be good when the mass of weakening, poisoning and mischief-inflicting methods of regular medicine are forgotten. A brief history of fasting will help to prove the truth of this.
During the past forty years fasting and its Hygienic accompaniments have gained immense popularity and the position to which they are entitled by virtue of their intrinsic worth. The advocates of fasting are constantly increasing in number and the strenuous opposition that fasting has had to face from the medical profession and from laymen alike, has merely served to advertise its possibilities and the simplicity and reasonableness of the claims made for it. The benefits that flow from a properly conducted fast are such that we do not hesitate to predict that it is the one procedure in disease that will be universally employed when it is once fully understood.
The literature of fasting is not well known to the average doctor of whatever school. Few of them have made a study of the subject. Likewise, they have had no experience with fasting and lack confidence in its application. A brief review of the history of fasting will serve, therefore, as a background to the subject and will give confidence to practitioner and patient.
As will be shown later, fasting for the many purposes for which it has been employed, has been in use since before the dawn of history. Indeed, it may be said that it is as old as life. As a procedure in the care of the sick, it fell almost wholly into disuse during the Dark Ages and was revived only a little over a hundred years ago.
Records of fasting are found among almost all peoples in both ancient and modern times. Our encyclopedias tell us that, although the objectives of fasting vary among individuals, the aims of fasting fall, for the most part, into two distinct categories: (1) fasting for reasons of spiritual enlightenment, self-discipline and other religious motives; and (2) fasting for the purpose of achieving political ends. Unfortunately the writers of articles on fasting in the encyclopedias have limited themselves too severely in their studies of fasting; perhaps they have done this for the distinct purpose of suppressing many important truths about fasting. Writers of articles for encyclopedias are not addicted to the commendable habit of telling the truth and they are usually from ten to a hundred years behind the march of knowledge.
The authors of the articles on fasting in the various encyclopedias seem to confine their reading and bibliographies to religious fasting. Although none of the present-day encyclopedias that I have consulted carries the old statement that if a man goes without food for six days his heart will collapse and he will die, they carry statements almost as absurd. For example, the article on starvation in the latest edition of the Encyclopedia Americana carries the statement that the "preliminary" hunger is accompanied with "severe pain," in the stomach and epigastric region generally, thirst "becomes intense," "the face assumes, meanwhile an anxious, pale expression; * * * the skin is said to become covered with a brown secretion." It speaks of the "decomposition and organic decay of the tissues," as though the fasting person is undergoing a rotting process. "The gait totters, the mind becomes impaired, delirium and convulsions may ensue and death occurs." "From 8 to 10 days is regarded as the usual period during which human life can be supported without food or drink. * * * A case is recorded in which some workmen were dug out alive after fourteen days in confinement in a cold, damp vault; and another is mentioned in which a miner was extricated alive after being shut up in a mine for twenty-three days, during the first ten of which he subsisted on a little dirty water. He died, however, three days after his release."
There is, in this description, and there is much more to it (I have merely repeated the high-lights), of "starvation," no differentiation between fasting and starving, little differentiation between fasting with and fasting without water, and a gross exaggeration of the actual developments, together with the addition of fictional elements that are drawn from the realm of the imagination. The bibliography at the end of this section lists exactly three publications one of these dated 1884-5, one dated 1847 and the other dated 1915. But the most important part of the 1915 publication is entirely ignored.
Physiologists who discuss fasting, or as they prefer to term it, starvation, are as prone, as are the writers of articles for the encyclopedias, to rely upon a limited and antiquated bibliography. Howell, for example, in his Textbook of Physiology, a standard text, relies largely upon Voit. He gives as a bibliography of "original sources," Virchows's Archives, Vol. 131, Supplement 1893; Luciani's Das Hungern, 1890, Weber's Ergebnisse der Physiologie, Vol. 1, part 1, 1902, and finally Benedict's A Study of Prolonged Fasting, Carnegie Institute, No. 203, 1915.
Such deliberate suppression of all the accumulated information about fasting makes it extremely difficult for the student of the subject to learn the truth about fasting. Coupled with this suppression of information is the habitual failure of all standard authors to distinguish between fasting and starving. Is this done through ignorance, or is it done with malice aforethought; is it done for the deliberate purpose of prejudicing the student against the subject? I leave this for the reader to draw his own conclusions.
Fasting in its modern phase had its beginning with Dr. Jennings in the first quarter of the last century. Jennings may be said to have stumbled upon it by accident at a time when his waning faith in drugs caused him to look for other and more dependable means of caring for the sick.
It is quite common to see Dr. Dewey referred to as the "Father of the Fasting Cure." Dr. Hazzard on the other hand, declares that "Dr. Tanner is justly entitled to first place among the pioneers of therapeutic fasting." I have no desire to detract one iota from the credit due these worthy men, but I must insist that first place belongs to Dr. Jennings, and wish to point out in this connection that Jennings possessed a fairly accurate idea of nature's "bill-of-fare for the sick," before Dr. Dewey discovered it in Yeo's Physiology.
Dr. Henry S. Tanner was born in England in 1831; died in California in 1919. His first fast was begun in July 17, 1877. Dr. Edward Hooker Dewey was born in Wayland, Pennsylvania in May, 1839; died March 28, 1904. In July, 1877 Dr. Dewey witnessed the first case that fasted to recovery, the stomach rejecting all food, and which set him to thinking about and finally employing fasting. Thus the work of Dewey and Tanner began almost simultaneously. However, Dr. Jennings was employing the fast before either of these men were born and wrote about it while they were both boys. Dr. Trall, Sylvester Graham, Dr. Shew, and other of their co-workers were also advocating and using the fast while Drs. Tanner and Dewey were school boys, although one almost never sees these men's names in the literature of fasting. We find Dr. Jennings using fasting as early as 1822 and Graham advocating fasting in 1832. In his work on Cholera, which is his published lectures on this subject, first delivered in New York City in 1832, he recommends fasting for cholera and other febrile conditions. The Graham Journal advocated fasting in 1837, its first year.
A writer in the Graham Journal for April 18, 1837, writing under the title "The Graham System--what is it?" includes in his item by item description of the system the fact that "abstinence should always be preferred to taking medicine--it is a benefit to lose a meal occasionally."
Another writer who signed himself, Equilibrist, writing under the title, "Stuff a Cold and Starve a Fever," in the Journal of Sept. 19 of the same year, quotes Dr. Beaumont's Experiments on Digestion--"in febrile diathesis, very little or no gastric juice is secreted. Hence, the importance of withholding food from the stomach in febrile complaints. It can afford no nourishment; but is actually a source of irritation to that organ, and, consequently, to the whole system. No solvent can be secreted under these circumstances; and food is as insoluble in the stomach as lead would be under ordinary circumstances"--and adds, "In other remarks, if I remember right, the doctor states that food has lain in the stomach of Alexis St. Martin from 6 to 30 or 40 hours, unchanged except by chemical affinities (he is here referring to fermentation and putrefaction. H. M. S.) during some of his ill turns. And yet what multitudes think that when they have a 'bad cold' they must eat or they will certainly be sick! Oh! I must 'stuff a cold and starve a fever,' they will tell you, and go at it in earnest; and not unfrequently in this way bring on a 'fever' that will require weeks to 'starve out.'
"I can testify from my own 'experiments' as well as those of Doctor Beaumont, that any person having a 'bad cold' may find entire relief by abstaining from food, one, two, three, or perhaps five or six meals if the case is a bad one, and that too without taking a particle of medicine."
It is worthy of note that Graham and the Grahamites attempted to form their practices in conformity with what was known in physiology while the medical profession, though studying physiology in college, were then as now, forgetting it as soon as they got into practice and followed the time-honored practice of drugging which bears no normal relation to physiology and violates every physiological principle.
Dr. Oswald, who was a contemporary of Dewey, refers to fasting as "the Graham starvation cure."
It is quite probable also that Doctors Page, Oswald and Walter preceded Dewey and Tanner in the employment of fasting. Dr. Page's book, published in 1883, recounts recoveries while fasting and urges fasting in many cases. Dr. Oswald's Fasting Hydropathy and Exercise was published in 1900. These three men were all acquainted with the works of Dr. Jennings and were influenced much by him, frequently quoting him. I feel safe in assuming that they also received much from Trall and Graham. In his How Nature Cures, published in 1892, Dr. Densmore definitely ascribes his use of fasting to "studying the writings of Trall, Nichols, Shew and other writers and hygienic physicians" forty years before writing his own book.
Laboratory confirmation of the benefits of fasting is not lacking; but it is not needed. Science is not confined to the laboratory and human observation is often as reliable in the field of practice as in that of experiment. Much experimental work with fasting, both in men and animals, has been done by approved laboratory men. Little attention has been given by these men to the value of fasting in "disease" conditions, but their work is of value to us in a general study of the subject before us.
Dr. A. Gulepa, of Paris, employed short fasts in the treatment of diabetes and other chronic "diseases" and wrote a book on "Autointoxication and Disintoxication: An account of a new fasting Treatment in Diabetes and other Chronic Diseases." Dr. Herrick Stern published a book on "Fasting and Under-Nutrition in the Treatment of Diabetes (the Allen Treatment); while Drs. Lewis W. Hill and Rene S. Ackman wrote: "The Starvation Treatment of Diabetes," in which they gave an account of the use of fasting in diabetes in the Rockefeller Institute.
In 1915 Frederick M. Allen, A.B., M.D., of the Rockefeller Institute Hospital "discovered" the "starvation treatment" of diabetes. Dr. Dewey successfully employed fasting in diabetes as far back as 1878; while Dr. Hazzard employed fasting in diabetes prior to 1906.
In 1923 "Fasting and Undernutrition" by Sergius Morgulis, Professor of Biochemistry in the University of Nebraska College of Medicine, was published. It is a most thorough study of fasting, starvation and undernutrition as far as these subjects have been worked out in the laboratory.
Although Prof. Morgulis has a wide acquaintance with the so-called scientific literature dealing with the subject of fasting or inanition, he voluntarily cuts himself off from all of the literature of so-called therapeutic fasting, and applies such terms as "enthusiasts," "amateurs" and "faddists" to those whose years of experience with fasting enable them to apply it to the care of human beings in the various states of impaired health. In an extended bibliography he mentions, from the many works on fasting by its exponents, only that of Hereward Carrington. Mr. Carrington's book is one of the best books on the subject which has yet appeared, but it is by no means complete or even up-to-date, having been published in 1908. Morgulis ignores the works of Jennings, Graham, Trall, Densmore, Walter, Dewey, Tanner, Haskell, Macfadden, Sinclair, Hazzard, Tilden, Eales, Rabagliati, Keith and others who have had widest experience with fasting and who have written extensively upon the subject.
Necessarily, this limits his field very largely to the field of animal experimentation and also limits his knowledge of the effects of fasting in various pathological states. In the book there is no information on the proper conduct of the fast. The hygiene of the fast, crises during the fast, danger signals during the fast, breaking the fast--these and other very practical problems are not considered. Neither does he distinguish between fasting and starving. The omission of these things from a technical book is inexcusable.
Professor Morgulis' masterly work is full of technical data on the effects of abstinence from food upon the body and its various parts. However, since most of its data is based upon animal experimentation, he having elected to ignore the works on fasting by those who employ it, and since what is true of one species is not always true of another, the conclusions he arrives at in this work may be accepted only in a general way and do not always harmonize with the findings of those who employ fasting in men, and particularly in the care of the sick.
Most of the "scientific" works on inanition have little or no value for us in a study of fasting. This is so for the following reasons:
1. Abstinence from food may mean missing one meal, or it may mean abstinence from food until death from starvation results. In these works little or no effort is made to differentiate the changes that occur during the different stages of inanition.
2. Most of the studies (in man) have been in famine victims and these are not cases of fasting, nor do these people suffer only from lack of food. There is often exposure, there is always fear and worry, there are also the effects of one-sided diets. Findings in death in famines are classed as due to inanition and are not differentiated from fasting changes.
3. In total inanition no water is taken and many of the scientific experiments withhold water as well as food from the animals. The results of such experiments cannot be used to determine the results of fasting.
4. Inanition studies are all mixed up with pathologies of all kinds that occasion more or less inanition. Many of the studies of starvation in humans have been complicated with other conditions that account for much of the findings.
5. Studies of fasting changes are so mixed up with starvation changes and changes due to dietary deficiencies and there is so little discrimination between the three types of changes, that these books become very misleading.
6. None of the experimenters have ever observed properly conducted fasts of the sick under favorable conditions, hence they know almost nothing of its value under such conditions.
7. There is another source of confusion in these books. I refer to the frequent use of pathological terms to describe what is not pathological at all. The word "degeneration" is often used when no real degeneration is evident. Or, shall we say that there is a form of degeneration that may be properly designated physiological to distinguish it from another form that is distinctly pathological. For example, muscular "atrophy" that follows cessation of muscular work is not pathological. Decrease in size of a part from lack of food with no actual pathological changes in the tissues and no real perversion of its function is not degeneration, though commonly referred to as such in these books.
The same criticisms may be made of Inanition and Malnutrition, by C. M. Jackson, M.S., M.D., LL.D., 1925. In a bibliography covering 108 pages, I was unable to locate the name of any man, other than Carrington, who is in a position to speak with authority on fasting. Jackson's is a very valuable book, crammed with technical data and detailed experimental results, but lacking in any reference to the hygienic value of the fast.
Much valuable work has been done by laboratory experimenters, but it is obviously lacking in certain important particulars. For example, Morgulis points out that fasting decreases sugar tolerance in dogs, but in no other animal. Indeed, he records that fasting is distinctly beneficial in diabetes in man. He records an experiment performed on fasting rats and pigeons in which the rats gave one result and the pigeons an exactly opposite result. In some species fasting diminishes the reaction to certain drugs, in other species it increases this reaction.
In certain animals, such as the frog, some of the senses are diminished; while in man the senses are remarkably improved. So distinctive is this sign that we regard it as evidence that our patient is fasting. Sight, taste, hearing, smell and touch are all acutened. Hearing and smell often become so acute that the faster is annoyed by noises and odors that are ordinarily unheard and unsmelled by him. Blindness, catarrhal deafness, sensory paralysis and loss of the senses of taste and smell have all been known to yield to the kindly influences of the fast. The cleansing of the system occasioned by fasting quickly revivifies the mental and sensory powers.
While fasting frequently produces temporary sterility in men, it has no such effect in salmon and seals. The gonads of salmon actually undergo a great increase in size while fasting, while both they and male seals fast during their entire mating season. It is only right that I add that it is denied by some that salmon actually fast during this season.
Prof. C. M. Child, of the University of Chicago, experimenting with worms, found that if a worm is fasted for a long time it does not die, but merely grows smaller and smaller, living on its own tissues for months. Then, after it has been reduced to a minimum size, if it is fed it begins to grow and starts life anew, as young as ever it was. While we know that fasting renews the human body, we also know that it will not renew it to the extent it does the body of the worm. Man is not a worm, nor a dog, nor a pigeon, nor a rat. In a broad general sense, all animals are fundamentally alike; but there are specific differences, both in structure and function and in instinct and reaction as well as in individual needs, and for this reason it is always dangerous to reason from worm or dog to man.
This, however, does not hinder us from studying the similarities and differences existing between man and the sub-orders and making whatever use of these studies we may. It may be said that there is one particular in which all animals, including man, are alike; namely, their ability to go without food for prolonged periods and to profit by this.
For the most part the regular profession has either ignored or else denounced fasting. Fasting is a fad or it is quackery. They do not study it, do not employ it and do not endorse it. On the contrary, they declare that "the sick must eat to keep up their strength."
It is gratifying to see that a change is under way. Just recently (1933) a meeting of famous medical consultants from different parts of the British Isles, was held at Bridge of Allen, Stirlingshire, Scotland. The conference was presided over by Sir Wm. Wilcox. Among other notable physicians present were Sir Humphrey Rolleston, the King's Physician, Lord Horder, Physician to the Prince of Wales, Sir James Purvess-Stewart, Sir Henry Lunn, and Sir Ashley Mackintosh.
These men urged the value of fasting in "disease." Sir William Wilson said "the medical profession had been neglectful of the study of dietetics and fasting." Sir Henry Lunn, noted that there were several institutions (nature cure places) in England employing fasting and urged that fasting is not a matter for "unqualified" practitioners. Only a short time prior to this Sir Henry had said in the Daily Mail (London) that the "unqualified practitioners" were the ones who were curing their patients and added, "I am convinced that the result will be that heterodoxy, now claimed as their own possession by various unqualified healers, will become the medical orthodoxy and commonplace of the next generation."
The conference, instead of offering a little praise where it was long overdue, prepared, as Sir Henry had predicted, to steal the thunder of the "Natural Healers," branding these latter as "unqualified."
In 1927 Lord Horder (then Sir Thomas) declared: "I think there is value in the occasional missing of a meal, or in the substitution of a meal, * * * but the elaborate and prolonged process of actual fasting which requires for its proper carrying out a complete or partial cessation from active work has never seemed to me to promise any benefits."
What caused this eminent medical man to change his mind? Only one thing could have forced him to join the conference in endorsing prolonged fasting--namely: the steady stream of recoveries in "incurable" cases which the British Natural Hygienists continue to effect. Are these Natural Hygienists unqualified? Dr. Lief addresses the following questions to Lord Horder in the July, 1933 issue of Health for All:
"Which of these two is better qualified to use fasting as a method of therapy: (1) the practitioner who has studied over many years the special technique of curative fasting, who has administered fasting treatment in very many cases, and so is fully conversant with how to deal with the various crises and reactions that very frequently appear in fasting cases, or (2) the medical doctor, whose profession, as a body, has done nothing for years but condemn fasting, without investigation, and whose present interest in the treatment has only arisen as a result of the remarkable successes and the ensuing popularity of the so-called unqualified man?"
Certainly the study of Materia Medica and years spent in administering drugs cannot qualify one to conduct fasts. No intelligent person can investigate the subject of fasting without endorsing it and without being struck by the marvelous results it produces. But this same intelligence should lead him to fast under the care of one who fully understands fasting in all its details.
I will conclude this introduction with an endorsement of fasting by a physician of the highest standing, who, twenty years after he made the statement below, still endorses and employs fasting.
In 1922 Major Reginald F. E. Austin, M.D., R.A.M.C., M.R.C.S., L.R.C.P., British Army Medical Service, wrote "some sixteen years experience of the treatment of the sick and ailing with the aid of fasting has convinced me that many of the so-called complications and sequelae of disease are largely the result of forcing nourishment into an organism that is telling one as plainly as it can: 'For heaven's sake keep food away from me until my appetite returns. In the meantime, I will live on my own tissues.'"
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