3. The Mechanics Of Fasting
3.1 How Long Should Children Fast?
The most common question about children and fasting is: how long should the child fast?
A specific number of days cannot be given for all cases. Generally, a fast is conducted until all the symptoms of an acute illness subside. Chronic problems are sometimes handled by a series of fasts of varying lengths.
Most Hygienic practitioners, however, generally agree that children should not fast as long as adults may. That is, lengthy and extended fasts for children should be properly planned, supervised, and wisely considered. Short-term fasts for children, however, may be safely undertaken by knowledgeable parents.
To be more precise, Dr. Shelton tells us that he has seen very few cases of children or infants requiring an extended fast. “Fortunately,” Dr. Shelton writes, “few infants require more than two to three days of fasting.” In general, when nature cuts off the appetite of a child, he or she should be permitted to fast until there is a demand for food.
Dr. Shelton tells us that “infants may be fasted for days without harm, although they seldom have to fast as long as an adult.” Infants and children, according to several Hygienists, recover more rapidly while fasting than do adults and so do not require to fast as long.
As a general guideline, Dr. Shelton and other Hygienic practitioners, seem to suggest that fasts for children be for periods of one to five days, with the time limits of two or three days being the most common length mentioned.
Once again, there can be no exact length for a fast in all cases. However, there is general agreement that since a child is usually less toxic and more vital than an adult, short-term fasts of one to three days are usually sufficient for most acute problems. Of course there may be circumstances and conditions that require a child to be fasted for longer than a three- or four-day period. Parents who are considering fasting their children for longer than a five-day period should probably consult a professional Hygienic practitioner.
Long-term fasts for children must be approached with caution. Not because fasting itself is dangerous, but because misinformed family, friends, or authorities may try to prevent such actions. In these cases, the support of a professional Hygienist can help the parent through any difficult times.
If you have no access to a practicing Hygienist, you may still fast your child without worry for short-term periods of one to three days. The exact length for a fast by a child or infant cannot be specified and depends upon the illness and the vitality of the youngster.
3.2 How to Fast Children
The needs of a child when fasting are basically the same as an adult’s: warmth, quiet, rest, fresh air, and pure water. Fasting for short periods of time may be supervised by the child’s parent. If a serious illness is present or if a fast must be conducted for more than several days, then the advice of an experienced Hygienist should be sought.
3.3 Beginning the Fast
No elaborate preparations are needed before a child is fasted. In cases of acute conditions where the symptoms of disease appear quickly, a fast may be begun immediately. In fact, as soon as there is a sign of serious illness in a child, the fast should start.
There is no need to give an enema to a child before the fast starts. If time and conditions permit, the child may be placed on an all-fruit diet for a day or so before the fast begins.
3.4 During the Fast
The child should be kept warm, comfortable, and quiet. He should not be permitted to play or exercise vigorously while fasting. It is more important that the child be allowed to rest totally while not eating. This allows the body’s energy to be directed toward cleansing and detoxification instead of being expended in play or excitement.
Whenever the child is thirsty, distilled water at room temperature should be given. Do not force the child to drink excessively, but be sure that plenty of water is available for the child to drink. If the child is an infant, it may be given as much water from a bottle as it desires.
Fruit juices, such as orange or grapefruit juice, may be used if it is desired not to fast the child completely, or if the child refuses to drink only water. Drinking juices, however, is not a good idea since pure water is really all that is required by the fasting child. Dr. Shelton and other Hygienic practitioners, however, have used fruit juices when “fasting” children.
Particularly when no fever is present or no crisis is evident, fruit juices may be given to the child. Juice drinking or the eating of only fruits, however, do not constitute a true fast. For some cases, however, a diet of fruit juices or fruit only may be used with great benefits when fasting is impractical or not desired.
Placing the child on a strict diet of fresh fruits and freshly-squeezed juices can be done for an extended period of time and does not require the supervision of an experienced Hygienist. The benefits of this diet are enormous.
3.5 What to Expect During the Fast
During the fast, the child’s urine may become dark. He may experience brief periods of diarrhea or constipation. The breath will probably smell foul and the tongue may become heavily coated. None of these signs are cause for worry, but indicate that the fast is progressing normally—that detoxification is being effected.
Once the fast begins, there is no need to worry about constipation or bowel movements. If none occur during the fast, do not worry because the child’s regularity will return when the fast is broken.
Show no worry or concern with the fasting child. Do not let other adults’ remarks about the “safety” of the fast, or demonstration of fears about the child’s health affect you in any way. It is best to fast your child in private and without discussion, especially in front of the child. If fasting is treated as a normal part of living and if the parents also practice fasting as a regular part of a healthy lifestyle, then the child is more likely to view his own fast as a positive experience.
3.6 Breaking the Fast
The fast should be broken after all the acute signs of illness are gone, or the child experiences true hunger, or after a reasonable period (two to four days for an unsupervised fast). Hunger may be present during the first day of the fast. This is not a sign that the fast should be broken early, however: If the child expresses a strong desire to eat after the first day or two of the fast, that is a better indication that true hunger has returned and the fast should be ended.
Breaking the fast should be done carefully. Either a piece of fresh fruit or a small glass of fresh fruit juice may be given as the first food after the fast. Have the child sip the juice very slowly. If fruit is used, let the youngster have a single bite at a time and have him chew each bite very well.
A few/hours later, more juice or fruit may be given. Do not be in a hurry to introduce heavy foods back into the diet. As long as the child is happy and satisfied eating fruit alone, then allow him to continue with this diet. Gradually, fresh salads, nuts, and seeds may be introduced.
If the child is an infant or is still nursing, then the fast should be broken with mother’s milk.
3.7 After the Fast
Following a fast, the child should be placed on the optimum Life Science diet. This consists primarily of fresh; raw fruits with raw vegetables, nuts, and seeds eaten in appropriate combinations. Of course if the child is very young, then mother’s milk, fruit juices, blended fruits, and so on are appropriate.
Do not be in a hurry to overfeed or stuff the child with high-calorie foods in order to replace the lost weight. By no means should the child’s natural appetite and hunger not be satisfied, but food should not be pushed onto the unwilling youngster.
After a fast is an ideal time to improve the youngster’s diet. The fast provides an easy transition into better eating habits and food selection. The first days after a fast will find the child keenly appreciating the simple and natural foods in their uncooked state. This is an excellent time to include more and more fresh fruits and vegetables into the child’s diet, and eliminate any substandard foods that may have been eaten prior to the fast.
3.8 Handling the Fears About Fasting Children
The greatest obstacle to fasting children will not be from the child but from overly-concerned parents and relatives. In some people’s minds, fasting is the same as starvation and they worry needlessly about the child’s safety during a fast.
A good education about the absolute safety of fasting children is necessary so that these fears can be eliminated.
When asked about the possible complications and difficulties that might result from fasting children, Dr. Shelton replied: “Complications result almost wholly from feeding and drugging. They almost never develop in cases that are not fed and not drugged. I have fasted numerous children and babies and it is my observation that they bear fasting well.”
Still, there is often the worry that fasting will cause the child to lose loo much weight or it will be harmful to growth. In fact, the most common fear is that if food is withheld from an infant or child, it will lose weight and never regain its full growth potential. Such fears are groundless.
Dr. Shelton tells us that “it has been fully demonstrated that repeated short fasts of one to three days in growing animals produce better growth and strength. Children are not harmed by fasting, but only by starvation.” And, I might add, children are harmed by eating when food should be foregone.
Fasting, properly done, can stimulate growth. Professor Morgulis, a researcher on fasting and animals, states that as soon as any animal, including man, loses weight through fasting, it then begins to gain at a spectacular rate once proper nourishment is again provided. “There is a rapid gain in weight,” writes Professor Morgulis, “which is a manifestation of a vigorous growth process in animals after a fast.
There is prolific cell multiplication. Frequently, there is an increase in body mass that normally requires years of growth.”
Dr. Shelton also remarks that he has seen periods of increased growth in children following a fast. It is not underfeeding or fasting that is to be feared, but rather overfeeding the child with improper foods.
Any weight loss experienced by the child on a fast will be quickly reversed once a diet of optimum foods is given after the fast is broken. The parents should simply make sure that the child has all the wholesome foods he wants or desires. His appetite will be hearty after a fast, and normal growth patterns will be rapidly reestablished.
Perhaps the best reassurance a parent can have when fasting a child is to read about the thousands of youngsters who have been fasted by Hygienic practitioners. Dr. Herbert M. Shelton’s book, The Hygienic Care of Children, provides many examples of the success obtained through fasting children. Parents may also contact other Hygienists who have fasted their children for their advice.
Unless the parents have a sympathetic listener, it would be best not to talk about the fasting of their children. Some people including medical doctors, have a mistrust of fasting and may actually take steps to prevent parents from fasting their children. These people often fill the parents with fear and guilt about fasting their offspring. In some cases, legal action has been taken against parents who were only trying to insure their children’s health and well-being through fasting.
To avoid such complications, the wise parents will fast their child in private and without consulting various “authorities.” Again, it is suggested that such parents try to contact other Hygienists for their support during the first fast for a child. Regardless, a short-term fast of one to three days can never do any harm and may be safely undertaken by any knowledgeable parent.
3.9 The Benefits of Fasting for Children
Children can quickly benefit from a fast, and it is encouraging to see the many positive results that occur so dramatically after a fast. Youngsters have vital and relatively clean bodies that respond well to a fast.
All the body’s functions are normalized during a fast. Indigestion, constipation, headaches, colds, fevers, diarrhea, and a host of other childhood complaints often disappear quickly during a fast. The body can discharge its eliminative tasks much speedier during a fast.
Fasting also allows a child’s weight to normalize. Overweight children will lose excessive pounds during a fast while underweight youngsters often quickly add pounds after a fast.
Fasting is an excellent way to introduce the child to a new diet, such as the optimum Life Science diet. In fact, many children can make dietary changes much easier than adults, and very often, they are easier to fast and, complain less.
Children, if old enough, should be carefully taught the benefits of fasting. They should be told or shown how animals fast naturally in the wild, and that fasting is a normal life process. Teaching your child how to fast properly is as important as teaching him to eat properly. Some parents find it easier to fast along with their children, and this is an excellent idea if conditions allow. Any fear of fasting that the child might have is quickly alleviated if the mother or father fasts as well.
Fasting is a time-tested method of insuring superior health for people of all ages, it should be employed by both young and old alike, and the fasting of children should be regarded as a safe and natural method of insuring superior health and vitality.