1. The Great Day
I learned that a man emerging from a long fast should not be in a hurry to regain lost strength and should also put a curb on his appetite. More caution and perhaps more restraint are necessary in breaking a fast than in keeping it.
When the Great Day arrives, there may be a tendency to feel that the battle has been won, the struggle is over, the problem has been solved. From now on it’s “enjoy, enjoy!” Both the fasting supervisor and the faster, with a great sense of relief that the waiting and the denial is at an end, want to get the faster back to the routine and joy of living as soon as possible. And what’s the best way to do that? Why we must put some flesh on that scrawny body—we must feed and nourish him back to his normal size and strength. He’s been denied long enough. Now we can make it all up to him!
Whoa! The end of the fast is only the beginning of the transition to normal living.
1.1 A Critical Period
Adequate, knowledgeable supervision in breaking a fast may be even more critical than the supervision in conducting a fast.
People who have been fasted for serious pathologies have an even more important period to undergo. What has happened during the fasting period is not nearly as important as what will happen when food is restored. And, if serious mistakes are made during this period, the consequences may be unpredictable, up to and including negation of the potential benefits of the fast, or—though extremely rare—losing the life of the patient.
1.2 When to Break the Fast
The decision as to when to break the fast is, of course, of major importance. The condition of the faster must be assessed from day to day, and a decision made as to the continuation or termination of the fast. This decision should be a mutual one between the faster and the fasting-supervisor.
1.3 The Return of Natural Hunger
If the fast is continued to the return of natural hunger, certain signs will be manifested. The coated tongue usually clears, the mouth tastes fresh and clean, the foul breath disappears. A sense of rejuvenation and well-being are experienced. The desire (or actual craving) for food becomes compelling—and there is a real sense of hunger, which is a mouth-and-throat sensation.
True hunger is not an uncomfortable feeling, but one is conscious of an urgent, but pleasant longing for food. The abdominal sensations, or all-gone feeling, that we usually attribute to hunger, are caused by irritation. Most people have never experienced true hunger. It is possible that one may not experience true hunger at any time during the fast.
Sometimes the tongue does not clear completely, but the indications of the return of natural hunger are visible to the fasting supervisor and the fast must be broken—or starvation will begin.
It is said that the best time to break a fast is when nature gives these signals of the return of true hunger. It is impossible to know in advance just when this will occur. The fast must never be prolonged beyond this point.
1.4 Premature Termination
Premature breaking of the fast is also undesirable—breaking it at any time before the return of true hunger is considered premature. Premature termination of a fast may sometimes result in unpleasant consequences. The patient may experience unfavorable reactions when food is offered, and be actually unable to tolerate the food. Or, a succession of unpleasant symptoms may be experienced for a few days. The fast may actually have to be resumed and terminated at a later date.
Most fasts are broken prematurely. Although the return of true hunger is considered to be the ideal time to break a fast, and Hereward Carrington maintains that it is actually dangerous to break the fast prematurely, it must be recorded that most fasts are broken prematurely (before the signs of true hunger). I (and others) have observed that usually, if care is exercised in the gradual return to eating, no great harm or serious problems are experienced. Actually, the phenomenon of the return of true hunger is seldom seen.
The majority of fasts are broken “prematurely” for various reasons. Fasts are terminated because of time limitations (the faster must return to work, or to other duties; or he cannot “afford” to stay at the fasting retreat for an indefinite period). Or the body may signal that its vital energy and resources have been depleted to an extent dictating the cessation of the fast (the fasting supervisor must be qualified to recognize these signals). Or the faster may have come to an end of his or her forbearance—mentally or emotionally. These considerations emphasize the importance of professional supervision of the fast.
1.5 Length of Fast Not Determined in Advance
When a fast is undertaken, it is best not to try to determine its length in advance. One should go along from day to day, without setting a definite time limit. It is best to determine to fast as long as necessary, so that the goal may be achieved.
Dr. Alec Burton says, “Some believe that a particular disease, e.g., gastric ulcer, requires a two-week fast, and that the length of the fast is in some way determined by the disease, whether arthritis, asthma or colitis, etc. This is not a consideration. We are concerned only with the requirements and capacities of the individual and not the ‘disease’ and its treatment. It should be apparent that the only person in a position to make a sound judgement about the length of the fast is the doctor in charge of the case.”
Yet it must be acknowledged that there is a certain amount of validity to setting goals when fasting for the remission of certain pathologies, since experience has indicated that such remission usually requires a certain minimum number of fasting days. The professional Hygienist, while not infallible, is qualified to make such predictions, such “educated guesses,” so that the faster usually has some idea as lo whether a short- or long-term fast may be necessary.
Although there is virtual consensus that fasting to completion has the best potential for producing optimal results, and that premature termination of a fast may make subsequent fasting necessary, some qualifications must be considered. As previously indicated, there are other unmistakable signs that it is time to terminate a fast, for physical, physiological, mental or emotional reasons—and these signs must be heeded.
Dr. Burton says, “Hunger usually only occurs in the very long fast and then only with the almost complete exhaustion of the nutritive reserves. However, it is something that the practitioner should not rely on too much, as it is entirely subjective and there are many questions unanswered about it. Furthermore, because people have never experienced ‘true’ hunger (i.e., the sensation that is said to accompany the exhaustion of the reserves), they really do not know what they are looking for. Many people say that they do not know whether they are hungry or not. Because hunger is subjective, it should be evaluated in conjunction with the more objective phenomena. For instance, hunger is invariably accompanied by a flow of saliva, whereas a dry mouth is inconsistent with hunger.”
1.6 Don’t Terminate a Fast During a Crisis
It is not advisable to break a fast while the patient is experiencing a crisis (a period of acute discomfort). It is important to let the crisis run its course before deciding whether it is time to terminate the fast.
A fasting crisis is the manifestation of a symptom, or group of symptoms, during the course of the fast. Such crises may be the manifestation of the release into the bloodstream of the (often morbid) stored by-products of metabolism, producing temporary irritation in various parts of the body. Fasting crises may sometimes be indication of remedial processes and the body’s manner of initiating a correction.
Most fasters experience no crises during the fast. Some may experience one or two mild and fleeting incidents, which may run their course in an hour or two. The cleansing processes initiated by the fast are not usually of a violent or disagreeable nature. Most of the excretion of toxic materials is carried on without any discomfort or inconvenience. Extremely toxic individuals may expect to experience some discomfort—which is an indication that they were greatly in need of a fast.
Various crises have been noted in observing thousands of fasts—headaches, nausea, vomiting, skin eruptions, and others.
Headaches may appear early in the fast, and, except in some unusual cases, disappear in a day or two. Nausea and vomiting (or, sometimes, nausea without vomiting) occur in about 10% of patients, sometimes in the early stages only,, sometimes continuing for longer periods. If vomiting persists, dehydration may be a threat (especially if the faster cannot retain water), and it may be necessary to terminate the fast. In some cases (extremely rare), diarrhea accompanies vomiting, resulting in great fluid loss, and the fast must be terminated.
If pain is being experienced, the fast should not be broken until the pain subsides (as it usually does, in short order). It is best not to break the fast until the day after such pain is experienced. As a general rule, wait until well-being and comfort return before breaking the fast.
Sometimes (though this is infrequent), a mild malaise (a borderline nausea) will continue throughout the fast, and will not disappear until the person resumes eating. Obviously, this type of continuous mild malaise would not be a contraindication to terminating the fast, if such termination appears to be advisable.
Some people need very little sleep during the fast, but a return to eating soon results in a need for more sleep. Some people do sleep a great deal, especially during the first week or so of a prolonged fast. The body does not deprive itself of needed sleep.
Some toxic individuals experience a rise in temperature during the fast. Usually the temperature, pulse
rate, and blood pressure are lower soon after beginning the fast. The heart rests, and there is a slowing of circulation. After the first week or so, weakness and dizziness are often experienced, concurrent with the inevitable loss of weight.
Dr. Burton says that the weakness experienced by the faster is “essentially a locomoter weakness—a weakness in the muscular system and the organs of locomotion. It is not a weakness in the vital organs.” The energy of the organism is being diverted and utilized for detoxification and healing. Under these conditions, the muscles don’t need the energy—they can wait for the time being.
Dr. Herbert M. Shelton says, “It seems that often (during the fast) there is a pooling of blood in the abdomen. There is less blood in the brain, although thinking is clear. Under these circumstances, to arise quickly from the horizontal position to the vertical, may result in dizziness and even fainting because the adjustment of the circulation in the head is not as rapid as the speed with which the change of position is made. To avoid possible fainting, which may occur in occasional cases (although it is of no consequence), one should arise slowly. Instead of forcing your organism, come slowly to a sitting position, sit on the side of the bed for a brief time, and then slowly rise to a standing position.”
After eating is resumed, the weakness and dizziness gradually disappear—say, in about a week or so, concurrent with weight gain. The precautions about gradual change of position, and continuation of bed rest, should continue until these conditions improve.
1.7 Why Caution Is Necessary in Terminating Prolonged Fasts
There is a broad range of opinion as to the best method of breaking a prolonged fast—but all the experts agree that the reintroduction of food to the fasting organism must be gradual.
It must be understood that the fasting period, and the subsequent return to eating, has necessarily subjected the organism to two extremely stressful situations, within a relatively brief period of time.
When food supplies are stopped, the body does its best to adjust to the new conditions. The digestive organs are no longer required to perform their usual functions, and virtually cease to exercise them. No signals are forthcoming for the secretion of gastric enzymes and juices, or for the normal secretions in the intestines.
Without food to keep it expanded, the stomach contracts; the intestines and colon do the same. Bowel movements usually cease altogether after the first few days of the fast; although, sometimes, when debris is trapped in diverticula in the colon, it is gradually expelled, as it is “squeezed out” as the walls of the colon contract; in this case, small bowel movements may continue for a week or longer. In some colitis patients, who have been experiencing acute diarrhea, the diarrhea (at a reduced rate) may continue for a time during the fast.
In any event, the organs of digestion are almost completely at rest, while other organs and processes take over and work overtime. The organs of elimination initiate a heroic cleansing operation, through the urine, the lungs, (he mucous membranes and the skin (and sometimes, as has been indicated, through continuing bowel movements).
The organism mobilizes its reserves, so that the functioning organs and tissues continue to receive nutriments. Surpluses of stored materials in the body are utilized for this purpose. The vital tissues are nourished first from the food reserves in the digestive tract (where there is usually a three-day supply), and then the fat, deposits, and abnormal growths are broken down, so that the nutrients may be salvaged and absorbed, and wastes eliminated—by the process of autoloysis—the disintegration of tissues by the body’s own enzymes. This is a normal part of physiology, but is speeded up and enhanced by fasting. The wisdom of the body is its own safeguard, and it uses first and least important stored materials; the essential organs and tissues of the body, such as the heart, nervous system, lungs, and other vital parts remain intact, and no cells are lost.
All of the resources of the organism are mobilized for this metamorphosis, and the body strives to utilize and maintain its available energy to perform the cleansing, nourishing, and healing functions initiated by the withholding of new food supplies. The organism proceeds in an orderly manner, always in the same direction, every part of the body cooperating for the preservation of life and for cleansing, nourishing, and healing.
When the last is broken—particularly when it is broken before the return of true hunger—the body is subjected to an even more stressful situation than that which occurred when the organism was forced to adapt to the cessation of feeding.
The body has temporarily lost its ability to digest food in the usual manner. When foods are again offered to the organism, it must be given an opportunity to gradually regain, its power of normal function. The longer the fast, the more care that is required in the method of its termination.
Methods of breaking the fast are designed to restore, intestinal function and reactivate digestive faculties which have been resting. The body must make changes and adjustments in physiology, to accommodate to the new situation.
If the first food is of such a nature that the organs are not able to handle it, the patient may become nauseated and vomit the food. This violent reaction can cause mental and physical harm; and the fast must be resumed, at least for a day or so longer, perhaps even more.
As a rule, however, the first food is welcomed and tastes delicious. If it is freshly-squeezed orange juice, or fresh fruit, it usually tastes like nectar or ambrosia, and the faster looks forward to the next meal with anticipation and delight.
If the wrong kinds of food are offered, perhaps the patient may enjoy the food, but there may be little or no digestive response, and the food may decay or ferment. If peristaltic action to move the food along the digestive tract is absent, impaction may occur, with the possibility of uncomfortable constipation.
As previously indicated, opinions differ as to the one best method to break a fast, and it is probable that there is no one best method. After a prolonged fast, only an experienced fasting supervisor is qualified to offer the first foods and to observe the reactions of the patient, and to modify the method, whenever indicated. This must be emphasized: the care that is necessary in breaking a fast is in proportion to the length of the fast and the condition of the faster.
Dr. Shelton says, “Almost every advocate of fasting has evolved his own techniques for breaking a fast. There seems to be a tendency for each man to assume that his own techniques are best. There may be several techniques, each one of which is as good as the other. The chief requirement in breaking a fast is to use simple, wholesome food and feed this in keeping with the limited digestive capacity of the faster. Time is required for the digestive secretions to begin to be produced in normal amounts and, until they are secreted in normal quantities, the ability to digest food is limited.”
1.8 Examples of Methods of Terminating Prolonged Fasts
Some of the foods and methods that have been used in breaking prolonged fasts include:
Dr. Allan Cott, in Fasting As a Way of Life, page 27, advocates mixing a pint of boiling water with a pint of grape, orange, or apricot juice, and having the patient sip two or three teaspoons of this mixture every ten to fifteen minutes throughout the day, finishing the full quart by bedtime. The second day he gives up to a quart of undiluted juice, four ounces every two hours. The third day he gives whole fruit; the fourth day salad and some cooked food.
Dr. Otto H. F. Buchinger breaks the fast with apples, later (the next day) followed by salads and cooked food.
Paul Bragg breaks the fast with cooked tomatoes, later (the next day) followed by salad and cooked food.
Some fasting supervisors advocate breaking fasts with vegetable broths, especially for people who have been fasting for severe digestive problems (such as ulcerative colitis), followed in due course by small amounts (if tolerated) of salads and fruits.
Other foods are also advocated and used for breaking fasts, but they are so far removed from Hygienic concepts that I will only refer to them very briefly (flesh foods, milk).
Years ago, I heard a lecture by Dr. Theron Randolph, a renowned Chicago allergist, who fasted his patients for five days, and then experimented with offering various foods to determine the offending foods causing the “allergic” problems. He said that he usually broke these fasts with lobster! His rationale was that people usually become allergic to foods which they eat habitually, and this is not apt to be the case with lobster. He used lobster to break fasts in order to guard against allergic reactions from the first food offered. This is, of course, a far cry from Hygienic methods and principles.
Breaking fasts with sandwiches, popcorn, lobster, and a variety of difficult-to-digest foods may or may not cause overt negative reactions, but they will certainly add to the stress of an organism which can ill afford it. None of the above methods are utilized by Hygienic fasting supervisors, with the exception of the vegetable broth method, which is sometimes utilized by Hygienic professionals in certain unusual cases.
1.9 Hygienic Methods of Terminating Prolonged Fasts
For many years, Hygienic fasting supervisors have been breaking fasts with fresh, uncooked fruit juices or vegetable juices. Fruit juices have been most commonly used. Orange juice is generally preferred.
Some use four ounces of unstrained, undiluted juice for the first feeding—some strain and dilute (with distilled water) the first juice, strain (but not dilute) the second feeding, and give the unstrained, undiluted whole juice for the third feeding. Some give four ounces every hour, or eight ounces every two hours for the balance of the first day (the first two feedings having been four ounces each, one hour apart). If, as sometimes happens, the person becomes satiated after five servings, the frequency is curtailed. Some give eight ounces every three hours after the first two feedings, and a whole orange for feedings every three hours for the next day or two.
Dr. Vetrano has changed from juices to whole fruit for breaking most prolonged fasts. She serves one-half orange every two hours the first day; the second day a whole orange every two hours. Or she varies the second day by serving one piece of a different fruit every two hours—six servings. She sometimes breaks fasts with tomatoes for those who desire not to gain weight. For people with a history of digestive problems, she may still break the fast with juices.
Dr. Vetrano believes that good bowel action is established sooner when breaking fasts with solids rather than juices, and that most people prefer the opportunity for chewing.
Whether the first food is liquid or solid, it should be “chewed” or well insalivated. During the post-fasting period, proper mastication is extremely important to avoid overtaxing the digestive system at a time when it is under stress to regain its full-functioning capacity.
Dr. Shelton says he sometimes uses a warm vegetable broth to break a fast, in those rare instances when the faster has difficulty with raw juices.
Whenever the individual feels unable to take the amount offered, amounts may be reduced, or the feeding skipped.
Dr. Shelton says that on the third day the faster may be given an orange for breakfast, two oranges at noon, and three oranges for the evening meal. The fourth day a variety of foods may be given, such as melon or grapes or other fruit for breakfast, other fruit for the noon meal, and a vegetable salad for the evening meal, with a cooked nonstarchy vegetable, if desired. Dr. Shelton says that, beginning with the fifth day, a protein should be taken daily with the vegetable meal. He says that, after a few days, a cooked starch may be taken with the vegetable meal on some days, instead of the protein, if desired. (See subsequent discussion in this lesson relative to the inadvisability of offering cooked food so soon, unless absolutely necessary.)
My own experience and preference is for four ounces of strained, diluted orange juice for the first food. If well tolerated, four ounces of strained, undiluted juice is given an hour later; and eight ounces of whole (unstrained, undiluted) orange juice two hours later. Two or three hours later, one or two whole oranges are served, and again in three hours.
The second day—whole fruit at three-hour intervals; the third day—two or three small fruit meals, and a small salad in the evening, if desired by the faster—otherwise, continue the fruit. I do well on this regimen, so does my husband.
I like to start with diluted and strained juice to reduce the possible hazard of the insufficient mastication of the tough connecting citrus membranes; also, to reduce the acidity of the first juice.
I like to break a fast in the morning, but there is no compelling reason why a fast may not be broken at another time during the day, especially upon the return of true hunger. I like the morning best because of the opportunity to offer several “meals” before bedtime.
Some fasting supervisors recommend more stringent regimens, and some more generous ones. Arnold De Vries recommends five days of juice after a thirty-day fast, but qualifies this as a general guide.
- 1. The Great Day
- 2. Easing Into A Varied Diet
- 3. Symptoms After The Fast
- 4. Transition To Rational Living
- 5. Drugs And Other Poisons
- 6. Take It Easy!
- 7. Fasting Does Not Make The Body Disease-Proof
- 8. Compounding The Benefits Of The Fast
- 9. New Habits Must Be Formed
- 10. Questions & Answers
- Article #1: Breaking the Fast By Dr. Herbert M. Shelton
- Article #2: Fasting Not a Cure By Dr. Herbert M. Shelton
- Article #3: Breaking a Fast By Dr. Herbert M. Shelton
- Article #4: When to Break the Fast