Article #1: Injury To Fasters by Dr. Herbert M. Shelton
A man writes me about coming to the Health School. He says he wants to bring his wife with him. Then he adds, “‘I am not certain whether she would care to be treated as her health is reasonably good, although there are conditions that should be taken care of. However, she was most unfavorably impressed with the methods employed in fasting at Blank’s Institute at Utopia when I was there six years ago, and I might add that I was well. I cannot recall a single case that seemed to improve by means of fasting and there were patients there at the same time who had been at it for three months and over. Maybe your system is different than Blank’s was, and I wish you would explain just what you mean by rational fasting.”
What is a fast? It is entire abstinence from all food with the taking of one’s water and air. It is not a juice diet nor any other restricted diet. Little driblet meals, as Dr. Page so appropriately pointed out, is not fasting. A fast, then, is a fast, no matter where it is undertaken; no matter who conducts it.
But there are innumberable conditions under which a fast may be taken and these determine results. A fast is physiological rest. But physiological rest is not possible under conditions of stimulation, even though one is fasting. In most institutions where fasting is employed, the fast is accompanied by so many enervating treatments that the effects of the fast are nullified.
To require of a fasting patient that he arise in the morning and go to the treatment room for a round of stimulating monkeywork is to enervate the patient and prevent the fast from resulting in an increased elimination of toxins. Massage, adjustments, manipulations of various kinds, electrical treatments, sweat baths, cold baths, sprays, the Blitz Gus, sitz baths, electrical blankets, laxatives, frequent enemas, and a host of other enervating practices prevent the faster from realizing the full benefit of his physiological rest. Only those practitioners who fully understand the role of these methods of treatment are in a position to take rational care of the faster.
The faster should have quiet, rest, and relaxation. Stimulation, excitement, and a lot of activity all produce further enervation and place an added check upon elimination. The faster should be kept warm in order to conserve his energies. Cold baths, cold douches, cold applications, etc., dissipate his energies. The faster who rests also loses less weight in a fast of the same length than the one who is active. This means that the resting faster is in a better physical state at the end of the fast. Also, conserving his food reserves enables him to fast longer if there is need for a longer fast.
The purpose of the fast is not to see how long a man can go without food, nor how thin he can be made, nor how weak he can become without danger to life, but to promote elimination and tissue repair. Every new source of enervation to which he is subjected during the fast helps to retard the attainment of these ends. We should dispense with, either the fast or the treatments, when caring for the sick, as these procedures are incompatible.
Along with the fast, which, as stated, is physiological rest, should go physical, mental and sensory rest. Rest is the opposite of stimulation. All stimulating measures prevent rest. Let no one suppose from this that sedative measures are restful. These are as expensive of nervous energy as the stimulating measures. Treatments of no kind are valuable while fasting, even should we grant their value under other conditions and circumstances.
In the early days of my professional career, I worked a few months in a sanitarium near Chicago that employed fasting in the care of practically every patient that came to the institution. These patients were roused out of bed early in the morning and put through their “course of sprouts.” Three mornings a week, I gave each man a massage, followed by a sweat bath and then a cold splash over the whole body, but especially along the spinal column. Three mornings a week, they received electrical treatments followed by alternate hot and cold sitz baths. About eleven o’clock the whole crew of them were lined up on the lawn and put through a series of strenuous exercises. Three afternoons a week I gave them electrical treatments of a different character to those given in the mornings. In addition to this, some of them were given chiropractic adjustments and others were given a thorough streching on a traction table. All of them were given daily enemas. The rest of the day they spent walking around or sitting and lying around on the sanitarium grounds. They received a daily sunbath.
Many of these patients made remarkable improvement in their conditions despite the great amount of enervating monkey work to which they were subjected, but many of them made no progress at all. With some of those who progressed, their progress was short lived and then they began to slip back.
A few months later I accepted a position with a sanitarium in up-state New York. Here little fasting was employed, but treatment was given in greater abundance. We had a large hydrotherapy department in this place and much more electrotherapeutic machinery than at the first place. We really “gave them the works” in a very scientific manner at this place. The head of this institution was a very up-to-the-minute physician who had practiced medicine for 25 years and who knew about all there was to be known. In fact, he had quite a reputation among the medical men of the state as a specialist in nervous diseases. I never knew just what he was supposed to specialize in, but I became convinced that he specialized in producing nervous diseases.
I had ample opportunity to watch the enervating effects of these forms of treatment when applied to patients who were not fasting. I saw them, alter a few days treatment, become so weak they were forced to stay in bed. After a few days of rest they were able to get up and get around again. Then a few more days of treatment and they were back in bed. Not all of them went through such cycles of in-the-bed, out-of-the-bed performances, but those who were not forced to go to bed, showed their enervation nonetheless.
Later I took a position with a sanitarium further up state in New York. Here we had under care an ex-baseball manager. He was partially paralyzed in his left lower limb, so that he could only drag it along in walking and had to walk with a cane. I noticed that as his treatment proceeded his walking became worse. When he would come in for treatment (he was not in the institution, but lived in the city and came in three times a week for treatment), he walked very badly. He would be given electrical treatment and would walk out much better. In spite of this apparent benefit or more correctly, because of this apparent but not real benefit, he gradually grew worse. Then business carried him away for three weeks, during which time he received no treatment. Upon his return, he was walking much better. He resumed treatment and began to grow worse immediately.
I could greatly multiply these kinds of experiences. I could tell you of many such observations. They are the regular feature of the work in all institutions devoted to treating the sick. Every doctor of whatever school sees them daily. He simply closes his eyes to them or interprets them in some manner satisfactory to his mind and continues his enervating treatment of his patients.
Early in my career I learned of the evils of the many and varied forms of treatment that are employed and as I became convinced that a given method of treatment was enervating, I discontinued it. Result: I have eliminated all enervating palliatives from my work. I see not logic or reason in enervating a man because he is sick. He must first be enervated before he can become sick. How is he to get well if he is further enervated?
I know men who condemn fasting because of certain undesirable results which they say it produces. But I do not see these results coming from fasting. I do see these results coming from the treatment commonly employed while the fast is in progress. I see them also in patients who are fed and not fasted while they are being treated. I am certain that these results come from the enervating effects of the treatment and not from fasting. Fasting, rationally conducted, does not give rise to such results. Anyone may test this for himself by fasting under proper conditions sans the treatment.