Part I: When To Fast
Regarding the proper time to fast, Dr. Shelton maintained that the time to fast is “when it is needed.” He states, “I am of the decided opinion that delay pays no dividends; that, due to the fact that the progressive development of pathological changes in the structures of the body with the consequent impairment of its functions does not cease until its cause has been completely and thoroughly removed. Putting off the time for a fast only invites added troubles and makes a longer fast necessary, if indeed, it does not make the fast futile. I do not believe that any condition of impaired health should be tolerated and permitted to become greater. Now is the time to begin the work of restoring good health; not next week, next summer, or next year.”
So it is agreed that, when needed, fasting should begin as soon as possible. But how do you determine when fasting is needed? There will be definite indications that will manifest themselves, and at this point, there will be no question that a fast is required.
1. Absence Of Hunger
We can assume that when there is no hunger, there is also no physiological need for food. Hunger will be absent when: (1) there is no need for food, such as soon after a meal, and (2) when there is an inability to digest and assimilate food, such as occurs during acute diseases (e.g., colds, flu, etc.). When hunger is absent, therefore, no food should betaken.
If food is taken when the body lacks the ability to digest, putrefaction or fermentation takes place. This will result in the liberation of toxic by-products from the decomposition within the stomach. Toxins thus liberated enter the blood and tissues and contribute to toxicosis.
Pain, fever, inflammation, and abdominal distress cause one to lose his normal desire for food. Under such conditions you should refrain from eating until hunger returns. In acute disease, hunger is not present because the vital energy of the body is diverted into other channels. Since all energies are directed toward healing and repair, there is none to spare to carry on digestive work. Blood is also diverted toward the parts requiring healing. Under these circumstances, digestion is completely suspended. Yet, food is often taken under medical advice. It is said that we “must eat in order to keep up our strength.” In such cases, the food is often vomited or expelled through the digestive tract by means of diarrhea. If not, the food becomes a burden adding to the poisoning of the body.
Even when these unwanted food materials are expelled from the body, precious vital energy is used up during the process. Forces are diverted from the work of repair and wastefully expended in an effort that could have easily been avoided by fasting. Recuperation is thus slowed.
In many cases, during acute and chronic diseases, a person may feel hungry. In reality, it is not hunger that he feels but a morbid craving for food. Hunger is often misinterpreted by a headache, irritability, restlessness, lassitude, drowsiness, faintness, a feeling of emptiness, gnawing pains in the stomach, etc. In fact, none of these symptoms indicate true hunger. Hunger is a normal, pleasant physiological demand for food that is felt in the mouth and throat as is thirst. Since it is a normal occurrence, it is not accompanied by pain or discomfort.
1.1 Hunger vs. Appetite
One simple method of determining true hunger is to think of how much time has elapsed since the last meal. If you desire to eat while the last meal is still digesting you are not hungry. If your last meal was a heavy one that included nuts or avocado, your next meal should not be for at least four to five hours.
Remember that genuine hunger is not associated with pain or discomfort. A healthy individual can easily miss a meal or two without feeling weak or experiencing pain. If he does, it is a sure sign that a fast is indicated, followed by a change in eating habits.
People who feel faint or experience headaches upon missing a meal are going through “withdrawal symptoms” from the addictive substances that they ingest with their foods. The more one is addicted to salt, condiments, coffee, tea, etc., the more severe the symptoms. The quickest, surest, and safest method of ridding yourself of these addictions is through a fast. Dr. Susanna W. Dodds stated that “the sense of all-goneness in these cases is not from a lack of nutrient material, but owing to the absence of the habitual stimulus.”
The hunger of the poorly-nourished individual (one who consumes processed foods such as refined sugar and flour; cooked foods; meat; etc.) is of the same nature as the drug addict who is deprived of his drug. They experience such symptoms as gastric distress, pains in the stomach region, a gnawing in the stomach, weakness, headache, etc.
On the contrary, normal muscular contractions are not painful, they tend to be pleasurable. Hunger is not a pathological state and is not manifested by symptoms of disease.
Dr. Shelton says, “The truly hungry person has no consciousness of his stomach and does not suffer any morbid symptoms. Indeed, genuine hunger is such a delightful sensation that it is worth going on a fast merely for the pleasure of experiencing it.”
2. Fasting In Acute Disease
The rule of nature in acute disease is go to bed, keep warm, and abstain from all food until hunger returns. Fasting in fevers was commonly employed by Neapolitan physicians over one-hundred-and-fifty years ago. They frequently permitted their fever patients to go for as long as forty days without food. Dr. Shelton states, “When in pneumonia and pleurisy, the patient is fed, not only is the toxic saturation kept up, but feeding retards resolution; that is, it prevents the inflamed lungs and pleura from returning to normal.”
When animals become sick, they instinctively refrain from eating. They remain quiet and rest until their appetite returns and at that time, it is a sure sign that they are recovered. The same requirements apply to man. That is, quiet, rest, and fasting, with a little water as demanded by thirst. But often, man refuses to allow himself to be guided by instinct as the animal does, and eats in spite of lack of hunger. By so doing, he weakens his body even more.
In all types of acute diseases, the whole organism is occupied in the task of eliminating toxins. It is perfectly natural that the body should rebel against food during this time. Such symptoms as anorexia, bad breath, coated tongue, nausea, vomiting, excretion of mucus, diarrhea, etc., indicates that the body is occupied in the work of elimination and is not able to digest food.
2.1 Feeding The Sick
During acute illnesses, it is often advised that meat broths be served. These broths not only do not contribute to health but produce the “soil” for disease. During my bacteriology classes at school, we often used meat medias to culture our bacteria. This media proved excellent for producing large colonies of various types of bacteria since the “soil” or “food” for these bacteria was close to ideal. While we know that bacteria do not cause disease, they are present in many disease conditions. When the “soil” is ideal for bacteria to proliferate, they will do so. This is an excellent indication of toxicosis due to the decomposition of food and bacteria in the stomach and digestive tract.
Since acute disease is an effort on the part of the body to rid itself of excess toxins, you should not interfere with or abort that effort by adding more toxins to the body by ingesting the exact food that resulted in excess toxins to accumulate in the first place. Actually, even the best foods are potential toxins during acute illnesses.
Dr. Shelton says that one of the rules for the sick is to stop the absorption of all toxins from the outside. He states, “Feeding during acute ‘disease’ does just the opposite. It keeps the digestive tract full of decaying animal and vegetable matter, which the body must void or absorb. Putrescence arising from gastro-intestinal decomposition, grafted onto the pre-existing enervation, toxemia and dyscrasis, form the cause of practically all the so-called ‘diseases’ from which man suffers.”
During acute gastritis, the mucous membrane of the stomach is red and swollen. There is little gastric juice and very little acid excreted, with considerable amounts of mucus present. With the stomach in this condition, and with appetite lacking, it would be senseless to eat. Fasting in such a case is the only rational procedure. Without the irritating presence of food and its products of decomposition, the body will proceed to heal and health will be restored.
2.1.1 Peptic Ulcer
An example of feeding during disease is demonstrated in the peptic ulcer patient. Peptic ulcer is the general term given to an eroded mucosal lesion in the stomach or the duodenum. It is claimed that excessive excretion of hydrochloric acid is the cause of this condition. While this may be the irritating or immediate cause, the underlying reason the hydrochloric acid is secreted above normal is due to general enervation and toxicosis. The generally accepted dietary “therapy” involves a “bland” diet. This diet consists of exactly those foods that contributed to the general enervation and toxicosis in the first place. Foods often recommended include milk, eggs, cooked refined cereals, custard, Jell-O, ice cream, white bread, cheese, and creamed soups. These foodless “foods” do not contribute to health.
Complete abstinence from food is indicated in such cases to allow the body to heal without the irritation of food. This, is the quickest and surest manner to recover health. The strong “hunger pains” that are said to be felt by such patients are not true hunger.
Another example of feeding in disease is dietary therapy for such intestinal disease as diverticulosis and diverticulitis. Instead of searching for the underlying cause of this condition, physicians palliate symptoms and make matters worse. Dietary therapy in such cases would make any well man sick. It includes milk, coffee, tea, carbonated beverages, eggs, cheese, meat, soups, cooked strained vegetables, cooked strained fruits, white refined bread, refined cereals, white rice, macaroni, noodles, spaghetti, and other refined products. Man could live many times longer on water alone than he could on the diet described for diverticulosis. Any value found in the fruits and vegetables are cooked away, and straining and pureeing makes them worse. Again, a fast is indicated followed by correct eating habits and the body will once again be restored to normal.
Any pain that a person may experience is known to lessen while fasting. Dr. Shelton has witnessed many patients with pains of acute articular rheumatism subside and the patient became comfortable after three or four days of fasting.
3. Fasting In Chronic Disease
The time to fast is before a disease becomes chronic. If a fast is undertaken when the symptoms of acute disease first manifest themselves and a more healthy lifestyle is adhered to, chronic diseases will not occur. What often happens, however, is that when symptoms of acute illnesses arise, they are suppressed by various drugs, etc. The body is never allowed to eliminate its toxic overloads that have accumulated over a period of time due to unhealthful living habits. Due to this constant suppression and continued bad habits, chronic diseases develop. At this point, many people turn to fasting as “a last resort.”
In spite of all the abuses that the body has been put through previously, beneficial results occur through a fast at this time. One important feature about fasting in chronic diseases is the marked acceleration of eliminations that occurs. The body is thus speedily freed of its accumulated toxic load. Symptoms disappear that were sometimes of years standing. In this regard, Dr. Shelton says, “A properly conducted fast will enable the chronically ill body to excrete the toxic load that is responsible for the trouble, after which a corrected mode of living enables the individual to evolve into a vigorous state of health.”
Fasting has been instrumental in bringing about the recovery of persons suffering from asthma, arthritis, diabetes, various tumors, heart disorders, and numerous other diseases. Why was fasting so effective in all of these diverse diseases? The reason is that the diseases may differ as to the symptoms that they manifest but the underlying causes remain the same. Two people practice bad habits for years, one of them being about as indulgent as the other, and one of them develops asthma, the other develops arthritis. Health may be restored in each case by the same means—fasting.
Dr. Shelton cites a case of a young singer who had developed a serious asthmatic condition and could no longer sing. The doctor gave her no hope and told her that there was no “cure” for asthma. She finally had to give up singing, and she retired to her farm. Then she heard about Natural Hygiene and the concept of the importance of the body’s own healing capacity. She decided to give this system a chance. Upon consulting with Dr. Shelton, she decided to fast. In a matter of weeks, the asthma cleared; and within a few months, she was back singing. Her career had been saved and so was her health. Keep in mind, however, that fasting did not do anything, but provided the ideal conditions for the body to heal.
Another example of fasting in chronic disease is cited by Dr. Shelton. This case involved a man who had arthritis for twenty-eight years. Dr. Shelton describes the case:
“With the passage of the years, joint after joint became involved until the patient was a twisted and distorted man walking with the aid of crutch and cane, in a much stooped position. He was unable to turn his head from side to side, and he was in constant pain.
“He was told that there was a possibility that some of his joints would remain ankylosed. There is no way to unfuse ankylosed joints. They remain fixed, immovable. The good news was, in this case, however, that he could be freed of pain. He could be restored to usefulness and he could enjoy life.
“This man underwent a lengthy fast—one of thirty-six days. There was great improvement. He was freed of pain, witnessed the disappearance of swelling from some of his joints, its reduction in others, and the slow return of movements to joints that had long been stiff.
“It took four years to complete all the improvements possible in this man. During this time, he had a second long fast and several fasts of a few days each. His eating between fasts was carefully supervised. He was given daily sun baths; and after a certain amount of initial improvement had been made, he was given daily exercise.
“Result: his spine is almost straight, the use of his arms and legs is normal, he can turn his head, he walks in a nearly upright position, he does not use cane or crutch, he has no pain, he looks the ‘picture of health,’ and he works like a slave.”
This case was an extreme one requiring a lengthy period for recovery but it serves to illustrate what the body can accomplish when given the proper conditions.
4. Fasting To Lose Weight
Dr. Dewey said, “There are no overweights who would not receive the greatest benefit by a fast that would diminish the pounds to that of the ripest maturity of life, a fast that would be determined by the time required to reach the desired number of pounds.”
Fasting is not only a quick, safe, and effective way to lose weight but the added benefit of ridding the body of toxic debris is a bonus. Fasting will help the obese individual overcome his food addictions to sugar, caffeine, and junk food, and make a smooth transition to a more healthful way of eating.
When the overweight individual undergoes a marked reduction of weight during a fast, general improved health is indicated by freer breathing, greater ease of movement, increase of energy, cessation of symptoms of indigestion and other discomforts, lowered blood pressure, and lessening of the load the heart has to carry.
On the average, the individual loses about two-and-one half pounds a day on a fast. Since hunger is almost always absent during this fast, it is a much more pleasant way to lose weight than the popular reducing diets. These diets often include unwholesome foods, and weight loss is often minimal. The dieter soon becomes discouraged and once again indulges in his former manner of eating. If weight loss is obtained through such a diet, it often results in flabbiness or sagging of the skin and tissues. This does not usually occur during the fast. So fasting is rapid and fast, more pleasant than reducing diets, and no flabbiness or sagging of the skin results.
People often ask how much weight loss per day is safe in fasting? Dr. Shelton says that the body itself decides what rate of loss is proper. When fat tissue is soft and flabby, weight is usually lost rapidly in the early days of the fast. In other individuals, the rate of loss may be considerably slower, but the end result will be the same. That is, total weight reduction and improved overall health.
5. Drug Addictions
Any form of drug addiction is a foolish attempt to obtain relief from headaches, nervousness, irritability, and other symptoms through suppression. The craving for these drugs inevitably leads to enervation of the nervous system. Addicts will take their coffee, alcohol, tobacco, etc., to “calm their nerves” and they feel faint and weak without them. This is an illusion. The drug effect makes them unaware of their true condition. These poisons do not make them stronger but result in more weakness and enervation. It is not the drug that forms the habit but it is man. And it is he who must suffer the consequences from his unwise habits.
Nothing enables the drug addict to overcome his false “need” for his poisons better than does the fast. Few drug addicts have sufficient willpower or physical strength to overcome their addictions without help, and the fast will provide such assistance. These people will be able to abandon their former habits and their overall health will be markedly improved.
The alcohol habit progresses slowly until it reaches a chronic stage. During this progression, all bodily systems have become enervated and damaged to a certain extent. The alcoholic is a chronically-sick individual. With this in mind we can readily see why fasting is of great benefit in this case. During this period of rest, the abused organism undergoes healing and repair and eventually regains its wasted vital energies. By the end of the fast, the body will have eliminated its accumulated toxins and the nervous system will be restored to health (as far as there was no permanent damage).
Alcoholism is an illness involving structural abnormalities. It has been found that alcohol causes damage to all tissues where it comes into contact. As a person drinks a glass of alcohol, it causes damage to the esophagus by direct chemical irritation to its mucosa, by inducing severe vomiting that tears the mucosa, or by interfering with normal motor functions thereby causing an upward movement of the stomach acid into the esophagus where it can erode the tissues.
As the alcohol passes into the stomach, it includes inflammation and bleeding lesions of the stomach. The degree of the damage it causes to the stomach lining appears to be related to alcohol concentration, with damage to the cells occurring rapidly after alcohol ingestion. In the small intestine, the impeding peristaltic waves are decreased by alcohol and propulsive waves are unchanged, resulting in an increased rate of propulsion through the small intestine. This effect is seen as a possible contributing factor to the diarrhea frequently experienced by binge-drinking alcoholics. Intestinal malabsorption may also result from alcohol ingestion.
As alcohol passes through the liver, it inhibits the conversion of amino acids to glucose. Alcohol can also stimulate hepatic synthesis of certain other proteins, including lipoproteins that transport fats in the blood. This effect may explain the elevated blood triglyceride (fat) levels frequently seen after alcohol ingestion. The alteration in fat metabolism may result in a gradual accumulation of fat in the liver and a “fatty liver.” This condition can result in the liver failure and death. Alcoholic hepatitis is a major effect of heavy chronic alcohol consumption and may be a precursor stage of cirrhosis. Cirrhosis is a chronic inflammatory disease of the liver where functioning liver cells are replaced by scar tissue.
Alcohol has adverse effects on the nervous system. Brain nerve cells generate and conduct electricity, transmitting information to an adjacent nerve cell by the release of specific chemicals called neurotransmitters. The receiving cell provides feedback to the transmitting cell regarding the message sent. Each cell can receive and integrate information from many others, a function that alcohol can alter.
Electrical currents in nerves are transmitted from the membrane of the nerve cells to the inner cell. This mechanism is closed when the resistance of the cell membrane is reduced at any point, resulting in electrical changes carried by sodium and potassium ions flowing across the membrane in a movement called the action potential. Alcohol impairs the opening of the mechanism, so the nerve has difficulty refiring. Neurophysiologic studies have shown that ethanol inhibits the sodium current in the action potential.
Alcohol consumption results in heart enlargement, abnormal heart signs, edema, enlargement of the spleen or liver, noisy breathing, electrocardiographic abnormalities, and disturbances of cardiac rhythm and conduction.
Dr. Dewey maintained that the alcoholic can only recover his health through a fast. He says, “Only through a fast that shall let that distressed stomach become new from regeneration, that will let the brain accumulate rest in reserve.”
When the alcoholic fasts, the tissues of the stomach, intestines, liver, heart, nerves, etc., begin to repair themselves and healing takes place. Glands and nerves that have been so enervated by overstimulation are allowed to rest. Nerve energy is restored; and by the end of the fast, the former alcoholic feels stronger and more vital than ever before. He will no longer desire alcohol as Dr. Shelton explains:
“When the alcoholic has fully recovered from his illness and hunger has returned, no form of alcoholic drink will tempt him and should he attempt to drink some form, he will discover that he no longer ‘likes’ it. It will bite and sling as it did when he first took it as a youth. He will be a free man again—no longer a slave to King Alcohol.”
The use of tobacco results in symptoms of irritability, grouchiness, nervousness, and uneasiness. The user of tobacco may repeatedly try to discontinue this habit but fails and returns to his poison to supposedly sooth those same symptoms that were first induced by the tobacco. He lacks the willpower and determination to stick it out until the nerves have repaired themselves.
Fasting is extremely useful in these cases. It makes the discontinuing of the tobacco habit very easy, and in a few days, the very taste of this substance becomes repulsive. Dr. Shelton says, “I have seen heavy smokers who smoked half a lifetime, after a fast, become so ‘sensitive’ to the obnoxious fumes of tobacco that the odor of a cigar wafted to their nostrils from a block away was objectionable to them.”
5.3 Other Drugs
In all other drug addictions (such as marijhuana, cocaine, heroin, etc.) rest—physical, mental, and physiological—is the greatest need. After a short time, the craving for these poisons will diminish and soon disappear. The gradual tapering-off process that is often resorted to for drug addicts is not a wise procedure as this process continues to injure, and no real benefits are gained.
At the very onset of the fast, often violent withdrawal reactions take place. It is recommended that these fasts take place under the direct supervision of one who is experienced in fasting. These withdrawal reactions soon cease as the patient continues the fast. The body will then proceed to repair the damage that was done by the drugs, and toxins will be eliminated. Of the many cases that Dr. Shelton has observed at his Health School, he states that none have ever returned to their former drug use.
Lesson 46 – When To Employ Fasting; Determining Who Should Fast; How Long And How Often
- Part I: When To Fast
- Part II: Determining Who Should Fast
- Part III: How Long, How Often
- Questions & Answers
- Article #1: When To Fast By Dr. Herbert M. Shelton
- Article #2: Physical Rest By Dr. Herbert M. Shelton
- Article #3: Pounds That Slip Away By Dr. Herbert M. Shelton
- Article #4: Does Fasting Cure Disease? By Dr. Herbert M. Shelton