Article #1: When To Fast by Dr. Herbert M. Shelton
Called the “hunger cure” by European nature curists and many early Hygienists, fasting has shown by “large experience,” as Robert Walter, M.D., expresses it, “… that a moderate hunger-cure is exceedingly beneficial in the great majority of diseases. Indeed, in many of them the capacity to appropriate food is entirely destroyed, the very thought of it becoming repugnant to the individual.”
“Rest and the hunger-cure,” Walter regarded as the “proper treatment” of those who were suffering from overwork and overeating. He pointed out that when there was functional impairment, coated tongue, and bad breath, no food should be taken. When uncomfortable in any way, stop eating until feeling well, he advised.
Kittridge says, “If a person has a coated tongue, fetid breath, and bad taste in the mouth, you may be pretty sure it will do him good to fast—appetite or no appetite.” Judgement is required, wrote Kittridge, to determine when to put a person who still has an “appetite” on a fast. “When they don’t have a desire for food,” he continues, “no sensible man will think of eating or giving others to eat.”
It is a mistake to think that food is a daily need under all circumstances. To constantly feed an irritated stomach is like kicking a man when he is down. Constant tampering with the stomach when it is as much in need of rest as the remainder of the body is to invite disaster. It is no uncommon thing to find sufferers whose disease is largely due to overfeeding by their physicians in an effort to affect a cure. We see people gradually dying of malnutrition—malassimilation, starvation—in spite of the fact that they are eating regularly. We see physicians urging invalids to eat, urging the eating of foods that should be excellent for a well person; yet the patient, doing all he can to comply with the physician’s instructions continues to waste. He lacks power to digest the food. The physician needs to know that continued eating under such conditions can kill. If eating does not prevent sickness, how will more feeding restore health? How will overfeeding be helpful?
Fasting is useful only because of wrong life. It is better to live right than to turn into excesses, and then fast. It is also better to take a short fast early than to permit yourself to get into a condition in which a long fast is required. If a fast is taken at the first signs of disease, perhaps ten days will be adequate. If, after years of suffering and considerable loss of weight, a man may still safely fast for more than forty days, surely a shorter fast would have been well borne at the beginning.
Writing in The Hygienist, June 1912, Dr. R. R. Daniels of Denver, Colorado, gave an expression to a view that has been widely held and that is still held in certain circles. He said: “… the sick should fast only when the system is unable to care for food. … Always in acute disease when fever is present, or when in the absence of fever the patient is suffering from shock. … In illness without fever but in which the appetite is entirely lost or the organs of digestion are entirely disabled … frequent disturbances of digestion or elimination due to overfeeding in which the appetite is entirely lost or the organs of digestion are entirely disabled … frequent disturbances of digestion or elimination due to overfeeding in which the appetite is temporarily lost. … Except for the occasional ‘storms’ attended by intense pain or other distress which inhibits digestion to the extent that it is impossible to take care of food, fasting is not the best treatment for chronic disease. While in chronic disease, the power to take care of food is always impaired, often badly impaired, nevertheless there are usually some foods which can be digested and utilized, and these should be given … fasting should be used only when disease is present to the extent that digestion is suspended …”
This view was shared by Dr. Henry Lindlahr (Chicago) of Nature Cure fame, who held that fasting should be employed only in acute disease and during the crises that arise in chronic disease. Many others have accepted this view of fasting, despite the fact that, even in those many thousands of cases of chronic disease that complain of a lack of desire for food, and that everything they eat causes suffering, there is present the power to digest some food. Dr. Daniels gave it as his opinion that in chronic disease “if the feeding is limited only to the foods which can be utilized, chronic disease can be eliminated more rapidly and the nutrition built up faster than by fasting.”
Although frequently employing and advising the fast in conditions in which there is considerable digestive power, Tilden often expressed views that harmonized with the view of Daniels and Lindlahr. For example, he once wrote that, except under certain circumstances (circumstances that are relatively rare) he did not believe in long fasts. Then he added: “It is better to adopt a rational and suitable diet and take from one to two and three years to assume the normal.” His very language implies that a normal state may be attained earlier by the use of the fast, although he thinks that the slower method is preferable.
With this view I find myself in strong opposition. I am fully aware that a much longer time is required for the evolution of good health if the fast is not employed in preparation for and in initiating a new way of life, but I know of no valid reason why one should be content to take so long when, with the fast, he can safely and advantageously shorten the time required. Must we always await the development of a severe crisis before we avail ourselves of the advantages of a period of abstinence? Must we deny ourselves the benefits that accrue from a period of physiological rest merely because we have no fever and no severe pain? Or can we fast at intervals and prevent the evolution of a body-state that necessitates a crisis? This, to me at least, would seem to be the wiser plan.
To this end the practice, a very ancient one but followed by many people today, of fasting one day out of each week, is rarely adequate. The ancient Aryans abstained from all food and drink one day out of every seven; the Mongolians fasted every tenth day; the Zends rejected all food every fifth day; the Bible mentions the practice among certain of the ancient Jews of fasting one day a week. All of this is certainly beneficial, but our present view is that one day a week of fasting lacks sufficient cumulative value to be adequate to meet the requirements of the chronically ill.
Daniels says, “Missing a meal or two when ‘out of sorts’ or feeling badly … is the most common use for fasting. A coated tongue, no appetite and general lack of vigor and energy mean that you should miss a meal or two and give the body an opportunity to right conditions. This simple treatment will frequently avoid attacks of serious illness.” Thus, while he agrees that the fast may be employed as a means of preventing the evolution of crises, he too severely limits its use.
I am of the opinion that the rule he gives for determining the length of the fast should apply to the chronic sufferer as well as to the sufferer with acute disease. In discussing how long the fast should be continued, he says: “This is a difficult question to answer in a general way since each case is a law unto itself. One thing is certain, however; to get the best results, no food should be taken until the power of digestion and nutrition has returned. In those having fever, food should not be taken until the fever has permanently subsided. At this time, the appetite will return and the tongue will become clean and moist, indicating that the digestive fluids are present in the stomach and intestines. In general, a fast should be continued in the cases suitable for fasting until the above conditions of the tongue and appetite prevail, until the patient is free from distress, and until he can take, without disturbance, the foods mentioned in the following paragraph.”
If the chronic sufferer has a poor appetite or no appetite, if his tongue is coated, his taste foul, if there is afoul odor to his breath and in general he does not feel good, if there is pain and distress, or as they often express it: “Nothing I eat seems to do me any good,” why shall he not fast at once and not wait for the evolution of a crisis? If the body gives every indication that it has accepted the proffered opportunity to rest and clean house, what is the need for arbitrarily limiting the duration of the fast?
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