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Nobody who thoroughly understands fasting, harbors any doubts about its possibilities and limitations. Most people who have voluntarily resorted to fasting for recovery from chronic illness, have done so as a last resort. They are usually in a very bad condition before they consent to fast. That the results have been so great, when we consider the type of patients that fast, is remarkable. That there are those who fast with only meager results must be expected, from the fact that so many of those who consent to fast are nearing death at the time. Fasting does not enable the body to accomplish miracles. But ninety-five per cent of chronic sufferers may undergo a properly supervised fast with every hope of good results.
A light diet, such as the eliminating diet, is offered as a substitute for fasting, particularly in chronic "disease," While we employ such diets quite often and recognize their value and utility, they are not the equal of the fast. One difficulty with them lies in the fact that the patient eats just enough food to keep his appetite alive, but not enough to satisfy it. My experience with fasting and light eating, and so-called "fruit fasts" has been the same as that of Sinclair's; namely, that the light eating is just enough to keep one ravenous, whereas on the fast all desire for food soon ceases. He also says that on the "fruit fasts" he would get so weak he could not stand up-- "far weaker than I ever became on an out-and-out fast." In many cases, a fruit diet following a short fast, causes the patient to feel weaker than during the fast.
Many of those who freely employ fasting in acute "disease," when there is no power to digest food, and no demand for food, object to fasting in chronic "disease," where there still exists more or less digestive power and an appetite, even though morbid. For example, Dr. Kritzer cautions against fasting where there is a strong abnormal craving for food, due to gastric disorder. He thinks the mental process involved in the suppression of such a strong craving is unwholesome, that it produces a general tension which is not conducive to elimination. It may even contribute to the manufacture of new toxins, for, at best, there is an increase of acids in the system during the fast with corresponding lessening in the alkalinity of the blood which normally bathes the tissues."
Continuing, he says, "Fasting is not indicated in the treatment of chronic diseases. On the contrary, such patients should be dieted on foods rich in organic salts until their semi-starved tissues become revitalized and capable of promoting better tissue changes--metabolism." I need hardly discuss these statements at this place as they are sufficiently answered in preceding pages. They are based on mistaken notions about chemistry changes in the body during the fast and on psychological half-truths that are the present vogue. The value of fasting is too well-established to be overthrown by these fallacies.
Dr. Kellogg says: "It is true, as above admitted, that during a prolonged fast, any surplus of protein which may be present, may be used up and accumulated tissue wastes may be lessened in amount. But the amount of such accumulation is too small to justify the expensive method adopted by the faster for their elimination. The faster, in order to free himself of three pounds of waste or undesirable material, sacrifices an amount of healthy and useful tissue ten times as great. Why should one throw away thirty pounds of good muscle, brain, nerve, heart and other useful, vital machinery, in order to get rid of three pounds of waste material, which can be easily gotten rid of by simply restricting the diet and increasing the intake of water?"
If restricted eating and water gluttony could do what fasting does, perhaps there would be no need for a fast in chronic cases. But the restricted eating seldom accomplishes these--perhaps never produces all of the benefits of fasting. Fasting accomplishes more than the mere removal of a possible three pounds of excess protein.
One of the most common complaints of the chronic sufferer is this: "I have lost my appetite." Frequently the complaint takes this form: "I eat, but I do not enjoy my food." Another very common complaint of the chronic sufferer is: "Everything I eat turns to gas." Physicians customarily prescribe tonics and digestants under such conditions and urge these patients to "eat plenty of good nourishing food." They prescribe their drugs with the deliberate intention of whipping a jaded appetite into renewed vigor. They foolishly call this curing people of "lost appetite."
When a person is heard to complain that "nothing tastes good," you may be sure that he is in need of a fast. He will usually attempt, by the use of seasonings, condiments, sweetenings, etc., added to his foods, to make them taste good to him, but he also fails in this attempt. Nothing will so surely and so speedily restore the pleasures of eating to these gluttons, as a fast.
"'Nourishment!' is the prevailing cry of those who would cure us," says Adolph Just in his Return to Nature; "'you need more nourishment!' But how can a body be nourished when it is incapable of absorbing, and especially incapable of expelling, that which has already been stuffed into it? The fact is that in nearly every instance the sufferer to whom more nourishment is recommended is one who is already brought low by excessive nourishment--he is actually pining through over plus!"
These patients are not only incapable of absorbing, but, also, of digesting food. How foolish, to give more food when it cannot be digested, absorbed and assimilated! Not more food, but more ability to assimilate and excrete, is needed and this must be first provided through rest, fasting and hygiene before food is to be thought of.
How foolish to insist on feeding under conditions of an already existing plethora! Why insist on "plenty of good nourishing food" under conditions in which food cannot be digested and assimilated? Nature knows full well how to guard and protect and this is the meaning of the lack of desire for food, nausea, vomiting, distress after eating and other symptoms of protest. When digestion has been pushed and "stimulants" and drugs have been given for the purpose of forcing a reluctant appetite, we only add more burden to an already overtaxed organism. Fasting may here be used to best advantage.
If the feeding person finds himself growing sicker, with frequent diarrhea and vomiting, with occasional nausea and constipation, and loss of appetite, with, perhaps, headache, coated tongue, foul taste and breath, he certainly needs a fast and if he had not lost his ability to interpret the language of his senses, he would need no urging to get him to fast. Why must man eat "from obvious necessity" when food is repugnant? How disgusting to persuade one to eat food knowing that it will be vomited immediately!
The thin and weak individual, knowing little or nothing of fasting, may be excused for his fear of fasting, but the plethoric and overweight individual certainly cannot be excused. The bear eats heartily of nuts, honey, fruits, flesh, etc., while these are plentiful, and puts on a great store of fat with which to sustain his body during the winter season. The frog also stores up considerable fat for this occasion. There are hundreds of thousands of men and women who carry greater stores of fat than the bear or frog, who imagine that if they miss so much as a single meal they will begin to grow weak. They carry sufficient fat and other food reserves to last them for weeks and even months. They could fast for prolonged periods, not only without harm to themselves, but with positive benefit. Thin people also carry a reserve supply and may safely fast for considerable periods if they are properly supervised.
Great numbers of the chronic sufferers who habitually over-eat are very thin and grow progressively thinner with the passage of time. Indeed, one frequently hears them remark "the more I eat the thinner I get." How true it is that they are slowly starving from over-consumption of food which they cannot digest. Dr. Dewey frequently speaks of the "starvation of over-feeding." Dr. King-Chambers spoke of the "starvation of over-repletion." Drs. Page and Rabagliati use similar expressions. Fasting literature is full of records of cases that had been suffering while surfeiting and who recovered health through fasting, regaining their normal weight when eating was resumed.
Many chronic sufferers think they are ravenous. They feel that their supposed desire for food should be satisfied. There is a great mass of chronic sufferers who eat three square meals and two lunches a day and are "always hungry." They say that they become "very weak" if they miss a meal. Others eat all through the day and several times at night. They are never satisfied. These people, overlooking or never having known that bad habits will in the end dominate and pervert our instincts, believe that their fictional demands for food are valid and should be gratified.
These people are never actually hungry. They are food drunkards. They suffer from neuroses. Their troubles have grown out of habitual over-eating. Dr. Page says of such patients: "So inveterate is this mania for eating, even when to continue is like turning coals upon the dead ashes and clinkers of an expired fire, that, in ordinary practice, it is well nigh impossible to induce any class of patients to abstain from food at the beginning of an attack or to give the fasting cure a fair trial at any stage of the disease."
It is not unusual, in certain cases, of indigestion, to have food remain in the stomach two or three days. Beaumont found that food taken in certain morbid states "remains undigested for twenty-four or forty-eight hours, or even more, increasing the derangement of the whole alimentary canal, and aggravating the general symptoms of the disease." He points out that all of this prolonged retention of undigested food in the stomach is often without discomfort or pain of some sort and without the patient's knowledge that it is present. Many hygienists have observed this same phenomenon. For example, Carrington says that he has seen cases where food was ejected from the stomach three days after it was eaten. The food was thus lying in the stomach for seventy-two hours without being digested. He says of one of these cases that the man was not conscious that there was anything wrong with his stomach. An amazing amount of pathology often exists in the stomach of those who regard themselves as healthy and as possessing good digestion. These patients habitually mistake the morbid sensations of their stomach for hunger.
Carrington says that "the fact that food frequently remains in the stomach of quite light eaters when they are indisposed, and 'out of condition,' is certain." It should also be noted that emotional upsets will suspend the process of digestion and cause food to be retained for prolonged periods in the stomach. Rabagliati says: "Indeed, food is occasionally, or even not infrequently, still in the stomach twenty-four, thirty-six, and even forty-eight hours after it has been taken." Carrington tells us that he has known of cases in which large quantities of food were vomited at the end of three days of fasting. I have seen a number of such cases in my own practice.
I think that it must be admitted, to use Carrington's words that it "would be a common sense procedure to wait until this mass of rubbish was removed before again adding food." It is quite obvious that stomach digestion is not going on in these instances and that the food is rotting rather than digesting.
A young man once visited me who complained of headaches, catarrh of the stomach, and nose and throat, hyperacidity of the stomach, constipation and nervousness. He was extremely ravenous, but could digest nothing he ate. A few days before coming to see me he had arrived home from work with an almost irresistible desire for food. He ate a hearty supper and started for the Y.M.C.A., where he was to play in a basketball game. About six blocks from his home he suddenly became dizzy; everything became black and he fainted. This was followed by vomiting, which brought up not only his supper, but food he had consumed at noon the day before. It had not been digested. I placed this man on a short fast, then taught him how to live, with the result that his catarrh, hyperacidity, indigestion, constipation, headache, nervousness and morbid appetite all ended.
Physiologists say that an ordinary meal is digested (in the stomach) in from two to five hours. That this is the normal digestion time may be nearly true, but it is no unusual thing for food to remain in the stomach for a much longer period. This is especially true if there is some slight indisposition. Physiologists have assumed that if the food has passed out of the stomach into the intestine it has been digested--that is, it is assumed that gastric digestion is completed. That this is often not true is shown by the great amounts of undigested food that is found in the stools of thousands of patients. The stomach may empty itself of undigested and unwanted food, either by vomiting or by passing it on to the intestine.
I wish here to revert to the contention of Dr. Hazzard that while "appetite" may be present in disease, genuine hunger never is. While such patients often insist that they are ravenous, it seems more likely that in every instance, they have mistaken their morbid symptoms for a demand for food.
There have been men who approved of fasting in acute disease, but not in chronic disease, on the ground that so long as nature demands food, food should be taken. They have insisted upon being guided by instinct in this matter of eating or fasting. The demand for instinctive eating, instinctive fasting and instinctive living is quite fundamentally sound, but we must learn to discriminate between instinctive demands and morbid cravings. Morbid cravings are strengthened, not overcome, by appeasing them. Take the case of the patient, previously mentioned, who was ravenous, ate a meal and shortly thereafter, vomited this along with food that had been consumed at noon the day before; how can we think of his supposed desire for food as an instinctive demand? It seems the height of absurdity to contend that appetite, such as he had before he ate supper that evening, should be satisfied. To me such contentions are on a par with the claim that the craving for opium, alcohol, tobacco, arsenic, etc., should be satisfied.
In chronic "disease" digestion is not suspended. In many cases it seems not to be impaired. Appetite may and may not be present. There is not, therefore, the same necessity for fasting in chronic "disease" as in acute "disease." Yet, if the fast is entered into, nature usually signifies her willingness to undergo a long deferred fast, which she has probably repeatedly asked for but did not receive, by cutting off the appetite on the second or third day and perhaps by developing nausea, vomiting and repugnance to food, and by instituting the usual processes of elimination. As this course of action is invariably pursued by nature, we are forced to conclude that she welcomes the proffered opportunity for house cleaning.
Due to many causes waste accumulates during the entire life period of the body. The older the body and the more gluttony and sensuality have been indulged in, the greater the toxin saturation. These toxins are lost to the body during a fast. It is largely for this reason that fasting proves to be so valuable in chronic "disease." The purification of the organism and the regeneration of its tissues restore the youthfulness of the body.
Dr. Lindlahr likened the digestive tract to a sponge. In health it absorbs the elements of nutrition; but in acute disease the process is reversed; the sponge is being squeezed and it throws off toxins. When the sponge is being squeezed the processes of digestion and absorption are at a standstill. In fact, as he said, the entire organism, in acute disease, is in a state of weakness, prostration and inactivity. The vital energies are concentrated upon the work of cleansing the body of its accumulated toxins. I need only to add that in chronic disease, when the patient fasts, the whole digestive tract enters upon the work of elimination and assists in freeing the body of its accumulated toxins.
It should be obvious that when energy is low and functions are inefficient, a period of physiological rest will be beneficial. When the digestive function is so badly impaired that every meal is followed with gas, or with nausea, or when undigested food remains in the stomach for prolonged periods, a rest of the digestive system is imperative. Mr. Carrington, who insists upon the necessity of resting in disease, places greatest stress upon rest of the digestive system.
After pointing out that loss of appetite, seen in all acute diseases and common in chronic disease, is "the voice of nature forbidding us to eat," and lamenting the fact that physicians and nurses disregard this "voice of nature" and force food down the throats of "disgusted patients," Dr. T. L. Nichols says, "rest for the stomach, liver, all the organs of the nutritive system, may be the one thing needful. It is the only rest we will not permit.--In certain states of disease, where the organs of digestion are weakened and disordered, the best beginning of a cure may be total abstinence for a time from all kinds of food. There is no cure like it. If the stomach cannot digest, the best way is to give it a rest. It is the one thing which it needs." He also says, "for every disease of every organ of the body, the first condition is rest--rest for stomach, rest for brain. Broken bones and cut or torn muscles, must have rest, or there can be no cure. For the vital organs there must be, at least, diminished labor--intervals of rest--all the repose that is consistent with the necessary operations of life. In disease of the heart, we must diminish the amount of the circulating fluid, and remove all stimulants and excitements to action. It is chiefly through the stomach and nutritive system that we can act on the heart and brain, the more rest we can give to the stomach, the more chance."
When organs have been lashed into impotency by overwork and over-stimulation, rest alone can save, it alone can restore power. Dewey referred to fasting as the "rest cure," and emphasized the urgent necessity of rest in all acute and chronic diseases. Rest, he said, "is not to do any of the curing (healing) any more than it heals the broken bone or the wound; it is only going to furnish the condition for cure." By rest in this statement, he is referring to physiological rest.
Using up nerve energy in business and the general affairs of life to the extent of having too little to take care of the food we eat is common in present-day society and is commonly met with increased food consumption, rather than by the physical and physiological rest the condition demands. If we are sick we "need plenty of good nourishing food"; if we are weak we need "more food." If we are tired and "out of sorts," we need "more food."
Sinclair went upon his first fast when, "after another spell of hard work I found myself unable to digest corn-meal mush and milk." He took a fast when nature compelled him to do so.
The common mode of caring for the body in health and "disease" is a tragedy. It consists of eating food several times a day, of employing stimulants to whip up fatigued organs until they are exhausted, of yielding to indulgences, and dissipations that waste the energies and substances of the body; of whipping into submission any and all organs and functions which attempt to correct matters; of cutting out offended organs and structures which are the seat of discomfort; and of neglecting any and all rational and radically remedial measures until some parts of the organism have become so badly damaged and the organic destruction is so great that recovery is all but impossible.
Fasting not only brings absolute comfort to those who have a fatal "disease," but it brings comfort in every other "disease," cuts all "diseases" short, and gives the sick man or woman the very best opportunity and the surest road out of suffering into health. Dr. Shew wrote: "Very seldom will toothache withstand twenty-four hours of entire abstinence from all food."--Water Cure in Pregnancy and Childbirth, p. 63. Again, he wrote: "If a person has a toothache--no matter how bad--provided there is not swelling and ague in the face, it is cured with certainty within twenty-four hours by abstaining from all food and from all drinks, except water. At any rate, I have known no case where such treatment has failed of complete success."--Family Physician, p. 796.
Dr. Arthur Vos grows poetic in his praise of the benefits of fasting in chronic "disease." He says: "I can conceive of no greater pleasure in the pursuit of my profession; than to witness a patient suffering from a chronic disease, gradually regaining his health under the administration of a fast and the application of proper dietetic and hygienic procedures. Though some patients have considerable distress during the first few days of a fast, the later feelings of buoyance and freedom of pain, both mentally and physically, make them willing to continue a method against which their prejudices at first strongly rebelled. To see the clouded eye clear up and regain its igneous brightness, to see the zanthically discolored parchment-like skin clear itself and become normally peaches and cream, to perceive the breath, at first heavily laden with unmentionable impurities, gradually lose its nauseous odor and become attar of roses, to experience the joys of fellowship that come back again with the correct mental attitude and a sane view of life, displacing the old, intoxicated, perverted and disjointed attitude toward the world and one's fellowmen, from the enjoyment of witnessing which neither struggle nor effort ought to deter. These devoutly-to-be-wished-for benefits and consummations and a thousand other patronymics come as the effects of a fast performed and properly conducted, provided, of course, subsequent treatment is carried on in a manner to continue the benefits received. This can be done by correcting the life through the application of the principals of hygiene and natural living."--Fasting, June, 1923.
Asclepiades used fasting 2,000 years ago, as did Thessalus of Tralles; Celsus employed fasting in jaundice and epilepsy; Avicenna used to fast his patients four or five weeks. Even Paracelsus declared, "Fasting is the greatest remedy." In the 17th Century, Dr. Hoffman wrote a treatise on fasting entitled "Description of the Magnificent Results Obtained Through Fasting in All Diseases." In the 18th century, Dr. Anton Nikolai asked: "What is more sense, to feed the patient and give him medicine and keep him sick for the rest of his life, or make him thin for a while and make him absolutely well?"
Dr. Van Seeland, a Russian physician, says "As a result of experiments, I have come to the conclusion that fasting is not only a therapeutic agent of the highest degree possible but also deserves consideration educationally." Dr. Adolph Mayer, a prominent German physician, says, in a book entitled Fast Cures--Wondercures; "I assert that fasting is the most efficient means for correcting any disease." He also asserts that "Fasting and surgery is all that is of any value in the professional armamentarium."
Dr. Moeller, head of the sanatorium "Closchwitz," says, "fasting is the only natural evolutionary method whereby through a systemic cleansing you can restore yourself by degrees to physiologic normality." Dr. Osbeck, of Upsala, Professor of Surgery, was so successful with fasting treatments that the government ordered them investigated, and upon receipt of a favorable report from the committee, gave him a bonus of $5,000 and a yearly pension of $500. Fasting is now employed in several European sanatoriums, both in England and on the continent.
It is not intended here to do more than consider a few so-called diseases, as object lessons in the use of the fast, as these are covered in greater number in Vol. VII of this series.
Denutrition, or temporary abstinence from food, is the most effective, and, at the same time, the safest method for eliminating morbid elements from the system. Any flux, issue, diarrhea, bronchorrhea, dropsy, flow of fluid into the pleura (sac around the lungs), pericardium (sac around the heart), peritoneum (lining of the abdominal cavity) water on the brain, flow of pus from any chronic suppuration, polyuria, and others--any disturbance of the fluids of the body--is favorably influenced by total abstinence from food and water. All catarrhal conditions--rhinitis, ozena, bronchitis, colitis, metritis, cystitis, hay fever, asthma, and other catarrhal conditions--quickly cease to exist under a fast. When the abnormal flow of fluid is controlled, a proper dietary can be fitted to the body; and when impaired nerve-energy--enervation--is brought back to normal, the "disease" is cured.
Every meal eaten, every glass of milk or fluid drunk, raises blood-pressure. Every transfusion of blood raises blood-pressure. When people are sick with catarrh and nose bleeding, or tuberculosis and bleeding from the lungs, or tuberculosis of the bowels with diarrhea, etc., they should stop the intake of water and food, and the hemorrhage will surely cease within twenty-four hours. Then restricted eating should be practiced until hyperemia from plethory is overcome, after which, proper eating and respecting food limitations will bring dependable health.
The editor of an osteopathic journal, an ex-druggist, who still believes in drugs and particularly believes in their use in so-called syphilis, wrote Dr. Alvin N. Davies, of Pa., that Dr. Weger rejects fasting in the conditions labeled syphilis. In reply to a letter to him about the matter, Dr. Weger wrote to me, saying, "I certainly do fast syphilitics."
The authenticated long fast of Ulrich Von Hutten, which was followed by an absolute and openly attested cure of "syphilis," is known to all students of medical history. This treatment of so-called "syphilis" found many zealous champions later on.
The value of fasting in the conditions labeled "syphilis is beyond dispute. Nothing is more effective in the so-called primary and secondary stages. It is valuable also in the tertiary stage; but as this stage is due to drugs, its value is often less apparent. The truth of these things is not impaired by the failure of some individual to employ fasting in such conditions.
Tilden says: "Something more is necessary, however, than simply fasting to overcome and bring about absorption of a fibroid tumor. The proper local treatments for correcting uterine derangement and establishing proper nutrition are absolutely necessary in all cases, if dependable health is to be hoped for." This has not been our experience and we do not approve of the scarification and other local treatment employed by him.
Dewey, Hazzard, Carrington, Macfadden and others record cases of recoveries from diabetes through fasting, before Allen made his experiments and gave the "Allen treatment" to the medical world.
All observers, who have had wide experience with fasting, record cases of improvement of eyesight while fasting, even an occasional case of blindness in which sight is restored. Often, hearing that has been faint for years, is brought up to the acuteness of childhood. In other cases complete deafness is remedied. I had one case of complete blindness in one eye that had existed for several years, in which complete and permanent recovery occurred during a fast undertaken to reduce weight. Another case was one of total deafness in one ear that had existed for twenty-five years. Perfect hearing in this ear was restored during a fast of more than thirty days, undertaken to remedy other troubles. So many pathological changes in the eyes and ears and their associated nerve and brain structures may result in blindness and deafness, it would be folly to expect vision and hearing to be restored in all cases of blindness and deafness. Such recoveries are not to be expected as a regular occurrence.
Carrington says: "lung tissue seems to possess the inherent power of healing itself in a far shorter time, and more effectually, than any other organ which may be diseased. I have repeatedly observed that, in all cases where a fast has been undertaken, in order to cure lung troubles of any description, such fasts have always terminated more speedily and more satisfactorily than in other cases; and such fasts are also undertaken far more easily, and the deprivation and lack of food noticed even less, in such cases, than in any other cases whatever."
He adds that cases of tuberculosis of the lungs are likely to collapse more or less frequently, when they fast, an extreme degree of debility being noted. This, he thinks is due to three chief factors: The real condition of the tubercular is one of debility, but the condition is not apparent, due to the pressure of tonics and stimulants and to the over-feeding to which they are regularly subjected--over-feeding on meats, eggs, milk, and other stimulating foods. The real condition of the patient becomes apparent when the stimulants and the foods are withdrawn, the reaction being severe in proportion to the degree of debility.
"The great sense of freedom which is experienced in the lungs, and the ability to talk and sing with greater clearness and facility, and with greater range and depth of tone, than has been experienced, perhaps, in months and years, will amply testify that the lungs are far sounder and more normal than they have been--perhaps ever!"--Vitality, Fasting and Nutrition, p. 497.
Short fasts are commonly employed in tuberculosis. It should be noted, however, that an amazing number of people are constantly under treatment for tuberculosis who do not have the disease. I once had a case of what I shall call "pseudo-tuberculosis" of the lungs to get well in a week. This case presented the following symptoms upon which the diagnosis had been made--weakness, loss of weight, habitual cough, night sweats, afternoon temperature, "positive" sputum and "spots" on the lungs, as revealed by x-ray. Several physicians had concurred in the diagnosis. Another similar case, which had been under treatment for tuberculosis for four years, growing steadily worse, completely recovered in six weeks.
Some of the most remarkable recoveries it has been my privilege to witness have been in cases of "incurable" heart disease. There are irremediable damages to the heart, but it does not always follow, because some physician has pronounced a given case of heart disease "incurable" that it is really irremediable.
Fasting in heart disease is a sure means of giving the heart a rest. Eating places a load upon the heart. Overeating needlessly increases this burden. Fasting relieves the heart of the excess load it is carrying and provides an opportunity for rest.
Every day people die of "heart attack" or "heart failure" who are eating three square meals a day with extra food between meals. Often these deaths follow immediately upon the heels of a hearty meal, or occur while the sufferer is eating. If "plenty of good nourishing food" will prevent heart collapse, or will assist in the "cure" of heart disease, these patients should not die so regularly. The simple truth is that very few sufferers from heart disease, be they doctor or layman, fail to note from experience that their comforts depend to a great extent upon what and how much they eat. Heart "attacks," from simple acceleration and palpitation to the severe anginas, are in the great majority of instances, due to over-loading, fermentation, distention of the stomach, and indigestion.
In many quarters there exists a strange prejudice against the employment of the fast in what are called "nervous diseases." It is customary to recommend a "full diet" in both nervous and mental diseases. This plan of care is far from satisfactory, but it is persisted in with a slavish adherence that would do justice to a better cause.
This practice grows, in great measure, out of the tendency to set the brain and nervous system apart from the remainder of the body and to think of it as not physical. There is the classification of diseases into "mental" and "physical" which grows out of this effort to think of the brain and nervous system as separate and distinct from the organism as a whole. But a moment's reflection should be sufficient to reveal the error of this view.
The human body is one vastly complex organism, the many parts of which are intimately connected and correlated in their functions and Interdependencies. It is essential that we fully grasp the intricate interrelations of all parts of the organism before we can make any real progress in the science and art of caring for the well and the sick. The organs of the body are not isolated isonomies.
Due to the close unity of the body it is utterly impossible for any one part of the body to become impaired without involving the whole organism in the consequences and impossible for any part to be impaired (except by violence) so long as it receives adequate support from it physiological partners. Parts of the body become impaired only after there is more or less general impairment. Organs do not become "diseased" independently of the rest of the organism.
In what way do "nervous" diseases differ from "physical" diseases? The nerves are also physical. They are parts of the body. They are not so completely removed from the physical, as popular expressions seem to imply. They are neither etheral, nor mental, nor spiritual in essence, and they do not call for non-physical means of care. They are organs and should be looked at from the organic point of view. Basically, nerve fibers are not greatly different from muscle fibers. Nerves are supplied with blood, they must have oxygen, food, and water; they are capable of being cut and torn by violence, or poisoned by toxins of various kinds.
The brain and nervous system are subject to the same laws of organization as is the rest of the body, are subject to the same nutritive requirements and are subject to poisoning, as well as are the muscles and glands. The nervous tissue may become inflamed, it may undergo atrophy. Its condition, strength, power and functioning ability depend wholly upon the composition, purity and quality of the blood with which it is supplied.
Another reason that we tend to think of and treat the nerves and brain as though they are separate and distinct from the general organism is the almost universal error of the medical profession, an error in which they have fully indocrinated the lay public, of trying to treat one part of the body without reference to all other parts--an error that has given rise to all the evils of specialism. A full recognition of the unity of the body should cause this error to be rejected.
The effects of over-eating upon nervous diseases are readily apparent to all who will take the trouble to observe them. Likewise, the benefits that flow from fasting in nervous and mental diseases have only to be observed to be appreciated. "The extreme rapid and invariably successful results at once prove the correctness of the contention," says Carrington.
It is usual for an increased nervous irritability to manifest when the mental and nervous patient is not fed, hence the advice to "feed him up." But this stuffing treatment only serves to smother symptoms, not to remove their causes. It is significant that when food is withheld for a few days, the nervous storm that ensues upon discontinuance of food, subsides and the patient progresses healthward.
The remarkable manner in which attention, memory, association and the ability to reason with more than ordinary brilliance are acutened during a fast indicates as nothing else can, the benefits the brain derives from a period of physiological rest. Recoveries from insanity while fasting are equally dramatic evidence of this benefit.
Macfadden and Carrington relate the case of a man who had a paralyzed throat who fasted for ten days when "signs of life" appeared in the throat. He found he could again swallow and within a few days, the full power of his throat was restored. "Though in some cases," they say, "through the influence of fasting the blind have literally been made to see, the lame to walk, I feel that this case was perhaps one of the most remarkable of all with which I have come in contact."
Fasting and prayer were prominent among the remedies employed by the ancients in epilepsy. Dr. Rabagliati says that the best remedy for epilepsy "consists of a careful restriction of the diet. * * * I have for many years now advised restriction of the diet in epilepsy to two meals daily, and sometimes to one; and in acute cases have recommended further and great restriction to a pint or a pint and a half of milk daily for a considerable period of time. * * * Fasting, in fact, seems to be of very great efficacy in the treatment of epilepsy."
The length of the fast in any condition will have to be determined by each individual case. In most cases, except tuberculosis, there can be no sound objection to a fast to completion, although this will seldom be necessary, and many patients will not want to fast so long, unless they must. The case should be carefully watched and the judgement of the experienced practitioner followed.
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