Occasionally, very ill people have a liver that has become so degenerated it cannot sustain the burden of detoxification. This organ is as vital to survival as the brain, heart and lungs. We can get along with only one kidney, we can live with no spleen, with no gallbladder, with only small parts of the stomach and intestines, but we can not survive without a liver for more than a day or so. The liver is the most active organ in the body during detoxification. To reach an understanding of detoxification, it helps to know just what the liver does for us on an ongoing basis.

The liver is a powerful chemical filter where blood is refined and purified. The liver passes this cleansed blood out through the superior vena cava, directly to the heart. The blood is then pumped into general and systemic circulation, where it reaches all parts of the body, delivering nutrition and oxygen at a cellular level. On its return flow, a large proportion of the depleted blood is collected by the gastric, splenic and superior and inferior mesenteric veins that converge to form the large portal vein which enters the liver. Thus a massive flow of waste from all the cells of the body is constantly flowing into the liver. The huge hepatic artery also enters the liver to supply oxygen and nutrients with which to sustain the liver cells themselves.

The liver is constantly at work refining the blood. It is synthesizing, purifying, renovating, washing, filtering, separating, and detoxifying. It works day and night without stopping. Many toxins are broken down by enzymes and their component parts are efficiently reused in various parts of the body. Some impurities are filtered out and held back from the general circulation. These debris are collected and stored in the gall bladder, which is a little sack appended to the liver. After a meal, the contents of the gall bladder (bile) are discharged into the duodenum, the upper part of the small intestine just beyond the stomach. This bile also contains digestive enzymes produced by the liver that permit the breakdown of fatty foods in the small intestine.

Sometimes a large flow of bile finds its way into the stomach by pressure or is sucked into the stomach by vomiting. Excessive biliary secretion and excretion can also result from overeating, which overcrowds the area. Sometimes colonics or massage can also stimulate a massive flow of bile. Extremely bitter and irritating, when bile gets into the stomach the person either vomits or wishes they could. And after vomiting and experiencing the taste of bile, wishes they hadn"t.

When no food at all enters the system, the blood keeps right on passing through the liver/filter just as it does when we are eating. When the liver does not have to take care of toxins generated by the current food intake, each passage through the liver results in a cleaner blood stream, with the debris decreasing in quantity, viscosity, and toxicity, until the blood becomes normalized. During fasting, debris from the gall bladder still pass through the small intestine and into the large intestine. However, if the bowels do not move the toxins in the bile are readsorbed into the blood stream and get recirculated in an endless loop. This toxic recycling makes a faster feel just terrible, like they had a flu or worse!

The bowels rarely move while fasting. During fasting only enemas or colonics permit elimination from the large intestine. If done effectively and frequently, enemas will greatly add to the well being and comfort of the faster. Many times when a faster seems to be retracing or experiencing a sudden onset of acute discomfort or symptoms, these can be almost immediately relieved by an enema or colonic.

A person with major liver degeneration inevitably dies, with or without fasting, with or without traditional medicine. Significantly impaired kidney function can also bring about this same result. Mercifully, death while fasting is usually accomplished relatively free of pain, clear of mind and with dignity. That often can not be said of death in a hospital. There are much worse experiences than death.

Fasting is not a cure-all. There are some conditions that are beyond the ability of the body to heal. Ultimately, old age gets us all.

Dr. Linda Hazzard, one of the greats of natural hygiene, who practiced Osteopathic medicine in the 1920s, had a useful way of categorizing conditions that respond well to fasting. These she labeled "acute conditions," and "chronic degenerative conditions." A third classification, "chronic conditions with organic damage," does not respond to fasting. Acute conditions, are usually inflammations or infections with irritated tissue, with swelling, redness, and often copious secretions of mucous and pus, such as colds, flu, a first time case of pneumonia, inflamed joints as in the early stages of arthritis, etc. These acute conditions usually remedy in one to three weeks of fasting. Acute conditions are excellent candidates for self-doctoring. Chronic degenerative conditions are more serious and the patient usually requires supervision. These include conditions such as cancer, aids, chronic arthritis, chronic pneumonia, emphysema and asthma. Chronic degenerative conditions usually respond within a month to three months of fasting. The fasting should be broken up into two or three sessions if the condition has not been relieved in one stint of supervised fasting. Each successive fast will produce some improvement and if a light, largely raw-food diet is adhered to between fasts the patient should not worsen and should be fairly comfortable between fastings.

If there has been major functional damage to an organ as a result of any of these degenerative conditions, healing will not be complete, or may be impossible. By organic damage, I mean that a vital part of the body has ceased to function due to some degenerative process, injury, or surgery--so badly damaged that the cells that make up the organ can not be replaced.

I once had a twenty five year old man come to my spa to die in peace because he had been through enough diagnostic procedures in three hospitals to know that his liver was beyond repair. He had been working on an apple farm in between terms at university when he was poisoned several times with insecticide from an aerial spray on the whole orchard. He absorbed so much insecticide that his liver incurred massive organic damage.

When he came to me his body had reached the point where it was incapable of digesting, and because of lack of liver function, it was incapable of healing while fasting, a condition in which death is a certainty. He was a Buddhist, did not fear death and did not want to be kept alive in agony or in prolonged unconsciousness by any extraordinary means, nor did he want to die with tubes in every orifice. I was honored to be a supportive participant in his passing. He died fasting, in peace, and without pain, with a clear mind that allowed him to consciously prepare for the experience. He was not in a state of denial or fear, and made no frantic attempts to escape the inevitable. He went quietly into that still dark night with a tranquil demeanor and a slight smile.

Fortunately, in my many years of practice I had the pleasure of seeing the majority of the people totally regain their health or at least greatly improve it by means of the fasting and healing diets. Many cancer patients watched with amazement as their tumors disappeared before their eyes, many arthritics regained their function, serious skin conditions such as psoriasis disappeared, mental conditions improved, addictions vanished, fatigue was replaced by energy, and fat dissolved revealing the hidden sculpture beneath. I will talk more about procedures and the particular reasons bodies develop specific conditions in later chapters.