This section of the book is from "Fasting, Hydropathy and Exercise", by Bernarr MacFadden.
Abstinence is by far too much feared in the treatment of acute diseases generally. We have good reason for believing that many a life has been destroyed by the indiscriminate feeding which is so often practised among the sick. The safety of abstinence will be apparent when we remember how often persons have lain in fevers, dysentery, and other prostrating diseases, fourteen, twenty-one, and even more days without nutriment, and in the end doing well."Joel Shaw. M.D.
The "Health-school of Talerno," in its "Vade-mecum of Sanitary Maxims," has an apothegm to the effect that "The more you feed a sick body the sicker you make it," and Dr. Isaac Jennings, the author of "Medical Reform," expresses the same truth in an emphatic manner of his own. "Don't aggravate the troubles of a sick fellow-man," he says, "by forcing him to swallow food against the protest of his stomach.
No one ever thinks of eating if the appetite is abolished by a trivial ailment and plainly for the reason that it would be an unpleasant experience attended by depressing results; but if the ailment is thought dangerous, why, then the physics and chemistry of digestion are utterly ignored, and food must be enforced.
There is a very general concurrence of opinion that the aversion to food that characterizes all cases of acute disease, which is fully in proportion to the severity of the symptoms, is one of Nature's blunders that requires the intervention of art, and hence enforced feeding regardless of aversion.
I can have no doubt that feeding during illness when no hunger exists is a disease-prolonging agency.
The more I study the question of nutrition in disease at the bedside of acute illness the more am I unable to comprehend the logic of giving the sick, and especially the very sick, a form of food that even in the most vigorous health cannot be borne, even for a single day, without a lowering of vital power; nay, that where even one meal of it cannot be put into the stomach of hunger without a clearly perceptible loss of power.
No physician will admit that normal health can be maintained for a single day, for the above reasons, on milk and whisky; then where is the logic of feeding it to the sick? How expect, by its use, to raise abnormal health to the normal, when it inevitably lowers the normal to the abnormal?
Most of the need of drugs to allay restlessness or pain, and to enforce sleep in cases of the severely sick, arises from the exhaustive taxing of the vital power from the enforced feeding and stimulation."E. H. Dewey, M.D.
There is no danger in temporary abstinence. Nature knows best. Accustom yourself in all your little ailments, and also in your grave and more distressing affections, to regard the movement concerned in them in a friendly aspectdesigned for and tending to the removal of a difficulty of whose existence you were unaware, and which, if suffered to remain and accumulate, might prove the destruction of the house you live in. And that, instead of its symptoms needing to be suppressed, they are themselves curative operations, and that what should be called the disease, lies back of them, as the real disorder or difficulty which they are intended to remove."
The physiological rationale of the fasting instinct is this: The task of digestion monopolizes the vital energies of the organism to a degree that interferes with emergency work. While the kitchen is undergoing repairs to undo the mischief of a storm or a conflagration, the cook would ask to be excused from routine drudgery. No care could obviate the risk of her fritters getting sprinkled with plaster-dust or showers of soot, and pending renovation she would expect her folks to shift with cold lunch, preserves, and other winter-stores of the pantry. Even thus Nature tries to remove the obstacles of a remedial problem. When mustering her energies for a struggle with a critical disorder she prefers to be exempted from other work, and, as it were, get her hands free for the effective and rapid accomplishment of a task that may admit of no delay. The functions of the alimentary organs are thus temporarily suspended. Lack of appetite, or even a violent aversion to food, are physiological intimations of the fact that the kitchen-department of the organism has been closed for repairs. But that arrangement implies no risk of starvations.
When death occurs before the skeleton condition is reached it is always due to old age or some form of disease or injury, and not to starvation."E. H. Dewey, M.D.