This section of the book is from "Fasting, Hydropathy and Exercise", by Bernarr MacFadden.
Among the germ-diseases that have been relieved by fasting, the author of "The True Science of Living" also mentions malaria, eczema, gastric cancer, pneumonia and typhoid fever.
It is also a significant fact that the abstemious natives of the tropics are far less subject to the risk of blood-poison from severe wounds than the overfed children of civilization.
A germ-disease, as virulent as syphilis, and long considered too persistent for any but palliative methods of treatment (by mercury, etc.) was radically cured by the fasting cures, prescribed in the Arabian hospitals of Egypt, at the time of the French occupation. Avicena already alludes to the efficacy of that specific, which he seems to have employed with similar success against smallpox, and Dr. Robert Bartholow, a stickler for the faith in drugs, admits that "it is certainly an eminently rational expedient to relieve the organism of a virus by a continuous and gradual process of molecular destruction and a renewal of the anatomical elements. Such is the hunger-cure of syphilis, an Oriental method of treating that disease. Very satisfactory results have been attained by this means."(Materia Medica and Therapeutics, pp. 31-32.)
The most mysterious of all disorders of the human organism, asthma, or respiratory paralysis, has been ascribed to November mists as often as to the debilitating influence of midsummer heat; but its proximate cause appears to have something to do with the accumulation of phlegm in the bronchial tubes, and its cure by abstinence, though slow, is far more permanent than the relief now and then obtained by the use of drugs. The villainous fumes of burning stramonium leaves, for instance, cause a convulsion of the respiratory apparatus which does break the asthma spell for the time being, but within half an hour after the patient has stopped panting and spitting the ominous torpor is apt to creep on again, and it has been noticed that with every repetition the doses of the distressing remedy has to be increased.
Denutrition, or total abstinence from solid food and all liquids but water, has no appreciable effect on respiratory paralysis for the first day or two, but before the end of the third day breathing becomes easier, the respirations, though weak, are freer, and before long become "deeper" and lung-filling enough to compensate the system for weeks of air-famine. One patient of my acquaintance had suffered such misery from suffocating fits that he felt as if the grip of a demon had been relaxed when his lungs began to work freer, and rather than forfeit his hard-won deliverance, hesitated to break his fast that day or the next. "I would rather drink my fill of air than of boarding-house coffee," he whispered, "and, as for hunger, I have really no time to notice the slight beginnings of that, I'm so busy feeling blest."
Fasters generally notice that the first two days of total abstinence are the worst, a sensation of general languor continues to increase, but by that time denutrition has begun to relieve all sorts of incidental affections, and the net result is a feeling of relief similar to that of a convalescent from a fever fit.
The effect of a fasting cure depends often upon its length, and upon no other point of an admittedly important problem the impressions of the general public are more contradictory and vague.
You cannot expect a sick person to fast all day?" inquires Mrs. Hearsay, who would not hesitate to swallow sixteen different kinds of fashionable poisons.
In reply, Thomas Campanella states that frail nuns often sought relief from attacks of hysteria by fasting "seven times seventy hours," or twenty days and a half. Total abstinence for three weeks or more was not an uncommon prescription of Avicena, who was so averse to drastic remedies that he would sooner watch all night at the fever-bed of a patient than risk complications by the use of opiates. The great Arab was not an ascetic either. He detested unnecessary self-denial, so much so, indeed, that he advised his friends to miss no chance for fun on this side of the grave and set them convivial examples at the risk of incurring the wrath of Moslem zealots. Dr. Tanner, I believe, broke his thirty-nine days' fast by a midway glass of sweet lemonade, but Buddha Sakyammi, like his Galilean successor, fasted forty days even, just for the sake of clearing his brain.
The penance-worn saints of the early Christian Church thought nothing of retiring to the desert for a month or two, to fight down temptations and dine on the water of some dilapidated old cistern. To touch even millet-seed on such occasions was considered a breach of contract, forfeiting the merit of the enterprise, but at the end of the second month the gaunt world-renouncer had generally strength enough left to reach his convent unassisted and smash the solar plexus of a cell-brother who ventured to question the reality of his visions. Robert de Moleme, the founder of the Cistercian brotherhood, was overcome with grief on learning the death of a female friend, and like General Boulanger, resolved to follow her to the Land of Shades. Being averse to direct suicide, he retired to the mountain-lodge of a relative, and abstained from food in the hope that one of his frequent fainting fits would fade into the sleep that knows no morning. But finding himself alive at the end of the seventieth day, he reconsidered his resolution and began to suspect a miraculous interposition of Providence. By resuming his meals, in half-ounce instalments, he contrived to recover from a condition of frightful emaciation, and in the supervision of an ever-increasing number of scattered monasteries, led an active life for the next fourteen years.