Total abstinence from food during acute febrile conditions is of primary importance. In certain diseases which will be mentioned later on, especially those involving the digestive tract, fasting must be continued for several days after all fever symptoms have disappeared.

There is no greater fallacy than that the patient must be sustained and his strength kept up by plenty of nourishing food and drink or, worse still, by stimulants and tonics. This is altogether wrong in itself, and besides, habit and appetite are often mistaken for hunger.

A common spectacle witnessed at the bedside of the sick is that of well-meaning but misguided relatives and friends forcing food and drink on the patient, often by order of the doctor, when his whole system rebels against it and the nauseated stomach expels the food as soon as taken. Sedatives and tonics are then resorted to in order to force the digestive organs into submission.

Aversion to eating during acute diseases, whether they represent healing crises or disease crises, is perfectly natural, because the entire organism, including the mucous membranes of stomach and intestines, is engaged in the work of elimination, not assimilation. Nausea, slimy and fetid discharges, constipation alternating with diarrhea, etc., indicate that the organs of digestion are throwing off disease matter, and that they are not in a condition to take up and assimilate food.

Ordinarily, the digestive tract acts like a sponge which absorbs the elements of nutrition; but in acute diseases the process is reversed, the sponge is being squeezed and gives off large quantities of morbid matter. The processes of digestion and assimilation are at a standstill. In fact, the entire organism is in a condition of prostration, weakness and inactivity. The vital energies are concentrated on the cleansing and healing processes. Accordingly, there is no demand for food.

This is verified by the fact that a person fasting for a certain period, say, four weeks, during the course of a serious acute illness, will not lose nearly as much in weight as the same person fasting four weeks in days of healthful activity.

It is for the foregoing reasons that nourishment taken during acute disease:

  1. is not properly digested, assimilated and transmuted into healthy blood and tissues. Instead, it ferments and decays, filling the system with waste matter and noxious gases.
  2. interferes seriously with the elimination of morbid matter through stomach and intestines by forcing these organs to take up the work of digestion and assimilation.
  3. diverts the vital forces from their combat against the disease conditions and draws upon them to remove the worse than useless food ballast from the organism.

This explains why taking food during feverish diseases is usually followed by a rise in temperature and by aggravation of the other disease symptoms. As long as there are signs of inflammatory, febrile conditions and no appetite, do not be afraid to withhold food entirely, if necessary, for as long as five, six or seven weeks. In my practice I have had several patients who did not take any food, except water to which acid fruit juices had been added, for more than seven weeks, and then made a rapid and complete recovery.

In cases of gastritis, appendicitis, peritonitis, dysentery or typhoid fever, abstinence from food is absolutely imperative. Not even milk should be taken until fever and inflammation have entirely subsided, and then a few days should be allowed for the healing and restoring of the injured tissues. Many of the serious chronic aftereffects of these diseases are due to too early feeding, which does not allow the healing forces of Nature time to rebuild sloughed membranes and injured organs.

After a prolonged fast, great care must be observed when commencing to eat. Very small quantities of light food may safely be taken at intervals of a few hours. A good plan, especially after an attack of typhoid fever or dysentery, is to break the fast by thoroughly masticating one or two tablespoonfuls of popcorn. This gives the digestive tract a good scouring and starts the peristaltic action of the bowels better than any other food.

The popcorn may advantageously be followed in about two hours with a tablespoonful of cooked rice and one or two cooked prunes or a small quantity of some other stewed fruit.

For several days or weeks after a fast, according to the severity of the acute disease or healing crisis, a diet consisting largely of raw fruits, such as oranges, grapefruit, apples, pears, grapes, etc., and juicy vegetables, especially lettuce, celery, cabbage slaw, watercress, young onions, tomatoes or cucumbers should be adhered to. No condiments or dressings should be used with the vegetables except lemon juice and olive oil.