This section is from the book "The Hygienic System: Fasting And Sun Bathing", by Herbert M. Shelton. Also available from Amazon: The Hygienic System Vol III Fasting and Sun Bathing.
In Dec. 1932 and Jan. 1933 a patient fasted 31 days in my Health School. His bowels moved on the 2nd, 6th, 7th, 13th and 20th days of the fast. Another patient who took a short fast in December, 1932 had a bowel movement on each of the 4th, 8th and 9th days. This patient then took a longer fast in Jan. 1933 with bowel movements on the 1st, 3rd and 9th days, there being a diarrhea on the 9th day. Another case was that of a young lady who had a bowel movement on the 21st day of her fast.
On July 21, 1933, a woman, age 68 began a fast in my Health School. The fast was broken on the evening of the thirteenth day. She had a bowel movement on the first and second days of the fast, on the third and fourth days there were loose stools; there was no movement on the fifth day; on the sixth day there was one movement and a small movement, only one small piece of feces passing, on the seventh day. This woman had orange juice all day on the fourteenth day, six oranges on the fifteenth day and a good bowel movement followed on the morning of the sixteenth day.
On the same day the foregoing woman began her fast another woman, age 37, was placed on a fast. For a period of twelve days or more, this woman had suffered with a persistent diarrhea. The fast lasted for a period of twenty-eight days and the bowels did not move once throughout the whole of her fast after the first day. The fast was uneventful, there were no crises and no signs of poisoning, but a steady improvement in health.
In April and May of 1948 I had in the Health School a woman from Chicago who fasted ten days and had a bowel movement every day of her fast. This is a rare case, but fasters who have several bowel movements during the course of a fast are very common.
At the end of the year 1949 a woman came to the Health School from San Francisco and fasted thirty-five days. She had eleven bowel movements during the first three weeks of her fast and another movement on the thirty-fourth day.
Contrast these with the case of a young woman, age 25, who was placed on a fast on Feb. 24, 1933 in my Health School and whose bowels moved on the twenty-first day of the fast. In this case there were no crises, none of the symptoms "re-absorption of toxins" is said to cause, but a steady gain in health.
These few cases out of many prove that the bowels will move when there is need for a movement; also they show, as do hundreds of others, that there is no injury from waiting upon the bowels. These cases particularly refute the notion entertained in some quarters that a prolonged fast paralyzes the bowels. This notion finds lodgement in the minds of some who know nothing about fasting, and one usually finds that they do not want to know anything about it. Most of the foregoing cases all fasted before the first edition of this volume was published. Since that time hundreds of similar experiences have been observed here at the Health School.
Prof. Benedict says: "Fasting * * * affects first the amount and regularity of defecation.* * * Owing to long retention in the colon, fasting feces become hard, much dried and pilular, and frequently cause considerable uneasiness. Much difficulty is experienced in passing them, and at times they may cause considerable pain with slight hemorrhages. The use of an enema to remove the fecal matter during inanition is quite common. This method was employed throughout the 30-day fast of Succi--reported by Luciani. * * * Depending upon the amount of food consumed on the day previous, the defecation of the first day of fasting may be quite as regular as on the ordinary days. * * * The most important factor noted was that feces were frequently retained for a number of days together, during fasting with no apparent attempt on the part of nature to effect a movement."
The hard feces he mentions do sometimes form during a fast, but they are by no means the regular or usual developments. On the contrary, they are relatively rare and are usually easily voided. Only in cases of hemorrhoids do they give real trouble. A hard plug of feces stops the anus of the hibernating bear, but he has no difficulty in getting rid of it when he resumes eating in the spring. The feces of the faster is commonly soft, at times loose, only rarely large enough and hard enough to occasion difficulty in passing. In those cases where there is spastic constipation, and in hemorrhoids, the plug does sometimes, although by no means always, become sufficiently hardened as to occasion pain and bleeding in passing. In such cases, it is my practice to employ an enema after the fast is broken, when the patient feels the first urge for stool. No enemas are employed during the fast, even in these cases.
During the first five years of my practice I employed the enema, both in the fast and while my patients were eating, but I particularly employed it in the fast. I had been taught that it was necessary in the fast, that if the enema was not used to wash out the colon, waste matter that had been thrown into this would be re-absorbed and the patient would suffer from auto-intoxication. Two facts caused me, finally, to begin to doubt the wisdom of employing the enema. These were:
1. I found the enema painful when I took it myself and I noticed that most of my patients also found it painful.
2. I found it left me with a feeling of weakness when I took an enema and I found the same thing to be true when my patients were given enemas.
These experiences caused me to do some effective thinking. The first question I asked myself was this: Am I doing right in employing an enervating measure in my care of my patients? I could not get an affirmative answer to this question, no matter how I tried. Then I ran my mind back over my studies of fasting among animals. The question came naturally to mind: If fasting animals, many of which fast for much longer periods than man can ever fast, do not need enemas, why does fasting man require them? I could find no logical reason why man required them while fasting. Then I reviewed the literature of fasting and I discovered that Jennings, Dewey, Tanner and others had not employed the enema. Cautiously, I began to test the no-enema plan. I soon became convinced of its superiority over the enema plan. I found Dr. Claunch rejecting the enema. I discovered that Dr. Page was not an advocate of its use. I had arrived at my conclusion the hard way, only to find that I was not alone.
Dr. Tilden, a frequent and regular user of the enema, admitted that it was enervating. But why should we employ methods of care that further enervate our patients? It is our duty, in caring for our patients, to conserve the energy of each patient in every way possible and not to needlessly dissipate the precious energies of life.
It is our duty at all times to conserve the energies of our patients. All enervating practices should be eliminated from our care of the sick. We may say that no such practices are ever justifiable, except where they are the lesser of two evils and there are rare instances where the enema may be the lesser of two evils. Macfadden, himself a great advocate of the use of the enema and of its use in the fast, says: "But enemas are somewhat enervating, and when the patient is already weak, he may find it a drain upon his vitality to take many of these."--Encyclopedia of Physical Culture, Vol. III, p. 1374.