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.
I soon became convinced from tests I made that there is no absorption of toxins from the colon. At that time, twenty-five years ago, physiologists were still teaching that toxins are absorbed from the colon. Since then, they have changed their minds. The lining membrane of the colon no more absorbs toxins than does the lining membrane of the bladder. If the bladder does not absorb urine which is liquid, how can the lining membrane of the colon absorb feces, which is more or less solid? Answer this question in any way you may, there is one thing of which I am certain and this is, that, no symptoms of auto-intoxication develop during a fast of the longest duration when no enemas are employed.
I am certain of another important matter, namely, that the frequent use of the enema during the fast, as at other times, impairs bowel function, so that after the fast is broken, bowel function is not as efficient as in those patients who have not had enemas. My good friend, Dr. Carlos Arguello, of Nicaragua, put this matter to a test by dividing his patients into two groups and giving one group enemas and the other no enemas during their fasts. After their fasts were broken he kept careful records of the bowel movements of the members of both groups. Those who received no enemas had nearly a third more movements in the same period of time following the breaking of their fasts.
The regular and frequent use of the enema induces several important evils in the colon and their use is not to be recommended at any period of life, certainly not when one is sick and weak and needs to conserve himself in every way possible. At the beginning of 1925 I ceased using the enema and I am much better satisfied with its non-use in the fast than with its use. My patients also escape the discomforts it induces.
The use of "purgative" drugs and mineral waters during a fast is even worse than the use of the enema. Taken by mouth, as these are, they occasion excited and wasteful action with the secretion of much watery mucus along the whole length of the alimentary canal; whereas, the enema reaches only the colon, except in those many cases of chronic constipation in which there exists insufficiency of the ileo-cecal valve. In these cases the water and the feces in the colon are frequently sent back, by reverse peristalsis, into the small intestine, and in some cases, the feces and water are carried all the way back to the stomach and from here vomited. The same thing occurs sometimes with the colonic irrigation, which is but an oversized enema which costs more and cannot be administered by the patient himself.
In these days when we live for our bowel movements and are miserable if they fail to move by the time we are ready to go to work in the morning, the truth about our bowels is hard to get into our heads. We have been well trained by those who have constipation "cures" to sell.
Dr. Tanner, during and after his first fast, had no bowel movement from the 15th of July to the 31st of August, a period of forty-seven days. In commenting upon this fact, Dr. Hazzard declares, "To carry out a fast today in this manner would be deemed a bid for disaster." Why a "bid for disaster?" Both Dr. Tanner and Dr. Dewey repudiated the enema, and to quote Dr. Hazzard, "preferred and insisted upon waiting upon the bowels to act 'naturally' as he (Dewey) termed it." Jennings did not employ the enema, nor did Page. In my own practice I have not employed it for twenty-five years. I had one patient to go for over fifty days without an evacuation and no disaster befell him.
Levanzin reports of his fast of 31 days that, "during my whole fast I had no defecations. I had a bowel movement just before I started the fast, and the next was thirty-two days afterward, when I broke it." He adds: "I did not try to provoke any, as I did not wish to spoil the scientific results; and so, the bad, bitter and upsetting taste in my mouth was very trying." The implication of this statement is that the use of the enema prevents the bad, bitter taste of the mouth. This is not true, as anyone who has ever fasted and employed enemas can testify. The tongue becomes just as heavily coated, the teeth just as pasty and the taste in the mouth just as foul when enemas are used as when they are not used.
Professor Benedict writes of Levanzin that "when discussing the question of defecation he stated that in some of his long fasts he had defecated only once or twice, often he did this shortly after the beginning of the fast, and then not again until after the fast was over, but after beginning eating he was quite normal."
Dr. Jennings reported cases in which the bowels did not act for weeks. I had one man to fast for thirty-six days in my institution without a bowel movement, the bowels acting for the first time on the third day after the fast was broken. Another man fasted forty-nine days with no bowel action during the time. His bowels also acted on the third day after breaking the fast.
One young lady began a fast under my direction on Dec. 3, 1929, and ended it on Dec. 28th. Her bowels did not act during the whole of this period, acting the first time on Jan. 4, 1930; a period of thirty-three days from one bowel action to the next. This lady suffered with the worst case of psoriasis I have ever seen. Her whole body, face, neck and limbs included, being covered. The skin cleared up rapidly and beautifully during the fast.
Shortly after the foregoing case came to me, a young man suffering with constipation, digestive troubles and "nervousness" began a fast in my institution. He fasted twelve days, during which time his bowels did not act. They acted first on the fifth day after breaking the fast. During these seventeen days without a bowel movement the patient made great improvement.
No harm ever came from waiting upon the bowels. They may be depended on to function if there is a need for action. If no need exists, there can be no gain from forcing them to act. We should learn to distinguish between the forcing and the actual need for bowel action.
It has been noted that dogs and other animals do have bowel actions during a fast. In my own practice I have noticed that the stronger and more vigorous are more likely to have bowel evacuations. The weak, those who suffer with lowered gastro-intestinal tone or with visceroptosis are least likely to have an action of the colon while fasting. In any case no harm results from letting the colon alone and forgetting that it exists.
Dr. Harry Finkle makes the absurd claim that fasting paralyzes the colon. It does nothing of the kind, but improves colonic function in every instance. The enemas, colonic irrigations, purges, etc., almost do what he says the fast does. The great difficulties many men have with fasting arise out of the fact that they have not observed the effects of fasting, but fasting plus a lot of therapeutic measures. They think they are observing the effects of fasting, when they are merely watching the effects of something else. They insist upon treating their fasting patients with all of the harmful cure-alls which chance to be in fashion, and then attribute any evil results to the fast, although such evils are frequent results of these treatments when applied to non-fasters.
Fasting animals, whether hibernating, æstivating, fasting during the mating season, fasting during illness, or fasting because of a lack of something to eat, do not have and do not need enemas. Some of these animals fast for much longer periods than is possible for any man and do not die of nor suffer from the much-feared poisoning by absorption from the colon. I can find no proof that poisons are ever absorbed from the colon; but, assuming that they sometimes are, the absorption of a very small fraction of what was thrown into the colon can certainly produce none of the evils attributed to it. If it could, the whole of the material thrown into the colon would have killed the patient before it was thrown therein.
The Canadian bear enters upon hibernation with a flesh that is repugnant to flesh-eaters. When he comes out of hibernation his flesh is sweet and is considered a great delicacy by the people of the North. Canadian biologists describe the bowels of a bear that had just settled for the winter, and which they opened, after killing the bear, as emitting a stench that was "overpowering," the flesh "nauseating, fishy and unfit for food." By Spring the bear's flesh has undergone a complete and remarkable change, so that it is "the most sought-after of all northern foods." By this time very little residue is found in the digestive tract and "the bowel was odorless and quite sterile. No cultures of any of the usual intestinal flora or bacilli could be obtained."
This complete sterilizing and deodorizing of the intestinal tract together with the sweetening of the flesh of the bear, all without a bowel movement in four to five months, or in some cases longer, will not be easily explained by those who insist upon the urgent need of enemas in the fast. As the hibernating bear never suffers with autointoxication during the most prolonged period of hibernation, we are forced to accept the fact that he is not poisoned by any hypothetical re-absorption of waste from the colon.