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.
Upton Sinclair says: "The great thing about the fast is that it sets you a new standard of health." Old and young alike are renewed and have their whole organism repaired and their functions improved. Fasting supplies opportunities to the body to eliminate accumulated excess weight.
Regeneration of the body is a ceaseless process. The daily renewal of its cells and tissues prevents old age and early death for considerable time, despite the worst abuses which are heaped upon the bodies of most of us. Fasting enables the processes of renewal to out-distance the processes of degeneration and the result is a higher standard of health. Regeneration of the flesh, even the very marrow of the bones, is possible through this method. By it we may actually tear down much of the body and then rebuild it and have a new or renewed one.
When once we have learned that the body is able to rip its structures to pieces and re-use and re-arrange their constituents to match and fit its organs, we are prepared to understand how fasting so quickly brings about a rejuvenation of the body. The texture and tone and feeling and look and utility of your organs and functions will be as fine, after they have gone through the cleansing, refining process of fasting, as are soiled silks or laces after these have gone through the process of cleaning. The rejuvenating effect upon the skin is visible to all who have eyes to see. Lines, wrinkles, blotches, pimples and discolorations disappear, the skin becomes more youthful, acquires a better color and a better texture. The eyes clear up and become brighter. One looks younger. The visible rejuvenation in the skin and eyes is matched by manifest evidences of similar but invisible rejuvenescence throughout the body.
Most of my readers are familiar with the method of propagating certain plants from "cuttings" and from "buds" rather than from seeds. Parts of some plants and of some of the simpler forms of animal life are able to reconstitute the whole plant or animal. Prof. Child and others have shown that the reconstituted organisms are physiologically younger than the plant or animal from which they were derived.
"The degree of rejuvenescence" in such cases "is in general proportionate to the degree of re-organization in the process of reconstruction of the piece into a whole." There is reason to believe, as H. Reinheimer has pointed out, that the virtue of these processes of re-organization and reconstruction lies in a simultaneous reduction of what he thinks is best described as a "nutritive overflow."
Reorganization and redistribution as we have already seen, occur in the body of the faster concomitantly and coetaneously with the reduction of surplus nutrition. We know that reduction of a "nutritive overflow" will not account for all the rejuvenating effects observed, for we see these also in the undernourished, mal-nourished and under-weight persons.
Exhaustive experiments by Prof. Morgulis have proved beyond a doubt that fasting rejuvenates. He has also shown that the body does not tear down its tissues nor impair them structurally. The cells are reduced in size but there is little or no destruction of cells except in cases of actual starvation. The nuclei of the cells tend usually to retain their size and lose so little of their bulk that they become relatively larger in proportion to the rest of the cell. Such a cell has the capacity for assimilation and growth which characterizes the cells of embryos and young animals. This accounts for the rapid gains in tissue after a fast. The layman may see these remarkable changes in the skin for this often becomes as fine grained and smooth, almost as that of a child. Drs. Carlson and Kunde, of the department of Physiology of the University of Chicago, showed that a fast of two weeks temporarily restores the tissues of a man of forty to the physiological condition of the tissues of a youth of seventeen.
How long this youthful condition can be maintained these investigators do not know and could not have shown, for they have no knowledge of the causes of the aging process and therefore did not see that these were not returned to after the fast. The fasters simply returned to their accustomed habits of living--their smoking, drinking, coffee, gross and unintelligent eating, night life, etc. Every faster knows that his body and his energies are renewed by the fast and where he lives properly afterward, he knows that the improvement is lasting. These facts are not new. They were only new to Drs. Carlson and Kunde.
Dr. Kunde says, "It is evident that where the initial weight was reduced by 45 per cent, and subsequently restored by normal diet, approximately one-half of the restored body is made up of new protoplasm. In this there is rejuvenescence." It should be pointed out that much of the 55 per cent of the body that was not lost has undergone rejuvenating changes of great significance.
By repeating the rejuvenating fasts at appropriate intervals, the individual can keep himself younger, year after year, much younger physiologically, than he would otherwise be--in short, stave off old age.
E. Schultz, experimenting with fasting hydra, produced positive proof of the rejuvenating effects of fasting, the animals reverting to an embryonic state. Intensive nourishment results in much poisoning in infusoria and a short fast is needed to restore them to youth. A reduction of surfeit is essential to the most vigorous manifestations of vitality. In higher animals "brief hunger has a beneficial effect."
Prof. C. M. Child, of the University of Chicago, took some small flat worms, worms which when fed, grow old, lazy and infirm, and chopped them up into small pieces and each piece grew into a new and young worm. He took some of the old worms and fasted them for a long time. They grew smaller and smaller, living off their own internal resources for months. Then, when they had been reduced to a minimum size, he fed them. They started to grow and were just as young in physiological condition as ever they were.
The planarian may continue to shrink until reduced to less than one-hundredth of its original size, to a size even below that at which it hatched from the egg. When this point is reached a supply of food will enable it to grow again.
These reduced worms have the proportions of young rather than those of old worms. They look rejuvenated. Prof. Child alternately fed and starved a group of these worms and caused them to live over a period of twelve generations. They showed no signs of progressive aging--whenever they were large they were as old as ordinary worms of the same size; whenever they were small they were as young as ordinary young worms. It is stated that if we choose to go to the trouble we could probably keep a single flat-worm alternately going up and down the hill of life and never going beyond a certain age limit for periods that would make Methuselah seem very short-lived.
Professor Child tells us (Senescence and Rejuvenescence) that with abundant food some species may pass through their whole life history in three or four weeks, but when growth is prevented through loss of food, they may continue active and young for at least three years. "Partial starvation inhibits senescence. The starveling is brought back from an advanced age to the beginning of post-embryonic life; it is almost re-born."
It hardly need be said that in the larger and more complex forms of life the possibilities of rejuvenescence are more narrowly limited than among the lower forms, such as the planaria. Nevertheless, according to Prof. Child, in the organic world, generally, rejuvenscence is as fundamental and important a process as senescence.
Prof. Huxley, of England, son of the older Prof. Huxley, took some young planaria, or earth worms, and performed a very interesting and instructive experiment with them. He fed a whole family of these as they ordinarily eat. He isolated one of them and fed it in the same manner, but forced it to undergo at regular intervals, short periods of fasting. It was alternately fasted and fed. The isolated worm was still alive after nineteen generations of his brothers had been born, lived their regular life cycles and passed away. The only difference in the mode of life and the diet of this worm and that of his brother worms was his periodic fasts.
Excess is fatal to healthy action. A reduction of surfeit is essential to the most vigorous manifestations of vitality. Weismann's observations and the results of tissue-culture in the laboratory reveal that there are no limits to vitality. Autogenerated toxins and poisoning from gastro-intestinal putrefaction and fermentation are the chief limiting influences upon life. Surfeit produces and fasting eliminates these. A removal of toxins and surfeit permits tissue regeneration.
An experimenter at the University of Chicago procured some insects of a kind, the normal life of which is only twenty-four hours. He isolated them and placed them where they could not procure food. Instead of starving to death immediately or dying at the end of their normal twenty-four hours' life span, they lived for fifteen days. Fasting enabled them to live for fifteen generations.
Now, these results obtained with the worms and insects only forcefully remind us again that we cannot safely argue from one species to another. Man cannot live for fifteen generations by fasting nor for nineteen generations by periodic short fasts. Nor can he become a minute man by fasting and then, when fed, grow into a new and youthful man as was the case with the worms.
But there is a renewal of man's body to a certain extent. His body does become smaller. He does get rid of his surplus tissues, surplus food, accumulated toxins and "diseased" tissues, etc.
Fasting produces no organic deterioration, no pathological changes in the organs of the body. This can occur only after the period of starvation is reached and, even when this occurs, complete recovery generally follows upon the supply of proper nutrition. Active growth and regeneration may go on simultaneously with fasting, as Morgulis and other experimenters have shown. Fasting improves the fundamental organic functions and, up to a certain point, increases muscular strength.
That some of the cells and tissues are consumed in this process is both natural and necessary, but nothing is lost which nature cannot or will not replace when favorable conditions are afforded her. Her reserves are consumed and some of the muscular and glandular tissues are sacrificed to sustain the more vital organs. However, the "germ of the cell" or its own power to renew itself and to build new cells is not destroyed. "The nucleus retains its potentiality to rejuvenate the cell after a period of rest, and it recuperates to function with renewed activity after its environment has been freed of deleterious waste" by the fast.
A great change in cell life and structure takes place during a fast and it is well to continue the fast until this change is complete and nothing but healthy tissue remains. In this way a new body emerges from the process. It is thin, but ready to be re-built upon normal lines. After such an overhauling process, when the body has been largely torn down and thrown away, when the accumulated waste and debris of a life-time have been refined or cast out and, after the chemical readjustment, occasioned by the fast, has occurred, the body that is properly cared for is built anew and its youth renewed.
Dr. Carlson found that the increased vigor of the hunger contractions, which appeared in fasting, lasted for some days after a five days' fast. He suggests that this effect may be analogous to the general rejuvenating effect of fasting as seen in animals, and intimates that an occasional period of fasting may exert a beneficial influence in renewing vigor and prolonging life and in increasing one's capacity for work.
Experiments upon human beings and dogs, performed at the Hull Biological Laboratory of the University of Chicago, and reported to the Journal of Metabolic Research, showed that a fast of thirty to forty days produces a permanent increase of five to six per cent in the metabolic rate. A decrease in the metabolic rate is one of the phenomena of old age. Fasting by increasing the metabolic rate produces, as one of its effects, rejuvenation.
With toxin deposits cleared up; the body purified; the blood rejuvenated; organs renewed; senses improved; digestion and assimilation enhanced; the cells and tissues returned to a more youthful condition; infiltrations, effusions, and growths absorbed; dead and dying tissues removed and new tissues in their places; body chemistry normalized; the body is in very much the same condition as the mattress that has been to the factory for renovation and making over. After the fast has cleared away the accumulations and the devitalized cells, stronger, more vital and healthy tissue is built to take the place of that which was cast away. Regeneration of the body is brought about through the daily renewal of its cells and tissues and fasting hastens this renewal.
On May 18th, 1933, one of the physicians attending Ghandi; during his fast at that time, reported that on that day, the tenth day of his fast, "despite his 64 years, from a physiological point of view, the Indian leader was as healthy as a man of forty."