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.
A number of supposedly scientific objections to the fast are offered from various sources but not from any source that is entitled, from actual and broad experience with the fast, to speak with authority. I have not met with a single objection to fasting that was not based upon a lack of knowledge of fasting or upon a mere half-truth. Evils sometimes attributed to fasting are accountable for by other causes. There are many attempting to conduct patients through long fasts who do not know how to do so. Fasting is simple and, when properly done, is always beneficial. Those who condemn fasting should first understand it and should have had sufficient experience with it to enable them to know what they are talking about.
In preceding pages many of the commonest objections have been met and disposed of in discussing various parts of our subject, so that but few objections remain for us to discuss at this place.
The old opponents of fasting were open and frank in their attacks upon it. They declared that it weakened the heart, caused the stomach to atrophy, caused adhesions in the stomach, caused the gastric juice to turn upon and digest the stomach and made similar unfounded objections to its use. It was contended by them that a fast of six days would cause the heart to collapse and the patient would die. These old opponents denied that any benefits could come through fasting, but that it constituted a great and immediate danger.
Time and experience proved all of these objections to be unfounded and we hear no more of them. Even in cases of death from starvation, nothing has been found to justify the old notion that if we do not eat the gastric juice will "eat up the stomach." The heart does not collapse, even in the longest fast, and this objection has been removed from the encyclopedias.
The present day opponent of fasting is a different type of man and offers a different type of objection to its use. The present attack upon fasting is underhand. The attacker comes in the guise of a friend. It is now the practice to admit that fasting is often beneficial and then to attempt to kill it by talking learnedly of its imaginary dangers and saying nothing of its benefits. Warnings about the dangers of fasting come from those who know least about it and who have had no experience with it.
Men like McCollum, who have had no experience in caring for patients and who have a wholly wrong conception of the essential nature of so-called "disease" and are unable to rightly interpret symptoms, offer theoretical objections to fasting which grow out of their failure to rightly interpret the developments during a fast.
We are gravely warned of the dangers of decomposition of the digestive juices, particularly the bile, during the fast, and are told that the coating of the tongue is proof of this. They tell us also that there is an excess of decomposition products in the urine during a fast.
The fact is that there can be no more decomposition products entering the body from the digestive tract when this is empty than enter it when it is full of decomposing food. There is a gradual decrease in the amount of such products in the urine as the fast progresses, until finally, they cease altogether to appear in the urine. The sluggishness of the intestines during the fast may result in a temporary increase in the amount of such products during the early days of the fast, but even this can be so only in a few patients.
The digestive juices are all antiseptic and resist decomposition. Bile is antiseptic and aids in keeping the intestine and colon aseptic. It does not decompose readily. It is frequently regurgitated into the stomach and vomited so that there is no possibility of its decomposing and poisoning the body. The supposed evidences of bile decomposition grow less and less as the fast progresses until finally they completely disappear.
Dr. J. H. Kellogg was long one of the chief foes of fasting. He compiled a number of objections, most of which have been met in preceding pages. There are frequent references to the benefits of fasting in his New Dietetics and also much discussion of the damages produced by fasting. He says: "It is certainly irrational to suppose that great benefit can come from prolonged and painful resistance of a natural instinct with which the body is endowed by Nature for its protection by securing the prompt and regular meeting of its essential requirements. Hunger is a sensation through which nature serves notice upon the consciousness that the energy resources of the body are running low and need to be reinforced; in other words, that food is needed. Thirst is a sensation which notifies intelligence of the need of water. On purely a priori grounds it would seem to be highly unreasonable that man should use his intelligence to thwart this means of automatic defense of the body against injury.
"Argument could be offered in favor of water fasting as well as of food fasting. Indeed, why should not one restrain himself from gratifying the sense of air hunger which prompts constant rhythmic action of the lungs? Air hunger, water hunger, and ordinary hunger are simply nature's demands for supplies of different kinds of foods which the body needs for its protection and the maintenance of its functions."
This objection to fasting reveals that Dr. Kellogg knows nothing at all about fasting and the claims of those who advocate fasting. We all agree fully with the above statements. Nobody advocates continued abstinence from food in the face of hunger.
Dr. Kellogg overlooks the essential fact that the instinct that fails to call for food or that produces repugnance to food, or that causes the stomach to vomit food, or the intestines and colon to hurriedly expel it in a diarrhea, is equally as reliable as the one that calls for food. This man who pleads for the reign of instinct in eating, advocates a carbohydrate diet--"abundant carbohydrate feeding"--in fevers, where there is lacking both the desire for food and the ability to digest it. He feeds despite the most obvious protests of instinct. His insistence upon sugar in some form, even in the most violent stages of "disease," is due, in great measure, to his fear of germs; which, he says "will not grow or at least are not virulent and active in producing toxins in the presence of sugar."
Kellogg says "Statkewitsch studied the effects of fasting in a large number of animals--cats, dogs, rabbits, pigeons, frogs, lizards, and other animals--and found that after prolonged fasting the cells of the heart, liver, muscles, kidneys, pancreas and other glands were the seat of degenerative processes. These processes were most marked in the muscles and the glands."
His objections to fasting are largely based on the damages produced in the starvation period. All the evils attributed to fasting, which are enumerated in the works of laboratory experimenters, are the results of starvation. This is to say, these results are found in animals that have died of starvation, the destructive changes all having occurred after the exhaustion of the body's reserves. Laboratory experimenters are in the habit of thinking that starvation sets in with the omission of the first meal, whereas, starvation does not begin until after the return of hunger. Many of Kellogg's assertions with regard to the effects of fasting are directly contradicted by numerous capable laboratory investigators. Those who fail to differentiate between fasting and starving and who are unaware of the important fact that actual vital tissue damage belongs to the starvation period make many absurd statements about fasting. Kellogg speaks of five days without food as a period of starvation. To him fasting and starving are synonymous.