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.
If "disease" is a process of cure, does fasting cure "disease?" If there are no cures for "disease," if "disease" does not need to be cured, is fasting a cure?
To us there are not twenty thousand "diseases," but many local states growing out of a common systemic derangement. We do not seek to cure "disease," but to remove the causes of impairment and to afford the sick organism every natural or hygienic advantage that will facilitate its own spontaneous return to biological and physiological normality.
Does nature cure vomiting, or does she use vomiting as a means of ejecting unwanted materials from the stomach? Does the body cure coughing, or is coughing a vital act by which irritants and obstructions are expelled from the respiratory tract? Does diarrhea need to be cured, or is diarrhea a process by which obnoxious materials are rushed out of the digestive tract? Does nature cure inflammation, or is inflammation a repairative and defensive process by which broken bones are knit, lacerated flesh is healed and foreign bodies are removed from the flesh? Is there a need to cure fever, or is fever part of the body's own healing activities? Does not coughing automatically and spontaneously cease when there is no longer any need for it? Does not diarrhea cease when it has freed the digestive tract of all offensive materials? Does not inflammation subside when the bone has knit or the wound healed? What is there to cure about the various processes of the body that are collectively labeled disease?
Is it not obvious that if fasting suppressed vomiting, diarrhea, coughing, inflammation, fever, and the other symptoms that make up disease, it would be as evil as drugging? To call fasting "the fasting cure," the "hunger cure" or the "abstinence cure," as many have done, is to place it in a false light, unless, of course, we understand by cure what it originally meant--care. Fasting is part of the rational care of the sick body, it does not cure disease, as the word cure is now commonly used.
We are frequently accused of regarding fasting as a cure-all, despite our oft reiterated statement that it is not a cure at all. Using the term cure in its presently accepted sense, we say that fasting does not cure anything. But the charge against us continues to be circulated. This charge grows out of the fact that we employ the fast in all forms of impaired health. Our principle that the forces and processes of life accomplish all healing work, after the causes of impairment and damage have been removed, is not noticed by any of our critics. Indeed, they have shown a singular incapacity for understanding this simple principle. They fasten upon some one of our most commonly used methods of care, the one they think they can use with greatest advantage against us, and ride it for all it is worth.
If we use fasting in nearly all cases, we employ food in exactly all of them. If we employ fasting in nearly all cases we employ exercise in as many. We use sunbathing in nearly all cases, but we never regard it as a cure, much less do we regard it as a cure-all. Physical and mental rest are employed in every case, but not as a cure as this word is commonly misused. Before we employ rest, fasting, exercise, diet, sunshine, or any other means of care, we seek for the causes of the patient's impaired health and seek to eradicate these. Removal of cause is primary. Why can our critics never understand this simple fact?
There are many men in the various schools of so-called healing who admit the great value of fasting in a variety of diseases, but they say: "The absurdity of the fasting care of the sick is its indiscriminate use in a great variety of diseases."
The Hygienic answer to this objection is that, if its use is indiscriminate, undoubtedly that indiscriminate use is absurd. But, we add, this observation is as true of any other mode of care and treatment that has been used and that is now used by the various healing professions. In the days of venesection, was not bleeding used indiscriminately in almost all diseases? During the recent war, was not blood transfusion, in one form or another, employed indiscriminately in a wide variety of diseases and traumatic conditions? Have not alcohol, quinine, mercury, tobacco, antimony and a number of other drugs been used indiscriminately in a wide variety of diseases? Are not the sulfonamides, penicillin, streptomycin, and the other "antibiotics" being used indiscriminately in a wide variety of diseases? Has not the removal of "foci of infection" fad been as indiscriminately applied to a thousand-and-one diseases?
The hydropaths employed their water applications, the chiropractors their spinal adjustments, the osteopaths their manipulations to almost all diseases as indiscriminately as any drug was ever applied. All the schools of so-called healing have been and are guilty of the very indiscriminate use of their therapeutic measures that they charge against the use of fasting. No physician ever purged the bowels of his patients with greater regularity or with less discrimination than the chiropractors have punched the spinal columns of their patients.
When we consider that fasting is not employed to cure disease, as are the various therapeutic measures, its wide use loses its appearance of indiscriminate use. More than this, when we consider that Hygienists do not recognize the existence of a great number of diseases, it will be realized that they cannot apply it indiscriminately. Take the following so-called different diseases--pleuritis, enteritis, pericarditis, peritonitis, arachnitis, cystitis, metritis, appendicitis, ovaritis, colitis, proctitis, prostatitis, gastritis, menengitis, tonsilitis, rhinitis, etc.--they are only one disease--inflammation, in different locations. A different name is imposed on each in order to indicate which organ or tissue is inflamed, but there is no difference in the process of inflammation and there is no difference in its cause. We have many names for disease, according to the location of the inflammation, or functional failure, or atrophy, but we have only one disease. Disease is a unit--forms or modes of manifestation are many. A so-called disease is a name applied to a symptom-complex and the symptom-complex is clustered about the organ most involved.
The Hygienic System is not a system of treating and curing "disease" and "disorder." It does not recognize the existence of hundreds, or thousands, of "diseases," but regards all of these many so-called "diseases" as varying expressions of the same thing. Hygienic methods are methods of caring for the body. By these we seek to place the body under the most favorable conditions for the prosecution of its own healing activities.
Rest and sleep, exercise and cleanliness, water and sunshine--we also employ these in all forms of impaired health. But we do not regard them as cure-alls, or cures at all. There are no "diseased" conditions in which fresh air is not helpful, but it is no cure-all, in fact, it is no cure at all. There are no "diseased" conditions in which rest is not helpful, but rest is no panacea. Why, then, accuse us of regarding fasting as a cure-all because it (with rest, sunshine, fresh air, exercise, sleep, quiet, etc.) is found useful in all so-called "diseases?"