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 long controversy has raged between the advocates of the short fast and the advocates of the fast to completion. The advocates of the short fast depict what they believe to be harm resulting from the long fast. While it is true that the short fast is more popular with most patients, I have yet to see these fancied damages result from a long fast.
Carrington has defended the long fast for many years. I can do no better than quote him at this point. He says: "I must contend, and that strenuously, that the breaking of the fast prematurely is one of the most foolish and dangerous experiments that can possibly be made. The prevalent idea is that a fast should be undertaken' and persisted in for a certain definite period, which can be fixed upon before the fast is begun, and that the fast can be broken, and even broken with advantage, at the expiration of this period . . . who is there to decide? Were it thus possible to determine a priori, the length of time the fast might be protracted, without harm resulting, or with benefit to the fasting patient, this system of treatment would be as blindly experimental, and as whimsical, as the orthodox medical treatment of today--whereas it is nothing of the kind. Nature would institute no such senseless code, no 'law in which there is no law'. . . . I wish to impress the following statement upon the minds of my readers, since it is one of the most important facts contained in this entire book; and the failure to appreciate it is, I believe, the cause of almost all the misunderstanding concerning the fasting cure * * * . . . Nature will always indicate when the fast should be broken."Vitality, Fasting and Nutrition, pp. 543-544.
He adds that "there can never be any mistake by those who are accustomed to watching fasting cases, as to when to terminate the fast. Nature will always indicate when the fast should be broken by a series of symptoms which can never be misunderstood and which she here displays most obviously--to all those whose judgement is not perverted by preconceived ideas, and who possess a sound knowledge of the phenomena and philosophy of fasting."--Vitality, Fasting and Nutrition, p. 544.
He says that "the return of natural hunger is the great point to note, and the most important indication that the fast is ended, and the system is able and willing to digest and assimilate nutriment, in the form of either solid or liquid food. The spontaneous and precisely coincidental cleaning of the tongue, of the breath, and the other and lesser phenomena which may be observed toward the termination of the 'finish fast,' all indicate that Nature and Nature alone, is the authority to be considered as to when the fast should be broken."
A 'finish fast' does not always mean a long fast. It does not mean a fast until all of the body's food reserves are exhausted. It is a curious fact that hunger will return in three days, even where there are abundant reserves on hand, if three days are all that are required for the patient to get well; whereas, it will not return for five weeks or longer, even where there are fewer reserves on hand, providing this time is required for the body to eliminate its accumulated toxins. Fortunately, in most cases it will be perfectly safe for the patient to fast until hunger returns.
I have been repeatedly asked by anxious patients: "Are you sure that my hunger will return? Does this always occur?" My answer is: You need have no worry about this matter. You may rest assured that your hunger will return and it will do so in all its youthful intensity and zest.
I have had cases in which hunger returned before the tongue cleared up. I interpret this to mean that the body's reserves have been exhausted before the work of elimination could be completed. I have had a few cases in which the tongue cleared up before the return of hunger. I think that in these cases the body was cleansed before the reserves were exhausted and the body did not begin to demand food until the reserves were exhausted. Both of these types of cases are very rare.
Carrington says: "However long the fast may continue, no danger whatever from starvation need be feared, since hunger will always return before the danger point is reached. Thus, so long as hunger is absent, it is a plain indication that no food is required. . . . I cannot too strongly impress this point upon my readers--that natural hunger, and that alone should indicate the terminus of the fast. . . That this signal is invariably given at the proper time, and in the proper way, and that absolutely no danger from starvation need be apprehended until the signal has been given, is absolutely true. . . . The artificial breaking of the fast; the taking of food in the absence of real hunger, for the reason that the ignorant attendant thinks the patient has 'fasted long enough,' is an abomination, and an outrage upon the system which cannot be too strongly deprecated."--Vitality, Fasting and Nutrition, pp. 546-547.
His view is that this sudden, artificial check to the healing and cleansing processes that go on during the fast is detrimental to the vital machinery. Dr. Lindlahr once likened this arbitrary control of the processes of healing to the work of renovating a house. The workers come in and tear all the paper off the wall and throw it out into the middle of the floor. They tear away much else and pile it in the middle of the floor. They then go away and cease their work. The condition of the house is worse than before they began to work. While this analogy is not strictly true, due to the fact that the body does not throw its waste into the middle of the floor, it has some relation to facts.
In my own experience I have seen the following developments when fasts were broken prematurely, which I interpret to mean that nature was not ready for the fast to be broken:
1. Nature often refuses food (by vomiting) before the return of hunger.
2. When the fast is prematurely ended, the tongue tends to remain coated.
3. In many cases no desire for food and no relish of food develops for prolonged periods following premature breaking of the fast.
4. Failure of complete recovery from the state of impaired health that occasioned the fast is common.
5. The patient often does not gain weight thereafter.
Carrington points out that there are cases of paralysis and other diseases in which daily improvement is seen during the fast, but the moment the fast is broken (prematurely) the improvement ceases, so that the organic benefit corresponds to the actual time fasted. Thus, if thirty days of fasting are required for full results and the patient fasts but twenty, he gets but two-thirds of the desired results, for the last days of a fast are often most productive of results.
Many patients make the mistake of breaking their fast prematurely. They decide that they have but two or three more days to fast and that these few days will make but little difference. They reason that, since they will derive so little benefit from two or three more days of fasting, they may as well break it at once and not fast the extra few days. Yet, these tew extra days may be the difference between success and failure; or, perhaps more accurately, between complete success and a disappointing partial success.