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.
Crises developing during the fast are not different from those developing at other times and are not to be cared for any differently. They are all orthopathic in character and, although often disagreeable, should be welcomed.
The increase in symptoms previously noted should be considered as critical action. Fever, dizziness, headache, vomiting, nausea, backache, skin eruptions of various kinds, but particularly urticaria (nettle rash), jaundice, diarrhea, etc., may develop.
Many of the symptoms experienced by the faster are due to nervous re-adjustment. Take the case of a woman patient who "suffered" from sensory paralysis in an area of skin about the size of the hand at the base of the spine, and who, after a few days of fasting, experienced severe pain in this part for about two hours, this followed immediately by restoration of normal sensibility in the part--the pain in this case was patently a part of the process of nervous readjustment.
The headache that follows the giving up of coffee and the headache that often follows immediately upon the cessation of eating are both processes of nervous readjustment. Depression and irritability that sometimes accompany the early part of the fast are processes of readjustment similar to the irritability and depression that follow the discontinuance of tobacco.
Since they are always followed by improved health, it seems certain that these symptoms are necessary parts of an essentially beneficial process that the fast has enabled the body to institute and consummate.
Not all fasting cases develop any appreciable crises and in the great majority of cases where these do develop, they are mild and of short duration and result in improvement in the patient's condition. For the guidance of the reader I will describe some of the more severe crises and crises that are of relatively rare development.
Doubtless imperceptible crises occur in every fast in chronic "disease." Crises that make themselves felt by marked outward symptoms do not always occur. Whether evident or not, these crises always lead to better and ever better health.
Most of the symptoms here considered are of no special significance. Others are of such rare development that the person contemplating a fast need not expect them to develop. In no case do all of these symptoms develop. Indeed, many fasters go through a long fast without the development of any symptoms at all. The purpose of discussing these developments is not to lead the reader to believe that they indicate that fasting is dangerous, for they do not, but to acquaint him with possibilities (they are hardly probabilities in most cases) and to tell him how to deal with such crises if they do develop. They are not serious and they do not develop in more than a small percentage of cases. They need not be feared.
The varied symptoms that are seen in fasting do not represent any "turn for the worse," in the patient. On the contrary, they are symptomatic of certain internal vital or functional and organic changes, which are always for the better. Unfortunately, most people, including most doctors of all schools, are still laboring under the old delusion that symptoms are, or represent destructive processes, hence there is no understanding of the actual beneficial character of these crises.
Spitting: What may be denominated a "spitting crisis" develops in a few cases. An almost incessant stream, of mucus is poured into the mouth and throat necessitating constant spitting. Often this lasts for several days and it may be so persistent during this time as to prevent sleep. It is so obviously an eliminating process that we need not dwell on this part of the phenomenon. Like most crises it is uncomfortable and annoying while it lasts, and, like all crises, it is succeeded by marked improvement in the general condition.
Although there are occasional cases in which the saliva flows as freely during the fast as when eating, it is the rule that it is greatly reduced in amount and the other secretions of the mouth are so reduced that there is dryness of the mouth, lips and throat. In occasional cases the secretion in the mouth, chiefly mucous, may be so unpleasant as to induce vomiting. This unpleasant taste will gradually lessen and will disappear altogether before the fast is to be broken. For immediate relief, the tongue may be thoroughly scrubbed with a brush and the mouth cleansed with water.
Nervous Crises: One case in my practice presented a nervous crisis which I believe to be unique. Fasting literature does not contain a description of another such case. Slight pain and severe burning would begin at the base of the skull and travel down the spine, the part above ceasing to suffer as the pain passed below it. When the pain and burning reached the base of the spine, it "jumped" to the knees, the back side of these, and from here it would "jump" to the base of the skull. This would last an hour or more, and then there would be a period of intermission during which the patient would secure rest and sleep before it would set in again. The patient was very weak during the three or four days the crisis persisted. As soon as it was over she was as strong as ever.
Catarrh: A cold may sometimes develop near the beginning of the fast. Soreness in the throat may also occur, though rarely. The elimination of mucus is almost always increased in the early part of the fast in chronic "disease."
Skin Crises: Skin eruptions may cover the whole body. (I have had but one such case in my own practice), or they may be only local. The eruption usually itches. One case in my practice was that of a woman who developed a solid mass of urticarial eruptions on both forearms, from hand to elbow. One arm itched intensely, the other itched not at all. Such eruptions may last but a few hours but usually they persist for from three to four days. They are processes of elimination.
Headache: Severe headache and backache are usually accompanied with considerable prostration. Sometimes the patient and family become frightened. The pains are severe but there is no danger. No attempt should be made to break the fast during this stage. The headache and backache may last for from one to three or four days. They represent nervous readjustment and are met with largely in nervous patients. Headaches are usually due to the withdrawal of tobacco, tea, coffee, drugs and stimulating foods. Headache commonly develops from the first to the third day. By no means all patients present this symptom.
Aching Limbs: Besides pains in the back, usually in the lower spine, there frequently develop in the early days of the fast, pains in the hips, pains at the base of the skull and aching in the limbs, particularly in the joints. These pains and aches are often very annoying, but seldom last more than one or two days. They develop chiefly at night and cease during the day.