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.
Writing in Physical Culture, Sept. 1912, Dr. Linda Burfield Hazzard says: "when severe and distressing manifestations arise during the period of abstinence from food, it is virtually certain that defects in organism lie within. Post-mortem examination of bodies of patients who have died while the fast was in progress give proof beyond confutation to this all important point, and in these cases it was further demonstrated that death would have occurred fasting or feeding."
In a letter to Mr. R. B. Pearson, dated Nov. 18, 1919, Dr. Hazzard writes, "In sixteen years actual active practice" she had "fasted nearly 2500 cases with eighteen deaths, in every case of death a post mortem never failed to reveal organic defects which made death the inevitable outcome, fasting or feeding." Then she adds: "I have never turned a patient away."
Dr. Dewey says (The No Breakfast Plan and Fasting Cure, p. 31); "As the months and years went on, it so happened that all my fatalities were of a character as not to involve in the least suggestions of starvation, while the recoveries were a series of demonstrations as clear as anything in mathematics, of evolving strength of all the muscles, of all the senses and faculties as the disease declined. * * * For years I saw patients grow in the strength of health without the slightest clue to the mystery, until I chanced to open a new edition of Yeo's Physiology at the page where I found this table of estimated losses that occur in death after starvation. * * * And light came as if the sun had suddenly appeared in the zenith at midnight. Instantly I saw in human bodies a vast reserve of pre-digested food. * * * I now knew that there could be no death from starvation until the body was reduced to the skeleton condition. * * * I could now know that to die of starvation is a matter not of days, but of weeks and months; certainly a period far beyond the average time of recovery from acute disease."
"Death during a fast cannot occur," says Dr. Hazzard, "unless there is organic disease, and not then unless the organ or organs affected are in such degenerated state as not to permit of repair; and it is conclusively demonstrated that in a scientifically directed fast, although death in the condition cited cannot be averted, yet because of organic labor lessened, life is prolonged for days or weeks, and distress and pain, if present, are much alleviated."
Tilden says: "It is safe to say that when anyone dies while going without food it is due to the fact that he died from the disease before the fast could be extended long enough for it to be thrown off, or from fright, or from lack of proper nursing, being allowed to freeze to death. It is a mistake to associate in mind the two terms 'fasting' and 'starving' as one and the same. It requires great skill to fast a patient properly. Any fool can starve a patient to death."
There are conditions in the bodies of many patients which lead to death inevitably. If one so afflicted dies while fasting, everyone is only too willing to place the blame for death upon the fast. Dr. Hazzard says that in her experience "death during a fast never has occurred when merely functional disorder was present, nor did it ever result for the sole reason that food was withheld."
True starvation begins only when the body has been reduced to the skeleton and the viscera. Dr. Dewey declares: "When death occurs before the skelton condition is reached it is always due to old age or some form of disease or injury and not to starvation." The organism deprived of income, must draw upon its capital to meet the expenses of living. Life endures as long as the reserve capital lasts.
He records the case of a frail, spare boy of four years, whose stomach was so disorganized by a drink of a solution of caustic potash that not even a swallow of water could be retained. He died on the 75th day of his fast, with the mind clear to the last hour, and with apparently nothing of the body left but bones, ligaments, and a thin skin, and yet the brain had lost neither weight nor functional clearness.
"In another city a similar accident happened to a child of about the same age, in whom it took three months for the brain to exhaust entirely the available body-food."
If such a prolonged period is required for small boys to starve to death, death from starvation is certainly a remote possibility in the average adult who carries a much larger reserve of food. It should not be overlooked that the length of time any individual can live without food is determined by the amount of reserve food stored in his or her body. The fat person can go without food much longer than the thin person.
The average patient need have no fear of starving before he recovers from his trouble. I have fasted patients for as much as twenty days who were "skin and bones" at the outset of the fast. In no instance has such a patient been injured by the fast. If fear and worry are absent, if the faster is warm and not forced to exert himself, he may go without food for a long period not only without damage to his body, but with actual benefit.
The American Encyclopedia quotes Chossat and Brown-Sequard as saying: "In man, as in animals, the immediate cause of death from starvation is a decline in the animal temperature. Death is accelerated by cold, and delayed by the presence of moisture in the atmosphere." Pashutin mentions the case of a man whose temperature remained normal throughout a 50 days' fast and says: "However, we know from the experiments upon animals that only when the total of the body reserves is consumed, the body temperature decreases markedly."
It is suggested that the "true mode of death" from starvation is from want of heat, due, no doubt, to a lack of combustible material at the end. Chossat found in starving animals, that when death seemed imminent, restoration could be effected by the application of artificial heat. The American Encyclopedia recounts that M. Chossat "deprived a number of animals (birds and small mammals) of all sustenance and carefully observed the phenomena that followed, and his experiments throw much light upon the subject of starvation. The temperature in all the animals was maintained at nearly the normal standard until the last day of life, when it began rapidly to fall. The animals previously restless now became quiet, as if stupefied; they fell over on their side unable to stand, the breathing became slower and slower, the pupils dilated, the insensibility grew more profound, and death took place either quietly or attended with convulsions. If when these phenomena were fully developed, external warmth was applied, the animals revived, their muscular force returned, they moved or flew about the room and took greedily to the food that was presented to them. If now they were again left to themselves they speedily perished; but if the external temperature were maintained until the food taken was digested (and from the feeble condition of their digestive organs this often took many hours) they recovered. The immediate cause of death seemed to be cold rather than starvation."