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.
Carrington gives 76° Farenheit as the lowest temperature at which life has survived in human beings, although we know that some warm-blooded animals (hibernating) have survived a body temperature as low as 2° Centigrade.
Despite the fact that one maintains normal body temperature on a fast, or even has a rise in temperature, there is a feeling of chilliness in a moderate temperature in which one ordinarily feels comfortable. This is due to decreased cutaneous circulation.
Several theories have been offered to account for death from starvation; for, it is known that death is not due to exhaustion of stored food, since fat and other stores may persist in appreciable amounts, but none of them are adequate.
The following are the most prominent theories that have been offered to account for death: (1) impoverishment of the blood, resulting from loss of solids; (2) fall of temperature (obviously not applicable to cold-blooded animals); (3) inability of organs to utilize remaining reserve stores (inability not explained); (4) asphyxia resulting from paralysis of respiratory center by accumulation of toxic materials; (5) auto-intoxication, produced by toxins, resulting from disordered metabolism of malnourished tissues; (6) it is suggested that death is due to infection due to lowered resistance; (7) also to disorders of the ductless glands. As all of these conditions are present in varying degree it has been suggested that the immediate cause of death may vary according to circumstances.
The loss of weight in total inanition, in animals, resulting in death, runs from 30 to 65 per cent; averaging about 40 per cent; but varies with the age of the animal, the temperature and activity as well as with different kinds of animals. Certain arthropoda can sustain a loss of ninety per cent of body weight before life ends. In many cases of fasting in men, death has not resulted until after a loss of 60 to 70 per cent of body weight.
Morgulis found that the collie, a high strung nervous dog, dies after a loss of only 30 per cent of body weight, whereas other animals recovered health after a weight loss of 60 per cent, which suggests that mental and nervous peculiarities need to be taken into account in the conduct of a fast.
We see many striking examples of this principle in fasting nervous people. We never permit them to go without food long enough to result in death but many of them do not stand fasting as well as the non-nervous types.
Starvation can come only after the body is reduced to the skeleton condition, death resulting then more as a result of cold than anything else. This means that no one will ever starve to death as a result of fasting in "disease." If death occurs at all during the fast it would not occur in the time required to recover from practically all "diseased" states.
Pashutin records the case of a girl who drank sulphuric acid and ruined her digestive tract. He says, "some liquid food was given for four months but not believed absorbed as it was eliminated too rapidly and no chlorides in urine at all. Last 16 days no food at all." In this case the body temperature did not begin to decline until the last 8 days of life.
Fasts of long duration are on record. Mr. Macfadden records one of ninety days; nine of the Cork hunger strikers fasted for ninety-four days; thousands have fasted up to forty days and longer. Many fasts have gone to fifty, sixty and seventy days and longer, McSwiney died on the seventy-eighth day of his fast. While this hunger-strike was on, I heard Dr. Lindlahr tell of a fast of seventy days which he conducted. Dr. Dewey records one of three months.
In none of these cases has there ever developed deficiency "diseases" nor has death ever been due to so-called acidosis. It would seem that a deficiency "disease" can only develop when the body is being filled with denatured foods. Its vast store of reserves seems to be well-balanced. It is known that the blood has almost unlimited power of resisting analkalinity (acidosis), for it will die before turning acid.
More remarkable proof that death in hygienic fasts is due to irremediable organic troubles, and not to starvation, is the fact that it has been found that in every case where death occurred, there still remained considerable subcutaneous fat, and this is always entirely absent in death by starvation. The heart has been found to be normal in all cases, except where normal development had never occurred, while in real starvation, the heart is always markedly atrophied and contracted. The blood has always been found to be practically normal in volume with no real anemia, while in starvation there is a marked decrease in the relative blood volume with a marked anemia. In death during hygienic fasts the pancreas has been found to be either not affected at all, or but slightly; in starvation this organ is almost entirely absent.
Here, let me emphasize the fact that the destructive and degenerative conditions found in animals, which have been used in laboratory experiments in inanition, are due to starvation and not to fasting. The line of demarkation between fasting and starving is distinct and unmistakable, although few, if any laboratory investigators have ever recognized it.
We know that it is only when the total of the body's reserves have been utilized that death from starvation can occur, and it is only then that nature will permit any vital organ to be damaged. The autopsy, in ever case of death while fasting, shows that there was some serious organic "disease" which made death inevitable, whether the patient fasted or ate "plenty of good nourishing food." Indeed, it may be affirmed, with a reasonable degree of certainty, that death would have come sooner in practically every instance except for the fast.
Sinclair says: "It is perfectly true that men have died of starvation in three or four days; but the starvation existed in their minds--it was fright that killed them. * * * As an example of the part that mental disturbances may play in the fast, I will cite the case of a woman friend who started out to fast for a complication of chronic ailments. She was rather stout, and did not mind it at all--was going cheerfully about her daily tasks; but her husband heard about it and came home to tell her what a fool she was making of herself; and in a few hours she was in a state of complete collapse. No doubt if there had been a physician in the neighborhood, there would have been another tale of a 'victim of a shallow and unscrupulous sensationalist.' Fortunately, however, business called the husband away again, and the next day the woman was all right, and completed an eight days fast with the best results. Bear this in mind, so that if you wake up some morning and find your temperature sub-normal and your pulse at forty, and your arms too weak to lift you, and if your friends get 'round you and tell you that you look like a mummy out of a sarcophagus of the seventeenth dynasty--you may be able to smile at them good naturedly and tell them that you will never again eat until you are hungry."
Fear of the fast should certainly be avoided. I do not doubt that well-meaning, misguided relatives and friends of fasters have caused the death of more than one by their cultivation of fear in the fasting individual. One hesitates to say that a loving son or daughter kills his or her mother or father, yet the evidence certainly points this way in more than one case. We should encourage and cooperate with the faster and not frighten him to death.