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.
Fasting is primarily a rest of the organism. There is no condition of "disease" in which rest of the vital organs is not of benefit to the whole organism. Rest gives all of the organs an opportunity to repair their damaged structures. Rest affords to organs that have been lashed into impotency by overstimulation, an opportunity to recuperate their substances and forces.
Fasting is not a process of elimination, but it does induce a marked increase in the elimination of toxins and waste from the body, not alone from the fluids, but also from the tissues of the body. It does permit the organs of elimination to bring their work up to date--to balance their books, as it were. There is no state of impaired health in which this increased elimination is not of distinct value.
Fasting means a temporary cessation of the inflow of nutritive substance. This gives the surfeited organism an opportunity to consume its surplus. The removal of a burdensome redundancy always results in increased vigor and improved function.
When fermentative and putrefactive toxins are pouring in from the digestive tract in excess of the body's ability to neutralize and eliminate them and the toxic overflow has been partly stored in the less vital tissues, fasting speedily ends the intake of decomposition-toxins and thus gives the organism an opportunity to catch up with its work of excretion. Not only are the toxins that circulate in the lymph removed, but the toxins deposited in the tissues are removed and excreted. Fasting does not remove the toxins. This is done by the excretory functions of the body. Fasting only affords them the opportunity to perfect their work.
Due to the disproportionate use of the body's reserves during a fast, to a heavy loss of some elements and a storing of others, fasting results in a chemical normalization which nothing else occasions.
Cellular and tissue rejuvenation also occur during a fast. The rejuvenation effected during a fast is of a character and extent not effected by any other method or process in existence.
Just as fasting causes the body to consume its excess of fat and use this to nourish its vital tissues, so it causes the body to break down, by autolysis, growths, or tumors and use the nutritive substances in these to nourish its vital tissues. In like manner dropsical swellings, edematous swellings, and deposits are absorbed and the usable portions salvaged for use in nourishing the vital tissues.
Withholding food from the body for an extended period creates an intense nitrogen hunger and a demand for other nutritive elements. Assimilation is rejuvenated so that frequently the chronically underweight man can gain weight after the fast, who, previous to the fast, could gain in no way. The general increase in functional vigor and the detoxication that take place during the fast contribute greatly to this result.
Fasting does not do anything. It really stops the doing. In thus stopping certain activities, it permits, even enforces certain tissue changes and chemical readjustments in the body which result in increased vigor and improved health. There are no conditions of functional and structural impairment in which these changes are not desirable.
To sum up, fasting, by affording the organs of the body a rest, by withholding raw materials and by stopping the inflow of decomposition-poisons from the alvine canal, permits the repair and recuperation of the organs of the body, the consumption of a burdensome nutritive excess, the removal of circulating and deposited toxins, the normalization of blood chemistry, cellular and tissue rejuvenation, the absorption of deposits, exudates, effusions and growths, and improves the body's powers of digestion and assimilation.
If there are any "diseased" conditions in which some or all of these results are not desirable, I have not seen them, nor even any description of them. Then, although fasting cures nothing and is no panacea, it is useful in all "diseased" conditions.
Fasting is not a cure; it will not cure any "disease." Rightly conducted, it is a sure, quick, safe way to unload a toxic overload, but curing is a physiological process that succeeds if the toxins have been eliminated and life has been righted. Fasting, followed by rational eating, has proved very satisfactory in helping thousands to re-establish health and strength, but it is not a cure.
"Cure is an evolution in reverse," said Dr. Dewey. A period of abstinence, or of very light eating, with rest in bed, and the giving up of enervating habits, mental and physical, will allow nature to eliminate the accumulated toxins; after which, if enervating habits are given up, and rational living habits adopted, good health will evolve and will be maintained so long as the individual continues to live correctly.
The real cure consists of correcting the errors of life that have brought on and perpetuated the toxemia. These errors are not all errors in eating. Personal habits other than dietetic--worry, excesses, dissipations--have as much to do with producing sickness as wrong eating.
When toxemia has been eliminated, or when "disease" is said to be cured, this means that a perverted physiological state has been restored to normal. But the patient may have been reduced down to a dangerous point and he is not in a normal physiological state. Hence, fasting per se is not curing--is not restoring a normal physiological state. It is often necessary to abstain from food until one is far below a normal state in order to give the organism an opportunity to absorb deposits and correct perverted states.
For example, fasting will cause a more rapid absorption of dropsical fluid, which has accumulated in the tissues, than any other known measure. A fibroid tumor may be caused to cease growing, its size may be greatly reduced, or it may be completely absorbed, by a fast; while the fast is in progress the organism can readjust itself and normalize its secretions and excretions--bring these to a state of equilibrium. This done, the patient may consider himself cured, but he is not. He has only commenced to get well.
We do not claim that fasting cures disease, but simply that it enables the organism to heal itself. What, then, does fasting do?
1. It gives the vital organs a complete rest.
2. It stops the intake of foods that decompose in the intestines and further poison the body.
3. It empties the digestive tract and disposes of putrefactive bacteria.
4. It gives the organs of elimination an opportunity to catch up with their work and promotes elimination.
5. It re-establishes normal physiological chemistry and normal secretions.
6 It promotes the breaking down and absorption of exudates, effusions, deposits, "diseased" tissues, and abnormal growths.
7. It restores a youthful condition of the cells and tissues and rejuvenates the body.
8. It permits the conservation and re-canalization of energy.
9. It increases the powers of digestion and assimilation.
10. It clears and strengthens the mind.
11. It improves function throughout the body.
Each of these statements has been fully proved in the pages of this book.