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.
Carlson and Luckhardt point out that since others who have "starved" for longer periods of time (than four days) unanimously attest the fact that, after the first few days, the sensations of hunger become less pronounced and finally almost disappear, they must have experienced the most distressing period during their four days of "starvation." Although the hunger sensation was strong enough to cause some discomfort, it could by no means be called marked pain or suffering, and was at no time of sufficient intensity to interfere seriously with work. Mere starvation cannot therefore be designated as acute suffering.
Howell's Textbook of Physiology tells us that the sensations of hunger and thirst are of such a vague character that it is difficult to analyze them by methods of introspection. He adds that the sensation that we commonly designate as appetite or hunger "is referred or projected more or less definitely to the region of the stomach." "When the sensation is not satisfied by the ingestion of food, it increases in intensity and the individual experiences the pangs of hunger." He also refers to "hunger pain." The sensation of hunger is described as "more or less disagreeable."
Best and Taylor point out (Physiological Basis of Medical Practice, page 495), that in an investigation of hunger and hunger contractions in a human fasting subject, extending over a period of five days, the hunger contractions showed no diminutions. In fact they actually increased in amplitude, yet the "hunger pangs" and the general sensation of "hunger" lessened after the third day.
Whatever may be the true relationship of these gastric contractions to the sense of hunger, the physiologists from Cannon to Carlson, have blundered in that they have accepted certain pathological symptoms as the sense of hunger. The primary error in all of their reasoning is that of accepting morbid sensations as that of hunger. No genuinely healthy subjects have been used as subjects of experiment.
Let us try to arrive at an understanding of hunger by seeing what it is not. Headache is not hunger. Pain in the abdomen is not hunger. Gnawing in the stomach is not hunger. Lassitude is not hunger. Drowsiness is not hunger. Weakness is not hunger. Faintness is not hunger. A "dull pressing sensation" is not hunger. Restlessness is not hunger. In thirty years of conducting fasts, during which time I have conducted thousands of fasts that have extended over periods that have ranged from twenty days to sixty-eight days, I have yet to see a single individual in whom pain, headache, drowsiness, a "feeling of emptiness," etc., accompanied the development of genuine hunger. These observations should be worth something. They are certainly more dependable than those that are made on individuals abstaining from food for three to five days.
Neither the all-gone, faint feeling, nor the sensation of gnawing in the stomach, nor a feeling of emptiness, nor of weakness, nor a headache, nor any other morbid symptom is hunger. These are morbid sensations representing gastric irritation, a neurosis, gastric ulcer, indigestion, gastric catarrh, reaction from withdrawal of stimulation, etc., rather than hunger. That faint sinking feeling at the pit of the stomach, with a morbid "craving" for something to eat, is due to catarrhal inflammation of the lining membrane of the stomach. Such symptoms of gnawing and faintness and all-goneness are seen in their height in cases of acute gastritis as well as in gastric ulcer. Indeed, a bowel movement may induce them in cases of colitis. There is no end to these morbid sensations that are mistaken for hunger, although the surest and speediest means of getting rid of them is to fast.
How often do we see patients who are always eating and who complain that they are "always hungry." They eat several times a day and three or more times at night, but they never seem to get enough to eat. Of course, these people are never hungry; they are food drunkards who employ food as palliation. Eating temporarily "relieves" their gastric and nervous distress. They are merely extreme cases of what physiologists mistake for hunger.
There are wasting "diseases" in which there is an insatiable appetite, the craving being constant, no matter how much food the patient eats. These people eat despite the fact that they have no ability to digest and assimilate the food eaten. Indeed, their constant eating helps to perpetuate their functional and structural impairment and aids in keeping them emaciated.
It is significant in this connection that these abnormal sensations are strongest in those of gross habits, in those who have been accustomed to highly "stimulating" viands, in those of intemperate habits and in the obese. In the neurotic, also, they are likely to be severe. The healthy person, the person of more moderate habits, the vegetarian, etc., is not troubled with such sensations and discomforts.
If left alone these morbid sensations sooner or later pass away, but if palliated by eating or by taking more condiments, or by drink, they are but temporarily smothered. As soon as the stomach is again empty of food, they are back again, perhaps with renewed intensity.
Graham says: "This peculiar condition of the stomach (the feeling of abnormal hunger) will pass away much sooner and with less uncomfortableness of feeling in the pure vegetable eater of regular habits, when the ordinary meal is omitted, than in the flesh eater; and he who makes a free use of stimulating condiments with his food, experiences still more inconvenience and distress at the loss of a meal, than he who eats flesh simply and plainly prepared. Hence, the pure vegetable-eater loses a meal with great indifference, fasts twenty-four hours with little inconvenience or diminution of strength, and goes without food several days in succession without suffering anything like intolerable distress from hunger. The flesh-eater always suffers much more from fasting, and experiences a more rapid decline of muscular power; and he who seasons his food with highly stimulating condiments, feels the loss of a single day severely; a fast of twenty-four hours almost unmans him; and three or four days abstinence from food completely prostrates him, if he is cut off from all stimulants as well as aliment."--Science of Human Life, p. 559.
"No person," says Page, "feels faint upon passing a meal, or has a gnawing stomach, except it be occasioned by an irritated or unduly congested state of that organ. It is a sure proof of dyspepsia (using this term in its popular sense, as implying the condition of that organ). Strictly speaking the term is a synonym of indigestion."--Horses, Their Feed and Their Feet, p. 28.
Dr. Claunch said " a healthy person will get hungry before he gets weak while a sick person will get weak before he gets hungry." This rule was based on close observation of hundreds of fasting people. As many of these fasts were of considerable duration and were not confined to three or four days of fasting, his conclusion is to be trusted above that of the scientists who arbitrarily restrict themselves to inadequate experiments.