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.
Animals will not eat when sick. It has long been known that when animals are severely injured they refuse food. Shock, severe injury of any kind, fever, pain, inflammation, poisoning, reduce or suspend digestive power and reduce the nutritive functions throughout the body. The human animal has no desire for food when ill; in fact, there is a positive repugnance to food, coupled with an inability to digest and utilize it. But, all too often, the human animal disregards his repugnance to food and the discomforts that follow eating in spite of this, and eats because he has become convinced that he will die if he does not eat.
When animals, young or old, become sick they instinctively refrain from eating. Warmth, Quiet and Fasting, with a little water, are all they want. When they take nourishment, it is a sure sign that they are recovering. They eat but little at first and gradually eat more as they grow better. They never worry about calories or protein requirements either. Warmth, Quiet (rest) and Fasting, with a little water, as demanded by thirst, are the needs of a sick man or woman.
A sick animal cannot be made to eat; but sick men, women and children can be induced to eat to "keep up their strength." Feeding, with relapses galore, until death ends the various tragedies, is common on both sides of the Atlantic. Every year the loss of life among useful men is appalling. They develop a "spring cold," then eat to keep up their strength; but the eating strengthens the toxins and weakens the body, until friends are shocked by their death.
Dr. Hazzard claims, and I believe rightly, that while appetite may be and often is present in "disease," true hunger never is. I believe that, with a few possible exceptions, this is as true of chronic as of acute "disease." Liek says that objection to fasting on the part of adults, is usually due not to the working of the instinct but to that of a faulty working intelligence." He illustrates this with a story about a fat woman doctor upon whom he performed an abdominal operation, which was followed by septic developments. Although she admitted she did not have the slightest desire for food and that even the thought of food produced nausea, she thought "she ought to eat something to keep up her strength" and "was worrying for days because she had the idea that she ought to be given strengthening food."
He very appropriately remarks that "her stomach possessed more sense than her brain." His remark would have been nearer the mark, had he said that her organic instincts possessed more intelligence than her medical instructors who educated her into the false belief that "the sick must eat to keep up their strength."
Dr. Densmore says: "Quite generally, in severe attacks, the patient has no appetite--food is positively repulsive; but when there seems to be craving for food, it will be found to be a fictitious longing caused by inflammation and not from need of nourishment. This fictitious appetite usually disappears with the first twenty-four hours fast. The effort of the true physician must be to assist Nature, and to be guided by her. If there should still be found longing for food at the expiration of forty-eight hours fasting, it will be evidence that food is needed. * * * The more serious the attack of illness, the longer duration of fast needed. From three to six days will be found advisable in extreme cases. Let nature be absolutely trusted; when the patient has been denied food long enough to overcome the inflammation which is liable to be mistaken for appetite, then give nourishment as soon and no sooner than the patient craves food."--How Nature Cures, p. 23.
I do not agree that in cases of severe acute illness where the fictitious desire for food persists beyond forty-eight hours of fasting, it indicates a real need for food. There can be no digestion of food in these cases and there is no urgent need for food so long as the patient's reserves are not exhausted.
The reappearance of a keen appetite in the sick is a sure indication of returning health and strength. The absence of desire for food, whether caused by illness, grief, anger, excitement, fatigue, or other cause, is nature's way of saying that the digestive organs are, for the time being, incapable of digesting food.