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.
Necessarily, this limits his field very largely to the field of animal experimentation and also limits his knowledge of the effects of fasting in various pathological states. In the book there is no information on the proper conduct of the fast. The hygiene of the fast, crises during the fast, danger signals during the fast, breaking the fast--these and other very practical problems are not considered. Neither does he distinguish between fasting and starving. The omission of these things from a technical book is inexcusable.
Professor Morgulis' masterly work is full of technical data on the effects of abstinence from food upon the body and its various parts. However, since most of its data is based upon animal experimentation, he having elected to ignore the works on fasting by those who employ it, and since what is true of one species is not always true of another, the conclusions he arrives at in this work may be accepted only in a general way and do not always harmonize with the findings of those who employ fasting in men, and particularly in the care of the sick.
Most of the "scientific" works on inanition have little or no value for us in a study of fasting. This is so for the following reasons:
1. Abstinence from food may mean missing one meal, or it may mean abstinence from food until death from starvation results. In these works little or no effort is made to differentiate the changes that occur during the different stages of inanition.
2. Most of the studies (in man) have been in famine victims and these are not cases of fasting, nor do these people suffer only from lack of food. There is often exposure, there is always fear and worry, there are also the effects of one-sided diets. Findings in death in famines are classed as due to inanition and are not differentiated from fasting changes.
3. In total inanition no water is taken and many of the scientific experiments withhold water as well as food from the animals. The results of such experiments cannot be used to determine the results of fasting.
4. Inanition studies are all mixed up with pathologies of all kinds that occasion more or less inanition. Many of the studies of starvation in humans have been complicated with other conditions that account for much of the findings.
5. Studies of fasting changes are so mixed up with starvation changes and changes due to dietary deficiencies and there is so little discrimination between the three types of changes, that these books become very misleading.
6. None of the experimenters have ever observed properly conducted fasts of the sick under favorable conditions, hence they know almost nothing of its value under such conditions.
7. There is another source of confusion in these books. I refer to the frequent use of pathological terms to describe what is not pathological at all. The word "degeneration" is often used when no real degeneration is evident. Or, shall we say that there is a form of degeneration that may be properly designated physiological to distinguish it from another form that is distinctly pathological. For example, muscular "atrophy" that follows cessation of muscular work is not pathological. Decrease in size of a part from lack of food with no actual pathological changes in the tissues and no real perversion of its function is not degeneration, though commonly referred to as such in these books.
The same criticisms may be made of Inanition and Malnutrition, by C. M. Jackson, M.S., M.D., LL.D., 1925. In a bibliography covering 108 pages, I was unable to locate the name of any man, other than Carrington, who is in a position to speak with authority on fasting. Jackson's is a very valuable book, crammed with technical data and detailed experimental results, but lacking in any reference to the hygienic value of the fast.
Much valuable work has been done by laboratory experimenters, but it is obviously lacking in certain important particulars. For example, Morgulis points out that fasting decreases sugar tolerance in dogs, but in no other animal. Indeed, he records that fasting is distinctly beneficial in diabetes in man. He records an experiment performed on fasting rats and pigeons in which the rats gave one result and the pigeons an exactly opposite result. In some species fasting diminishes the reaction to certain drugs, in other species it increases this reaction.
In certain animals, such as the frog, some of the senses are diminished; while in man the senses are remarkably improved. So distinctive is this sign that we regard it as evidence that our patient is fasting. Sight, taste, hearing, smell and touch are all acutened. Hearing and smell often become so acute that the faster is annoyed by noises and odors that are ordinarily unheard and unsmelled by him. Blindness, catarrhal deafness, sensory paralysis and loss of the senses of taste and smell have all been known to yield to the kindly influences of the fast. The cleansing of the system occasioned by fasting quickly revivifies the mental and sensory powers.
While fasting frequently produces temporary sterility in men, it has no such effect in salmon and seals. The gonads of salmon actually undergo a great increase in size while fasting, while both they and male seals fast during their entire mating season. It is only right that I add that it is denied by some that salmon actually fast during this season.
Prof. C. M. Child, of the University of Chicago, experimenting with worms, found that if a worm is fasted for a long time it does not die, but merely grows smaller and smaller, living on its own tissues for months. Then, after it has been reduced to a minimum size, if it is fed it begins to grow and starts life anew, as young as ever it was. While we know that fasting renews the human body, we also know that it will not renew it to the extent it does the body of the worm. Man is not a worm, nor a dog, nor a pigeon, nor a rat. In a broad general sense, all animals are fundamentally alike; but there are specific differences, both in structure and function and in instinct and reaction as well as in individual needs, and for this reason it is always dangerous to reason from worm or dog to man.
This, however, does not hinder us from studying the similarities and differences existing between man and the sub-orders and making whatever use of these studies we may. It may be said that there is one particular in which all animals, including man, are alike; namely, their ability to go without food for prolonged periods and to profit by this.
For the most part the regular profession has either ignored or else denounced fasting. Fasting is a fad or it is quackery. They do not study it, do not employ it and do not endorse it. On the contrary, they declare that "the sick must eat to keep up their strength."
It is gratifying to see that a change is under way. Just recently (1933) a meeting of famous medical consultants from different parts of the British Isles, was held at Bridge of Allen, Stirlingshire, Scotland. The conference was presided over by Sir Wm. Wilcox. Among other notable physicians present were Sir Humphrey Rolleston, the King's Physician, Lord Horder, Physician to the Prince of Wales, Sir James Purvess-Stewart, Sir Henry Lunn, and Sir Ashley Mackintosh.
These men urged the value of fasting in "disease." Sir William Wilson said "the medical profession had been neglectful of the study of dietetics and fasting." Sir Henry Lunn, noted that there were several institutions (nature cure places) in England employing fasting and urged that fasting is not a matter for "unqualified" practitioners. Only a short time prior to this Sir Henry had said in the Daily Mail (London) that the "unqualified practitioners" were the ones who were curing their patients and added, "I am convinced that the result will be that heterodoxy, now claimed as their own possession by various unqualified healers, will become the medical orthodoxy and commonplace of the next generation."
The conference, instead of offering a little praise where it was long overdue, prepared, as Sir Henry had predicted, to steal the thunder of the "Natural Healers," branding these latter as "unqualified."
In 1927 Lord Horder (then Sir Thomas) declared: "I think there is value in the occasional missing of a meal, or in the substitution of a meal, * * * but the elaborate and prolonged process of actual fasting which requires for its proper carrying out a complete or partial cessation from active work has never seemed to me to promise any benefits."
What caused this eminent medical man to change his mind? Only one thing could have forced him to join the conference in endorsing prolonged fasting--namely: the steady stream of recoveries in "incurable" cases which the British Natural Hygienists continue to effect. Are these Natural Hygienists unqualified? Dr. Lief addresses the following questions to Lord Horder in the July, 1933 issue of Health for All:
"Which of these two is better qualified to use fasting as a method of therapy: (1) the practitioner who has studied over many years the special technique of curative fasting, who has administered fasting treatment in very many cases, and so is fully conversant with how to deal with the various crises and reactions that very frequently appear in fasting cases, or (2) the medical doctor, whose profession, as a body, has done nothing for years but condemn fasting, without investigation, and whose present interest in the treatment has only arisen as a result of the remarkable successes and the ensuing popularity of the so-called unqualified man?"
Certainly the study of Materia Medica and years spent in administering drugs cannot qualify one to conduct fasts. No intelligent person can investigate the subject of fasting without endorsing it and without being struck by the marvelous results it produces. But this same intelligence should lead him to fast under the care of one who fully understands fasting in all its details.
I will conclude this introduction with an endorsement of fasting by a physician of the highest standing, who, twenty years after he made the statement below, still endorses and employs fasting.
In 1922 Major Reginald F. E. Austin, M.D., R.A.M.C., M.R.C.S., L.R.C.P., British Army Medical Service, wrote "some sixteen years experience of the treatment of the sick and ailing with the aid of fasting has convinced me that many of the so-called complications and sequelae of disease are largely the result of forcing nourishment into an organism that is telling one as plainly as it can: 'For heaven's sake keep food away from me until my appetite returns. In the meantime, I will live on my own tissues.'"