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.
Augusta Kerner, of Ingolstadt, a trance faster, survived in a semi-conscious condition nearly a quarter of a year without food.
Dr. Dewey tells of two children, of about four years, one of them his patient, whose stomachs were destroyed by drinking a solution of caustic potash. This patient of Dr. Dewey was "a delicate boy of spare-make." It required seventy-five days for the body to exhaust its reserves, "and there seemed to be only a skin and a skeleton when the last breath was drawn." Dr. Dewey tells us that "not one light drink of water was retained during life and yet the mind was clear up to even the last half hour." "The other child (with a larger supply of reserves) lived three months."
Dr. Hazzard tells us of an emaciated patient who had been bed-ridden for years, because of chronic functional "disease," the muscles being greatly wasted from lack of use, who fasted a total of 118 days out of a period of 140 days with practically complete recovery of health as a result.
Mr. Macfadden had one man to fast for ninety days in his institution. While the McSwiney hunger strike was in progress, I heard Dr. Lindlahr tell of one man who fasted seventy days in his institution. The longest fast I have ever personally conducted up to the present writing was one of sixty-eight days. Long fasts in men and women have been numerous. Literally, thousands of them have gone beyond forty days, some of them going beyond a hundred days. The hunger strike of McSwiney, Lord Mayor of Cork, and his companions attracted a goodly amount of attention in 1920. Nine of these strikers kept up their fast for ninety-four days, and then returned to eating, and to health and strength. Although these men fasted longer than did McSwiney, they all recuperated rapidly, after their return to normal feeding, and are reported to have acquired a condition of body superior to that existing before the fast.
On the 47th day of his fast, McSwiney's sister addressed a letter to Cardinal Bourne in which she said: "Those of us who have been watching him through all these weary days have come to the inevitable conclusion that he has been supernaturally sustained in his struggles." Archbishop Mannix of Australia said of him: "I find him to be a veritable miracle."
No assumption of divine intervention in such cases is needed to explain them. God does not intervene in the cases of fasting worms, hibernating bears, and sexually active seals or salmon. Man is sustained while fasting as these animals are sustained. No miraculous element enters into a long fast. The whole thing may be explained by ordinary natural causes.
Strychnine was injected into the veins of McSwiney, after food and alcohol were forced upon him. Undoubtedly he would have lived longer except for this and the nervous tension under which he was kept throughout his "strike." One of his colleagues died after 68 days of fasting.
Pashutin records the case of a youth, age eighteen, who took a spoonful of sulphuric acid after which he was unable to take any food at all for the first week, took only a little liquid food for the next four weeks and the last ten weeks no food but water. He reports that there was no albumen or sugar in the urine and that the man vomited after every attempt to eat. He died at the end of three months and twenty days.
He records the case of a man, age forty-two, who died in four months and twelve days after drinking some sulphuric acid. Pashutin says of this case "starvation appears complete," but informs us that two days before death the blood contained 4,849,000 red and 7,852 white cells per cu. mm.
A third case recorded by Pashutin is that of a young girl, age nineteen, who drank sulphuric acid. 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." Her "dead body was like a skeleton, but mammary glands remained unaffected." Her body temperature began to decrease only during the last eight days of her life. The girl complained only of thirst, not of hunger.
Dr. Hazzard describes a sixty days' fast by a woman, age 38, who suffered with obesity and Bright's "disease." The woman recovered health, and though she had been married twenty years, had her first baby one year after the fast. She records the case of another woman, age 41, with heart trouble, who fasted sixty-three days and attended her home duties and visited Dr. Hazzard's office daily.
In January, 1931, the press carried the following account of a woman in Africa, who fasted 101 days to reduce her weight:
"Cape Town, South Africa, Jan. 31--Authentic reports from Salisbury, South Rhodesia, state that Mrs. A. G. Walker, a noted Rhodesian singer, has been fasting 101 days, during which time she has consumed only two or three pints of cold and hot water daily.
"Last October Mrs. Walker weighed 232 pounds, so she decided to fast. She has lost sixty-three pounds. She says that she is in perfect health, goes out to parties and carries on with her public singing."
At noon, Oct. 31, 1932, an English businessman (age 53 years) of Leeds, London, who refuses to permit his name to be published, but who freely discussed his fast with reporters, began a fast under the direction of Mr. John W. Armstrong, who, though not a doctor of any school, has conducted hundreds of fasts and has been very successful in his work.
This man received nothing but water until 6:30 P.M., Feb. 8, 1933, when he was given the juice of one orange. Thereafter he received nothing but water until noon of Feb. 9. He weighed 191 lbs. (13 st. 9 lb.) at the beginning of the fast; 132 lbs. (9 st. 6 lb.) at the end of fifty days of fasting and 102 lbs. (7 st. 4 lb.) at the close of the 101 days without food--a loss of 89 lbs.
Before going on the fast the patient was blind (cataract in both eyes), had no sense of smell, had hardening of the arteries and heart trouble. He had previously been treated with iodine, aspirin, atropin and other drugs. In August before commencing the fast he was unable to tell night from day.
Mr. Armstrong reports that by the fifty-sixth day of the fast the cataracts had ceased to exist and the patient was able to see a little. Thereafter, sight improved gradually until vision again became normal. His sense of smell returned, heart improved and arteries became better.
To newspaper reporters, who interviewed the patient on the last day of the fast, the patient stated, "I was on my last legs. Nothing did me any good and I tried fasting as a last resort." "I would have tried anything in the hope of getting better again. I started the fast as an experiment for 10 days, then, as I seemed a little better, I went on from day to day.
"I stopped at 101 days. But I could have gone on for another 10 days or so easily if I had wished."
He said, "It is easy to fast after the first fortnight," but during the first fortnight he was forced to use great will power to resist food.
In a letter to me dated April 12, 1933, Mr. Armstrong informs me that his patient was able to walk about daily during the whole of the fast and talked rapidly to reporters for two hours on the 101st day. The patient was in first class condition at the time of writing the afore-mentioned letter. He also reports that up to the fiftieth day of the fast there were "no visible favourable results except that his skin was more natural in appearance and his arteries were softer."
These cases should convince any fair-minded and intelligent person that there is no immediate danger of starvation when a patient is placed upon a fast. If the pathological condition is remediable, the body will remedy it before any danger of starvation threatens.
A J. Carlson, Prof, of Physiology, University of Chicago, holds that a healthy, well-nourished man can live from fifty to seventy-five days without food, provided he is not exposed to severe cold, avoids physical work and maintains emotional calm. His maximum period of seventy-five days has been surpassed several times.
Luciani found that Succi lost 19 per cent in weight during his thirty days' fast and was otherwise in good health. With the gradually lowering rate of daily loss of weight as the fast progresses, it would probably have required another fifty days for Succi to have lost the forty per cent of his weight that some physiologists now consider the limit of safety.
Terence McSwiney died after seventy-eight days of fasting. On Sept. 14, 1929, Jatindranath Das, arrested along with fifteen others in the Lahore Conspiracy, died after sixty-one days without food--a hunger strike. Assuming that the conditions surrounding the two prisoners were similar, and that the emotional struggle in each of these men was not greatly different, the difference in time required for these two men to reach the end was due to the differences in the amounts of stored food reserves each carried.
Pashutin records the case of a criminal who died on the sixty-fourth day of a hunger strike and says of the case: "It indicates that in a man there are no less reserves than in animals." The amount of reserves carried by man varies in individual cases and this is the biggest determining factor in deciding how long one may safely go without food.
In more than thirty years of conducting fasts, I have conducted over twenty-five thousand fasts, ranging in duration from three days to more than two months. I have conducted about six fasts that have gone sixty or more days, the longest being sixty-eight days. I have had literally hundreds of fasts that have lasted from forty to fifty and more days.
The statement has been made by certain religious authorities, in discussions of religious fasts, that the ancients could withstand fasting better than man of today. Such statements have been based on ignorance. There is no reason why the American of today cannot fast as long and with as much benefit as could the ancient Roman, Greek or Hebrew. There is no physiological, biological or other evidence that nature favored those ancient peoples more than she has us. They were not better constructed than are we.
I have had many people tell me that the forty day's fast of Jesus was a miracle. It has also been asserted that the long fasts of Moses and Elijah were miracles. Tanner's two fasts, one of forty days and the other of forty-two days, are frequently referred to as "unusual." Such fasts, of which there have been many, are often set down as historical oddities or eccentricities. They are thought of as isolated and extra-ordinary facts that have occurred from time to time, but as being without the limits of possibility for the average man or woman. Jesus or Tanner may have fasted for forty days and lived, and Tanner may have secured distinct benefits from his fast, but I could not go without food for even a day, is the statement of many when the fast is under discussion.
As Dr. Page puts it in The Natural Cure, "It is commonly supposed that these are uncommon men; they are uncommon only in possessing a knowledge as to the power of the living organism to withstand abstinence from food, and in having the courage of their opinions.
The facts presented in this chapter prove conclusively that nature has no fear of a fast, even a long fast, and that the danger of starvation is very remote. We may enter upon a prolonged fast, in most instances, with perfect confidence that we are not going to perish of starvation in a few days, or even in a few weeks. This, of course, is not sufficient reason for us to fast. If fasting is not productive of positive benefit, the mere fact that it is not essentially dangerous is not enough to cause us to abstain from food. It shall be the purpose of the succeeding pages of this book, not alone to point out the many and varied benefits that may be derived from judicious fasting, but how to fast to secure maximum benefits.