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.
Somewhere in the Bible is the statement that "a man's foes shall be they of his own household." How true this is may be discovered by anyone who undertakes a fast at home. Even missing one meal is often enough to cause a family alarm that results in a near-panic.
Every form of pressure will be brought to bear upon the faster to persuade, or even to coerce him to return to eating. Well-meaning though these members of the faster's family may be, they are actually the enemies in his own household. It is wise, therefore, to get away from family and friends when undertaking a fast.
Fasting is an unusual experience for most patients. The first fast, in particular, is likely to be filled with unfounded anxiety, uncertainty, mental perturbation, and even fear. The faster will experience new and formerly unknown feelings and sensations and these will disturb him. Nausea, faintness, pain, vomiting, headache, and other symptoms that occasionally arise may give rise to panic and result in injurious treatment or to a premature and hurtful breaking of the fast. The faster needs to be under the care and constant supervision of one who understands these developments and who can give him encouragement and explanation. He is even helped by being with other fasters, as these support him by their own experiences.
Levanzin says that at the start of the fast, if the patient concentrates his thinking upon his privation from his accustomed pleasures, he suffers mentally. He advises that the patient try to find a diversion so that he may have his mind on something else. He advises drinking a glass of water when the accustomed meal time arrives, but I do not advise this unless there is actual thirst. If the patient will not worry about his "deprivation" he will be less likely to experience any discomfort at all. The Bible advises: "When thou fastest, anoint thine head and wash thy face that thou appear not unto men to fast."
Fear of the fast, broodiness and other phases of mental depression are especially to be combatted. While fasting, as at other times, one's thoughts and emotions profoundly affect the organs and functions of the body. A cheerful attitude is especially important at this time.
Literally, millions of people have fasted and many thousands have fasted for long periods, and we know that there is no danger associated with prolonged abstinence from food. Disabuse the mind of all fear and apprehension. Do not imagine that you are going to grow weak or starve to death. Fear in particular is dangerous.
Prof. Morgulis says: "The practical value of inanition (emptiness) will never be fully utilized until both laymen and the medical profession lose their instinctive fear of fasting." I do not believe the fear of fasting is at all instinctive, but that it is due to misinformation and false training. An instinctive fear of fasting, it seems to me, would, of itself, be a strong reason for rejecting the measure altogether. Morgulis adds that "the experiences of recent years which through the medium of the press have reached a large audience will in course of time, alleviate the entirely unjustifiable fear of abstention from food for longer periods."
The hunger strikes and a few similar experiences which have been published are as nothing compared to the many thousands who have fasted for long periods under the care of those whom Morgulis refers to as "amateurs" and "enthusiasts." Nor has the daily press, in carrying such stories, done a hundredth part as much in breaking down this "entirely unjustifiable fear" of fasting as have the "enthusiasts," through their lectures, writings and successes in fasting the sick. For sectarian reasons, Morgulis, who belongs to the self-styled "regular" medical profession, would minimize the work of these men and refers to them as "crank reformers who see in inanition a panacea for all ills of the flesh."
Sinclair says: "There are two dangers to be feared in fasting. The first is that of fear. I do not say this as a jest." "The faster should not have about him terrified aunts and cousins who will tell him that he looks like a corpse, that his pulse is below forty and that his heart may stop beating in the night. I took a fast of three days out in California, on the third day I walked fifteen miles, off and on, and except that I was restless, I never felt better; and then in the evening I came home and read about the Messina earthquake, and how the relief ships arrived, and the wretched survivors crowded down to the water's edge and tore each other like wild beasts in their rage of hunger. The paper set forth, in horrified language, that some of them had been seventy-two hours without food. I, as I read, had also been seventy-two hours without food, and the difference was simply that they thought they were starving. And if at some crisis during a long fast, when you feel nervous and weak and doubting, some people with stronger wills than your own are able to arouse in you the terrors of the earthquake survivors, they can cause their most direful anticipations to be realized."
The fast should not be continued if the patient is in dread of it--living in fear. Fear may kill. It certainly inhibits elimination.
Scientific works on the mind and emotions are replete with well authenticated cases of death resulting from fear, anger, grief, shock, etc. Instantaneous death has resulted more than once from the reading of a telegram. In other cases, grief or fear has sent people to the grave in a few days. Only recently in this city, grief over the death of his father resulted in the death of a young boy in three months' time.
Physical and emotional activities cause a rapid expenditure of the stored reserves. The fasting man is more or less active--physically, mentally, emotionally, sensorially--and this activity consumes his reserves at a much more rapid rate than the reserves of the hibernating bat, for example, are consumed. This results in a more rapid exhaustion of reserves. For, while man's metabolic rate is greatly reduced, it is not lowered to the same extent as that of the hibernating or estivating animal.
The effort to keep warm should not cause one to exclude fresh air from the room. Fresh air is even more imperative during the fast than at other times. See that the room is well ventilated both day and night.
Hibernating animals manage to live despite the low temperatures of their bodies, but man and, perhaps, most other non-hibernating animals would freeze to death if subjected to such prolonged low temperatures without food. Resistance to cold is greatly reduced by the low metabolic rate of the faster, so that he feels cold at what may be, under ordinary circumstances, a comfortable temperature. This causes a more rapid using up of his reserves. Therefore, the faster should be kept warm in order that his reserves may be conserved to the greatest extent.
Chilling causes discomfort, prevents rest and sleep, and checks elimination. It may, in some cases, cause nausea, vomiting and pain. Warmth promotes comfort and elimination. The patient who is kept warm recovers more rapidly. A hot jug to the feet will usually be sufficient to insure comfort and prevent chilling. The faster should net be overburdened with bed clothing.
Fasting patients should not be permitted to remain cold. They are inclined to chill easily and if nurse or doctor is careless, such patients can freeze to death even in July or August; and they certainly will freeze to death in the winter time unless they are carefully attended to.
It is the rule that those persons who suffer constantly with cold hands and feet lose this complaint as a result of fasting. During the fast, however, the feet particularly, are likely to feel cold much of the time.
Fasters must he kept warm. It requires nerve force to warm the body, and the patient should not be permitted to waste his nervous energy in keeping warm, but should be kept warm by artificial heat. The fasting patient who throws off the covers and kicks his feet and legs out, declaring he is too hot, yet who has cold extremities, as revealed by feeling his feet, must be carefully warmed and kept warm. Such patients are actually in danger. Tilden says of such: "unless that patient is carefully warmed and kept warm, death will ensue within twenty-four to forty-eight hours. And if the case has advanced very far before receiving this attention, death will certainly take place." Again: "After fasting has gone beyond a certain point--after the patient has reached a point where the rectal temperature goes one or two degrees below normal--there will be great difficulty in resuscitation."
Where such a condition as he here describes has been permitted to develop, and it should be known that its development is due to ignorance or carelessness, artificial heat and much of it must be applied to the faster. Food will have to be given in very small quantities and at frequent intervals. Rest and quiet are very important in such a condition.