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.
Beaumont showed that there is no digestion in serious acute illness. He says of one of his experiments, that, this "experiment has considerable pathological importance. In febrile diathesis, very little or no gastric juice is secreted. Hence the importance of withholding food from the stomach in febrile complaints. It can afford no nourishment; but is actually a source of irritation to that organ, and, consequently, to the whole system. No solvent can be secreted under these circumstances; and food is as insoluble in the stomach, as lead would be under ordinary circumstances." Certainly no food should be eaten until normal secretions have been restored.
A few years ago Prof. Carlson confirmed the findings of Beaumont and several of his successors. He showed that gastric secretion is absent during gastritis and fevers. The absence of hunger in fever has been shown to be associated with absence of the "hunger contractions" of the stomach. "Hunger contractions" have been shown to be absent in nausea, gastritis, tonsillitis, influenza and colds. In dogs these "hunger contractions" have been shown to be absent in infection and pneumonia. The absence of hunger is a concomitant of the absence of gastric and salivary secretions and the absence of the "hunger contractions." It is, in other words, an evidence of a suspension of the digestive process.
It is unfortunate that few, save Natural Hygienists have ever based their care of the acutely ill upon the fact that there is no power to digest food when there is fever, pain, inflammation and severe poisoning. The practitioners of all schools have continued to urge food upon their acutely ill patients in spite of the protests of nature and in the face of the mounting physiological knowledge of the lack of power to digest food under such circumstances.
Pain, inflammation, fever, headaches, mental disturbances, etc., take away the appetite, inhibit secretion and excretion, impair digestion and render it injurious to eat under such conditions. Pain, inflammation and fever in all forms of acute "disease" inhibit the secretion of digestive juices, "take away the appetite" and render digestion practically impossible. The dryness of the mouth in fevers is matched by a similar dryness all along the digestive tract. It can be of no advantage to urge food upon a patient suffering with an acute "disease," for there is then no digestive power to work it up.
There is an almost total absence of the digestive juices. The little of these present, are of such poor quality that they could not properly digest even small amounts of food. Along with the absence of the power to digest and the absence of the digestive juices, there is lacking the keen relish for food which is so essential to normal digestion. Pain inhibits digestion and secretion. Fever inhibits these. So does inflammation. Food taken under such conditions is not digested. Nature has temporarily suspended the digestive functions. This is necessary in order that her undivided attention can be given to the task of cure. Energy that is ordinarily consumed in the work of digesting, absorbing and assimilating food is now being used to carry on the curative processes. The muscles of the stomach and intestine are in about the same condition as the muscles of the arm.
In acute disease the digestive system is as little fit to digest food as the limbs are for locomotion--both require rest. What is to be gained by eating when there is no ability to digest food? Why should physicians insist upon the patient eating when there is no desire for food, or when there is an actual aversion to food?
Dr. Emmett Densmore laid down as the first rule to be followed when illness develops: "Partake of no food during forty-eight hours; after that time continue an absolute fast from food until the patient has pronounced natural hunger." He says that "at all such times (when there is fever and inflammation) all food must absolutely be withheld from the patient. This may be only for a day, or for many days; no food is to be taken until all symptoms of fever have entirely abated, and none then until the patient has a decided appetite and relish for it."
Jennings says: "It is of no advantage to urge food upon the stomach when there it no digestive power to work it up. There is never any danger of starvation so long as there are reserve forces sufficient to hold the citadel of life and start anew its mainsprings.
For when sustenance becomes a prime necessity, the digestive apparatus will be clothed with power enough to work up some new material, and a call made for it proportioned to the ability to use it. And if there is not power within the domain of life to save the organism, it must perish."
Trall declared that when the body is struggling to throw off the toxins of "disease," the patient "has no ability, until the struggle is decided, to digest food; and to cram his stomach with it, or to irritate the digestive organs with tonics and stimulants, is merely adding fuel to the fire."
The stuff-to-kill doctor shuts his eyes to this important fact and, ignoring all the instinctive indications that food is not desirable and all the physiological evidences that food cannot be digested if consumed, insists that "the sick must eat to keep up their strength."