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.
Whatever may be the source of vital energy, it is certain that no food can supply any of this energy until after it has been digested, absorbed and assimilated. It requires much vital power to digest, absorb and assimilate food, or to maintain it in a state against decomposition, hence it is worse than folly to urge food upon the patient in cases of debility of the stomach or of the whole body, or when there is no natural demand for food. For, beyond a natural call for food, there is no power to make profitable use of it.
Those who have had the least experience with fasting are the ones who offer the greatest number of objections to it. For example, Dr. J. Haskel Kritzer, makes the ridiculous statement that "in prolonged fasting, the teeth often decay--forming cavities." The fact is that in the most prolonged fasts the teeth do not decay and do not develop cavities. As it was shown in a previous chapter that fasting does not injure the teeth, it will not be necessary to devote more attention to this subject at this place.
One writer objected that there can be no such thing as a fast as the body consumes its own tissues during periods of abstinence from food, but this "objection" is not to fasting--which is to abstain from food. He contended that the "fasting" body does eat, but he forgets the meaning of the word eat.
This same objector, an advocate of much flesh eating, tells vegetarians that they cannot logically fast, for in so doing they are living on a meat diet. He goes so far as to say that the faster is on a largely fat diet and that this is the poorest possible kind of diet. This objection is based on the assumption that the faster consumes his tissues during the fast, rather than his stored food reserves. The fact is overlooked that these stored reserves are identical with the materials with which his tissues are nourished while eating. The difference is that the eater is daily replenishing his reserves, while the faster is not. Wear and waste with repair and replenishment are continuous and almost simultaneous processes in all living structures.
The inconsistency of these objections is apparent in two particulars: 1. there is the demand for plenty of flesh in the diet and the condemnation of fasting because the faster is "on an exclusive flesh diet;" and 2. there is the assertion that flesh alone can adequately supply certain needs of the body coupled with the condemnation of fasting because the "flesh diet" of the faster is inadequate. The fact is that, during even the most prolonged fast, the blood is maintained in all due richness from the storage tissues.
I have considered the colon and the enema during the fast, at the proper places, but must here disprove an unusual objection to fasting, which involves these matters. Kellogg says: "The colon has another function than that of removing food residues. A highly important and essential part of its function is the removal of the body wastes which are excreted by the liver in the bile and also extracted from the blood by the intestine itself; in other words, the colon is an excretory organ as well as a garbage disposal plant. This excretory function has been quite overlooked by the exploiters of the fasting method. They have thought only of the food residues."
Again he reveals a lamentable ignorance of the literature of fasting. It is because of this excretory function that he mentions, that the enema and other means of forcing bowel action are so much in favor. For most of those who employ fasting, forget, like Dr. Kellogg, that the colon is an excretory organ--its chief function they believe with Kellogg, is to secrete toxins into the blood.
Dr. Kritzer says: "As the bowel action is materially lessened during a fast, there is a great possibility for intestinal reabsorption, not only of accumulated fecal matter; but also of the tissue that is being used by the system as a food substitute. Hence, daily enemizing of the bowels is beneficial." He advocates Celery-King tea and Caraway seed tea as the preferred "less drastic means of emptying the bowels."
I, long ago, showed the fallacy of this notion, in my Regeneration of Life. There is no need for the enema or the drugs during a fast. The bowels will always act during a fast, if there is real and not mere theoretical need for action.
There is nothing in fasting to prevent the colon from exercising its excretory function and it does continue to carry on this function. It does not perform any "Hindu tricks" and both secrete and excrete at the same time. We need have no fear of intestinal reabsorption.
Since the first edition of this work was issued, Mr. Frederick Hoelzel, of Chicago, published a brochure on Fasting, Water and Salt, in which, though approving of fasting, he puts forth the claim that it always produces a condition of "hidden edema," a term used to designate a slight excess of salt and water in the tissues.
Hoelzel says: "I have not known of any case of fasting, even when for only five days, where some post-fasting edema was not present. I have also noted edema developing in rats after fasting or protein restriction. A 'wet diet' (with plenty of water), in my opinion, only seems to produce edema more easily in rats than a dry diet because rats eat more freely of a wet diet (made up largely of vegetables) and thus also obtain more salts, etc. There seems to be no exception to the rule that edema will develop after starvation or sufficient protein restriction in humans or rats, excepting that there naturally are expected differences in time and degree of edema production."
I have seen several cases of edema of the feet and ankles following prolonged fasting, but these are rare occurrences. However, Mr. Hoelzel discusses "hidden edema" for which there is no accurate test and of the existence of which we cannot always be sure. The "pitting test," whereby the skin on the legs over the shin-bone, is depressed by the fingers, can reveal edema only after it is no longer hidden. The intra-dermal salt solution (called the McClure-Aldrich test), which consists of injecting a little salt water into the skin and noting how long it takes for the blister to disappear, is claimed to be an improvement over the pitting test, but even this fails to reveal slight edema.
Hoelzel thinks that a more accurate and more valuable test of hidden edema than the pitting test and McClure-Aldrich test is the presence of the following symptoms: "Swollen feet and enlarged ankles; a puffy, bloated face; hypersensitiveness to drafts or to shaving; skin that cuts, chaps or bruises easily; a shiny skin, including a shiny nose; frequent colds; some types of headache; a continuous sense of fatigue and lack of ambition; mental depression; abnormal blushing and shyness; cases of obesity in which the fat is not firm; and some troubles associated with menstruation and pregnancy," or what have you?
He asks: "how many can say that they are not troubled with any of these common ailments? Or that their troubles at least are not due to some degree of salt-water retention?" Hidden edema would seem to be almost universal without fasting, while the above symptoms are removed by the fast.
Hoelzel says that "fasting is not even necessary to predispose one to the development of edema as it develops after simple protein restriction, when this has been sufficiently prolonged. Moreover table-salt is not necessary as many natural and unsalted foods (some vegetables and some types of meat) contain enough natural or mineral salts or unoxidizable crystals to produce edema after sufficient protein restriction. It is now known that carbohydrates can contribute to edema, apparently by being retained as glucose instead of being changed to glycogen."
One certainly does not get an excess of salts nor of carbohydrates while fasting, nor is an excess of water consumed if the demands of instinct, rather than of theory, are obeyed. It is the rule that the sodium-chloride-produced edema is eliminated during the fast. As the protein restriction during the fast is no greater than the restriction of other substances (except water and air) the body succeeds in establishing and maintaining a balance.
Mr. Hoelzel's experience with fasting has been extremely limited and his method is not one of which we can approve. He became a technician in gross anatomy at the College of Medicine of the University of Illinois in 1916, but carried on most of his experiments with fasting in the Department of Physiology in the University of Chicago, where he was granted the courtesy of the use of the laboratory from time to time by Prof. A. J. Carlson, to carry on his independent experimentation.
He tells of fasting fifteen days in the University of Chicago in 1917 and following this with six days of fasting during which time he took cotton fibre soaked in lemon juice to which common salt was added. He used about one-third of an ounce of salt a day. With this as "food" he gained over two pounds a day in weight, storing fifteen pounds or more of salt water in the six days of "fasting." He says: "I stopped after six days because the edema had become obvious in my legs and I was becoming sluggish generally." He recounts another gain of twelve pounds in twenty-four hours after eating two moderate sized meals which contained salt food (ham and cabbage) and a weight increase of two pounds daily after a nine days fast when only salt (10 gms. daily) was taken in addition to sufficient water to satisfy thirst.
This is not an objection to fasting, nor does it prove that fasting produces hidden edema. It is an objection to salt-using and excess water-drinking. The use of salt and salted foods and the consequent drinking of lots of fluid, water-logs the tissues of all who practice it--fasting or feeding. I know of no one (except Ghandi) who advises the use of salt while fasting. Without salt-using and excess water-drinking, no gains in weight, such as Mr. Hoelzel describes, ever take place. Excess water drinking in the absence of salt never registers more than slight temporary gains.
The rapid post-fasting gains he describes do not occur in properly fed cases. The most rapid gains I have seen have been produced by the milk diet, but here again it was a mere water-logging of the tissues from excess fluid intake. Cases fed on fruits, vegetables, and moderate quantities of proteins and carbohydrates do not present the difficulties he describes nor do their tissues fill with excess water. On the other hand, additional protein alone is not always enough to overcome malnutritional edema. It may even aggravate the condition. Simple fasting, of whatever duration, is not open to any of the objections raised by Mr. Hoelzel.
The writer has cared for marked cases of malnutritional edema and has used fasting in these cases with the most gratifying results. One such case had a fast of forty days with results that were all any one could ask for.
Every good thing can be misused and abused. Fasting is as much subject to abuse and misuse as any other thing that man uses. Just as he can and frequently does abuse diet, exercise, sunshine, sex, etc., so he can and often does abuse fasting. Indeed, fasting is often abused by those who know little about it and by those who know all about it and know it all wrong. But the abuse of a thing is no argument against its valid use. One does not cease to drink pure water when thirsty, merely because somebody was drowned in the lake.
At the risk of some repetition, permit me here to list a few things that fasting does not do.
Fasting does not cause the stomach to "shrink up"--atrophy.
Fasting does not cause the walls of the stomach to grow together--adhere.
Fasting does not cause the digestive fluids of the stomach to turn upon it and digest the stomach.
Fasting does not paralyze the bowels.
Fasting does not impoverish the blood nor produce anemia.
Fasting does not produce acidosis.
Fasting does not cause the heart to weaken nor to collapse.
Fasting does not produce malnutritional edema.
Fasting does not produce tuberculosis nor predispose to its development.
Fasting does not reduce resistance to "disease."
Fasting does not injure the teeth.
Fasting does not injure the nervous system.
Fasting does not weaken the vital powers.
Fasting does not injure any of the vital organs.
Fasting does not injure the body's glands.
Fasting does not cause abnormal psychism.