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.
The hibernating animal possesses sufficient reserves to maintain a minimum of physiological and little or no physical activity throughout a prolonged period of abstinence, but in the case of a fasting man, there is no hibernation and there is no reduction of physiological activity to such low levels. Rarely, even, does he discontinue all physical activity, even for short periods, to the same extent as does the hibernating animal. Usually, also, there is considerable mental and sensorial activity. Prof. Morgulis describes the winter sleep of Russian peasants in trying years of famine, when entire families are "massed closely together," on top of a wide stove. "Deprived practically of every means of subsistence," "they spend the dreary winters in an almost uninterrupted sleep," "well-protected against loss of heat by close contact as well as by their fur coats." He says "members of the entire household and frequently of entire villages remained, with occasional interruptions, in a state of winter sleep, preserving their energy by limiting its dissipation."
Nature does the same thing when she prostrates the patient and suspends all digestive activities. She preserves energy by limiting its dissipation. The energy thus saved is available for use in the temporarily more important work of healing.
If we are wise we will take our cue from nature and also conserve our energies, while fasting, by curbing their expenditures. I favor the plan of putting the fasting individual to bed. I am sure that better and quicker results are thus obtained. Nature puts her hibernating animal to bed and to sleep. Seals and salmon are, of course, very active during their months of fasting, but they are exhausted at the end. The salmon usually die and the seals sleep for weeks.
Observations made during the fasts of Succi and others show that the body wastes less rapidly when the patient is kept warm and at rest. Rest conserves the body's energies and substances and hastens the process of healing.
I agree with Purinton, who says in his Philosophy of Fasting: "Not an ounce of energy shall be dissipated during the extreme fast. This means loafing, resting, lazing along and not caring." The best place for the faster is in bed.
In hibernation, due to the extremely low degree of metabolic activity, the nutritive reserves are consumed very slowly, but fasting may be associated with vigorous physical activity--witness the fur seal bull and male salmon during their mating seasons.
It is quite obvious that, given the same amount of nutritive reserve, the active individual will consume his internal food stores sooner than the resting individual. For this reason, if for no other, the fasting patient who rests while fasting will emerge from the fast in better condition than the faster who is active during this period. At the same time, if a prolonged fast is essential, rest will enable the patient to conserve his reserves to the utmost and thus lengthen the period over which he can safely fast.
The nutritive materials stored in the tissues supply the minimum amount of substance indispensable to keep up the necessary activities of life until a more favorable condition of life is produced. The less physically active organism expends less of its reserves, not alone due to reduced physical work, but, also, due to decreased physiological activity.
The great value of rest in all pathological conditions is well established. Beyond a certain minimum of physical activity (and even this is profitably dispensed with in most acute and a few chronic conditions) the more rest the sick organism receives, the more rapidly is good health restored. This principle does not cease to be true when the sick organism is fasting. Rest (physical, mental and physiological) is equally important and beneficial during the fast. By physiological rest in this particular connection, I have reference to freedom from stimulation--excitation.
In insects the condition of perfect quiescence is accompanied by the most wonderful changes. The worm-like caterpillar becomes, within its cocoon, the butterfly with locomotive powers immensely greater and with a totally new and different organism. Growth and repair are most efficient in man when he rests and sleeps most. The nearer the faster can approach the quiescence of the pupa, the greater will be the conservation of his energies and the more rapid and efficient will be the repair of his damaged structures. Even reading, writing, talking, listening to the radio and similar forms of activity should be avoided as much as possible. The noisy radio with its jazz music, its emotionally exciting soap operas, exciting or depressing newscasts, etc., is especially bad.