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Note: the term fasting equals "water fasting". E.g. juice fasting should properly be referred to as juice diet.

Go to INTRODUCTION TO FASTING - some articles.
For more articles by Dr. Shelton mentioning fasting click here.
Read about Dr. Bass first experience with fasting - click here
Find fasting articles in INHS magazine here and
links to more doctors' articles about fasting


Constructive Phases of the Fast by Dr. Shelton (1972)
Fasting "Cures" Stomach Diseases by Dr. Shelton (1967)
Living without Eating by Dr. Shelton
Fasting in Chronic Disease by Dr. Shelton (1964)
Fasting and MS by Dr. Shelton
Bowel Action During Fasting by Dr. Shelton (1942)
Therapeutic Fasting by Arnold deVries
Fasting - 9 basic steps by Dr. Shelton in INHS magazine

"As a novice swimmer would seek expert guidance and advice before starting on a long swim, so the inexperienced faster must obtain reliable guidance as a precautionary measure before launching upon a fast of any extended duration."

Constructive Phases of the Fast

Hygienic Review
Vol. XXXIV November, 1972 No. 3
Constructive Phases of the Fast
Herbert M. Shelton

It is customary to think that all the changes that take place in the body during a fast are of a destructive nature and that this destruction begins with the omission of the first meal and continues at an accelerated rate throughout the whole of the fast. Few mistakes could be more glaring than this one, as a hurried consideration of a number of facts bearing on the subject will quickly reveal.

A fasting man may be quite active during the day and come to the evening tired and weary. He may go to bed and sleep through the night and awaken in the morning refreshed, reinvigorated and ready for another day of activity just as though his tissues have been duly nourished during the hours of repose. Indeed his tissues are nourished as truly as if he had three meals the preceding day. The processes of nutrition are carried on during a fast almost as vigorously as when feeding. Almost all the losses that occur during a fast represent reserves and expendables that are employed in nourishing the more vital tissues of the body. These reserves and expendables may be used not only in making good the daily wear and tear of the body, but also, as materials of growth. Strange as this may appear to the uninformed reader growth may go on during the fast. Indeed, some growth seems not to occur except during the fast.

A classical example of growth while fasting is that of the growth of the tail of the salamander that has been deprived of its tail and that is compelled to fast following its loss. It is, perhaps, generally known that if the salamander loses its tail, it grows a new one. What is probably not so generally known, is that the salamander grows a new tail, whether fasting or fed. The growth is slightly more rapid if the animal is fed than when it is forced to fast. Numerous instances of this kind are observed in nature. There are large numbers of lower forms of life that are capable of regenerating lost parts—tails, legs, stomachs, eyes, even whole heads and in many of these cases the nature of the loss automatically compels the animal to fast.

A process of growth that takes place only during a fast and which does not take place if the animal continues to eat is that of the metamorphosis of the tadpole into a frog. Simultaneously with the absorption of the tail of the tadpole, the materials of which are used as food, the tadpole grows legs. The tail is digested (autolized) and the proteins and other nutritive materials contained in it are absorbed and utilized in the construction of new tissues. Metamorphosis is part of the reproductive process in frogs, insects and some other forms of life. It is significant that fasting is frequently associated with reproduction.

Another example of the association of fasting with reproduction is seen in the long fasts of salmon during the mating season. A remarkable growth of new tissue takes place in the fasting salmon. There is a luxuriant growth of the gonads of both sexes, with the production of thousands of ova by the female ovaries and millions of sperm by the male testicles. The materials for this growth are derived from the reserve stores and expendables carried within the body of the salmon.

The Hawaiian monk seal gives birth to one young weighing about forty pounds. Within fifteen days this weight has doubled. By the twenty-sixth day its weight has trippled. By the thirty-fifth day its weight has quadrupled to more than one hundred forty pounds. The mother fasts throughout the whole of the nursing period and supplies from her own tissues materials for the growth and fattening of her cub. At the end of thirty-five days she deserts the young glutton and swims away, leaving him to fend for himself.

Somewhat similar to the female monk seal is the female bear. When she enters her long winter fast she is both pregnant and loaded with fat. The evolving young bears (two in number) in her womb develop and grow and are born and are nursed subsequent to birth while the mother continues her long fast. The cubs are born nude (that is, devoid of hair) and the fasting mother must provide adequate heat to keep both herself and her two cubs warm.

The female seal and bear, providing nutriment for their offspring while fasting, must draw upon their own tissues for the materials to meet the needs of their young. Her own nutritive reserves and expendables must contain adequacies of protein, sugar, fat, mineral salts and vitamins to supply not only their own needs but those of their growing offspring. It is generally assumed that the animal organism and especially the human organism does not store vitamin C. It is even asserted by supposed authorities that man cannot go for more than fifteen days without a supply of vitamin C. Not only fasting experiences among animals but in man also indicate that this is a mistaken assumption. Fasts in man of more than a hundred days, without taking any vitamins of any kind with no deficiency diseases arising, indicate that in man, as in animals, the stored vitamin is fully adequate to carry man safely through an extended period without food.

Some of the most remarkable examples of constructive work during a period of fasting is provided us by metamorphosing insects. One example must suffice. The caterpillar eats everything in sight and stores up a lot of fat and other nutrients in its tissues. Then it wraps itself in a cocoon and undergoes a complete transformation, emerging after a time as a butterfly. It does not taste food from the time it begins the work of wrapping itself in the cocoon until it emerges therefrom. All this tearing down of old structure and building of new ones is achieved in the fasting stage. It is possible that, as in the case of the tadpole, the fast is essential to the metamorphosis of the insect. I need hardly emphasize the fact that all the nutrients including vitamins, needed in the construction of the butterfly are contained in the body of the matured caterpillar.

Experiments have shown that calves, when forced to fast, continue to grow. Although losing weight and becoming gaunt, they continue to increase in size, drawing upon their reserves and expendables for the nutrient materials and vitamins necessary to sustain growth in those portions of its organism that are growing at that stage of its existence. Many more such examples of constructive work being carried on during a fast could be given, but this is enough to demonstrate how false is the common notion that fasting gives rise to destructive changes only. A more detailed study of the metabolism of the fasting organism demonstrates that the changes that occur during a fast are orderly and constructive. The vital tissues are protected from injury and only the reserves and expendables are sacrificed. These are quickly replenished when the fast is broken. In man, wounds (scratches, cuts, bruises and more formidable wounds) heal and broken bones are knit during a fast. Healing is as much a process of life as digestion, circulation, respiration and excretion. The processes of healing are in continuous operation. Minor accidents such as scratches, shallow cuts, and minor bruises, often heal so quickly and attract so little attention that we do not notice their existence. More formidable injuries heal by the same process, longer time being required for the accomplishment of the work. All of this healing work proceeds in an orderly and efficient manner during a fast. Ulcers and old sores that frequently have persisted for years heal with astonishing rapidity during a fast.

I know of no studies made upon fasting babies to show that the human infant will continue to grow during a fast, but I know of no reason why the human infant should be an exception to the general rule that fasting young continue to grow. Both in the young and in the aged, hair and nails continue to grow during a fast. A remarkable phenomenon associated with fasting is seen in the many instances in which tumors, even tumors of considerable size, are autolized and completely disappear during a fast. Undoubtedly the nutritive materials of which the tumor is composed are utilized with which to nourish essential tissue, while the non usable portions are cast out. In a similar manner the extra materials contained in hypertrophied (enlarged) structures and in dropsical or edematous swellings are utilized as nutrient materials with which to sustain the vital tissues of the fasting body.

The fasting organism draws upon every possible eternal source for nutrients with which to sustain its essential tissues and functions, safeguarding the integrity of such structures and functions throughout an extended period of abstinence. No vital organ is permitted to suffer damage as a consequence of the nutritive stringency so long as its stored reserves and expendables are collectively capable of meeting the requirements of life. That it may meet these requirements for long periods, even in the face of great expenditure is seen in the cases of the Alaskan fur seal bull, the fasting salmon and the lactating bear.

We live in a world in which food is not always abundant. Indeed, in wild nature food is often in short supply. In every prolonged drought many deer die from lack of food and water. This is typical of life in the wild. Not only droughts, but floods and blizzards as well as insect invasion cut short the food supply of many animals. In a world in which food shortage is so common, nature has made provisions for animals to store up reserve food stores within their own tissues, during the periods of plenty, upon which the animal may draw for sustenance during periods of scarcity or under those circumstances in which, although food may be available, it cannot be appropriated.

Herbert M. Shelton

from Karl Anderson's collection

Fasting "Cures" Stomach Diseases

Hygienic Review
Vol. XXVII April, 1967 No. 8
Fasting "Cures" Stomach Diseases
Herbert M. Shelton

"Prolonged fasting can cure stomach diseases. In fact, certain tribal people are following the method as a cure." This view was expressed by professor Joseph Harold Burckhalter, M. D., head of the pharmacy research department in the University of Michigan, U. S. delegate to the Pharmaceutical Congress, held in Bombay, India, as reported in the Sunday Standard (Sunday edition of the Indian Express), on Jan. 1, 1967. Speaking on the preceding Friday, Burckhalter found it necessary to conjure into existence "tribal people, " among whom stomach diseases are very rare, to support his view that prolonged fasting will cure diseases of the stomach.

He lives in the United States where fasting has been employed on an extensive scale for more than 145 years and where, it is safe to say, more than a million fasts have been conducted, great numbers of them in diseases of the stomach; and he is reduced by the ethics of his profession, to conjure up from out of the void, tribes of uncultured people to validate his statement.

Great numbers of the fasts conducted in America have been supervised by regularly trained and licensed physicians of his own school, who abandoned drugging practices and adopted nature's own methods of Hygiene. But to the professor and the regular members of his profession these men are "quacks" and their observations and testimony are not to be received. Better the testimony of unlettered tribesmen than that of scientifically educated men who have lost their standing in the medical community.

Burckhalter has developed drugs for malaria and stomach diseases and has conducted guided research in cancer. This certifies to his "regularity" so that we may be sure that when he credits prolonged fasting with the cure of stomach diseases, his statement is not the utterance of a "quack!"

He expressed sorrow over the obvious fact that "The world-wide researches in cancer, despite the tremendous amount of money spent on them, were still inadequate to conquer the disease. Perhaps, if he would do a little basic thinking on the subject, this man, whose researches have developed drugs for stomach diseases and who, yet, finds it necessary to fall back upon fasting in these diseases, will realize that cancer research, like his own research that led to drugs for stomach diseases, is headed in the wrong direction.

Does or can prolonged fasting cure stomach diseases? To cure disease is to restore health without the necessity of removing or correcting the causes that have impaired health and are maintaining the impairment. It is like sobering up a drunk man while he continues to drink.

Recovery from diseases of the stomach, to be genuine and lasting, can follow only upon the removal or correction of the causes that are responsible for the diseases. Can fasting remove these causes? Unless we can answer this question in the affirmative, we are not justified in crediting prolonged fasting with recovery from diseases of the stomach.

It is quite true that when one goes on a fast, one automatically ceases most of the practices that lead to diseases of the stomach. One discontinues overeating, imprudent eating, eating wrong combinations of foods, eating under emotional, physical, and physiological conditions when food should not be taken, eating condiments; and, usually, one discontinues coffee, alcohol, ant-acids, analgesics and other drugs, including tobacco. With the rest afforded the stomach by the fast and the cessation of abuses the stomach is given an opportunity to repair its structures, restore its functions, replenish its substances and recuperate its functioning capacities. A genuine restoration of health takes place.

But, if when the fast is broken, the individual returns to his prior habits, he builds again the trouble from which he has recovered. Lasting recovery can result only from lasting correction of the ways of life. Fasting should be not as a one shot remedy that restores one to health for all time to come. Only vaccines and serums are claimed to make man disease-proof. Stomach diseases, ranging from simple indigestion through gastritis, gastric ulcer, pyloric, hypertrophy, to gastric cancer, grow out of modes of living and modes of eating that impair the functions of the stomach and keep it in a state of chronic irritation. Overwork, lack of rest and sleep, emotional stresses, sexual over-indulgence, and many other factors that contribute to producing and maintaining enervation help to impair digestive function and produce stomach diseases. In seeking to remove the cause of stomach diseases it is necessary that we correct and remove all factors that contribute to the impairment of the general health, and not think exclusively of those factors that affect the stomach directly and immediately.

Herbert M. Shelton

from Karl Anderson's collection

Living without Eating

Living without Eating
Chapter 3
Fasting Can Save Your Life
Herbert M. Shelton

In March, 1963, newspapers around the world described the almost incredible story of the seven weeks deprivation of food and the survival of Ralph Flores, a forty-two year old pilot of San Bruno, California, and twenty-one-year old Helen Klaben, a co-ed of Brooklyn, New York, following a plane crash on a mountain side in Northern British Columbia. The couple was rescued March 25, 1963, after forty-nine days in the wilderness in the dead of whiter, over thirty days of this time without any food at all.

By means of a fire, a lean-to and heavy clothes in which they wrapped themselves, they managed to withstand the bitter cold. During the first four days after the crash, Helen Klaben ate four tins of sardines, two tins of fruit and some crackers. Twenty days after the crash, the pair took their last "food"—two tubes of toothpaste. Melted snow became their diet, for breakfast, lunch and the evening meal. "For the last six weeks," she explained, "we lived on water. We drank it three ways: hot, cold and boiled." Varying it in this way helped reduce the monotony of their single item menu of snow.

Miss Klaben who was "pleasingly plump" at the time of the plane crash, was happily surprised, at the ordeal's end, to learn that her weight loss totalled thirty pounds.

Flores, who was more active during their enforced fast, had lost forty pounds. Physicians who examined them after the rescue, found them to be in "remarkably good" condition.

Many thousands of men and women have gone without food for much longer periods, not only without harm, but with positive benefits. Periods of abstinence under such taxing conditions as the ones these two people endured and survived are extremely rare.

Whatever our view of the origins of life, we must all recognize the fact that nature provides for need, including provision for plants and animals over periods of food scarcity. Famine is more frequent in nature than we commonly realize. Winter, floods, periods of drought, often leave wild animals less well fed and watered than domestic animals who can generally depend upon their masters to store food for continuous food supplies. In the wild state, both herbivorous and carnivorous animals often subsist on reduced food supplies. Most wild dogs are gaunt: like the dogs, lean, hungry wolves whose skeletons have shrunk with their bowels, are common; "half-starved" wild cattle and horses were once common. What happens to these creatures under such stringent conditions? Do they die of starvation? The answer is they rarely do.

In his Zoological Sketches, Dr. Felix L. Oswald writes: "In a sparsely settled country, animal refugees soon accustom themselves to the vicissitudes of their wild life. The ten months' drought back in 1877, which almost exterminated the domestic cattle of southern Brazil, was braved by the pampa cows, whom experience had taught to derive their water supply from bulbous roots, cactus leaves, and excavations in the moist river-sand. Solid food is only a secondary requirement.

"The Syrian Khamr dogs manage to eke out a living in regions where no human hunter would discover a trace of game and where water is as scarce as in the eternal abodes of Dives; nay, they multiply, for the Khamr bitch, like other poor mothers, is generally over-blest with progeny; six youngsters is said to be the minimum.

"A sausage-maker would probably decline to invest in Khamr dogs: the word leanness does not begin to describe their physical condition; strappedness would be more to the purpose, if an Arkansas adjective admits of that suffix—skin and sinews tightly stretched over a framework of bones. I saw their relatives in Dalmatia, and often wondered that they did not rattle when they ran; but Dalmatia is still a country of vineyards and sand rabbits, while the Syrian desert has ceased to produce thorn-berries. Without moisture not even a curse can bear fruit."

That animals do survive such conditions and go on generation after generation is a fact of utmost significance. A weasel hiding in a closed room will survive for days without food and seek food when released. The hibernating bear, taking no food for prolonged periods, will give birth to her cub, and secrete milk upon which it feeds. The fasting salmon and fur seal bull are very active while abstaining from food. These few examples of activity while fasting suffice to reveal that

the fasting body does have means of meeting its energy requirements, even if these are at a low ebb and this is far from being true in the case of the salmon and the seal.

One of Sweden's distinguished biochemists, Dr. Ragnar Berg, a Nobel Prize winner, and an authority on nutrition, says, "One can fast a long time; we know of fasts of over a hundred days duration, so we have no need of fearing that we will die of hunger."

The actual time period of abstinence forced upon Mr. Flores and Miss Klaben was of relatively moderate duration. The question is not how long man can fast, but what are the provisions of nature that enable him to do so.

Wear and waste, repair and replenishment, are continuous and almost simultaneous processes in all living structures, and none of these processes halt during a fast. The hibernating animal in the far north must produce sufficient heat to maintain body warmth. Both man and animal, while fasting, must breathe and the heart must continue to pulsate. The blood must continue to flow and the organs of elimination must continue their work of freeing the tissues of waste. The vital functions of life must be carried on, even if at a slightly reduced rate. Cells must be replenished, wounds must be healed. All of this, as I know from years of observations, goes on during a fast, moreover, and I will cite examples of this fact later, physical development and growth may take place, even while no food is being taken.

All manifestations of life—movement, secretion, digestion, and similar processes—depend upon the use of the materials of the body. If an organ is to work, it must be supplied with the materials with which to work. In the absence of fresh supplies with which to replace those that have been used up the organ wastes and weakens. If life is to continue, a basic irreducible level of activity is imperative. Even the hibernating and aestivating animal, with activities reduced to a bare minimum consistent with continued life, must breathe and the heart must pulsate.

In the case of the bear that gives birth to a cub while hibernating and suckles it, with milk produced during hibernation, for this purpose, we have a significant example of the possibilities of the fasting animal meeting the needs of its functioning tissues from sources other than the food eaten daily. All of these activities require food, which must be supplied from some source while the animal is fasting.

An understanding of the process by which the body nourishes its vital tissues and sustains its essential functions during prolonged abstinence, and the sources upon which it draws, will help us understand how the body can survive periods when outside food is not available or cannot be digested.

The normal body provides itself with a store of nutritive materials that are put away in the form of fat, bone marrow, glycogen, muscle juices, lacteal fluids, minerals and vitamins. Always the healthy body maintains in store adequate nutritive reserves to tide it over several days, weeks or even over two or three months of lack of food. This remains true whether fasting is enforced, as in the case of a plane crash, or of entombed miners, or is brought on by illness where one cannot swallow or digest food, or by free choice as in voluntary fasting to lose weight. When food is not taken, the body draws upon its reserves with which to nourish its functioning tissues. As this reserve is used up, weight is lost.

Basic in the fasting process is the fact that our "built-in pantries" contain sufficient nutriment to hold out, in most instances, for prolonged periods, especially if they are conserved and not wasted. In the blood and lymph, in the bones, and especially in the marrow of the bones, in the fat of the body, in the liver and other glands, and even in the individual cells that make up the body, are stores of protein, fat, sugar, minerals, and vitamins which may be drawn upon during periods of scarcity or when food is not usable.

Neither animal nor man can survive prolonged abstinence from food unless he carries within himself a store of reserve food on which the body can call in emergencies. The fasting organism will not be harmed by abstinence so long as the stored reserves are adequate to meet the nutritive requirements of its functioning tissues. Even thin individuals carry a reserve of food in their tissues, to tide them over periods of abstinence. These people too, may safely fast for varying periods.

By a process known technically as autolysis, achieved by enzymes in the tissues, these stored reserves are made available for use by the vital tissues to which they are carried by the blood and lymph as required. Glycogen or animal starch, stored in the liver, is converted to sugar and distributed, as needed, to the tissues. It is significant that, even in prolonged fasts, no beri beri, pellagra, rickets, scurvy or other "deficiency disease" ever develops, thus showing that the reserves of the body are generally well balanced.

Fasting has been shown to improve rickets and calcium metabolism. In anemia, the number of red blood cells are increased during a fast. I have observed benefits in pellagra during a fast. The bio-chemical balance may be maintained and even restored while fasting. It is important to know this, for if it were not so, the fast would prove to be deleterious.

Numerous animal experiments have shown that underfeeding, as contrasted with overfeeding, tends to prolong life and to provide for better health. Other experiments involving fasting rather than underfeeding, have shown that fasting not only prolongs life, but results in a marked degree of regeneration and rejuvenation.

Thousands of observations of both man and animals have established the fact that when the physical organism goes without food, the tissues are called upon in the inverse order of their importance to the organism. Thus fat is the first tissue to go. The stored reserves are used up before any of the functioning tissues of the body are called upon to supply nutrients for the more vital tissues such as the brain and nerves, the heart and lungs. As it feels among its supplies for proteins, sugars, fats, minerals, and vitamins, and redistributes, utilizes and conserves these stores, the fasting organism exercises an ingenuity that seems almost superhuman.

The aggregate of tissues of the organism may be regarded as a reservoir of nutriment which it may call in any direction or to any part as needed. But these tissues are not sacrificed indiscriminately. On the contrary, wastage of those organs that are primarily essential to life is repaired by withdrawal from less essential organs of materials required by the more important ones. Many of the necessary nutritive constituents, and this is especially true of certain minerals, are vigorously retained.

Studies made on men and animals to determine losses of various tissues and organs in prolonged abstinence from food have almost all been made on organisms that have died of starvation. Starvation and fasting are two totally different stages of abstinence. It should be quite obvious that the extreme losses seen at the starvation stage of abstinence are far greater than they are in a fast of reasonable length. Extreme weight losses are not experienced in any normal fast. Where they occur, the fast should be broken.

One must differentiate between fasting and starving. To fast is to abstain from food while one possesses adequate reserves to nourish his vital tissues; to starve is to abstain from food after his reserves have been exhausted so that vital tissues are sacrificed. We are not left unwarned as to when the reserves are nearing exhaustion. Hunger returns with an intensity that drives one to seek food, although during the fast proper, there is no desire for food. This differentiation between fasting and starving should help to dispel any notion that starvation sets in with the omission of the first meal.

Contrary to popular and even professional opinion, the vital tissues of a fasting organism, those tissues doing the actual work of life, do not begin to break down the instant a fast is instituted. The fasting body does lose weight, but this loss, for an extended period, is one of reserves and not of organized tissues. There are numerous examples in nature of continued growth while fasting, both of the organism as a whole and of parts that have been lost. Experiments have" shown that calves continue to grow while fasting. The starfish may grow a new stomach, new tube feet, and new arms while fasting. The fasting salamander that had lost a tail, will grow a new tail while taking no food. Such facts bear out dramatically the underlying truth: the process of fasting does not suspend the constructive processes of life, but that these continue in a remarkable manner.

The efficiency of the living organism in regulating the expenditure of its resources during a fast is one of the marvels of life.

In periods of abstinence, the less important organs of the human being although they waste consequent upon the withdrawal of substance from them with which to nourish the more vital tissues, do not undergo degeneration until the starvation phase of the period of abstinence is reached. The atrophy of muscles may be no greater than that seen to occur from a lengthy period of physical inactivity, while there is no loss of muscle cells. The cells grow smaller, the fat is removed from the muscles, but the muscle retains its integrity and a surprising amount of strength.

Loss of weight varies according to the character and quality of the tissues of the individual, the amount of physical and emotional activity engaged in, and the temperature surrounding the faster. Physical activity, emotional stress, cold and poor tissues all provide for more rapid loss. Fat is lost faster than any of the other tissues of the body.

Bodily condition is, perhaps, the chief determiner of how long one may safely fast. In the case of the two who survived the plane crash, and went four weeks without food, for example, they had snow which is water and this kept them from the danger of dehydration. They could live without food; the lack of water would have been fatal. Voluntary or involuntary, the faster must have water.

It is clear then that fasting must be carried out intelligently, with proper precaution, and with common sense.

Precisely as a novice swimmer would seek expert guidance and advice before starting on a long swim, so the inexperienced faster must obtain reliable guidance as a precautionary measure before launching upon a fast of any extended duration.

Herbert M. Shelton

from Karl Anderson's collection

Fasting in Chronic Disease

A Chapter from "Fasting Can Save Your Life"
Herbert M. Shelton
Natural Hygiene Press 1964
Fasting in Chronic Disease

"I have lost my appetite."
"Nothing tastes good to me any more. I eat only as a matter of routine."
"I suffer with distress after every meal."
These are some of the complaints of patients who suffer with some chronic form of disease, such as colitis, chronic gastritis, hay fever, asthma, arthritis, nervousness, stomach ulcer or cancer.

These people eat, only because they honestly think that they must eat—regularly, every day, three times a day—to stay alive. Some of them are overweight, but great numbers of them are thin and remain so, although they may be overeating.
Another class of chronic sufferers are, as they put it, "always hungry." They eat at all hours of the day and night. They habitually overeat, whipping up their jaded sense of taste with condiments, strong flavors, and in other ways. Often they suffer after each meal but they don't cut down on their intake. Then there are those among this class who suffer almost as much when they do not eat as when they do.

"Hunger" here, as we have seen in other cases, is not hunger at all, in a true sense, but a morbid sensation or set of sensations mistaken for hunger. It may be a "gnawing" in the stomach, pain in the stomach or some other symptom of gastric irritation. This is the reason the sensation cannot be satisfied. The fact that eating palliates the discomfort for a few moments, does not prove that food was actually needed, any more than the need for a cup of coffee is proven when it temporarily relieves a coffee addict's headache. The surest, simplest way for those who are "always hungry" to overcome their supposed hunger is to fast.

Man tends to abstain from food when under great emotional distress. Rejection of food is frequent among the insane. Although it is the present practice to use force to feed mentally ill patients, it is doubtful if such enforced feeding is proper. Man instinctively fasts under certain conditions, as do the lower animals, and the rejection of food by the mentally ill is probably an instinctive act that will, if not interrupted, prove very beneficial. Indeed, my experience with such patients has convinced me that this is true.

The most important feature about fasting in chronic disease is the marked acceleration of elimination that it occasions, thus speedily freeing the body of its accumulated toxic load. The disappearance of symptoms, sometimes of years standing, when one fasts, is often dramatic. Fasting provides opportunity for the body to do for itself what it is unable to do under conditions of surfeit. Surfeit makes impossible the cleaning of the fluids and tissues in a physiological housecleaning.

A properly conducted fast will enable the chronically ill body to excrete the toxic load that is responsible for the trouble, after which a corrected mode of living enables the individual to evolve into a vigorous state of health.
It should not be thought that eating must be continued so long as the body does not vigorously rebel against food. When there is functional impairment, symptoms of impairment, sluggishness and unease, then is the time to institute what may be described as a preventive fast, A fast at this point need not be long. Improvement often is swift—preventing an evolution of serious sickness. When we observe the eyes become brighter, the skin fairer, and the breath sweeter while fasting, or when we see a poor complexion clear up, or other symptoms fade and vigor return—we can be certain that the fast has enabled the body to carry out a preventive housecleaning.

It is a mistake to expect one fast, even a long one, to be sufficient to enable the body to free itself of the whole of its accumulated debris. A lifetime of piling up toxins cannot be corrected in the span of a few weeks. In such diseases as paralysis agitans, arthritis, a large tumor, and other conditions that require so much time to build, three or more fasts are often needed to obtain all the improvement possible in a particular case.

Sinusitis is inflammation of the nasal sinuses. It would have been called a catarrhal condition by our fathers and mothers, but the tendency today is to discontinue the use of a general term like catarrh and to use so-called specific terms.
Sinusitis may be either acute or chronic. Most people have some inflammation in one or more parts of the mucous membranes of the body—that is to say, they have one or more "catarrhs."

Names of catarrhal inflammations vary with the different locations, but it is all the same disease with the same general cause. The practice of classifying each local inflammation by a different name and giving each an individuality, confuses both the patient and the physician. This keeps alive the delusion that there are many diseases,
Replying to the charge that fasting lowers resistance to disease, Dr. Weger says: "I have seen many cases of infection of different kinds recover completely on a fast. Take for example an advanced case of sinusitis after five or six painful operations—frontal, ethomoidal, and antrum—with surgical drainage and irrigations two or three times a week, continued over a period of two to five years, with no relief or amelioration of symptoms. After almost unendurable suffering, such patients are as a rule, thin, and physically and mentally depressed. When they make complete recoveries after a prolonged fast, as the great majority of them do, is this not sufficient proof that fasting somehow or other raises the power of the organism to overcome infection, rather than fasting renders them more susceptible? What is true of sinusitis is equally true of other infections—even those so situated anatomically that they cannot be surgically drained, and must therefore be absorbed."

What is here said of recovery from sinusitis is equally true of recovery from other inflammations in the respiratory, digestive, genito-urinary tracts and other regions of the body that are lined with mucous membrane.
Thus otitis, conjunctivitis, gastritis, doudenitis, ileitis, colitis, metritis—all have been known to clear up during the course of a lengthy fast. Only in comparatively rare instances are two fasts required. Hay fever and asthma, both belonging to this same group of "diseases," are remedied by the forces of the organism during a fast.

Extensive experience with fasting in a wide variety of diseases, running over a period of more than a hundred and thirty years and involving the work of hundreds of men and women caring for many thousands of patients, has demonstrated that when the load is lifted from the digestive organs by fasting, all of the energy of the body is transferred to the organs of excretion, permitting full use of these organs in freeing the body of an accumulated load of toxin.

What the body can do for itself in the way of restoring normal function and full vigor when the toxic load is lifted has to be seen to be fully appreciated.
Speaking of pernicious anemia, Tilden says: "A fast of two weeks, without anything at all except water, will improve anemia condition by increasing the blood-corpuscles sometimes by five hundred thousand in that length of time." There is poisoning from the digestive tract in all of these cases and it seems most likely that this befoulment of the blood with sepsis from this source is the cause of the failure of the blood-making organs.
A similar septic befoulment seems to exist in cancer, causing anemia in this condition. It should be emphasized strongly that no person suffering with anemia should undertake a fast, except under competent supervision.

There is an equal need for experienced supervision of the diabetic who fasts. The diabetic may safely and profitably fast, particularly if he carries considerable weight. If insulin has been taken over an extended period of time, fasting is rarely recommended.
The sufferer with Bright's disease may also fast with great benefit. In both these conditions and all similar "diseases," more important than the fast is the correction of the total way of life. It is imperative that these patients be taught how to eat and that they learn their individual limitations and to respect these. They may evolve into good health—continually improved health—if all enervating habits are discontinued and the patient learns the laws of proper eating.

Herbert M. Shelton

from Karl Anderson's collection

(Note that INHS nowadays would regard deficiency as a common cause of MS and other nerve degeneration - especially animal fat/protein deficiency - and in those cases fasting must not be used since it would worsen the deficiency, webmaster.)

Fasting and MS - Herbert M Shelton

Fasting Can Save Your Life
by Herbert M. Shelton
20 - Multiple Sclerosis

Widespread fund-raising campaigns to fight the crippling effects of this disease, and to perform research into its cause and treatment, have made multiple sclerosis familiar to the public. Yet there may be some basic causes already known in terms of diet and activities of the individual and even possible avenues of recovery in the fast.

I recall a case of an optometrist whose condition became so bad that he had to give up his work and turn his office over to someone else. For a few years he had been under the care of several of the best neurologists of the East and, as they had warned him at the outset, had grown progressively worse. They had frankly told him that they had no cure for multiple sclerosis.

They were telling him the truth, yet after seven weeks in a Hygienic institution, he walked out under his own power, returned home and resumed his professional activities.

He was not a well man at the end of seven weeks. It is too much to expect a full recovery in such a short time. But he had made such great improvement that he felt justified in returning home and getting back to work. This is often a wrong position to take, especially with a condition like multiple sclerosis, but it is a mistake that the sick frequently make.

Many patients seem to be satisfied to stop their efforts in recovering health when they have been freed of their most annoying symptoms. They are often unwilling to go on to full health, and are convinced they can take care of themselves. After having made a certain amount of initial improvement they expect to take charge and they feel they can carry on, from that point, as well as their professional adviser. In a few cases it works out; generally they fail.

In cases watched and controlled, results of fasting can be established.

Sclerosis means induration or hardening. It has special reference to hardening of a part due to inflammation. In the nervous system the term denotes an overgrowth of connective tissue (hyperplasia of connective tissue) in the nerve tissue.

Multiple sclerosis—also called disseminated sclerosis and sometimes known as Charcot's disease—is characterized by hardening (sclerosis) occurring in sporadic patches through the brain and spinal cord or both. These hardened patches range from the size of a pin head to that of a pea and are scattered irregularly through the brain and cord.

At autopsy, it is found that the insulating sheath of the nerves is broken down and the nerve cells and fibers have fused together. I have emphasized that this is what is found at autopsy for the reason that the trouble does not start as a sclerosis (hardening), but as an inflammation.

A man dies after suffering with multiple sclerosis for fifteen or twenty years and an autopsy is performed. His brain and nervous system are subjected to the closest scrutiny and certain pathological changes are found. But this is the end-point. What was the condition of his nerves five years, ten years or fifteen years prior to death? It is reasonable to think that if the condition of the nerves was the same five years or ten years prior to death that they are found to be in at death, he would have died five to ten years earlier.

The disease is said to be "incurable." It may last for years before the patient dies. The end-point, as found at death, is certainly irreversible, but can we be sure that the earlier stages of the disease are irreversible? The very progress of the disease would seem to negate such an assumption. In the inflammatory stage of the disease it would certainly seem to be remediable.

Indeed, spontaneous remissions are known that may last for weeks or even years. Once the hardening has occurred, there would seem to be no possibility that the disease could intermit, or that recovery could be effected.

A fatty insulating material called the myelin sheath, which surrounds the nerves, is lost and this is said to cause abnormal nerve behavior. Some of the nerves work energetically, some work very weakly and others fail to work at all.

No two cases are alike because in no two cases are the same parts of the brain and nervous system affected. The development of the hardening does not progress at the same rate in each case, and does not take place at the same rate at all points in the body of the same patient. For the reason that no two cases are identical, no description of the disease will fit any particular case.

Among the leading symptoms of the disease are weakness, strong jerky movements, incoordination of the extremities that is often more marked in the arms than in the legs, and amemomania, which is a form of insanity with agreeable hallucinations. Also other abnormal mental exaltations, scanning speech and an involuntary rapid movement of the eyes, called nyastagmus are evident. The tremor is jerky, is increased by voluntary efforts to restrain it, and is entirely absent during complete rest and sleep, returning when movements are resumed.

The nature of the symptoms in each case will depend on the locations and severity of the changes in the nervous tissues. A sudden loss of vision in one eye or a period of double vision may be an early symptom. The eye symptoms usually clear up in a short time and they may not recur for months or years. The patient may develop peculiar feelings, with tingling and numbness in various parts of the limbs and body.

Weakness in the legs and difficulty in walking may later develop. There may be trembling, jerking of the legs, difficulty in talking, a hand may become clumsy or useless. Tremor of the hand may develop when the individual attempts to pick up something. Trouble with the rectum and the urinary bladder may also develop.

These symptoms may remain mild for a number of years or they may clear up and not recur for long periods. It is this remission of symptoms that indicates that

in the early stages of the disease the developments are not irreversible. About half of these patients are still able to work after twenty-five years, a fact which indicates the slowness of the development of the disease. This certainly provides ample time for something constructive to be done.

Many cases are so mild and the symptoms so evanescent that they are not diagnosed as sclerosis for years. The tendency of the symptoms to cease for periods of time is said to be one of the basic characteristics of the disease, the other being the scattered character of the symptomatic developments, as the hardening is scattered.

I have previously pointed out that no two cases are alike in their symptoms or in their development, each patient lending his own individuality to the disease; but this is no more true of multiple sclerosis than of any other disease.

No germ or virus has been found upon which to lay the blame for the development of the disease and it is freely confessed that "the cause is unknown. " It is, however, thought to be "probably of infectious origin. "

No treatment has proved satisfactory. This is true in so many diseases that it is almost the rule. How can there be satisfactory treatment of a disease the cause of which is unrecognized? Standard works on the disease say: "The cause of the disease is entirely unknown... there is no specific or really effective treatment... always a long-standing disease, total recovery from it is very doubtful. "

Certainly we cannot expect total recovery if the cause is unrecognized. The failure to recognize the general impairing influences in the life and environment of the patient as the true cause of functional and organic deterioration blinds us to the causes of disease.

The search for specific causes has about reached its end. The time has arrived when we must find in wrong living habits the cause of the failures of the organism and the evolution of its diseases. When these are recognized and removed, there is a possibility of recovery in thousands of individuals who are now regarded as hopelessly incurable.

I have never had opportunity to care for a case of multiple sclerosis in the early stages, hence I can only suggest that if these cases were given Hygienic care at the outset of their trouble, the percentage of recoveries would be high.

All of the cases I have had the privilege of caring for have been in advanced stages and I do not consider these favorable cases.

The fact that I have been able to return some of these, even in helpless conditions, to a state of usefulness speaks volumes for the efficiency of the Hygienic program in restoring normal tissue and functional condition.

Let us review the general picture of the fasting experience, as applied to a multiple sclerosis case. The first fast brings about remarkable improvement in the general health of the individual with considerable increase in his control and use of his limbs, often enabling the bed-ridden patient to get up and walk about. He manages to hold this improvement and not infrequently to add to it, while eating a carefully planned diet and taking regular exercise and sun baths following the fast.

A second fast adds to his control and use of his limbs. I have employed as many as three fasts in these cases. Each fast has resulted in increased control of the limbs and has made it possible for them to be used with greater ease.

I continue the rest in bed following the fast, adding a period or two of daily light exercise of a type that requires increasing skill in their performance. The purpose of the exercise in these cases is not so much that of increasing the size and strength of the muscles as to increase the individual's skill in their use. Heavier exercise may come later if desired.

I am convinced that daily sunbathing in these cases is especially helpful in furthering the evolution of nerve health. The diet is one of fresh fruits and vegetables with only moderate quantities of fats, sugars, starches and proteins.

I prefer the vegetable proteins—nuts and sunflower seeds are good in these cases.

The important thing for us to remember is that the sclerosis does not belong to the initial stages of the disease. In these early stages recovery is most likely to take place, providing only that all impairing influences are removed from the life of the individual and his blood and flesh are freed of their toxic load.

It is in the initial stage that full recovery is or should be possible, not in the advanced stages when irreversible changes in the nerve structures have taken place. The ancient adage: "A stitch in time"—in this case, action in time, can make the difference.

Herbert M. Shelton

from Karl Anderson's collection

Bowel Action During Fasting

Bowel Action During Fasting
Hygienic System  Vol. III,
Second Revised Edition 1942
Herbert M. Shelton

After the digestion of the last meal prior to the fast, the bowels practically cease to function. They take a rest. Dr. Oswald says: "The colon contracts, and the smaller intestines retain all but the most irritating ingesta." Sometimes they will continue to move regularly for the first three or four days of the fast. In rare cases a diarrhea will develop even after fifteen or more days of fasting. Mark Twain describes cases of starving shipwrecked men whose bowels had not moved for twenty and thirty days. For this reason most advocates of fasting insist upon the daily use of the enema. I feel that the enema is a distinct evil and should not be employed.

Kellogg quotes Von Noorden as saying: "in fasting, the stools were highly putrid and 'similar in appearance to the feces passed when the diet is mainly composed of meat." Kellogg and Von Noorden should both conduct a few hundred fasts and then write about the matter. This mistake is based on the notion that the fasting patient is on a meat diet and should have the stools of a meat eater. It is an assumption, not a fact. They have merely read into the matter false facts which conform to their mistaken theories even though they are at variance with the real facts.

The stomach, intestines and colon are given a complete rest by the fast and are enabled to repair damaged structures. Piles, proctitis, colitis, appendicitis, enteritis, enteric fever (typhoid), gastritis, etc., speedily recover under the fast. The alimentary tract becomes practically free of bacteria during a fast. The small intestines become sterile. But a week of fasting is required to result in a complete disappearance of all germs from the stomach. The quickest means of remedying bacterial decomposition in the digestive tract is fasting. Dr. Tilden says:" The fact that the hibernating bear loses its colon bacilli is not acted upon, and a fast recommended when disease results from overeating, bacterial decomposition and toxin poisoning."

Bowel action is necessarily more or less absent during a fast. There may be two or three actions during the course of a comparatively short fast, or no action at all during a most prolonged fast. The use of the enema during the fast, so much advocated in many quarters, is both unnecessary and pernicious. How unnecessary it is will be shown by the following cases:

Dr. Dewey tells of placing a dyspeptic, with feeble body and very low mental state, who had been under the care of physicians for ten years, on one meal a day. He says, (The Fasting Cure, P. 196) "The constipated bowels were permitted their own time for action." Further on he adds (Page 107): "My patient's bowels gave no hint of their locality until the eighteenth day, when they acted with little effort; on the twenty-fourth day again in a perfect way, and daily thereafter."

It has been said that Dr. Dewey's fasting cases would have recovered more promptly had he employed the enema. But I find no satisfactory evidence that his cases,- as a whole, were any longer recovering than the cases of those who employ the enema. Where they do appear to be longer in recovering, I think this may be accounted for more satisfactorily by the fact that in many of his cases he employed certain drugs, especially drugs to deaden sensation (relieve pain), and by the further fact that his limited knowledge of diet and his prejudices against fruit, which he had brought over with him from his medical training, did not give his patients the best after-care. But I think the best answer to this charge against Dewey's practice is the fact that patients who are placed on a fast today and who are not given the enema recover sooner and more satisfactorily than those who do get enemas. The enervating effect of the enema is indisputable and no one of experience will deny that i!
  t is a trying ordeal for most patients to go through. In many cases it leaves an immediate weakness which lasts, often, for hours.

Dr. Eales' bowels moved at least once a day during the first week of his fast; with a slight movement about once a week thereafter. He records movements 6n the eleventh, and seventeenth days. He employed one enema a week and had both an enema and a spontaneous movement on the seventeenth day. His bowels began moving within twelve hours after breaking the fast and moved twice a day thereafter.

I cared for a case in my institution in February and March, 1929 in which the patient had a small bowel movement on the second day of an absolute fast, another on the fourth day, a copious movement on the ninth day and medium sized movements on the eleventh and thirteenth days. No enema was employed at any time during the fast, which lasted sixteen days.

I had another case of a young man who had a bowel movement on the second day of his fast, a small movement on the morning of the sixth day and a large movement on the evening of the same day. Again on the ninth day he had a small evacuation and a very copious movement the afternoon of the twelfth day, and a small movement in the evening of the same day. This man had suffered with acne vulgaris for several years and his face was thickly covered with eruptions when he began the fast. There was nothing of these except the discoloration by the end of the tenth day. Recently a lady fasted nine days under my direction, and had a good bowel movement on each of the seventh and eighth days.

Two ladies fasted here in the institution at the same time; one for eight days, the other for nine days. In both cases regular bowel action began on the third day after breaking the fast and has since continued. Both of these women made rapid progress and did not suffer during or after the fast. There was not at any time any evidence of poisoning in either case.

A patient took an enema contrary to my instructions for the first three days of the fast, but abandoned them thereafter because of the discomfort and sickness which they produced. On the twenty-third day of the fast she had two spontaneous movements of the bowels-one at 5 a. m., the other at 11 a. m. On the morning of the twenty-fourth day there was another movement.

A lady arrived at my place on January 4, 1932, after having fasted since the morning of December 12, 1931. During the whole of her fast before reaching my place she had had a daily enema. I stopped the use of the enema and her bowels acted spontaneously on January 8th. There were no more bowel actions during the rest of the fast. The fast was broken on January 21, and the bowels acted immediately.

Another lady whose bowel action had not been good was placed upon a fast as a mean's of overcoming arthritis. Her bowels moved twice on the fifth day, once on the eighth day and again on the twelfth day of her fast. Another case, that of a man, with brain tumor, had bowel actions on the fourth and ninth days and two actions on the eighteenth day of his fast. A woman who fasted under my direction in February, 1932, had a bowel movement on each of the fourth, tenth and fifteenth days of her fast. Another woman's bowels acted on the fourth, fifth and seventh days of her fast.

In Dec. 1932 and Jan. 1933 a patient fasted 31 days in my Health School. His bowels moved on the 2nd, 6th, 7th, 13th and 20th days of the fast. Another patient who took a short fast in December 1932 had a bowel movement on each of the 4th, 8th and 9th days. This patient then took a longer fast in Jan. 1933 with bowel movements on the 1st, 3rd and 9th days, there being a diarrhea on the 9th day. Another case was that of a young lady who had a bowel movement on the 21st day of her fast.

On July 21, 1933 a woman, aged 68 began a fast in my Health School. The fast was broken on the evening of the thirteenth day. She had a bowel movement on the first and second days of the fast, on the third and fourth days there were loose stools; there was no movement on the fifth day; on the sixth day there was one movement and a small movement, only one small piece of feces passing, on the seventh day. This woman had orange juice all day on the fourteenth day, six oranges on the fifteenth day and a good bowel movement followed on the morning of the sixteenth day.

On the same day the above woman began her fast another woman, age 37, was placed on a fast. For a period of' twelve days or more, this woman had suffered with a persistent diarrhea. The fast lasted for a period of twenty-eight days and the bowels did not move once throughout the whole of the fast after the first day. The fast was uneventful, there were no crises and no signs of poisoning, but a steady improvement in health.

Contrast these with the case of a young woman, age 25, who was placed on a fast on Feb. 24, 1933 in my Health School and whose bowels moved on the twenty-first day of the fast. In this case there were no crises, none of the symptoms "re-absorption of toxins" is said to cause, but a steady gain in health.

These few cases out of many prove that the bowels will move when there is need for a movement; also they show, as do hundreds of others, that there is no injury from waiting upon the bowels. These cases particularly refute the notion entertained in some quarters that a prolonged fast paralyzes the bowels. This notion finds lodgement in the minds of some who know nothing about fasting, and one usually finds that they do not want to know anything about it. The above cases all fasted before the first edition of this volume was published. Since that time hundreds of similar experiences have been observed here at the Health School.

In these days when we live for our bowel movements and are miserable if they fail to move by the time we are ready to go to work in the morning, the truth about our bowels is hard to get into our heads. We have been well trained by those who have constipation "cures" to sell.

Dr. Tanner, during and after his first fast, had no bowel movement from the 15th of July to the 31st of August, a period of forty-seven days. In commenting upon this fact, Dr. Hazzard declares, "To carry out a fast today in this manner would be deemed a bid for disaster."

Why a "bid for disaster?" Both Dr. Tanner and Dr. Dewey repudiated the enema, and to quote Dr. Hazzard, "preferred and insisted upon waiting upon the bowels to act 'naturally' as he (Dewey) termed it." Jennings did not employ the enema, nor did Page. In my own practice I have not employed it for seventeen years. I had one patient to go for over fifty days without an evacuation and no disaster befell him.

Levanzin reports of his fast, of 31 days that, "during my whole fast I had no defecations. I had a bowel movement just before I started the fast, and the next was thirty-two days afterward, when I broke it."

Professor Benedict writes of Levanzin that "when discussing the question of defecation he stated that in some of his long fasts he had defecated only once or twice, often he did this shortly after the beginning of the fast, and then not again until after the fast was over, but after beginning eating he was quite normal."

Dr. Jennings reported cases in which the bowels did not act for weeks. I had one man to fast for thirty-six days in my institution without a bowel movement, the bowels acting for the first time on the third day after the fast was broken. Another man fasted forty-nine days with no bowel action during the time. His bowels also acted on the third day after breaking the fast.

One young lady began a fast under my direction on Dec. 3, 1929, and ended it on Dec. 28th. Her bowels did not act during the whole of this period, acting the first time on Jan. 4, 1930; a period of thirty-three days from one bowel action to the next. This lady suffered with the worst case of psoriasis I have ever seen. Her whole body, face, neck and limbs included, being covered. The skin cleared up rapidly and beautifully during the fast.

Shortly after the above case came to me, a young man suffering with constipation, digestive troubles and "nervousness" began a fast in my place. He fasted twelve days, during which time his bowels did not act. They acted first on the fifth day after breaking the fast. During these seventeen days without a bowel movement the patient made great improvement.

No harm ever came from waiting upon the bowels. They may be depended on to function if there is a need for action. If no need exists, there can be no gain from forcing them to act. We should learn to distinguish between the forcing and the actual need for bowel action.

It has been noted that dogs and other animals do have bowel actions during a fast. In my own practice I have noticed that the stronger and more vigorous are more apt to have bowel evacuations. The weak, those who suffer with lowered gastro-intestinal tone or with visceroptosis are least likely to have an action of the colon while fasting. In any case no harm results from letting the colon alone and forgetting that it exists.

Dr. Harry Finkle makes the absurd claim that fasting paralyzes the colon. It does nothing of the kind, but improves colonic function in every instance. However, the enemas, colonic irrigations, purges, etc., almost do what he says the fast does. The great difficulties many men have with fasting arise out of the fact that they have not observed the effects of fasting, but fasting plus a lot of therapeutic measures. They think they are observing the effects of fasting, when they are merely watching the effects of something else. They insist upon treating their fasting patients with all of the harmful cure-alls which chance to be in fashion, and then attribute any evil results to the fast, although such evils are frequent results of these treatments when applied to non-fasters.

Fasting animals, whether hibernating, aestivating, fasting during the mating season, fasting during illness, or fasting because of a lack of something to eat, do not have and do not need enemas. Some of these animals fast for much longer periods than is possible for any man and do not die of or suffer from the much-feared poisoning by absorption from the colon. I can find no proof that poisons are ever absorbed from the colon; but, assuming that they sometimes are, the absorption of a very small fraction of what was thrown into the colon can certainly produce none of the evils attributed to it. If it could, the whole of the material thrown into the colon would have killed the patient before it was thrown therein.

Herbert M. Shelton

Also read Observations of Nature by Dr. Shelton
and What is Normal Bowel Activity? by Dr. Shelton

from Karl Anderson's collection

Here are the first chapters in Arnold DeVries classic fasting book from 1963, that has always been very popular with fasting institutions.

Therapeutic Fasting
by Arnold DeVries, 1963

Forms of Fasting

THE TERM, fasting, implies total or partial abstinence from food or water for any of a number of reasons. Thus one may refer to fruit fasts, vegetable fasts, milk fasts, water fasts and many other types. As the different reasons for fasting are considered, other divisions may be given — viz, religious fasting, professional fasting, physiological fasting, pathological fasting and accidental or experimental fasting. A fruit fast is abstinence from fruit; a vegetable fast is abstinence from vegetables; a milk fast is abstinence from milk; a water fast is abstinence from water, and similar fasts may be defined accordingly. Religious fasting is abstinence to develop spiritual thought or fulfill a religious rite. Professional fasting is abstinence for purposes of notoriety and publicity. Physiological fasting is normal inanition in nature, such as the hibernation and seasonal abstinence of certain animals. Pathological fasting is associated with organic derangements which make one unable to take or retain food. Accidental or experimental fasting is forced inanition among man or animals for purposes of scientific investigation.

These are the recognized forms of fasting. Yet, there is another, and perhaps much more important, classification which is seldom given mention or even known about. This is therapeutic fasting — total abstinence from all food, but not water. The purpose of therapeutic fasting is the promotion and restoration of health. It is associated with experimental and physiological fasting in the sense that studies of the latter provide the knowledge and information which make therapeutic fasting possible. Therapeutic fasting is not the result of any particular new scientific discovery, but rather has proceeded to its present development as the result of centuries of experimentation, observation and study. It is today the culmination of a large number of scientific investigations and discoveries which have reached their climax during the past century. Fasting for therapeutic purposes is thus an important, though in popular conception, almost unknown, phase of the modern science of medicine, and as such it is the subject of our present inquiry and analysis.

A Short History of Fasting

THE ORIGIN OF FASTING for illness perhaps dates back the development of the present forms of animal life. Among undomesticated animals it is a common practice to fast when ill, though this is of course an instinctive procedure rather than a planned therapeutic measure. The first records of human fasting for the remedy of disease go back to the ancient civilizations of Greece and the Near East. Both Plato and Socrates are said to have fasted for 10 days at a time to "attain mental and physical efficiency." Pythagoras fasted for 40 days before taking his examination at the University of Alexandria, and then he also required his pupils to fast before they could enter his class. The ancient Egyptians were said to treat syphilis with their fasting cures, and the great Greek physician, Hippocrates, prescribed fasting during the critical periods of disease. Asclepiades and Thessalus employed fasting; Celsus is said to have used it in the treatment of jaundice and epilepsy, and the Arab physician, Avicenna, prescribed fasting for three to five weeks at a time. Later Tertullian wrote of fasting, and Plutarch said: "Instead of using medicine better fast a day."

During the sixteenth century, the renowned Swiss physician, Paracelsus claimed that, "Fasting is the greatest remedy." In the seventeenth century, Dr. Hoffman wrote a book entitled, Description of the Magnificent Results Obtained Through Fasting in All Diseases. Dr. Anton Nikolai followed in the next century with recommendations of fasting instead of food for those who were ill. Later Dr. Von Seeland, of Russia, wrote: "As a result of experiments I have come to the conclusion that fasting is not only a therapeutic of the highest degree possible but also deserves consideration educationally." In Germany, Dr. Adolph Mayer asserted that "fasting is the most efficient means of correcting any disease," and Dr. Moeller wrote that "fasting is the only natural evolutionary method whereby through a systemic cleansing you can restore yourself by degrees to physiologic normality."

It has been during the past century that the greater portion of scientific data has been gathered. Both Europe (in particular, Germany) and America have contributed heavily to the research on experimental and physiological fasting. Hundreds of publications have been the result of this work and they provide thorough and exact knowledge regarding many phases of fasting. Among the best known research scientists who studied fasting were: Sergius Morgulis, Professor of Biochemistry at the University of Nebraska College of Medicine; Professor Child, of the University of Chicago; Herbert Sidney Langfield, of Harvard University; Dr. Frederick M. Allen, of the Rockefeller Institute; Francis Gano Benedict and Ernest G. Ritzman, of the Carnegie Institute; Luigi Luciani, Professor of Physiology at the University of Rome; and Victor Pashutin, Director of the Imperial Military Medical Academy of pre-revolutionary Russia. Other scientific studies of fasting have been made by N. Pyaskovski, W Skorczewski,, N. J. Sands, A. Cleghorn, N. Morozov, P B. Hawk, P F. Howe, O. S. Soltz, C. A. Stewart, S. R. Wreath, C. M. Jackson, L. H. Hyman, N. Zuntz, Roger et Josue, Miescher, Mansfield, Rosenfeld and many others. All told, during the past century, hundreds of scientific workers in many countries have added to our knowledge of the biological importance of fasting.

In contrast to these scientists, who were concerned primarily with developing laboratory data from studies of experimental and physiological fasting, chiefly among animals and to a lesser extent among humans, we have the other men of science who were concerned with the clinical and therapeutic phases of fasting. They supervised tens of thousands of fasts, and as a result discovered the exact effectiveness of fasting as a remedy for specific diseases. Among these physicians were many of the nineteenth century, in addition to those now practicing. They include, among others: Dr. Isaac Jennings, Dr. Joel Shew, Dr. Russell Thacker Trall, Dr. Robert Walter, Dr. Henry S. Tanner, and Dr. Edward Hooker Dewey. The experience of these men was followed in the twentieth century by that of Dr. Linda Burfield Hazzard; Dr. Hereward Harrington; Dr. Eugene A. Bergholtz, of Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Dr. John M. Tilden, of Denver, Colorado; Dr. William Howard Hay, of Mount Pocana, Pennsylvania, and Dr. George S. Weger, of Redlands, California. Today Dr. Herbert Shelton, of San Antonio, Texas, carries on the important work, and Doctors Esser, Benesh, McEachen, Gross, and Scott are also making important contributions.

History thus affords evidence of the considerable amount scientific and clinical work done to determine the effects fasting. The therapeutic measure is not a new and untried method, but on the contrary has been recognized for centuries and has been studied by some of the most brilliant minds in the science of medicine and related fields. The importance of these studies may be readily seen upon examination of the unique record of fasting, as regards its curative influence in the case of many specific diseases. A careful scientific appraisal of therapeutic fasting may then be of significance to both the physician and layman.

Physiological Reactions to Fasting

THE DEVELOPMENT AND EVOLUTION of the forms of human pathology are governed by the physiological and chemical reactions that are taking place. Anything that induces such reactions plays a role in determining the state of human health. Whenever food is withheld from consumption beyond the usual period in the case of man or other animals there are certain changes in the function, chemical reactions and life processes of the cells and tissues. It is these changes which give fasting its therapeutic properties. By considering the physiological reactions to fasting we can thus gain an understanding of the reasons which determine its therapeutic value. Of great importance among the physiological effects of fasting is rejuvenescence — the acquiring of fresh vitality and renewal of youthful characteristics to the cells and tissues of the body. Evidence of such regeneration comes from many quarters and is particularly impressing with respect to experimental work done with the various forms of lower animal life. Such work may then be given first consideration.

The British scientist, Prof. Huxley, has carried out experiments with young planaria, more commonly known as earthworms. He fed an entire colony of these worms their usual foods. One of the worms was isolated from the rest and fasted at periodic intervals. In all other respects its diet and mode of life were similar to those of the other worms. The isolated worm lived while 19 generations of worms in the colony lived and passed away.

Prof. Child, of the University of Chicago, likewise has used worms to determine the effects of fasting. He took a group of small flat worms which had grown old and infirm and fasted them for months, until they had been reduced to a minimum size. Then he started feeding them again, and as they grew back to their normal size, they were just as young, from a physiological standpoint, as they ever were. In his Senescence and Rejuvenescence, Prof. Child remarks: "Partial starvation inhibits senescence. The starveling is brought back from an advanced age to the beginning of postembryonic life; it is almost reborn."

Other experiments, conducted by F. Schultz, have shown that hydra are rejuvenated by fasting, the animals reverting back to an embryonic state. At the University of Chicago, one insect, the normal life span of which is one day, was fasted and lived for 15 days. There are some species of lower animal life which normally pass through their life span in three or four weeks, but when, because of lack of food, they are forced to fast at intervals, they often remain young and active for three years.

Prof. Sergius Morgulis, in his experimental work with animals, has noted the relation between fasting and rejuvenation. He states: "Laboratory as well as clinical experiments corroborated the rejuvenating effects of inanition. If it is not too prolonged it is distinctly beneficent and may well be used in overcoming somnolence and lassitude as well as in improving the fundamental organic functions (circulation, respiration), muscular strength, or the acuity of the senses…

Biologically speaking, though the organism acquires no new assets it becomes stronger by ridding itself of liabilities. In the foregoing it has been pointed out that the cell-nucleus changes in such a manner as to increase the preponderance of the nucleus. Morphologically, therefore, the cells composing the entire organism assume a more youthful condition. They resemble more the embryonic cells in this respect, and this may account for the expansive growth which they display under the proper nutritive regime."

One of the characteristics of old age is a decrease in the metabolic rate. It is interesting to note, in this connection, that fasting produces rejuvenation by inducing a permanent increase in the metabolic rate. In experiments conducted at the Hull Biological Laboratory of the University of Chicago, both dogs and humans were fasted for extended periods. In fasts of from 30 to 40 days a five to six per cent increase in the metabolic rate was observed.

Of course rejuvenation does not occur in man to the extent that it does in the lowest forms of animal life. However, the effects of rejuvenescence are nevertheless very noticeable in the case of human fasting. Dr. Carlson and Dr. Kunde, of the Department of Physiology in the University of Chicago, placed a 40 year old man on a 14 days fast. At the end of the fast his tissues were in the same physiological condition as those of a 17 year old youth. In reference to fasting Dr. Kunde remarks: "It is evident that where the initial weight was reduced by 45 per cent, and subsequently restored by normal diet, approximately one-half of the restored body is made up of new protoplasm. In this there is rejuvenescence." It may also be pointed out that quite possibly much of the remaining part of the body not lost in weight may also undergo significant changes of rejuvenescence as a result of fasting.

Mention may also be given to the case of the late Mahatma Gandhi, who was well known for his numerous fasts. On May 18, 1933, when Gandhi was in the tenth day of fasting, he was examined by his physicians. One of the physicians stated that "despite his 64 years, from a physiological point of view the Indian leader was as healthy as a man of forty."

The outward manifestations of regeneration are quite noticeable in many cases of fasting. The rejuvenating effect upon the skin in particular is important. Lines and wrinkles become less apparent, and blotches, discolorations and pimples tend to disappear. In the words of Dr. Shelton: "The skin becomes more youthful, acquires a better color and better texture. The eyes clear up and become brighter. One looks younger. The visible rejuvenation in the skin is matched by manifest evidences of similar but invisible rejuvenescence throughout the body."

Literally the word, autolysis, means self-loosing. In physiology it is used to denote the process of digestion or disintegration of animal tissue by ferments and enzymes which are generated by the body cells themselves. Thus it is a process of self-digestion or intracellular digestion.

Autolysis forms a normal part of the physiological activities of the body. The action of enzymes upon such substances in the body as glycogen, fatty tissue and bone marrow, in preparing these materials for entry into the blood stream, is normal autolysis. Likewise when an abscess "points" to the surface of the body to empty its contents, autolysis was involved when the flesh between the abscess and the surface was digested by enzymes.

While recognizing the existence of autolysis as a common fact of everyday life, it has been generally believed that the process could not be made subject to human control and put to practical use. Though it has been understood that abnormal growths in the body might be absorbed through self-disintegration, the profound change in metabolism necessary to bring about such autolysis has been thought to result only in very rare cases following such conditions as extreme cachexia, the puerperium, or menopause. Such conditions, not always being within the realm of voluntary control, and only occcasionally producing the changes in question, offer no method whereby autolysis can be instituted at will and put under control.

A complete revolution in such orthodox concepts necessarily follows consideration of fasting. The fact is that fasting, in producing a profound change in metabolism, serves as an immediate inducement to the development of autolysis and can thus act as a control of this process. This is no new discovery in physiology, but has been recognized for over a century by those who employed fasting. In the early part of the nineteenth century, Sylvester Graham wrote that "it is a general law of the vital economy" that "the decomposing absorbents always first lay hold of and remove those substances which are of least use to the economy; and hence, all morbid accumulations, such as wens, tumors, abscesses, etc., are rapidly diminished and often wholly removed under severe and protracted abstinence and fasting."

During the fast, the body has the opportunity to redistribute its nutritive supplies — the surpluses and non-vital supplies being consumed and utilized first. The absorption of normal muscles and tissues on a fast is readily observable, and the flesh, blood and bone of a tumor, being less important to the needs of the body, are absorbed much more rapidly, with the essential tissues being utilized in nourishment and the remainder permanently removed.

On the fast the assimilative powers of the body are increased. This is shown both in the improvement of the blood during the fast and the rapid assimilation of food after the fast. Patients who suffer from conditions such as anemia, with either an insufficiency of red blood cells or an excess of white cells, are generally normalized by fasting. In some cases fasting has brought about an increase in the number of erythrocytes from only one million to the normal five million count. The explanation lies in the improvement in assimilation which the fast affords. The iron and other elements which are stored in the body are taken up by the blood and used. Prior to fasting, general physiological inefficiency prevented this. Perhaps this also explains why dental decay is often arrested during the fast. In some cases teeth that were loose become firmly fixed in their sockets while fasting, and swollen, inflamed and bleeding gums are also restored to health. The improvement in assimilation during the fast actually brings about recovery of certain "deficiency" diseases.

Assimilation after the fast is at the highest possible level. Kagan observed that after rabbits were fasted 17 days they gained 56 per cent in weight on a diet which, under usual conditions, would barely be sufficient to maintain a state of equilibrium. People who are chronically underweight in spite of eating very heavily, often gain weight to the normal level after a fast, even though large quantities of food are not taken. The improved assimilation enables the body to utilize more of its food intake.

It may be mentioned that it is really a normalization of assimilation which occurs on a fast. Patients who fast to rid themselves of excessive weight may gain weight to normal after the fast, but that is usually where the gain ends if nutrition is proper. Thus both people who assimilate too much of food intake, and those who assimilate too little, are helped by fasting.

Fasting affords the organs of the body the closest possible approach to a complete physiological rest. Many organs are overworked and overstimulated, and hence weakened, rough the constant use of defective foods and excessive quantities of foods. During a fast, the necessary work done by the organs is reduced to the lowest possible minimum. As there is no further intake of food, assimilation in the body only involves the redistribution of the elements already stored there. Thus the organs are given a chance to recuperate and restore their vital powers. Repair of damaged structures may take place. Broken bones, wounds and open sores heal much more rapidly. If inflammation is present it tends to subside. The body undergoes a general healing process.

Associated with physiological rest of an organ is increased elimination. This, according to some observers, is the most important advantage of fasting. Part of the energy which ould norm ally be devoted to the work of assimilation may, during a fast, be used to expell the accumulations of waste and toxins. Decomposing food in the digestive tract, which is often an important source of toxins, is quickly eliminated. The entire alimentary canal becomes almost free from bacteria. The nourishment of cells on a fast is first derived from the less essential tissues and portions of impaired and diseased tissue. The surplus material on hand is utilized first. The effusions, dropsical swellings, fat, infiltrations, etc., are absorbed with great rapidity on a fast. The body thus gradually releases itself from a former burden of superfluous and waste material.

Increased elimination of toxins is noted on the very first days of the fast. The breath becomes very offensive, and the skin may also emit an offensive odor, possibly because of greater eliminative effort on the part of both the lungs and skin. Catarrhal eliminations usually increase during the early days of the fast, until towards the end of the fast elimination is completed and recovery occurs. The toxicity of the urine is increased, perhaps due to greater elimination via the kidneys. In some cases, considerable waste material is lost through the process of vomiting. Of course each of these symptoms does not occur in all cases, but there is always some outward indication of increased elimination. The primary elimination, however, brought about simply by internal absorption and autolysis, is not apparent in outward reactions, except perhaps the loss of weight and general weakness.

A marked improvement in nervous and mental function occurs on the fast. Max Nordau declared that "Pessimism has a physiological basis;" and it may also be said that even the most severe forms of mental aberration usually have a physiological basis. Under the usual circumstances of civilized life, with its nutritive inadequacies and its inclusion of chemical stimulants and depressants, both in the food supply and as drugs for the treatment of disease, there is a tendency to the reduction of nerve energy, or enervation as it is called. The capacity of the brain is also impaired, giving rise to an assortment of nervous and mental diseases. While fasting, all enervating influences are discontinued and the entire nervous system and brain undergoes the same physiological rest that the balance of the body experiences. Nerve forces are restored and mental powers are improved. The ability to reason is increased. The powers of attention and association are quickened while memory of past events is often recovered. Dr. Tanner and others even testified to the development of psychic powers during the fast, which Dr. Tanner felt explained "why the old prophets and seers so often resorted to fasting as a means of spiritual illumination."

Fasting thus serves many purposes in terms of physiology and chemistry. It produces rejuvenation of tissues, induces autolysis of abnormal growths, improves the powers of digestion and assimilation, reestablishes normal chemistry and secretion, affords the organs of the body a physiological rest, increases elimination, promotes nerve energy recuperation, strengthens the mind, and perhaps improves function in various ways which we do not yet understand. Obviously these factors are of considerable importance in determining the physical condition of the body. They may mean the difference between strength and weakness, health and disease, and perhaps even life and death.

by Arnold DeVries

Here is a list of the chapters in Therapeutic Fasting:

i. Forms of Fasting
ii. A Short History of Fasting
iii. Physiological Reactions to Fasting
iv. Efficiency of Fasting
v. The Complete Fast
vi. Safety of the Fast
vii. Symptoms of the Fast
viii. Supervising the Fast
ix. Breaking the Fast
x. Living after the Fast

Go to (Health Library) to read the rest of this book by Arnold DeVries.

Go to INTRODUCTION TO FASTING - some articles.

For more articles by Dr. Shelton mentioning fasting click here.
For more Shelton articles click here.
For various articles by Dr. Gian-Cursio click here.

About Dr. Bass first fast, including a spiritual experience - click here.

Find more fasting articles in the INHS magazine
NATURAL HEALTH & ENERGY ----- INHS Hygienic Review

Dr. Shelton writes about many diseases and fasting, in his Orthopathy - "disease encyclopedia"

For a (water) fasting support group - go to

Click here for fasting retreats internationally -- use the website links to find more articles about fasting.

"Fasting is a good tool - but a poor master." Dr. John Fielder
Note - It is INHS recommendation that all extended fasts beyond 3 days be carried out with supervision !


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