How to Fast For Health; Why Fasting Helps; How to Break the Fast

August 7, 2015 by stas | Filed under Food, Health.

Fasting For HealthThis is a little gem I found today in a 2nd hand book shop. Written by Hereward Carrington, Ph. D. at the beginning of the 19th century— it’s still totally relevant today. Scanned, OCRed, proofread and formatted for your easy reading by yours truly. Enjoy.

Nature’s Law Of Cure

Man does not live as long as he should: Most deaths are premature. We not only cut short our lives, but the years we do live are filled with sicknesses and diseases of all kinds. Statistics and common observation prove this. Something is wrong. I am convinced that this is chiefly due to our methods of living—our habits of life, and particularly our food habits. We eat the wrong kind of food, and too much of it. Over-eating is the great curse of humanity. It is responsible for many of the ills from which man suffers. Whenever we become ill, we are accustomed to take a “tonic” or a medicine, — under the false impression that health can be “bought in a bottle. ” Such is not the case. We become sick because there is a definite cause for our sickness, and in order to become well again we must remove this cause. This can usually be done by the simple methods described in this Little Blue Book.

If you break a bone, all that the surgeon can do is to “set” it properly. The healing power of Nature does the rest—the actual curing. Why have we not sufficient confidence in Her healing powers to believe that the same power which cures a broken leg can also cure a cold in the head, or some other disease? It can, if we but give her the chance, and aid and guide her efforts aright. Instinct should tell us what to do, did we but pay heed to its promptings. When an animal is injured or diseased, it invariably abstains from all solid food, drinks plenty of water, and rests. We should do likewise. This instinct is present even in perverted man. The very thought of food is usually repellant to one who is really sick—proving that it is not wanted. The body always calls for food when it is really needed: we become hungry. Fastingabstaining from all solid food— is the surest, simplest and most effective method of curing many diseases; and the instructions given in this Little Blue Book will tell the reader just what to do, and how to fast scientifically.

The reader may be under the impression that it would be impossible for him to live for any length of time without food. Such an idea is an utter fallacy. MacSwiney lived for 74 days without any food, and Michael Fitzgerald—another Irish Patriot—for 68 days, before succumbing. Hundreds of cases are to be found in the literature of the subject, where prolonged fasts have been undertaken. And these fasts were not merely undertaken to demonstrate how long a man can live without dying; they were taken for the express purpose of curing some disease, and often succeeded in doing so. Bid space permit, I could cite instances.

The first fact which the reader must get in his head is that fasting, as herein advocated, is a therapeutic measure, intended to cure some illness or disease. This is quite a different thing from starvation. No one in his senses ever advocated that. He must realize that he will not starve to death, if he goes a few days without food; that it will not weaken or injure him. but on the contrary benefit him. He may fancy that he will become weak and debilitated in consequence? He will not. Food is a stimulant, and this stimulation will of course be noted when it is withdrawn. Let me explain this more fully.

The Action Of Stimulants

I have spoken of food as being a stimulant, and hence a certain feeling of weakness being noticed when food is withheld. In order to understand this more thoroughly, we must inquire more closely into the nature of stimulation, and the action of stimulants, so that we may understand just what takes place in the body, as the result of introducing them.

Alcohol may be considered a typical “stimulant. ” What are the immediate effects, and the ultimate effects, of imbibing a certain quantity of alcohol? A certain sense of elation” is noted; the spirits rise (usually, though sometimes the subject merely becomes glum or sad), the mind seems to function more clearly and rationally for a time, the face becomes flushed, the body tingles with added warmth. The natural result of all this being that the subject feels that the alcohol has somehow “added” or “imparted” strength and energy to his body, and that his mental functions have been correspondingly stimulated. But note what happens shortly afterwards. A reaction sets in; the mind becomes blurred, the sensibilities dulled, the body tired and sluggish, all the vital functions are depressed and there is a strong desire to sleep. If alcohol actually imparted energy to the body, why these after-effects? Greater vitality should leave a more permanent sense of exhilaration.

As a matter of fact, alcohol is not a stimulant at all, but a depressant. Strange as this may appear at first sight, it is nevertheless true, and may readily be seen when the true nature of the action of alcohol is realized. As soon as it is introduced into the system, the body reacts more or less violently against it, in an effort to expel it as rapidly as possible. This reaction is observed in the series of bodily symptoms we have noted. It has merely served as a whip, to insure a more rapid expenditure of the vital energies. This rapid expenditure we sense, while it lasts, and believe to be stimulation. The subsequent re-action discloses its true nature.

It is very similar to the result we obtain when whipping-up a horse. The horse runs faster and gets to the corner more quickly. But does anyone suppose that the whip really imparted any energy to the horse? Is it not obvious that the horse merely expended ‘its own energy more rapidly? Doubtless, the animal experiences a certain feeling of exhilaration for the time being, when trotting; but it is expending its own energies more rapidly, nevertheless. It is the same with any stimulant.

The sense of added strength we experience is a false strength, due to the more rapid expenditure of our vital energies; no so-called stimulant ever adds energy to the body. It merely subtracts it more or less rapidly. And the same thing is true of many of our foods. If certain foods are “stimulating, ” and seem to give us greater “strength, ” we may find that they are harmful. The energy we seem to derive from them is in fact a manifestation of the expenditure of the vital energies in trying to get rid of them. To the extent that food is wholesome and nourishing, it is non-stimulating, and vice versa. A typical example of this is to be found in “beef tea, ”— the invalid’s food of the last century. Some recent experiments have shown that beef-tea is often injurious. We can understand why the system should try to expel it so forcibly—and why this vital effort should be noted as increased vital activity by the patient, who mistakes it for added strength. Natural foods do not usually stimulate; they merely nourish. And we can readily see from all this that the more stimulating the food, the more is its sudden withdrawal noticed. And further, that the “weakness” we feel at the commencement of a fast is not in reality due to vital exhaustion at all, but is merely the reaction from former stimulation. As the fast progresses, this feeling wears off, and added health and strength are noted. This will be explained more fully, however, in the section devoted to the physiology of fasting.

A Word About Drugs

When once the so-called “action of stimulants” is understood, we can appreciate more clearly the action of certain drugs, ’“tonics, ” etc., of a like nature. As a matter of fact the action of drugs is very much misunderstood by the general public. Strictly speaking, drugs do not “act” upon the living body; the body reacts against the drug. And that is a very different matter. Some drugs are purgatives (causing purging), some emetics (causing vomiting), some diuretics (causing an increased activity of the kidneys), some diaphoretics (causing an increased activity of the skin) etc. But their so-called “action” is really the reaction of the body against them. Some drugs are more readily expelled through the bowels, some through the kidneys, some through the skin, etc. It is because of this fact that the drug is thought to “act” upon these various organs. But invariably it is vital activity which we notice—vitality in course of its expenditure. We should appreciate this fact. The public is so imbued with the belief that it can “buy health in a bottle” that it fails to realize the fact that all vital action comes from within, and that all healing power comes from within also—the vis medicatrix naturae.

The Nature Of Disease

The popular conception of a disease seems to be that it is a sort of entity, a thing, which somehow gets into the body and has to be expelled, or driven out, by means of drugs or some similar method of treatment. One man says that he has “caught” a cold, for example, and another asks him where he “caught” it, etc. This is, of course, purely a “hang over” from the savage’s idea that all diseases are due to evil spirits, or devils, which enter into the patient’s body, and have to be expelled by means of incantations, magical ceremonies and poisonous concoctions which are administered! A disease is not a thing, an entity, which is “caught, ” or which enters into one. It is a condition which develops as the result of a certain previous mode of life. It is a resultant, a consequence. And furthermore, some diseases as we know them are merely curative efforts on the part of nature—active attempts to eliminate, or get rid of, poisonous and effete matter which is lodged within the system. This process of active elimination constitutes the disease. It is the process of cure itself. It is a set of symptoms which develop in consequence of the active process then going on: the process of cure.

Anyone who understands the mechanics of a sneeze can understand the rationale of most diseases. A particle of soot let us say, lodges in the nose. At once nature makes a violent effort to expel it; a sneeze is the result. But the sneeze is not a disease, it is a process of cure. The cause of the trouble is that particle of matter which occasioned or caused the sneeze. Similarly, in some diseases, the active symptoms we see are merely the violent expulsive efforts on the part of the body to expel certain morbid material which has become lodged within it; and this process of expulsion is noted by us as a set of symptoms. These symptoms constitute the disease —as we see it outwardly.

But the cause of the disease is that which occasioned these symptoms, and necessitated this expulsive effort. From this it can readily be seen that we should not try to suppress these symptoms, or drive them in, but to eliminate their cause, and when) that has been effectually disposed of the symptoms themselves may disappear. We should direct and aid the efforts of nature; not thwart them. We should stimulate all avenues of elimination, and see to it that no more substances enter the body which can act as additional causes. In other words, we should cleanse the body as rapidly and effectually as possible, and at the same time see to it that nothing enters the body which can serve as a further cause of the disease.

An excess of food may be in some way the cause of the trouble. The food, wrong in quality, excessive in quantity, has been mal-assimilated, unduly retained, and has given rise to toxins, uric acid, excessive fatty tissue, poisons of all kinds, which have flooded the system, overworked the eliminating organs, and given rise to the set of symptoms which we subsequently recognize as a “disease. ” Precisely the same sort of thing happens whenever we heap too much fuel on the fire, neglect the accumulated ashes and cinders, and fail to supply a sufficient draught. The stove gets so choked-up that it will no longer burn, and if you wish to prevent it from going out altogether you must cease adding more fuel, shake out the ashes and supply more draught. It is precisely the same thing with the human body. You must get rid of the ashes (of digestion) and cease ingesting more fuel (food) before the “fires of life” will again burn brightly and normally. In other words, you must stimulate the action of the eliminating organs, and cease eating for the time being, and give nature a chance to “catch up, ” before you add any more fuel in the form of food. In short, you must fast for a longer or shorter period of time— until the system is cleansed and again in good working order. And this brings us to the physiology of fasting.

Physiology Of Fasting

The functions of food, in the human body, are said to be threefold:

  1. Replacement of tissue, broken-down by muscular and other activities;
  2. Supplying the vital energy, used up in such activities and in the maintenance of life; and
  3. Furnishing heat to the body, by the combustion of certain foods.

Under heading number 1 should also be included the supplying of the body with the necessary organic salts, vitamins, etc. —without which life would be impossible.

Now, there is no doubt that food replaces broken-down tissue, and that the more tissue broken down, as the result of exercise, etc., the more food is required to make good the loss. A man doing heavy manual work requires more food than a man leading a sedentary life. But how much food does a man ordinarily require? If we could ascertain this, we should know about how much food would be required, daily, to replace this loss, Well, the simplest way of ascertaining this is to note the loss, per diem, of patients who are fasting— men and women of all types and performing all kinds of work—and striking a mean, or average loss, at the end of a certain number of days. This I have done, and I find that the loss was approximately one pound a day. This, therefore, represents the average loss of body-weight, and the weight of nutritive material which must he supplied in order to offset this loss.

Now, in actual practice, what do we find? That the average individual consumes two or three or more pounds of food daily. In other words, he often eats more food than he really requires, in order to retain his weight and health. And the mere fact that he can eat and dispose of this quantity of food, without immediate ill effects, by no means proves that he is not being ultimately harmed by it. On the contrary, the prevalence of diseases of all kinds shows us very clearly that something is wrong with our present system of living, and I am quite convinced that what is chiefly wrong is our habit of eating to excess. For the position is simply this: The question is not how much a person can eat and keep well, but how little he can eat and retain his physiological integrity and mental powers.

The object is not to see how much food can be consumed with safety, and without engendering disease, or prostrating the vital energies; but it is to sustain life on just a sufficient amount of food; and this for the reason that this amount accurately represents the actual requirements of the body, and any quantity of food over and above this amount would be just so much food which the system did not need, but which was got rid of by the body—passed through it—at the expense of the vital energies. Every ounce of food passed through the body which is not actually needed by it is thus a tax upon the vital power—a waste of our energies. And further, as this excess of food is never properly utilized and assimilated, all sorts of poisons are formed within the body, which engender disease.

It is true that many of the lower animals feed more or less continually, with no other results than continued, normal growth. But we must remember that, with them, food is relatively scarce, and the search for it must be constant, or life would become extinct. With civilized man, on the other hand, there is never any danger of food-shortage; the danger consists in excess. There is always an abundance of food available; his trouble is that he eats too much of it. Further, this interesting fact should be noted: That, whereas in the lower animals a large percentage of their waking activity is devoted to the search for food, man can devote twenty-three hours a day to other pursuits and occupations. And he seems to need proportionately less food than the lower animals. From these facts we may deduce the following law, —which is not, I think, without significance: The higher in the scale of evolution we proceed, the less the time that is actually required for the nutrition of the body: the greater the mentality, the less the need for food.

Be that as it may, the fact remains that the proper amount of food, and more than the proper amount, cannot possibly have the same effects upon the organism. If the proper amount be correct and healthful, more than the proper amount cannot possibly have the same effect. Trouble must result. The fact that the body can dispose of an excess of food does not show that such an excess is harmless. On the contrary, every-day experience shows us that it is not. Man is far from normal—as the hundreds of hospitals, thousands of doctors and tens of thousands of illnesses everywhere testify.

Simply stated, therefore, the theory of fasting is merely thus: Most sickness is the direct result of overeating—medical men everywhere are beginning to acknowledge this fact, more and more fully. The simplest and most natural method of treatment, therefore, is to deprive the patient of solid food (allowing plenty of water) and to stimulate the activity of the eliminating organs. By this means we dispose of the waste-material in the body, conserve its energies, and allow it once more to regain a normal, healthy condition.

But would not this process be “dangerous? ” Would not the body waste away, lose flesh and become weak and enervated in consequence? Let us see. When a fast be undertaken, what organs lose weight, and what do not? In Yeo’s “Physiology” will be found a table giving the approximate losses of weight of the various organs of the body in a case of death from starvation. Here we see that the fatty-tissue loses about 97%; muscle, 30%; liver, 56%; spleen, 63%; blood, 17%; nerve centers—nothing. Now, this is a very significant fact. It shows us that the more important the organ, the less its loss of weight; and that the brain and nervous system possess the ability to feed and maintain themselves practically intact—even in a case of death from starvation. The tissues of lesser importance are utilized first; those of greater importance next, and those of essential importance to life are hardly drawn upon at all. As a matter of fact, the first things which, are eliminated when a fast is undertaken are (1) waste and effete materials, and (2) fatty tissue. These we are better off without. In fact, it is because of the former that we have become sick.

It is because of all this that Dr. Dewey was enabled to make his now-famous remark: “Take away food from a sick man and you have begun to starve, not the sick man, but the disease! ” We must always remember that we derive benefit from our food, not in proportion to the amount consumed, but in proportion to the amount properly utilized and assimilated. If the body is in such a condition that it can only utilize very little food to advantage, any food in excess of this amount is bound to create trouble. The body is only as strong as its weakest link, and if it be weakened and devitalized by disease, so is every organ and function weakened and devitalized to precisely the same extent. Food, eaten during diseased conditions, does not nourish the patient, but it does, on the contrary, have the directly opposite effect—of starving, poisoning and weakening him. It starves him because the finer blood vessels become choked and blocked—thus shutting off the proper blood supply to those parts; it poisons him because toxin’s and waste products of all sorts are produced in the system; and it weakens him because the vital energies are drawn upon to dispose of these poisons, and to handle and digest and pass through the body pound after pound of food- material which it does not really need, and is much better off without.

It is true that the body wastes during disease—particularly some diseases. But it is an erroneous idea that giving food to the patient will stop this waste, for it continues whether food be taken or not. Nor does the usual quantity of food eaten at such times keep up the strength and energy of the patient.

Giving food to the sick man usually cannot do any good; on the contrary, it may do much harm. It does not nourish the body or prevent waste; it does not build up sound, healthy tissue; it adds to the stock of poisons already within the body; it serves to poison it further; it draws upon the bodily energies in handling and disposing of this mass of material; it supplies no additional strength; while any possible heat it may furnish is unnecessary, because the body is already hot and feverish, in the majority of cases. Of what possible physiological use is food, therefore, under such circumstances?

There can be only one possible reply to this question. It may be contended that, inasmuch as the body has become weak and devitalized as the result of the disease, food is necessary in order to supply it with fresh energy—since it is everywhere contended that the combustion of our food is the source of the bodily energy. Now, this is an idea which I believe to be essentially erroneous. My own belief is that the body is recharged with energy during the hours of rest and sleep, and that the analogy of the body is, not to the steam engine, but to the electric motor. If we derived our vital energy solely from food, we should be enabled to replenish it at the end of each day merely by eating more and then exercising; but we know that such is not the case. No matter how much we may eat and drink and exercise, there always comes a time, nevertheless, when we need rest and sleep—in order to recuperate, and nothing else will do. Furthermore, in many fasting cases, the patient is actually stronger at the end of ten or twenty or thirty days than he was at the beginning of his fast. I have not the space here to elaborate this theory. Suffice it to say that all the observed facts of physiology can be accounted for just as well upon this theory as upon that generally accepted, while there are many facts which can be accounted for upon this theory which can be explained only with difficulty upon the traditional theory—if at all.

However, for our present purposes, it is not necessary to stress the point. Practical experience shows us that the sick man does not usually derive strength from his food. On the contrary, he is often weakened and poisoned by it. Medical men have found that, in certain diseases (e. g., pneumonia) fasting is imperative, and that to give food to such a patient would be practically to sign his death-warrant. Fasting would be efficacious in many diseases, to a greater or lesser extent. Fasting does not only benefit cases of “digestive trouble, ”as many think, but is applicable in other diseases. For example, the Rockefeller Foundation, of New York, has lately published a book, telling of the great benefits to be derived from fasting in cases of diabetes—in this, however, they were only following the work of Dr. Guelpa of Paris, who had previously published a work along the same lines. (“Auto-Intoxication and Disintoxication” )

Most diseases result from a simple combination of causes, and promptly disappear upon the removal of such causes. Proof of this is to be found in the fact that such cures actually do follow their removal. Hundreds of cases are to be found in the various books upon fasting which have been published; and I have had the good fortune to witness cures myself. It must always be remembered that fasting, such as now recommended, is purely for curative purposes; it is a therapeutic measure—to be applied in time of disease; and the present writer is not advocating fasting at any other time, or for any other reason. Normally, the body needs food and must be fed, of course. But it must not be supplied too much food, for if it is trouble will ultimately result—as it does. And let me make plain, just here, a vital distinction, which seems to be very little understood, but one which is vitally important, nevertheless. It is the distinction between fasting and starvation.

Fasting And Starvation

The majority of persons seem to imagine that these are synonymous terms, while as a matter of fact they mean something entirely different. If a man is in normal health, and ceases to eat, he at once begins to starve. If, on the other hand, he is sick or diseased, in many cases, it is because his body is blocked and poisoned with an excess of food-material; and then, if he ceases to eat, he merely begins to fast. This period of fasting continues for a certain length of time—when it is replaced by a period of starvation. Where does one end and the other begin? How distinguish one from the other? Very simple. When one is in need of a fast, he omits all solid food, drinking only water. For the first day or so, he experiences’ numerous unfamiliar and perhaps rather unpleasant symptoms—a gnawing and all-gone feeling in the pit of the stomach; lassitude, headaches, etc. What is known as “habit hunger” will return every meal time— which the patient must resist by drinking water and occupying his mind elsewhere. These first two days are the hardest, in reality—especially for one undergoing his first fast.

But after that, life becomes easier. The all-gone feeling is no longer experienced; the headaches depart; the feeling of lassitude is replaced by one of increased vim and vigor; the brain clears; the senses become more acute; catarrhal symptoms vanish, and the sensation of hunger is often no longer present. Thoughts of food may come into the mind, but the patient acknowledges that he is no longer truly hungry. Now, this absence of hunger will continue throughout the fast—no matter how long it may be—and will only reappear again (as true hunger) when the fast is finished and ready to be broken. If, now, the patient does not eat, he begins to starve. There is thus this vital distinction between the two processes—which may be stated as follows: Fasting begins with the omission of the first meal, and ends with the return of natural hunger—while starvation begins with the return of natural hunger, and terminates in death. While the former is often therapeutic and curative, the latter is always destructive and detrimental.

Having made this point clear, two questions at once arise in the reader’s mind:

  1. How can one know when natural hunger returns?
  2. How long should a fast last, in order to have only beneficial results, and no harmful ones? I shall answer these questions in turn

(1) There can be no question in the mind of the fasting patient as to when natural hunger returns. The thought of food, which for some days has not at all interested him, and which may even have become loathsome to him, suddenly becomes attractive. The normal craving of hunger is felt in the region of the stomach. The mouth begins to “water, ” as the salivary glands commence to function with greater activity. The pulse and temperature become more normal. The breath (which, during the fast, has become highly offensive) again becomes sweet and wholesome. The tongue (which, immediately the fast began, coated over with a thick, yellowish-gray film) becomes clean. The craving for food becomes manifest–and usually for some particular article of food. All these symptoms, coming together, and coinciding with the hunger-sensation in the region of the stomach, will tell the patient in unmistakable language that the fast has ended, and that the body once more desires and demands food. It is at this point that the fast should be broken: and it is at this point that starvation begins, if the fast is not broken.

(2) How long should a fast continue? That depends entirely upon the condition of the patient. No definite time can be set beforehand —since every case is a law unto itself, and nature determines the length of time necessary, in each individual instance. In some cases, only a few hours; in others, as many days—or even more. In the majority of cases, only a very few days would be required. If the patient is only slightly indisposed, “out of sorts, ” the omission of a meal or two will probably restore him to normal health. If he is sick, a fast of several days may be necessary. It all depends upon the condition of the person, and the previous condition of the patient. Probably the reader does not believe that rather long fasts such as I have mentioned can be conducted with only added benefit to the patient—or even that they are possible at all. Do not delude yourself. Scores, hundreds of such cases may be found recorded in the literature of the subject, and have been studied by scientific men. When Dr. Tanner undertook his first forty-day fast, years ago, the cry of “fraud” was at once raised; no one believed it possible. But numerous cases of the kind have been observed and carefully studied since then. Today, it is generally acknowledged that a man can live for from two to three months before dying of starvation. It is physiologically impossible for a man to starve to death in a few days—unless deprived of water and sleep also. In those instances where death has occurred within so short a time, it has been due either to mental influences, or to excessive exposure and hardship. Under normal conditions, a man can very easily live on his own body for several weeks. The body becomes weak and emaciated, certainly, but the mind remains clear and death does not result.

Besides, all these are cases of starvation— which are quite different from cases of fasting. Recall the distinction between the two, noted above. If a man is sick, he derives only benefit from going without food. Witness the incident given by Mark Twain, in his “My Debut As a Literary Person,” wherein he records (seriously, for once!) how a shipload of diseased sailors, being wrecked, had to take to the open boats, and subsist for many days upon practically no food at all—with the result that, instead of dying, they all got well. (Mark Twain was a great believer in fasting, by the way: see another article of his, “The Appetite Cure. ”) From all of which it will be seen that man can live without food for a very long period of time.

“But this is a very different thing from deriving benefit from a fast,” it may be said. True enough; and such prolonged periods of abstinence are not advocated or necessary. A relatively short fast is all that is required, as a rule. If the nutrition of the body has been properly managed, in fact, no fast at all is necessitated—because there would be no sickness to cure. If the patient has been eating unwisely for some time, the omission of a few meals may restore him. If he has been overeating for many months, or even years, a much longer period of fasting is called for, in consequence. But nature will always dictate just how long this fast is to be. Remember that, as soon as the fast is begun, hunger disappears (except for the false or “habit hunger,” noted the first two days). The tongue coats, the breath becomes offensive, a bad taste is noted in the mouth, and so on. All these symptoms will last until the fast is ready to be broken, but will disappear simultaneously with the return of natural hunger. Nature knows just how long the fast should be. It may be for three days, five days! No one can tell in advance just how long the fast should be. But nature dictates the length of time necessary, and the patient may rest assured that she knows her business, and that, so long as the tongue remains coated, the breath sour, the appetite lost, etc., there is no danger, and that only benefit will result from continuing the fast. When ready to be broken, hunger will return; all these unpleasant symptoms will disappear, and the body will once more speak out, with no uncertain language: “Now I am ready for food! ”

Any fast, therefore, “undertaken for the purpose of curing some disease, should be continued until these various signs manifest themselves, and should not be broken prematurely, and merely because the patient feels that he has fasted “long enough.” Unpleasant consequences frequently result from such premature breaking of the fast. The patient may experience griping pains in his stomach and bowels; he may develop hiccoughs, or nausea, or headache, or—more serious still—he may begin to vomit. These are all symptomatic of a premature breaking of the fast, and never develop if the fast has been allowed to run its natural course, and the patient has waited upon natural hunger.

Now, assuming that our patient has completed his fast (say, of 5 days); that he has waited for natural hunger to appear, and that it has eventually done so, with all its accompanying symptoms. How should he break his fast? What should he eat first? And how often and how much? These are all vitally important questions, since much of the benefit derived from a fast may be undone by overeating, immediately upon its conclusion. It must be borne in mind that a ravenous appetite will develop as soon as eating is commenced, and the utmost will power must be exercised to keep this in check for the first few days immediately following a fast; otherwise the patient will only get himself into trouble.

The advice of all fasting experts is very much the same, when it comes to this question of breaking the fast. The first “meal” should consist of a glass of pure orange juice, which must be taken very slowly, and each mouthful held in the mouth and “chewed” before being swallowed. If the orange juice be too cold, if it be drunk too rapidly, griping pains frequently result. At least five minutes should be consumed in “eating” this glass of fruit juice. After that, an interval of about two hours should elapse before any solid food be eaten. This first meal must be very light, and every mouthful must be masticated thoroughly. The longer the fast, the lighter this meal should be. One egg, poached or scrambled; one slice of whole wheat bread, toasted, and a small glass of milk would constitute an adequate meal on this occasion. Or, a baked apple, Graham biscuits, and a glass of milk. The milk must not be drunk, but sipped, — a mouthful at a time, — and “chewed” before being swallowed, as the orange juice was. It is important to remember this, for otherwise a severe stomachache may develop shortly afterwards. At least three hours should lapse before the next meal, which may be slightly more substantial than the first one. Nothing more should be permitted that day, — except half a glass of warm milk, shortly before retiring. Considerable will power and care must be exercised for the ensuing two or three days, — the quantity of food being very gradually increased at each meal, until a more or less normal regime is reached once again.

The Mental Factor

While undergoing a fast the right mental attitude is extremely important. When a man is forced to starve, against his will, —because he cannot obtain food,— the mind is worried, fearful and perturbed. When a subject voluntarily abstains from food, he knows what he is doing, appreciates the fact that it is for his own benefit, and can live for a considerable time, with added benefit. He should, however, understand the physiology and philosophy of fasting before undertaking this method of treatment, if possible. This will give him added confidence, and enable him to appreciate the benefits he is deriving from the treatment, as well as understand the nature of certain feelings and symptoms which he may notice within himself, as the fast progresses. Usually, one’s relatives constitute the greatest obstacle to the completion of any fast, once undertaken. They are almost sure to deride and ridicule any such attempt on your part; will tell you that you are “crazy,” that you are ruining your health, — and so on. Such friendly advice is always to can only be overcome by the exercise of will power, and by understanding that no harm can possibly result in consequence. Once the theory of fasting he fairly grasped, the patient may feel free to “go ahead, ”— with the certain knowledge that he is curing himself, and ridding his body of accumulated morbid material every hour that the fast is continued.

Hygienic Auxiliaries

Fasting consists in more than merely “going without food. ” To obtain the best results from a fast of greater or lesser length, various accessory measures should be employed. The most important of these undoubtedly is—the enema.

The Enema.

At the commencement of a fast, the bowels are full of fecal matter and mal-assimilated food material which urgently calls for elimination. The most effective means of disposing of this matter is to wash it out, by means of copious enemas. Lying upon the left side, the patient should allow about a pint of warm water to enter the rectum, — instantly stopping the flow as soon as pain is experienced. This should be retained a minute or so, and then expelled, together with any solid material which comes with it. After this, a second injection should be taken, of about two or three quarts. This should be retained as long as possible, and then expelled. After taking the enema, the patient should lie quiet for about half an hour, as it may be found somewhat exhausting. One of these should be taken every day.

It is really surprising how much material the bowels will hold, as enemas will yield results every day, while fasting, for thirty or forty days, very often. These serve to cleanse the entire digestive tract, and help in shortening the length of the fast.

Water Drinking

The next important factor, while undergoing a fast of any length, is to drink plenty of water. Three or four quarts per diem should he taken. This will flush out the system still further, and carry off impurities—through the kidneys, the skin, etc. Ordinary drinking water may become offensive to the taste, since all the senses become so keen and acute while fasting. When this is the case, a few drops of lemon juice may be added. This will serve to render the drinking water more palatable. The water may be either hot or cold—whichever is craved at the time. Nothing else but water should be taken, however, — since any liquid food will serve to break the fast, —when hunger will return at once. (This is a form of prematurely breaking the fast, which is by all means to be avoided.)


It is hardly necessary to say that plenty of fresh air should be circulating in the room, and particularly the bed-room, at all times, and the patient should be outdoors as much as possible, if not too cold. Inasmuch as the breath tends to become very offensive while fasting, as before pointed out, the patient had better sleep alone during this period of cure.


Of all the eliminating organs of the body, the skin is usually the most neglected. Its activity should be stimulated as much as possible, during a fast, by means of hot and cold baths, packs, compresses, etc. Both sun and air baths are excellent— as they are at any other time. Remember that the more rapidly the body throws off its load of accumulated impurities, the sooner the fast will be terminated.


The amount of exercise which the fasting patient should indulge in is a much-disputed question. During the early stages of a fast, the ordinary activities may be indulged in, beyond doubt; later on, it may be advisable to dispense with all but the lightest work. Some patients feel rather weak and languid, during a fast; others feel stronger and more vigorous than ever. It is largely a question of temperament, apparently. Don’t baby and pamper yourself; at the same time, don’t impose undue strain upon your body. Take as much exercise as you feel disposed to, and rest whenever you feel tired.


Some patients seem to require as much sleep during a fast as at any other time. Others, on the contrary, need much less. Sleep as much as you want to; but if you are not sleepy, don’t let this worry you. Nature will call for sleep, whenever required, you may be sure.

Mental Influences.

I have already mentioned these, to some extent. The essential thing is for the patient to understand the nature of the fasting cure, and have confidence in it. While it is not pleasant at all times, neither was the sickness from which he may be recovering. — and he should keep in mind that he is really being cured. He should try to keep “lifted up” in his mind all the time, and as cheerful and optimistic as possible. It is very important that worry and fear should he eliminated— always destructive emotions. The following will frequently he found very helpful, in fasting cases. Say to the patient: “If you analyze your sensations this minute, they are not so bad, are they? ” He will admit that such is the case. “Very well, ” you continue, “what you are evidently worrying about it—not your feelings at the present moment, —hut how you will feel tomorrow, or an hour from now. ” This is invariably found to be so, and when this is pointed out to the patient, it helps very greatly. Needless to say, this formula may he employed in the form of an auto-suggestion, — as well as suggestion given to another.

When Not To Fast

There are conditions and diseases when fasting is not indicated, and may do more harm than good. Tuberculosis is apparently one of these—though I firmly believe that a couple of days of fasting, during which only a little orange juice were imbibed, would cleanse and tone-up the digestive tract, and enable it better to digest the milk, etc, given later on. In certain nervous cases, again, fasting is contraindicated. But, as I have said, these conditions are rare, and many of the troubles from which man suffers are brought about more or less directly by overeating, and are curable by fasting. As one authority has said: “The American public dig their graves with their teeth! ”

Summary And Conclusion

I shall now summarize briefly the fasting treatment as outlined in this Little Blue Book: Most deaths are premature; man does not live as long a time as he should. The years of his life are filled with aches, pains and illnesses; many of his diseases are brought on, directly or indirectly, by over-eating. In all disease conditions, nature is the prime healer; what we take to be the disease is at times a curative effort on the part of nature to expel the load of poisons and impurities which have accumulated within the system. These are noted as a series of “symptoms” of the disease (curative effort). We should endeavor to assist nature in every way, possible, by aiding her in the elimination of this material—the real cause of the disease. This may be done most readily and effectually by:

  • (a) stimulating the various eliminating organs
  • (b) by fasting for a certain length of time.

To stimulate the eliminating organs, we should flush the bowels with water, daily; drink plenty of water; breathe deeply; exercise as much as possible; and keep the skin active, by water, air and sun-baths.

We should omit all solid food for several days, realizing that food is not required at such times; that it can do no good and much harm; that it will not support the strength or prevent the wastage of the body. The length of the fast will be dictated by nature. Natural hunger will return whenever food is again required. Other coincidental symptoms will also indicate when the fast is ready to be broken. No possible harm, and much benefit, will result from such a fast. It merely serves as a general “house-cleaning. ” Great care must be exercised not to over-eat at the termination of a fast; the first meals must be very light for two or three days. The right mental attitude is very important, while fasting, and its philosophy should be thoroughly understood by the patient before commencing a fast. In this way all worry and fear are eliminated.

The Modern Science

If you want to read more on the topic of fasting and get the cutting edge updates on this millennia-old science continue with “The FastDiet – Lose Weight, Stay Healthy, and Live Longer with the Simple Secret of Intermittent Fasting by Michael Mosley and Mimi Spencer.

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