Constructive Phases Of The Fast
By: Herbert M. Shelton
Hygienic Review November 1972
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
A classic 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 (autolyzed) 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
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 tripled. 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
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 also 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
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 vitamins 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
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 there from. 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
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 autolyzed
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
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
Fasting "Cures" Stomach Diseases
"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 at the University of Michigan.
Dr. 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 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 worldwide 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 drunken 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-
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.
Related article by Dr. Shelton:
Fasting in Chronic Disease
By: Herbert M. Shelton
"I have lost my appetite." "Nothing tastes good to me anymore. 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
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
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
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
"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, Dr. 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.
Fasting and 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
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
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
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 pinhead 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
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
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
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
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
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
He manages to hold this improvement and not infrequently to add to it, while
eating a carefully planned diet and taking regular exercise and sunbaths
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
I prefer the vegetable proteins—nuts and sunflower seeds are good in these
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.
Bowel Action During Fasting
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
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
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, in his book The Fasting Cure, "The constipated bowels were
permitted their own time for action."
Further on he adds:
"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 it 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
on 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
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
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 lodgment 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.
By: Herbert M. Shelton
First Article: Constructive Phases of the Fast
Second Article: Fasting in Chronic Disease
By: Herbert M. Shelton
Excerpted from: "Fasting Can Save Your Life"
Natural Hygiene Press 1964