Fasting A Brief History
By: Herbert M. Shelton     

                                                                 Although fasting has been
                                                                 practiced by both man and
                                                                 animals since the origin of life
                                                                 on earth and there has never
                                                                 been a time within this period
                                                                 when it has not been employed,
                                                                 the professional use of the fast in
                                                                 sickness in this country dates from
1822, in which year Isaac Jennings, M.D. began to employ it.  

In 1830 Sylvester Graham began to advocate fasting.  From that period to this
it has been extensively employed in this country, both by Hygienists and by

It has also been employed extensively in Europe; but in what follows, I shall
confine myself to a discussion of its employment by Hygienists in America.  

With the exception of Graham, the men whose experiences and statements I
shall discuss were medical men, almost all of them being or having been
members of one or the other of four medical professions existing in this
country during the 19th century.  

A few of them were graduates of the College of Hygeo-Therapy.  The
drug-medical graduates quoted are men who had forsaken drugs and were
practicing Hygienically or largely so.  

The general attitude of these men towards drugs may be well summed up in
the words of George H. Taylor, M.D., who wrote: (
Journal, April 1857) "I have
not a shadow of faith in the remedial virtues of drugs, of whatever name or
nature, by whosoever administered."  

Fasting, which is entire abstinence from all food but water, is a definite
physiological or biological procedure that is adopted by the animal kingdom
under a wide variety of circumstances; but we are here primarily interested in
its employment in a state of illness.  

Dr. Trall stressed the fact that nothing is remedial except those conditions,
which economize the expenditure of the forces of the sick organism.  

When the overtaxed, satiated and surfeited system rebels against its abuses,
what is more logical than the other extreme of abstinence or spare diet and
water, such as Adam and Eve quaffed when cigars and quids were unheard

This permits the relaxed and prostrated digestive organs to rally and restore
their functioning powers.  The irritableness and fretfulness of the sick, so
commonly observed under conventional care, is reduced to a minimum when
the patient fasts.  

After such a period of repose, the stomach regains its tone, the heart its usual
healthy action, and the blood courses cheerily through its vessels.  

Frequent references to fasting were carried by the
Graham Journal of Health
and Longevity
and much benefit was described as flowing from the practice.  

Fasting was consistently advocated in the
Graham Journal during the whole
three years of its publication, 1837-38-39.  We have no specific evidence that
Graham's advocacy of fasting was based upon the findings of Beaumont, but
we do have frequent references to these findings in support of their fasting

For example, a writer in the
Graham Journal of September 19, 1837, points out
that Beaumont found that when his experimental subject suffered with fever,
little or no gastric juice was secreted and that food only served as a source of
irritation to that organ and, consequently, to the whole organism.  

No solvent (digestive juice), said Beaumont, can be secreted under these
circumstances; hence, food is as insoluble in the stomach as would be lead
under ordinary circumstances.  

Beaumont declared that food would lay in the stomach of Alexis St. Martin
when he was ill for periods ranging from six to 32 or 40 hours, unchanged
except for fermentation and putrefaction.  

Beaumont's findings have since been repeatedly verified by physiologists.  
Such facts indicate the importance of withholding food in acute disease; but
Graham refers to fasting in cases of tumor and other chronic conditions, thus
indicating that in what Dr. Felix Oswald called the
"Graham starvation cure"
the fasting practice was not confined to acute illnesses.  

Graham's statements regarding fasting and its employment in various
conditions indicate a wide familiarity with the fast and observations and
experiences that reach far beyond what would seem at first glance to have
been his.  

Writing September 16, 1859, a physician living in upstate New York accused
Hygienists of starving their patients to death.  This accusation indicates that
the use of the fast, while general among Hygienists, was as little understood
by physicians of the period as by those of today.  

The fear of starvation has been instilled into us by the medical profession for
a long time.  

Discussing the fast that an acutely ill child was undergoing,
Dr. Jennings said:

"There is now little action of the system generally, and consequently, there is
but little wear and tear of machinery; and like the dormouse, it might subsist
for months on its own internal resources, if that were necessary, and
everything else favored.  

The bowels too have been quiet for a number of days, and they might remain
as they are for weeks and months to come without danger, if this were
essential to the prolongation of life.  

The muscles of voluntary motion are at rest and cost nothing for their
maintenance, save a slight expenditure of safekeeping forces to hold them in
readiness for action at any future time if their services are needed.  

So of all the other parts and departments; the most perfect economy is
everywhere exercised in the appropriation and use of the vital energies."

The prostration here pictured is characteristic of serious acute disease and
results from the fact that the body marshals all of its energies, resources and
attentions in the remedial work and suspends all activities that can be
temporarily dispensed with while more urgently needed work is carried on.  

Prostration may come on suddenly.  A man may be plowing in the field and
feeling well and collapse suddenly and have to be carried into the house and
put to bed.  This does not represent a sudden loss of energy, but a sudden
withdrawal of energies and resources from temporarily dispensable

In chronic disease, there is rarely such profound prostration; but there is
always a need for conservation of energy and a period of physiological rest is

Writing in the
Journal, August 1850, Dr. Kittredge of Boston says that during
the 12 years prior thereto, he began the
"hunger cure" in his practice,
remarking that he got the idea from
"somebody's common sense."  

It is probable that this common sense was imparted to him by some of the
Grahamites.  Kittredge tells of fasts of seven, 21 and 22 days in acute disease
and says that:
"in every case I had every reason in the world to believe that
they not only got well quicker, but suffered infinitely less during the fever and
got their strength up much better afterward than they would have done if they
had taken gruel, etc., daily."  

In an editorial in the
Journal, May 1851, in which Dr. Trall discussed
Extractum Carnis (a flesh extract, developed by a German physician), he said
that fever patients under allopathic care
"are usually so dosed with beef
soup, mutton tea, chicken broth, etc., that the febrile irritation is kept up and
aggravated by the slop-dieting, when the stomach really needs entire
abstinence from all food."  

Then, explaining the benefits reported to flow from the use of Extractum
Carnis, he says:

"Dr. Beneke, on the mistaken notion that his carnal extract is immensely
nutritious, gives very little of it, and so the patient is scarcely injured at all.  
While the doctor intends to diet the patient strongly, the patient really gets
almost a fast."  

The importance which Trall attached to fasting in fevers may be gleaned from
his statement that:

"We can easily explain the seeming value of the article (Extractum Carnis was
claimed to possess extraordinary efficacy in fevers) to febrile patients, and in
the explanation is involved an important therapeutic principle."  

The explanation was that the patient was practically fasting and the important
principle of care was that the fever patient should not be fed.  

Without explaining why, Trall made occasional exceptions to this principle in
smallpox.  In this disease he advised:

"Give no food save Indian or wheat-meal gruel, and not that unless the
calls for it.  Nursing children may take the breast as usual if inclined."

It need hardly be added that nursing babies are not inclined to take the breast
when feverish.  

There need be no fear of letting the patient fast, as there is no power to digest
food and feeding does not provide nourishment for the fever patient.  

Whether in acute or chronic disease, in the absence of a fresh supply of food,
the body appropriates its own substance for the purpose of continuing its
vital activities and functions.  

It has large stores of nutritive materials in its bones, muscles, glands, fluids,
etc., with which it can maintain essential repairs and minimum functional
activities for a considerable time.  Drawing only from the storehouse of its
own internal treasure, it seeks to make these last as long as possible.  

Writing in the
Journal, September 1857, S. M. Landis, M.D., said:

"In acute and inflammatory diseases no food should be used.  Henceforth,
brothers of the Hygeo-Therapeutic cause, I beseech you, one and all, to pay
more attention to diet, and let splashing, dashing, exercising, etc., be of
secondary importance . . . do this that drug doctors may no longer have the
opportunity to cry us down by saying that our system is a mere soaking and
squirting practice."  

Landis thus lays the greatest emphasis upon the importance of the fast.  
Perhaps the man other than Jennings who placed greatest stress upon
fasting was Dr. Kittredge.  In an article published in the
Journal, June 1851,
Kittredge says:

"Nature, knowing the impossibility of quelling insurrection in one of her chief
citadels (he was dealing with diseases of the liver), while there was anything
to feed the fires of rebellion, wisely stops the appetite at such times, in order
that the excitement may cease, knowing that flames without fuel cannot last

His resort to pictorial language and reversion to old fallacies about disease (a
rebellion and a flame) somewhat spoils his assertion about abstinence in
disease, but the fact that the desire for food is cut off in acute disease is not

Writing in the
Journal, January 1861, Dr. George H. Taylor said:

"The coated tongue is nature's peremptory method of refusing food, which
indication must be respected."  

In this same article he advised abstinence in headaches and dyspepsia, these
latter being commonly regarded as chronic diseases.  

It is important for us to understand that the absence of desire for food and the
lack of digestive ability seen in acute disease is but part of the general
prostration of the patient.  

Prostration must be viewed as a general suspension of muscular, secretory
and mental function as a conservative measure.  The prostration of the
digestive function is as much a conservative measure as is the prostration of
the superficial muscles of the body.  

Viewed in this light, prostration is seen to be the chief means employed by
the sick organism in adjusting its activities and its intake of external
requirements to its needs under the circumstances of disease.  

Writing in the
Journal, May 1856, Solomon Priese, M.D., stressed the fact that
the indications of the prostrated digestive function should be respected by

"The first thing to be done when these feelings (headache, aching in the limbs,
bad taste in the mouth, furred tongue and general constipation of the
bowels--the leading premonitory symptoms) are experienced is to stop

In an article in the
Journal, October 1851, dealing with "Bowel Complaints"
Kittredge said:

"Above all, stop eating."
 Further, he advised: "It is within the bounds of
prudence to stop eating when you have 'bowel complaint' of any kind,
especially when nature stops the appetite."  

It is important for the reader to know that a due adherence to this simple rule
will speedily end most cases of diarrhea and other forms of bowel disease.  

Writing on
"The Hunger Cure" in the Journal, November 1851, Kittredge said:

"It must be injurious to the patient and retard his recovery, if the stomach and
liver are made to work, when not in a condition to labor, or the arterial system
to be stimulated by ingesta when inflammation already exists.  

Now I contend that in almost all phases of diseased action, there is more or
less inflammatory action, even in debility; and argue as they may, it will not do
to eat, however hungry or weak, anything requiring much of any exercise in
digestion, and in very many cases nothing at all.  

It requires great discrimination to know when to stop, when to begin, and how
much to give, I know; but a man should not attempt to practice unless he has
good judgment, above all things."  

Recounting a case of a woman suffering with inflammation of the liver and
duodenum, whom he had to fast, Kittredge gave it as his opinion that:

"It would have been impossible to have cured her, while she was still eating."  
"Accordingly," he adds, "I advised her to stop; she did so, though her appetite
was 'raving;' but immediately the question arose in her mind, how long can I

It is hard to fast, as I well know, when you are hungry as a half famished bear
all the time; but it is better to fast than to do worse.  This woman went seven
days without tasting food of any kind, and then contrary to my advice, went to
eating; but in a short time was as bad as ever.  

My rule is to keep them fasting until the tongue becomes clean and the mouth
tastes properly.  

My patient's good sense told her she had acted unwisely, and she readily
assented to commence again her fasting, which this time lasted about
seventeen days, and she then cautiously began to eat and increased the
amount till she reached a full diet; and it is now some three months or more
since that time, and she has been almost a well woman, nothing has troubled
her stomach since."  

In bowel inflammation, Kittredge advised:

"Let the stomach alone severely and abstain from all food."  Of typhoid he
"Very little treatment is necessary in these cases actually, if the patient
will only consent to live in obedience to common sense, by abstaining from all

Writing in the
Journal, April 1856, Kittredge said, in discussing a case of
severe ophthalmia:

"The first thing was to stop all the fuel that was feeding the flames in the shape
of food from being supplied.  He fasted a week, when the inflammation having
abated, he began to eat lightly, and in a day or two more, insisted upon going
down town; the weather being intensely cold, and when he returned, his
appetite having become as keen as the wind he had been facing, he ate too
much, which with undue exposure, brought on a return of symptoms similar to
the first, though not so severe.  Total abstinence from all food was again

How terribly strange, he exclaims:
"that physicians generally will not make
themselves acquainted with abstinence."

Writing in this same article of a case of neuralgia, he says:

"I stopped all eating entirely, for a time, then graduated her food to the
capabilities of her organs, altering the nature as well as the quantity of food,
and so great was the change in one week."

He says:

"I find it necessary in almost all of these cases to abstain entirely from all food
for some days, no matter how weak they be; they soon find that they are
stronger without food than with it, for nothing weakens anyone like pain.  One
has to be very careful how they try the fasting experiment, as they may carry it
too far, which would be injurious, and if not far enough, they do nothing.  

As a general thing, I make it a rule not to prescribe fasting to any extent,
unless the patient will come to the establishment, or is where I can see him
every day, and then I have but little trouble in curing even the most inveterate

Greatest stress was placed upon the value of fasting in acute disease.  
Writing in the
Journal, February 1862, of the care of acute cases by Hygienic
means, J. H. Stillnab, M.D., said that:

"Entire abstinence from food until the prominent symptoms of the disease-I
care not what it is-abate, is of the utmost importance."

He further says of the care of acute disease, which he defines as
that, if Hygienically cared for, this will "save the pains and confinement
of a long illness"
and "there would be no chronic disease."  

He recounts successfully caring for cases of ague and fever by
abstinence and warm drinking."  

In the August 1851 issue of the
Journal, one Dr. Wilmarth stresses the value
of abstinence in disease.  

In an article published in 1856, Dr. James C. Jackson, discussing the evils of
drugging the sick, said:

"What your patient wants is abstinence from food and brain quiet."  

S. M. Landis, M.D., writing in the Journal, September 1857, said:
"In acute and
inflammatory diseases, no food should be used."  

Of serious bowel disease, Kittredge said:

"When once the membranes become inflamed, it is in vain you try to cure it . . .
while the patient is made or allowed to swallow food, as it will never be
chymified, and of course, act as any foreign substance would do, provoking
and perpetuating the disease."  

Writing in the
Journal, August 1858, Kittredge stressed the importance of
abstinence in typhoid or slow fever.  Young says of a typhoid fever case that
he reported:

"The patient was stubborn, and persisted in spite of the absence of hunger, in
taking food.  This intensified the symptoms."  

Discussing the sickness of the Prince of Wales, who recovered from typhoid
fever after his life had been despaired of, upon the discontinuance of
alcoholic medication and the substitution of milk therefor, Trall said:

"If the doctors in all similar cases will give milk instead of brandy, or will even
omit the stimulants without giving the milk, there will be less danger of the
patient dying and no danger whatever of mistaking intoxication for 'goneness'
of one lung nor of misjudging the vomiting of narcosis for perforation of the

Speaking of rheumatism in an article in the
Journal, August 1858, Kittredge
stressed the
"absolute necessity for fasting in such cases."  

Dr. Trall reproduces the account of one of his colleagues (
Journal, June 1857)
who cared for a case of inflammatory rheumatism in which J.P.H. says that:
"No food was taken for two weeks."  

Writing of a case of puerperal fever,
Journal, October 1860, A. Augusta
Fairchild, M.D., remarks that she had the assistance on the case of a nurse of
"good common sense" who did not entertain the "foolish notion so prevalent
regarding the care of the sick she did not fear that the sick woman would
'starve' when she was not in a condition to receive food, nor that she would
sleep too much, or breathe the pure air.  The world would be blessed indeed if
we had more such nurses."  

Writing in the
Journal, March 1862, of the preparation of patients for
operations, Trall, who was a skilled surgeon, condemned both the physics
employed by allopaths and those employed by the physio-meds to empty the
bowels and the emetics employed with which to empty the stomach.  

He thought it:

"Bad practice under any and all circumstances to disturb and, to a certain
extent, prostrate a patient with a dose of medicine of any kind, just before he is
to submit to a serious surgical operation.  He needs at this time all of his vital
resources for recuperation and reparation, and to waste any portion of them is
just to that extent to hazard the final success.  If the bowels require cleansing
of the fecal accumulations, an enema of warm water is amply sufficient.  If the
stomach is foul, one day's fasting will rectify that difficulty."

Both in the
Graham Journal and in the Journal there are accounts of men and
women employing fasting for short periods in minor troubles without
professional supervision.  

For example, a mechanic, recounting his personal experience in caring for his
sick child, in a letter, which Trall reproduced in the journal, June 1857, says
"no food was taken for two weeks."  He says that his neighbors
protested that:
"You will certainly starve the poor child to death."  

Neighbors are still making this same unintelligent statement.  In the
September 19, 1851 issue of the Journal, an anonymous writer, discussing
"self-treatment" says:

"By way of experiment, about this time, I tried the effects of the hunger cure.  
After abstaining from food for several days, I found the severity of my pains
entirely overcome, and it has not returned to this day."  

In giving instructions for breaking the fast, they said:

"When your tongue is clean, your rest peaceful, your skin clear, your eyes
bright, the pain gone, the soreness gone, and you are very sharply hungry,
you may select from the scores of healthful articles of food that which pleases
you and eat with moderation."  

When we consider the facts that fasting, especially in acute disuse, was
stressed by Graham, Jennings, Trall, Jackson, Kittredge, Taylor, Nichols and
other leading Hygienists of the time, and the further fact that in their writings
and public lectures the graduates of the Hygeo-Therapeutic College stressed
the importance of fasting in acute disease, it becomes obvious that the
subject was taught in the college.  

But warnings were issued against using fasting to the exclusion of other
essential Hygienic means.  Fasting, they said, may be said to be in the
strictest sense only an adjuvant, and properly employed is a most useful
auxiliary, and in almost all cases is much to be desired; but it is possible to
lay altogether too much stress upon it to the neglect of the more important
elements of Hygiene.  

In the January 9, 1875 issue of
The Science of Health, Trall reproduced a letter
from a correspondent, who after thanking him for his letter of advice says:

"I immediately commenced a protracted fast, eating nothing for several
successive days and, after that, barely enough to sustain life."  

This man says that for years he had been a
"miserable invalid" thus stressing
the fact that his disease was chronic, one, which had
"defied" a "vain search
for health."
 This case indicates the advice to fast in chronic conditions.  

Graham said:

"Fasting removes those substances which are of the least use to the
economy, and hence all morbid accumulations, such as wens, tumors,
abscesses and so on, are rapidly diminished and wholly removed by
abstinence and fasting."

The reader will note that the conditions here instanced by Graham are
chronic, thus stressing the use of fasting in chronic conditions.  

Kittredge probably made more use of fasting in chronic disease than did any
of his contemporaries.  

He said:

"I know very well I am peculiar in my treatment of chronic disease, and many
cry out starvation, etc., but I know also that I have cured hundreds of what the
faculty had pronounced 'hopeless cases,' by my plan, and shall not, therefore,
be frightened by any bugbear from pursuing it."  

"most respectfully" suggested to the hydropaths of the time that they try
fasting in connection with water treatments in chronic disease.  He said that
he was certain they would find it most valuable as an auxiliary to their water
applications, and that it would greatly expedite cures in many cases, and that
in some cases a cure is impossible without it.  

On the whole, however, the early Hygienists did not make as much use of
fasting as we do today and rarely used a long fast.  This fact is brought
forcefully to our attention by the comments of Dr. Walter on Dr. Tanner's
second fast, made while the fast was in progress, which appeared in
Laws of Health
, August 1880.  

His editorial, written on the 22nd day of Tanner's fast, predicted that Tanner
could not live much beyond 40 days and expressed doubts that, if he
succeeded in fasting 40 days, he would ever recover from the ordeal.  

He said:

"A man in certain conditions of disease might live 40 days without eating, but
we doubt if it be possible for a person in vigorous health to accomplish so
remarkable a task."

This seems to be an echo of a statement made by Dr. Jennings, who seems
to have thought that in some manner the sick organism was better able to
sustain itself without food than the healthy organism.  

Writing of a sick child Jennings had said:

"The child has taken no nourishment for a number of days and may take none
for many days to come, if it should live; yet there is nothing to be feared on
this account.  Take a healthy child from food while its vital machinery is in full
operation, and it will use up its building material and fall into ruin within two or
three weeks, but in this case the system has been prepared for a long
suspension of the nutritive function."  

Dr. Walter continues:

"We can but admire, however, the pluck, energy, and we believe, devotion to a
principle, that has induced the doctor to make a martyr of himself.  We hope
that he may succeed, if not in fasting for 40 days, at least in convincing the
medical profession that it is not necessary that a man should stuff himself
three or four times a day in order to live.  

There never was a more ridiculous fallacy than to suppose that a man will die
if he abstains from food for a few days.  The ignorance of the people, not only,
but the total subjection of reason to appetite, of the profession, was surely
proved by the prediction of medical men that a week or ten days would finish
Dr. Tanner.  We have never doubted his ability to live four or five weeks
without eating; but to return to health and vigor after a six-weeks' fast is more
than we expect."

Although there was plenty of evidence available to the men of the era to show
that return to health and vigor after a lengthy fast was easily possible, the
idea persisted even into our own century that there is something basically
different in fasting by the sick and in fasting by the healthy.  

Dr. Walter said on this occasion:

"And yet, moderate fasting is not destructive to life or health.  On the other
hand, we hold it to be one of the most powerful agents in many cases toward
the improvement of nutrition, and consequently, of health and vigor . . .

Fasting, whereby the vital powers shall be permitted to free themselves, is one
of the most efficient means for recovery.  We have remarkable cures, and one
of the most remarkable that we ever performed was on a lady who, under our
direction, abstained from food entirely for four days.  

She was a hopeless invalid, and according to her physician's diagnoses,
hopelessly incurable, and yet in three weeks she was restored to good
health . . .

One of the greatest errors of the medical profession today consists in the habit
of stuffing patients whether they can use the food or not.  Appetite we hold to
be the language of nature.  When the appetite fails, the evidence is clear that
food cannot be used . . ."  

Dr. Walter thought that:

"Tanner has proved by his experiment that the people are not so dependent
upon food as is generally imagined."  

It was his view that this error of the people and the profession grew out of the
common practice of employing so-called stimulants.  

"No man" he wrote, "is so dependent upon food or some other staying
influence as is the man who eats or drinks stimulating substances.  Who does
not employ stimulants will live 24 hours without food and suffer no serious
inconvenience; but if he is addicted to coffee, tobacco, alcohol, or highly
seasoned food, he needs to return to his stomach every few hours the
substances which will keep up its activities."  

Continuing his remarks, Dr. Walter says:

"Dr. Hammond is to pay Dr. Tanner $1,000 if the latter succeeds in his
undertaking.  Though Hammond should save his thousand dollars, Tanner
will, nevertheless, have proved Dr. Hammond to be one of the poorest and
wildest medical philosophers of the age.  No man has done more to sustain
the practice of stimulation, increase drunkenness, exhaust the vital powers of
the patient, and bring about gluttonous excesses than he."

Tanner's fast was taken under the strictest surveillance, being carefully
watched by medical men and others around the clock, both day and night,
and when the 40 days of abstinence had ended,
"even Dr. Hammond, who
was most loud in his declarations of the impossibility of the performance of
such a feat"
admitted "that the fast was a genuine one."  

In spite of the fact that the fast was admittedly genuine, the
continued to carry the statement that human beings could not go
without food for more than six days, until after the Cork hunger strike.  

Returning again to his prediction that Tanner would not live long beyond his
experiment, Dr. Walter ends his editorial with the following words:

"We venture again the prediction that Dr. Tanner will not live long beyond his
experiment, and yet he is not likely to die for two or three weeks yet.  Possibly
we may be called upon to congratulate the Doctor on his recovery after his
long fast, though in common with most physicians, we doubt his ability to

It will interest my readers to learn that Dr. Tanner recovered excellent health
and remained in good health for 30 years thereafter, or until his death in 1910.

In the September 1880 issue of
The Laws of Health, Dr. Walter returns to the
fast by Tanner.  

"The long fast has ended" he says, "as we predicted it would, successfully;
but we admit to some disappointment as to the Doctor's ability to immediately
retain food.  

Though he had been vomiting continually for days, up to the end of the fast,
he, nevertheless, was able to drink half a pint of milk and eat a large slice of
watermelon without any apparent difficulty, and soon thereafter repeat the
doses of victuals until one would suppose he had a stomach capable of
enduring anything, notwithstanding its long season of depletion."  

It must be admitted that Dr. Walter's prediction that Tanner would
successfully complete the fast was a rather hesitant and doubtful one.  

Considering then, the question that was being asked:
"What good will come
of it all?"
 Dr. Walter said:

"It must be apparent to physicians generally that man's dependence upon
food has been greatly overrated.  

Food is not, by any means, of first importance; air and water certainly precede
it.  If the doctors will hereafter cease stuffing their patients when the system is
already gorged with material, the fast will not be without its uses."  

Thus it will be seen that he regarded the success of Tanner's undertaking as
an object lesson and that he hoped that the lesson would not be lost to the
medical profession.  

Amazingly enough, to this day, Hygienists are still trying to impress the
medical profession.  We never seem to learn the simple lesson that medical
men cannot be impressed.  Instead of going directly to the people with our
message, we waste too much time trying to convert an unconvertible

Sometimes it is contended by physicians that the employment of food and
fasting in the care of the sick is no new thing, that they have employed and
sanctioned these things for ages.  

But the venerable sanctity of the profession cannot hide the fact that, as a
body, they have relied on drugs and have neglected both diet and abstinence
for ages.  Nor can the profession any longer claim that it possesses a
monopoly of facts pertaining to health.  

The more frequent employment of the fast by Hygienists of the present in
chronic disease and the employment of longer fasts followed the work of
Edward Hooker Dewey, M.D., who became known as The Father of the
Fasting Cure.  

Dewey was not a Hygienist and promoted the fast as a cure.  His work,
together with that of his successors, especially Dr. Linda Burfield Hazzard
and Benarr Macfadden and his associates greatly popularized the fast, not so
much as an integral factor of a Hygienic plan of care, but as a cure.  

Today we do not stress so much the length of the fast as its effectiveness.  
To arbitrarily limit the duration of the fast is to limit the benefits one may
derive from it.

The only logical plan of determining the length of a fast is to watch
day-by-day developments and to break or continue the fast according to
these.  No man possesses sufficient knowledge to determine in advance
how much fasting one requires in one's particular condition.  

In adjusting the length of the fast to individual requirements, a close study
and observation of the faster, as the fast progresses, is required.  

By: Herbert M. Shelton

Excerpted From:
Man's Pristine Way Of Life 1968

Fasting: A Brief History

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