PREPARATION FOR THE FAST
DISAPPEARS WHEN DISEASE APPROACHES:
WHEN disease appears in humankind, it is, as said before, not only a cautionary but a curative process. A disturbing element needs removal; tired and abused organs need rest and repair. Instinctively real food desire, true hunger, disappears; in fact, for some time previous to actual disability, hunger has been absent. Appetite or stimulated demand for sustenance may, however, be in evidence and may remain in evidence even after illness is manifest; but disease and hunger cannot exist at the same time in the human body.
Bodily functions are swift in their adaptability to conditions, and bodily organs accommodate themselves and their labors even to abuse. Consequently, in a system accustomed to continuous excess food supply, nature carries on existence in spite of handicap until accumulation and subsequent decomposition institute disease. Could the subject recognize that prevention of later evil lies entirely in his own hands, the greater portion of physical suffering would be eradicated; but prevention compels personal denial of personal habit and enjoyment; and denial in this respect is the hardest of all virtues to inculcate and to practice.
The simplicity of the application of the fast constitutes one of its principal drawbacks. To a mind convinced on final argument of the efficacy of the method, nothing is more easy than to begin the omission of the daily ration, irrespective of the mental and physiological changes that are involved. But food stimulation, always an important factor in disease, asserts the power of habit over the body; and, even though the will of the patient has been brought to understand the futility of dependence upon artIficial aids to health, as embodied in medicine and in methods akin to it, general knowledge is lacking concerning the proper means to pursue in order to overcome habit and to meet the physiological changes that ensue when food is denied the body for the purpose of prevention or of cure of disease.
The cultivation of a habit is a slow and insidious process, and so, in lesser degree perhaps, is its destruction. Abruptly to cease an action, normal or abnormal, habitually connected with bodily function, causes both physical and mental disturbance. Witness, for instance, the attempts of a victim of tobacco, alcohol, or morphine to escape from the toils. In the ordinary case will power alone may accomplish the result sought for. But in the purifying process of the fast abnormal desire is removed, and physical habits of this sort are thus easily conquered.
In many cases the will required to begin a fast is present, and, were this the sole consideration, food might at once be denied. But, because natural physiological change is always gradual in accomplishment, a like approach to cessation of digestion is essential. The ideal manner of effecting the readjustment of organic action, the consequence of lowering to zero the intake of food, is to diminish by degrees the amount ingested, for suddenly to omit food at the inception of a fast sets the stomach clamoring for supply at the hours which habit has fixed, and the results of deprivation are then comparable to those experienced by the toper or the drug victim when drink or narcotic is denied. Nervous reaction is at once apparent and depression follows. Only in acute disease should abrupt entrance be made to the fast, and this solely because at such times nature makes the issue and removes effectively all desire for food.
Daily baths and enemata, natural means for external and internal cleansing of the body and aids to elimination which do not disturb function as do purgatives, mark the commencement of treatment; and these accompaniments, with the omission of the midday meal, embody the first stage of approach to the period of total abstinence from food. Omitting the noon meal and lessening quantity at other meals paves the way; and, in the ordinary instance of functional disease, gradual diminution of food supply should occupy an interim of about ten days or two weeks, after which tomato broth, onion broth, or some similar light fluid food, in limited quantity, may be used, dropping then to lemon juice with honey in hot water taken about three times daily. In fact, half a lemon and a dessert spoon of honey to a pint of hot water may in many instances be given with benefit several times each day during the non-food interval. The slight effort of digestion required for this usually pleasant beverage does not to any degree interfere with the eliminative processes, and in cases where suggestion may be used with profit, it performs this service.
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