Dr. E. H. Dewey said, "The body may be well fed but still be starving to death." This statement may be made more striking and perhaps more lucid by saying that in reality it is the overfed body that is continuously in a starving condition, and this by a process that is much more distressing in effect than is that by which death is caused when food is indefinitely denied. And starving of this sort, starving from overfeeding, is well nigh the universal manner in which the individual existence of man is terminated, for every symptom of disease, every disease epidemic, owes its development to food wrongly combined, and ingested always in excess, and usually far in excess, of body requirement, with malnutrition as its consequence.
Each cell that enters the structure of the human organism may be regarded as an entity, as an individual life center, with power to select and to appropriate for its maintenance suitable constructive material from the blood current, and with power to eliminate its own waste. This being true, the life of the body as a whole is reflected in miniature in each of its cells, the infinitesimal particles that go to form its structure. In health, when equilibrium is sustained between nutrition and elimination, every cell capably performs its function, receives its needful quota of pabulum, and discharges its waste. In disease the condition changes. Material then absorbed is the product of ill-digested or non-digested food, elimination is also at fault, and the cell finds its source of maintenance, the blood stream, vitiated. For a time the small body is supported by its inherent vitality and by its stored food reserve, but, if proper nourishment is denied, if the condition of toxemia persists, it atrophies and eventually dies. The death of cells sufficient in number to cause a vital organ to fail in function causes the death of the body. And thus, in a sense, it may be said that all animal dissolution, exclusive of that caused by accident, is brought about through starvation
The usual concept of starvation is that the body perishes for some reason or other because it is not supplied with food for its maintenance and growth. But elements and conditions other than those caused by deprivation of food enter into starving to death, for the latter cannot occur in ordinary circumstances, as the text demonstrates, within a few days or weeks, or even months, when the resources of the body have been in any degree conserved.
In a scientifically conducted fast death from starvation cannot take place when organic disease is absent. In every animate body a reserve supply of nourishment is held in the interstices of tissue. Brain and nerves are at all times directly supported by this stored food, and, when wounds, sores, or fractures of bone call for repair, a healthy surplus furnishes the demand. Not until this reserve is exhausted or prevented from being appropriated by nerve structure can death intervene.
When disease is manifest, there is no hunger--there cannot be, for the body then indicates through physical distress first, that it desires functional rest, and next, that it is in process of relieving itself of the cause of its distress. And, until its purposes are accomplished, vitality is more weakly expressed, since the paths for the transfer of energy are largely obstructed. But the vehicle of vitality, the organism itself, is conserved for a time by means of its sinking-fund of nourishment. If by continued feeding--and any feeding in disease is pernicious--the avenues for the expression of life force are further obstructed, strength finally may be no longer manifested, and death will occur. On the other hand, when nature is permitted full scope, the cause of disease is eliminated, and true hunger appears. Then, with food supplied, rebuilding and growth are resumed in a system purified and functionally equal to its appointed tasks.
The law of hunger, the primal rule of being in animal existence, is reserved for discussion later in the text. It is the safeguard of bodily resource, and its claims may never be ignored.
Disease may be induced through the action of mental states upon physical function, and in accidental conditions that compel abstinence from food, such as shipwreck, mine disasters, and the like, digestive function is paralyzed by mental apprehension. If death should occur in these circumstances, within a comparatively short time, it must be attributed, not to lack of nourishment, but to the effect of fear, of general emotional exhaustion, upon physical forces.
It is an error to associate the terms, fasting and starvation. Fasting conduces to systemic purlfication; starvation is actual systemic poisoning. One may and often does starve on three full daily meals. And it may be added that it requires great skill to fast an individual properly, but that any tyro can starve a man to death.
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