THE DURATION OF THE FAST
BETWEEN APPETITE AND HUNGER:
THE DURATION of a fast to complete purification is a matter that can never be predicated in any individual case, for the beginning of the period of abstinence from food is coincidental with illness, and the end is reached, in the absence of organic deficiency, when hunger marks the return of digestive power. Until true hunger becomes apparent, and it cannot be mistaken, a fast which has for its purpose full systemic cleansing should continue. Not until hunger indicates the need for food is the organism in condition to receive and transform it into tissue structure.
The sensation of hunger is a safeguard established by nature to insure bodily maintenance. It is the first faculty that the infant exercises after birth, and its office in all life is that of a watchful caretaker entrusted with interests beyond the ordinary in import. Natural consciousness of hunger has largely been usurped by appetite, by artificial craving produced by the cultivation of the sense of taste and by regularity in the habits of feeding. Hunger is an involuntary sensation --as involuntary as is the beating of the heart. It is not created by the individual, nor does it make its appearance at stated hours or by exercise of the will. Hunger, the law that governs the conservation of all physical life, is constructive; but appetite, its counterfeit, easily called into being, and just as easily caused to appear at fixed times, is destructive in effect.
In disease hunger is absent; and during fasting appetite, too, ordinarily vanishes after a few days. When, in the fast, toxic elimination is complete, hunger, not appetite, returns. Hunger is normal; appetite is abnormal. And this distinction, considered in connection with the breaking of a fast, is most important. The question of resumption of feeding does not lie for answer in the judgment of either physician or patient. It rests with the law of hunger alone. During a fast that is to be prolonged until hunger returns, food of any kind is an intruder, for the energy of the body is being directed through the organs of elimination towards cleansing the system of self-manufactured poison. The coated tongue, the foul breath, all of the more or less unpleasant symptoms heretofore described, are but signs of the presence in decomposing condition of food and tissue waste. And, being of decomposition, they are also signs of the death of life-giving substances and of portions of the organism itself, the products of which are most harmful unless promptly removed from the body. When toxic elimination has reached the vanishing point, the juncture at which rebuilding of cell structure is demanded lest the body die, hunger will definitively appear. Hunger is the abiding law of animal existence; it is the signal of instinct by which the living organism perceives that food is needed for repair and growth. And, in a fast, with it, the clean tongue, the sweet breath, the signs of normal life, are coincident.
In functional disease a fast may be carried to its logical end without anxiety, for resident in the body there exists at all times a supply of tissue pabulum for use in repair and growth, whether the latter be ordinary or extraordinary. This reserve is constantly called upon in health or in illness, while feeding or fasting, for the nourishment and upbuilding of nerve and brain substances, and the latter never suffer deterioration in quality nor in structure unless in themselves they are specifically diseased. Even in instances of death from starvation, nerve tissue and that of the brain show no loss. They make use of the food reserve held in the interstices of tissue, and they draw upon this accumulation for support. The nervous system regains its energy, when depleted, through rest alone, but it maintains its quality through the means described. Hence, so long as there remain tissues, and this includes the blood, sufficient to carry on the work of the functions and of the circulation, brain and nerves will continue their directing tasks, and they cannot waste in the process.
That a supply of healthy tissue food exists within the body during a fast, and that it is not exhausted until the return of natural hunger, does not rest for proof upon the dictum of medical observation in cases of starvation. In the chapter of the text devoted to illustrative cases an instance is cited of eventual healing by first intention during a fast of fifty-two days of a sore three inches in diameter, a suppurating sore so virulent in character that the periosteum of the bone beneath was exposed. Two cases of illness during pregnancy are also noted in which the prospective mothers fasted for twenty-two and thirty days respectively. In the bodies of each of these women the growth of the fetus was progressive and normal, despite omission of ingestion. Due to their functional disorder, hunger was absent in these pregnant patients, but a supply of nourishment, and wholesome nourishment at that, was at hand, and it served to maintain the organisms of the mothers and to build those of the forming children for the periods given above, and at term each mother was delivered of a child in all respects physiologically normal.
The signs of a successfully completed fast are most easily recognized. The tongue is pink and clean, the breath is sweet, and appetite or false hunger is supplanted by natural desire for food, a sensation that is exquisite beyond description, and that may be realized only by a purified and regenerated system.
Again, because of the importance of the subject, iteration is made. Hunger is at all times to be distinguished from appetite. Hunger is discriminative and preserves the body. Appetite is abnormal desire and ultimately destroys. Hunger is primarily indicated in the mouth, and, if not relieved, it becomes an organic craving that can be satisfied only by digestible food; but appetite cannot be so silenced; it continually searches for this or for that; it is never satisfied.
Natural hunger indicates a system with all channels of vitality freed from obstruction, with every nerve sensitized to the extreme of response to impulse. This adjustment of bodily power and function is invariably evident when a fast has been scientifically conducted to completion. And it is here observed that this conserved of the organism, this all-important warder of its needs, stands ever in the guise of what may be termed organic intelligence, for, in a body free from toxin-producing substances, hunger displays selective intelligence, in great part demanding foods adapted in kind and proportion to constructive need. And, when the latter is satisfied, the hunger sense is quiescent, to return only when the organism again signifies renewed desire.
With the return of natural hunger after a fast, the food selective sensations, taste and smell, are discovered to be unusually keen and active. Too often are these faculties perverted by abuse to the extent of accepting and presumably enjoying food and odors that are abhorrent to naturally constituted organisms. At the conclusion of a fast, taste and smell act as co-indicators with hunger in determining the limit of abstinence; they, too, are restored to normal acuity. And with them thirst reverts to standard--not a desire for liquid that is produced by stimulation or by drug-exhaustion of the fluids of the body, but one that makes known the natural need for their replenishment. The being that eats when hunger, not appetite, calls, that drinks when thirst, not stimulation, demands, and that follows unquestioningly the selective sensations of taste and of smell, need never know disease.
It is sometimes good judgment to break a fast before the system is fully purified, then to return to abstinence after an interval of corrective diet. While this method is perhaps not as satisfactory in result as is that of the logically completed fast, it is at times expedient, and especially so in personally conducted essays into natural therapy, when there is lack of intelligent direction. Good judgment may also indicate shortening the period of abstinence when there is certainty of the presence of organic disease, or when preparation for the fast has been carelessly performed or entirely omitted. But, even though organic deficiency exists, the body is more certain of recovery when a fast is undertaken, since organic labor is thus gradually reduced, and progressive relief is afforded the system as a whole. In these conditions the sole hope either of partial recuperation or of ultimate cure lies in the systemic purification which the fast permits and in the rest afforded to the defective organ or organs which have been laboring under more than usual functional strain.
The question, "How long must I fast until my system is purified?" is one that may never be answered with certainty. Each individual develops his own case, and each case has its own limitations and requirements. And the further fact is to be faced that no matured human body in which disease is present may be brought to health within a definitely limited period of time. A lifetime of wrong living, more or less extended, has contributed to disease, and, especially in the chronic case, it is unreasonable to assume that nature, even when permitted a free hand, may within a few short weeks or months bring about the physiological changes necessary to function.
When a fast is successfully completed, the body functions in a sphere of natural activity, and no conception may be had, save in the indicated condition, of the gratification that accompanies the simpler acts that constitute physical life. To eat rationally, to eat only at the demand of hunger and not to excess, become pleasures that are exquisite, and that are not marred with regret for the flesh pots.
Nature asks of
him who would live the balanced physical life but the will and the ability
to follow logically the details of the simple law outlined in this chapter,
the law of hunger, which, obeyed brings health for reward; but, which,
violated, condemns the offender to condign and lasting punishment.
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