WHEN AND WHY TO FAST
TO FAST IS WHEN ONE IS ILL:
The social surroundings of a fasting patient are of the utmost import. The effect of mental states upon physical well being will not be dwelt upon here, but, when friends and family object to the administration of a fast, their opposition is more than apt to be the cause of an emotional crisis. These objections are mainly made because of lack of knowledge of the purpose of the fast and of the details of its application. Ignorant of the principle that underlies this wholly natural agency for the cure of disease, its outcome is feared, and, while the patient is ready and willing to submit to the regimen imposed, relatives and friends may resist to the point of compulsion. Since peace of mind and quiet environment are essential, in these circumstances separation from anxious but misguided intimates is virtually indispensable to favorable result.
Worry, anger, grief, and other morbid emotions are also most detrimental to progress towards cure. One instance comes to mind of a case that had fasted but eight days for functional disease of no especial gravity. Improvement had been continuous, but diferences had occurred between the patient and her husband and the latter, in an interview with his wife on the eighth day of her fast, so angered and distressed her that a nervous congestive chill, with suffusion of blood to the brain and lungs resulted, death succeeding. No argument could convince the orthodox mind that the fast was not responsible for the fatal consequence in this case. But the woman would have died just as surely had the scene related taken place before the omission of food, when the patient was physically and nervously weaker than at the time when anger and grief were so strongly excited.
In cases of functional disease, when the patient is not so depleted as to be bedridden, moderate daily exercise during a fast is beneficial. The ordinary duties of life may sometimes be continued with advantage, but, while some fasting subjects may follow their usual vocations, others are compelled to rest throughout the period of abstinence. Usually the greater part of the latter are sufferers from disease either chronically functional or organic in character. Mild mental activity is of value because of the diversion of the mind from contemplation of physical ills. The ideal method in personal conduct during a fast, however, embodies the practice of the sick animal, which remains quiescent, resting absolutely the while it refrains from eating.
It is to be emphasized at this point in the discussion that it is far better that the patient should so occupy himself while fasting that, in so far as is possible, his illness and his treatment be not at any time uppermost in his mind. This is not always a condition easily brought about, for, because of comparatively limited knowledge of the method, the majority of its cases is recruited from the chronically invalided, usually medically treated for years, and accustomed to constant thought of personal pain and distress. It may here be said that the relief occasioned by the fast very often permits these cases in large part to forget their ailments, and to devote their attention to the essentials of living. Occupation and diversion assist materially in accomplishing this result.
In the ordinary case of functional disease the fast to complete purlfication is at once suggested. The law of hunger determines its duration, and, all other things being equal, surroundings and mental attitude being in accord, this course will assure restoration to health. When the environment is not congenial, or when, in the opinion of the director of treatment, the condition is such as to require it, a partial fast interrupted by periods of corrective diet, may be used to advantage. Sometimes, too, the facilities for carrying out a complete fast are not afforded, and here the partial or interrupted fast may be deemed a better policy than its finished counterpart. The end is eventually identical, although it is somewhat longer in accomplishment.
There are cases in which the poisonous products of digestive ferment are present in quantity such as to tax the eliminative organs beyond their capability. When this is so, when certain serious and extreme symptoms occur after a fast is begun, these signs are in effect evidences of organic deficiency, and both knowledge and caution are then most necessary in order to carry the case to successful conclusion. Because of the general belief that every symptom is a sign of segregated disease, the average mind has been imbued with the idea that it must regard the symptom to the exclusion of the underlying cause. When, as happens in a fast, a characteristic sign of disease appears in aggravated form after months or years of intermittent occurrence, experience leads to the conclusion that illness is no longer due to simple functional derangement but to actual organic deficiency. Here the partial or interrupted fast is desirable, not because the protracted fast would not accomplish results with better prospect of favorable outcome, but because the patient, no matter how well he may be advised, is apt to fail to appreciate what temporary symptomatic aggravation in the fast implies.
An organ structurally defective cannot be expected to work to full normal capability. Each of the organs of the body will at all times do its utmost, will labor to the limit of its powers, but, forced beyond this limit, it must fail to respond. In cases of this sort, a fast is to be approached with care and intelligence, for only thus may be discovered the organic limitations, the organic deficiencies, of the body in question. During a fast all vital parts are engaged in a supreme process of purlfication--of casting out the toxic substances that are causing their disease. And, when it is seen through symptoms increased in severity that one or other of these parts is incapable of full duty, the process of elimination is to be assisted by natural stimulation of organs other than the one that is deficient in functioning ability. Such assistance may only be had by the employment of the hygienic accessories later to be described in the text.
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