"Sunday, Feb. 25.—Slept nine hours and rested well, and did not drink any water during the night. Kept quiet all day, lying down most of the time, and felt the coming of hunger about 6 o'clock.
12 o'clock noon, pulse regular; tongue clean; temperature, 98.2 deg.F.; weighed 164 pounds. Measurements were: waist, 36-1/2 inches; chest, 38 inches; hip, 40-1/2 inches; calf, 14 inches; biceps, 11 inches; forearm, 10 inches.
Was in bed at 8 o'clock, still feeling hungry, and after a short sleep woke up at 11 o'clock with a sharp appetite, and ate a dozen raw oysters, two oranges, two-thirds cup of beef-tea, five crackers, and part of a cup of Oolong tea.
I insert a photograph of Mr. Rathbun taken shortly after his second fast. There had been five years' trial of the No-Breakfast Plan before these fasting demonstrations."
One of the hardest things on earth as a mental operation is to be fair to the opposition. Now lest I have beguiled my readers overmuch by the force of my convictions even to the point of danger, I will give an estimate of the danger of fasting by one of the most eminent physicians of New York City, Dr. George F. Shrady. I quote from an interview reported in the New York Sun:
"The strange case of Milton Rathbun, of Mt. Vernon, who, to reduce his flesh and generally tone up his system, is said to have gone without food of any sort for thirty-six days, still continues to be the subject of more or less discussion among the medical men of the city. Dr. George F. Shrady, in speaking last evening of Mr. Rathbun's remarkable exploit, said:
"'There are three things to say about it. In the first place, the fact, if it be a fact, as it seems to be, is astonishing; secondly, it was very foolish; and thirdly, it would be a very unfortunate and dangerous thing to popularize such experiments. Now as to whether the gentleman in question actually did go thirty-six days without taking nourishment of any sort is a matter I will not discuss. If he were a professional faster, I would hardly hesitate to say his claim was fraudulent, for I am fully convinced that all the professional fasters are frauds. They are simply adept sleight-of-hand men. They work out some adroit trick by which they may get nourishment into their systems in spite of the always more or less negligent or suspicious watchers, and then advertise for a forty days' or sixty days' 'fast.'
* * * * *
"'Now, mind you, I do not say this Mt. Vernon case is anything of this sort. I only say that if it is true it is most astounding. It is in flat contradiction of all the authorities on the subject of a human being's ability to do without food. The extreme limit of all well-authenticated cases of total abstinence from nourishment is from nine to ten days. Imprisoned miners have been known to go that time and survive.
* * * * *
"'But at all events it was a very foolish thing for Mr. Rathbun to do. About that there can be no manner of doubt. What will be the future effect upon him—upon his heart action, upon his impoverished blood, upon his nervous system, upon his organs of nutrition, necessarily paralyzed for days? These are grave questions, the answers to which may be unpleasant to Mr. Rathbun as they reveal themselves to him in the future. You cannot fly in the face of Nature and ignore all her laws in that way with impunity. She exacts her penalties and there is no court of appeals in her realm.
"'When I say that the extreme limits of abstinence from nourishment in clearly authenticated cases is from nine to ten days, you must not get the impression that all persons can last that long.
* * * * *
"'It is a question of environment, of mental condition—whether buoyed by hope or stimulated by ambition to do a great feat—and above all, of course, of the physical condition of the faster. Without food the body absorbs its own tissues. Mr. Rathbun, I am told, was a very heavy man with a superabundance of tissue. Naturally he could go longer without nourishment than a weak, attenuated, thin-blooded man.
* * * * *
"'Yet Mr. Rathbun was exercising daily and about his usual avocations, and he abstained from food for thirty-six days! Well, it's remarkable!
* * * * *
"'But I sincerely hope Mr. Rathbun will have no imitators. It would be a very unfortunate thing, fraught with grave possibilities, if the newspaper accounts of his reduction in weight and general improvement in health were to move others to follow his example. Many persons would be injured for life, physically wrecked, and perhaps actually killed if they conscientiously did the fifth part of what he is said to have done.
* * * * *
"'And right here it may be said that there is a great deal of exaggeration in the sweeping statements made about people eating too much. If a man sleeps well, goes about his business in a cheerful frame of mind, and does not get what is called "out-of-sorts," he may be pretty sure he is not eating too much, even though he eat a good deal. My observation is that the average man who works and gets a proper amount of exercise does not eat too much. If you want to get work done by the engine, you have got to stoke up the furnace. If a man wants to keep his vital energies up to par he has got to put in the fuel—that is, the food.
"'Of course, there are those who lead sedentary lives who get too much absorbed in the pleasures of the table and overfeed. There are a sufficient number of these, to be sure, but I think they are the exception. But it will be a sad mistake if even they seek a road to health by Mr. Rathbun's starvation methods.'"
The doctor is astonished, and so am I that he is astonished. This would seem to imply that he has never had cases of acute sickness in which the amount of food taken during many days or even weeks was too small to play any part as a life-prolonging factor.
"It was a foolish, even dangerous experiment." How foolish or dangerous? What vital organs suffered? Was there evidence of a loss of anything but fat? What organs were "necessarily paralyzed" during the fast? Evidently not the brain, else longer days of labor would not have been possible; and the grave future possibilities in heart action, impoverished blood, nervous system, upon organs of nutrition "necessarily paralyzed" for days; and the extreme limit of nine or ten days before death from starvation; and that without food the body lives on its own tissues!
One can easily see that the earnest doctor is full of strong impressions that have little of the flavor of science: truth that is not self-evident should have the instant logic in easy reach. I may here say that my hygienic scheme has from the first been subject to similar attacks by physicians from the standpoint of impressions, but no physician has ventured into print against it after becoming aware of its physiologic basis.
I am happy to assure all readers that in all the involuntary fasts of my cases of acute sickness or in the voluntary fasts in chronic disease, has there been any other than improved general health as the result. Notably was this the case in a man who fasted ten years ago for forty days for an ulcer of the stomach, and who had been troubled with indigestion for more than forty years. He had become nearly a mental and physical wreck when he took to his bed with an abolished appetite. There have since been some ten years of nearly perfect health, and now in his seventy-seventh year he is the youngest-looking man for his age I have ever seen. He walks the streets with the gait of a youth of twenty. To do without food without hunger does not tax any vital power, as Dr. Shrady may yet become aware.
The next fast to have a brief notoriety as the "most remarkable on record" occurred in Philadelphia, the medical center of America, and beneath the very shadow of its great medical schools; in Philadelphia, a city that surpasses all other cities for the wisest conservatism, for all-around level-headedness. Its journals are rarely equalled for their clean, winnowed columns; there is no "yellow" journalism in that great, fair city, known as the "Quaker City."
Miss Estella Kuenzel, a lady of twenty-two years, of acutest, finest sensibilities, born to live in June and not in March, lost her mental health to a degree that death became the final object of desire.
She had a friend in a bright young man of the name of Henry Ritter, chemist and photographer at the Drexel Institute, a born scientist, and who possesses the very genius of the pains and persistence of science. Well versed in the science of the morning fast, he believed that a fast which would merely end with hunger would result in all-around improvement. A fast was instituted which he thought would not last more than a few days, but went on until the days merged into weeks: it went on because only general improvement attended it.
I first heard of it in a letter written by him on the thirty-eighth day of the fast, during which there had been a walk of seven miles. On the forty-second day of the fast I had a brief letter from Miss K., in which every line was radiant with cheer.
At the Asylum five feedings per day were ordered, and at first were rejected; but finally she accepted them as a means to end her unhappy life; took them in bed, and in the last weeks seemed to be fleshing up, as there was a gain of seventeen pounds above the normal, of water—she had become dropsical. The last professional expert in her case advised a half-gallon of milk daily in addition to the three regular meals—making a five-meal plan.
To carry out an unopposed fast it was necessary to take her to a home where the parents would be ignorant of this radical means to a cure.
The following is from Mr. Ritter's letters:
"I had made my views known to the parents and daughter when the case commenced, and after the failure of these methods they decided to let me have charge of the case, which was on Sept. 30, 1899. I at once requested them to send her to the house of some friends to whom I made my views known. We then discharged the nurse who had gone with her. With doctor and nurse gone there was free room for Nature's victory (the young lady being as deeply interested as any). We put her upon the rest, which was the only needed sign since her first signs of breakdown appeared Oct. 2, at the supper table, being the last meal she has taken up to to-day, Nov. 9, this being, as you will see, the thirty-eighth day of her fast, with cheerfulness and strength holding full sway. I put her to bed on the first day, to which she kept, with an occasional day in the rocker, until the eleventh day, when she took a walk of about one mile. Then she rested indoors until the twentieth day, when we went to church, walking a little over two miles, with no fatigue or tired feelings. I forgot to mention that we had been out driving in the bracing air for over three hours in the afternoon. On the twenty-first and twenty-second days, indoors, walking and working around the house, reading, etc. On the twenty-third day walked through the country for three miles, stopping at friends to enlighten them upon 'Nature's Laws;' twenty-fourth day, eight miles, no fatigue; twenty-fifth day, between seven and eight miles, no fatigue; twenty-sixth day, walked one and a half hours; twenty-ninth day, rainy, no walks; thirtieth day, walked in the evening for two and a half hours; thirty-first day, walked seven miles, no fatigue; thirty-second day, rainy, no walks; thirty-third day, went to the Exposition, walked all day from 2 P. M. until 11.30 P. M. (with rest while at the performance we attended of not over one and a quarter hours), this being the only resting, possibly two hours, during the whole time.
"Weight taken at the start, one hundred and forty pounds; at the Exposition one hundred and twenty-five and three-quarters pounds; no sense of tired feeling, but hunger started to assert itself for a period of about three hours, after which it passed over.
"On the thirty-fourth day went driving; thirty-fifth day, walked one mile, then went to the asylum to show the results. The physicians in charge were simply astounded, and would hardly believe it possible for one to be so active while taking no food. I believe we have done quite a little good there, as they have expressed the desire to try the same on others. They examined the tongue and took the pulse, finding both in good, normal state; in the evening walked another mile, visiting the other doctors whom her parents called in. On the thirty-sixth day walked one and a half miles; thirty-seventh day, walked seven miles, hunger sensation becoming decided.
"I have given you a sketch of this case because it seems to me an unusual one owing to the great activity."
"November 18, 1899.
"Miss Kuenzel's hunger arrived as per Nature's demand on the forty-fifth day at noon. One poached egg and two slices of toast (whole wheat). There was an intense relish for her simple fare, but not the least sign or desire for haste in eating. She was amply satisfied for the day, and relished the same bill of fare and quantity for the forty-sixth day, with a very slight luncheon in the evening. We had been to the Exposition the night of the forty-fourth day, when the tongue again started cleaning and a most distinct craving for food presented itself. It persisted on retiring, and also on the next morning, when she felt that Nature again was ready for her wonderful chemistry of digestion. I had her weight taken after her first meal, which revealed a loss of twenty pounds. We called to see the professor under whom she was last placed, and he was surprised with the clearness of her mental condition and good general appearance, though he observed she had gotten a trifle thinner, but which he had also in view to accomplish upon a five-meal plan per day. He tried his best to confuse and trouble her with questions, etc., but found her too intensely awake, and she won the victory by cornering him in his own set traps. We received his congratulations and were made to promise to call again. I have now been with her to seven physicians who were interested, and have shown them Nature's own unhampered work.
"Miss Kuenzel has now an intense desire to help others. You are at liberty to make use of Nature's work in her case for the benefit of others, and I shall be only too glad to give you any desired information that may be of use. The good work you have started will, I am sure, never end; and it will prove a pleasure to me indeed to work with added interest for the benefit of those in need of the same in the future."
The forty-fourth day of the fast was the busiest of all with her. She arose at 8.30 A. M. to attend to her affairs until the late afternoon, when she and her friend met a sister, by appointment from her home, at the Exposition. Several hours were spent there, and when they took the street car for return the only vacant seat was accepted by the sister, because she was tired, and not knowing that there were forty-four days without food with her sister, who was not tired. A striking feature of these daily walks was that they did not cause marked fatigue. Miss Kuenzel retired near midnight without unusual fatigue, and so ended the forty-fourth day of the fast.
I quote from the Chester County Times of Feb. 12, 1899:
"'Conclusive evidence is being multiplied as to the wonderful power of fasting in the restoration of health, but it is only more recently that its power in the case of insanity is even yet more wonderful. A recent case is as near home as the city of Philadelphia, and those interested are very willing that others may know of it, so that its usefulness may be extended and its value appreciated. The discovery was made by Dr. E. H. Dewey, of Meadville, Pa., and tidings of the good work are being spread by Charles C. Haskell & Son, of Norwich, Conn. The editor of this paper knows somewhat the value of the discovery by an experience of several years. We give a letter from the lady who was cured.
"'PHILADELPHIA, PA., Dec. 12, 1899.
"'My Dear Mr. Haskell:
"'I have received your letter of the 9th inst., and at last find time to fulfil the request for a statement. In regard to my wonderful cure through "The New Gospel of Health," I would state that the second week after Christmas, 1898, I first had a paralyzing effect which affected the right side of face, body, and limbs, also tongue, which nearly prevented my speaking. This passed over and I again began working at my position as milliner in a large establishment, and after a short while became so dizzy and confused that I was compelled to ask my friends to direct me home. (This was around Easter, 1899.) I was then taken to a doctor, who at once requested me to stop working, and to take a complete rest, but not for the stomach, as he prescribed a severe and exacting master to stimulate the tired and overworked stomach to renewed life, and so give the nerves plenty of pure food, as they were in need of same. I then, after getting a ravenous hunger, weakened myself still more and became worse. My stomach felt numb and paralyzed, as did also my other internal organs, but this was put down against me as an illusion. So a professor of nervous diseases was called in consultation, owing to my many desires to die (as life had no sunshine, flowers, or music for me); I was simply living a living death of torture which these professors would have were illusions. My parents were then informed that I must be sent to an asylum, where I was for ten long weeks. They also told me that my feelings were illusions, and proceeded to banish the same by giving the tired-out nerves a little rest and plenty of nourishment on a five-meal plan per day. If refused (owing to a loss of appetite), I was threatened to have nature helped by the aid of a stomach or nasal tube. I lost none of my illusions while there, as I could not feel any improvement in my feelings. I left the institution June 28, 1899, feeling no better; in fact, worse than when I arrived there. I was then taken from one doctor to another, the one wishing to operate, the other not; one advising me to go to the seashore, country, etc., but none to give my stomach the needed vacation.
"'It was then that my friend, Mr. Ritter, stepped in, as he saw the failures of professors and specialists, and begged my parents to let him have a chance to demonstrate what Dr. Dewey's method would do for melancholy illusions and tired-out stomachs and nerves. I then went to friends, and, in entire ignorance of my parents, began under directions of Mr. Ritter the most natural, sensible, and cheapest of all cures. I began my fast on Oct. 3, and broke the same on Nov. 16. During the first week of my fast I was in bed; during the second (excepting the eleventh day, when I took my first walk of seven-eighths of a mile) I was in bed, in rocker, reading, etc. On the twentieth day, after a drive of three hours, went to church, walking two and one-sixteenth miles. I then stayed indoors again on the twenty-first and twenty-second days, and then started taking daily walks (weather permitting). I went out walking twenty-three out of the forty-five days of my fast, and during that time walked one hundred and twelve miles. This was besides the carriage-drives, Exposition, and evening gatherings (walking to same included). I did not in the least feel tired or weak, but happier and brighter each day of the fast, as I could feel the effects of a new life throughout my whole body. My mind also became clearer and dizziness became a thing of the past. This was indeed joy supreme to me, and life became once more a joy instead of a burden. Sunshine, trees, flowers, etc., again made an impression, and my parents, sisters, and friends are rejoiced to see me in my happy normal state of health.
"'I have gone through a year of unspeakable torture brought on by overwork and human-wise professors; but at last, through the wonderful teachings Dr. Dewey has given to mankind, and through a friend, who was able to preach the "New Gospel of Health," am now well, strong, and happy. May God only help and bless the many sufferers throughout the world (especially in the asylums) with the rays of this Gospel. I have been saved, no doubt, from a gloomy future, and may such be the realization of many more unfortunate souls is the sincere wish through experience of
"'Yours very sincerely,
"'ESTELLA F. KUENZEL.'"
This case was summed up in the Philadelphia Public Ledger of Dec. 25, 1899, whose columns are guarded with unsurpassed care, as follows:
"One of those cases which a judicious editor ponders in no little perplexity is that of a young lady who was taken out of an insane hospital and subjected to a protracted fast, without medical supervision, and with results that appear to have been quite successful. On the one hand, there is the benefit that may be derived by having the attention of the profession called to the subject, with possibly good results; on the other hand, there is the danger of having a lot of ignorant or impulsive people risking their lives by starving themselves for this or that real or fancied disease, forgetting the adage that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, especially in therapeutics.
"The mind of the young lady referred to became affected about a year ago, and after what was regarded by her parents as an unprofitable period of treatment for two and a half months in a hospital for the insane she has been apparently cured by fasting—some would call it starvation. The case has been attracting attention and discussion lately in a growing circle that has included a few physicians.
"The subject is a Miss K., aged twenty-two years. Henry Ritter, who has charge of the Photography Department of the Drexel Institute, and who is better acquainted with the matter than any one else, furnished a Ledger reporter with the particulars as they are here given, the name and address of the young lady, for obvious reasons, being omitted. Mr. Ritter was at first loath to have any publicity given the case, but felt upon reflection that the results were properly a subject matter for inquiry by physicians, at least, not to speak of others who may be interested.
"Miss K., by the advice of specialists who had treated her at home, was put under treatment for melancholy in an institution for the insane. Mr. Ritter, being an intimate friend of the family, visited her, and, he says, found her retrograding. She was receiving three meals a day, with two luncheons between them. Having built up his own digestive powers by following the tenets laid down by Dr. Dewey, a Crawford county physician, he had become a student and advocate of the latter's theory, briefly stated, that no food should be given to a patient except in response to a natural call or appetite for it. Believing that no improvement could result from the course Miss K. was receiving in the hospital, he prevailed upon her parents to permit him to have her placed in the home of a friend, and suggested the fasting process. This was the more readily done as the physicians in whose care she had been advised her parents to leave their daughter as much as possible among strangers.
"This young lady, according to Mr. Ritter, was absolutely without food for forty-five days, beginning October 3 and ending November 16. He says he did not fear, as others did, that she would starve, as the authority he depended on had never fed a sick patient during a practice covering twenty-two years, no matter how protracted the case might have been, and claimed to have had only the best results. 'This,' said Mr. Ritter, 'is on the theory that, since all bodily energy is the result of the brain, by abstaining from feeding in the absence of appetite there is all the energy of cure undiverted by needless waste in the stomach. Feeding the sick, this physician contends, is a tax on their vital power, adding indigestion to whatever other troubles exist: because the brain has the power in sickness to absorb nourishment from the body, as predigested food, so that it never loses weight, even in death from starvation.'
"The patient herself became interested, Mr. Ritter says, and evidenced great relief from abstinence from enforced periodic feeding. Gradually a numb feeling of which she had complained as affecting her internal organs, and which had been ascribed to her illusions, left her, and she appeared to gain daily in strength and brightness. Mr. Ritter's narrative proceeds:
"'On the eleventh day of her fast a walk was suggested, and she covered about seven-eighths of a mile; on the twentieth day she was taken for a carriage drive of three hours in the afternoon, and in the evening she walked to church and back, a distance of something more than two miles. From the twenty-third day she took walks daily, excepting on October 31 and November 3, when rain prevented. She visited friends and the theatre and the Exposition, went to church several times, to the hospital where she had been a patient—this on the thirty-fifth day of her fast—and to the Drexel Institute on the thirty-ninth and forty-second days. A table of dates shows that she walked from two or three to six and eight and as high as nine miles a day during the period of forty-five days that she abstained from food, with a general increase of strength and cheer and no sign of fatigue. Hunger sensations were marked on the forty-fourth day and night, and on the morning of the forty-fifth day Miss K. broke the fast by eating a poached egg and two slices of buttered whole wheat toasted bread.
"'During her fast she was seen by seven physicians and medical professors, President MacAlister and professors of the Drexel Institute, and many others.'
"The young lady's weight at the beginning of the fast, Mr. Ritter says, was one hundred and forty pounds, and just after the meal with which she broke the fast she weighed one hundred and twenty pounds. By December 15 she had regained nine pounds, meanwhile eating one meal daily and sometimes two, with an occasional light luncheon.
"Dr. Chase, medical director of the institution above referred to, was visited on Saturday by a Ledger reporter in regard to the case of Miss K. He had been informed of her long fast and of its results, and had seen Miss K. herself when she called at the asylum on the thirty-fifth day of the fast. He said that when she was first brought to the asylum she was suffering from melancholia, and was put under the treatment which all the leading alienists had found most beneficial for persons suffering from nervous disorders, viz., quiet, rest of mind and body, and full, nourishing diet, carefully selected to produce the best results. During the time she remained at the asylum she improved both in bodily and mental health.
"Referring to the treatment she had received under Mr. Ritter's supervision since leaving the asylum, Dr. Chase said he had first heard of the system through a work published two years ago by Dr. George S. Keith, of London, from which he first learned of Dr. Dewey, who also uses the fasting cure. In all the cases cited by Dr. Keith none had been afflicted with any mental disorder. He looked upon the cases, however, as showing some remarkable results, warranting a careful study. But it would not do to adopt such a system without a most thorough examination. As 'one swallow does not make a summer,' neither will one case nor half a dozen cases cured by such a method prove anything. No universal method can be adopted for treating disease. Hardly two cases are alike. Cures also may be brought about in different ways if the exact condition of the patient is understood.
"'Mr. Ritter says the patient lent herself very willingly to the treatment, which was a great deal to start out with in her case. But I am surprised that a young man with no medical knowledge would do a thing like that. The treatment might easily have resulted differently. If he had been a doctor, he would have had that fact to sustain him in case he got into trouble. The case might very well have resulted fatally, because the treatment was so contrary to what would naturally be pursued by physicians in nervous cases.
"'I do not ridicule the system. There have been cases which were cured by ways not recognized by the general practitioner after they had been given up. I am a firm believer that in selected cases the fasting method would be efficacious, but I do not believe in its general application.
"'Mr. Ritter is evidently an enthusiast, and apt to overstate the points in favor of the method, neglecting those which tell against it. It is too early yet to say what the outcome of Miss K.'s case will be. I think the matter ought to be looked into more fully. Mr. Ritter could not have been with the patient at all times. It is a remarkable thing that she should have kept up and had the strength reported, unless she had some food. He may have been deceived in that.'"
During several months since the fast there have been the best physical health and mental condition, the weight having increased several pounds above the former average.
Mr. Ritter conducted this case in a blaze of publicity. He showed it to no less than seven physicians, some of whom were college professors, and one of them at near the close of the fast suggested that if food were not soon taken a sudden collapse would be the result. There seemed to have been less danger of this calamity on the forty-fourth day than on any other.
The reliability of the fast was so clearly evident that the leading papers of the city accepted it as authentic news and of the most startling kind. The Times gave several columns of its first page to an illustrated article.
The accompanying illustration shows Miss Kuenzel on the forty-first day of her fast. She walked seven miles on this day without any signs of fatigue.
The following table of miles walked were measured from exact diary notes with bicycle and cyclometer after the fast was broken. The table gives the total sum of each day, walks being taken both afternoon and evenings of same day.
October 3 " 4 " 5 " 6 " 7 " 8 " 9 " 10 " 11 " 12 " 13 7/8 " 14 " 15 " 16 " 17 " 18 " 19 " 20 " 21 " 22 2-1/16 " 23 " 24 " 25 3 " 26 6-5/8 " 27 5-7/8 " 28 4-1/2 " 29 4-1/8 " 30 5-5/8 " 31, rain November 1 6-3/4 " 2 8 " 3 rain " 4 9 " 5 6 " 6 3-3/4 " 7 1-1/2 " 8 7-1/4 " 9 7 " 10 4-1/4 " 11 2-5/8 " 12 7 " 13 2-1/4 " 14 3-1/4 " 15 5 " 16 5-3/4 ———— 112-1/16
The next fast, under the care of Mr. Ritter, still holds the record as being the most remarkable for its number of days and the miracle of results. The following account of it appeared in the North American, one of whose editors had personal knowledge of its history:
"Leonard Thress, of 2618 Frankford Avenue, has learned how to live without eating. By physical experience he has proved not only that food is not a daily necessity of the human system, but that abstinence therefrom for protracted periods is beneficial. Indeed, it saved his life. He has just finished a fifty days' fast. When he began it he was on the brink of the grave and his physicians had abandoned hope. When he ended it he was in better health than he had enjoyed for years, although in the meantime he had lost seventy-six pounds, falling away from two hundred and nine to one hundred and thirty-three pounds.
"Thress, who is about fifty-seven years old, was attending the Grand Army Encampment at Buffalo in the fall of 1898, when he caught a violent cold, which settled in his bronchial tubes. It proved so stubborn that his general health became affected, and a year later dropsy developed. His condition grew steadily worse, and at Christmas time, 1899, it was such that he could neither walk nor lie prostrate, but was compelled to sit constantly in an armchair. His doctors exhausted their skill in the effort to bring relief, and eventually, in the early part of last January, they told him that their medicines refused to act, and that his death was a question of only a few days.
"Up to this time Thress had been subsisting on the meagre diet permitted to a man in his condition, but his stomach rebelled even at that. He had heard of the Dewey fasting cure and its boasted efficacy against all human ills, and, though he had little faith, death was already looming before him, and he knew that he could lose nothing by the experiment.
"He began to fast on January 11 by taking in the morning a portion of Henzel's preparation of salts in a glass of water and the juice of two oranges, and in the evening a hot lemonade. For twenty-five days he also drank a teaspoonful of a tonic consisting chiefly of iron, but the rest of the diet he continued until two weeks ago, when he discontinued the salts and orange juice and confined himself to a hot lemonade at morning and evening. This was his only sustenance until last Thursday.
"According to Thress's own recital, the effects of this course of treatment were amazing. He says that the natural craving for food was gone after the first day. Three days later he had regained so much strength that he was able to go upstairs to bed and enjoyed a good night's sleep. From that time on, although he steadily lost in weight, his vitality grew greater, and on January 22 he left the house and took a half-mile walk.
"Before three weeks of his fast had elapsed his dropsy had disappeared, and thereafter he took almost daily walks, increasing the distance with his strength. Some days he covered as many as five miles, and never less than two, even while he was growing thinner and thinner, as the accompanying table shows.
"For the first time since the beginning of his fast he became hungry last Thursday, March 1, and he felt that he should like some pigs' feet jelly. It is one of the prescriptions of the fasting cure that when hunger finally comes the patient shall eat whatever he craves, so Thress consumed two slices of the jelly and one piece of gluten bread, with butter. He says he enjoyed it and felt well afterward.
"He ate no more that day, but at noon yesterday he became hungry again, and this time his appetite was for something more substantial. He disposed of a dish of mashed potatoes, some red cabbage, another portion of pigs' feet jelly, apple sauce, and a cream puff for dessert. He even smoked a cigar after the meal, enjoyed it, and felt still better. He says he will eat no regular meals, but only when he becomes hungry.
"While he looks haggard and worn from the loss of flesh, Thress declares that all his ailments have left him and that he never felt healthier and heartier in his life."
* * * * *
"The following table shows how Thress grew stronger and walked miles while he was constantly losing weight from a fifty-days' fast:
Weight. January 11 209 " 12 207 " 13 205 " 14 202 " 15 201 " 16 200 " 17 199 " 18 196 " 19 192 " 20 190 " 21 188 " 22 186 Walked 1/2 mile. " 23 180 " 2 miles. " 24 177 " 2 " " 25 172 " 3 " " 26 167 " 3 " " 27 165 " 3 " " 28 162 " 2-1/2 " " 29 160 " 3 " " 30 157 " 31 155 " 3 " February 1 154 " 2 153 " 3 152 " 3 " " 4 151 " 5 149 " 3 " " 6 147 " 3 " " 7 146 " 3 " " 8 145 " 9 145 " 4 " " 10 145 " 4 " " 11 145 " 12 145 " 4 " " 13 145 " 14 145 " 3 " " 15 144 " 2 " " 16 142 " 17 140 " 18 140 " 19 140 " 20 138 " 2 " " 21 137 " 4 " " 22 135 Walked 3 miles. " 23 135 " 3 " " 24 135 " 25 135 " 26 135 " 27 133 " 2 " " 28 133 March 1 133
A. H. Potts, Editor of the Chester County Times, a man who has the largest faith in eating only to restore the wastes of the body, thus gives vent to his emotions after seeing the case by invitation of Mr. Ritter:
"On January 10 there sat in his home, at 2618 Frankford Avenue, Philadelphia, Mr. Leonard Thress, with dropsy, hopelessly given up to a speedy death by the many physicians he had vainly sought and paid well for relief. His weight was two hundred and nine pounds. His limbs were at the bursting point, and the water was close up to the top of his chest. He could not lie down nor even lay his head back without choking, and to walk across the room completely exhausted him. At that critical moment a friend of his heard of Miss Kuenzel's miraculous cure, and told him of it. He at once sent for Mr. Ritter, who thought that a cure was in his reach, and on January 11 Thress commenced a fast that has been absolute up to yesterday, the only things passing his lips being water, a little lemonade, and rarely the juice of an orange. Learning through the Chester County Times that we were interested in Dr. Dewey's discovery, he invited us to come and see the cases now under his care, and on Friday of last week we gladly availed ourselves of the opportunity to see the living proof of what we believed but had never seen. We were very cordially received at Mr. Ritter's home, and instead of meeting a pompous, egotistic, big man, as we might expect, we met a young gentleman of small stature, like ourselves, modest, retiring, and claiming no credit for his own part in these remarkable cures; but insisting that he is only observing the progress of cases, following in the line of truths discovered only by Dr. Dewey, giving such advice as he is enabled to do from his thorough knowledge of chemistry, anatomy, and hygiene. He took us to the house of Mr. Thress, and the startling impressions we received can never be effaced. We seemed to be in the presence of one who had arisen from the dead, and could not realize the truth of what we saw and heard from him and his estimable wife, who shows the happiness she feels in receiving her husband back to life. Impossible as it seems, yet on the previous day, as well as many other days, that man had walked three miles after six hours given to his business as a baker, which he now attends to personally. All traces of dropsy have disappeared, and his weight is now less than one hundred and thirty-five pounds, having lost this nearly seventy-five pounds of water through the natural channels at the rate of five or six pounds per day at times. His eyesight has grown younger and his hand is firm. He sleeps soundly several hours out of each twenty-four, and is almost a cured man, although the curative action is still going forward throughout his system, and his many friends are now awaiting the arrival of his normal healthy appetite, which in these cases does not arrive until the cure is entire, and then it comes in such a way as not to be mistaken. On Monday of this week we again visited him, taking a friend who has long suffered similarly to what he did, that she might see results for herself. We found him looking even better than on Friday, and it is very interesting to hear him tell his experience, which he will be glad to impart to those who are seeking after the truth, and interested in the cure of disease of themselves or their friends by this natural and without price (but priceless) means. We also visited two other of the five cases over which Mr. Ritter is at present keeping watch, and every one bore evidences of the great truth. No one should undertake the fast on their own responsibility, as certain conditions may arise requiring the eye of one who has made the matter a study, and no one should pass an opinion on the matter until they read Dr. Dewey's New Gospel of Health, wherein the reasons are made so plain that all can understand."
Mr. Thress has regained his normal weight and has been in the best of health in the several months since the fast.
The following case was deemed a miracle by all friends: Mrs. H. B., a woman of seventy-six, became exceedingly breathless, due, it was supposed, to defective heart action that had been chronic for many years. The final result was general dropsy. The eyelids had become so heavy that reading could be indulged only a short time because of their weight; the throat was also charged with water so as to make swallowing difficult. Beneath the eyes and jaws were pockets of water—in short, the skin of the entire body was distended, a condition that had deceived the friends as revealing only an increase of her natural stoutness. The real condition became known through a call to treat a bad cold.
What had authorized medical art to promise in such a case? Absolutely nothing, as she had become too old and weak to be subjected to the ordinary means for such a general condition. As for a fast for one so old, that was the last thing that would have been thought of: her age and debility would only have seemed to invite more daily food than she had been taking.
She was put on a fast, or rather the fast was continued, the cold having abolished her appetite. It went on until the fifteenth day, with increasing general strength and diminishing weight. The last days before hunger came she was able to go up a long flight of stairs without the aid of the railing and without marked loss of breath, the heart-murmur had nearly disappeared, and water by the gallon seemed to have been absorbed.
On the fifteenth day there was a desire for food, that was taken with relish through the enlarged throat without difficulty; the water pockets had become emptied, and the lids so thin and light as to reveal no fatigue in reading. Thence on one meal a day became the rule; and since there have been five years without any recurrence of the conditions—five years of remarkable general health and girl-time relish for her daily food.
How often has the cutting down of the daily food by the old and weak been condemned as too severe an ordeal to be safe! For this woman there have been these acquired years of nearly perfect health, and the end will be in the natural, easier death of old age.
The following is inserted as additional evidence of Nature's power over disease, and that brain-workers may go on with their labors with increasing power while waiting for natural hunger in cases in which hunger is possible:
Rev. C. H. Dalrymple, of Hampden, Mass., has just completed a fast, of which he says, February 5, 1900: "My fast continued thirty-nine and one-half days. My appetite came on me about 9 o'clock at night, and I thought I would wait until the next day; but two boiled eggs and some dry toast would not retire before my presence. I have never had such an assault upon my will power as that imagined egg and toast made on me. I was finally compelled to surrender. My tongue had been clearing up that day, and the next day I was hungry at noon. I have not missed a first-class appetite at noon since. My tongue has kept clear and my taste has remained sweet. I have had no chills nor fevers this winter, nor cold in any form. I have made no allowance for my sickness and have never worked harder. My flesh came back rapidly, and now I think I must weigh about fifteen pounds more than last summer. I gained strength beyond all question about three weeks before my appetite returned. I would work all day long finally. It was good to get well."
Mr. Ritter conducted over twenty cases, some being able to carry on their usual avocations. I give the most important ones: Mr. A. H., forty-five days; Miss B. H., forty-two days; Mrs. L., thirty-eight days; Mr. L. W., thirty-six days; Miss L. J., thirty-five days; Mrs. M., thirty-one days; Miss E. S., twenty-six days; Mr. G. R., twenty-five days; Mr. P. R., twenty-four days; and Miss E. Westing, forty-two days, who, on the fortieth day, was able to sing with unusual clearness and power, and ended her fast without losing a day from her duties as a teacher of music.
Wonderful are these fasts? Not in the physiological sense. These fasts went on with only increasing comfort by day and more refreshing sleep at night. It is quite another thing to endure the fasts of acute sickness, for such they all are. That life is maintained for days and weeks, even months, under pain, discomfort—under all the torturing conditions of such diseases as pneumonia, typhoid fever, or inflammatory rheumatism, is far more a matter to wonder over.
I may well wonder that Nature is powerful enough to cure the sick at all even under the wisest aid; but with me the abiding wonder is that physicians do not see that acute sickness is a loss of all the natural conditions of digestion, with the wasting bodies the clearest evidence that food is neither digested nor assimilated. I wonder with only increasing impatience that the stomach is not understood as a machine that Nature wills shall not be run to tax her resources when life is in the throes of disease.
 The fasts conducted by Mr. Ritter constitute performances of the most impressive kind as demonstrative evidence of the practical physiology I have been teaching for many years. For the copyrighted photographs he has kindly furnished I am very thankful, and to all who have been willing to enhance the value and interest of this volume by such eyesight illustrations.
 The accompanying illustration shows Mr. Thress on the fiftieth day of his fast; weight loss, seventy-six pounds. Does the picture reveal any skeleton condition?
 The accompanying illustration is a reproduced copyrighted picture of Miss E. Westing. This picture was taken on the return home from her duties at church on the fortieth day during the cold of winter; the weight at the start being one hundred and ten pounds, at the close on the forty-second day ninety-three pounds—loss, seventeen pounds.
I had not been long engaged in observing the evolution of cure through Nature when I began to suspect strongly, as before intimated, that fasting is the true "medicine for the mind diseased." Not less evident than the cure of various ailings would be the emergence of the soul into higher life, and in some instances from the depth of despair. As the scope of my vision constantly enlarged through multiplying experiences, I began to see great hopes of the cure of the gravest of all diseases—insanity—through a rigid application of this method in Nature. I gave the matter so much thought and study that I wrote a monograph on the subject with the idea of publishing it, but gave it up to the idea of telling my impressions in "The No-breakfast Plan."
There are the same structural changes in the evolution of insanity as in that of catarrh. There is a morbid structural basis in minds diseased, the abnormal mentality or morality being merely symptoms of a physical disease. Of all human legacies, structural weakness of the mental or moral sense is the most unfortunate.
I shall say no more about the forms of mental disease than that there is distinctively both intellectual and moral insanity as a direct result of disease of the intellectual and moral centres. This will be more clearly seen when I recall the fact that moral insanity in its worse form—the suicidal—often exists with such intellectual clearness that there is the greatest ingenuity displayed in carrying out self-destruction. These mind and soul centres are often gravely diseased without impairment of muscle energy: the furious strength of the insane is an abiding fear with all.
It is clear that weakness of structure so soft as brain, a substance which is on the dividing-line between liquids and solids, must be of the gravest form from the first: grave because so fragile, grave because the sick centres cannot rest as the broken arm, the sick body: these centres, regardless how sick, must continue to serve, even in abnormal ways.
The possibility of insanity must always be a matter of the degree of the primary structural weakness and the energy and persistence of the operative forces; on these must depend the mere gentle, persistent illusion, or that fury of mania which transforms man, the "image of the Creator," into a wild beast. That insanity, no matter what its form or degree, is an evolution from an ancestral structural legacy, not essentially different from the structural conditions evolved from those of any other chronic disease, I cannot have the slightest doubt, any more than I can have for the structural means for the cure.
There is nothing that so illustrates the civilization, the benevolence of the age and of the nations as these palaces we call hospitals for the insane. Whatever there is that can add comfort to the body, or charm to the tastes, or new life to the soul has its culmination in these palaces of wood and stone, with one great exception: the structural condition of the diseased centres indicating rest, even as the ulcer, wound, or fracture, has no part in the methods of cure.
The feeding is all done not at the time of hunger, but at the time of day. All patients are expected to eat no less than three meals a day, regardless of any desire for food and whether the patient spends all his time in bed in mindless apathy, whether pacing his room with meaningless tread, whether active in light service in the building or in heavy labor without. When there is refusal to eat it seems to be taken for granted that suicide by starvation is the design, and the pumping of food into the stomach through the nose is the common resort. There seems to be no thought that there may be no hunger in such cases, and no apprehension of any danger from not eating; that in this they follow the instincts of brutes. Would the desire for food not come and with a saner condition of mind if they were permitted their own ways of eating?
A physically strong woman, whom I knew well, was sent to a hospital for the insane in a generally bad state of mind, with destructive propensities marked. With no desire for food, and certainly with no mind to realize the need to eat without hunger, she naturally refused to eat. But for a time her meals were forced down her throat, a proceeding that taxed the strength of several strong arms.
Why were the meals not omitted long enough to cause such a reduction of strength as to make feeding less expensive in the outlay of others' muscle? The persistent refusal to eat resulted in a cessation of all efforts to enforce food; left to the gentler hands of Nature for a time, the mental hurricane subsided in great degree on the return of hunger, and long before there was an appreciable loss of weight or strength. In a few months this woman was able to return to her home, and with restored mind to tell me of the violent feedings she had endured.
Now let us look again to the structural conditions involved in diseases of the mind. There are those soft, pulpy centres from which emanate the highest powers of life: power to think, to admire, to rejoice, or to suffer; and we know how digestive power varies along the scale between ecstacy and despair. In mental disease there is the same abnormal structural change as in other local diseases; but for these sick mind-centres there is no rest. There must be still thinking and feeling, no matter how chaotic, to tax them, and there is no cheer to electrify the stomach into easy display of power. We may well marvel that powers so wonderful as the power to think, love, admire, see, hear, and feel are located in structures so fragile as the brain; and we may well marvel at the provision of the turret of flinty hardness to protect it from violence.
Now we are to consider these centres of energy as abnormally weak in all their structures at birth in those who become insane: these are the luckless legacies from the fathers and the mothers, and for how far back in the ancestral line we do not know. We are to consider that there is the same abnormal condition of the cerebral bloodvessels and of the softer inter-vascular structures as in other local diseases; and when you recall the fact that everything that worries, that adds discomfort to either mind or muscles, is a force that tends to develop weakness and disease, you will see how it applies in the evolution of insanity.
Shall these fragile centres be permitted to rest when overwork has made them sick, or is there any other rational means for their recovery? Shall they not be permitted to rest when abundantly able to keep physically nourished in a way that does not cause even the slightest shade of discomfort?
Again, let it be borne in mind that recovery from acute disease is attended with a revival of strength in every power that makes life worth living, and that every person not acutely sick who has fasted under my care or who has cut down the waste of brain power by less daily food has found the same revival of power. To this there have been no exceptions.
What do we fear in sickness? Is it disease or the wasting pounds? Since they will disappear when Nature would have the food-gate closed, since they reappear when there is the highest possible reach of mere relish, and when all the other senses have become more acute, and also when existence has become almost ecstatic, why ever oppress the weak or sick centres when Nature wills a rest?
The literature on the disease of the mind has become so massive in mere bulk, in its physiological refinements, that it would require time with a long reach into eternity to go through it; but it has not come to my knowledge that it contains any reference to the brain as a self-nourishing, self-charging dynamo; that therefore the stomach is only a machine whose use can well be omitted for long periods when these centres of moral and intellectual energy have become worried into disease, with rest the only means, the only need for all the recovery possible.
"Oh, you giants of the medical profession!" You who have been elected to preside over these great homes of the mentally wrecked because of your eminence in character, ability, experience, and professional attainments, do you deny the soundness of the physiology involved in this method of reaching health through Nature? Then let me array against you Alexander Haig, M. A., M. D. Oxon., F. R. C. P., Physician to the Metropolitan Hospital, and the Royal Hospital, and for Children and Women; late Casualty Physician to St. Bartholomew's Hospital. I quote from his exhaustive work, Uric Acid in the Causation of Disease:
"And now I come to the causes which led me to take too much albumen and to suffer severely; in Fads of an Old Physician, Dr. Keith refers to another work on diet, by Dr. Dewey, of Meadville, Pa., The True Science of Living, and the chief point in this book is that temporary, complete starvation till there is once more a healthy appetite is the best cure for a host of dyspepsia, debilities, depression, mental and bodily, and numerous other troubles, and that for similar less severe disturbances of nutrition the great remedy is to leave out the breakfast, so as to give the stomach a long rest of sixteen hours or more, with the object of allowing it to recuperate and accumulate secretions after the last meal of the previous day.
"It seems from internal evidence in Dr. Dewey's book, a copy of which I owe to Dr. Keith, that his plans have been completely successful in a large number of cases, and it seems to me that his logic is unanswerable, and that in his main contentions he is perfectly right.
"Having arrived at this conclusion, I proceeded forthwith to put the matter to the test of experience by placing myself on two meals a day—that is, I left out my breakfast—and the result was I ate such a good lunch at 1 P. M. that it was impossible to take anything more till dinner-time, 7.30 or 8 P. M.; so that I reduced myself at once from four meals a day to two. The result was exactly what Dr. Dewey describes. I felt extremely bright and well in the morning, and capable of very good work, both mental and bodily. At 1 P. M. I had keen hunger, even for dry bread; such hunger as I had not experienced for years. After lunch (breakfast) I felt a little bit dull and occasionally sleepy, and the mental work for the first hour or two after it was not as good as usual. About 5 P. M. I was very thirsty and had to have a drink of water, but there was not the least desire for food until several hours later; though by 7.30 or 8 P. M. I was able to manage another fairly good meal; and thus my meals automatically, so to speak, reduced themselves to two."
I also quote from his work on Diet and Food, page 10:
"It is also possible, by introducing more food than can possibly be digested, to overpower digestion so that nothing is digested and absorbed, and starvation results, a fact that has been brought to the front in the most interesting manner in the writings of Dr. Dewey."
And who is Dr. Keith? You know that he is one of the youngest physicians in all Scotland, even if he does possess eighty years that are no burden to him. I quote him from his Fads of an Old Physician:
"Dr. Dewey's grand means of cure now is abstinence for the time from all food, and this he carries out to a degree which must astonish most physicians of the present day, as well as their patients. During times of sickness, when there is no desire for food, he gives none till the desire comes, and then only if the state of the tongue and general condition show that the power of digestion has returned. This may be in a few days, or in severe cases, as of rheumatic fever, it may not be for forty days or even longer. He points out very forcibly that we have all a store of material laid up in the body which supplies what is required for keeping necessary functions of the system going, while no food can be usefully taken in the stomach. I had mentioned this provision in my Plea, and had stated that so long as it lasts it is sufficient to preserve life. I also suggested that it might be found that the waste of the body was less when this internal supply was alone trusted to, than when it was supplemented by food from without which the organs of nutrition were not in a condition to utilize. This, to my mind, Dr. Dewey has proved to be the fact, and no one can read his case without being convinced that it is so. He gives a most interesting table from Dr. Yeo, showing what textures of the body waste most rapidly in disease. Fat is at one end of the scale, and at the other the brain, which does not waste till all the other textures and organs are depleted to the utmost.
"In cases of slighter disease where the patient is able to be about or to carry on his business, but with discomfort, the same abstinence from all food is recommended. It is usually found that work can be done more easily, and that strength actually increases, although the starving may have to be kept up for several days. But the great coup in Dr. Dewey's practice is, that to improve or to preserve health he advises all to give up breakfast, and to fast till the mid-day meal. In this he has had a very large number of followers, very much to their advantage. It may be that the omission of breakfast is more needed and has greater effect in America than it would have on this side of the Atlantic. In America the meal is generally a very full one, made up in a large measure of a variety of hot cakes, also flesh food and tea or coffee. The other two meals of the day are full, 'square' meals likewise. I have seen much overfeeding in this country, but never to such a degree, and so generally, as I have seen in America and on American steamers. In one of the latter the cooking was the worst I ever met with, but the hard meat was swallowed all the same, and the consequences must have been grievous."
Are you still without any questioning of your authorized, established methods of treating the mentally sick? Then let me quote against you another man across the ocean, whose ability, learning, and professional attainments are of the highest order. I quote from Air, Food, and Exercise, by A. Rabagliati, M. A., M. D., F. R. C. S., Edin., a man with whom patient, exhaustive investigation is only a recreation:
"It has been shown by physiologists that certain tissues are absorbed and used before others. Dr. Dewey, of Pennsylvania, with whose views I am glad to find myself in general accord, and who seems to have made the same attempt as the writer to view the facts of medical practice from an independent—and may I say, original?—standpoint, quotes a table of great significance from Dr. Yeo. Besides quoting it in the text of his book, The True Science of Living, Dr. Dewey places it in capital letters in the frontispiece of his book. He calls it Nature's Bill of Fare for the Sick; and he shows that in illness, when we are using up the materials accumulated in our bodies, we may use as much as 99 per cent. of our fat (practically all of it), that of muscle we may use as much as 30 per cent., that the spleen may waste to the extent of 63 per cent., the liver as much as 56 per cent., and the blood itself be absorbed to the extent of 17 per cent. of its total amount. But even when wasting to this extent has occurred the curious and significant fact is emphasized that the brain and nerve-centres may not have wasted at all. The controlling nervous system thus does not lose its powers till the very last. Generally, however, the wasting process does not require to be carried to the very last, the chronic inflammatory deposit (and in rare cases even a cancerous infiltration) being absorbed and got rid of before this point is reached.
"As most, if not all, of the chronic diseases depend upon the deposition of waste, unassimilated materials in various situations; or, in other words, depend upon a blocking of the local circulation in this way, a little wholesome starvation is generally of vast benefit by inducing the economy to use up some of its waste stuff. Nature herself points the way to us in this matter, because when things have gone as far as she can bear, and when, were things to go on in the same way, death must ensue, she generally throws the patient into bed with a digestive system entirely disorganized, taking away all appetite for food and all power of assimilation for the time being. We may, in such circumstances, do much harm by efforts too persistently made to feed our patients; but generally they refuse all sustenance for some time. After a while (Dr. Dewey does not seem to be afraid if his patients refuse all food even for as long on some occasions as thirty days continuously, or even longer) they right themselves, the tongue cleans, appetite returns, the power of assimilation is reestablished, and recovery takes place. It strikes me as somewhat curious (and yet, if we both look at the facts of life candidly and impartially, perhaps it is not curious) that observers so wide apart, and in circumstances so very different as the conditions of human life must be in Yorkshire from what they are in Pennsylvania, should come to conclusions so practically similar as Dr. Dewey and the writer have reached."
Gentlemen, masters in the medical profession, to what good end are you pumping food into human stomach, where there is no hunger and no mind left to know the need? Is it to maintain that strength which costs you so much muscle at every feeding. Or is it that it would be a danger to lose a few pounds of body while Nature gets ready to ask for food in the gentlest and most persuasive way? Whatever there is in appeal to the best in any human life to uplift it from the deepest depths, you have at the readiest command. You seem amply equipped to reach everything but those sick, afflicted, oppressed brain-centres. You treat everything but these, but to these you are worse than the Egyptian task-masters in that you force needless labor where rest alone is the need. It is not bricks without straw, but labor with exhausted power; and for all your efforts you simply maintain weight at a tremendous cost to the energy of cure. In no class of patients is rest for the brain more indicated than in yours; in none are the means so at command and the results for good so promising. With your patients the importance of time for business or social use is no more a concern; the abnormal is all due to disease.
Let us consider those rooms of bedlam you call the "excitable wards." They who enter leave all hope (of the friends) behind. Is there special need in these regions of despair and mental chaos that the mere pounds and strength shall be kept up? What will be lost by protracted fasts? Nothing in the kitchen. As for the brain and those sick centres, they will feed themselves until the last heart-beat sends the last available nourishment to the remotest cell. Will the functions of the brain grow more abnormal by a suspension of digestive drafts upon it? Does rest to anything that is tired tend to the abnormal?
Again I ask, What will be lost by protracted fasts in such cases? Nothing but weight, of which the fat will be by far the larger part. Would there be worry about starvation? With most of the cases there is not mind enough to worry over anything from the standpoint of reason. The very fact of the absence of the sense of the importance of daily food would render fasts in the highest degree practical and successful.
The fasts could be instituted with the certainty of a calmer condition of mind as soon as the digestive tract would cease to call upon the brain for power, and with the probability that a surprising degree of improvement would be manifest in all, and long before the available body-food for the brain would be exhausted.
Gentlemen, you have treated acute sickness in all its forms, and you have had many cases in which, because of irritable stomachs, neither food nor medicine could be given. Day after day you have seen the wasting of the bodies, and you have also seen mental aberration or stupor lessen day by day as the disease lessened its grasp upon the brain-centres, and finally when the point of natural hunger was reached, you never found the lost pounds a matter of physical discomfort or mental abnormality or weakness; rather you have always found at this point a mental condition in every way the most highly satisfactory. I never saw brighter eyes, a happier expression on every line, than revealed by a woman after a fast of forty-four days, in which acute disease had reduced the weight forty pounds.
All overweight not due to dropsy or other disease is due to eating more food than the waste demands. As an abnormal condition overweight has received a great deal of attention in the way of misguided effort to both prevention and cure. These efforts are such conspicuous failures that even the patent medicine man has not found his "anti-fat nostrums" the happy means to fortune. There have been all kinds of limits built around bills of fare, but sooner or later Nature revolts and they are given up.
The reason that certain people take on weight easily and become "stout," is because of constitutional tendency, good digestion, and excess of food. As a general fact, the overweights are "large feeders," and they not only look well but feel well, for they have much less stomach trouble than the average mortal, and in cheerful endowment of soul they rank the highest among all the people.
In spite of my philosophy, I, who am one of the leanest of the kind, look upon the stoutness of those in the early prime of life with something of both envy and admiration; they seem so ideally conditioned to enjoy the best of all things on earth. But it is quite a serious matter when the muscles and brain have to deal with pounds in excess by the score, even as if the victim were doomed to wear clothes padded with so many pounds of shot.
Why some people take on fat easily even with the smallest of meals, why some of the largest eaters are of the leanest, are matters to talk about but not to know about. For my purpose it is sufficient that I assert that overweight can be prevented by an habitual limitation of the daily food to the daily need; that it can be cut down to any desired degree by stopping the supply, a method that is not attended with any violence to the constitution, nor even to comfort or power. This plan has the great advantage of adding to the curative energy of disease as well; and more than this, there is a change attending the loss that seems at first phenomenal, as involving a physiological contradiction—there is an actual increase in muscle-weight as the bloat and fat weight go down.
How is this, you ask? Here is the explanation: As the fat weight increases by surplus food, so decrease the disposition and ability for general exercise. As it declines, so do muscle and all the other energies increase, and the use of muscle within physiological limit tends to restore the normal weight and strength.
There are no overweights who would not receive the greatest benefit by a fast that would diminish the pounds to that of the ripest maturity of life, a fast that would be determined by the time required to reach the desired number of pounds. As a means this method is available to all, and practical where due physiological light will enable it to be carried out with no starving concern to disable vital power.
As a general fact, the No-breakfast Plan has been attended by a highly satisfactory reduction of surplus pounds; where there has been a failure it has been due to such an increase of digestive power as really to add to both an increase of the average amount of daily food and of power to digest it. For instance, one of my fellow citizens, weighing not less than three hundred and thirty pounds some years ago, gave up his morning meals. This was attended with entire relief from frequent bilious spells; but the average of daily food was increased and the business of a barber did not add anything to muscle development. Finally from mere excess of weight he became a prisoner to his house and yard, unable to walk a square without the greatest difficulty; and yet there were two enormous meals put into a stomach daily that did not complain, and the weight increased until the three hundred and seventy-five pound notch was nearly reached. He heard about the Rathbun fast, and I was able to persuade him to come down to one light meal daily, and day after day bonds were loosened. After a year there have been nearly seventy-five pounds lost, and there is ability to labor and to walk several miles daily.
Very many thin persons have gained as high as forty pounds by reason of the larger degree of muscle exercise. Since last writing, this word has come from Miss K., who one year ago was at the asylum eating several meals a day in bed with suicidal intent. She left that bed with a weight of one hundred and forty pounds, and, as I have mentioned before, lost twenty pounds of it by her fast. My last news is from a letter written the day after a twenty-five-mile ride among the mountains with a soul as free and joyous as there are freedom and joy with the birds whose songs greeted her rapt ears from every treetop. She writes of a gain of twenty-four pounds since the fast, and states that the glasses she has worn for thirteen years are wanted no longer!
I feel that I need not multiply words as to the ability and utility of bringing all overweight down to the physiological normal and of keeping it there. I could fill hundreds of pages with the joyous testimonies of those who have been relieved of many surplus pounds, with numerous accompanying ailings; they all tell the same story, and I will only add this, that there is no physiological excuse for any mortal to carry around weight that disables.
Not very many months ago ex-Governor Flower, of New York, a statesman of national fame, a man of largest public spirit, a most valuable citizen, and Colonel Robert Ingersoll, an orator of world-wide fame and of great nobility of soul, dropped as beeves beneath the stroke of an ax because of a fracture of brittle bloodvessels. In both of these cases not many less pounds than a hundred had needlessly accumulated.
Could I have had the Colonel's ear when I last saw him as a listener to almost matchless oratory, whose rotundity of belt was to be measured by the yard, I would have addressed him as follows: "My dear Colonel, when I last saw you you were just filled out enough to be the joy of your tailor, and as a picture of health in form and looks you were ideal. You were then eating the meals of a woodchopper; and merely because food tastes good and does not seem to hurt you, you have been doing the same during the nearly score and a half of years since I have seen you. You have been eating more food every day in proportion to general muscle exercise than the hardest toiler does in a week, and your vast bulk evidences against you."
After explaining to him the structural possibilities of apoplexy as a legacy, as I have to you in the cases of insanity, I would continue: "Now by virtue of a possible ancestral weakness of your brain arteries this may happen: the arterial walls, because of habitual food in excess, may undergo a fatty, limy degeneration that will make a rupture possible, with death or paralysis of one-half or more of the body as the direct result; or the small arteries may have their walls so thickened as not to permit enough blood to circulate in order duly to nourish parts of the brain they supply; hence softening of the structure and more or less imbecility.
"The history of all overweights is that of a decline of muscle energy, and very generally of the amount of muscle activity as the pounds and years increase; but no cut in the amount of daily food so long as it can be taken with relish and disposed of without any special protesting from the stomach. This is the history of by far the largest majority of those sudden deaths due to cerebral hemorrhage, and also the history of most of the cases of imbecility with the overweights.
"Now, Colonel, you should make a radical parting with those surplus pounds by a fast that may extend into months, or take one of the lightest of meals once a day. Follow this out rigidly until you have lost a hundred pounds, and then by as much will you be not only free from disease, but free also from the danger of disease."
My experience with cases of epilepsy, or "fits," is confined to a half dozen cases, in which permanent relief seems to be assured. There is an acquired structural abnormality behind the spasms, acquired from surplus food, with a cure to be reached ultimately in most cases along these physiological lines.
I shall not take time in telling the evils of alcoholics. It would not be more enlightening were I to spend hours in telling of wrecked lives, of wrecked homes, of prisons filled with their victims, of the immense loss to states and nations from the loss to sufferers and the loss they inflict. Alcoholism has no sense for frowning, ominous statistics, for it is a disease to be rationally treated, a disease to be rationally avoided.
In the light of later science the word "stimulants" has become a misnomer as applied to alcoholics; the term, no doubt, came into use from the fact that under their use there is more endurance to both physical and mental ills, an endurance or indifference ascribed to stimulation.
If power is stimulated by their use, then there should be a rise in temperature whereby severe cold is better endured; but this is not the fact any more than that temperature is lowered whereby extreme heat is endured; in either case the endurance is due to benumbed brain-centres. The alcoholic simply lessens the power to suffer mentally or physically; hence in degree it is an anaesthetic, and as such it also affects the moral sense and lessens the power of reason and judgment. They are habitually taken for no other reason than for the temporary relief they give to some ill of life.
It seems the very depths of total depravity when there is no bread for the hungry family, that the price of a loaf will rather be spent for a drink; but it is not so much moral depravity as depravity of brain-substance. The lethal drink is taken because without it there is more acute suffering than from the want of a loaf of bread by the entire family. In my practice an ordinarily sober father would always get drunk and stay drunk while any member of his family was sick, and for the sole reason that he could not endure the worry of apprehension. This was not so much depravity as an acute sense of the suffering and danger involved, a painful rousing of the best instincts of the soul, those instincts that raise man above the brute and make him the noblest work of the divine hand. That is not a bad man at heart who has such a sense of affection for his wife or child when they seem dangerously sick that he must have artificial aid to endurance; and if you shall detect the alcoholic odor in his breath at the funeral you may know that there is heart agony under repression.
The fact that alcoholics are anaesthetics, and not stimulants, has become known to a few of the scientists in the medical profession; but it can scarcely be said to have become known to the profession generally. That the habitual drinker partakes for any other reason than to drown his woes that will not stay drowned, and that the drowning is not stimulation, do not need argument.
The alcoholic in proportion to its strength is mental chaos and paralysis to power, and it has not the virtue to contain an atom that can be converted into a living atom. In not the least sense is it a tissue-builder, and its use by the medical profession is without the shadow of a reason, and is all the more reprehensible in cases of shock.
Let us see: shock in degree is brain paralysis; alcoholics in degree are brain paralyzers; shock is simply a state of exhaustion with rest the supreme need. All the rousement that is necessary and that can avail will be called into action by the need of oxygen. There are cases of disease in which breathing goes on hour after hour, when the soul seems to have departed and with it every life sense. The patient has become dead beyond reviving, and yet breathes hour after hour. Now can one for one moment think that an alcoholic can add to the power of the respiratory centres of the brain to respond to the calls for oxygen and so prolong life? Shock in its gravest degree is to be considered the extreme of the tired-out condition, with rest the only restorative means; and rest may be permitted with the certainty that for mere breathing purposes alcoholics are dangerous in proportion to the gravity of the shock.
In health the alcoholic only adds discomfort, because there are no complaints to soothe; hence it is the duty of every mother so to train her sons in health-habits that those first drinks will be discouraging because they bring no cheer of contrast, but rather sensations that are not suggestive of a better physical condition.
Alcoholics have a corroding effect upon the mucous membrane of the stomach, a congestive effect by which the glands are subjected to starving pressure; hence their use always disables the mere mechanics and the chemistry involved in digestion, and so prolongs disease, and this applies to all medicines that corrode. This corroding power of the alcoholics upon the walls of the stomach and its paralyzing effect upon the brain-centres, with the additional fact that there is nothing in it that adds force to any life power or that can be converted into living atoms, should make its use in the stomach of the sick a crime scarcely to be excused by ignorance.
The evolution of the drunkard is a process of culture, and involves something of a constitutional tendency as in other diseases. I conceive that there is an alcoholic temperament, or a temperament in which the inability to bear with patience the various mental and physical woes of life is marked even from childhood. Indigestion and every cause that lowers vital power only add to the importance of such a nervous system.
The first step in the evolution of the drunkard is the first untimely meal drawn from the breast of the mother. By irregular nursings and the nursings merely to stop crying the nervous system is continually overtaxed. There are the untimely meals to prevent gluttony; there are the between-meal lunches to incite nervousness, irritability, a feeling of unrest that nothing seems to satisfy.
This goes on year after year until the time comes when that first drink has power to soothe many discordant voices, and the die is cast. Other drinks follow, with each to lessen the power of the dynamo and to disable the machine. At first, drink is indulged not without a sense of wrongdoing, but with that feeling of power in reserve to keep within the limits of safety.
The gradual corrosion of the stomach adding to the labors of the brain in the matter of food mass decomposition as well as digestion marks the decline of power to abstain and the degradation of every sense that makes life worth living. Now add to the corrosion of the membrane and the paralysis of the brain-centres from alcoholics the other inciting causes in the culture of disease, and you have the evolution of the drunkard.
How is he to be cured? Only through a fast that shall let that diseased stomach become new from regeneration, that will let the brain accumulate rest in reserve. For a time you will need to have him under bonds, for his will power is abolished. Put him where there will be deaf ears to the cries of morbid nature, for there is to be a conflict at first; but long before hunger will come the storm will subside; and finally, when food will be really desired, there will be a new stomach and a new brain to which an alcoholic will be no temptation.
This is no figure of speech, because there is such a continual change of life and death going on in the soft tissues of the body that in a month or more of fasting it may be assumed that much of the tissues which is left has undergone reconstruction, and both brain and stomach act as if they are new when the time comes to restore the lost pounds.
The ways of the kitchen and dining-room are the ways of disease and death, ways whose ends are prisons, asylums, scaffolds, to a far larger extent than is dreamed of by the fathers and mothers of the land. A new crusade against intemperance, the intemperance of the dining-room, is the only one that will ever settle this so-called liquor question. The rum-seller will only pull down his sign through the starvation of his business.
With brains and stomachs kept in the highest order, the alcoholic has only the least power of the beguiling kind; it is rather a dose whose effects do not invite repetition. But for all who have the drink disease seemingly beyond hope a fast of a month, or two months if necessary, will cure any stomach or brain, no matter how pickled they are with alcoholic soaking, and with only the least disturbance in the habit breaking; even within a week the hardest of the fighting should be over when the fast is made absolute.