Macfadden's Fasting, Hydropathy and Exercise/CHAPTER I




"What shall we do to be saved?" is a question which, from a physical point of view, can be answered in less than ten words: "Learn to interpret the language of your sanitary instincts." To him who has mastered that task, the science of health is not a sealed book.

"And let me assure you, in measured words alive with conviction, that long series of cases running through seventeen years of attendance has been a line of evidence, line upon line, of the self-sufficiency of Nature to right herself in attacks of disease, no matter what the disease, or how severe its character."—E. H. Dewey, M.D.

Every living organism is a self-regulating apparatus. Our nervous system performs its functions by a combination of alarm signals that apprise us of an infinite variety of external dangers and internal needs, in a language that has a distinct expression for every want of our alimentary and respiratory organs, for every distress of our tissues, sinews and muscles, for every needed reaction against the influence of abnormal circumstances. Our skin protests against injurious degrees of heat or cold; our lungs against atmospheric impurities; our eyes against the intrusion of the smallest insect. The human body is a house that cleanses its own chambers and heats its own stoves, opens and shuts its windows at proper intervals, expels mischievous intruders and promptly informs its tenant of every external peril and internal disorder.

If it were not for the perverting influence of baneful sanitary superstitions we should run no risk of mistaking poison for food, nor of substituting unnatural for natural stimulants. We should never have conceived the idea that the sick must be forced to swallow virulent drugs; all our "ailments and pains, in form, variety and degree beyond description," could be cured by the three remedies of Nature: Exercise, fasting and refrigeration.

The application of those remedies is not followed by distressing after effects. It does not develop a morbid hankering for a repetition of the prescription in constantly increasing doses.

Compare the effects of outdoor exercise with those of Dr. Quack's Digestion Bitters, as characteristic instances of normal and abnormal tonios. Both prescriptions tend to stimulate the appetite. But how? and at what expense? To the palate of a healthy child alcohol is almost as repulsive as corrosive sublimate: Nature's protest against the incipience of a health-destroying habit. Nor does instinct yield to the first disregard of its appeals: Nausea, gripes, nervous headaches and gastric spasms warn the novice again and again. But we repeat the dose, and Nature, true to her highest law of preserving existence at any price, and realizing the hopelessness of the life-endangering struggle, finally chooses the alternative of palliating an evil for which she has no remedy, and adapts herself to the abnormal condition. "The body of the dram-drinker," says a medical reformer, "becomes a poison-engine, an alcohol-machine, performing its vital functions only under the spur of a specific stimulus. And only then the unnatural habit begets that craving which the toper comes to mistake for the prompting of a healthy appetite—a craving which every gratification makes more exorbitant. For by and by the jaded system fails to respond to the spur; the poison-slave has to resort to stronger stimulants.

And, moreover, every excitation of the flagging vital energies is followed by a debilitating reaction. The bowels fail to act; disinclination to physical and mental efforts makes work a penalty. The "pleasant and exhilarating tonic" has evolved the soul-darkening mists of Katzenjammer. As a net result of his experiment Dr. Quack's customer finds himself worse than before by just as much as the unnatural stimulant has still further exhausted his small reserve fund of vital vigor.

The benefits of the movement cure, on the other hand, are not heralded by the kettledrum methods of Quackstetter & Co.; but they can dispense with such endorsements. Outdoor sports commend themselves to the instincts of a healthy child as unmistakably as wholesome food and pure air. Exercise creates an expenditure of energy that has to be replaced by stimulating the functions of every organ; effete tissues are eliminated; the heart beats stronger and faster, the lungs, liver and kidneys respond to the spur; the whole system works as a machine under an increase of steam-pressure. The same healthy, prompt and harmless tonic reacts upon the bowels; the problem of digestive stimulation has been solved without the risk of distressing after-effects. No baneful habit has fastened upon the patient; no drastic suppression of symptoms has made the remedy worse than the evil. The disorder has been cured by the removal of its cause. And all these advantages can be claimed for the Fasting Cure.

"Take away food from a sick man's stomach and you have begun, not to starve the sick man, but the disease."—E. H. Dewey, M.D.

"The principle on which the fasting-cure acts is one on which all physiologists agree, and one which is readily explained and understood. We know that in animal life the law of nature is for the effete, worn out, and least vitalized matter to be first cast off. We see this upon the cuticle, nails, hair, and in the snake the casting off of his old skin. Now in wasting or famishing from the want of food, this process of elimination goes on in a much more rapid manner than ordinarily, and the vital force, which would otherwise be expended in digesting the food taken, acts now in expelling from the vital domain, whatever morbid matters it may contain. This, then, is a beautiful idea in regard to the fasting-cure—that whenever a meal of food is omitted, the body purifies itself thus much from its disease, and this becomes apparent in the subsequent amendment, both as regards bodily feeling and strength. It is proved, also, in the fact that during the prevalence of epidemics, those who have been obliged to live almost in a state of starvation, have gone free from an attack, while the well-fed have been cut off in numbers by the merciless disease."—Joel Shaw, M.D.