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"If people will learn moderation and self-control they will not need so many fasts."
Getting the MOST out of HYGIENE
by Dr. Herbert Shelton
Unlike the systems of cure, Hygiene is for both the well and the sick. Indeed, it is my firm conviction that, in preserving and promoting vigorous health, Hygiene is of greater value to mankind than in promoting recovery from the many and varied states of impaired health. This is not to hint that it is lacking in efficacy as a promoter of recovery but to emphasize the truth of the old adage that an ounce of preservation is worth more than a pound of restoration. We should place the emphasis on health and its preservation; not upon disease and recovery therefrom. We can do this best by extending a knowledge of the principles upon which health depends.
The application of Hygiene to the preservation of health is simplicity itself and any individual of average intelligence can understand it and apply it to his or her individual life or to the life of the children of the family. It is, of course, so much at variance with everything we have been taught in the past that some study is required to arrive at an adequate understanding of it, but no unusual amount of education is required as a precedent to this understanding. Sometimes, indeed, so thorough has been the brain-washing job of the educational process, it seems that much education is a bar to understanding.
As applied to the care of the healthy organism, Hygiene comprises the maintenance of all the conditions of health and the avoidance of all causes of impaired health. As applied to the many and varied conditions of impaired health, Hygiene consists in the maintenance of all the conditions of health, and the removal of all the causes of impaired health. In this latter instance a thorough and scientific application of the elements of health, as the proper and sufficient means of supplying the needs of the recuperative and reparative powers of the living organism in restoring health, requires a careful adjustment of these elements of health to the current needs and capabilities of the enfeebled organism. Greater knowledge and skill are required in this adjusting of means to ends in states of impaired health than are required in adjusting these means of life to the varying conditions of healthy life.
The materials and processes of Hygiene are considerable in number and the range of their application almost unbelievable. Great variation in their application is required in the various conditions and states of existence and, in some states of acute disease, they have to be adapted, hour by hour, to the patient. Every different state of the sick and every different circumstance of the well requires careful adaptation of the means of Hygiene to the needs and capacities of the individual. Who would be foolish enough to try the same application that has proved to be beneficial in a robust man to a delicate woman or child? Can we feed a baby at its mother's breast as we do a harvest hand laboring long hours in the field? Can the invalid perform the exercise that is beneficial to the vigorous youth? Shall we give the same Hygienic conditions to the man shivering in the cold that we do the sick man with a high fever? Our means of care must always be adapted to the nature of the case and the condition of the individual.
Mistakes have been made and mischief done by providing the same kind of care for different individuals in different conditions, but the harm that has resulted from these mistakes has been slight, when compared with the harm that results from the employment of poisons. We cannot care for the weak and delicate as we may the strong and robust, but must adapt our Hygiene to the circumstances, and this adaptation, especially in the case of the sick, requires more knowledge than the average person possesses. We do not assert that Hygiene will cure any so-called disease. We contend only that it may be adapted to the human constitution in every condition of health and sickness, that it will enable the body to restore health in all cases in which restoration is still possible, and that, even in hopeless cases, it provides more lasting relief from suffering than can be secured by resort to drugs and that it does not produce drug addiction.
Under Hygienic living there is an entire making over of the organism. Freshness comes to the cheeks, brightness to the eyes, strength to the limbs and elasticity to the motions. There is demand for food, vigor for activity and keen enjoyment of life. Under the genial influences of the Hygienic materials and conditions toxins are thrown out by the quiet, orderly actions of the organs of excretion, by eruptions, sometimes by boils, and by other processes of compensatory elimination. The body is purified and purification brings health. The proper application of Hygiene will enable the restorative forces of the body to bring about a hasty return to health; their improper application may result in harm.
"The proper application of Hygiene will enable the restorative forces of the body to bring about a hasty return to health; their improper application may result in harm."
Many people, upon gaining confidence in Hygiene, begin immediately to experiment on themselves in an effort to restore their health, presuming that no special requirements and no experience are required to adjust the means of Hygiene to the particular needs of the human organism in its various and varied stages of impaired health. This is a grievous error which has already resulted in much mischief, both to those who have attempted the care of themselves and to Hygiene itself. Even under the direct supervision of a competent Hygienist the adjustment of means to ends is often a very difficult matter.
Once we have learned from experience and observation how far wrong are the misconceptions of many students of Hygiene, how many mistakes they make in carrying out what they conceive to be the plain teachings of Hygiene, we realize fully how wrong it is for the beginner in Hygiene to attempt to care for his own needs in any serious state of impaired health. When, through his own errors and misapplications and misunderstandings, he grows worse instead of better, he is sure to place the responsibility for his worse trouble upon Hygiene rather than upon his own misconceptions and misuses.
I receive frequent requests to give advice by mail. So many misconceptions arise out of the descriptions these people provide of their condition and they misconstrue the simplest advice to such an extent that such care is not satisfactory There is another weighty factor in this matter that must always be considered: it is the strong tendency of almost everyone, in a crisis, to become alarmed and to have recourse to a physician, to a pill, or to some non-Hygienic mode of treatment, so that it is not wise to attempt to advise the sick by mail. They will resort to other than Hygienic measures first and inform you of their actions after it is over Not only does this help to convince them that Hygiene is wrong, but, by thus playing into the hands of the enemies of Hygiene, they lend ammunition to the enemy.
Anything that is worth doing is worth doing right and if Hygiene possesses the value we attribute to it, it should be properly applied and not left in the hands of the ignorant and half-informed. The individual who falls into excesses in his application of Hygiene or who neglects some important part of it through ignorance or laziness can do both himself and Hygiene great harm. There is a great tendency in a large percentage of people to be carried away by what they conceive to be the most important part of Hygiene. I once was called to see a dying baby whose parents had permitted themselves to be carried away by their idea that man should live on fruits alone. The mother could not nurse the baby, due, primarily, to the inadequacies of her own diet. No doubt the baby had been born feeble because of the same inadequacies. They had attempted to rear the child on a diet of juices. It had received no protein from any source. It died in a few hours after I saw it. Such misconceptions and faulty applications do Hygiene much damage.
Among my valued friends of yesteryear was a woman who was enthusiastic about Hygiene. She underwent a fast at home without supervision. She had fasted enough and she knew enough about the process to have done this successfully. But, from some source, not from any Hygienic source, she acquired the idea that in order to really cleanse her body she had to abstain from water as well as from food. According to the information I received, she went twenty-four days without water. By this time she was so weak and her condition was such that her family persuaded her to let them call a physician. One was called but he could do nothing or did nothing that was of any value. She died on the thirtieth day of the fast. Her death added another splotch on the escutcheon of Hygiene despite the fact that what she did was not Hygienic.
Neophytes in Hygiene are prone to take their "hygiene" from many sources. They are not careful to discriminate between Hygiene and what may, to them, appear to be the same thing. They go searching through all kinds of literature and attempt to select for themselves what is good and to reject what is not good. This process is successful only in the case of the individual who has the background essential to the requisite discrimination. Without a knowledge of physiology and biology, without a knowledge of the basic principles of Hygiene, these neophytes go scampering off through the fields in search of flowers and often come up with their feet filled with thorns.
"Unlike the systems of cure, Hygiene is for both the well and the sick."
Enthusiasm leads many into error. Enthusiasm is a splendid thing and we need to encourage it in everyone. But enthusiasm must be mated with knowledge and judgment if it is not to lead us astray. Give us more enthusiasm, but along with it give us more understanding and more power of discrimination. I see people who become so enthusiastic about fasting that they attempt to substitute fasting for a normal way of life. They undergo frequent fasts, because they live between the fasts in such a way as to make frequent fasts necessary If these people will learn moderation and self-control they will not need so many fasts. Nor is fasting a satisfactory substitute for a way of life that accords with the laws of life. Fasting should be thought of as an expedient that may be avoided by correct living.
Then there is the man who becomes so enthusiastic about sun bathing that he spends hours in the sun. He bakes and broils himself until he is black, his skin is dry and parched, he is enervated and toxemic as a result of such excesses. With the exception of food and water of which we are advised to take habitual excesses, the so-called scientific world seems to be bent on trying to get us to try to get along on inadequate quantities of everything that we require. We are often told that we can get all the sunshine we need through our hands and face, even, it seems, if these are in the sun but little. We should avoid making the mistake of going to the other extreme.
All the Hygienic factors are related elements in a vital reciprocity. The amount of one that we need is commensurate with the amount of the other that we take. More food and less exercise lead to fatness, weakness, indolence and ultimate disease. Food intake and exercise should bear a definite relation to each other Our need for rest and sleep is commensurate with our mental, physical and physiological activities. Our need for air is commensurate with our physical activities. So, also, our need for sun is commensurate with our nutritive activities. Overeating and lying in the shade build weakness and disease, not health and strength. The one-method approach to the problems of health and sickness, as the enthusiast is so often likely to make, is, for this reason, doomed to failure.
There is also very often a lack of understanding of what can and cannot be accomplished. The poisons of the physicians and the knives of the surgeons often cause enough ravages to the body that complete recovery is not possible. The same thing is true of the toxins that are the primary cause of the patient's illness. Especially in long standing chronic disease do we observe organic changes that are not reparable. The enthusiast is often unwilling to recognize limitations to the possibilities of repair and regeneration. So far I have not run into one of these who expected the body to grow a new leg or a new arm that had been lost, but they expect the same thing in other parts of the body. As the years go by and my experiences and observations broaden, I become more firmly convinced that it is impossible to administer poisons to the sick, whether in acute or chronic disease, without producing harm. This is true even in those cases where, on the surface, they appear to be beneficial. If their administration is continued over a considerable period of time, irreparable damages result.
There is no state of impaired health, whatever name may be given to the complex of symptoms that may be present, and no stage of this illness, in which the greatest possible assistance to the restorative operations of the body cannot be given by means of Hygiene. But there are many stages of organic deterioration in which this greatest possible assistance is not enough. The impairment has gone beyond the point of possible vital redemption; the pathological evolution has passed the point of irreversibility. In most cases a measure of comfort may be afforded the patient without making a dope addict out of him and life may be prolonged. He may even be restored to usefulness and enabled to enjoy life again, but he will not get well.
My telephone rings; I answer it. It is a long distance call from Chicago, New York or elsewhere. A voice on the other end of the line says: "I have my mother on a fast. This is her thirty-fifth day. We are following your book. But we do not know whether to break the fast or let her fast longer. What do you advise?" I ask the needed questions to get some idea of the condition of the fasting woman and give what advice I can. But they were not following my book. Repeatedly my book stresses the need of competent supervision in long fasts. Especially does it insist upon such supervision in older people. Were they following the book the ignorant and inexperienced would not attempt to conduct a long fast.
I receive a letter from a mother who tells me that she is feeding her baby according to instructions contained in my book, The Hygienic Care of Children. She has run into trouble and she wants to know what to do. She details the manner in which she is feeding the baby and I do not recognize the feeding program as anything I ever advised in writing or by any other means. It is safe to say that these mothers have read several books, perhaps mine being the only work on Hygiene, and have tried to combine in some fashion the information and advice they received from these several sources. Hygiene and Hygienists should not be held responsible for the results of such mixings of Hygiene with whatever else may appeal to the intelligence of beginners.
Hygiene is easily adapted to circumstances, but this adaptation, especially in the care of the sick, requires more knowledge than the average person possesses. Yet, curiously enough, a flying visit to a Hygienic institution or the reading of a book or two on the subject has been thought of as enough to qualify a man or a woman to apply Hygienic means to the needs of the sick organism. Uneducated laymen have attempted to blossom out as fully competent Hygienists. Some of these have taken the sick into their homes and attempted to care for them, to fast them and feed them and in other ways to care for them Hygienically. Credit is due to the great virtue of Hygiene that, even in such untrained and inexperienced hands, it has frequently been very successful. But it should be understood by all beginners in Hygiene that no general rules and no number of examples will apply to the peculiarities of every sick person. This is precisely the reason that the guidance of a competent and experienced man or woman is so vitally important in the recovery of health.
I appeal to beginners in Hygiene everywhere to give Hygiene a fair chance and not discredit it by faulty application and by mixing it with a lot of un-Hygienic measures that vitiate its effects. Don't indulge in any foolish experiments with your health. If you are in need of care, get it from a competent Hygienist and don't run the risk of injuring yourself by faulty applications of Hygiene. If your knowledge of Hygiene is meager, if you are inexperienced, if you are in doubt, secure the guidance of one who is trained and experienced in Hygienic work. This not only gives Hygiene a chance to do the most for you, it also gives you a chance to get the most out of Hygiene.
Herbert M. Shelton (from the Hygienic Review)
"The application of Hygiene to the preservation of health is simplicity itself."
Herbert M. Shelton wrote more than 40 books, published the Hygienic Review monthly and operated his famous Dr. Shelton's Health School in San Antonio,Texas. He was the co-founder of the American Natural Hygiene Society.
MORE ARTICLES BY DR. SHELTON:
Fasting - 9 basic steps
Why do we fast? - Answer: rest, rest, rest
Enemas - observations of nature
Read more articles by Dr. Shelton: