Ulcerative colitis can be handled but presents a number of problems and needs much emotional support for it to be successful.
Near terminal illness where fasting might lead to a starvation would not seem an appropriate line of therapy, although I feel that there can be exceptions when the patient feels a strong sense of inner guidance in this direction. However, in this instance, the relatives and the patient should be well acquainted with the risks involved, and the physician conscious of his risk of censure by his medical peers.
The Time of the Fast
The time of the fast should be a very special time. Many of our Meadowlark guests have told us that it was the most significant event in their lives to that time. To begin with it is a time of tearing down the old and the onset of building a new body temple. What better words to occupy the mind at the beginning of the fast than the words of that well known physician-poet, Oliver Wendell Holmes in "The Chambered Nautilus":
Build thee more stately mansions, oh my soul,|
As the swift seasons roll!
Leave thy low vaulted past!
Let each temple, nobler than the last,
Shut thee from heaven with a dome more vast,
Till thou at last art free,
Leaving shine outgrown shell by life's unresting sea.
It should be a space in one's life for reorientation and self assessment. It only makes common sense that in this age when the internal and external environments are filled to overflowing with synthetic imitations of the stuff that evolution took a few million years to design, the body and mind need to have periods for an all-important time of cleansing.
The state of mind and its activities can be most significant for the faster. For some it can be a time of self-discovery, a time to stop playing a role and to begin living the real person. Thus, it can be a time for releasing the ego and discovering the Transpersonal Self. In this frame of reference, the late psychiatrist, Roberto Assagioli,l3 speaks of starting to LIVE rather than just to exist. Because these crises in personal development will frequently be met during the fast, it is essential that the person guiding the fast recognize them in their full significance.
Assagioli describes the stages of the unfoldment of the True Self:
1) Crises preceding the spiritual awakening;
2) Crises caused by the spiritual awakening;
3) Reactions due to the spiritual awakening;
4) Phases of the process of transmutation.(l2)
If these important signs along the road of life are not recognized, a great injustice can be done the person involved. In the process of unfoldment, there may be midnight emergencies as the dying ego manifests itself through a dream or through the frightening experience of the so called dark night of the soul. It is then that an understanding nurse should be available, one who is thoroughly trained in the process of the fast; and a psychologist or physician trained in and familiar with the areas of transpersonal experience.
For these reasons, and others, the special event of the fast should not be carried on in the usual setting of home or business if anything of lasting value is to be anticipated, other than perhaps temporarily taking off a few pounds of body weight. The setting should be a place of natural beauty, removed from newspapers, radio, television, phone calls, visitors (even including contact with the immediate family). If at all possible, the spot should be self-chosen rather than decided upon, a-priori, solely by a physician, friend or family member. Since the fast can be a time of real enrichment of one's inner life, preparation can well lead to some research ahead of time into books that would have meaning for the coming events. Especially significant can be biographies of men and women who have been a source of inspiration or religious writings that have a place in structuring and bringing significance to life.
The importance of the timing of the fast is beautifully illustrated in these words in the Aquarian Gospel of Jesus Christ:
One man may fast and in his deep sincerity of heart is blessed;
Another man may fast and in his faithlessness of such a task imposed is cursed.
You cannot make a bed to fit the form of every man.(14) Chapter 119:23-25.
The Fasting Process
A careful history and physical examination should precede the fast for any person other than one in optimal health, and in that case an office visit is recommended with the guiding physician assessing the desirability of the fast. This is particularly true when any fast is expected to last more than two or three days. Included in the preparation should be blood tests for uric acid, blood sugar, creatinine, cholesterol, total protein and some evaluation of liver function. An electrocardiogram should be considered.
To better explain the fasting process, we will divide it into four stages that also reflect those set down by Dr. Cott, who made a study of the format used in the Russian model, to which reference was made. Stage 1 is a time of general excitation of the involuntary nervous system, lasting one to three days; Stage 2, a time of inhibition, continuing from day two or three to the end of the first week and sometimes even into the second week; Stage 3, a time of gradual recovery, which most festers do not go beyond during their initial experience; Stage 4, full recovery.
It is most interesting to note the close parallel of the stages of fasting to the stages resulting during the healing process accompanying administration of homeopathic remedies. In fact, it can be very beneficial to use the two therapeutic modalities concurrently.
From the physiological point of view, during Stage 1 the general excitation is manifest through the increased electrical activity observed with the electroencephalogram, while the blood picture reveals a mobilization of the healing agents as seen in the increased number of white blood cells being poured into the general circulation. Stage 2 is heralded by increasing evidence of acidosis, the presence of hypoglycemia and a psychomotor depression. There is generally a loss of appetite, and the tongue is likely to become coated. Gradually the excitation gives way and is superseded by inhibition.
During the first few days, usually all of Stage 1 and the beginning of Stage 2, the patient is pretty much occupied with cleaning the gastrointestinal tract. This includes the liver, which is relieved of the responsibility of having to handle its usual daily load of imitation foods that have much to do with chronic degenerative diseases. At the same time, the cleansing releases much of the body's innate energies formerly concerned with handling this metabolic load, thus allowing the body a chance to restore natural health and bring about a state of homeostasis. During this period, the cleansing process is very evident in marked signs of toxicity, the return of former physical symptoms, and a marked dulling of mental processes, and not infrequently an overwhelming sense of fatigue and the need to rest. Stage 3, then, is one of normalization with its accompanying feeling of well being, usually far surpassing the state pre-existing the fast.
Weight loss during the early days of the fast can be dramatic, especially in women who have a water retention problem. Sometimes the loss can be as much as four to seven pounds in a single day, and 10 to 20 pounds in a week is not unusual. By the end of the first week, however, this will have leveled off to an average of three-fourths of a pound a day, and there will be days of no loss, and perhaps even days of gain. This need not be viewed with alarm. Factors reflected in the fluid retention may have been too liberal use of salt in the diet, the use of birth control pills, the use of tobacco, the overuse in the diet of refined carbohydrates, or in some cases certain foods may be associated with the problem. When foods are suspected, they may be evaluated by presumptive testing following the fast, as described by Phillpot. Pyridoxine (Vitamin B6) and Vitamin C also may be helpful in dealing with this problem. (Very frequently at this time there will surface an unresolved emotional problem and the need to release long dried up tears. Often we have observed this interrelationship. Many times there has been observed a marked diuresis following a counseling session that produced a flood of tears.)
As is common knowledge, the hypothalmic portion of the brain and the closely related posterior pituitary have a major role in controlling water balance. In several patients where there was further evidence of such a deficiency, therapeutic use of posterior pituitary in minimal dosage was of real value. There will be a rapid increase in weight following the fast in these patients if they early bring the refined carbohydrates into their diets and if they do not adequately avoid sources of salt. Closely paralleling large losses of fluid in the early fast will be symptom-producing losses of potassium and occasionally sodium. The latter loss peaks on about the fourth day, while the former loss is evident and rapid during the first few days and gradually may taper off between the tenth and fourteenth days. The most common symptoms related to these losses include weakness, postural hypotension, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, vertigo and leg cramps. All will be greatly ameliorated by a potassium supplement.(15)
It is well to bear in mind that the early days of the fast also are marked by an acidic condition of the body with the release into the urine of considerable acetone, which can be monitored very easily by test papers available at any pharmacy and used in the control of diabetes. As the fast progresses, another reliable indicator of the body's return toward homeostasis is the use of pH testpapers on the saliva, checked morning and night due to the body's circadian rhythms. Ideally one would like to see the papers register pH values between 6.4 and 6.8.(16)
The breakdown of toxic tissue products during the fast will frequently be reflected in blood chemistry values, which can be rechecked during its course. To be expected is an early rise in uric acid due to the breakdown of tissue nucleoproteins. In this connection there will be on rare occasions an attack of gout. However, this is, in our opinion, no excuse for the use of antiurogesic drugs during the course of a fast. Should gout make its appearance, it could much more safely be managed with homeopathic remedies or herbs.
Fatalities during the fast have been reported in the medical literature when drugs were used, when tests were made requiring intravenous administration of chemicals, and when alcohol or tobacco were used.(17) Patients desirous of getting off drugs, alcohol, tobacco should always do so only under close medical supervision. During the course of the fast there will frequently be an elevation of the enzymes associated with liver function, reflecting the increased involvement of that organ in the detoxification. These will gradually return to normal as the fast continues into Stages 2 and 3. There will frequently be evidences of the added stress on the kidneys but in this instance, too, there will be gradual improvement as reflected in the blood urea values. More often these may be late manifestations after the fast if the patient stays on the new diet and keeps away from the use of drugs and foods containing additives. There will also be a return toward normal levels of elevated cholesterol and triglycerides. These later findings will be enhanced by the coincident use of a good program of aerobic exercise.
The Fast at Meadowlark
Let us now turn attention to the actual program for the groups of festers as carried on at the Meadowlark rehabilitation center. An average group of festers might include an arthritic seeking to reduce the amount of medication; two with obesity problems who in the past have not been able to keep their weights down; another guest with migraine headaches; a guest with lupus erythematosis keen on getting off cortisone, and another guest wishing the spiritual benefits of a fasting experience. At the initial meeting the guests are asked to share individually their reasons for wanting to fast and are made to see the seriousness of the discipline and the need of the involvement of their whole person in the process. They are also informed that the discipline is going to be strictly adhered to.