Fasting is a faith amplifier or multiplier. By voluntarily reducing our bodies’ reliance upon food, we increase its reliance upon Spirit. We can then increase our portion of the Spirit by coupling it with prayer and righteous living. This can lead to a greater probability of receiving whatever spiritual blessing we are seeking.
Spiritual blessings are essentially spiritual remedies for spiritual ailments. For example, the spiritual gift of belief cures the spiritual condition called doubt. The spiritual gift of charity cures the spiritual condition known as fear. And so on and so forth.
When we are afflicted with spiritual ailments, sometimes mere prayer, scripture study, and other typical activities of LDS are simply not enough. However, the Lord, in his mercy, has given us yet another tool, fasting, to use in our search for healing.
When the scriptures talk of fasting, they say that the saints of former dispensations “fasted much and prayed much” and “fasted often.” But these are relative terms. How often is “often?” How much is “much?” Different people will give different definitions. Proper frequency and proper length will vary according to person and circumstance.
One thing we do know is that the most spiritual people ever to exist on this planet engaged in extended fasting. For example, Moses engaged in a fast of 40 days and 40 nights without any food or water. (See Ex. 34: 28 and Deut. 9: 9.) Jesus likewise engaged in a fast of 40 days and 40 nights. (See Matt. 4: 2 and Luke 4: 2.) And Alma said that he fasted “many days” to gain the spiritual gifts he ended up possessing. (See Alma 5: 46.)
It is instructive that of the three persons mentioned above, two of them ended up getting translated. If translation isn’t evidence of how far advanced your spiritual state is, then I don’t know what is.
We LDS are accustomed to think of fasting as producing spiritual blessings, but physical blessings also accompany its practice. In fact, the Lord has given us at least three means to overcome physical ailments: the gifts of healing, herbs and mild food, and extended fasting.
Think about it. Whenever you get sick, your body’s first or initial reaction is to reject food. You stop eating because fasting is a mechanism of healing. What most people, including LDS, don’t know is that extended fasting heals just about anything. To demonstrate this principle, I quote in its entirety a newspaper article on the healing effects of extended fasting:
Soviet Cure-All: Eat Nothing for 30 Days
By Murray Seeger
Times Staff Writer
MOSCOW—Vladimir Leshkovtsev had the flu and was sore all over. The doctors he saw told him he had infectious metabolic polyarthritis.
The doctors treated Vladimir for six weeks but he felt no better. He decided to be his own doctor and to follow a radical course of treatment he had only heard about.
For 45 days, Vladimir ate nothing. He drank lots of water, but had no solid food. He lost 44 pounds and got rid of his arthritis. And he has not seen a doctor for the last 10 years since then.
The experience of Vladimir Leshkovtsev, a physicist and writer, is only one of thousands of cases of remarkable recoveries claimed in the Soviet Union for what advocates call the “hunger cure.”
Besides arthritis, advocates claim controlled starvation will cure almost everything from eczema to hardening of the arteries. It is recommended for some cases of gallstones and pancreatitis.
The method is used to treat schizophrenic patients and others with less serious neurotic afflictions—fears of crowds, darkness, strangers, infections and sharp objects, and it is effective for people who only think they are sick.
“Leshkovtsev was in great danger of becoming an invalid,” Dr. Yuri Nikolayev of the Moscow Research Institute of Psychiatry observed. “The experiment conducted by him is one of the most successful cases of healing.”
The Soviet Union, which has one of the largest and best organized systems of public health protection in the world, has several clinics devoted to research and practice of the hunger cure.
In the clinic he heads, Dr. Nikolayev specializes in using controlled starvation to treat mental disorders. Another clinic at Patrice Lumumba Friendship University has used the same method to treat psoriasis and at the First Medical Institute hunger is prescribed to cure other skin disorders.
Other Soviet doctors have written papers on their successes in treating metabolism, disorders, bronchial asthma, hypertension, gallstones, tumors, pancreatitis and early forms of artery hardening.
“There is a German saying that ‘the illness which cannot be cured by fasting cannot be cured by anything else,'” Dr. Nikolayev said in a statement in the Moscow News.
The physician traced the origins of hunger therapy to ancient Egypt, Greece and India. Starting in the 18th century, Russian doctors at Moscow University experimented with the treatment, beginning a series of case histories that is still being extended.
“Our innovation,” Dr. Nikolayev said, “is that we initiated the use of controlled hunger for the treatment of psychic disorders, primarily sluggish forms of schizophrenia.
“Particularly good results have been obtained in the treatment of hypochondriac conditions when patients are over-anxious about their health, are likely to greatly exaggerate their existing ailments and believe they are suffering from diseases which they do not have.”
Dr. Nikolayev cautioned that the hunger treatment should be administered only under carefully controlled conditions. The patient and his relatives must approve the procedure and the patient is thoroughly examined before the treatment starts.
Food intake is not halted until the physicians are sure the patient will not have a negative reaction. He receives no drugs during the treatment which lasts from 20 to 40 days.
“Before the commencement of abstinences, the patient’s intestines are purged,” Dr. Nikolayev said.
“He is given a great deal of water, a hydro treatment every morning, general massage and baths. Our patients spend most of their time in the open.”
A patient’s appetite disappears in the first three to five days and he no longer reacts to the sight or smell of food or the rattling of dishes, he said.
“However, pleasant memories of food persist, particularly if the patient is not distracted from such thoughts,” Dr. Nikolayev continued. “This is when the experience of the doctor and psychotherapy help.”
The crisis for the patient comes on the sixth or seventh day of treatment. He begins to feel heavy because his body is switching signals to start consuming stored fat.
After a few more days, the patient passes the crises and gains a feeling of euphoria. The patient’s symptoms begin to disappear and he feels very good, until the stored energy source is consumed.
This occurs after about 30 days, the doctor said. By that time, the patient’s tongue is clean, his skin color is a healthy pink, bad breath disappears and he develops a “wolf’s appetite.”
“This is when the most important process commences—the process of rehabilitation,” Dr. Nikolayev asserted.
Food is reintroduced to the patient slowly. First, he is given diluted fruit juices, then whole juices and grated fruit mixed with yogurt. These are followed by cooked vegetables and boiled cereals. Near the 40th day, normal eating is resumed.
Meanwhile, the patient has lost 15% to 20% of his body weight. If the patient’s ailment is obesity, the weight loss can be even greater.
“For instance, some time ago, two brothers applied to our clinic,” Dr. Nikolayev recalled. “The elder of the two weighed 210 kilograms (462 pounds) and the younger 175 (385 pounds). They could hardly pass through the door.
“Having taken the hunger cure, both patients lost half of their original weight and both feel quite well now.”
The doctor said the hunger treatment gives the entire nervous system and the brain a rest. The body is cleaned of poisons and the tissues and glands renovated.
Resting the brain “forms the basis for the treatment of neuropsychic disorders,” he added.
Why is self-imposed starvation healthful when involuntary starvation is harmful? The difference, Dr. Nikolayev asserted, is that under involuntary starvation the body dies from poisons contained within itself.
“In our case, we try by all means to withdraw endotoxins from the body as soon as possible,” the doctor said.
“Altogether, we have treated some 7,000 patients at our clinic. Our extensive experience enables us to broaden the range of application of this method and to take up the treatment of cases formerly considered hopeless.”
The doctor recalled one patient who was starved for 50 days in order to achieve a cure. Leshkovstev, who starved himself for 45 days, joined the ranks of the “record setters,” the doctor observed.
Since taking the tough, self-imposed cure, Leshkovstev has maintained his health by careful dieting and annual fasts of eight to 10 days.
Dr. Nikolayev acknowledged the success of Leshkovstev’s experiment, but recommended against others trying the same method “without any medical control.”
“A cure by fasting is a very complicated method connected with a profound reorganization of the organism.”
Mon. Apr. 3, 1972
Los Angeles Times
You can read a free, online book called Fasting, Hydropathy and Exercise by Bernarr Macfadden or you can go to www.fasting.com to obtain extended fasting programs. You may also read my own extended fast journal.
Next Fasting article: My extended fast journal