Difference Between Voluntary and Forced Abstinence from Food


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Yu. Nikolaev (1969) cites archival records made by prison guards, which describe the state of prisoners who went on hunger strike in prisons. Typically, such prisoners become critically ill within a short period of fasting, one that is half as short compared to therapeutic water-only fasting. In such cases, as early as on days 16-18, people become semi-conscious, they present with edema of the extremities, cyanosis, and begin to resemble patients with a severe infectious disease or cancer cachexia. Some of the starving people experienced intestinal blockages, weakening of the bladder sphincter. If the duration of the hunger strike exceeded 20-22 days, prisoners presented with pronounced swelling of the arms and legs, a barely noticeable pulse (42 beats per minute), and a body temperature of 35.2°C.

Meanwhile, patients who voluntary fast for up to 30-40 days do not present with any pathological symptoms, weight loss is mild, their overall condition is satisfactory, many of them take long walks until the final days of the fasting period, do gymnastics, participate in outdoor games.

Yu. Nikolaev explains this difference in the patients’ condition by the fact that during forced abstinence from food without hygienic procedures (i.e., cleansing enemas, etc.), a rapid autointoxication of the body with products of tissue decay occurs. Under such conditions, autointoxication rather than depletion causes the death of people and animals. During therapeutic fasting, decay products are removed from the body through various cleansing procedures -daily enemas, baths, showers, massage, breathing exercises, many hours of outside activity (walking). In this case, abstinence from food intake for as long as 30-40 days is not typically accompanied by symptoms of self-poisoning.

Despite the daily cleansing procedures, obese patients may experience headaches, heart pain, nausea, and severe weakness due to acidosis and hypoxia, especially in the morning. Room ventilation and alkaline water intake may prevent these sensations. Treatment measures include fresh air, oxygen, walking, hyperventilation of the lungs, repeated cleansing enemas in the evening, alkaline water intake. With dry fasting, when diuresis is reduced and enemas are contraindicated, decay products are removed mainly through the respiratory tract (S. Filonov). Therefore, the crucial cleansing procedure that helps avoid self-poisoning of the body during dry fasting is outside strolling. In addition to strolling, S. Filonov applies daily visceral and cupping massage, hirudotherapy and ice water dousing in treatment of all his patients.

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