Important Articles of the Month

Upton Sinclair's Prescription for Perfect Health.

May 1 1910
Important Articles of the Month

Upton Sinclair's Prescription for Perfect Health.

May 1 1910

Upton Sinclair's Prescription for Perfect Health.

The experiences of Upton Sinclair, the novelist, in securing what he terms perfect health, is narrated by him in the Contemporary Review, and while a good many people might hesitate to adopt the drastic remedy suggested by him, still his plan will be followed with interest. After having been brought up in a well-to-do family, in which good eating was regarded as a social grace and the principal interest in life, Mr. Sinclair was, at twenty, an active and fairly healthy young man. Then he wrote his first book and the severe strain of this work began to affect his health.

I went to see a physician, who gave me some red liquid, which magically relieved the consequences of doing hard brain-work after eating. So I went on for a year or two more, and then 1 found that the artificially-digested food was not being eliminated from my system with sufficiënt regularity. So I went to another physician, who gave my malady another name, and gave me another medicine, and put off the time of reckoning a little while longer.

I have never in my life used tea or coffee, alcohol or tobacco ; but for seven or eight years I worked under heavy pressure all the time, and ate very irregularly, and ate unwholesome food. So I began to have headaches once in a while, and to notice that I was abnormally sensitive to colds. I considered these maladies natural to mortals, and I would always attribute them to some specific accident. I would say, “I’ve been knocking about down town all day” ; or, “I was out in the hot sun” ; or, “I lay on the damp ground.” I found that if I sat in a draught for even a minute I was certain to “catch cold.” I found also that I had sore throat and tonsilitis once or twice every winter ; also, now and then, the grippe. There were times when I did not sleep well ; and as all this got worse, I would have to drop all my work and try to rest. The first time I did this a week or two was sufficient; but later on a month or two was necessary, and then several months.

The year I wrote “The Jungle” I had my first summer cold. It was haying time on a farm, and I thought it was a kind of hay-fever. I would sneeze for 96

hours in perfect torment, and this lasted for a month, until I went away to the sea-shore. This happened again the next summer, and also another very painful experience ; a nerve in a tooth died, and I had to wait three days for the pain to “localise,” and then had the tooth drilled out, and staggered home, and was ill in bed for a week with chills and fever, and nausea and terrible headaches. I mention all these unpleasant details so that the reader may understand the state of wretchedness to which I had come. At the same time, also, I had a great deal of distressing illness in my family ; my wife seldom had a week without suffering, and my little boy had pneumonia one winter, and croup the next, and whooping-cough in the summer, with the inevitable “colds” scattered in between.

After the Helicon Hall fire I realized that I was in a bad way, and for the two years following I gave a good part of my ti'me to trying to find out how to preserve my health. I went to Battle Creek and to Bermuda, and to the Adirondacks ; and I read the books of all the new investigators of the subject of hygiene, and tried out their theories religiously.

It was Horace Fletcher, who first set him on the path to better health, but it was not Fletcherism which cured! him. Fletcher told 'him that Nature would' be his guide and that if only he masticated thoroughly, instinct would select the foods. But unfortunately his “nature” was hopelessly perverted and he preferred unwholesome foods.

I next read the books of Metelinikoff and Chittenden, who showed me just how my ailments came to be. The unassimilated food lies in the colon, and bacteria swarm in it, and the poisons they produce are absorbed into the system. I had bacteriological examinations made in my own case, and I found that when I was feeling well the number of these toxin-producing germs was about six billions to the ounce of intestinal contents ; and when, a few days later, I had a headache, the number was a hundred and twenty billions'. Here was my trouble under the microscope, so to speak.

These tests were made at the Battle Creek Sanitarium, where I went for a

long stay. I tried their system of water cure, which I found a wonderful stimulant to the eliminative organs ; but I discovered that, like all other stimulants, it leaves you in the end just where you were. My health was improved at the sanitarium, but a week after I left I was down with the grippe again.

I gave the next year of my life to trying to restore my health. I spent the winter in Bermuda and the summer in the Adirondacks, both of them famous health resorts, and during the entire time I lived an absolutely hygienic life. I did not work hard, and I did not worry, and I did not think about my health except when I had to. 1 lived in the open air all the time, and gave most of the day to vigorous exercise—tennis, walking, boating and swimming. I mention this specifically, so that the reader may perceive that I had eliminated all other factors of ill-health, and appreciate to the full my statement that at the end of the year’s time my general health was worse than ever before.

I was all right so long as I played tennis all day or climbed mountains. The trouble came when I settled down to do brain-work. And from this I saw perfectly clearly that I was over-eating ; there was surplus food to be burned up, and when it was not burned up it poisoned me. But how was I to stop when I was hungry ? I tried giving up all the things I liked and of which I ate most ; but that did no good, because I had such a complacent appetite—I would immediately take to liking the other things ! I thought that I had an abnormal appetite, the result of my early training ; but how was I ever to get rid of it Î

I must not give the impression that I was a conspicuously hearty eater. On the contrary, I ate far less than most people eat. But that was no consolation to me. I had wrecked myself by years of overwork, and so I was more sensitive. The other people were going to pieces by slow stages, I could see ; but I was already in pieces.

Then came the cure. He chanced to meet a lady, who ‘had been a bedridden invalid for ten or fifteen years, but at the time was enjoying the best of health.

She had cured herself by a fast. She had abstained from food for eight days, and all her troubles had fallen from her. Afterwards she had taken her eldest son, a senior at Stanford, and another friend of his, and fasted twelve days with them, and cured them of nervous dyspepsia. And then she had

taken a woman friend, the wife of a Stanford professor, and cured her of rheumatism by a week’s fast. I had heard of the fasting cure, but this was the first time I had met with it. I was too much burdened with work to try it just then, but I began to read up on the subject—the books of Dr. Devey, Dr. Hazzard and Dr. Carrington, and more especially those of Dr. Bernard Macfadden. Coming home from California I got a sunstroke on the Gulf of Mexico, and spent a week in hospital at Kev West, and that seemed to give the coup de grace to my long-suffering stomach. After another spell of hard work I found myself unable to digest corn-meal mush and milk, and so I was ready for a fast.

I began. The fast has become a commonplace to me now ; but I will assume that it is as new and as startling to the reader as it was to myself at first, and will describe my sensations at length.

1 was very hungry for the first day— the unwholesome, ravening sort or hunger that all dyspeptics know. I had a little hunger the second morning, and thereafter, to my very great astonishment, no hunger whatever—no more interest in food than if I had never known the taste of it. Previous to the fast I had had a headache every day for two or three weeks. It lasted through the first day and then disappeared—never to return. I felt very weak the second day, and a little dizzy on arising. I went out of doors and lay in the sun all day, reading ; and the same for the third and fourth days —in intense physical lassitude, but with great clearness of mind. After the fifth day I felt stronger, and walked a good deal, and I also began some writing. No phase of the experience surprised me more than the activity of my mind : I read and wrote more than I had dared to do for years before.

During the first four days I lost fifteen pounds in weight—something which, I have since learned, was a sign of the extremely poor state of my tissues. Thereafter I lost only two pounds in eight days—an equally unusual phenomenon. I slept well throughout the fast. About the middle of each day I would feel weak, but a massage and a cold shower would refresh me. Towards the end I began to find that in walking about I would grow tired in the legs, and as I did not wish to lie in bed I broke the fast after the twelfth day with some orange-juice.

I took the juice of a dozen oranges during two days, and then went on the milk diet, as recommended by Macfadden. I took a glassful of warm milk every hour the first day, every threequarters of an hour the next day, and D 91

finally every half-hour—or eight quarts a day. This is. of course, much more than can be assimilated, but the balance serves to flush the system out. The tissues are bathed in nutriment, and an extraordinary recuperation is experienced. In my own case I gained four and a half pounds in one day—the third—and gained a total of thirty-two pounds in twenty-four days.

My sensations on this milk diet were almost as interesting as on the fast. In the first place, there was an extraordinary sense of peace and calm, as if every weary nerve in the body were purring like a cat under a stove. Next there was the keenest activity of mind —I read and wrote incessantly. And, finally, there was a perfectly ravenous desire for physical work. In the old days I had walked long distances and climbed mountains, but always with reluctance and from a sense of compulsion. Now, after the cleaning-out of the fast, I would go into a gymnasium and do work which would literally have broken my back before, and I did it with intense enjoyment, and with amazing results. The muscles fairly leaped out upon my body ; I suddenly discovered the possibility of becoming an athlete. I had always been lean and dyspeptic-looking, with what my friends called a “spiritual” expression ; I now became as round as a butter-ball, and so brown and rosy in the face that I was a joke to all who saw me.

The cure was perfect. He found that he could eat all kinds of food without .ill-effects. He no longer had headaches. He was immune to colds.

The fast is to me the key to eternal youth, the secret of perfect and permanent health. I would not take anything in all the world for my knowledge of it. It is Nature’s safety-valve, an automatic protection against disease. I do not venture to assert that I am proof against virulent diseases, such as smallpox or typhoid. I know one ardent physical culturist, a physician, who takes typhoid germs

at intervals in order to prove his immunity, but I should not care to go that far ; it is enough for me to know that I am proof against all the common infections which plague us, and against all the “chronic” troubles. And I shall continue so just as Ion" as I stand by my present resolve, which is to fast at the slightest hint of any symptom of ill-being—a cold or a headache, a feeling of depression, or a coated tongue, or a scratch on the finger which does not heal quiekly.

Those who have made a study of the fast explain its miracles in the following way : Superfluous nutriment is

taken into the system and ferments, and the body is filled with a greater quantity of poisonous matter than the organs of elimination can handle. The result is the clogging of these organs and of the blood-vessels—such is the meaning of headaches and rheumatism, arteriosclerosis, paralysis, apoplexy, Bright’s disease, cirrhosis, etc. And bv impairing the blood and lowering the vitality this same condition prepares the system for infection—for “colds,” or pneumonia, or tuberculosis, or any of the fevers. As soon as the fast begins, and the first hunger has been withstood, : the secretions cease, and the whole assimilative system, which takes so much of the energies of the body, goes out of business. The body then begins a sort of house-cleaning, which must be helped by an enema and a bath daily, and, above all, by copious waterdrinking. The tongue becomes coated, the breath and the perspiration offensive ; and this continued until the diseased matter has been entirely cast out, when the tongue clears and hunger reasserts itself in unmistakable form.

The loss of weight during the fast is generally about a pound a day. The fat is used first, and after that the muscular tissue ; true starvation begins only when the body has been reduced to the skeleton and the viscera. Fasts of forty and fifty days are now quite common—1 have met several who have taken them. The longest fast I have heard of is seventy-two days.