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The Science and Fine Art of Fasting


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For Herbert Shelton, health and physical wellbeing was a personal matter from the moment he was born. On October 6, 1895, he came into the world two months premature weighing only 3 pounds, surviving to grow up on his family's farm in Wylie, Texas. During his youth, Shelton loved spending time with the farm animals and, through his observations of their habits, began noting their natural dietary tendencies-including fasting. During high school, Shelton came across the theory of drugless healing through Bernarr Mcfadden's magazine, Physical Culture. This inspired him to look further into alternative medicine and eventually become one of its greatest proponents. Thus began his lifelong journey of seeking health through fasting and other natural ways of promoting wellbeing and healing. Eventually, he went on to attend Macfadden's College of Physcultopathy and interned at Crane's Sanitorium-both in Illinois. For post-graduate work, he served at Lindlahr's and Sahler's Sanatoriums and continued at Peerless College of Chiropractic Medicine and Crandall Health School. He married Ida Pape in 1921 while studying at the American School of Chiropractic Medicine and went on to receive a Doctorate of Naturopathy from the American School of Naturopathy. Shelton self-published his first book, Fundamentals of Nature Cure, in 1922. After becoming familiar with The Hygienic Movement founded by Dr. Isaac Jennings and Sylvester Graham in 1832, Shelton later changed the title of his book to An Introduction to Natural Hygiene. In 1924, he and his wife Ida welcomed a son into their family. One year after his child's birth, in 1925, Shelton became a staff member of Physical Culture, which at the time had a circulation of one million. He went on to co-found his own magazine, How to Life, and began a daily column for the New York Evening Graphic-often stirring public controversy by criticizing modern medical treatment. Shelton was criticized for his views on fasting as an alternative medical treatment and his stance regarding the medical benefits of raw food. In 1942, he was charged with negligent homicide after one of his patients allegedly starved to death; however, the charges were later dropped, and the case was never prosecuted. He continued to gain notoriety and popularity in the alternative health movement; in 1956, he was nominated by the American Vegetarian Party to run as its candidate for President of the United States. Shelton died in 1985 at the age of 77 after battling a degenerative neuromuscular disorder that left him bedridden since the age of 64. Even towards the end of his life, Shelton continued his involvement in advocating alternative medicine through his own academy: Dr. Shelton's Health School. During the 53 years of the school's operation, over 400,000 patients were treated for a variety of illnesses, most of whom recovered with the help of Shelton's theories. Herbert M. Shelton and his works remain popular in the alternative medicine community even today, especially in the realms of fasting and restorative care.

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