Mucusless Diet & Rational Fasting
Sussanna Czeranko, ND, BBE
Nature Cure Clinical Pearls
Everyone knows we dig our graves with our teeth, but the saddest of all is the present day superstition of 99% of all the people―the most highly educated and the ignorant―the healthy as well as the sick―the rich and the poor―that we must eat more concentrated food when weak or sick.
Arnold Ehret, 1922, p.11
How simple it is to receive instructions from Nature. Watch the animals heal themselves in time of illness―without so called scientific medicine. This then is the supreme secret of Mother Nature’s self-healing.
Arnold Ehret, 1926, p.39
Change your ideas regarding the claim “the longer you fast the better the cure.” … Man is the sickest animal on earth; no other animal has violated the laws of eating as much as man; no other animal eats as wrongly as man.
Arnold Ehret, 1926, p.45
We have just celebrated an incoming New Year with feasting and irresistible, mouth-watering delicacies. Some of the foods that we eat during our festivals and celebrations may not exactly be the most nutritious, yet we eat them with great enthusiasm. To deny ourselves these dainties can test our resolve and our better sense. To eschew specially prepared treats in social situations can be awfully difficult. The willpower needed to navigate through the abundance of holiday food responsibly can be almost as wretched and grueling as its opposite – steering through a fast. Fasting, as a medical intervention, has little if any appeal for most of us. For some, abstinence of food is as inviting as joining the annual polar bear swim aficionados in their frolic into an icy sea. It just isn’t going to fly. In fact, friends and family may even mock us for fasting. In this connection, Ehret voiced the following observation: “Fasting is so feared and misrepresented that the average man actually considers you a fool if you miss a few meals when sick, thinking you will starve to death, when in reality you are being cured. He fails to understand the difference between fasting and starvation.” (Ehret, 1926, p.40)
Even so, when reading some of the early works on fasting, it is hard to ignore the arguments and conclusions raised by fasting authorities. In last month’s issue, we looked at one of these fasting gurus who still continues to be central to the fasting conversation. While many of his contemporaries have vanished into historical obscurity, Arnold Ehret continues to influence health seekers with his books, which are displayed to this day in health food stores around the globe. In this article, I would like to explore in detail Ehret’s Mucusless Diet and Rational Fasting, and banish misconceptions about fasting that we may secretly harbor in the recesses of our taste buds.
Ehret viewed the principle cause of disease as arising from a lifetime’s accumulation of mucus in the digestive tract. The mucus residing in the body becomes morbid and consists of “undigested, decayed and retained food substances, all of which are in a state of fermentation and putrefaction.” (Ehret, 1922, p.5) Having no function or use in the body, the morbid mucus, along with masses of accumulated feces and undigested foodstuffs, leads to a toxic internal environment that creates the ideal conditions for constipation. Constipation, the disease of internal filth and uncleanliness, was identified by Ehret as the inevitable consequence arising from the “diet of civilization.” His list of mucus-forming foods included dairy, eggs, starchy and farinaceous products, as well as fats and oils that also form the basis of adhesives and glues, and exhibit similar properties inside the intestines, causing the “digestive tract… not only to clog up through constipation, but literally [to be] glued together with sticky mucus and feces.” (Ehret, 1922, p.8) Ehret was very vocal on some of the foods that he eschewed. In bold capital letters, he writes: “I ABSOLUTELY DECLARE WAR ON MEAT AND ALCOHOL; through fruit and moderate eating these great evils are radically diminished.” (Ehret, 1926, p.14)
This morbid mucus was noted by physicians conducting autopsies as a predominant cause of abnormalities in colons. Ehret cites one Berlin physician: “60% of all the corpses contained in the alimentary canal various foreign matter―worms and petrified feces―and he further stated that in nearly all cases the walls of the intestines and colon were lined with a crust of hardened feces, making it evident that these organs had degenerated to a state of utter inefficiency.” (Ehret, 1922, p.5) Colons of persons having normal bowel habits would be “distended to twice their natural size throughout their whole length with a small hole through the center.” (Ehret, 1922, p.6)
Ehret promoted his Mucusless Diet that “consists of fresh, ripe fruit and starchless vegetables.” (Ehret, 1922, p.10) He reasoned, “Fruits, green leaf and starchless vegetables do not contain these pasty, gluey, mucus substances and are natural foods―yet little credit has been given them by doctors or laymen.” (Ehret, 1922, p.8) In his diet protocol, these wonder foods of Nature had the power to dissolve the encrusted mucus layer found in constipated intestines. He explains the mechanism: “Fruit sugar causes and develops their fermentation and forms gases. This so greatly feared fermentation of the inside filth is another necessary stirring up process to prepare them for elimination. Acid and fermented starch and glue lose their sticky ability as soon as they ferment.” (Ehret, 1922, p.8)
The Magic Mirror Test
The Magic Mirror Test, an innovation by Ehret, beautifully demonstrated “the amount of encumbrance that has been clogging up the system since childhood, through wrong, mucus forming foods.” (Ehret, 1922, p.12) It was a simple test to conduct. All that was needed was to fast or eat only fruits for 1 or 2 days and then to examine the tongue in front of a mirror. Ehret suggests that tongues with heavy coats (or “fur”) mirror to the beholder of the tongue the state of the intestinal mucous membrane and accumulation of mucus within the digestive tract that interferes with healthy digestion.
Although Ehret established lists of foods that promoted health, and foods that were destructive, he cautioned that merely abstaining from these diseasing-causing foods did not necessarily result in positive, salubrious results. It wasn’t enough, then, to just eat the right foods. Ehret devised a formula that simplified the complexity of understanding his system of health using a model derived from engineering. His formula was V = P – 0 (Vitality equals Power minus Obstruction). Each of these variables is explained in detail by Ehret in his 1926 book, Rational Fasting for Physical, Mental and Spiritual Rejuvenation.
His formula demonstrates that disease or lowered vitality are not entirely based upon diet. If the body has too much morbid and foreign matter, toxemia and mucus, these obstructions would affect the power and vitality of the body. In his explanation of why cleansing diets fail, he states, “If you eat too much of the right foods, or take them into a body full of wastes and poison, it is impossible for them to enter your blood stream in a clean state and become efficiency-giving vital substances.” (Ehret, 1922, p.19)
Ehret brought to fasting a system that could be duplicated by others in search of health. He writes, “I am the only one who combines this [fasting] cure with a systematically and individually adapted fruit diet, which makes it astonishingly easier and absolutely harmless.” (Ehret, 1912, p.314) Fasting is often done to eliminate unwanted body burden. The history of fasting has left in its wake the belief that fasting will miraculously cure diseases, and Ehret was adamant in his efforts to dispel this notion. “Nothing is more incorrect than the mistaken idea that a decayed old chronic disease can be healed through a very long fast or a radically extended strict fruit diet.” (Ehret, 1922, p.22) Here, the clinical experiences of Ehret that spanned over 20 years were combined with his contention that “a carefully selected and progressively changed TRANSITION DIET is the best and surest way for every patient to start a cure, especially for the average mixed eater [omnivore].” (Ehret, 1922, p.22) By gradually adjusting a patient’s diet, and by replacing mucus-forming foods with mucusless foods, fasting catastrophes can be avoided.
Some rules that Ehret provides with the Transitional Diet include the following:
- Do not eat heavy breakfasts; eat the first meal of the day between ten and eleven
- Choose simplicity in your food and avoid mixing too many foods at one meal
- Never drink during meals
- Avoid watery soups with meals which affect digestion
(Ehret, 1922, 22-23)
Starting the Fast
Fasting is defined as the abstinence of food, which stops the consumption of wrong eating and also over-eating. As soon as eating is dispensed, the body attempts to dissolve and eliminate the toxins via the kidneys. Ehret describes the water fast:
If you drink only water, during a fast, the human mechanism cleanses itself, the same as though you would press out a dirty watery sponge, but the dirt in this instance is sticky mucus and in many cases pus and drugs, which must pass through the circulation until it is so thoroughly dissolved that it can pass through the fine structure of the ‘physiological sieve’ called the kidneys.
(Ehret, 1926, p.43)
As long as the kidneys are eliminating the superfluous matter from the tissues, the faster feels fine. However, over the course of a fast, the body’s tissues are becoming lean, resulting in a concentration of mucus within the body that is circulated by an increasingly toxic-laden bloodstream. For this reason, Ehret claimed, “Fasters who died from too long a fast did not die from lack of food, but actually suffocated in and with their own waste.” (Ehret, 1926, p.44)
In order to facilitate the expulsion of the morbid mucus and other toxins clogging the body, Ehret “gave all [his] fasters lemonade with a trace of honey… for loosening and thinning the mucus in the circulation.” (Ehret, 1926, p.44)
Gradual Change is the Secret
One of the first points with which Ehret instructs fasters in preparing for a fast is “to gradually change diet toward a mucusless diet, and natural herbal laxatives and enemas.” (Ehret, 1922, p.45) An important tip that Ehret observed in fasting patients was that the process of dietary change must be gradual. He comments, “The sudden change of diet causes disturbances even in an entirely healthy person. For this reason, a change made too rapidly may become dangerous and a complete knowledge is, therefore essential.” (Ehret, 1975, p.62) He also counseled fasters to undertake shorter fasts along with some eating days of mucusless foods, principally fruit, either cooked or raw.
Extremely important preparatory attention was also given to the digestive tract. Ehret writes, “I insert here a precautionary measure which must be observed in all fasting cures: the complete emptying of the bowels at the beginning of the fasting by a harmless purgative or by a syringe [enema] or by both.” (Ehret, 1912, p.369) Above all, Ehret recommended enemas prior to the fast and laxatives to clean out the colon. During the fast, “enemas were taken at least every other day.” (Ehret, 1926, p.49)
During the fast, it was highly recommended that fasters spend as much time as possible outdoors, day and night. Exercise was encouraged for those who felt “strong enough to do it; if tired and weak, rest and sleep as much as [possible].” (Ehret, 1926, p.49) Feeling miserable during a fast was attributed to obstruction and lack of elimination. Ehret cites, “It is a well-known fact that a faster can feel better and is actually stronger on the 20th day than on the fifth or sixth day―certainly a tremendous proof that vitality does not depend primarily on food, but rather from an unobstructed circulation.” (Ehret, 1922, p.42)
One of the objectives of fasting is to get rid of the mucus accumulated in the body. During the fast and cleansing, symptoms can be interpreted as a worsening of the patient’s health. Symptoms, such as weakness, are often a sign that waste is in the circulation and should be eliminated. On days when fasters feel weak, they may “find that [their] sleep is restless and disturbed, and experience bad dreams. This is caused by the poisons passing through the brain.” (Ehret, 1926, p.49) Patients who had been exposed to drugs were most susceptible to adverse reactions to the fast. Ehret advised these people to take enemas, and that if reactions were too adverse, to break the fast, but not with fruits. (Ehret, 1926, p.50)
Ehret labeled fasters who only drank water as fanatical. Ehret recommended fruit, vegetable juices, and lemon juice as all appropriate drinks during a fast. Drinking no more than 2 to 3 quarts of liquid per day was suggested. In fact, Ehret states, “The less you drink the more aggressive the fast works.” (Ehret, 1926, p.50) Fruit juices acted on the loosening of mucus and wastes very quickly and Ehret cautioned against their use in long fasts because fruit juices did not promote bowel movements. Too much of the toxins and mucus would be left in the circulation, which is aggravating for tissues and organs, he advised.
Ehret provides a sobering thought, that in Nature’s animal kingdom, fasting lasts “until you are either healed or dead.” (Ehret, 1926, p.45) There was no formula for Ehret about when a fast ended, nor could one predict the length of a fast in advance. He contends, “When and how to break the fast is determined by noting carefully how conditions change during the fast; you now understand that the fast should be broken as soon as you notice that the obstructions are becoming too great in the circulation and that the blood needs new vital substance to resist and neutralize the poisons.” (Ehret, 1926, p.45)
Breaking The Fast
Finishing a fast correctly was absolutely crucial to avoid disastrous outcomes. The first meals following a fast “must be of laxative effect, and not of nourishing value.” (Ehret, 1926, p.47) Ehret stressed the importance of transit time after the first meal. The faster the first meals traveled to the exit meant the body was efficiently carrying “out the loosened mucus and poisons of the intestines and the stomach.” (Ehret, 1922, p.48) If needed, herbal laxatives and enemas were indicated. Ehret recounts, “After breaking a long fast, I spent more time on the toilet than in bed the following night and that was as it should be.” (Ehret, 1922, p.48)
Foods that Ehret recommended included laxative foods, such as fresh sweet fruit, cherries and grapes, soaked or stewed prunes. For most fasters, the first foods to break the fast were raw and cooked, starchless vegetables. If eating did not cause discomfort, Ehret suggested eating enough food to elicit a bowel movement. He counseled that vegetables worked more mechanically than fruits and aided in elimination.
The 24-Hour Fast
Ehret was very fond of short fasts and considered them as exceptionally powerful for severe diseases arising from drugs and deep-seated toxemia. Conducting short fasts also served as a preliminary step for longer durations of fasting. He advised that it was best that the patient eat a Transitional Diet or a Mucusless Diet before a short fast. Often called the One Meal A Day Plan, or the No Breakfast Plan, patients ate in the afternoon at 3 or 4 PM. Ehret recommended for those unaccustomed to fasting to miss their breakfast. He writes, “It may be mentioned that non-fasters and people easily succumbing to illness, may at least insert the morning’s fasting. It would be better for everybody not to eat anything before 10 o’clock and then nothing but fruits.” (Ehret, 1912, p.371)
In his later years, Ehret was not an advocate of an indiscriminate long fast of 30 or 40 days’ duration. He preferred shorter fasts of 1 to 5 days’ duration. His fasting regime began with the No Breakfast Plan, which was then followed by a 24-hour fast for a few days, and gradually increased up to 3, 4, or 5-day fasts. He included “eating between fasts for 1, 2, 3, or 4 days a mucusless diet, combined individually as an elimination adjustment and at the same time supplying and rebuilding the body continually with and by the best elements … found only in mucusless foods.” (Ehret, 1926, p.53)
Ehret was a fan of Horace Fletcher and extolled the virtues of masticating one’s food, or “fletcherizing.” He continues, “The strong secretion of saliva in slow chewing decreases the formation of mucus and prevents over eating.” (Ehret, 1912, p.371)
Arnold Ehret’s contribution to Naturopathy in the early 20th century was enormous. Today, naturopathic doctors are very aware of mucus-forming foods and the dangers of over-processed and adulterated foods in one’s diet. The man who started this dialogue about mucus-forming foods triumphed against disease and created a system to ensure health. Arnold Ehret brought to fasting many years of personal experience and thousands of patient cases, from both of which pools of knowledge he drew to expand and refine protocols for the fasting experience. He learned from this body of personal and patient experience and incorporated this expertise to create a fasting system that was safe and healing. His longest fast was 49 days. He always began and ended each fast with a Transitional Diet consisting or fresh, raw and/or cooked fruits and vegetables. He favored short fasts comprised of 1 to a few days in length, and very often prescribed a series of short fasts alternating with a Transitional Diet for very serious conditions. In his view, lengthy fasts were not often warranted and always required the advice of a health practitioner.
Over the past several weeks, I have been eating according to Ehret’s recommendations and have arrived at similar conclusions to those he established almost a century ago. Eating a fruit diet has altered my taste for wine, and a second observation is that my appetite is not driven by cravings but by real hunger. This fruit diet is a precursor to fasting, which is next on my list.
Reprints of Ehret’s books are widely available and worth the exploration. In an upcoming article, I will be exploring and comparing other fasts that were popularized by Linda Burfield Hazzard, Edward Earle Purinton, William Freeman Havard, and others. There is little doubt in the naturopathic repertoire that fasting has an enduring and valuable place.
Ehret, A. (1912). Sick people. The Naturopath and Herald of Health, XVII (5), 314-315.
Ehret, A. (1912). Sick people, continuation. The Naturopath and Herald of Health, XVII (6), 369-371.
Ehret, A. (1922). The Internal Uncleanliness of Man. New York, NY: Benedict Lust Publishing Co, pp. 28.
Ehret, A. (1926). Rational Fasting for Physical, Mental and Spiritual Rejuvenation. Los Angeles, CA: Ehret Literature Publishing Co, pp. 64.
Ehret, A. (1975). Rational Fasting for Physical, Mental and Spiritual Rejuvenation. Beaumont, CA: Ehret Literature Publishing Co, pp. 87.
Sussanna Czeranko ND, BBE, incorporates “nature-cure” approaches to primary care by including balneotherapy, breathing therapy, and nutrition into her naturopathic practice. Dr Czeranko is a faculty member working as the Rare Books curator at NCNM and is currently compiling a 12-volume series based upon Benedict Lust’s journals, published early in the last century. Her published books include: Origins of Naturopathic Medicine; Philosophy of Naturopathic Medicine; Dietetics of Naturopathic Medicine; Principles of Naturopathic Medicine; Vaccination and Naturopathic Medicine; and Physical Culture in Naturopathic Medicine. Dr Czeranko is the founder of the Breathing Academy, a training institute for naturopaths to incorporate a scientific model of breathing therapy called Buteyko into their practice. She is also a founding board member of the International Congress of Naturopathic Medicine and a member of the International Society of Medical Hydrology.