“There were people who had been given up by doctors whom she managed to keep alive – it was almost a miracle.”
From bustling Boston and New York of the early 1900s to a lonely Coroner’s court in rural Western Australia, ‘Gut Instinct: Mrs Snook’s Diet’ tells the story of Dorothea Snook and her vintage vegan and alkaline diets for those suffering from various ailments, including cancer, diabetes and arthritis.
Known as the “nature granny” and a friend of pioneering holistic health practitioner Ann Wigmore, mother-of-seven Mrs Snook became one of Australia’s most prominent naturopaths in the late 20th century, and gained an international reputation for her success in treating cancer sufferers on her raw food diets.
But she was outspoken in her beliefs and her uncompromising personality ruffled feathers among the medical community, leading to an infamous court case that put her out of business overnight.
Greta Puls, an Australian journalist and science writer whose mother was a client of Mrs Snook’s in 1980, investigates the events that led to the court case and its aftermath.
Today Mrs Snook is rated alongside ethicist Professor Peter Singer and Nobel Laureate JM Coetzee in the history of vegetarianism in Australia.
Her diets share a provenance with Doctor Benedict Lust and the famed 19th century German monk, Father Sebastian Kneipp; founders of the nature cure movement who were said to have inspired Gandhi.
Mrs Snook learned her vintage diets from the accomplished Boston-trained naturopath, Doctor Alice Caporn who held four degrees, including a PhD, and ran a banana plantation in what was then known as British Honduras during the 1930s.
Both women were crusaders for a plant-based diet, and advocated that physical and mental illness begins in the gut, caused by eating the wrong kinds of foods – a view now increasingly supported by gut microbiome science.
‘Gut Instinct: Mrs Snook’s Diet’ includes interviews with family and former clients, newspaper and archival material, and modern-day and vintage case studies – plus Mrs Snook’s famous gut cleanse diet and the original nature cure diets and recipes.