Mrs Snook’s Diet

“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.

‘Gut Instinct: Mrs. Snook’s Diet’, available NOW in Kindle (ebook) and paperback.

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Mrs Snook and I spent Sunday morning tucked up in bed. I really enjoyed the book. It is interesting that the AMA still have their head in the sand regarding naturopathy. I wonder why they are so rigid in their views. Helen, Perth

In bed with Mrs Snook

[We had an] award scheme for cancer survivors in 1987 – and most of the winners were Mrs Snook’s former patients. There were people who had been given up by doctors whom she managed to keep alive – it was almost a miracle.

Isobel Weir (1990)

After following Dorothea Snook’s gut-cleanse diet and health treatments, I felt fantastic and years younger.  My new energy levels remind me of the energy I had as a child and young person. I lost just over 13  kilos and my cholesterol levels dropped from 7.2 to 5.4, which I was thrilled about. My cholesterol levels have always ranged between 6 and 7.2, except for the time I did a famous diet six years ago and it shot up to twelve!

Teresa Boyce (2014)

My former wife and I both went together to see Mrs Snook. The reason we went was because we’d been married for seven or eight years and were trying to start a family. We had both undertaken gynecological and fertility testing and been told there was no medical reason why either of us couldn’t have children but it just hadn’t happened. Dorothea did an iridology test on me. She could tell from the iridology testing that I once had a broken leg and arm – it was pretty incredible really. She was particularly good. She gave me diet charts on foolscap paper and a little green book called ‘What a Way to Go!!’ that had diets and information in it. I didn’t stick religiously to her diet – but I cut out meat and ate lots of salads. My wife did as well. Within three months, my wife was pregnant and we went on to have three children – one after the other. I kept going to see Dorothea, perhaps once a month, to monitor my progress and stay on track. She was fairly extreme and radical, particularly for that time. But her diet and the things she recommended were working for me. I had a lot more mental clarity.

Michael, early 1980s

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