Lawrence Armstrong –
Interview With A Client

Lawrence Armstrong was one of the earliest advocates of natural health practices in Australia. He published his first booklet on health in 1935, and ran health counseling practices in Perth and later Melbourne.

Kath Mandile met Mr Armstrong in Melbourne and was his client for three years. We interviewed Kath about that eventful time and how it impacted on her life and the health of her family. Here is a transcript of the interview:


What circumstances led you to consult with Lawrence Armstrong?

I was a busy 29-year old mother of two, and one day I noticed a rash on my face. Over a period of a few days, it got progressively worse and extremely itchy, so much so that I couldn't bear it and had to control my urge to scratch. Instead I would slap my face repeatedly in an effort to get some relief.

A family member suggested I consult a chemist named Mr. Bonner who was supposedly a very knowledgeable man. I made the first appointment, and after a short consultation, he put me in a small room and asked me to lie on the couch. He then put drops into my nose and told me to lie still and relax until he came back. After a quarter of an hour or so, he returned and asked how I felt. I was quite relaxed and told him I felt a little bit better, although the rash was still there. He gave me two bottles of liquid to take over the next week; I think it was a tablespoon three times a day. It was terribly bitter stuff but I was determined to get rid of the rash so I took it.

What response did you have to the treatment?

There was no improvement in that first week so I went back and was given more nose drops and another dose of the liquid. I noticed that every few days I was becoming a little bit more out of breath. Then my left leg started to swell and became huge. A relative suggested, “You have dropsy, you need to go to a doctor.” But I persisted in seeing Mr. Bonner.

He gave me some tablets for my leg, and, as usual, he didn't explain what the medication was and I didn't ask. It was a time when patients didn't question their doctors or health professionals but just did as they were told. But after about three months with no improvement, my husband insisted on coming with me. Mr. Bonner put me into the room and told me to lie down and lift my leg, then hold it in the air for as long as I possibly could. This wasn't too long because my leg was very heavy. He said, “All right, that will do. Now keep on with your tablets and rest as much as possible.”


kath at 22
Kath as a healthy 22 year-old. The photo was taken on her honeymoon.
  kath at 29
7 years later: pancake makeup covering her rash and dark circles under her eyes

As we left Mr Bonner's office, my husband said, “You're not going back to him. We'll go and see this dietitian that your uncle's always talking about.” Dietitians in those days were something to be scoffed at – neither the medical profession nor the general public took them seriously. But I was desperate by this stage so it was worth a try.

The dietitian was Lawrence Armstrong?

Yes. He was known as a dietitian because he worked with food. He'd probably be called a naturopath today.

So what happened on your first visit?

By this time my skin had the texture of an elephant's skin and it was a deep pink color, almost red. It was so itchy I had to slap my face constantly or use a fan to keep it cool. Mr. Armstrong took one look at me and asked, “How old are you?” I said, “I'm 29 years of age.” He said, “If you're prepared to do what I say you must if you want to get well – you must adhere to my instructions – I promise that you will look very different in six months' time.” I was ready to do anything for some relief.

What was the program?

Mr. Armstrong told me to drink 14 pints of water a day. He said. “It won't be like this all the time; gradually, as you improve, you'll drink less water.” He also put me on a very strict diet, mainly fruit, vegetable and salads. I couldn't eat white flour, white sugar, or any refined foods. Everything had to be as close to Nature as possible. Initially I couldn't eat meat or any dairy products. He gave me Vitamin A and Vitamin D tablets, and told me to lie in the sun for 10 minutes after lunch, no matter what the weather was like. He told me how to construct a makeshift barrier to protect myself from the wind.

He also recommended soaking my feet in cold water – this was in the middle of winter! – before going to bed to improve circulation and warm my feet, which it did. After about three weeks I was allowed to have weak tea. No coffee of course. And two slices of bread, sometimes toasted, with each meal. After about the third week I was allowed little treats on Sunday or whatever day of the week I chose. The treats might be stewed fruit with just a little sugar or honey, brown rice, or some other food I was missing.

When did you begin to see changes?

After about a month I could see the skin lightening and the irritation began to subside. Drinking 14 pints of water was difficult, but it was something I had to do because I was desperate. After a while I got used to it and I drank it. I was allowed to add fruit juice to it to improve the flavor.

I wasn't allowed fruit in the beginning of the program. They were added later – mainly strawberries, tomatoes and citrus fruits. Next I was allowed to add soups which consisted of carrots, (no parsnips because of the asthma) celery and turnip. I could also add boiled barley, which made it very palatable. Apart from that, I could boil the barley and discard it, then drink the water, which was good for my kidneys.

After about six months I was much better and feeling great. I had lots of energy, my skin was much lighter and smoother and the itching had gone. During the program I took my food with me if we went out or socialized. If we visited friends or relatives I either took my own food or asked for a simple salad with toast. I remember when I was first allowed the luxury of eating cheese. What bliss!

After 12 months my water consumption was down to three pints a day, and later I went down to two (8 glasses), which is what most nutritionists recommend as the norm anyway.

How soon did your leg improve?

The leg returned to its normal size after about a month.

What about the labored breathing?

I'd had asthma throughout my childhood – it runs in my family. And I'd always suffered from chronic bronchitis, but I hadn't had any symptoms for some time before I started seeing Mr. Bonner. It was after I began taking his medicines that the breathing became a problem. Even when I began seeing Mr. Armstrong, the shortness of breath lingered for some months but eventually it disappeared.

How long did you see Lawrence Armstrong?

I saw him regularly for about 12 months, mainly for the support once my symptoms disappeared. In the beginning I had fortnightly appointments, then once a month, and after six months I kept seeing him because I wanted to keep track of my progress and I was afraid of backsliding in my eating habits. I knew him for a total of three years, seeing him mainly for checkups, and chats because we became friends.

My husband went with me once when he wasn't feeling well, but he didn't do the entire program because he couldn't keep up with the high water intake. Mr. Armstrong suggested he move to a warmer climate, which is what we did three years later. The last time we saw Mr. Armstrong was to say goodbye when we left Melbourne.

What was Mr. Armstrong's background?

According to what he told me, he was sent to Switzerland at 16 years of age because he was dying of heart problems. His parents, being quite wealthy, booked him into a Swiss clinic, and he was there for about two years. He said the treatment was wonderful, and the program was basically the same one he was teaching his clients in Australia.

What about detoxification?

Yes, that was a big part of the program. The water intake was one aspect, and colon cleansing was the other. Initially I gave myself an enema once a week. Whatever I consumed was not allowed to stay in my body for too long. A green powdered laxative was added to the enema, and I took Andrews Liver Salts every night. This was to clear any toxic residue from my body.

What was Lawrence Armstrong like?

At the time I met him he told me he was 70, but he had the most beautiful skin, just like an English Rose. A little flush to the cheeks but very pale as he wasn't a gardener and didn't spend much time outdoors.

His movements were very youthful. He walked quickly, spoke quickly – he was very vital. A very affable man.

When did he begin to teach?

Not when he returned from the clinic - he was only about 18 then. I believe he started writing at 35, which was about 20 years later. He died when he was 90.

Where was his practice?

He had consulting rooms at Swanston Street in Melbourne. He looked at my eyes as part of my consultations so he must have used some form of iridology. He also sold vitamins from his practice.

Did you change the family diet at that time?

No, I looked after my diet and fed the family their usual meals and whatever they wanted. I didn't do the changeover from white flour and white sugar to wholemeal (wholewheat) flour and raw sugar because I wasn't baking at the time. It was all I could do to take care of my diet, the family diet and working with my husband. It wasn't until we moved interstate three years later that I did the changeover for the whole family.

What other members of your family consulted Mr. Armstrong?

My aunt and uncle, my cousins, my husband's aunt, and his brother and sister all visited Mr. Armstrong at some stage. Those who took on the program wholeheartedly had great results but others found it too difficult to follow. All of us who knew him still speak highly of him; he's almost a part of our family history. My children and some of their cousins still follow his basic dietary principles.

> > Lawrence Armstrong Detox Diet


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