Sunday 8 May 2011

James Bond and alternative medicine

Recently I acquired an addition to James Bond’s library: Nature Cure Explained (1950), by Alan Moyle. The book is waiting for Bond on the bedside table of his room at the Shrublands sanatorium. As described in Thunderball (1961), Bond is ordered there by M to undertake a two- to three-week abstemious regime to improve his physical fitness. Bond turns to the book shortly after his arrival (Thunderball, chapter 2) and manages to get through 12 of its 19 chapters, discovering in the process that Nature Cure, or naturopathy, is ‘the application of natural laws’ through fasting, balanced and special dieting, exercising, and hydrotherapy among other means to maintain good health and prevent disease. Evidently M has read the book too. His views on denatured food, the harm of conventional medicine, and his reference to pioneers (usually Austrian or German) of the naturopathy movement (chapter 1), are taken direct from the pages of Moyle.

To some extent, naturopathy sits on the milder end of the alternative medicine spectrum. Alan Moyle’s manifesto for a balanced diet includes the consumption of whole foods, abundant fruit and vegetables (preferably raw), fair quantities of dairy products, and little meat. Sixty years on, much of Moyle’s assertions would find little disagreement. We accept without question the health benefits of wholegrain products, and pass on the ‘wholegrain-is-good’ meme to the next generation as naturally as we transmit our genes. Society, too, has long rejected foods that contain additives and preservatives, something much despised by Moyle. Words like ‘natural’, ‘pure’, and ‘fresh’ are scrawled over food packaging like graffiti under a railway bridge, and while the food displaying such labels is not necessarily those things (as Which? noted), it is nevertheless a recognition that consumers seeking a healthy lifestyle form a significant population.

One also cannot argue with Moyle’s claim that exercise is very beneficial, although his insistence of exercising in the nude, as well as his view that the ‘uplift [in morale] arising from the freedom from clothes’ leads to ‘a healthier outlook on sex’ reminds us of naturopathy’s links with the naturism movement, and recalls the film of badminton-playing naturists eagerly watched by Sid James in Carry On Camping.

Moyle is likely to have fewer supporters, however, for his preference for sour milk (replacing pasteurised milk, which Moyle claims is robbed of nutrients), the recommendation to fast once a year for seven days (ideally in the ‘eminently suitable’ period of spring), and his special diets, like the potato diet (breakfast: potato and onion broth; mid-morning: potato and onion broth; lunch: baked or steamed potatoes; supper: baked or steamed potatoes and potato and onion broth). More worrying is Alan Moyle’s assertion that a cold is the body’s way of telling us that it is clogged with poisons from unhealthy living and needs to be brought back into balance; fried food, he maintains, is one cause of colds.

But Alan Moyle’s rejection of conventional medicine is dangerous. Drugs, he claims, suppress disease, not cure it. The only way to treat disease is to rectify the underlying cause – a result of a violation of the natural laws – by fasting, dieting, water treatments, and so on. Maintaining Nature Cure obviates the need for medicines, as one is less likely to become ill. To be fair, Moyle expressed his views a long time ago when research into viruses or the causes of cancer was at its infancy. However, today’s naturopathy movement retains this principle, though acknowledges that ‘short term measures which assist in the removal of symptoms for the comfort or safety of the individual’ are sometimes necessary.

Returning to Thunderball, how does James Bond cope with his nature cure? He is put on a course of strict dieting, massage, irrigation (presumably colonic), hot and cold sitz baths, osteopathy, and some traction. This final treatment, incidentally, is not mentioned by Alan Moyle, and may have been an plot device original to Fleming or derived from another source. We learn that Bond consumes vegetable soup and, later, orange slices. He has massage, including effleurage, which, ‘acts on the cutaneous nerves and superficial vessels’ (Moyle 1950, 155). The results? Reduced blood pressure, weight loss, osteopathic lesions gone, and clear eyes and tongue (chapter 4). On his release from the clinic, Bond initially maintains the diet, replacing his usual breakfast of boiled eggs, toast and coffee with yoghurt. But the regime is short-lived. SPECTRE has stolen two atomic missiles and Bond is ordered to the Bahamas to investigate. For this, Bond needs some proper food, and he breaks his diet with scrambled eggs, smoked bacon, hot-buttered toast (‘not wholemeal’, he tells May, his housekeeper), and double-strength coffee.

1 comment:

  1. It is nevertheless a recognition that consumers seeking a healthy lifestyle form a significant population.


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