By Cindy Gray.

A few years ago, my husband became afflicted with gout in one foot, with swelling and inflammation settling primarily in his big toe. Gout is the most common form of inflammatory arthritis in men over the age of 40, caused by an excess of uric acid, usually related to a rich diet. He overcame this situation by using celery. That's right, celery. The root, the juice, and celery seed supplements. His body responded beautifully to this treatment, and within two weeks, the gout was gone. Occasionally he feels a twinge in that foot again, and when that happens, he knows his body is telling him that he's been eating too much rich foods. So he adjusts his diet, and supplements it with a daily celery supplement until his symptoms are gone—usually within a couple weeks. This natural intervention worked for my husband, and it prevented traditional treatment that probably would have involved a pharmaceutical drug that may have included unwanted side effects. In this case, dietary supplementation remedied the situation, and continues to prevent recurrence.


A couple years ago, I came down with a nasty case of bronchitis. Never had I experienced this before, and it was horrible. Now keep in mind, I have quite an arsenal of natural remedies and information at my house. I tried to intervene with various natural remedies, but I was really struggling. I knew I needed an antibiotic so I went to my medical doctor and got one. Ultimately, it took two courses of antibiotics to kick the bronchitis out the door. Once I finished the antibiotics, I began a course of probiotics to help re-balance my system.

I learned a lot from this experience. I found it interesting that many people told me, “Once you get bronchitis, you'll get it every year.” So I focused more on my own self-care: getting extra sleep; not letting stress get the best of me; taking a daily multiple vitamin; and in the early fall when the leaves drop, I give my prevention routine a boost. I take extra vitamin C: several garlic softgels each night before going to sleep; apple cider vinegar and honey in the morning; and I take a specialty supplement designed for the lungs, sinus and bronchi. I am pleased to report that bronchitis has not struck me since that first episode, several years ago. In this case, a Western medical drug was used to remedy the illness, and natural remedies are used to prevent recurrence.

These are examples of self-care and common sense, and this applies to our animal companions, too.

I have a 10 year old cat named Harry. My husband and I noticed that he was drinking a lot of water and had increased urine output. Common sense told us that while Harry clearly wasn't blocked up, something was wrong. The veterinarian ran some tests and said poor Harry's kidneys were failing and he had six months to one year to live. We were shocked. The vet said we could help Harry and prolong his life by a few months if we gave him 'subQ' fluids using an I.V. She showed us how to do this, and teary-eyed, we went home. Common sense then led us to find a dietary supplement for the health of cats with kidney problems. I pulverized the tablets in a coffee grinder, and began giving this natural supplement powder to Harry in his food twice a day—and he gets IV fluids twice a week. That was well over two years ago, and Harry appears to be doing just fine. In this case, common sense alerted us, Western medical tests diagnosed the situation, dietary supplementation is used—complemented by IV fluids, another Western medical therapy—all are working together quite nicely.

So returning to the question: how safe are supplements and natural medicine? Or the added question, how safe are pharmaceuticals and Western medicine?

The answer is simple: supplements, natural medicine, pharmaceuticals and Western medicine each bring to the table wisdom and knowledge used to prevent and eliminate disease, and enhance health and prolong life. They each must be used with care, common sense, intelligence, and respect. They each involve people—people who need the care and people who administer the care. These people are all subject to their own human-ness, i.e. human error, human arrogance, human ignorance and human greed.

In the time-honored tradition of pointing fingers and slinging mud, I could quote statistics regarding the tens of thousands of Americans who die each year as a result of taking FDA-approved over-the-counter or prescription drugs; and people who die each year from correctly taking drugs that have been correctly prescribed by a physician. I could speak about iatrogenic illness or death, caused by treatment or diagnostic procedures by medical personnel or that develops through exposure to the environment of a health care facility. I won't go into unnecessary surgeries, infections acquired in hospitals, hospital errors, etc.

I could speak about the emotionally charged DTC (direct-to-consumer) prescription drug TV advertisements, who speed-talk at the end about all the dangerous side effects; or how quickly the ad will be pulled from the air, as the drug is recalled due to these dangers.

I could mention that my mail recently included a flyer from a national drugstore chain. The flyer said that I could earn 25 points for every prescription filled at their pharmacy. Apparently, every point would get me closer to a discount on more purchases from their store. It showed a photograph of a senior-aged woman grinning and pointing to her pill bottle. Between you and me, I found that advertisement a bit creepy.

Or I could focus on people in “those hospitals” taking “those pharmaceuticals” who would not be alive today without them—men, women, children, whose lives depend upon the wisdom, knowledge and skill of health care practitioners, regardless of their title or their medical specialty.

There is a delicate balance between natural medicine and Western medicine. We need to recognize this balance, and recognize that we are co-creators of our health and well-being. We are participants in our own self-care. There is not a pill for common sense. We are each responsible for our own health, and we must each seek out and secure the talents of health care practitioners who will work with us to create optimum health.

What are some of your personal experiences with supplements, natural medicine or Western medicine?