Health News

Cherry and celery keep prison guard on his toes

Q: I work as a correctional officer and have to go up and down flights of stairs 12 hours a day. My gout flared up so that I could barely walk. I could have sworn I had broken my feet.

My doctor prescribed allopurinol and eventually switched me to Uloric. The side effects were worse than the original problem. The pain went from just my feet and ankles to my whole body. With raging headaches, I felt like I was 100 years old.

I searched online and decided to try black cherry extract and celery seed extract. My pain disappeared almost totally after only two days. I have been taking them daily for eight months and have not had one symptom return. My uric-acid levels are now within normal range.

When I told my doctor, he said he knew these supplements could help with gout, but he didn't feel comfortable recommending them. People need to share supplement information with each other.

A. A study in the journal Arthritis and Rheumatism found that eating cherries or taking cherry extract lowered the likelihood of a gout attack (December 2012). Luteolin, a major component of celery, blocks the enzyme that leads to uric-acid formation (Food Chemistry, Dec. 15, 2013).

We are sending you a copy of our book "Quick and Handy Home Remedies" so you can show your doctor that there is science behind some nondrug approaches. Others can find it at

Q. I have had asthma since I was 2. I am now in my 50s, and my doctor prescribed daily Advair and albuterol as a rescue inhaler.

I was using albuterol several times a week until I started fish oil and turmeric. With these supplements, I

have much better results than previously when I was relying only on standard medicines.

A. We trust you are working closely with your doctor to monitor lung function. Asthma medicine must not be stopped without medical supervision, as that could trigger a breathing crisis.

Turmeric is the yellow spice in curry. Animal studies suggest that this compound has anti-inflammatory activity in the lungs (Inflammation, October 2014). One study found that people who ate curry more frequently had better lung function than those who rarely or never ate it (PLoS One online, Dec. 26, 2012).

The omega-3 fatty acids found in fish and fish oil have anti-inflammatory activity. A study of American youth found that those with the most omega-3 fats in their diets were only about half as likely to be diagnosed with asthma as those with the lowest intake of these nutrients (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, January 2013).

Another nutrient that has shown promise for asthma is vitamin C. This appears especially helpful if the asthma attack is triggered by a respiratory infection (Allergy, Asthma and Clinical Immunology, Nov. 26, 2013).

Q. I cut the side of my finger with a knife while slicing a watermelon. The cut was deep and bled profusely.

I remembered reading about putting black pepper on the cut. I used a lot of black ground pepper, and eventually it stopped enough so I could wrap it in a diaper and head to the emergency room.

The staff had never heard of using pepper to stem the bleeding. Once they washed the cut out, glue was used to close the wound.

A. Some ER doctors have complained that pepper may increase the risk of infection. We're glad you got prompt medical attention to avoid that complication.

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them via Their newest book is "Top Screwups Doctors Make and How to Avoid Them."