About Us

Ann McKay, R.N.C., John McGonigle, M.D. and Mark Brody, M.D. have devoted themselves to homeopathy and related alternative medical treatments. In keeping with the spirit of homeopathy's founder Samuel Hahnemann M.D., we utilize treatments that emphasize safety and the restoration of the sick to health.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Cod liver oil and homeopathy

Two of my wonderful homeopathic mentors, Roger Morrison, M.D. and Nancy Herrick, P.A. recently inspired me to take a deeper look into the virtues of a healthful nutritional program. Their inspiration has driven me to the radical and perhaps reprehensible habit of regularly ingesting cod liver oil. Cod liver oil has been extolled for generations for its health benefits, and has also acquired a reputation for its noisome aroma. Recent research, spurred by the writings of Weston Price, DDS and others have led to a more scientific basis to these benefits.

My first few attempts at imbibing this repulsive product were accomplished amidst waves of nausea, with copious gagging and facial contortions -- horrible to witness, I'm sure. I tried combining this wretched brew with a variety of foods, only to find that my disgust for it spread to everything it touched. Finally, I discovered the age old trick of holding my nose while gulping down the stuff. Now, I am happy to say, I find the whole process tolerable, although by no means pleasant.

One day, my 2 year old daughter was observing me in my morning confrontation with this health nemesis/boon and asked me, "What's that?" "Cod liver oil," I daringly replied. "I want some cod liver oil," she forcefully proclaimed. This prompted a somewhat devilish response, possibly conceived out of long hours of having to listen to the endless demands of a two year old tyrant: "I want..I want... I want..." "Sure Vivi (short for Aviva), you can have some cod liver oil," I said, already chuckling to myself at what I imagined her response to it would be. I justified my sadistic impulses by the thought, "It's good for her!" Maybe I just wanted someone to share my misery with.

Innocent being that she is, she unhesitatingly welcomed the teaspoon of glimmering glop as I delivered it to its fated destination. One gulp and it was gone! I waited for the expected grimaces of revulsion in vain. Instead, a bright smile lit up her face as she amazingly announced, "I like cod liver oil!" Floored by this contretemps, I mustered up a somewhat bewildered and largely disingenuous reponse: "Good, Vivi. Cod liver oil is good, isn't it?" "Yes!" she quite sincerely proclaimed.

Future administrations of this vile health balm led to similar grateful responses, and at times I even (mirabile dictu) heard fall from her lips the unthinkable: "Daddy, can I have some more cod liver oil?" I found myself joking with my wife (who refuses to come near the stuff) that we should make some cod liver oil ice cream for her in our ice cream maker. This strange and peculiar reaction to what was decades ago a product infamous for being the bane of a young child's existence prompted me to a moment of reflection. What could it mean that something at once so healthful and so repulsive could be so unrepulsive and even satisfying to the palate of my little child?

Nature seems to have for the most part built us in a way that discourages us from ingesting noxious substances and encourages the ingestion of more salubrious ones. Although not a perfect system, we do not have to be taught to have a horror of the smell of our own feces or that of a skunk, or of rotting organic matter. Our nose tells us what to do. Occasionally we can be misled however. Sugar tastes great, but in large amounts can cause diabetes, obesity, and dental caries, if not other health problems. Many foods that are quite bitter or difficult to digest become more palatable with proper cooking and preparation. These include many of the cruciferae plants: cabbage, brussels sprouts, and broccoli. Other foods such as red pepper (Cayenne) are pleasantly stimulating in small amounts but toxic in large amounts. So sometimes nature's way is to caution us not to overdo it, rather than to avoid entirely. Perhaps this is the case with cod liver oil, too. Cod liver oil is rich in Omega fatty acids, Vitamin A and Vitamin D. Too much Vitamin A, Vitamin D or Omega 3 fatty acids can be toxic, but too little can lead to adverse health effects too.

So nature's way may be to give us a yellow light, rather than a red light. How do we know when the light is yellow or red? Maybe there are some of us who are like canaries in the mine shaft who are wired by evolution to show us the way (even though they may know nothing of the scientific basis of their food instincts.) I like to think of the community of homeopaths as a consortium of canaries, who in the face of a great majority whose preferences lie elsewhere, demonstrate for those who are willing to ponder a bit longer the subtle but powerful effects of their contrarian medicines. And, the medicine tastes great!