Your health in your (clean) hands

Before you visit a doctor, do your own research on the net www.medscape.com. There are many specialist sites you can find by typing the name of your disease or symptom into a search engine e.g. www.google.com.

When you visit your doctor take a list of questions and write down the answers. Ask for alternatives - doctors do not necessarily give you all the choices - e.g. alternatives to antibiotics.

In hospital you will need an advocate/ friend on your side - sometimes they might need to make a big fuss - the squeaky wheel gets oiled! Think about using a naturopath or similar for post-hospital trauma - many people think that they can facilitate quicker healing.

Other ideas included visiting Family Planning for gynaecological health care, considering a change in diet for chronic tiredness, learning from each other and being more flexible and receptive to different treatments. For example, visiting an osteopath or chiropractor for problems with back pain and posture. Choose a practitioner who is small and preferably female - they're more likely to use brain than brawn in manipulations.

We talked about mental health and how retirement and other life changes can trigger depression. We can ignore it, act as if nothing's happening or we can make changes, for example, taking up a musical instrument. For some, acupuncture is incredibly useful.

A number of alternative treatments and medications were discussed. These included lavender oil as an analgesic and sedative; aloe vera for burns; garlic as an antibiotic, for colds and vampires; eucalyptus oil and sugar for impending colds; Lucas' pawpaw ointment for dry eyes (wipe across eyelids), inside nose and lips (both sorts); mild solution of boric acid for eyes; and a cold butter knife from freezer to put on styes.

For menopausal symptoms use soya bean products, and instead of HRT, try Livial which is supposed to have less effect on breast tissue and may pep up your sex drive. It is not on NHS and costs more - may be recouped from health funds.