Questions and Answers

It is advisable to check with your doctor if you are on medication before taking supplements or changing your diet. The information given here is not intended to replace medical advice.

Q. What's so special about spelt?

Spelt is one of the oldest cultivated grains and is an ancient cousin of wheat and much sought after as an alternative to the modern wheat found in everyday sweet and sour foods. Spelt boasts a higher content of key nutrients, including essencial fatty and amino accids, B vitamins and dietary fibre compared to conventional wheat. Although not gluten free, spelt can be tolerated by some people with wheat intolerance. Modern wheat has undergone modification over the years, whith the effect that the gluten contained within is more soluble, making it ideal for the mass production of bread. Spelt, on the other hand, has changed very little since it was first domesticated during the Stone Age. It contains a less complex gluten making it easier for the body to digest or eliminate, and is therefore less likely to cause digestive problems in cases of wheat sensitivity. Another benefit of the spelt grains lies in its suitability for chemical free production; the tough outer husk of the grain offers natural protection agains insects and disease during growing. Favoured for its full nutty flavour , spelt can be easily incorporated into many home-baking recipes (Doves Farm Org Spelt Flour), while a variety of ready to eat spelt products are also widely available. Spelt products are often wholegrain (Hildegard Org Wholegrain Spelt Flour), making them more nutritious and fulfilling.

Q. I am in my 30s and have developed acne. Why have I suddenly got it now?

Acne is often a sign of poor elimination via bowel, hormonal imbalances or nutrient deficiencies. Stress can also exacerbate it. Try keeping a food diary and note when skin flares up as you may see a connection.

Support skin and bowel function by eating a diet rich in fruit and vegetables, which are nourishing and cleansing. Soaked ground flax seeds can lubricate sluggish bowels. Start the day with warm water and a  sqeeze of lemon to kick-start the liver and bowel. In addition, drink plenty of water and dandelion tea.

Avoid sugar, alcohol, caffeine, chocolate, refined carbohydrates, processed foods, salt and additives. People with acne often have low levels of zinc and vitamin A. Good sources of zinc include pumpkin seeds, fish, flax seeds, kelp, brown rice and wheat germ . Beta-carotene converts to vitamin A in the body and is found in carrots, apricots, squash, kale, spinach, watercress and broccoli.

If your acne is linked to your hormonal cycle, the herbal supplement agnus castus can help, but consult a health practitioner before taking it.

Manuka Honey
Q. Is it true I can put manuka honey on my skin to heal wounds?

Yes, it is indeed true. There exist many published reports that confirm active manuka honey is safe to use on the skin to effectively clear infections from wounds, and furthermore, with no adverse side effects. The healing nature of manuka honey is due to an unique property, not found in other honeys, and it's this that delivers the powerful antibacterial actions required to destroy skin-infecting bacteria. Rich in antioxidants, active manuka honey also helps heal wounds rapidly by promoting the regeneration of new tissue, and can reduce scarring and deformities of the skin. Furthermore, due to this special honey's antiinflamatory properties, it can help with swelling in and around wounds, help reduce any pain, especially in skin ulcers, and help deodorise any nasty-smelling wounds. Active manuka honey shows promising results in the treatment of leg ulcers, diabetic foot ulcers, pressure sores, abscesses, boils, burns, and fungal infections, such as athlete's foot, and ringworm. For best results, use an active manuka honey that states on the label it has been tested for its potency, such as those that are UMF-rated at UMF20+, or 25+, as these higher ratings confirm that the honey contains a stronger antibacterial action. Apply a small amount to the skin each day, preferably on a dressing to keep the honey on the wound, and in so doing you'll avoid any sticky mess. Use daily until the wound heals. 

Restless legs
Q. I suffer from restless legs at night and can't sleep. It's driving me mad. What can i do?

Restless legs may indicate deficiencies in nutrients such as magnesium, which is needed for muscle and nerve relaxation. Magnesium is found in green vegetables, brown rice, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, avocados, bananas, kale, dulse, kelp, millet and almonds. However, magnesium deficiency is common as our soils, and hence our food, is depleted of this mineral. It is sometimes beneficial, therefore, to supplement with magnesium as well as eating magnesium-rich foods.

People with restless legs syndrome may also be deficient in iron, vitamin E and folic acid. Iron is found in fish, eggs, almonds, figs, dulse, kelp, nori, prunes and lentils. Good sources of vitamin E include nuts, seeds, olives and cold-pressed oils. Folilc acid is found in green veg, beans and lentils.

Flat stomach
Q. What supplements can I take to help me achieve a flat stomach?

A. A rounded stomach reflects either excess abdominal fat, which is often realted to insulin resistance rather than simply being overweight, or bloating due to gas in the intestinal tract.

Tackling abdominal fat requires a combination of a diet that balances blood sugar, which involves limiting the consumption of refined carbohydrates, while increasing protein and fibre intake, and moderate aerobic exercise. This will control the release of, and imporve the body's response to, insulin, the hormone responsible for carrying glucose from blood to cells. The hormone also stimulates the synthesis of fat and protein.

There is evidence that CLA, a polyunsaturated fatty acid, can promote fat reduction in the abdomen. The key to reducing bloating is to ensure an adequate intake of fluid, fibre and probiotic bacteria. Fibre is not digested; soluble fibre is fermented in the colon into gases and physiologically active by-products, and insoluble fibre absorbs water, easing defecation. Getting a good intake of both types of fibre, alongside a probiotic supplement and lots of water can dramatically reduce bloating.

Foods digest at different rates- carbohydrates will be rapidly digested, followed by protein and finally fat. For those with a sluggish digestive system, supplementing with digestive enzymes and hydrochloric acid may improve symptoms, especially after larger meals.

Fear of flying
Q. Is there anything I can do to settle my fear of flying?

A. Forty per cent of travellers experience anxiety about flying and many people do not fly at all because their fear and anxiety is so great. Homeopathy offers safe, gentle and effective relief for range of symptoms associated with travel fear and anxiety. Depending on symptoms the following remedies are the most frequently used but if your symptoms persist please contact your doctor or a qualified homeopath.

Argent Nit 30C is the number one remedy for fear of flying if the person is fidgety and apprehensive before travel with restlessness, claustrophobia, or fear of heights. Take one dose at the first signs of anxiety and every two to four hours during travel. This remedy may be taken once a day, if needed, in the week before travel.

Gelsemium 30C is useful for quiet anxiety before travel with trembling, weakness and possible diarrhoea. This remedy is often needed on the day of travel and may be taken every two to four hours during travel. Panic with great fear of flying, impending thoughts of death and accidents could benefit from Aconite 30C. This remedy is for the person with great fear and may be alternated with Argent Nit. Take one to two hours before the flight, repeat before take-off and if needed every one to four hours during the flight.

Also recommended is the Australian Bush Flower Travel Essence, which is beneficial for distress associated with all forms of travel, although it particularly addresses the problems encountered with jet travel. It enables a person to arrive at the destination feeling balanced and ready to go.


Tickly cough
Q. My daughter keeps getting a tickly cough. Can you help?

A. A persistent cough may be a symptom of sinusitis, a viral infection, an inflammatory disorder, food allergy, or acid reflux, and needs to be investigated by your GP. However there are some natural remedies that may help. A spoonful of Manuka honey three times a day can be soothing, and syrups containing the herbs mullein and marshmallow can help to line and heal an irritated respiratory tract.

You could try limiting your daughter's intake of dairy and wheat products, as these may aggravate the problem. Soft foods, such as soup, bananas, canned fruit and cooked cereals, are easier to swallow and digest.

Exam stress
Q. I'm coming up to the end-of-year exams again and feel the usual anxiety. Is there something natural I can take?

A. Yes, there are a few things you can do. Firstly, avoid alkohol, coffe and sugar as much as possible and eat wholesome, nutritious food. The herbal remedy, Peace & Calm, made from six calming herbs, is known to help anxiety and exhaustion. You can also sprinkle a few drops of lavender on a tissue near your pillow to help give yourself restful sleep.

Q. Despite a healthy diet, I suffer from constipation. Can you suggest some natural remedies?

A. Try to drink eight glasses a day of non-caffeinated liquids, such as water and peppermint or fennel tea. To help your gut digest food, avoid big meals and do plenty exercise. You could try a probiotic to top up the 'friendly bacteria' in your digestive track. These help to promote healthy bowel movements. Supplements containing senna leaf and aloe vera may also help. if the problem has not improved after a month, contact your GP.

Children's health
Q. My 10-year-old daughter seems tired all the time. is it OK for her to take vitamins?

A. At her age, she needs at least nine hours sleep a night. She could also take children's multivitamis, which should contain the B vitamin complex for energy, vitamin E, iron and zinc to support the immune system and growth. Or she could try fruit-flavour chewable omega-3 capsules. other supplements not marked 'for children' are recommended only for over-12s, so are not yet suitable.

Q. After the Christmas indulgence I wonder could you suggest a herbal tonic for a pick me up?

A. Flor Essence will act as both a pick me up and a gentle detoxifier after the festive excesses! It is a high quality herbal liquid made in Canada by the same company who manufactures Udo's oil. Just add it to warm water and sip it over a twenty minute period before going to bed.

Here are six top supplements to help give your body a New Year lift:

1. Goldenseal root extract: to encourage regular daily bowel movements.

2. Milk thistle: to help repair and regenerate the liver cells.

3. Dandelion: to act as a liver tonic.

4. Ginger root: to reduce stress on digestive system.

5. Wheatgrass juice: to help purify the blood and aid the liver in eliminating toxins.

6. Probiotics: 'friendly bacteria' to help restore the balance of intestinal flora. 

Winter skin
Q. My skin gets very dry during the winter even though I use a lot of moisturising creams. Any suggestions?

A. Add more oils and Vitamin A rich foods to your diet, by eating oily fish and brightly coloured fruits and vegetables. You could supplement with Udo's oil or a high quality omega 3 fish oil like Morepa or Eskimo oil.

Make sure that you drink plenty of water to rehydrate the skin. Lemon flavoured hot water or a herbal tea such as peppermint are preferable to ordinary tea and coffee and address the problem of having to drink cold liquids at this time of the year.

Try using a natural brand cosmetic such as Dr. Hauschka, Burt's Bees or Lavera.  They don't contain any of the nasty chemicals found in most commercial cosmetics and are very gentle on the skin.

Did you know that you can absorb 60% of anything you put onto your skin directly into your bloodstream?

Winter blues
Q. I always dread autumn as I feel miserable at this time of year. How can I keep my spirits up?

A. The shorter days and lack of sun are thought to reduce the body's production of serotonin, a hormone that enhances mood. Thy a daily dose of Sibernian ginseng, a proven 'herbal tonic'. 

Some people find that lack of exposure to the sun leads to seasonal affective disorder (known as SAD syndrome), which can cause depression, over-sleeping, overeating and lethargy. There is evidence that foods rich in the amino acid tryptophan, such as eggs, milk, cheese and nuts, can boost serotonin levels, enhancing mood and easing tension.

It appears that Rhodiola rosea may improve the body's ability to produce serotonin, whith one study reporting a 30% increase. Rhodiola, a native herb of Siberia, has been shown to enhance the systems that regulate stress and help the body maintain fuel reserves to cope. It is an effective antidepressant and has a reputation as an aphrodisiac, probably due to its ability to lift mood and improve stamina.

Finally, low levels of vitamin D are associated with SAD. Taking 400iu of vitamin D daily should provide the body with the required amount.

'Full-spectrum' light therapy can also help to beat the autumn blues.

Q. I was diagnosed with osteoarthritis some years ago and have been taking glucosamine and chondroitin sulphate for several months. A friend of mine read somewhere that you need to bring down inflammation in the joints also. Is that true?

A. Yes your friend is right. The new theory is that because there is inflammation in the joints the building and repairing of the cartilage is compromised. This would be like building a house in the morning only for it to be burnt down in the night and having to start all over again the following morning. Therefore you need the repair mechanisms such as glucosamine, chondroitin and msm but if you also work on the inflammation you will obtain much better results.

A Vogel Atrogel is an arnica based gel which is a good topical anti-inflammatory. Omega fish oils, Udo's oil, devil's claw can all be used internally for their anti inflammatory properties.

Bowel health
Q. I have been on a high fibre diet trying to treat my irritable bowel for a few months but with no success. Can you recommend any products or dietary measures that would improve my bowel health?

A. The first thing to do is to check for wheat intolerance or allergy. Many people who use fibre such as wheat bran or wheat flakes may in fact be causing further irritation if they are sensitive to wheat products. Use oat bran or rice bran instead and try to obtain the majority of your fibre from fruit and vegetables.

Ireland has one of the highest rates of coeliac disease so get this checked out with your GP or try a wheat and gluten free diet for a few weeks to see if you get any relief. Replace all the foods that you remove from your diet with healthy alternatives.  Reintroduce the foods back in gradually and note if the condition worsens. Choose oily fish for its soothing effects rather than the proinflammatory red meats, and replace coffee with peppermint tea for a healthy digestion.

Aloe Vera Juice has an anti-inflammatory action on the bowel. Udo's Coice Super 8 replace good bacteria which promotes gut health.

The amino acid L-glutamine is also gaining a reputation in the treatment of IBS as it supplies fuel to the cells lining the digestive tract thus aiding repair and healing. Take a high 5 B complex from Viridian to help with stress in the body, a major causative factor.

It is advisable to have this condition assessed by a bowel specialist or GP as many serious bowel disorders many resemble IBS and go untreated.

Fungal infection
Q. I have a persistent fungal infection under my toenail and I can't seem to be able to get rid of it. I have had several courses of antibiotics over the years to no avail. Can you help me?

A. Recurring fungal infections may be an underlying symptom of a candida overgrowth in the digestive tract. Cut out any sweets, sugars, white flour products, jams cheese and alcohol from your diet. Start taking strong probiotics such as Udo's Super 8's for a few months in order to replace the good bacteria destroyed by the antibiotics.

Dida, a complex herbal remedy with oregano oil can help to clear out any fungal infection inside the body.  Topically you can use neat tea tree oil on the nails as it will penetrate the nail bed in order to kill the fungus.

Always check with your GP if you are on medication or suffering from a medical condition before using supplements or changing your diet.

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