How To Avoid An Irritable Christmas

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Q I’m worried my digestive problems – diarrhoea and/or constipation, and bloating – will spoil Christmas. The doctor calls it Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Are there any natural remedies?

A IBS is the most common gut disorder, affecting about one in ten at any age, but is most common among women aged between 25 and 45. Your symptoms are typical. About one third mostly have problems with diarrhea, another third with constipation, and the rest have both.

Other symptoms include passing mucus from your bowels, a feeling of incomplete emptying, nausea and vomiting, depression, anxiety and stress. But while IBS can be very distressing and disruptive it’s not life-threatening, and doesn’t develop into bowel cancer.

Recent research shows mindfulness can help. This involves focussing on the present moment, often using breathing, to suspend thinking and worrying (visit bemindful.co.uk) As well as gut symptoms, anxiety and depression were significantly improved at three-month follow up.

Other ‘mind’ therapies can also be effective, including hypnotherapy and cognitive behavioural therapy (ask your GP for a referral).

Sit down to eat, chew every mouthful thoroughly, stay put for ten minutes after eating and never eat on the run: ‘these simple steps really help calm IBS’, says nutritionist Kathryn Marsden, author of Good Gut Healing (Piatkus books, which I recommend highly).

Avoid these IBS irritants: cow’s milk, cola, coffee, sweet wines, any foods made from wheat, especially bread and biscuits. ‘Wheat bran cereal is a real gut-wrencher,’ says Kathryn. Swap to oat cereal, wholegrain rice cakes, dark Ryvita, rye bread, oatcakes and porridge made with water, with plain sheep or goat milk yoghurt.

Check food labels for other troublemakers: wheat flour, modified starch, yeast, sucrose, dextrose, maltose, glucose, fructose, corn (maize) syrup and artificial sweeteners, especially aspartame and sorbitol.

Sip lots of water between meals: and always drink a full glass before breakfast.

Helpful supplements: Take a daily fibre supplement such as Linwoods Organic Milled Flaxseed, £5.19 for 425g (with water before breakfast).

Probiotics: choose a product without FOS (fructo-oligosaccharide), eg Ecodophilus from Bionutri, £19.80 for 60 capsules.

Digestive enzymes help reduce the cycle of diarrhoea and constipation. Try Polyzyme by Biocare £9.85 for 30 capsules, take one half way through your main meal (never on an empty stomach).

If symptoms don’t improve: get tested for candidiasis (yeast overgrowth in the gut), and fructose allergy. Both are closely linked to IBS and may cause similar symptoms.

The Lift that Keeps on Giving

It may look bizarre, but the Sarah Chapman Facialift flexible face massager is a perfect gift for girlfriends, according to my tester, as it mimics on of Sarah’s signature facials. Wishbone shaped, it has eight little wheels with nodules that you roll over your face to drain toxins, reduce puffiness and boost circulation. Our 40 something tester reports: ‘I use it in the bath, with my favourite is NUDE Cleansing Facial Oil to help it glide over the skin. It leaves my complexion glowing, and I swear my jawline is tighter. It’s relaxing too.’ Facialift, £25, NUDE Cleansing Facial Oil, £24 for 100ml.

3 Of The Best:

Cold and flu beaters for the festive season

10 Day Get Well Stay Well, £26.50 for 60 capsules: the YOU office is swallowing this genius immune-supporting formulation, which I swear by, en masse.

Echinacea & Goldenseal by Nature’s Answer, £9.99 for 30ml: take up to 1ml three times daily the moment you feel a tickle, snuffle or sneeze coming on. Stop when symptoms subside.

Zinc Plus Lozenges by Lamberts, £7.10 for 100 lozenges: this important mineral helps eliminate colds, coughs and sore throats quickly.

Personal Shopping with a Vision

Shopping can be arduous for anyone, but imagine what it’s like if you have vision problems. According to research, 76 per cent of blind people find shopping ‘difficult or impossible’. So hats off to Debenhams, which – in consultation with the Royal National Institute for the Blind (rnib.org.uk) – has just launched a free personal shopper service for blind and visually impaired customers. There will be at least one specially trained personal shopper in each Debenhams store nationwide, who can help with merchandise of all kinds. To book call 08445 616161, or visit Debenhams.com/store-services, and look under personal shopper.

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