Q. My daughter appears to be suffering from premenstrual syndrome (PMS), is there a test she could take and would the herb agnus castus be appropriate to try?
A. According to the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (rcog.org.uk), ‘Forty per cent of women experience PMS symptoms. Of those, five to eight per cent suffer severely. PMS encompasses psychological sympyoms such as depression, anxiety and irritability, with physical symptoms typically bloatedness and mastalgia [breast pain].’
- There are no blood tests to confirm PMS; keeping a chart is the only reliable diagnostic tool. The National Association for Premenstrual Syndrome (NAPS) Menstrual Diary can be downloaded from its website, pms.org.uk
- As well as recommending lifestyle changes such as exercise, good diet, reducing stress and limiting alcohol, NAPS says there is evidence that agnus castus and magnesium may help to manage PMS. Try Periagna Agnus Castus Fruit (£10.75) and Lamberts MagAsorb (from £7.30)
ANY ITALIAN-FOOD LOVER WHO SUFFERS FROM SENSITIVITY TO GLUTEN
the protein found in wheat, barley and rye, or coeliac disease, an autoimmune condition caused by a reaction to gluten, has felt the frustration of seeing a plateful of pasta and knowing they can’t eat it without risking a flare-up. Anna Del Conte, the doyenne of Italian cooking, has come to the rescue. In collaboration with Michelle Berriedale-Johnson, an expert on food intolerance and editor of foodsmatter.com, Anna has written FreeFrom all’Italiana Primi*, the first of a series of cookbooks. Primi (meaning ‘first courses’) has recipes for pasta, rice, polenta, pulses and soups, which are all gluten-free and often lactose-free, too. The recipes are simple and quick, some featuring sauces by Saclà (which Anna acknowledges as worthy time-saving rivals to homemade offerings), with pasta made from alternatives including corn, rice, quinoa, buckwheat, soya beans, chickpeas, black beans, konjac and even seaweed (see below). And there is no compromise on taste, as the enthusiastic endorsements by Giorgio Locatelli and Nigella Lawson confirm.
Michelle Berriedale-Johnson’s alternatives to wheat pasta:
- Explore Cuisine’s range made from beans, pulses and rice (explorecuisine.com).
- Evexia Thrive offers chickpea fusilli, corn and rice penne, plus filled tortelloni (evexiathrive.co.uk).
- Rizopia’s pasta is made from brown rice (rizopia.co.uk).
- Gallo has created rice, corn and buckwheat options (risogallo.co.uk).
- Algaran’s spaghetti seaweed (seaweedproducts.ie).
- Gluten-free offerings in various shapes from Garofalo (pastagarofalo.it/uk_en).
- Amisa’s buckwheat fusilli (amisa.co.uk).
ARE YOU OVER THE LIMIT?
Drinking and driving puts lives at risk. Not only that, but driving (or attempting to) while above the legal limit or unfit through drink may result in six months of imprisonment, an unlimited fine and/or a driving ban for at least one year. With dry January over, The Good Life Guide’s Traffic Light Alcohol Tester (£12.99, goodlifeguide.co.uk) is a useful device to have in the car. You breathe into the unit during the ten-second countdown (not after, as this can give a false-negative reading). The display will indicate green for safety, amber for caution and red if a reading near or more than the UK legal limit is detected. A male colleague who trialled it with his wife after a night out was impressed. ‘The light turned red and reinforced my suspicion that I’d had too much to drink to drive home safely,’ he says. ‘It’s simple to use and handy for the morning after, too, when you could still be over the limit [as even a few drinks can take up to 14 hours to leave your system].’
CHILDREN OFTEN GET FRACTIOUS COOPED UP INDOORS
So reward boxes can make good behaviour more fun. If you can’t make your own, The Reward Box offers a range including Fairy and Pirate Boxes (pictured), which can be personalised with stickers. Every achievement earns a star token to post in the chest. Tokens are counted up weekly and magically replaced with little treats. £35 each, therewardbox.co.uk.
CAUTION: THIS APP COULD MAKE YOU DROWSY
…Which is precisely the intention of Calm, a meditation app that now also offers Sleep Stories, described as bedtime stories for grown-ups. Instead of brain-stimulating TV or social media, these 23 sleep-inducing tales blend soothing words, music and sound effects to ease the transition from the day’s hurry, worry and bustle, slowing brain waves and lulling you into restful sleep. Free on iTunes and Google Play; or, to unlock all features, subscriptions are around £11 monthly, £50 annually or £250 for your lifetime at calm.com.