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Ask Elsa: how do I beat my embarrassing wind problem?

Q My mother suggested that I eat fennel to reduce wind and my bloated stomach. Is this just an old wives' tale or is there any truth in it? What's the best way to eat it?

A Your mother is right in that fennel can be extremely effective for treating stomach bloating and relieving trapped wind.

You can chew on fennel seeds or else make a tea out of them. The compounds in these seeds relax muscles in your digestive tract and allow trapped gas to pass.

To make a fennel tea simply put one pint of water into a saucepan, add one teaspoon of whole fennel seeds, boil for 20 minutes and strain to eliminate the seeds. Alternatively you can buy fresh whole fennel in most supermarkets, which is delicious roasted in the oven with a drizzle of olive oil and some garlic.

Another good way to prevent gas and bloating is to avoid foods that are known to cause it in the first place such as fizzy drinks, refined sugars, fried foods, spicy foods and highly processed foods.

You might also consider taking a probiotic supplement and eating more probiotic foods (which work by feeding the good bacteria that is already in the gut) such as onions, garlic, tomatoes and bananas.

QI've recently discovered that I am lactose intolerant and so have cut regular milk and yogurt out of my diet. I read somewhere that you can still eat cheese even if lactose intolerant, is this true?

ALactose intolerance is the inability to digest the sugar (lactose) found in milk. Although cheese is made from milk, most hard cheeses have a low lactose content compared to other dairy foods, and can generally be eaten in moderation by people that have concerns with lactose digestion.

During the cheese-making process, the whey component of milk is removed. This is where most of the lactose content of milk is found. Hard cheeses such as Cheddar generally undergo a further process called ripening, giving the cheese it's unique flavour. During the ripening phase, any remaining lactose is often converted into lactic acid, so little or no lactose is left in the cheese.

I would suggest that you experiment with small amounts of hard cheese to assess your individual tolerance level.

You say you have cut milk and yogurt out of your diet but I'm not sure if you have replaced them with lactose-free alternatives or not. You need to ensure that you are consuming alternative sources of calcium for bone health.

Non-dairy sources of calcium include: leafy greens, such as spinach, kale, swiss chard, lettuce and broccoli; nuts, seeds, beans and tofu, tinned sardines and salmon.

Elsa Jones is a qualified nutritional therapist. She offer one-to-one consultations to treat your individual health concerns. www.elsajones nutrition.ie