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Q I suffer with excess mucus in the back of my throat and nose. As a result I have to clear my throat and blow my nose excessively. As a teacher this can be embarrassing. Any suggestions to improve my symptoms?

AI would suggest that you increase your water intake to at least two litres per day. Begin each day with a warm lemon juice drink, as it is cleansing to the digestion, nasal cavity and sinuses. Squeeze half a lemon in warm water, you may even like to add a teaspoon of Manuka honey and grated ginger to this.

I would also recommend that you increase sulphur-rich foods in your diet such as onions and garlic, as these help to break down congestion. Also increase the use of ginger, chilli and turmeric in your cooking as these are anti-inflammatory in action and will help to break down congestion.

Reduce acid-forming foods such as dairy, wheat, sugar, alcohol, red meats and processed foods.

I also think you would benefit from taking a quercetin and vitamin C complex, which would be beneficial for increasing immunity and reducing the sensitivity of the immune cells and mucous membranes which contribute to congestion and allergic responses.

Steam inhalations may also help. Fill a large bowl with boiling water and add drops of pure essential oils such as eucalyptus or tea tree. Put a towel over your head and inhale the vapours for about 10 minutes.

QI've recently been diagnosed with gout in my big toe. I've been given medication but I haven't received much dietary advice, can you help?

A Gout is a kind of arthritis that occurs when uric acid builds up in the blood and causes joint inflammation. It is one of the forms of arthritis most affected by diet so it's vital that you make some dietary alterations.

Start by reducing tea, coffee, alcohol and soft drinks as these put an extra strain on the kidneys to metabolise wastes. Replace with two to three litres of water as this is the best way to flush out the kidneys.

Eating foods that are high in purines can raise uric acid levels in the body, which may make your gout worse. Therefore, I would recommend that you adopt a vegetarian-style diet and avoid foods which are high in purines such as prawns, anchovies, sardines, liver, herring, mackerel, scallops, beef, pork, poultry, game meats, gravy and meat extracts.

Increase your intake of fresh fruits and vegetables to encourage better health -- consider having a vegetable juice each day to help reduce acidity and support liver detoxification and flush out the kidneys.

Some healthy blends for juices are beetroot, carrot, celery, parsley and ginger or apple, pineapple and mint.

Add green barley powder to the juice (available from health food stores) which can help decrease acidity and inflammation while improving kidney filtration.

Elsa Jones is a nutritional therapist and presenter of How Healthy are You?' on TV3. Elsa offers one-to-one consultations to meet your individual health requirements. www.elsajonesnutrition.ie