| 14.8°C Dublin

Ask Elsa

Q: I get mouth ulcers fairly regularly which are quite sore. Are there any natural remedies which could help treat them and does diet play a role?

A Mouth ulcers have a multitude of causes but quite often they are a sign of stress and usually mean you are somewhat run down. Mouth ulcers may occasionally reflect other health problems such as digestive problems, food allergies or iron deficiency. Trauma to the mouth can also trigger an outbreak eg braces or chewing the inside of the cheek.

If you are prone to mouth ulcers, it is important to boost your immune system. This can be done by routinely taking immune-enhancing herbs and supplements such as vitamins A and C; as well as the mineral zinc and herbs, such as Echinacea. In addition, two B vitamins in particular -- folic acid (B9) and thiamine (B1) have been shown to heal and prevent ulcers.

To relieve pain and encourage healing, suck on a zinc and vitamin C lozenge every two hours. If the ulcers are extremely painful, try making a paste of bicarbonate of soda and water and pack it on the ulcer.

If stress is a trigger, take this as an opportunity to look at identifying and reducing the stress in your life and try stress-reducing activities such as yoga, meditation or walking.

Q I get bloating and digestive discomfort when I eat bread or pasta. My mother reckons I'm sensitive to wheat but I think I'd find it hard to give up, any advice?

A When it comes to grain allergies/intolerances, wheat is usually a big trigger. The western diet now contains more grains than our ancestors' diet ever did. Wheat is the most common grain used and our digestive system has become overloaded.

I'd suggest you keep a food/drink diary for a few weeks and record symptoms. If you do decide to try a wheat-free diet you will have to avoid the following: all baked goods, pasta, some baking powders, most batter-fried foods, flour-thickened sauces and gravies, canned soup, beer, sweets, sausage.

Excellent alternatives to using wheat are; spelt bread/cereals, rice and rice cakes, oats and oat cakes, rice noodles, pasta made from buckwheat, millet, quinoa, and potatoes.

Health food shops are a very reliable source for wheat-free products.

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