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Ask Elsa: Is red wine's health benefits better than white?

Q I like drinking white wine with my dinner in the evenings. It helps me relax and I've heard that having wine with meals is actually good for you. Is this true and does it matter that it's white I drink, not red?

A Red wine is made with the skin of the grape and so contains more of certain antioxidants than white. White wine is made after the skins are removed. One powerful antioxidant in red wine, resveratrol, may help prevent cancer and protect the heart by blocking damage from free radicals and reducing inflammation. So in essence, there are more health benefits to be found in drinking red wine.

However, consuming any alcohol in moderation can raise HDL ('good' cholesterol), prevent artery damage caused by LDL ('bad' cholesterol), and reduce the formation of blood clots. So both wines offer benefits -- in moderate amounts of course! The negative effects of alcohol will vastly outweigh any positives if you're drinking heavily.

From a liver perspective, its no harm to have a couple of alcohol-free nights per week and on the days that you do indulge, one to two glasses is the most you should drink. Latest studies indicate that drinking more than two glasses of wine per night significantly increases a person's chances of developing certain cancers.

Q I've recently been diagnosed with IBS. I don't know much about it or how it can be treated. Any advice?

A Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a common condition in which the bowel does not function properly. The symptoms can be similar to other bowel diseases but in IBS there is usually no visible change to the bowel wall. Common symptoms include diarrhoea, constipation, abdominal pain, bloating, wind and nausea. It is sometimes known as 'nervous indigestion' as there is often a link to anxiety or depression.

Fibre is important for bowel health and often improves IBS symptoms.

Water-soluble fibres are ideal and include fruits and vegetables, oat bran as well as beans and lentils. Consume foods that promote a healthy gut such as natural probiotic yoghurt, sauerkraut and miso soup, and avoid foods that have a negative impact on the gut such as high sugar foods.

Certain herbal teas can also ease symptoms. Ginger has long been used as a herb for digestive support and it can be made into a tea to help relieve nausea. Ginger is ideal for IBS as it has an antispasmodic effect and it helps to inhibit diarrhoea. Peppermint and chamomile also have antispasmodic properties. Hence, drinking them as teas can help to relieve symptoms.

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