I suffer from terrible anxiety. I read that magnesium is helpful for calming a whirring mind. Is this true? If so, do I take it orally or soak in a magnesium salt bath?
Magnesium is an important mineral for the body, used to maintain good bone health and extract energy from food.
It’s found in leafy vegetables such as kale and spinach, brown rice, dairy products and nuts. It is thought most people will get enough (300mg daily) from dietary intake.
Government advice is to be careful of supplementing beyond this level as it may cause digestive prolems in the short term, while the long-term effects of taking too much are still unknown.
Many people claim that magnesium is better absorbed through the skin as part of a bath, rather than via the gut (stock image)
Expert sources do not recommend magnesium for insomnia or anxiety. However, some supplements are recommended for helping mood and anxiety, including omega 3 fatty acids, selenium, folic acid and tryptophan.
But even evidence for these is not enough for doctors to use them instead of treatment.
Non-drug methods of controlling anxiety include cutting down caffeine intake from all sources and eating regularly to avoid sugar highs and lows that affect mood.
Many people claim that magnesium is better absorbed through the skin as part of a bath, rather than via the gut – Epsom salts are a way of adding a dose to bathwater. But a 2017 scientific review advised that, despite the popularity, there is not enough scientific evidence to support this claim.
Magnesium is found in leafy vegetables such as kale and spinach, brown rice, dairy products and nuts. It is thought most people will get enough (300mg daily) from dietary intake (stock image)
I have always suffered a sluggish bowel on holiday, sometimes going four or five days between motions, and it’s often painful. Prune juice helps but I can’t always get it abroad. Do you have any suggestions?
Constipation means different things to different people: a problem depends on what is ‘normal’ for the patient.
There is no standard set frequency to go and there is huge variation among all adults.
For instance, we wouldn’t consider it concerning if a patient said they only opened their bowels three times a week, but found it comfortable and easy to go.
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If you have a health concern, always consult your own GP.
Likewise, going more that once a day is perfectly normal, if that is usual for you. Constipation – defined as going fewer than three times a week – is a problem when it causes discomfort or difficulty, as well as abdominal pain in between times.
It can be normal for the condition to strike during a holiday due to changes that affect the bowels: lack of routine, diet and fluid changes and disruption of exercise. Paying attention to these things should be enough to rectify the problem.
Drinking plenty of water is crucial, particularly on holiday when dehydration is common. Exercising every day will also help.
Fibre, found in wholegrain bread, brown rice and fruit and vegetables, is also vital for adding bulk to digested food as it moves through the intestines and into the bowels, and generally ensures that everything keeps moving.
Foods that are high in a sugar called sorbitol, which absorbs water and becomes a gel-like substance in the intestines, can encourage bowel movements. These include apples, apricots, grapes, peaches, strawberries and plums. When fruit is dried, the sorbitol content is even more concentrated, making them even more effective. So dried plums – prunes – are a good idea.
Drinking plenty of water is crucial, particularly on holiday when dehydration is common. Exercising every day will also help (stock image)
George’s good news is that we can live with cancer
George Alagiah was back reading the BBC TV news last week, tweeting that his bowel cancer was ‘in a holding pattern’, meaning he felt he could work again.
After his diagnosis in 2014, the disease spread to his liver and lymph nodes, and he needed several rounds of chemotherapy and three operations, including one to remove most of his liver. He returned to work in 2015, but took more time out in 2017 when the cancer came back.
We often talk about life after cancer. But it’s important we recognise that, thanks to advances in treatment, there is also life with cancer – as George so admirably proves.
George Alagiah (pictured) was back reading the BBC TV news last week, tweeting that his bowel cancer was ‘in a holding pattern’, meaning he felt he could work again
Everyone seems to have an allergy these days but according to new US research, half of those who claim to have one don’t suffer after all. I often see patients who cut out food groups for no good reason.
A food allergy is a reaction of the immune system and can be fatal. Don’t confuse this with a food intolerance – more common but less serious. If you’re genuinely worried about an allergy, don’t self-diagnose – ask your GP for a robust test.
Online therapy does help troubled young
With more young Britons suffering from mental illness than ever before, we need as many effective psychological treatments as possible.
So I was delighted to see that digital cognitive behavioural therapy is now recommended by health watchdog NICE for treating depression in under-18s. It involves online exercises that help patients manage troubling thoughts, rather than sessions with a therapist.
Critics argue a machine can’t replace humans – but it works, reducing depressive symptoms by 50 per cent in children and adolescents, according to studies. I have witnessed countless adults see huge improvements to their lives thanks to these programmes.
Migraines often first strike when sufferers are teenagers and continue for life. Developing the problem at an older age is now known to be a warning sign for a stroke, according to US research.
Those with new migraines should have a discussion with a doctor – statins or blood pressure medication could prevent a stroke. The message is simple: if you are over 50, new migraines are not to be ignored.
Make your own vegan sausage rolls
Fake meat sounds promising, but any vegan will tell you that meat-free alternatives are packed with salt, sugar and additives. The widely celebrated fake ‘sausage roll’ from Greggs is just one example. Try these tasty vegan versions instead. The mushrooms provide a meaty taste and texture.
Frederick Faulkner recommends you try these tasty vegan sausage rolls. The mushrooms provide a meaty taste and texture
- 300g chestnut mushrooms, finely diced
- 1 white onion, finely diced
- 1 garlic clove, grated
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- 50ml white wine
- 50g fresh breadcrumbs
- Small bunch of fresh parsley and thyme
- 320g ready rolled vegan puff pastry
- Poppy seeds
- Some oat milk to brush on
- Preheat oven to 200C.
- In a frying pan, soften and brown onion, mushrooms and garlic. Once browned, add mustard and wine and simmer until liquid has evaporated. Leave to cool.
- Add bread crumbs and herbs and mix well.
- Cut pastry sheet into two long pieces and spoon mixture along the centre.
- Brush each edge with oat milk and fold pastry to create the casing, sealing edges with a fork.
- Cut each long sausage roll into four, sprinkle with poppy seeds and cook for 25mins or until golden.
By Frederick Faulkner
Deal of the week
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