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LucyGransnet (GNHQ) Wed 08-Feb-17 16:38:50

Q&A with nutritionist Jane Clarke

Food can be so much more than just fuel sometimes, as nutritionist Jane Clarke well knows. As well as giving her account of how food (and her Great Aunt May), helped her through serious illness, Jane will be answering all your questions on food and nutrition, too.

Add yours to the thread below by 12 noon on 22 February and we'll send them across for her to answer. You can find out more about Jane on her website,, which she created in order to help people who are ill, and their carers, find both enjoyment and nourishment in food again.

Jane Clarke

Q&A with nutritionist Jane Clarke

Posted on: Wed 08-Feb-17 16:38:50


Lead photo

Ask Jane all your questions about food and nutrition

I grew up in a family with food at its heart, especially when we were with my wonderful Great Auntie May. She was a marvellous cook, who made homemade jams, toasted bread on the fire and always packed a hamper for road trips with me and my sister. I still remember the taste of tea poured from the flask and drunk from melamine mugs.

It was my Auntie May, along with my mum and dad, who helped care for me when, aged 15, I was diagnosed with endometriosis, a condition in which cells from the uterus spread to other parts of the body. One week in four for the next 10 years, I would be in agony and was often hospitalised and given morphine to help control the pain. My Auntie May would be there, bringing Chelsea buns and other tasty treats to my bedside, showing her affection with food that tempted me to eat when I just couldn't face a hospital dinner, and which made me feel 'normal' and not simply a patient defined by my condition.

Auntie May's example stuck with me when I chose my career. I qualified as a dietitian because I know how important good nutrition is for both helping to prevent illness and in aiding recovery. I also trained as a cordon bleu chef because Auntie May had passed on a love of cooking and sharing food with those I love. The eventual, drastic cure for my endometriosis was a hysterectomy at age 25. Years later, I fell in love at first sight with my daughter, who I adopted from India. When I learnt her name was Maya – so close to my aunt's name – it seemed even more certain that we were meant to be together.

I qualified as a dietitian because I know how important good nutrition is for both helping to prevent illness and in aiding recovery.

Auntie May sadly had a stroke and died after spending her last few years in a care home. I think of her often, especially when I'm with the people I advise at my practice. My aunt taught me that food is so much more than the calories, vitamins and minerals we consume. It's about sharing shepherd's pie and good times with our family around a table. It's about making a pot of homemade jam to bring a relative in a care home. It's about creating a delicious ramekin of cauliflower cheese that will tempt someone who has lost their appetite to have just one mouthful, or two, or three. It's about empowering ourselves to give our body the nourishment it needs. And, as anyone who has baked a cake with their grandchildren or shared a tea of boiled egg and soldiers knows, it's about bridging generations.

I hope you had an 'Auntie May' in your life, or can be that person for those you love. Each time I bake Chelsea buns, I say a little thank you for her recipe – and for her love.

What would you like me to talk about? Please, get in touch with your questions about nourishment, for yourself or someone you care for. Finding the right foods when we're going through tough times is empowering, and learning what to cook for people when they're poorly or in recovery from illness can help make their lives, and our society, better. Thank you for having me, Gransnet; I can't wait to get started.

By Jane Clarke

Twitter: @Gransnet

nannienet Mon 20-Mar-17 15:01:01

The best thing about being a Mother...........the feeling of being so proud of your children in the big and small things they do through their lives, as young children and adult children, and seeing that yes, you did a good job being a Mum and a Nannie and seeing that they too are doing a good job as Mums too. Happy Mother's Day to all GN members.

Gary47 Mon 20-Mar-17 13:31:18

Sugary foods are an antidote to cortisol which the body produces when its under stress. So its no wonder that some folk reach for the biscuit tin or head to Greggs for a sticky bun! Meditation and relaxation exercises area better, have a look at the Headstart website and they have an app you can download!

Good luck !

GeminiJen Mon 20-Mar-17 12:34:42

Another thank you from me, Jane. Like marmar2 I have a grandson who eats only a very restricted range of foods. I read your advice in detail and found your section on the vegetarian child particularly useful. I've passed this on to my daughter...She sends her thanks too smile

Jalima Wed 15-Mar-17 17:59:32

Thank you Jane, I will try the soup and we have apples and berries in the freezer - the DGD like making smoothies!

JaneClarke Wed 15-Mar-17 12:38:07


seasalt I agree; some people say that they can't eat if they are stressed and then they lose weight but I always have a longing for biscuits or cake if I feel anxious and I don't usually keep any in the house for that reason.
It probably is the sugar.

My neutrophils are always on the low side due to medication. Do you have any tips for immune boosting foods which are easy to prepare please Jane?

Jalima, avoiding temptation is a great idea, but also consider what foods you do want to have in the house to nourish your body at the moments you need it most. I’m a big fan of freezing as it doesn’t impair the nutrient value of foods and means you can always have a wholesome meal to hand. You could make a big pot of immunity-boosting soup, like my Bright Green Pea Soup, and freeze half for a later date. Keep a pot of stewed apples in the fridge and you can add a spoonful to porridge, yoghurt or pancakes. They’re not too sweet and the fibre in them helps to balance the sugar they do contain; and when stewed, the pectin in the apples is easy to digest so it can help a stressed stomach. And frozen berries will make a delicious smoothie that’s packed with immunity-boosting antioxidants; adding a vegetable such as fennel, celery or spinach, will reduce its sweetness.

As I mentioned to seasalt, protein-rich meals can also help. Not only do they help to improve mood, they also provide valuable nutrients and help to satiate you, so you’re less likely to reach for snacks.

JaneClarke Wed 15-Mar-17 12:36:40


Hi Jane. Is there any way I can adjust my diet to help with vision loss and AMD? Advice much appreciated. Thank you.

Nandea, Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) affects sharp, central vision so that we struggle with seeing fine details and may eventually cause a loss of vision. Research into what we can do to prevent our risk isn’t conclusive, although smoking is a major risk factor. The changes in the eye are largely down to free radical damage, so a diet rich in antioxidants that scavenge free radicals, may help to protect our sight. There is also some evidence to suggest that eating oily fish may reduce our risk of developing AMD.

When you have the condition, it appears that increasing your intake of the antioxidant nutrients vitamin C, plus the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, may help. Spinach, kale, broccoli and orange and red peppers are all rich in these nutrients. Cooking improves our body’s ability to absorb them, so you could try ravioli stuffed with spinach and ricotta, or a delicious Tuscan bean soup with peppers and curly kale. Steamed spinach with a squeeze of lemon juice would be a great side dish, too. Zeaxanthin can be found in greatest quantities in mangoes, oranges, nectarines, squashes and honeydew melons (what a lovely fruit platter that would be!). Despite their benefits, I wouldn’t advise only eating these options. A varied diet of colourful fruits and vegetables will increase your chance of gleaning a range of antioxidants that will benefit your whole body, eyes included.

JaneClarke Wed 15-Mar-17 12:36:08


I wonder whether there are any foods that are particularly helpful when it comes to stress? It's so tempting at these times to just go for things you fancy which are inevitably sugar based but I was interested to know whether there are foods that can actually help with the condition as well as bringing comfort simply by eating?

Seasalt, you’re absolutely correct that our go-to comfort foods may not help us deal with stress. My advice is to avoid overly sweet foods, as these will give you an artificial ‘high’ as they flood your blood with sugar, followed by a crash in mood and energy as your body releases insulin to counteract the effects of the sugar. I’d also avoid caffeine at times of stress, as it can exacerbate anxiety. Instead, aim to boost the protein content of your meals (even a spoonful of crème fraiche or a grating of cheese on top of a vegetable soup can do it) to help stabilise blood sugar levels. The amino acids in proteins can also help the body produce endorphins, which can help stabilise moods. Stress can affect digestion. If your gut is complaining, then go more towards cooked vegetables and broths, rather than salads and raw fruit and vegetable smoothies. Herbal infusions such as chamomile and lemon balm are also renowned for their soothing affect. You may find that taking control of your eating, so that you feel empowered to look after yourself, is a first step to dealing with your stress.

JaneClarke Wed 15-Mar-17 12:35:00


Hello Jane, other than the obvious what should I do diet wise to help my insomnia? I have tried eating bananas and avoiding cheese and sugar too close to bedtime but am reaching a point where I need to try something new desperately

marblerun I would suggest herbal infusions, which you can sip at bedtime. Sedative teas include skullcap, blue vervain, valerian and hops, but you may also benefit from calming herbs such as chamomile, bergamot and lemon balm. (A few drops of lavender oil on your pillow can also work a treat.) If you like them, milky drinks also have a soothing effect. Earlier in the evening, a dinner based around a wholegrain starch, such as rice or pasta, can begin the relaxation process; avoid spices, as these can be too stimulating and disrupt sleep. It’s not a nutritional solution, but I find the sleep app Pzizz [] helps with my own insomnia. I hope this helps.

JaneClarke Wed 15-Mar-17 12:34:10


Hi Jane just joined . Iam 69 year old man and having problems with pain from statins tablets. Would a better diet/life style replace having to take them? I always been active but struggled with my weight. Oily

oil1947y I’m sorry to hear you’re having pains from statins. Definitely, I would suggest looking at your diet and gradually exercise the amount of exercise you do to see if losing some weight can help. Cutting back on calories doesn’t mean doom and deprivation. As a starting point, keep a food diary for a few weeks to help you assess your intake – even the act of writing down everything you eat and drink may prompt you to have less. Next, cut back on very sugary foods such as cakes and chocolate, and opt for naturally sweet fruit such as Medjool dates and figs instead. If you eat them in combination with protein – some nuts or Greek yoghurt, it will prevent a sugar rush. If your tastes are more savoury, opt for a crispbread or a few unsalted nuts instead of a bag of crisps. Swapping from refined white starches (white bread, pasta, etc) to wholegrains (rye bread, wholegrain rice) will mean energy is released more slowly into your body, so you feel fuller for longer.

Next, cut down on calorie-intense fattier foods, such as butter, cream, cheese and oil. Use a cheese slicer to give thin shavings of intensely flavoured hard cheese, such as mature Cheddar or Parmesan, rather than a chunk. Drizzle oil or use a cooking spray when frying, to reduce fat. Instead of fatty bacon and sausages, choose leaner cuts. And pack your plate with vegetables and salads for low-calorie flavour and goodness. Delicious meals might be a roast chicken with lots of roasted veg on the side; a simple omelette with herbs, spinach and tomatoes, or baked cod with a squeeze of lemon, with a salad on the side.

If your cholesterol levels return to normal, you may be able to reduce the amount of statins you need, or indeed stop taking them, under the guidance of your GP. Good luck.

JaneClarke Wed 15-Mar-17 12:33:29


Hello Jane,
Five and a half years ago I was struck down with Churg-Strauss Syndrome.As it is such a rare form of Vasculitis I had a late diagnosis and as a result I have nerve damage in my feet and right hand.I feel the damage is slowly getting worse,probably because I getting older,I'm seventy now,but I wondered if there was any food which might help slow the decline.When I was in hospital being treated my consultant said to eat plenty of fat ie cheese,butter,cream etc as our nerves are mainly made up of fat.My cholesterol is high so I am reluctant to eat too much of these things.Any thoughts?

Supergrannyknitknit I’m sorry to hear about your diagnosis. Fat is an essential nutrient for everyone, providing insulation under our skin, producing hormones to ensure healthy growth, and enabling the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. But you are correct to be concerned about eating too much fat as it can raise cholesterol levels. Rather than eating saturated butter and animal fats, my advice would be to opt for vegetable-based monosaturated or polysaturated oils, such as olive, rapeseed and avocado oils, which are less likely to increase levels of the ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol in your body. Omega-rich fatty foods, such as oily fish, also benefit virtually every part of the body. Dairy products are a good source of vitamin D, so if you’re reducing your intake of these you may want to ask your GP to check your levels and investigate taking a supplement.

Your treatment may involve taking steroids. If that is the case, you will need to take measures to reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis. Please look at my answers to NanKate and cheshiresmile25, where I talk about this.

JaneClarke Wed 15-Mar-17 12:32:37


Are the sugars found in fruit the same as processed sugars?.
I like to blend fruit and vegetables together, but sometimes it is mainly fruit.
I often worry I might be consuming too much fruit sugars as I have a Nutribullit every day for breakfast.
What is your thinking on sugar consumption?.

Victoria08, my view is that sugars found in fresh fruits are superior to processed sugars, as the fruit they are contained in will also provide you with valuable vitamins and micronutrients. Watch out for higher GI fruits like mango and pineapple, as their sugar is absorbed rapidly into the bloodstreatm, but a freshly made juice or smoothie each day should be fine if you’re not eating too much sugar elsewhere in your diet. Your Nutribullet is a good option as it allows you to blend the whole fruit, rather than just extracting the juice; the additional fibre will help to slow the absorption of sugar into your blood stream. To reduce the sugar content overall, I suggest adding vegetables such as carrot, beetroot and fennel, which add a wonderful savoury taste as well as more goodness – experiment and discover the balance of flavours you prefer. You can use fruit and the sweeter-tasting vegetables to add natural sugar at other times, too. Bananas, apple, pear, carrots and beetroot, for example, add a moistness and depth of flavour to cakes and biscuits, which means you can cook them with less fat. Add a few other beneficial ingredients, such as nuts, and your sweet treat will also pack a nourishing punch. You might want to look at my favourite Carrot Cake recipe for inspiration.

JaneClarke Wed 15-Mar-17 12:31:40


Hello, I've been taken off HRT the oestrogen only one,after nearly 30 years. Are there any foods would help me counteract the effects of menopausal symptoms such as overheating and mood swings?

GrannyO, foods that contain phytoestrogens – nature’s oestrogen mimickers – could be your answer. There seems to be an absence of menopause symptoms in countries where diets are naturally rich in phytoestrogens, such as the Far East and Japan. Genetics and environmental factors may play a part in this but it could be worth trying if you’re struggling with menopause symptoms. Options include soya milk, soya yogurt, tofu, miso and tempeh. Some women find two large glasses of soya milk beneficial; calcium-enriched soya milk will also help counteract some of the bone-thinning that occurs after menopause.

If soya isn’t your thing, other sources of phytoestrogens include pulses (lentils, chickpeas, beans, etc), beansprouts, peanuts, linseeds and sweet potatoes. Research also shows that fruit and vegetables can be beneficial during menopause (aim to eat eight portions a day). You should also aim to eat up to four 140g portions of omega-3-rich foods each week, as these help ease hormone-induced symptoms such as hot flushes, breast tenderness and mood swings. Good sources include oily fish, such as salmon, mackerel, sardines and pilchards, plus nuts and seeds. Lastly, some women find that cutting out caffeine helps their symptoms, although there isn’t yet any scientific evidence to support this.

JaneClarke Wed 15-Mar-17 12:30:59


Like Cornergran, I would also be very interested in any dietary help you can give for Fibromyalgia/Chronic Fatigue & Osteoporosis. Suggestions I have heard include cutting out gluten, carbs including potatoes, rice & pasta, sugar & dairy. That doesn't seem to leave much! I do eat quite a lot of fruit but also enjoy eating fruit with yogurt.

Glosgran thank you for your question. Although cutting back on certain foods may be beneficial for people living with specific health conditions, I’m not a fan of exclusion diets unless absolutely necessary and endorsed by your GP or specialist. There’s just too much risk of failing to cover your nutritional bases and get the goodness you need to thrive – plus, it’s just no fun to live on a hugely restricted diet. I’d ask you to look at my responses to both Cornergran and PamelaJ1 as these cover fibromyalgia and osteoporosis.

It’s great that you enjoy fresh fruits (great with natural Greek yoghurt, which is full of beneficial probiotics that aid digestion). You may want to avoid high-GI fruits like mango and pineapple and perhaps try the stewed fruits instead if you fancy something sweet – have a look at my recipe for Stewed Apples and Poached Blackberries, which are lovely on porridge or pancakes. I wouldn’t cut out carbohydrates completely; I would just see if reducing the amount you eat, swapping for wholegrain versions and increasing your intake of lean proteins can help. Finally, do check that you’re drinking enough water – I recommend 2.5 litres a day – as I find this helps boost the energy levels of many of my patients with chronic fatigue.

JaneClarke Wed 15-Mar-17 12:29:17


What foods should women over 60 be eating to help prevent osteoporosis or slow down its progress?

Are there any proven foods which improve the pain of osteoarthritis?

cheshiresmile25, We tend to think of our bones as being inanimate and something we can’t really influence, but in fact our skeleton is very much a living part of us. Bone cells are busy throughout our lives manufacturing new bone. The foods that help it do this are dairy products, oily fish and vegetable oils, green leafy vegetables, soya products, nut milks (such as almond milk), seeds and dried fruits. There are things we need to avoid in our diet to maintain our bone health – that’s too much of alcohol, salt and caffeine.

When it comes to arthritis, there is more evidence indicating links to specific foods in the case of rheumatoid arthritis than in osteoarthritis. However, those with the latter condition do report that some foods appear to aggravate it and others seem to ease their symptoms. The Mediterranean diet, packed with fresh fruits and vegetables, oily fish and not too much red meat, appears to be the best way of eating. Most people with arthritis often say they can’t eat too many oranges, tomatoes or other acid-producing foods, which make their joints feel worse. Look for links between certain foods and your symptoms (keeping a food diary will help). You may feel better eating white meat than red, for example. I strongly advise eating monounsaturated fats as your main source of fat, as these don’t cause inflammation – try olive oil and avocado oil.

JaneClarke Wed 15-Mar-17 12:28:29


Hello Jane I have SLE and have read that some people believe a gluten free diet helps relieve the symptoms - is there any evidence for this please?

Teetime, researchers are still investigating any relationship between Systemic Lupus Erythematosus and gluten so there isn’t yet a definitive answer. However, in my own practice I have found that many patients find their skin rash lessons, and in some cases virtually disappears, as soon as they cut gluten from their diet. My view, then, is that it’s worth giving it a try, especially as there are so many non-gluten and gluten-free foods now available in supermarkets. Gluten is found in wheat, rye and barley, so avoid products made with these grains. Instead, how about a stir-fry made with rice noodles; creamy chia seed porridge for breakfast; or a delicious cake, like my gluten-free Citrus Polenta and Almond Cake.

JaneClarke Wed 15-Mar-17 12:27:29


Hello Jane. Thank you for sharing your memories of your Great Auntie May. I'm wondering what your thoughts are about the impact of diet on fibromyalgia. Is there an approach you think can help to manage symptoms? Would be good to hear your thoughts.

Hello Cornergran. I’m sorry to hear you have fibromyalgia as it can be a tricky thing to manage. My advice would be to ensure you eat a well-rounded nourishing diet (incorporating fresh fruits and vegetables, lean protein and complex carbohydrates) that’s rich in Omega 3 fatty acids that may reduce inflammation. Good sources of Omega 3 nuts, seeds and their oils, including rapeseed oil and walnut oil, plus oily fish, such as salmon, mackerel, sardines and pilchards. Why not try my Smoked Trout and Dill Pate?

It may also be worth keeping a food and symptoms diary, to see if there is any link between what you eat and a flare-up of your fibromyalgia. Sometimes people living with the condition feel lousy after having caffeine-rich drinks, alcohol, diet drinks or takeaways, specifically those high in MSG. Finally, fibromyalgia can cause difficulty sleeping, so a warm, milky drink before bed may help you to drop off and get the sleep you need to help cope with the condition.

JaneClarke Wed 15-Mar-17 12:25:58


Hello Jane,

What wonderful memories you have of your Aunty May. My Aunty Bink baked delicious cakes smile

Last year I was diagnosed with Polymyalgia Rheumatica for which I need to take steroids. I was advised to eat carefully as I would be susceptible to Type 2 Diabetes.

I have tried to reduce my sugar/carbs and cut down on potatoes, bread etc when I look at the ingredients on packages so many include sugar, even my one Weetabix a day. I do miss toast and marmalade. What are your thoughts on a low sugar diet and is bread bad for you ?

Finally I love fruit and plain nuts what sort of quantities per day can I eat ?

Thanks, Kate

Hello NanKate. I’m glad you have lovely memories associated with cakes and your Aunty Bink – I only hope our future generations look back on our generation with such fondness, hence my huge desire to get the nation baking their own afternoon teas. I’m sorry to hear about you having to take steroids, but I hope they’re helping you feel better. It is a good idea to think about what you’re eating to help reduce your likelihood of developing Type 2 diabetes, but let’s set labels aside for a minute as they can be confusing. With starchy foods such as bread rice, pasta, potatoes and cereals, it’s a good idea to keep the quantity down. For a balanced diet, roughly a third of our food intake each day should be starchy food and less than one sixth of our diet should be made up of fats and sugars; as you are taking steroids, you may want to err slightly less than that for these two food groups. (In addition, at least a third of your daily food should be fresh fruit and vegetables; with protein foods such as meat, fish and dairy products making up the remaining amount; the Eat Well Plate shows how these proportions look.

The glycaemic index (GI) tells us how quickly a food raises blood sugar levels. High-GI foods include the obvious biscuits, sweets and cakes, but also bananas, melons, raisins, grapes, dates, mangoes and pineapples. Instead, focus on citrus fruits and stone fruits, such as apricots and plums. Instead of white rice and pasta, choose wholegrain versions which will have less of an impact on blood sugar levels and will also help you to feel fuller for longer, so you may eat less overall. Wholegrain bread surprisingly has a similar GI to white bread, so I’d opt for rye or pumpernickel. If you want to enjoy that slice of toast, choose a granary loaf and a low-sugar, high-fruit content marmalade to spread on it. I wouldn’t worry too much about your morning Weetabix, as long as you keep your intake of obviously sugary foods low. For a sweet taste, why not try my Instant Banana Ice Cream – freezing the bananas makes them taste deliciously sweet, without adding any sugar.

HildaW Mon 13-Mar-17 13:02:01

Thank you Jane, for all your well thought out responses.

Molly10 Mon 13-Mar-17 10:17:17

Thanks to Jane for these comprehensive responses. I will show my neighbour her reply for her to follow up. I know she is definitely not overweight. I am unsure about sleep patterns but along with advice about checking with her GP for any medical problems this has been helpful. Many thanks.

JaneClarke Wed 08-Mar-17 14:31:06


I suffer from a sudden onset of extreme nasal congestion either during or shortly after eating. This lasts from 20 minutes up to an hour. Someone suggested it could be histamine intolerance. My doctor said this does not exist despite it being listed on the NHS website.

Do you have any suggestion/comments about what could cause this problem and what I could do about it?

Many thanks.

I’m sorry you’ve had such a negative response from your GP, as there can be specific histamine-rich foods which can have a negative effect on your breathing. I suggest keeping a food diary for at least two weeks so that you can identify what food trigger your symptoms. High-histamine foods include alcohol, pickled foods, mature cheeses, smoked meat, shellfish, nuts, chocolate and processed foods made with preservatives and artificial colourings. Where you can, eat fresh, homecooked meals made with fresh meat and fish, vegetables and fruits, and wholegrains.

JaneClarke Wed 08-Mar-17 14:30:18


Hi Jane, Not sure if you would have any suggestions on this one but talking to a neighbour yesterday we got on to the subject of health and diets and she said she has had for some time a problem with belching. She says she could even just have a sip of water first thing in the morning and she would find herself belching within a short time. She says she does not gulp and is not aware she is taking in a lot of air. There seems to be no particular foods that set it away but she would like to alleviate the problem.
Have you come across this before? Do you have any suggestions about what it could be and ways to cure/prevent this?
Many thanks

Oh dear, this can be embarrassing. The first thing I recommend is that she gets this checked out with her doctor so she can be sure nothing is going on medically, as sometimes hernias and other gut issues present themselves in this way. If nothing obvious appears to be the cause, I suggest she has a look at whether she suffers from sleep apnea and snores – it can be a reason for swallowing a lot of air without realising it. If snoring or sleep apnea appears likely, it could be worth looking at whether she needs to lose some weight; losing excess weight can often result in these conditions disappearing. She might want to keep a food diary for a couple of weeks, noting quantities and frequencies of what she is eating, then seeing if she can cut out excessive calories. The snacks we forget about between meals – especially sweet biscuits and cakes, or high-fat crisps and other savouries – can soon add up. Rather than feeling she has to cut out every treat, she could try to control her portions or to swap in naturally sweet foods such as dates and dried apricots; the fibre in them helps to slow absorption of sugar while helping you to feel fuller, so we’re less likely to overeat them.

JaneClarke Wed 08-Mar-17 14:29:28


Can you please advice me what foods I should avoid .I have I b s and also a hiatus hernia.tried cutting out foods such as salad and onions but it doesn't seem to make much difference.I would appreciate your advice.thank you .

I’m sorry you’re struggling with your gut so much – it can make you miserable, I know. Firstly, I’d keep a food diary for a week, recording what you eat, how much and how it makes you feel. It might help you identify specific foods that aggravate your IBS and hernia – they can both react differently to foods, so I’ll separate them out and hope it helps.

IBS has many symptoms, including constipation, diarrhoea, nausea and bloating. If you’re suffering with bloating, you’re right to avoid broccoli, cauliflower, leeks, onions, lentils and beans, plus fatty foods such as cream, butter and rich, which will trigger this and may also aggravate your hernia. You may also want to eat less wheat, eating rice or rice noodles, for example, instead of pasta. If you let me know which specific IBS symptoms you have, I can answer in a future post.

In addition to tweaking your diet, you could increase your level of prebiotics and probiotics by eating natural live Greek yoghurt, which can help alleviate IBS symptoms.

It’s worth noting that stress and anxiety can increase acid secretion in the stomach, which can change the way food is dealt with. We can become tense and less able to go to the toilet, leading to constipation. Or we may have to rush to the toilet when we’re worried. Anxiety can also lead us to skipping meals, eating on the run, or craving foods that trigger IBS symptoms.

JaneClarke Wed 08-Mar-17 14:28:22


I have iron deficient anaemia, have had it most of my adult life (now 60) Doctor has sent me for usual tests so is happy its not something nasty. My problem is that the usual iron tablets (which do bring me back into the normal range) really upset my system and although I eat a fairly vegetable heavy diet with a bit of red meat every 3 or 4 days I'm obviously not getting enough iron into my system. Any ideas please?

Thank you for your question. Iron-deficiency anaemia is very common and I’m glad you’ve checked this out with your GP, as so often we can just get used to feeling tired or off-par, without checking in with a doctor, and sometimes extra investigation and reassurance is needed.

While you’re obviously eating iron-rich foods, it might help to partner them with sources of vitamin C, as this can help to increase absorption of non-meat sources of iron. Try squeezing lemon juice over dark green leafy vegetables such as kale and cavelo nero. As well as meat, why not try vegetarian sources of protein which are rich in iron, such as lentils, beans and egg yolks – you could try my delicious Sweet Potato Frittata [link:] . Snacking on iron-rich dried apricots, figs, nuts, sesame and sunflower seeds can also help to increase your intake.

Too much tannin from tea can inhibit iron absorption, so try swapping in some cups of herbal tea. Or don’t drink your usual cuppa straight after a meal, when the tannin can stop you taking in the goodness of what you’ve eaten. Too much bran can also reduce iron absorption, so you might want to swap to an alternative cereal if you have a bran-based breakfast.

JaneClarke Wed 08-Mar-17 14:27:48


My GS is nearly 6yrs old & eats hardly anything, since he started on solids to be exact. I do worry about him as he's as thin as a rake. I hope you have some advice...even if it's just to point me to a good book on the subject. Thank you so much.

Thank you for getting in touch. Many of the grandparents I look after mention as an aside that they’re worried about a grandchild, so you’re not alone. It’s such a tricky, emotive issue as you can so easily be cast as the nagging grandparent, as mothers can understandably get very defensive about what they’re feeding their child. However, a six-year-old who doesn’t eat much and is as thin as a rake doesn’t seem to be thriving. You might want to look at the Childhood Challenges section on my website, which has lots of ideas about encouraging children to eat and the nourishment they need for their development.

A couple of ideas spring to mind. Firstly, I wonder if you could draw out reward chart together (with the agreement of the parents), to encourage your grandchild to try new foods or eat a little bit more at each mealtime? If you agree with your grandchild what their reward might be – a comic or a trip out with you, say – then it might entice them to tuck in. Making the reward chart something special between you, and separating it from their parents, often works well. And you can feedback any successes to their parents, so they can try similar dishes at home.

Secondly, have you tried cooking with your grandchild? Making something to eat together or as an edible gift for his mother for Mother’s Day or a birthday (see my recipes for Candied Peel and Chocolate Caramel Truffles) can be a wonderful way to encourage trying new flavours. Or flick through magazines with different recipes to see what your grandchild fancies cooking with you. You could also take them shopping to a new store or a market to help get them excited about ingredients. Or start a small vegetable garden or window box, growing herbs, salad leaves or tomatoes. Anything like this can help build up a passion for food. You could also see what their favourite sport or activity is and explain that eating lots of healthy foods can help give them energy to play and do well. A little physical goal like this is another good way to motivate change.

LauraGransnet (GNHQ) Tue 28-Feb-17 14:27:22

If your question hasn't been answered, don't worry - more answers on the way from Jane very soon!