| 10.3°C Dublin

Ask Elsa: Herbal tea and stress

Q I drink at least six cups of tea a day but I'm trying to cut down. Could you suggest a healthier alternative that tastes similar?

A Drinking a lot of tea can interfere with vitamin and mineral absorption. It also contains a considerable amount of caffeine which really revs up stress hormones and dehydrates you.

Try rooibos tea as an alternative. Caffeine-free and rich in a variety of minerals, rooibos (pronounced roy-boss) will help you stay hydrated. It's high in antioxidants, which have been shown to help prevent certain diseases and premature ageing. It is also low in tannin, a substance that can interfere with iron absorption. In addition, because rooibos contains no oxalic acid, it can be consumed freely by people with kidney stones. Rooibos can be bought in teabags from supermarkets and is starting to make an appearance in restaurants and cafes too. For a hint of something sweet try vanilla rooibos.

Q Over the past month I've been under pressure at work and it's starting to take its toll. I get indigestion and wind after every meal and my bowel movements have become urgent and loose. Could this all be stress?

AQuite possibly. There is a close relationship between the nervous system and the health of the digestive system. Tension can cause a decrease in digestive enzymes. When we eat we produce enzymes in the mouth and stomach, which break down the food and help us to absorb nutrients. If we do not have enough of these enzymes (decreased acid production) then food sits in the stomach and ferments, which then produces gas and causes the stomach discomfort (bloating/indigestion).

I would suggest that you take a magnesium and vitamin B complex supplement, as these are important nutrients for the health of the nervous system and are rapidly used up when we are stressed.

Avoid caffeine and eat small meals often. If you have limited amounts of digestive enzymes then large meals will greatly increase bloating. Consider taking a digestive enzyme supplement before meals during this stressful time.

Make sure you take some time out every day to practise stress-management techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, yoga or even use your break time to go for a brisk walk.

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 as well as group nutrition courses. www.elsajones nutrition.ie