Our panel of ex­perts an­swers your ques­tions on ev­ery­thing from giv­ing chil­dren caf­feine to en­sur­ing your dog doesn’t chew up the fur­ni­ture

The Sunday Telegraph - Sunday - - Advice -

QWhat is your opin­ion on the is­sue of al­low­ing chil­dren to drink caf­feine? My 11 yearold has been bad­ger­ing us to let her drink tea and cof­fee and I’m not con­vinced it’s a good idea. DR DAN RUTHER­FORD WRITES: AYou could, of course, let her have de­caf­feinated tea and cof­fee to start with but ev­i­dence that caf­feine is ac­tu­ally harm­ful is pretty slim. That’s just as well for all of us, as caf­feine is re­port­edly the most used drug in the world. Many pop­u­lar fizzy drinks con­tain caf­feine, as does chocolate (plain has twice as much as milk), so a caf­feinefree diet needs to look wider than cof­fee and tea, and is not so easy to achieve. Cer­tainly, caf­feine has mea­sur­able ef­fects on the body, such as to raise the blood pres­sure, al­though th­ese are tem­po­rary. Some small-scale stud­ies have shown caf­feine-re­lated ef­fects on lev­els of at­ten­tion, con­cen­tra­tion and anx­i­ety in young peo­ple, all of which were in­creased. How far you can gen­er­alise such re­sults is un­clear. Recog­nis­ing the im­prac­ti­cal­ity of avoid­ing caf­feine com­pletely, most pub­lic health bodies sug­gest a daily limit – about 2.5mg of caf­feine per kilo­gram of the child’s weight. For an 11 yearold, that would be about 85mg of caf­feine per day. An av­er­age cup of tea has 45mg of caf­feine – brewed cof­fee can be three times as much. It’s prob­a­bly bet­ter to ne­go­ti­ate a limit with your daugh­ter by mak­ing her aware of your health con­cerns as con­struc­tively as you can. If caf­feine is as far as any child’s drug use ever gets, ev­ery par­ent would, of course, be de­lighted. DIET QCan you rec­om­mend some nat­u­ral ways to im­prove di­ges­tion? I usu­ally get quite bloated and sore when my eat­ing is er­ratic – it of­ten is, be­cause of the na­ture of my job – but the fes­tive sea­son seems to have made it worse. SARA STAN­NER WRITES: AEat­ing too much over the fes­tive pe­riod, es­pe­cially too many rich foods like mince pies, pud­ding and cake, com­monly causes un­pleas­ant symp­toms of in­di­ges­tion and heart­burn. But there are things that you can do to help avoid this – for ex­am­ple, sit down when eat­ing and don’t rush food, and stay seated for at least 20 min­utes af­ter eat­ing. Chew­ing food well will also help to avoid in­di­ges­tion be­cause smaller food par­ti­cles in the stom­ach are eas­ier to break­down and di­gest, and chew­ing tends to make your stom­ach pro­duce less acid which causes less stom­ach ir­ri­ta­tion. Try to avoid fizzy drinks as they can in­crease the amount of gas in your stom­ach, and avoid eat­ing heavy meals or snacks be­fore you go to bed. Keep­ing ac­tive is very im­por­tant, as phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity can help beat bloat­ing and avoid in­di­ges­tion. Make sure you eat enough fi­bre from foods such as whole-grain breads, break­fast ce­re­als, brown rice, pasta and pulses. Opt for light meals such as non-creamy soups, baked pota­toes with low-fat fill­ings (such as cot­tage cheese), pasta with toma­to­based sauce or a chicken or tuna salad and health­ier, low­erfat snacks such as toast with low-fat spread, bread­sticks and hum­mus, sat­sumas or other fruits. Also avoid snacks that are high in salt, such as salted nuts, as th­ese can make bloat­ing worse. Pep­per­mint or camomile tea can help to soothe the di­ges­tive sys­tem and you could also try a pro­bi­otic as th­ese con­tain “good” bac­te­ria, which some peo­ple find help­ful to soothe gas­troin­testi­nal symp­toms such as bloat­ing (but you must use th­ese daily for them to be ef­fec­tive). FIT­NESS QDo those in­ter­ac­tive fit­ness pro­grammes (like Wii) re­ally work? I have been given one for Christ­mas and would like to use it to do aer­o­bics. Are they in any way dam­ag­ing to the body? TONY GAL­LAGHER WRITES: AMany peo­ple see the rise of in­ter­ac­tive fit­ness pro­grammes as a pos­i­tive thing and a way to em­brace con­tem­po­rary tech­nol­ogy from the com­fort of your own home. The ar­gu­ment goes that any­thing that pro­motes phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity is a good thing. Part of the value of Wii Fit, and such pro­grammes, is in their at­tempts to be hon­est with the user and help that per­son achieve a health­ier life­style. It is prob­a­bly of most value to view th­ese sort of in­ter­ac­tive pro­grammes as just one tool in the fit­ness box, as it were. Like most forms of ex­er­cise pro­grammes, they will work if the cor­rect fre­quency, in­ten­sity, time and type of pro­gramme are se­lected. You will need to warm up be­fore­hand and wear sen­si­ble cloth­ing that lends it­self to ex­er­cis­ing com­fort­ably. This in­cludes wear­ing proper train­ers to avoid in­jury and keep you safe. Specif­i­cally, the aer­o­bics fit­ness pro­gramme of Wii Fit is well thought of. With nine el­e­ments, in­clud­ing su­per hula hoop and rhythm box­ing, it has a fun el­e­ment, and a com­pet­i­tive na­ture is in­tro­duced by giv­ing a score. Take good no­tice of any in­struc­tions given on screen. The Amer­i­can Col­lege of Sports Medicine pro­motes moderate-in­ten­sity ex­er­cise of be­tween 150 and 250 min­utes per week to ef­fec­tively pre­vent weight gain. This rises to about five hours per week if you are aim­ing to lose weight and keep it off. Re­sis­tance train­ing of moderate to vig­or­ous train­ing is also rec­om­mended, so mix and match your in­ter­ac­tive com­puter fit­ness pro­grammes. PETS QWe have an eight-mon­thold res­cue bull­dog bitch. She has re­cently started to chew ev­ery­thing, even if left for a few min­utes. She has de­stroyed beds, blan­kets, the sofa and even the tele­vi­sion stand, and we can­not seem to stop her chew­ing things. Can you of­fer any ad­vice? We have tried sprays on the fur­ni­ture to no avail. ROGER MUG­FORD WRITES: ADon’t de­spair! Many young dogs (and al­most all Labradors) go through this ex­traor­di­nary and very ex­pen­sive oral phase that can be likened to an ob­ses­sion and an oral stereo­type just as in young chil­dren that never grow out of the dum­my­suck­ing phase. First the good news: most such dogs sel­f­re­solve with no need for in­ter­ven­tion or sys­tem­atic ther­apy. How­ever, the bad news is that some don’t get bet­ter: they con­tinue to be at risk and make ex­pen­sive com­pan­ions. This is my ad­vice: No mat­ter what the provo­ca­tion, do not pun­ish her when you re­turn af­ter the dam­age has been done (for ex­am­ple, if the chew­ing was not wit­nessed). Switch all feed­ing to a hard-to-get-at slow dis­pense sys­tem via Kongs or a sim­i­lar de­vice (you will need at least an XL size in both the stan­dard red Kong and a gi­ant den­tal Kong). Th­ese can be filled with your dog’s stan­dard ra­tions, which if a dry kib­ble should be wet­ted and frozen. This will give her a chew­ing chal­lenge to main­tain nor­mal food in­take. She may need to have up to 10 such dou­ble Kong chew episodes – 10 meals per day will be hard work! Teach her that items made from wood, fab­ric, etcetera, are strictly out of bounds, to be re­moved by you with a scold, pos­si­bly with overt or, bet­ter, covert pu­n­ish­ment. An ex­am­ple of the for­mer might be to shake or throw a rat­tle can when she picks up the “for­bid­den” item, or covertly, the hiss of a Pet Cor­rec­tor spray. Most im­por­tant of all is that this young bitch has an in­ter­est­ing and ex­haust­ing life: lots of walks, games and train­ing, hav­ing pos­i­tive in­ter­ac­tions with you, the owner. Then there is the pos­si­bil­ity of crate train­ing, or en­vi­ron­men­tal re­stric­tion. If you didn’t start off with crate train­ing when she was a young puppy, she will prob­a­bly find it stress­ful now. How­ever, there may be a room or space that is clear of temp­ta­tion, which, with chew­able toys like Kong, can still make a pleas­ant en­vi­ron­ment for the dog. Fi­nally, it may be that your dog is sim­ply miss­ing hu­man com­pany and she is dis­tressed by be­ing alone in the house. There are well triedand-tested ways of re­duc­ing th­ese over-at­tach­ments. Visit my web­site for ad­vice on treat­ing sep­a­ra­tion dis­or­ders in dogs: www.com­pa­ny­ofan­i­mals. co.uk.

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