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An ill wind; As Zoe and Kate have a gas for Comic Relief, we get to the bottom of that most inconvenient of afflictions and come up trumps with ways of tackling the problem.

Byline: MARTHA ROBERTS

WHAT do Zoe Ball and Kate Winslet have in common? Apart from tricky marriages, they're among a host of celebrities pretending to break wind on a Comic Relief commercial promoting baked-bean crisps.

Serene Kate is seen doing the deed on a sofa as she tucks into the crisps, while Zoe creates bubbles as she sits in the bath. Yes, even personalities pump.

Dr Jeremy Sanderson, consultant gastroenterologist at London's Guys & St Thomas' Hospitals, says: 'The average person passes wind 15 times a day. That's normal and nothing to worry about.'

But if you produce more than your fair share of wind, then follow our guide to reducing the volume:BREAD: Wheat contains a carbohydrate called raffinose which can cause gas. This is also found in vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli and artichokes. If the stomach doesn't digest all the raffinose, it's passed into the intestine where it's broken down by bacteria. The by-products of this fermentation are gases including hydrogen sulphide, one of the major causes of smelly wind. Limit wheat products and eat more rice, which doesn't produce gas.

BAKED BEANS: These also contain raffinose but they have another, secret wind-producing ingredient - a sugar called stachyose which is also poorly digested. Unable to break these sugars down, the body passes them through to the intestines to be worked on by bacteria, leading to smelly gas.

MILK: Many people who have a constant problem with wind may discover they have an intolerance to dairy products. This is because they have a shortage of the enzyme used to break down the lactose sugar in dairy foods such as milk and cheese. The result is wind. A tummy bug, especially from a trip to south-east Asia, can lead to a depletion of the bacteria that produce the enzyme and cause temporary intolerance.

DIET FOODS: These can contain artificial sugar which is poorly digested and ends up as stinky gases.

EATING FAST AND TALKING DURING MEALS: This makes you swallow lots of air - and it has to go somewhere. Chewing gum, smoking and ill-fitting false teeth also make you swallow air.

FIZZY DRINKS: Try pouring them into a glass to release some of the gas.

Remedies PEPPERMINT: This calms the smooth muscle of the digestive tract, helping to unlock painful wind and give it a smooth passage out of the body. It has also been found to loosen the muscle at the bottom of the gullet, making air escape easier so unwanted wind can come out as a burp rather than head downwards to cause flatulence problems. Peppermint also promotes the flow of bile from the gallbladder to the small intestine, helping to aid fat digestion. Try coated peppermint capsules (from health food shops) or sip peppermint tea slowly. Don't chew peppermint in the form of gum - the ingested air will only make wind worse.

CHARCOAL TABLETS: If you've got a windy dog, chances are you'll have given it charcoal to minimise the odour. But charcoal works for humans, too. It's a natural detoxifier which works by the carbon in the charcoal absorbing gases such as nitrogen and methane. It's not advisable to take them for more than two weeks at a time because as well as absorbing gas, charcoal can absorb some nutrients and medication. See your GP for further advice.

THE WIND RELEASE EXERCISES: If you're gassy and need to get rid of it quickly, say before a hot date, try the knee-elbow position to shift it quickly. Dr Sanderson says: "This is often used in hospitals to help people with trapped wind." Kneel on the floor with your head to the ground - as if you're kissing it - so that your bottom is higher than any other part of you. Put your palms on the floor either side of your head, keeping your elbows back towards your knees. Stay like this for about 10 minutes and you'll start to feel things moving.

DRINK PLENTY OF WATER: This flushes your system through so that difficult-to-digest carbohydrates don't hang around to be turned into noxious gases by bacteria.

FOR further information, visit the Digestive Disorders Foundation at www.digestivedisorders. org.uk or click on the IBS Network at www.ibsnetwork. org.uk

CAPTION(S):

SOUND-BITE: Couch potato Kate airs her appreciation in the advert; BUBBLE BATH: Zoe eats baked bean crisps
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Title Annotation:M Health
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Feb 27, 2003
Words:721
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