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Feelgood Friday, February 5, 2010

Forever friends

Gráinne and Síle Seoige, and other sisters, on sticking together through thick and thin: 8,9,10


Our reporter in Haiti finds quiet dignity among the ruins: 5


Top ten store cupboard items you must stock up on: 11


Put a spring glow back into your cheeks: 14




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Can a fixation with sex be a recognisable condition or, asks Arlene Harris, is it a convenient ‘get out’ clause? Kate O’Reilly WHAT’S ON CAREER IN MEDICINE: Waterford Regional Hospital and Waterford Institute of Technology will host a MiniMed School for Transition Year students from Tuesday, February 16, to Friday, February 19 so that students can experience what it is like to train and work as a doctor and gain an insight into the different stages of a career in medicine. Contact Carmel or Jenny on 051-848908 or email ENDOMETRIOSIS SUPPORT: If you would like to know more about endometriosis, or if you have been diagnosed with endometriosis and would like to meet other women who are going through experiences similar to yours, there is a support group meeting of the Endometriosis Association of Ireland at Carmichael Centre, North Brunswick Street, Dublin, tomorrow from 2 to 4pm. More information is available at, by email, or call 086-3203855. SUN DAMAGE: A public lecture entitled UV Radiation and the Skin: The Science & Risks will take place on Monday next at 6.30pm in the Royal College of Physicians, Kildare Street, Dublin. This is the inaugural public lecture from The Charles Institute and will be given by Dr David E Fisher, director of the Massachusetts General Hospital department of dermatology at Harvard Medical School. Admission free. For information visit: HAITI EVENT: The Shaolin Wahnam Institute of Ireland will be getting together with other Shaolin schools worldwide on Sunday next to do deep relaxation and breathing with anybody who would like to attend in aid of the people of Haiti. The Irish event will be held in Muckross Park Hotel Killarney from 2 to 4pm. Suggested donation is F30 but all donations will be gratefully accepted. Call Joan Browne on 087-1212249 or visit HEART CLINIC: The Irish Heart Foundation will hold a free blood pressure and cholesterol testing clinics at the Community Centre, Ballinlough on Wednesday next from 10.30am-12pm. For details call 021-4505822. EDUCATION SUPPORT: UCC and CIT are holding an information evening for teachers, special needs assistants, parents and students with disabilities on the role of assistive technologies in empowering access to higher education. It will be held in the Maldron Hotel, Cork on Thursday, February 25, from 7 to 9pm. Contact Carmel Hennessy at 021-433 5137/087-416 3752 or ■ Items for inclusion in this column can be sent to


An illicit affair

IGER WOODS has made headlines for all the wrong reasons over the past few months as his private life has come under intense scrutiny following revelations that the golfing ace has been playing an altogether different field. The world champion is not the first, and undoubtedly will not be the last, celebrity to be caught dabbling in extra-marital affairs — the latest allegations emerged in the media this week concerning John Terry, captain of the England football team, and model and actress Vanessa Perroncel. But Woods, who allegedly had many liaisons, has claimed to be addicted to sex and has checked into an expensive ‘rehab programme’ where he will learn to come to terms with this addiction and how to cope with future temptations. But is a fixation with sex — not an uncommon claim among celebrities — a recognisable condition, or has it become a convenient ‘get out clause’? Dr Fiona Weldon is the clinical director of the Rutland Centre in Dublin. She says being addicted to sex is a very real problem, but because of shame and secrecy it is almost impossible to ascertain how many people are affected. “The prevalence of sex addiction is very difficult to establish,” she says. “But it represents approximately 1-2% of our clients.” The rehabilitation specialist says the addicREAL PROBLEM: The prevalence of tion is defined by the lack of control experisexual addiction is difficult to evaluate. enced by the sufferer. “Sex addiction involves a pattern of engage- Picture: iStock

ment in sexual activity, behaviour or fantasy that the person experiences as out of control. “A person with sex addiction comes to rely on sex in order to meet various needs, such as nurturance, intimacy, tension reduction or removal of emotional pain.” Many people see a claim of sex addiction as simply a means of explaining socially unacceptable behaviour, but Dr Weldon says the condition can be harrowing for those going through it and for their loved ones. “The level of destruction and despair experienced by the sex addict and their families is very sobering,” she says. “There are clear differences between those who “have a lot of sex” and those who are sex addicts.” Characteristics of sexual addiction include: ■ Ritualising sexual behaviour and obsessively adhering to it ■ Engaging in compulsive sexual behaviour despite serious consequences (for example, health risks, loss of relationships) ■ Making multiple efforts to control sexual behaviour, to no avail ■ Experiencing less pleasure from sex and more pleasure from the anticipation of it ■ Engaging in a high degree of secrecy around their addiction. Dr Weldon says some factors can increase the likelihood of the development of sex addiction such as a childhood history of emotional neglect and sexual or physical abuse. ● For more information about rehabilitation for sexual or other addictions visit or call 01-494 6358.

HEALTH NOTES over-55s — produced with support from Seven Seas — has tips and suggestions on how older people can stay fit and healthy. Further information at

MORE THAN half the calls to the National Poisons Centre in 2007 about pharmaceutical overdoses involved cases of accidental poisoning in children. Which is why the HSE wants us to get on board with DUMP (Dispose of Unused Medicines Properly), which runs in community pharmacies in Cork and Kerry until March 12. Involving more than 200 pharmacies, the campaign encourages people to return unwanted or out-of-date medicines so they can be disposed of safely. BOOKWORMS around Ireland are invited to get involved with the 2010 Bring a Book, Buy a Book campaign in aid of St Michael’s House, one of Ireland’s largest providers of community-based services for people with an intellectual disability. Volunteers are asked to contribute their second-hand books and purchase donated books from their peers at a cost of F 2 per book. Bring a Book, Buy a Book locations can be set up in a staff common area, club, school or home. All funds go directly to the charity’s provision of services for children and adults with intellectual disability. Text BOOK to 51500 followed by your name and address to register and receive a starter pack. More information at or phone 01-2990500.

IRELAND has one of the fastest-growing populations of elderly people in Europe and, in the next 10 years, the proportion of our

RUDE Health Week kicks off on Monday, February 15, in independent health stores throughout Ireland. Organised by the Irish Association of Health Stores (IAHS), the event offers a chance to avail of special offers and free talks, with experts in nutrition, meditation and reflexology available throughout the country to meet customers on the shop floor. For details of your local IAHS store, visit

TUNNEL VIEW: Emily Thompson, 11, with Senator David Norris and Amanda Brunker as they help launch St Michael’s House Bring a Book, Buy a Book Campaign 2010. Picture:Robbie Reynolds CPR

population of over-65s will increase by nearly 60%. This has spurred Active Retirement Ireland to launch a drive to promote healthy living in older age. Active Retirement Ireland’s Health and Lifestyle Guide for

VOLUNTEERS, aged over 18, who have experience of living and working with arthritis or another musculoskeletal disorder are being sought for a research project aimed at improving the experiences of people living and working with a chronic condition. Run by Arthritis Ireland, the research will inform education and self-management courses run by the charity. Musculoskeletal disorders including back pain, work-related upper-limb disorder and rheumatic diseases (such as arthritis) cause 50% of sick days in Ireland. For more information, please email or phone 01-647 0208. Helen O’Callaghan EDITORIAL: Irene Feighan 021-4802292 ADVERTISING: Niamh Kelly 021-4802215






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Dr Mark Hamilton

On the road to health DR Mark Hamilton, 39, of RTÉ’s How Long Will You Live has his own health concerns. The A&E doctor has had high-frequency deafness in his left ear since he was about nine. “My mum cleaned my ears with a cotton bud. It went through the ear drum. It caused permanent damage and scarring, which is why it’s never a good idea to use cotton buds in the ear.” He is a big music fan and a DJ, and is “aware of the danger you can expose yourself to at live gigs.” Working in a busy teaching hospital in Salford, Greater Manchester, he is married to Juliette. The couple have a son aged 11 and a five-year-old daughter. The TV doctor, who grew up in Bangor in the North, is a martial arts enthusiast and has also got his son Joseph involved. “My daughter, Alice, does ballet. I also take the kids swimming every week.” What shape are you in? I’m not bad but I’m not at my fittest. I usually cycle to and from work every day but I haven’t been doing that for the past month because it’s been so cold and icy. My weight never really changes though so that’s not bad. Do you have any health concerns? Nothing really, apart from my hearing, which is stable — I hope it stays that way. My mum and dad died quite young so the family history isn’t good. My mum had a brain tumour — she died at 50. My dad got a heart attack at 59. What are your healthiest eating habits? My diet isn’t always the healthiest, especially when I’m travelling, but I always try to get in my five fruit and vegetables a day. What’s your guiltiest pleasure? I don’t do guilt very well. Drinking too much wouldn’t make me feel guilty. I like Guinness when I’m in Ireland, lager when I’m at home and the odd nip of whisky. If anything makes me feel slightly guilty, it’s probably driving. There are times when I really could cycle. The notion of my carbon footprint is what causes that particular guilt. What would keep you awake at night? Concerns about finances or if there’s something going on with the kids. How do you relax? Lots of ways – number one is spending time with family and friends. Working in the garage doing maintenance on my car helps me relax. I also love watching movies and listening to music.

SOFT SIDE: Dr Mark Hamilton says he often cries during films.

I don’t do guilt very well. Drinking too much wouldn’t make me feel guilty. Probably driving— the notion of my carbon footprint is what causes that particular guilt Who would you invite to your dream dinner party? It would be nice to hear a conversation between Stephen Hawking and Einstein. And I’d have Bill Hicks for entertainment. What would you change about your appearance? I used to be quite bothered as a teen by my appearance. I’m not really bothered any more. I wouldn’t mind having a slightly smaller forehead. I’ve got a big nose but I’m happy enough with that. What’s your favourite smell? Petrol, which is a bit of a weird one. It might have some deep-seated psychological origin — my dad was a tanker driver and delivered petrol. When did you last cry? Watching the Danny Boyle film, Millions, last week, I had a little tear at the end. I cried at the part where the young lad’s deceased mum came back to him — that just set me off. I cry at films all the time. What’s the best book you’ve read recently? I’m just about to finish Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance. I’ve taken it in stages and really enjoyed it — once you get into it, it’s pretty enlightening. What trait do you least like in others? I can’t stand selfishness — people who think the world revolves around them. There are too many of us in the world for that sort of behaviour. Whether it’s at work or out on the road, I don’t like people who think it’s all about them. What trait do you least like in yourself? I can be a bit moody. I react to situations and I’m not very good at disguising my feelings. I tend to get angry and rant at the TV. Do you pray? No — I haven’t prayed since I was a teenager. What would cheer up your day? I always feel a lot better if I get one thing done on my ‘to do’ list. I feel I’m treading water a lot of the time, so that gives me a sense of achievement. It also cheers me up no end if a patient just says ‘thank you’ and shakes my hand. Helen O’Callaghan



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The Green Schools campaign is a winner with young people, says Arlene Harris

Every little helps W

HILE the country was still mopping up after unprecedented levels of flooding, the weather system seemed to go into overdrive, leaving us frozen for weeks on ends. The almost biblical conditions left many of us with the realisation that we are quite helpless when faced with the wrath of Mother Nature. Or are we? Green Party politicians and eco-friendly ‘do-gooders’ have been trying to encourage the average householder to make a few small changes to their lifestyle which will not only be kinder to their bank balance, but also help the Earth to recover from the colossal amount of pollution which is expelled on a daily basis. And while many adults have been turning a blind eye, it seems our younger generation has been earnestly working on our behalf with the aid of the Green Flag for Schools Campaign. Green Schools, known internationally as Eco Schools, is an environmental education programme for schools. Managed in Ireland by An Taisce, the scheme has proved hugely successful with many other countries looking to our progress for inspiration. “There are 47 countries all over the world operating Green Schools and Ireland is often highlighted as a model of best practice,” says Cathy Baxter — Green Schools manager. “Over 85% of all schools in the country are taking part and nearly 50% of our schools are actually flying the Green Flag.” Cathy believes when it comes to saving the planet the children are the future, and by instilling a strong code of practice from a young age, it will ultimately encourage them to be more environmentally friendly as adults. “It is important for young people to learn about the need to protect the environment, because once these values are instilled in us at a young age they will stay with us forever,” she says. “Students in Green Schools today will be able to use this knowledge and experience as the decision makers of the future.” Green Schools savings for the past year include: ■ Over F2 million in waste, electricity, water and fuel costs ■ 3.7m units of electricity ■ 200m litres of drinking water ■ 500,000 litres of transport fuel ■ 12 tonnes of waste diverted from landfills Barefield National School in Clare has just been awarded its fourth Green Flag and co-coordinator Peadar McMahon, says this success is down to the enthusiasm of the children and the willingness of their parents to take part. “Since we got involved in 1999, the children have really come on board and embraced all initiatives,” he explains. “We have a healthy eating campaign in the school, Litter Busters who keep the grounds clean, children who make sure water taps and switches are turned off each evening and teams of used mobile phone collectors.” Designated days for walking to school,


CLASS ACTION: Members of Barefield National School’s Green Schools committee Cillian Brennan, Paul Mullane, Ben Baker, Aoife O’Sullivan and Lauren Keane with teacher and Green Schools co-ordinator Peadar McMahon, get recycling. Picture:Eamon Ward

We have a healthy eating campaign in the school, Litter Busters who keep the grounds clean, children who make sure water taps and switches are turned off and teams of used mobile phone collectors

ON GENERAL release today, Astro Boy is a futuristic animated film based on a 1950s Japanese cartoon character. The hero is a young robot created by a human father who had lost his son. Set in Metro City — a man-made haven in space — the film deals with the pollution of the planet by humans and the need to be aware of the environment before it’s too late. But while Astro Boy may be able to save us from destruction on the silver screen, in reality it’s up to us.

cycling programmes, poster campaigns and a human bicycle project have all helped to raise awareness among the children and teacher Peadar McMahon says this groundwork is invaluable. “It is very important for children to know how they can protect the world around them and reduce potential environmental hazards,” he says. “The students treat these issues with great importance — they love filling their Green Tree chart each day, they love taking in the fresh air as they stroll to school, and they are well aware that they are indeed making a difference. “Hopefully this information will stay with them well into adulthood.” Sixth class student Ben Baker is a member of the Green Flag committee at Barefield School. He says the recent weather patterns are a timely reminder of the need to care for the world around us. “It is hugely important to take care of our environment,” he says. “’Through years of ignorance and neglect we humans have accelerated the ongoing destruction of our planet. This we experi-


enced first hand with the recent flooding followed by unusually low temperatures.” The 12-year-old is concerned if we don’t take drastic measures today the world will not be the same place when he becomes an adult. “I am very worried about the future of the planet,” he admits. “I wonder will my grandchildren ever get to see the endangered snow leopard or experience the wonder of Tyndall Glacier in Chile — we have to save the world before it’s too late.” Eleven-year-old Aoife O’Sullivan is also a member of the committee and says every little helps. “It is very important to be aware of the environment and we must all do our bit to prevent global warming,” she says. “We all worry about the future of the planet and in our weekly meetings we discuss what we can do — if everyone did a small bit, it could make a big difference.” ■ For more information call 01-400 2222, or visit or




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Irish charity GOAL has been helping distribute food in the earthquake-hit capital of Port-au-Prince. Juno McEnroe reports from Haiti on why help is crucial

Doing what they can A

MID the hunger, horrific injuries and devastation caused by Haiti’s earthquake, the victims of the disaster live on with an unimaginable resilience in the face of adversity. The January 12 earthquake killed 150,000 people and has left almost two million homeless. But two weeks after the magnitude 7.0 earthquake, small signs of hope are emerging. The huge international aid effort has seen aid trucks laden with beans, rice, water, medicines and shelter make lifesaving deliveries in the capital, Port-au-Prince. The city’s two million inhabitants are desperate. Many lost their spouses, children or even whole families. Beyond even the psychological trauma — which has yet to be expressed by grief-stricken citizens — hunger has led to food riots. Food convoys have been attacked by desperate crowds, scrambling onto trucks grabbing at rice bags. Gun shots fired by guards sitting on rice bags fail to ward them off. Irish charity GOAL began its emergency response just days after the quake. The main focus has been food distributions in the city. In the mountainous quarter of Turgeau in the south of the city, aid workers with the charity last week delivered 18 tonnes of food for 6,000 families along with shelter and kitchen sets. In one camp up to 2,000 families are living under makeshift shelters made from plastic sheeting and sheets. Renald Juste, 49, described how he had lost his wife the evening the quake struck. “I’ve been here [in the camp] with my boys and girls since then, when I lost my wife.” On the night of the quake he was working as a security guard at a local hotel where his ON SITE: In a GOAL-run camp, wife was also employed in the kitchen. reporter Juno McEnroe speaks to She died when the building collapsed. “I couldn’t do anything for her, her body is Renald Juste and his children after he lost his wife in the earthquake. still there underneath the building. I’ve four children and now have no money or job to Right: a baby waits for food. Far take care of them.” right: view of Turgeau camp where His youngest, two-year-old Messi, plays on up to 2,000 people are depending his legs as he stirs a pot of food. on aid and food. “I’m in a bad situation, but without this aid Picture:Yonel Louis I wouldn’t survive,” he says. Essentials he receives from GOAL include water, rice and soap. GOAL has directly helped the Further inside the camp in Turgeau by delivering aid emergency camp, to the community. Aid workers artist and hope to increase their food distri“I can’t father-of-five butions in the coming weeks. enter my Wagler Vital is “The objective is to help reduce prices in house making pictures the markets by lessening the demand, says in case with plastic GOAL’s emergency coordinator in Haiti, Briof anbeads on canvas. an Casey. other The 50 year old “Malnutrition has not set in yet, it’s not a earthonce had his major concern. But unless we get the food in quake, own studio in quicker, we are going to have a big malnutriso that’s Port-au-Prince tion problem on our hands within weeks. why we’re before the quake “We’re effectively managing desperation here.” and a huge portfolio here. People are hungry, they’ve no proper Vital hopes of works, photographs shelter, they’ve no food.” to one day open of which he shows. his own studio “I’m happy that while I’m again. here [in the camp] I get food GOAL, supported by Irish from GOAL like rice, beans, oil and Aid, has now done a number of food drops in water.”


the quarter. Local Haiti community leader Francis Liautayd explains the importance of the supplies for the community, which in total numbers 10,000 people. “Nearly all the homes were flattened. Nobody has anywhere to live, but if we can get them basic foods at least that keeps them alive. And then we take the next step after that.” Downtown there are some small signs of life returning to normal. Lawyer John Roudy Aly, 44, queues up at a local money transfer facility. The queue shifts a little and those lined up scramble over mounds of debris to regain their places in the line. Since banks re-opened for business last week, people have queued from dawn until


dusk, desperate to collect money transfers sent by family and friends abroad. Roudy lost his wife in the quake, but can at least access transferred money, unlike thousands left homeless and hungry. “The money’s not for business, but I’ll use it for food and other things,” he says guarding his place in the bank queue. A friend in Canada was sending the cash. The lawyer, who specialises in criminal law and human rights, adds: “Many banks collapsed during the earthquake but it’s very important that Haitins are able to access money now in this way.” While it may take years for Haiti’s citizens to recover from the earthquake, they have already started. And they are going to need help. Lots of it.




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The recession has exposed the poor leadership skills of males who occupy top positions in business and politics

Men behaving badly Tony Humphreys


HE fallout from the economic crash has highlighted the predominance of men in top positions in the banks, financial institutions, and property development companies. Men at the top are also a feature of the front bench (and the back benches) of the government and opposition parties. And this male ruling class is only too apparent in the Catholic Church. These male leaders have not done a good job — cover-ups, arrogance, superiority, greed, recklessness, unethical practices, depersonalisation of staff members and clients, bullying, addiction to success, profits before people, and unrelenting pressures to meet unrealistic targets are just some of the behaviours being exhibited. It was inevitable that capitalism without heart, without regard for people, making the rich richer and the poor poorer, was going to fail. Yet, those few mature voices that predicted the crash were aggressively ignored. There are critical questions to be asked: why are we rearing and educating males to be such poor leaders and managers? Should we question putting men at the helm of our major political, financial, educational, health and religious organisations? Would we be better off putting women into these positions of power? The answer to the latter question is that there is no guarantee women will do better. After all, maturity is not a gender issue, it’s a human one. Furthermore, the male managers and leaders of today have been reared and educated primarily by women. Women still do 90% of the parenting of children, and primary school education is largely in the hands of female teachers (over 90%), and female teachers outnumber male teachers by approximately three to one in second-level education. Most pre-schools are run by women. These statistics beg the question: why is it that women who have so much power in those crucial, formative years of children’s lives are not influencing male and female children to become mature managers? There is no attempt here to put the responsibility for the present economic, religious, social and health service crises on the shoulders of women. After all, no matter what happens to us as children, as adults the matter is in our own hands and it is the responsibility of each of us to resolve any emotional baggage we are carrying from past experiences. Notoriously, males resist this essential self-exploration and have cleverly consigned such mature reflection, and consequent action, to the ‘soft skills’ bin. However, if truth be told, the responsibility for each

male manager to occupy the head and heart of their individuality is the hardest challenge for them to take on — not at all a ‘soft’ ride. However, it is imperative they do, because management without heart is not management at all — effective management is a head and a heart phenomenon, and not the series of mechanical tasks many managers believe it to be. Given that parents are the first managers, and teachers the second managers children encounter, preparation and training for these key management positions needs to be urgently reviewed. The experience of many children and students is the pressure to academically perform, intense competitiveness, anonymity, verbal threats, punishment of failure, over-rewarding of success, and intensity around examinations and examination results. Secondary schools, in particular, are target-fixated and look to Leaving Certificate points as their main criterion for evaluating the school’s effectiveness. Yet, education is no index of maturity, neither is gender nor age, and, certainly, status and wealth are no indicators of maturity. When we view what happens in homes and classrooms, the immature behaviours that brought about the recession are not much different. The policy of education for jobs has not worked. What needs to emerge is an education for individual maturity. Is it then

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The NOT MANAGING WELL: Too many male bosses dismiss self-reflection as a ‘soft skill’. Picture: iStock


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any wonder that the males on top turned out to be such a flop? The worrying fact is that most of our current mangers and leaders continue to occupy these top positions. Why should we belive that they have changed their spots? A relentless examination of their attitudes and actions is called for, and I do not see the bank investigators carrying out such an in-depth analysis. The challenge is to find mature individuals to conduct such an investigation. The examination has to be focussed on individual managers, because it was not the banks nor financial institutions, nor FÁS, nor the government, nor the Catholic Church that perpetrated neglect — it was individuals. I am not suggesting a witch-hunt, but I am concerned that the defensive emotional processes that ran through the veins of our top people be closely examined, and that each of these individuals be supported to resolve these serious blocks to emotional, social and economic prosperity. ■ Dr Tony Humphreys is a clinical psychologist, author, and international speaker. He is director of UCC courses on communication, parent mentoring and relationship studies. His book, The Mature Manager, is available.

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Seething with jealous rivalry one minute, she will defend you to the hilt the next Thrust together from birth, Arlene Harris speaks to four sets of sisters about what is probably the most complex and enduring relationship of their lives


ISTERS are doing it for themselves — and so, it seems, for each other. Female siblings have hit the spotlight in recent weeks, following a new report claiming that women with sisters lead happier lives and are less likely to suffer from depression than those who have to put up with rowdy brothers, or, worse, journey through life as an only child. But the thinking behind the research is quite simple — females communicate more than males, and, with a sister to confide in, argue and banter with, most will benefit from the ability to offload their thoughts. Author of the report, Professor Tony Cassidy, of the University of Ulster, says: “Sisters appear to encourage more open communication and cohesion in families — brothers seem to have the alternative effect.” A new book, by Luisa Dillner, entitled The Complete Book of Sisters, also extols the virtue of sisterly love, but says while the bond between sisters is very powerful, they can also turn from best friends to worst enemies overnight. “Your sister is uniquely placed to love you and stick by you through thick and thin,” says the writer who originally trained as a doctor. “But she’s also the one most likely to stick the knife in — stealing everything from your clothes to your boyfriends. Seething with jealous rivalry one minute, she will defend you to the hilt the next.” Psychologist Niamh Hannon, of Mindworks, says studies have shown that sisters tend to be closer than brothers, but their relationship can go to either extreme. “Some studies reveal brothers as less likely to be close as adults, as they tend be competitive even into adulthood, whereas sisters tend to show real commitment to expressing their emotions and keeping the relationship going,” says Hannon. This, she says, can be down to communication. “Sisters talk together, perhaps more than brothers do. They share secrets and intimacies, clothes and music, and much more. They talk about their feelings and work them out, so this is a strong bonding process which also creates shared memories,” she says. But this closeness can also lead to jealousy. “Sibling rivalry is often very strong between sisters. Research shows they tend to compare themselves on several domains, such as attractiveness, intelligence and success,” she says. “However, sibling rivalry can teach a child many social skills, such as settling arguments, learning to negotiate and social skills that come into every aspect of your life — so there are some good sides to it.” What is it about this apparently emotional relationship that has the ability to make or break a person? With two brothers and three sons, I’m in no position to answer this question, instead I spoke to four sets of sisters to find out just what goes on behind closed doors. ■ The Complete Book of Sisters, Luisa Dillner, F&F, F14.85

NO FRICTION: Gráinne and Síle Seoige, who have worked together on TV, say they never clash either professionally or personally.


RÁINNE and Síle Seoige are well-known personalities in their own right, but they are also famed for being sisters. And despite working in the same profession, the pair have a very close bond that has deepened as they’ve gotten older. As the youngest of the family, Síle says she has always looked up to her big sister and has been able to rely on her throughout their lives together. “When we were kids, we killed each other and because of the age gap, we didn’t have much in common,” she admits. “But as we got older, we have become increasingly close and I know that I could count on Gráinne for anything.” And despite the five-year age difference, 30-year-old Síle has always been able to get an honest answer out of her big sister. “I have lots of great friends, but I can ask my sister things that I would never ask anyone else. I always feel she has my best interest at heart and I can rely on her being truthful. “She doesn’t have an ulterior motive and wouldn’t let me go out in a dress that didn’t suit me,” Síle laughs. Working together last year on the RTÉ afternoon programme Seoige could have been recipe for disaster as, typically, many siblings would struggle to cope with the clash between family and work life, but it had the opposite effect on the Galway sisters. “We are very straight up with each other and although we are similar, we are also very different,” says Síle. “So we don’t clash at all — personally or professionally.” Big sister Gráinne agrees. “We worked together every day for a year and it added greatly to our relationship,” she says. “We get on so well and talk to each other at least once a day.” But things weren’t always like that. As with any siblings, squabbles were are part of daily life. “I was five and a half when Síle was born, so didn’t really have any interest in her,” admits the 35-year-old. “I really envied my two brothers who were closer in age and got on fantastically together. For a long while, all I could do with my sister was give her a bottle and babysit her.” But that all changed as they got older and Gráinne says the unique bond she now enjoys with her little sister could be down to their mother. “The first strong relationship you have is with your mother and I think that’s reason people are close to their sisters is that they share the same mannerisms and perhaps look similar to their mums,” she says. “Síle gets more and more like my mother every day — she laughs like her, has adopted some of her ways and, like my mum, is hugely kind and generous. I don’t know whether I agree with the theory that sisters make everyone happier, but my own sister is one of the greatest joys of my life.”

When we were kids we killed each other and because of the age gap, we didn’t have much in common


T’S a long way from Clare to here for Una Cummins’s four sisters. As the baby of the family, Una is the only one of the five sisters (and one brother) who doesn’t live close to the others in Dublin. But, despite the long distance between them, absence does seem to make the heart grow fonder as the miles have made her appreciate the individual relationship she has with each of her sisters. “My sisters have known me, warts and all, for my whole life,” says the 39-year-old. “And it’s comforting to know that although I don’t see them very often, they would always be there for me. They all have a genuine interest in my life and I never feel they are judging me, although I do have a different relationship with all of them.” ■ Mabel, 51, can be really interesting to talk to on any subject. So anytime we feel like discussing politics she is the one to go to. She is very kind hearted and is always rooting for the underdog.” ■ Annette, 50, is definitely the level headed one. She is very active in her local community, is good fun and extremely organised — but I don’t think she appreciates when Pauline and I constantly rearrange the decorations on her Christmas tree. ■ Maureen, 49, is just lovely, very kind and would never say a bad word about anyone. She loves nothing better than a good party and has organised plenty of great events over the years. She’s also very stylish; which puts the rest of us to shame.” ■ Pauline, 44, is the closest to me in age and has boundless amounts of energy. She is great fun to be around and we talk constantly on the phone. If I lived in Dublin we would probably see each other a lot more, but the daily phone calls are a good compensation.” When Una moved west almost a decade ago, she missed her sisters terribly and with three young children found the lack of practi-

It’s comforting to know that although I don’t see them very often, they would always be there for me cal family support quite difficult. “I could have used some hands-on help and familiar company when my children were small, but they always made the effort to come down and visit, which was wonderful,” she says. “It’s a great comfort to know that they are always there if I need them and we still have a close bond after all these years.”

FAMILY TIES: Una Cummins, above, with an old family photograph of her with her sisters (Picture: Fotaware ) and right, as they are now (l-r): Pauline Cleary, Maureen Lyons, Annette Mooney and Mabel Hanna. Picture: Nick Bradshaw

Page 10: The singing sisters and the dancing sisters

The relationship between sisters is probably the most competitive within the family, but once the sisters are grown, it becomes the strongest relationship — Margaret Mead, anthropologist Feelgood





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We have had our ups and downs M OYA BRENNAN is well known for her haunting vocals as lead singer with Clannad. But she is also the eldest of five sisters and throughout the last five decades, they have weathered storms, been through good times and bad and still remain as close as ever. “We have had our ups and downs over the years, mainly because of age gaps — and in our teens we were probably the most distant,” she says. “But if there was any connection lost during those teenage years, we have definitely reconnected and continue to get closer as we get older.” She has been dubbed the ‘queen of Celtic music’ but this royal title hasn’t distanced Moya from her four sisters who have been there for her through thick and thin. “Sharing problems with your sisters is special because you know they won’t be thrown back at you,” says the 57-year-old. “You can unburden yourself and even if they don’t give you any sympathy, you can still get everything out of your system. “Without a shadow of a doubt, I would tell my sisters my deepest secrets because

GROWING TOGETHER: Moya Brennan, above, and her sisters Bridin, left, and Deirdre.


HE Aspel sisters from Wexford share a love and talent for Irish dancing. Such is their dedication to their hobby, the trio perform together regularly and have recently won an array of medals at the Irish Dancing Championships in San Francisco. At 14 years of age, Claire is the eldest of the three girls (they also have a brother) and like her younger siblings, has been dancing since she was five. She feels their relationship has blossomed due to their love of Irish dancing. “My sisters and I dance together all the time and going to America with them was a great experience,” she says. “Sarah and Aine are great company and I am definitely happier when I am with them.” And like all siblings, the girls do bicker, but making up isn’t that hard to do. “I fall out with my sisters quicker than with my friends, but because we are together so much we have learned to sort it out.” Sarah, 13, believes the girls have a close relationship because they have to rely on each other more than most. “I think that we are closer than any-

one else in the world because we have created a special bond by having to look out for each other when we are away from home,” she says. “We dance together all the time and the adrenalin rush is fantastic — and being able to trust each other completely makes our dancing so much better.” “Sisters are special in many ways and I know that we will be there for each other throughout the years that lie ahead.” Ten-year-old Aine says dancing with her big sisters is a very important part of her life. “I love dancing with Claire and Sarah and we help each other with the steps all the time,” she says. “I can tell my sisters anything and I know they won’t tell anyone else, even if we have a fight — I wouldn’t part with them for the world.”

Sisters are special in many ways. I can tell them anything

there is a trust there that you can’t find anywhere else.” Younger sister Deirdre is a well-known artist and recalls how she looked up to Moya as she was growing up in Donegal. “With nine children in the family, our house was always a busy place,” she says. “We all got on well but there has always been a special bond between us girls (Moya, Deirdre, Bridín, Enya and Olive).” The 50-year-old has particularly good memories of her older sisters. “Moya always shared everything with us from clothes and make-up to advice and time. She was like another mother figure, with the added bonus that we could tell her stuff we couldn’t tell our mum.” Deirdre believes the closeness of sisters could be down to the simple fact of a shared childhood. “Maybe we are all still attached somewhat to the umbilical chord and are bound together because of the myriad of shared experiences and memories,” she says. “Also as females we like to talk so this is probably why we have a stronger bond with each other than with our brothers.” Despite the natural family feuds along the way, Deirdre, like Moya, says age has brought her even closer to her sisters. “Squabbling is part of family life and, as sisters, we have had plenty of spats over the years, but it’s never a

big deal,” she says. “We all know that we are there for each other no matter what — my sisters are like the cushion that protects me from the hardness of life. “Enya is very busy and always coming and going and Olive is in Australia but we keep in contact whenever we can. We will all be together for a family wedding soon, so it will be great.” Youngest sister Bridín also puts family centre stage: “My sisters are so important to me, it goes without saying that we are there for each other, no matter what time of day — or night.” And, it seems, the Brennan sisters will deliver the whole truth and nothing but the truth. “I can always pick up the phone to one of my sisters if I have a problem,” says Bridín. “They might tell me what I want to hear or they might give me a bit of constructive criticism, but I know I will always get an honest answer.” The 41-year-old singer says the difference between sisters and friends is the ability pull together through thick and thin and bounce back after an argument. “If you fall out with a friend, it’s hard to get the close bond back again,” she says. “Whereas if you have a difference with your sister they will forgive and forget. It must be true that blood is thicker than water.”

STEPPING OUT: The Aspel Sisters, Claire, Aine and Sarah from Newbawn, Co Wexford share a special bond through dancing.

A ministering angel shall my sister be —- William Shakespeare Hamlet 5.1 Feelgood


Picture: Patrick Browne




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Roz Crowley


N JANUARY’S cold and miserable weather I gave us all a dispensation to forget about diets and enjoy warming foods, so we could build ourselves up and resist infection. Now we had better settle down to losing those pounds gained due to our lack of exercise during the poor weather. Back to basics is the plan, back to less is best, less empty calories, less fat, less sugar, less snacking, less alcohol. When we feel fit we can think of all the mores we can enjoy: ■ more spring in our step ■ more bright skin ■ more muscle tone ■ more shapely figure ■ more clothes we can fit into. So how easy is it to get our good habits back on track? Let’s get off to a good start by stocking up the cupboard so we always have the makings of a healthy meal to hand. Here are my top 10 store cupboard ingredients: 1. Beans and lentils Canned pulses are full of good fibre and protein, are convenient and a meal can easily be made of them. Make a quick winter salad of lentils by mixing them with finely grated onion, grated carrot, finely shredded cabbage and some chopped capers or gherkins. I like to add some chopped anchovies or a squeeze of anchovy paste too. Add olive oil, a squeeze of lemon, some finely grated or crushed garlic, salt and pepper. Serve with crusty bread. This mixture is great brought to the boil with a little stock or water to make a quick soup or stew. You can add cooked meat, chorizo, sausages, smoked fish such as salmon or trout, or use it on the side as a vegetable accompaniment. 2. Canned fish A few cans of sardines are always in my cupboard. They make a perfect snack served on toasted brown bread or rice cakes to ensure a good supply of protein, calcium and fish oils in the diet. Mash with some chopped fresh tomatoes and add a little horseradish sauce for added flavour. 3. Flour For making a quick sauce, pancakes, pastry for a quick quiche, dusting fish before frying, flour is essential. Quick, savoury scones can be made if you have milk and leftover cheese for use instead of bread. For maximum flavour use unbleached flour. 4. Soy sauce, sweet chilli sauce and chutneys These essentials will rescue most tasteless foods. Add any of them to the end of stir-fried vegetables, fish or meat to make an easy sauce. Add to minced beef burgers before tossing in seasoned


Picture: Fotoware

Basic ingredients Our top 10

flour and frying. A dessertspoon is enough for 500g beef. 5. Tomatoes Canned tomatoes, mashed or pureed, make great, easy soups. Start a curry with some sundried tomatoes for a great, full flavour and add to stews and sauces. Tomatoes containing lots of anti-cancer and healthy cardiovascular lycopene, potassium and vitamins. 6. Pasta, rice, couscous, oatmeal All are superb staples. Pasta can become a feast with the addition of a little olive oil and some crunchy salt. After that some protein in the form of cheese, chopped meat or fish will take it further. Brown basmati rice is my favourite for a quick meal. Bring it to the boil, put a lid on top, turn the heat on low and search the cup-

board for leftovers as it cooks. When tossed in some tomato puree, cooked sausages or chopped ham work a treat with this rice. So too do chopped vegetables softened in olive oil. Add some grated garlic and fresh ginger for cold-resistant nourishment. Wholegrain rice cakes are handy for topping with hummus. 7. Oils Olive oil is essential not just for dressing salads, but for hot foods too. Drizzle over soups and stews. Try almond oil for a change of flavour. Groundnut oil is good for frying and is low in saturated fats. For optimum nutrition use cold-pressed oils. 8. Honey Great to have for comforting drinks with lemon and ginger.

CATHY’S Spelt for Health is a new range of spelt bread mixes made by the Mosse Family of Kells Wholemeal, Bennettsbridge. Following mother-of-six Cathy Whitty’s recipe, it contains wheat, yeast and is sugar free. They are available priced F3.50 at Nash 19 Princes Street, Cork city, Bramley Lodge, Carrigtwohill, Eurospar Schull, Drinagh Supermarket, Supervalu Midleton, Supervalu Barrydown, Ballincollig and other food shops countrywide.


9. Nuts and seeds These make excellent, nutritious additions to meals. High in fibre and good oils, sprinkled on food before serving, they add texture and flavour. Try the mixed seeds sold in health food shops which are good as they are, but even tastier when tossed on a dry pan until lightly browned. Some of the seeds will pop as they heat. Add to rice dishes, on stir fries, winter salads, to breads and scones and on top of carrot cake. Top fish dishes with grilled almonds for extra calcium, protein, iron and B vitamins. 10. Flavoured teas A good addition to the store cupboard to tempt us away from creamy cappuccinos and lattes and provide us with interesting variety.

THE Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) is to provide a new email and SMS text service which will directly inform food allergy sufferers of the presence of allergens in inappropriately labelled foods. Anyone with an interest in this area can subscribe to receive these alerts via the FSAI’s website. The FSAI is gathering information on the incidence and type of allergies in Ireland. If you would like to take part in the survey, visit

FOR the next nine months while the street is being paved, the Saturday market on Cork’s Coal Quay has moved to Emmet Place. This and other markets are an ideal way to shop economically and buy exactly the quantity of food we need without excessive wrapping and avoiding vitamin-losing delays.



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Dr Niamh Houston



Dr Niamh Houston is a GP with a special interest in integrative medicine. If you have a question about your child’s health email it to or send a letter to Feelgood Irish Examiner City Quarter Lapps Quay Cork

MY 11-year-old son was recently diagnosed with shingles. I’m surprised, as I thought only older people were prone to the virus. What causes shingles and why did he get it now? Can you recommend any natural treatments? He had chickenpox as a baby. A. Anyone, young or old, who has had chickenpox can develop shingles. It is an infection of a nerve area caused by the varicella-zoster virus (the same virus that causes chickenpox). The virus does not completely go after you have chickenpox. It remains inactive in the nerve roots, next to your spinal cord. It does no harm there and causes no symptoms. Years later, for reasons that are not clear, the virus can be ‘reactivated’. It then travels along the nerve to the skin, to cause a blister-type rash and pain along a band of skin supplied by the affected nerve. In most cases, an episode of shingles occurs for no apparent reason. Sometimes, a recent illness, or period of stress, seems to trigger it. The immune system helps keep the virus inactive, and a slight weakening may explain why the virus ‘reactivates’ and multiplies to cause shingles. It is more common in older adults, especially those over the age of 50, but can occur at any age. If you have not had chickenpox before, you can catch chickenpox (not shingles) from someone with shingles. The shingles rash is contagious, until all the blisters have scabbed and are dry. The virus is passed on by direct contact with the blisters. Chicken-pox can be dangerous for pregnant women, newborns, and anyone with a poor immune system (people on long-term oral steroids, immunosuppressants, chemotherapy, or with HIV/AIDS) should avoid people with shingles. While your son has a shingles rash, he should not share towels, go swimming, or play contact sports, such as rugby. If the blisters are covered with a dressing, it is unlikely the virus will pass on to others, but it is best to play safe. Besides conventional treatment, such as analgesics and antiviral ointments/tablets, ‘natural’ remedies that may help include supplements such as proteolytic enzymes, particularly bromelain and papin (found in foods such as pineapple and papaya). Also, Capsaicin or capsicum cream (capsaicin is the active ingredient in chilli peppers) has been found to reduce substance P, a neurochemical that transmits pain. Look for a product containing 0.025% capsaicin and apply two to four times a day. Try sponging the blisters with hypericum and calendula solution (five drops of tincture of each to ¼ litre of cooled, boiled water). Q. What can you do to prevent urinary tract infections in children? My four year old was treated for this recently. Will this

NEVER TOO YOUNG: Anyone who has had chickenpox, even children, can contract shingles. Picture:GettyImages

do any long-term damage to her kidneys? A. In school-age children, girls are more likely to develop UTIs (urinary tract infection) than boys — this may be because girls have shorter urethras. Most UTIs occur in the lower urinary tract (the bladder and urethra) and are caused by bacterial infection. Normal urine is sterile and contains no bacteria. Bacteria such as E. coli are present in high numbers around the rectal area, and within the stool. Bacteria can travel up the urethra, into the bladder, and multiply, resulting in an infection. An infection within the bladder (cystitis) is less serious than an infection of the kidneys (pyelonephritis), which can cause damage to the kidneys. When a UTI is present, a child may complain of pain or stinging sensation when urinating, and may need to go more often than usual. Her urine may have a bad odour or appear cloudy. Bed-wetting and ‘accidents’ in children who have good urine control, and have been toilet-trained, can also be a sign of a UTI. If the infection spreads to the kidneys, a high temperature and pain in the lower abdomen or back can develop. A urine sample is tested for things that are not normally present, such as white blood cells, red blood cells and bacteria. While

waiting for the results to be confirmed, which may take a few days, her doctor will probably put your child on a course of antibiotics. A repeat urine culture is necessary three to seven days after completing the course of antibiotics, to ensure the infection has completely cleared. Having a UTI, or recurrent infections, may indicate abnormalities, such as VUR-vesicoureteral reflux (urine abnormally flows backward form the bladders into the ureters). It may even reach the kidneys, where infections and scarring can occur over time. VUR occurs in 1% of children and tends to run in families. It’s often detected after a young child has a first UTI. Most children outgrow mild forms of VUR, but some can develop permanent kidney damage. Your child’s doctor may order tests to detect any such anatomical abnormalities. If no abnormality is found, there are some things children can do to help prevent recurrent UTIs. Encourage your child to urinate as soon as he or she has the urge and not to ‘hold on’. For girls, it is important that they wipe from front-to-back after urinating. Vitamin C increases the acidity of urine, which can help prevent bacterial growth. Drink plenty of fluids (water) to help flush bacteria out, and cranberry juice (unsweetened) helps to make the bladder wall more slippery, preventing bacteria from sticking.

NOTE: The information contained in Dr Houston’s column is not a substitute for medical advice. Always consult a doctor first


Catherine Shanahan MUM’S WORLD Feelgood

IVEN the best cure for a short temper is a long walk, riding shanks’ mare is a popular pastime in our house. When the source of the sulk is a child, letting off steam outdoors is as therapeutic a treatment as any amount of mollycoddling or Ben 10 accessories. Fitzgerald’s Park, post-hissy fit, is perfect. Flanked by University College Cork on one side and the riverside gardens of Sunday’s Well on the other, it’s railings are high enough to contain any hothead within 18 acres of space. It was against this backdrop of manicured magnificence that my Pet Peeve, his sister and I set forth after a particularly stinking dose of the huffs. We had barely hit our stride when he bolted from my side, across an out-of-bounds flowerbed towards the slightly stooped figure of a stone man whose carved underpants and

crouched limestone legs left little to Lughaidh’s imagination. Gesturing excitedly and beckoning me to join him, the excitement of his discovery overtook him. Before Dearbhail and I could reach him, the little voice rang out, clear and distinctive as a bell. “I think he’s doing a pooh Mammy, look! he roared, as I tried to dive for cover, in vain. For fear I hadn’t heard him he repeated his assessment as passersby snorted in their scarves. I contemplated legging it but a mother’s bound by duty and the next best thing to bolting was to laugh. Amid my manic laughter I ran towards my town-cryer, a diversion foremost on my mind. But before I reached the target I saw him raise his hand and smack the stone man square on his behind. Chastising him for failing to use a proper toilet he lectured him on what big boys should do: “You’re old enough and bold


enough and I shouldn’t have to tell you to use the loo when you do your pooh!” I admit the words were mine, I could hardly have denied them, but the actions he did not pick up at home. Smacking’s not my thing — for pleasure or for pain — violence is a sport I don’t condone. I heard a snorted whisper of “I wonder where he saw that” and caught the pointed looks that came my way. The sideshow all but over, spectators shuffled off, leaving me to wallow in my shame. I hid behind the stone man to recover my composure, Lughaidh held firmly in my grasp. I said prayers for the stone man’s maker, for his naked sense of humour carved forever in a four foot limestone slab. On a small plaque by his feet I read the word ‘Reflection’ and before I bid him adieu, I accepted there are some days when we are the pigeon and some days when we are the statue.




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New screening on way


OLORECTAL cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer among men and women in Ireland. About 2,200 new cases are diagnosed every year and approximately 1,000 people die from it. So, it’s good news then that bowel cancer screening for the 60-69 age group is being introduced by the Department of Health and Children. “The decision to carry out screening colonoscopies using the resources in the existing hospital makes economic sense in the current climate, but we must ensure that the problem of waiting times for colonoscopies, which we have highlighted for many months now, is tackled before any screening colonoscopies take place,” says John McCormack, CEO of the Irish Cancer Society. “Waiting times for colonoscopies are still unacceptably long in many of the country’s large hospitals with an increase in waiting times in recent months. There are now 911 patients waiting longer than three months for a colonoscopy even though the minister herself instructed the HSE to ensure that the waiting time would not be longer than four weeks.” The Irish Cancer Society has offered F1 million to the Government towards the rollout of a full screening programme, and is seeking a commitment for a more comprehensive programme to include the 55-74 age group.

Deirdre O'Flynn

MOSTLY MEN The plan is to offer free screening initially to 400,000 people in the 60-69 age group. Screening will commence in early 2012. The programme will be operated by the National Cancer Screening Service in co-operation with the Health Service Executive and will be extended to all those aged 55-74 years of age as logistics and resources allow. The 60-69 year age group contains about 50% of all cases of colorectal cancer in the 55-74 year age band, and other countries, including England, Sweden and Finland, have aimed their programmes on this 60–69 year age group also, according to the Department of Health and Children. At the announcement of the screening programme recently, Minister Mary Harney also mentioned other health initiatives, including the opening of three Rapid Access Clinics for prostate cancer detection and treatment at St James’ Hospital Dublin, St Vincent’s Hospital Dublin and Galway University Hospital, and rapid access lung cancer centres in Dublin and Waterford.

ROLLING OUT: Minister of Health Mary Harney and CEO of the National Cancer Screening Service, Tony O’Brien, at the announcement of plans to establish a national colorectal screening service. Picture: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland

Website to support our 10,000 stroke victims

Older people afraid of being dependent

THE Irish Heart Foundation has launched the country’s first website dedicated to stroke called to support 10,000 people who are struck down by brain attacks in Ireland every year. “The Irish Heart Foundation is engaged in an intensive campaign to secure the change necessary to eliminate avoidable death and disability from stroke in this country,” says Chris Macey, Irish Heart Foundation Head of Advocacy.

LOSS of independence and declining health are the greatest fears among seniors, according to new research from Home Instead Senior Care. Other fears included running out of money, not being able to live at home, the death of a spouse, inability to manage daily living, not being able to drive, isolation, strangers caring for



HE first day of the Chinese TFebruary New Year 2010 begins on 14, also Valentine’s Day,

which makes it doubly auspicious in the West, according to Cork-based acupuncturist and herbalist Christine Stacey. 2010 is the year of the tiger and Irish celebrations will include the Chinese New Year festival in Dublin from February 12 to 21 with a range of events, including crafts and storytelling workshops, two new tiger cubs at Dublin zoo and a carnival at Wolfe Tone Park/Jervis St. Many events are free and more details are available on


“In November 2009, we launched a stroke manifesto which outlined a 16-point plan to improve stroke services here. We hope will play a vital role in enabling people in every corner of Ireland to support our efforts both to improve services in their local area and nationally.” The new website contains a campaign centre providing a step-by-step guide on how to communicate with politicians effectively. also provides information and advice for stroke survivors and their families.

them, and a fear of falling or hurting themselves. “Seniors value their independence and want to remain at home as long as possible,” says Ed Murphy, chief executive of Home Instead Senior Care. “As a society, we must find ways to help older loved ones maintain their independence and live at home.

DId you know...

Circumcised men are less likely to become infected with HIV

Source: Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) and Johns Hopkins University, US

Chinese Year of the Tiger STAY CALM: Taking fresh air and exercise and, if possible, including some relaxing exercise that will also calm the mind, are especially beneficial, says Christine Stacey. “Most importantly, make time for sleep, for that is when the body repairs itself from the toll of the day’s activities. Finally, be kind to yourself. Times are tough for many people, self- love and acceptance will act as a buffer against many of the challenges that the immune system deals with.”

IMMUNE SUPPORT: Many nutritional supplements can help speed recovery from the common cold, including vitamin C which boosts the immune system. According to Sona, the manufacturers of a new chewable lozenge, some evidence suggests that zinc also helps immune cells to fight a cold, and in trials, zinc lozenges have reduced the duration of colds in adults. Sona ZinC Chewable has 7mg zinc and 300mg vitamin C per tablet, as well as 35mg bioflavonoids and 5mg acerola. Sona ZinC Chewable are F4.95 for 24 tablets, available in pharmacies and healthfood stores.


ENERGY BOOST: “The tiger is hardworking and predatory, quite capable of defending loved ones against all enemies,” says Christine Stacey. “In terms of health this can relate to the immune system, tirelessly working to protect us. “At this time of year, boost your immune system by eating nourishing soups, stews and casseroles, following the Chinese view that warm foods are eaten in the winter and cold foods such as salads are taken in the summer. If you have to eat salads and raw foods, then have a bowl of soup or add warming herbs such as ginger at the same time.”

HEALTHY DRINK: According to Chinese legend, tea was discovered by an emperor 4,000 years ago. Regular cups of green tea are known to increase metabolic rate and maintain cardiovascular health and healthy cognitive function. Higher Nature produces High Antioxidant Green Tea at F7.50, which comes in convenient granules that dissolve instantly in hot water, with 1g providing a guaranteed minimum 2.5% (25mg) green tea catechins.




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The news on ... SCARLETT FOR MANGO THE new collection from Mango as modelled by Scarlett Johansson, pictured here, is out and we’re loving her look. As well as big hair and an edgy smokey eye, Johannson is rocking a super-sexy nude lip, which is set to be big once more for summer. Go pale and interesting with Yves Saint Laurent’s Rouge Volupté in Nude Beige, F29.50.

Emily O’Sullivan

Now the long dark evenings are disappearing it’s time to scrub up for a brighter look



’M over this whole winter malarkey. Yes, it’s cold. But it’s the dullness that’s wearing me down. Last autumn I thought it would be chic and interesting to buy a whole load of grey jumpers, cardis, dresses and scarves. Now I’ve been wearing them for close to five months and I’m starting to look like something out of the film The Road. I couldn’t be more monotoned if I tried — skin, jumper, dress — they all match in the most alarmingly way possible. Of course, the wind-mashed hair and the look of sheer terror — winter may never end — in my tiny bloodshot eyes doesn’t help. Around this time of year, just getting through the day can be a tough chore. But if you have to present yourself to an office, or even just the world at large, the nightmare increases, and trying to get to a 10.30 meeting without looking like a post-apocalyptic Pauline Fowler is a bold feat indeed. The one thing we need in February, and the one thing that seems impossible to achieve, is a glow. “Glow” is one of those words that the beauty industry loves to bandy about because it knows we’re suckers for the look. The reality is that very, very few products out there can give you a glow. We’ve tried a lot and one of the best is MAC’s classic Strobe Liquid, F30.50. This little baby really does make your skin look lit from within. But it takes ages to apply these products and foundation and powder and blusher, and all the other stuff before heading out the door in the morning. One of the best ways of ensuring you’ve got your glow on is to prepare — and this means decent moisturising and exfoliating. Exfoliating may seem like a skincare cliché at this stage, but it does work. Your skin loses its

NEW SEASON NAIL POLISHES Dump your gothic black, there’s a new set of soon-to-be-cult nail polishes in town.

A light touch glow partly because of an accumulation of skin cells that hang around and give you a Night of the Living Dead-type of look. Dead skin cells absorb light, whereas you want to reflect it — hence the amount of beauty products that harp on about “light-reflecting particles”. Scrub those old cells away, and a look of rosiness is instantly delivered to your cheeks. We like having a mini exfoliation session before going out — it leaves your skin looking smooth and shiny and gets you noticed. Go easy, though, and remember your skin is a delicate thing — too rough exfoliation (or using a harsh flannel) can irritate your skin, giving you a ruddy bucolic look rather than the soft English rose aura you’re after. For a lighter look, opt for a tinted moisturiser rather than a foundation. Once your skin is properly hydrated, a tinted moisturiser is all you need (although you may want

to cover up any ruddiness with a little concealer). Bobbi Brown’s Extra SPF 25 Tinted Moisturising Balm, F50 is an excellent choice because it gives light coverage while also delivering really deep hydration to the skin). If you really want a good light, glowing effect, dust over a little of Prescriptives’ Magic Powder, F41.50 — it makes skin look really quite amazing. If you’re after more of a healthy, gently bronzed look, opt for Benefit’s One Hot Minute, F24.50, a nifty little rose gold powder that gives your skin a good dose of oompf. Highlighters are often recommended for giving skin a glowing effect, but iridescence during the day can look quite artificial and a little strange, especially used across the cheeks. Instead, mix a little with your foundation if you need to and opt for a creamy blusher to give you a more natural glowing look.

Chanel Le Vernis in Particulaire, F20.50. There was a whole lot of brouhaha over last season’s jade nail polish from Chanel, but it wasn’t even launched in Ireland, making it doubly hard to get. Now, thankfully, their latest must-have shade is available as part of their spring 2010 colour collection. Particulaire is a kind of brown-grey shade that acts as a perfect foil to some of summer’s shockingly bright spring/summer styles. Estee Lauder Nail Lacquer in Bungalow Pink, F17. What a great hot pink spring shade. It’s juicy and bold and lasts a really long time. This is a great one to go for if you’re starting to tire of the recent gothic blacks. Bright and peppy. MAC Blissed Out Nail Lacquer, F12.50. Nudes are a big, big look for spring right across the board. This shade from MAC’s new Warm & Cozy collection is a great way of getting the look, bringing a light, natural and pretty flush of nude back to beauty.

STUFF WE LIKE Clinique Sheer Moisture Tint SPF 15, F26. This is a lovely sheer and light tinted moisturiser that gives a real touch of freshness to the skin. If you find tinted moisturiers too light then mix a little with a dab of existing foundation, or else finish with a touch of concealer and loose powder for a more finished look. No7 Lift and Luminate Day Cream, F27.75. No7’s latest line of products is specifically targeted to, well, lift and luminate. This day cream has a rich texture and delivers excellent hydration throughout the day. It also contains the same proven anti-ageing ingredients found


in the Protect & Perfect range. Bound to be one of this year’s bestsellers.

product. Fruit enzymes get rid of the nasty dead skin cells very gently and it definitely does give the skin a fresher, brighter look.

Benefit One Hot Minute, F24.50. We’re not fond of bronzers during the colder months (you should be bigging up the pale these days, it’s cooler), but if you want a more bronzy glow to your skin, then try this new loose powder from Benefit. It has a light deep gold tint to it and a slight sparkle, which combine to give you a healthy glow. Super pretty with a nude lipstick.

MAC Blushcreme in Ladyblush, F21.50. Ladyblush? Not entirely sure about the name, but this is a great shade of blusher in a formulation that suits end-of-winter dry skin perfectly. Dewy and fresh, the cool pink shade gives the cheeks a touch of pretty rose bloom with glow aplenty.

Guinot Fresh Radiance Exfoliating Peel-Off Mask, F31.10 at Hate exfoliating but love face masks? Well, this is a great two-in-one

Liz Earle Superskin Moisturiser, F13.25 for 15ml. This is a great moisturiser, it’s substantial and soothing on the skin — the kind of cream you actually look


forward to putting on. It’s got pomegranate extract and vitamin E to act as antioxidants and has been described by co-author of the Beauty Bible, Jo Fairley, as “the greatest moisturiser ever created”. For extra help, try the night-time treatment Superskin Concentrate, F20.25 for 10ml. Eve Lom Radiance Cream, F85. Destined to be a cult product for 2010, Eve Lom’s cream is a soft and gentle radiance-boosting moisturiser. It can also be used around the delicate eye area, doing away with the need for an extra eye cream. Light, comforting and soothing.




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Q Megan Sheppard Do you have a question for Megan Sheppard? Email it to or send a letter to Feelgood Irish Examiner City Quarter Lapps Quay Cork

OVER the last few months I feel as if I have no energy and I am constantly tired. I am in my late 20s, follow a very healthy diet, and exercise four times weekly. I have gone to my doctor but I feel frustrated when the only response I get is a prescription. I have extremely brittle nails that constantly peel. My breath the last few months has an unpleasant odour and sometimes a metal-like taste. Though they have started to clear up, I also have spots underneath the skin around my jawline and chin. I eat very little red meat and no chicken, but I supplement my diet with fish, beans, pulses and vegetables. I have low iron even though I am taking iron supplements for a long time. I also take vitamin C, Echinaforce, milk thistle and Skin Hair & Nail supplements. What vitamins or supplements would you recommend? Also I am quite confused if I should go to see a homeopath, nutritionist or dietary therapist? I am unsure which one would be of benefit. A. You seem to be suffering from an iron deficiency. However, supplementation has obviously been ineffective in boosting your iron stores. Most prescription iron tablets have an absorption rate of around 2-10%, and typically come with the unwanted side effect of constipation. I prefer the Floradix range of iron tonics, which are a liquid preparation using supportive herbs and nutrients to maximise absorption. Not only is this combination non-constipating, it also has a much higher absorption rate, at around 25%. If you prefer to avoid allergens such as yeast and gluten, then choose the Floravital formulation. I would recommend seeing an acupuncturist who also specialises in nutrition. While many people see acupuncture as a ‘physical’ modality, typically reserved for the rehabilitation of injury and musculoskeletal pain, it is much more than this. An ancient technique, it stimulates key points in the body to restore balance to the bodily systems. Your diet and lifestyle sound excellent, but nutrient absorption seems to be at the root of your symptoms. If you have been taking the supplements you mention for a long time, with no significant results, then I suggest you take a break. Sometimes our bodies get overloaded and this places an extra burden on the adrenals, kidneys, and liver. This would also explain your detox-like observations, such as fatigue, spots and unpleasant breath. If you want to start with a clean slate regarding supplementation, then start with the liquid Floravital, and add to this a quality probiotic.

IRON OUT: Though your diet may be balanced, it’s still possible to suffer from an iron deficiency, which can deplete energy reserves. Picture: GettyImages

Keep it simple for a while, drinking plenty of pure water and continuing with your healthy lifestyle, and reassess after a few months. Once you have a healthy gut environment, the rest of your body is better able to function effectively due to the higher levels of nutrients being absorbed. There are a couple of secondary issues that you might want to take into consideration. Firstly, thyroid issues can cause many of the symptoms described, so do have your thyroid functioning checked. Secondly, the fatigue and malabsorption you describe are frequently linked to candida overgrowth (which does not necessarily mean that thrush is an issue — it can affect the body in a myriad of ways), and/or dietary intolerances, typically wheat and dairy. Q. I have been told it is better to drink distilled water than filtered water. I know water is very important to good health, so was wondering what your opinion is on this matter? A. This is an issue which continues to divide health enthusiasts the world over. I believe distilled water can be extremely use-

Megan puts the spotlight on:


T’S common for individuals to suffer some form of hearing loss without even being aware of it. Hearing issues can occur if a problem arises at any point in the hearing pathway — from the outer ear through the middle ear, and in the complex auditory nerve pathway with the brain. Here are some questions worth considering to help you determine if hearing loss is affecting your quality of life: 1. Do you have a history of ear infections or earache? 2. Can you hear better with one ear than the other? (e.g. when you use the telephone) 3. Does background noise make it difficult for you to follow a conversation? 4. Do others complain that you have the television or radio turned up too loud? 5. Do you frequently ask people to


repeat themselves? 6. Are you accused of not paying attention to conversation? 7. Do you have difficulty comprehending words even though you have heard them? 8. Do you miss telephone calls and callers at the door? 9 Do you avoid social occasions or busy places because the noise makes it too difficult to hear or concentrate? 10. Is conversation in a group situation difficult for you to follow? If you have answered yes to one or more of these questions it is worth getting your hearing checked to determine if there is a problem. Hearing loss can be congenital, which means it occurs at or soon after birth, or acquired. Conductive hearing loss is caused by damage or blockage in the middle and/or outer ear, and is typically treated by medical or surgical assistance.

Hearing Sensorineural hearing loss, on the other hand, is where damage to the cochlea or hearing nerve impacts on the quality of hearing. People can also experience mixed hearing loss, where both conductive and sensorineural loss are present. Just as other body parts are affected by genetics, illness, accidents, and ageing, so too is your hearing. Do have your ears and hearing checked if you feel that there may be some deterioration, even if it is very gradual. For more information: ■ The Irish Hard of Hearing Association — ■ Irish — ■ The Irish Society of Hearing Aid Audiologists —


ful in the short term, particularly if you wish to remove toxins from the body, but it is not suitable for everyday long-term use. The process by which water is distilled involves boiling, evaporation, and then vapour condensation, leaving it free of minerals. This is precisely why distilled water is so effective at drawing toxins from the body. The problem with continued use of distilled water is that it will then draw the necessary minerals from your body, leading to multiple deficiencies. When you consider that your body is 75% water (97% for newborn babies), it is no wonder that moderate dehydration contributes to so many health complaints. The Tipperary Natural Mineral Water Company sources its water from Borrisoleigh, where the Devil’s Bit mountains form a large natural filter. This award-winning water is exceptionally pure and has had no treatment other than filtration. For more information on why water is so important, I suggest that you read Dr Batmanghelidj’s essential book, Your Body’s Many Cries for Water, Tagman Press.

ONE TO WATCH MISSED Oprah on TV? Never mind, you can catch up with the communications guru, pictured here, on her website 24 hours a day. It’s updated daily with highlights of the five-day TV schedule, along with layer after layer of interviews, financial advice, recipes, DIY tips and words of wisdom. It’s all highly addictive. I usually log on after the children have gone to sleep to catch up with what’s happening Chicago side. My resolve to spend five minutes and no more on the site nearly always unravels. No matter what the topic, Oprah’s signature is evident, with every page urging you to “live your best life”. Irene Feighan




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Feelgood 05-02-2010  

Feelgood is a health and wellbeing supplement published by the Irish Examiner every Friday.