My eyeballs ache

When I’ve got a hangover, my eyes feel really sore and tired. Why is this and what can I do to alleviate it quicker?
Jamie Wilson, Hemel Hempstead

“Drink lots of water,” says Specsavers optometrist Sejal Patel, “at least before you go to bed.” What’s happening here is your eyes are becoming dehydrated thanks to the booze in your system, which in turn affects your blood vessels. Quaffing a pint or two of water before you stagger off for some shut-eye should help sort it out. So how do you alleviate it quicker, if this doesn’t do the trick? “In more extreme cases, ‘cold compresses’ can be used by placing cucumber slices on each of your eyes for 10-20 minutes at a time,” reckons Sejal. Ditto putting your hair up in a towel and bitching about Posh Spice.

Can I drink muscles?

We all know gym/fitness basics – eat less, work out more and you’ll lose weight and gain muscle. So what’s with all these protein shakes, supplements and the like? They’re everywhere nowadays and damn expensive. Are they actually any good or simply just a fad, marketed at the vanity of us menfolk like slimming pills are to women? Could they be harmful in the long term? And if you’re going to take supplements, which are the best?
Robert Pindar, via e-mail

If this modern craze for necking supplements makes you feel like Edmund Blackadder battling against his leech-crazed doctor, relax. They’re not harmful (well, not the ones you can buy over the counter anyway), but you’re right to try to find out more about them. “A good basic supplement regime can be tailored to meet your specific exercise or training plan,” says Alice Bradshaw, Solgar nutritionist and personal trainer. For strength training/muscle building, Bradshaw recommends “whey protein powders, multivitamin/mineral formulas and essential fatty acids”. Come again? “Read the labels.” And if a suspiciously buff type in the gym offers you some of his ‘special supplements’ at a cut price? Just make sure his name isn’t Dwayne Chambers first…

Will my liver explode?

After drinking, and sometimes during a session, I get a shiver that starts in the small of my back and progresses up my body. Are my alcohol excesses finally coming home to roost? Is my liver packing in?
Joshua Steggle, Brighton

When you’re a student and necking twenty pints of Uri Geller a night, liver damage seems almost laughably inapplicable. But you’ll be surprised how quickly five nights a week on the sauce catches up on your poor old liver. If you are worried about your ‘Suwannee River’, Kate Birch, Medical Officer for the British Liver Trust recommends taking your yellowing skin down to the doctor’s quick-smart. “Go to your GP and ask for a liver function test. And reconsider how much alcohol you drink. You should only be drinking 3-4 units a day.” Which is only one pint of lager a night. Plus it gets worse: “The British Liver Trust also recommends that you give your liver a break and take two consecutive days off alcohol each week.”

I walk like a robot

I keep straining my calf muscle when I run about. The doctor’s advised I do some stretching, as I cycle a lot and that’s the likely cause – with the muscle being too taut. So how do you stretch your calf muscle and achilles tendon area? There’s stretches available for just about every major muscle, but I’m buggered if I can find anything for my calf, other than the one movement I learnt in PE at school, which I already do…
Steve Bentley, Edinburgh

All round rock’n’roll fitness expert Mike Weeks ( isn’t impressed you asked your quack for stretching advice. “You wouldn’t ask a hooker about safe sex, would you?” he grumbles. So what do you suggest, Weeksy? “Calves are bastards to train and stretch,” reckons our gruff guru. “And stop running around with a dodgy calf!” Mike reckons you’re best off getting a partner to help you by stretching the muscle out while you lie on your back. So we can’t just use the curb or do the step raise? “When the leg has weight on it the muscles still need to contract so they will essentially fight against lengthening.” Anything else? “Best to stretch after a bath and before bed. Get the missus to push your toes towards your shin for 30 secs. Keep going until your toes touch the tip of your nose! Personally, I’d do some downhill sprints to keep the buggers strong.” Now that’s never going to happen.

Is running pointless?

I run a couple of miles three times a week and feel good for it. But I’ve been told that the distance I run is negligible and I need to increase this for it to have any benefit. Surely not?
Alan Raimer, via e-mail

You’re doing something right, according to Runner’s World ( expert Liz Hufton. “This is a good start, although in the long term it won’t be enough to see real benefits.” “Try adding another 20-minute run for three or four weeks, then a fifth run for three or four weeks,” says Hufton. And if you’re still getting so bored your runs turn into extensive walks? “Substitute a couple of runs for other types of exercise – cycling to work, five-a-side football or swimming,” concludes our expert.

Hygienist, schmygienist

My dental hygienist charges fifty quid a pop to clean my teeth. She reckons it’s important to get them done twice a year, but am I just contributing towards her holiday? Is there any lasting medical benefit to what they do?
Mickey Dublin, Bath

Cynicism aside, Denplan’s Dr Henry Clover reckons there is some benefit to shelling out. “Some people may only need to have their teeth professionally cleaned occasionally, particularly if their gums are healthy. So twice a year is fine.” And if there’s claret in the basin each time you go near your pegs? “Others may need to go on a more regular basis, particularly if they’re at risk from gum disease. It’s not just about removing surface staining. Pro cleaning removes tartar from under the gum line.” Just get an exact monetary breakdown of your dentist’s claims.

How to beat cancer

Like the National Lottery, it could be you…

Get screened
Results from a pilot scheme run by University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust showed that early bowel cancer screening halves the number of hospital admissions and, in both cases, cut the number of deaths in the area.

Munch tomatoes
Nutritionist Juliet Kellow talks up the humble tomato’s prowess thanks to the presence of lycopene, an antioxidant with powerful Big C-busting capabilities.

Shed blubber
Researchers at the Duke Prostrate Centre and John Hopkins Hospital have found that the PSA test used to detect prostate cancer is less effective on lard-arses. Why? Because the sheer amount of blood in their system renders the test ineffective. Plus it makes examining doctors feel a bit sick.

Eat less bacon
Yes, it’s extremely bad news breakfast-wise if the recent study from the World Cancer Research Fund is anything to go by. As Project Director Professor Martin Wiseman puts it, “Someone who eats bacon every day is more likely to develop bowel cancer than someone who doesn’t eat processed meat at all’.

Forget the tan
A government report last year announced plans to ban tanning salons in an attempt to cut down on malignant melanoma. This skin-based nasty is killing more people than ever in the UK, so cover up when you’re out catching some rays. Don’t burn to tan.