Saturday, December 29, 2007

Shampoo alert

Don't follow my advice about buying Tesco shampoo. The conditioner's still fine but the shampoo has been bothering me since I used it. It's Christmas and I'm already pushing my tolerance levels to the limit, eating dodgy chocolates and fudge with funny flavourings and accepting foods pushed at me because they're bound to be okay (although to be fair everyone's been very kind and tried to help. I had rice pudding on Christmas Day following by a chocolate Christmas cake). This morning I used the shampoo and it might have been acid. My skin hated it. I then checked the ingredients - there are lots of chemical names, none of them readily identifiable with wheat or maize. The only identifiable ingredient is castor oil - which is made from the castor bean and is by no stretch of the imagination wheat or corn. I'll be writing to Tesco...

Sunday, December 23, 2007

A Happy Christmas!

A very happy and joyful Christmas to all and a reminder that the season is about more than food!

A year ago I reflected on this subject a couple of days before Christmas and talked of how the changes in my life were helping me to contemplated the true meaning of the season.

At that point I hadn't reckoned on the challenges of Christmas Day - trying to wash rock-hard, dry turkey steak down with watered whisky and watching, while still hungry (hungry at Christmas dinner) whilst others wolfed on thick Christmas pudding and dark, sweet Christmas cake.

Since then we've perfected the art of cooking a juicy joint with minimal seasoning. We can produce salicylate-free gravy and I don't try to substitute whisky for wine any more. I'll keep the whisky in a separate glass and enjoy it properly. I'm still losing weight in December rather than gaining it after having politely refused umpteen mince pies.

But the essence of that meditation remains. Christmas lunch may not be so enjoyable but the real joys of the season are still there for the taking.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Hair care

Sometime ago I found a conditioner in Tesco called "wheatgerm and cornsilk" and have been using that pretty successfully.

I paid another trip to Tesco's and this time found a shampoo with the same ingredients. Of course if you have wheat intolerance it's the opposite of what you want but now, for me, it is ideal and these are pretty well the only plant products I can handle.

Eating fish

Since my recent discoveries about Samter's Triad and omega 3, I have stepped up the eating of fish. Let's hope the oceans don't run dry through overfishing, as some people fear may happen.

The trouble is that cooking fish is not easy and certainly not fast. You can buy frozen battered fish and that's simple to cook but takes a little time.

I've tried cooking white fish in the past and struggled to make it tasty. These days they seem to sell it as just "white fish", I guess because cod is increasingly rare and it's probably Alaskan pollock.
I'm looking for quick meals and so far I've tried:
cooking in a white sauce - this curdled after I added cheese;
grilling - you can't go wrong but without seasonings you can't taste it either;
frying and battering - the instructions were on the packet and involved beaten egg and breadcrumbs. Presumably people buy crumbs in packets as my bread signally failed to crumble. I ended up with some partially battered fish and frying the bread crust and remainder of the egg together - using rapeseed oil of course;
spaghetti sauce - not recently as I seem to recall it was hard to get any taste out of the fish. You can't add soy sauce as it completely kills what taste there is of fish and besides, may be high in omega-6 but that's not clear to me yet.

I've also in the past used tinned fish with spaghetti sauce, such as sardines, and then the problem is the opposite. If you're not careful you end up with a mixture that is too rich.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Toothpaste

Curiously one of the most popular postings on this blog dates from well over a year ago when I discussed my concerns about toothpaste.

At the time I thought my problem was with wheat and my research on toothpaste identified it tends to include a substance called cellulose gum. I was unsure at the time as I found out that cellulose tended to include wood and cotton pulp. After we realised the problem was salicylate allergy, it seemed these concerns were right and these substances were better avoided.

So since then I've given up using toothpaste and am better off without it. My dentist has advised scrubbing hard for at least five minutes and a dental professional posting on the blog suggests using a fluoride mouthwash as well. As our local water is fluoridated and I still drink plenty of tap water, that's probably not necessary.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Another mystery explained

A few months ago I went to a seafood restaurant as a somebody's guest and had a wonderful platter of sea-foods soaked in olive oil. It was delicious - I can still taste it. Normally I wouldn't touch olive oil as so far as I know it contains salicylate but as I was a guest and this was an expensive meal I was too polite to refuse.

I had taken a Singulair but I was still surprised at how well the meal went down. Very few ill-effects and normally the more expensive the restaurant, the worse the effects.

Now I have an answer - because fish of course contains omega 3 while meat I think contains omega 6. So the meal was low in omega 6 even if it was not zero salicylate.

So I need more fish in the diet.

Coconut oil?

A quick reading of Ray Peat's work suggests he favours coconut oil possibly topped up with vitamin B6. A better link to his work is this one.

Coconut is I believe high in omega 3 and low in omega 6 so that sounds promising. I seem to recall it also high in salicylate - but it might be worth a try...

The omega syndrome

I've been trying to make sense of all the new information that has emerged from the discovery of Samter's Triad. If Wikipedia and one or two other articles are to be believed, this is quite a well researched condition.

The following is an entirely unscientific account of the situation pieced together in my head over the last 24 hours:

The salicylate hypersensitivity seems to be caused by an interaction of salicylate and omega-6 fats, perhaps only some omega-6 fats as it's a substance called arichadonic acid. This interaction leads to excessive production of inflammatory substances called leukotrienes. So it seems the problem we have is not with the body's handling of salicylate but with its handling of omega 6.

Omega 6 and omega 3 are essential fatty acids, found in various mixtures in most oils and fats. Sunflower oil is rich in omega 6 and rapeseed oil in omega 3.

It's the leukotrienes that cause a range of allergy-like symptoms. Unlike pure allergy, however, they may not represent an immune reaction. Singulair works by blocking them - so must be pretty good.

So the worst thing possible would be a diet rich in omega 6 and salicylate. The ideal diet would be low in omega 6 and zero salicylate. And a low salicylate, rich omega 6 diet might also prove not very effective - and that may explain why attempts to reintroduce are not very successful.

Now I've been avoiding sunflower oil and all unspecificied vegetable oils, especially margarine, because I thought they might contain salicylate. And I've been using rapeseed oil because I thought it was zero salicylate. So that's just a lucky coincidence.

Interestingly a couple of weeks ago a bottle of sunflower oil popped up in our shopping and that was about the time I got terrible rheumatism of the neck and shoulders. Last night I went to a function and had lots of cheese, ham and egg sandwich. This morning I've woken up with a sore eye and other minor symptoms. Good chance they were spread with margarine.

Of course omega 6 is found all over the place. The really bad news is that it's rich in cashew nuts, which are the only salicylate free nuts. I've been relying on them for snacking and quick lunches, although I must admit I've had my doubts about whether they are okay.

So what would be the impact of trying to eliminate omega 6 from the diet? Apparently it's an essential fatty acid - that means you have to have it in the diet. If you follow the links through Wikipedia you come to prostaglandins and it becomes very unclear how important they are. I think I read that omega 6 deficiency leads to hair loss, dry skin and possibly increased prostate cancer risk. Dry skin sounds familiar.

But if the body isn't handling omega 6 well in any case and is wrongly converting it to leukotrienes rather than other substances, are we already sufferring from the effects of omega 6 deficiency?

Wiki-browsing leads me to a biologist called Ray Peat who suggests there may be other ways of compensating for essential fatty acid deficiencies. I'm posting the link without even having read his work yet - but will be browsing it.

I promised an unscientific run-around. If you're an expert, I'd welcome your comments but do try not to make them too technical.

Friday, December 07, 2007

A name!

There was a rather mawkish if notable episode of the Golden Girls when one of the women was supposed to develop chronic fatigue syndrome. This is a fairly controversial condition and the episode - or may be several - documented this woman's battle to get her condition recognised. She didn't find a treatment but eventually somebody gave it "a name" - it might have been CFS or the more fancy name of myalgesic encephalitis (I think that's right).

So imagine my joy at finding a fancy name for salicylate hypsersensitivy. I was browsing the web looking for information on Singulair and came across it. Here is the Wikipedia entry - Samter's Triad.

Now Samter's Triad is only one kind of salicylate allergy but it tells the story of how this is a monster with many heads.

Samter's even has two other fancy names,Widal's triad and Francis' triad. It is I think regarded as a kind of asthma but look at the history of it.

It can start with a stuffy nose - that's been a problem all my life. Then you get nasal polyps - growths on the nose. I wouldn't like to admit to this but there's certainly something there, not too bad thankfully. Mercifully I didn't go on to develop severe asthma - although mysterious chest pains were part of the panoply of odd symptoms that were around before I eventually got pushed into going to see the GP.

The wonderful doctor who treated me might have been even quicker with a diagnosis if he knew about Samter's Triad.

More on this to follow, I think.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Not decaf

I went to a couple of meetings last week at a venue with a coffee machine, serving filtered coffee. I was pleased to see it had sachets of decaf.

The first day, somebody got the coffee for me. Later on I was surprised to find myself surprisingly awake and even hyper. There were also odd spasms in my tongue and that tightening of the throat. And my stiff neck got not better. I wondered whether the person who got the coffee had forgotten I asked for decaf.

A couple of days later I was back at the same venue and got my own coffee using a decaf sachet.Within hours big red spots were erupting on my arms, my vision was going and my left eye felt like it was going to pop out of its socket.

So I wonder whether decaf is always decaf. What quality control is there?

I had to go to a party over the weekend so I took Singulair daily for three days and it's almost cleared up.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Caffeine

...Then I went to a meeting this morning and the only drinks on offer were tea and coffee in flasks. No water and certainly no decaf.

Eventually I put a dribble of coffee in the bottom of a cup, topped up with milk and stirred in some sugar - to make a kind of milk shake. It's the first time I've knowingly consumed caffeine in a year, even if a small amount.

My throat started closing almost immediately. Hours later, after taking Singulair, my throat is still sore so I don't know whether it's the caffeine or flu.

Not so comfortable

I was clearly a little complacent when I reviewed the events of the last year over the weekend. I woke up yesterday with a stiffness around the neck. That's not a new problem - it's been coming and going all year and some people might say "stiff-necked" describes me well! I've been developing upper body exercises to keep me supply around the shoulders. Why it came on this year is a mystery - is it allergic inflammation or a problem caused by something missing from the diet?

My feeling is that taking Singulair has helped to resolve the problem sometimes, suggesting it's an allergic inflammation. I did so yesterday but unfortunately I moved my head sometime during the afternoon and pulled a muscle. It meant all yesterday evening I could barely walk, talk or even move without screaming in pain. I took two paracetamols - that's acetaminophens to Americans - which seemed to help. Today my neck is very stiff and wedged to one side.

I have a second theory today because I'm also quite cold and shivery. We've had a cold spell and a fall of snow but the house is not that cold. Maybe it's a bout of flu. As with the common cold, it may be hard to tell what's happening. For the past couple of months I've mixed with people with colds and not caught them - that's unusual for me and I guess is the result of an over-active immune system. I wonder how Singulair affects this - is it damping the immune system? Unfortunately I seem to have lost the patient information leaflet. Maybe I can find a down-load.

Friday, November 16, 2007

One year on

It's one year and one week since, almost overnight I gave up coffee, wine, beer, fruit juice, oranges, Cox apples, peaches, jam, marmalade and avocado. I'd already given up tomato and had spent six months on a wheat free diet, losing the best part of a stone while doing so.

The discovery the problem is salicylate rather than wheat and other odd fruits meant I could resume eating ordinary bread, pasta and cereals. But almost all sources of vegetable matter in my diet were gone. I've had to live on cabbage, leeks, celery, bananas and Golden Delicious apples - and every day I count to ensure I get my government-prescribed "five a day".

Looking back, I can see how we've adapted our diet. Sunday lunch is now largely salicylate free - and is okay. Gravy no longer comes in powder form or cubes but is made from scratch. Soy sauce is amazingly useful and highly flavoured - combined with cabbage it makes a pasta sauce and I used a similar combination the other night as a substitute chili with baked potatoes.

Montelukast (or Singulair) is a great find by the consultant. It allows occasional indulgences. The other night I went out to a meal and managed to eat two slices of a cheese cake. Eating out is still embarrassing - especially when the wine flows. Iced water's not quite the same.

The diet sheet changed a little in the first few months. I note that the first one mentioned yeast - and that led me to keep away from bread for some time, as well as other products containing yeast. The dietician persuaded me that was wrong so I eat bread normally - but not a lot of it. It was worth losing weight last year.

Recently I tried papaya again. Although it's on sale all year round, it seems to be a seasonal fruit. It was good a year ago and has been great treat this autumn. But by Christmas Day it was hard and unripe and stayed that way for most of this year.

My taste buds have been sensitised. A little while ago I promised some fantasy menus and maybe I will - but in truth I'm quite happy with this diet based on chocolate, bananas, cabbage and soy sauce. I now reckon I can taste the tiniest grain of pepper in food - and that generally means something's wrong.

So those fantasy menus! Where to begin? Pizza, curry, chili, bolognese, Chow Mien.....

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Singulair

I think I'm getting the hang of this drug now.

The consultant said it should be taken about three hours before going out to a meal. I reckon between 12 and 24 hours is more like it.

Yesterday I went to a function and was surprised to find canapes - that's snacks - being served in generous proportions. I hadn't eaten and was hungry so I took what I could.

This included rice balls, fish of various kinds and chocolate eclairs. Also something with a little roll of beef in it. The fish had lots of lemon in it - and I try to avoid lemon. I took the pill afterwards and then searched for something edible at a railway station.

At Marks and Spencer I found a sandwich made of Wensleydale cheese, lettuce and caramelised carrot chutney. That seems innocent enough.

There were some fairly unpleasant effects in the hours immediately following this adventure and I had to spend some time in the bathroom. But today I have been fine - no itching and my skin in pretty good condition. I can only attribute it to the Singulair - impressive even if it takes a while. And the side-effects are much fewer than with anti-histamines. No deep sleeping, weird dreams or "hangover".

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Jack Daniels

According to my list, whisky, gin and vodka are the only alcoholic drinks I can take.

I liked whisky but have been bothered for some time it doesn't seem to do me any good. I'm used to drinking Scotch whisky, preferably Glenmorangie or some such, and last Christmas everybody gave me bottles of it.

Recently I've been trying out American strains, mainly Jack Daniels. I don't know much about this but undoubtedly Scotch is richer and more flavoured than Jack Daniels and this is apparently because it's matured in oak caskets and distilled using peat - or something like that.

Now because only about one scientific study has ever been done of salicylate levels, the odds are it used American whisky. Maybe Scotch picks up salicylate from its caskets, peat and other natural processes.

So on Saturday I went to a party and drank Jack Daniels all evening, quite a lot I have to confess, roughly speaking as much as I'd normally drink in a month. I did take a Singulair earlier in the day and later wondered whether I should check more carefully whether it mixes with alcohol. Sunday - no symptoms, no hangover. So it looks like those bottles of Scotch will make good Christmas presents for other people this year.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Dinner party

We threw a dinner party at the weekend and one of our guests was Canadian.

We all shared the same main course, a chicken casserole. It was delicious, soft succulent meat in a creamy sauce. Our guests ate our crispy cabbage/leek vegetables as well as carrots and brocolli- which I could not eat.

My starter was different from the others, papaya rather than melon. But we all shared a chocolate pudding with dessert. The guests had wine, I drank whisky.

So we've now established it's possible to produce a highly edible chicken casserole, certainly for Canadians. I'll share the recipe when I can get it off my wife.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Sunday afternoon

Sunday afternoon and I would kill for a cup of redbush tea.

The first anniversary of this diet approaches and very soon I'll be putting together some fantasy meals. I've enjoyed my diet of cabbage, bananas, water and cashew nuts (...and one or two other foods) but every so often something reminds me what I'm missing...such as that Sunday afternoon craving for a cup of tea.

By last week life was at full swing again after the summer holidays and I went to a couple of catered meals. The consultant had suggested that a tablet of Singulair three hours before such a meal might minimise its effects. On Monday it was a steak and kidney pie with a suspiciously sweet sauce - almost certainly made with tomato. On Tuesday I tried a chicken and mushroom pie. Let's just say it was all too much for the Singulair. So back to being careful again.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Chocolate biscuits

We got back from holiday and I was a picture of health. We went to the west country and had quite an active time. Not much eating out although I indulged in fish and chips and ice creams. I aimed to have the local variety usually because a) it's nicer and b) in Devon and Cornwall they pack it with cream rather than vegetable fats.

I resorted to Singulair a couple of times and it seemed to work. Once was when I was bitten on the forehead by a horse fly and my face started to swell. No obvious side-effects apart from maybe some difficulty in sleeping - the reverse of anti-histamines. And the pain in my gums evaporated totally after a few days.

Unfortunately when we got home there wasn't much food in the house and quite a lot of catching up to do. So it's been a case of digging deep in the freezer and the larder. I made a spaghetti sauce last night by slicing carrots finely and adding shallots, celery and bacon - and of course soy sauce. It was a bit chunky - rather like a vegetarian meal - but otherwise rather nice.

Then I started searching for chocolate and found a half-eaten tin of Belgian biscuits. First I consumed a couple of plain biscuits and then moved on to the others - basically so far as I could tell macaroon based using almonds. So in one foul swoop I may have wiped out the good effects of the holiday.

Or maybe not. I suffered some tummy problems but my skin stayed fairly good. Tonight we reintroduced corn on the cob - no obvious problems. Who knows - a diet of sun, sea and country food may have helped me turn the corner. We shall see.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Nettles

About a week ago I was thrashing some stinging nettles and got caught on the elbow. Oddly they didn't sting too much - but enough to cause some involuntary itching.

I was away at the time and driving home the next day I noticed my arm was a little stiff. Then I realised it was quite swollen.

The miles passed and I could feel the swelling getting to my neck. Thankfully I had some anti-histamines with me so stopped and took one - and that seemed to do the trick.

Then yesterday I was caught again. It looks as if all the summer rain has caused a blossoming of nettles of all things - they're everywhere. This time it was on the hand so I didn't hang around and smeared the sting bumps with Anthisan. Again that seemed to do the trick.

Now I have had some gum problems recently and about a week ago both I and my GP thought I had an abscess on a tooth. It was mighty painful. The dentist checked it and diagnosed a gum infection exposing a root nerve. He's never come across salicylate allergy (or hypersensitivity to use the correct phrase) before but seemed to agree that it might be causing gum inflammation - and hence the trapping of food.

Curious that tonight the gum pain is back - but it's also on the upper jaw. A quick check in the mirror suggests the gums are awfully inflamed. So tonight I've taken in order a paracetamol, an anti-histamine and then for the first time a table of Singulair. That's been suggested by the consultant and prescribed by the GP. It's an asthma medicine also used for "seasonal allergy" according to the description. There's a worrying list of potential side-effects. We'll see.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Salicylate free pasta sauce

If somebody else is cooking the main meal, get them to cook the pasta and mince and then leave some mince out for you.

Slice a circle of red cabbage and a couple of slices of leek. Chop all this as finely as possible, including the white core of the cabbage. You can also use celery chopped finely too.

Then in a separate frying pan, using rapeseed oil, fry all the vegetables lightly. Add the mince and some soy sauce, say a quarter bottle. Simmer for a while, especially if you are having to cook the pasta.

When ready to serve add some more soy sauce, maybe another quarter bottle, and allow half a minute to warm it. The cabbage and the soy will give the sauce moisture, compensating for not having tomato.

My favourite meal!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

By gum!

Thankfully I was too busy to book an appointment with the dentist last week.

The toothache caused by the garlic meal recurred nightly and I was taking paracetamol to relieve the agony. I was almost convinced there was something wrong with the back tooth - except that every morning when I woke up the pain had gone. Also it was not confined to the one spot - but cropped up in other parts of the jaw. So by the end of the week I concluded that my gums had gone hypersensitive.

My big fear is that I'll get an unbearably painful flare-up on the gums and end up with the dentist - who will assume an infection and pull a tooth or some such. I lost one tooth last year before all this was diagnosed.

But, as I write, the teeth are right as rain. Even though I went away for the weekend I managed to be tough on food without starving. I had a lettuce sandwich for one meal while others tucked into cooked food - but I survived!

I did come back with a swollen forehead. It may have been an insect nip. There's a red patch on the scalp. I took two antihistamines and slept soundly for two nights and it's gone.

Coming up, I promise: The recipe for a perfect salicylate free bolognese sauce.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Garlic and beef

Oddly, garlic appeared on my latest diet sheet as having negligible salicylate. I'm sure it was never there before.

So we used it to season the Sunday lunch - beef. The beef came out quite tough and difficult to chew and bits started getting stuck in my teeth, in the top left jaw.

That caused unpleasant irritation but as I ate it seemed as though some got stuck in the bottom right teeth too. Within minutes I was in excruciating pain and we ran off to get paracetamol. Eventually the pain died down and I survived yesterday with the merest feeling of soreness around the jaw. And a good scrub got rid of the bits from the upper teeth.

This morning the irritation was back in the bottom right jaw - and seemed to come from the wisdom tooth at the back . Now for the last 12 months any tooth problems I've had have been caused by allergic reactions and have gone away. But by this time I was thinking maybe it was time to see the dentist. After all trapped food can also cause abcesses and infection. Then the irritation started spreading to my tongue and throat. A sign of allergic reaction?

I had things to do so left it - although for the first time in months I took my Epipen with me. In time all the pain disappeared. Maybe no need for the dentist and no stuck food. Just a reaction to the garlic, I suppose.

Tonight I agreed to finish off the beef and tried to soften it by cooking it in left over gravy. Stupid thing to do. A piece got stuck in the same place in the upper jaw and this time I can't get it out. And now the pain (or inflammation) has spread to the lower left jaw, not the right side this time. So now I've taken a couple of anti-histamines in the hope of reducing the inflammation and freeing the food.

Last time I try garlic.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Shampoo!

I've finally got round to purchasing and using a baby shampoo and conditioner. I'd been a little embarrassed about going into a shop and buying the stuff so I persuaded my wife to get it. It was my hairdresser who first suggested this and the response to an earlier post finally persuaded me I had to do something about it - so thank you, Laura! No obvious reactions or burning of the skin - as I had from Imperial Leather - but my left eye is a little sore again today. That could be from the glass of whisky I had over the weekend. I'm still not sure about whisky.

I still need to get my glasses out to read the ingredients on the shampoo. The conditioner seems okay - apart from various gums and cellulose additives, which I have wondered about before.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Anthisan

Well I struggled awake tonight to get some work done and got around to looking up some information on Anthisan.

I found the Boots patient information leaflet which states: "Use on large areas of skin may cause drowsiness and confusion."

Now they tell me.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Hives!

Well six months down the line and I've got hives big time - I'm itching all over. It's the first time I've had this kind of itching since an incident during a summer holiday a couple of years ago before I realised what was wrong. At the time I put it down to unwelcome insect attentions. I've just spread anti-histamine cream all over me.

This is odd because I have not eaten anything dodgy for days. Today we had carrots and green beans with lunch and I drank a glass of cheap lemonade mixed with whisky. Also had a glass of whisky last night and had sausages for dinner.

However last week I had a couple of "Mediterranean" lunches because I was away from home. Although I chose carefully - eating fish, steak and lettuce, undoubtedly some herbs and peppers were used by the chefs. At one restaurant I also had an Italian ice cream covered in chocolate sauce. It turned out be made with fresh fruit, orange, lemon and raspberry. Delicious but totally illegal - although I think I am meant to be trying lemon. But that was Thursday and there were no obvious massive ill-effects as a result.

So what's the theory, doctor? I suppose it could be some kind of overload. Carrots and green beans are meant to be low salicylate, but not salicylate free. I'm meant to be trying them as part of reintroduction - and have remained a little uncomfortable with them. And sausages, even cheap ones, may also contain herbs. So if I used up my quota of salicylate last week, even very small amounts may have pushed me over the edge. And I do wonder whether whisky is really salicylate free - after all brandy is not.

I haven't written much here for a while as I have been busy. I do have some eating ideas I want to share and will post them soon

Monday, March 12, 2007

Juiced up

I think I got a little carried away at the suggestion that I try some pineapple juice.

Fruit juice for breakfast! It was months since I'd had such a treat so last Saturday, a week ago, I started off with a large glass of sweet, translucent, yellow juice.

Unfortunately the next day somebody produced some pomegranate juice drink they had obtained from Morrisons. Now I've been looking for pomegranate juice because, as previously recorded, this fruit is meant to be virtually zero salicylate. Most pomegranate juices mix in other berries which make them out of bounds. This drink was delicious and addictive and I drank almost a whole packet within 24 hours.

The problem is that this is a drink, not a pure juice, and according to the packet, made from concentrated pomegranate. At a guess I would say this means pulped fruit.

This time the big reaction was on the skin in the crook of my arm under my elbows. A spreading blotchy rash. There were other consequences too, I think, but I won't go into those. So during the week I returned to a pure diet of water, cabbage, meat, leek and celery. By Saturday morning my skin was clearing and my eyesight was so good I could read the A-Z properly for the first time in about two years.

So on Saturday I tried a small tot of pineapple juice. Well, once my skin has cleared again I will try some pomegranate drink and see if it was only the pineapple or both juices that caused the problem. It maybe I need to find a way of consuming smaller quantities of juice - perhaps diluting it in lemonade or sparkling water or even using it to make sweet and sour sauces or bolognese.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Wikipedia

Oddly enough, the best summary of the problem I have come across is on Wikipedia where there are brief but excellent articles on salicylate hypersensitivity and salicylate.

These seem to confirm that the substance is used widely in toothpaste, cosmetics and food preservatives.

Also a decent attempt to explain what the allergy is.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Redbush tea

The dietician wants me to start reintroducing some very low-salicylate foods, such as carrots, mushrooms, mangoes and maybe even onions.

She's also unable to say whether redbush tea is any good. Most herbal teas are dangerous but caffeine-free tea is okay.

Redbush is a caffeine-free, low tannin strain of real tea so should be okay. So yesterday I had a cup of redbush and a raw carrot, followed by carrots for lunch today.

One or other does not work, almost certainly the redbush tea. By yesterday evening my vision was blurred and print was out of focus. Today I have had to apply Anthisan cream to my midriff as large itchy red spots emerged. And I have a tummy ache.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

"May contain nuts"

...has been revealed as an issue in Britain this week after Cadbury's was forced to withdraw a host of chocolate products for failing to include this statement.

This is becoming a growing problem because food manufacturers are apparently utterly scared of being sued if they fail to declare a nut risk and somebody suffers a reaction.

Sources tell me that schools are having problems finding food suppliers because only a few will declare their products are uncontaminated with nuts.

Something needs to be done because this is limiting the amount of foods people with food allergies can eat. The food industry had better pray that salicylate allergy does not become fashionable - because contamination with pepper, tomato and other herbs is also a major problem for those of us who occasionally have to eat processed food.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Chocolates and sour cream

It started with Rose's chocolates. We were travelling and I was peckish - having watched the rest of them scoffing doughnuts and other goodies. "Go on", she said. "This one is just plain toffee". I bit on it and bit into a solid nut. Whatever it was, it was not a cashew nut. To be fair, I too had a feeling that Rose's had some plain chocolates - clearly not. That was Saturday.

On Tuesday we decided to beat the Valentine's Day rush and went to a steakhouse. That should be as plain food as you can get commercially. I have never had a 16oz steak before and enjoyed it enormously even though it seemed undercooked. It may have been the sour cream with the cheese and bacon starter - or the fact it was on potatoes in their skins - that caused a problem. The cream had some kind of herb in it - which I tried unsuccessfully to pick out.

So by the middle of the week I had a thick throat, a sore eye and spots returning on my tummy. And other symptoms. They did not feel like big breaches and I had been hoping to tell the dietician that I was coping with small breaches of the diet. That seems unlikely so I now fear she will put me on a weighing and measuring diet as she threatened.

I've had a stiff neck for a couple of weeks and just hope this is not some vitamin deficiency.

So for a couple of nights I have cooked for myself. I also started on the last of the pomegranates, which spurted out red juice, making the shirt I was wearing unwearable. I turned some frozen prawns into a white spaghetti sauce - mixed with cabbage - one night and I'm unsure about the effects of that. I am finding a use for my remaining gluten-free flour as it makes a good substitute for cornflour in making sauces. It seems very absorbent and not very lumpy.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Papaya and fish pie

Papaya is proving a disappointment. The first papayas I had were delicious but every single one we have purchased since then has been tough and unripe.

I bought three for a pound in a local greengrocers and saved the third to see if it would ripen. It has started to go off but has not ripened.

My wife insisted on serving a supermarket fish pie the other day. It must have contained various herbs and pepper as well as carrots and sweetcorn. As with other recent breaches of the diet, the reactions have been mild but real.

I've also got another appointment with the dietician so the NHS is keeping an eye on me. She wrote recently with some answers to outstanding queries and that means that:
redbush tea is still out but she thinks yeast extract is okay. Rapeseed oil is also okay, as I thought, since I cook everything in it.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Attending functions

A difficult weekend at which I attended several functions - and indeed spent a couple of days at a conference.

Why is it that commercial caterers are simply incapable of offering a choice of a simple meals? I had a meal of duck and picked the meat out of a sauce. It was awkward to explain why I spurned all the vegetables - until I realised there were mange touts, which I think are okay. At a party the caterer went to some lengths to produce some plain chicken for me - except it was not that plain, rather peppered. And I have gone off whisky!

I think the signs are still of improvement. There were minor reactions to minor breaches although by the end of the weekend my left eye was weeping quite consistently.

Now this week I have flu along with the rest of my family. I suppose anti-histamines and paracetamols are as good a pill combination as anybody can take for flu.

Monday, January 22, 2007

The problem of food intolerance

Attached is today's full Englemed News report on Allergy UK's campaign to highlight food intolerance.

The campaign makes some good points. I was lucky, in a way, that when I eventually went to my GP I had very clear symptoms in my mouth and throat. I received no advice on diet from my GP.

I thought with good reason that I had a wheat allergy. Some of the headlines today refer to "pasta problems". In fact my problem was the tomatoes, herbs and olive oil - all that healthy Mediterranean food. It took months to see a consultant and longer still to get the results of IGE tests. We excluded salicylate allergy early on because I thought I took aspirin, probably soluble, when the throat and tongue swelling became an obvious problem. We then gave it another look. This allergy hardly features on anyone's radar except as aspirin allergy. My dietician said she had only previously come across the problem as a cause of eczema. And it seems as if the scientific evidence on salicylate content of foods is limited and not especially consistent. So well done to my consultant who put together my clues which amounted to pasta, pizza, tomato and beer.


The specialists don't like the way people always jump to the conclusion that wheat is what's causing the problem. I guess it would be equally disturbing if salicylate allergy became fashionable, especially because it excludes almost all foods that are generally good for you, notably the red fruits and orange vegetables. The very few specialist salicylate sites, such as foodcanmakeyouill, seem to make some sense. It may well be that this is a natural substance to which quite a few people are overexposed. If that was so however, I would have thought the medical benefits of aspirin might have been called into question before now.

Here's that news report:
  • Almost half the British population are badly affected by the food they eat - suffering a range of symptoms, campaigners claimed today.
  • Some 45 per cent of people suffer from some kind of food intolerance, according to Allergy UK.
  • This compares with just two per cent diagnosed with serious food allergies, such as nut allergy, which can be life-threatening.
  • Results of a survey of some 5,200 people reporting food problems are to be published today in a report Stolen Lives.
  • The reports shows that sufferers feel their symptoms are treated "dismissively" by health professionals.
  • Recent surveys of GPs show that 70 per cent believe most complaints are in the mind, the organisation says. Scepticism is aggravated by celebrities such as Victoria Beckham, who claims to be allergic to dairy products.
  • A spokesman for Allergy UK said: "They are left without proper guidance and advice despite the very significant impact on their lives. This in turns drives them to seek alternative and clinically unproven methods of diagnosis and treatment."
  • Allergy UK chief executive Muriel Simmons said: "Around 20 million people are suffering from symptoms that impact on their daily lives and yet they are not able to get help from the NHS.
  • "We want to see more dietary advice being available and more training given to GPs so that they can recognise that food could be the trigger for some of the symptoms that they are seeing on a daily basis."
  • Ms Simmons warned that the lack of advice was driving patients to "weird and wacky" diets and towards poorly qualified alternative practitioners.
  • She said: "They start off with one problem and this is compounded by bad dietary advice."

Food allergy week

This week is Food Allergy Intolerance Week in the UK. Details to follow.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Getting better?

I went for a meal in a Bengali restaurant as a guest of the owner a couple of days ago. He was very understanding and sought to reduce the amount of spice and herbs on everything. However even though I picked discreetly at some of the items to get at the soft meat underneath, it was by far the best and tastiest meal I've had for a long time! As the main dish he served me king prawns and produced some plain rice and nan bread. I came away feeling filled as though I'd eaten a full Bengali meal. In spite of that - no ill effects.

So the next day I was desperate for a meal and the family served up spaghetti bolognese. A plate was put out for my nephew with minimal sauce. As he did not turn up, I ate that. No immediate ill effects.

So I went to bed with a song in my heart thinking that I might have turned the corner. The "traffic light" rash on my tummy seemed almost gone too.

However during the day yesterday my throat thickened. I seemed to react to an unripe banana I was given. And today, I'm afraid, some of the other symptoms reappeared.

There is hope!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Pomegranates

I've always been fascinated by pomegranates, ever since I heard the story of the Persephone in Greek mythology. She was captured by the god of the underworld, Hades, who wanted her to be his wife. When her mother, the spring goddess Demeter found her she insisted she be returned. Eventually it was agreed Persephone should stay with Hades for the same number of months she had eaten pomegranate seeds. As it happened she had only eaten six seeds - so that explained why winter lasts for six months.

The story makes even less sense when you eat a pomegranate and see how many seeds it has.

I bought two from Sainsbury's last week. They were much larger than normally sold in Britain and when I sliced one it bled, blood red. I ate half and that was probably too much.

It is the only red fruit I am allowed and I would like to find a cheap and easy source of pure pomegranate juice. If you see it in the supermarkets, it tends to be mixed with something else.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

12th Night

Just about recovered from Christmas now!

Everybody tried so hard. Christmas dinner was a starter of peeled pear in papaya.

I had a special joint of turkey roasted in parsley with red and white cabbage. Then somebody produced some delicious mashed potato. Why was it delicious? Because it contained sweet potato.

I tried substituting whisky for wine. I used to like a glass of whisky but after drinking it at meals for several days, I have gone off it big time. And once the symptoms started again, I suspect the whisky aggravated them, certainly when there were bowel problems.

Today for lunch we had chicken cooked with parsley, saffron and chives - the entire range of herbs and spices I'm allowed. That was a little better. I fear I have had to chew through some very tough joints of bird meat in the last couple of weeks.

I'm going to have to refuse all processed and catered food now. I'm certainly a little way from the point at which foods can be reintroduced - every small breach seems to cause even worse symptoms.