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


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.