Monday, December 20, 2010

Coping with Christmas

I love this time of year - but every year now I have to check my anticipation. As I approach the season I think of stuffing myself with mince pies, a rich, dark Christmas pudding and turkey laced with cranberry sauce, stuffing, parsnips and rich gravy - followed somehow by taking the first bite of a rich dark Christmas cake.

It is all fantasy - and now I'm saying to people that Christmas is a time I lose weight when they put it on. I've been circumspect this year. I used to love those early Christmas dinners with work colleagues, friends and associates. Now I'm avoiding them. If I won't be particularly missed, I don't go - it's just too awkward to keep asking for the turkey to be served without gravy and for an alternative dessert to the Christmas pudding. I'm trying to persuade the family mince pie maker to make Golden Delicious apple pies with the same texture as mince pies. I'm still waiting.

There's flu around. I wonder if I could pick up the swine flu virus on Thursday in time to allow me to drink loads of wine to see it off - as I've done for the last couple of years. No sign of it coming anywhere near me so far. Perhaps I'd better go and sit in the doctor's surgery and see if I can pick it up...


Sunday, November 28, 2010

No bananas?

This Danish study alarmed me as it says what I've always feared someone would say - that bananas aren't that great for you. Nor grapes.

The authors claim it pretty well settles the question of which diet to use to lose weight - low-carb, low fat and high protein. That seems to have sense, but what about fish - which surely is quite heavy in fish fat? I rely on bananas for my five-a-day, I find Golden Delicious apples increasingly unpalatable and probably rather more expensive than cheap bananas.

The conclusions of the Danish study are interesting but I'm not sure it settles the question of diet. For a start it involved barely a thousand families. I am certainly still stepping up my consumption of fish. I've just discovered the joy of grilled sardines. The grill helps to heat the house on a cold day and they make a reasonable quick snack for lunch or a light dinner.

And the good news is that my left arm has all but healed - no doubt thanks to grilled sardines. It has taken weeks but now it is no more than a little stiff - and it is getting better not worse in spite of Britain's icy weather. It's been a slow process and that's my excuse for only posting once before in November.


Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Fish oil toothpaste?

Scientists seem to have confirmed what some of us have known for a while - that fish oils can prevent gum disease.

This is the story that we know: gum disease is not only caused by infection but by inflammation;

if you have salicylate hypersensitivity you know that eating fish will reduce reactions and reduce inflammation.

What's  interesting about this sort of study is whether it is, in fact, picking up and averaging out the impact on a sub-group of people who react badly to omega-6. Or whether everyone benefits from this kind of effect. In the research 8.2 per cent of people had gum disease.

There could even be other explanations. For instance that eating oily fish or cod liver oil kills the appetite and deters the consumption of sugary foods - Atkins diet style. Just a thought.

Toothpaste made of fish oil anyone?


Sunday, October 24, 2010

Arm and leg

By Friday night I had painful gout in both my left arm and my left leg. It was probably aggravated by drinking a little whisky at a party and tasting some nibbles which turned out to be somewhat spicy. Yesterday, Saturday, it had gone away again - but the arm did not take long to get sore. My left eye is also a little sore - confirming that the left-side syndrome is raging again.

Two months after developing this sore arm I'm beginning to think I need to take it seriously, quite seriously. So I got my montelukast renewed and plan to take it daily. I've been eating oily fish, sardines last night and salmon with cabbage and rice for Sunday lunch today. I had a heart health check last week - apparently commissioned by the NHS. I was told I probably need to lose a stone in weight. The last time I lost weight was when I thought I had wheat allergy and I lost half a stone. That was miserable - although it might have been the anti-histamines. I lost a few pounds on holiday and I guess I've put that back. I'm afraid my healthy meals probably won't help - they're far too filling. The nurse recommended exercise - she's right and provided I can stop my limbs going stiff I need to do more. If I "lose" my left arm and leg it's going to be challenging - right-handed table tennis possibly?

She took some blood and promised to get it tested for enzymes. As she took it from my left arm - which was full of gout - I wonder what enzymes they are going to find. I'll await the doctor's summons.


Friday, October 15, 2010

Elbow and fish

My left elbow is still a little sore and that's after about six weeks. I nearly got rid of it. Over five days earlier in the week I ate six meals of fish and just one of chicken and at the end the arm was just about back to normal. That shows the power of fish. Indeed the meals included a McDonalds fillet o'fish and other catered items.

Mostly it's not stiff - just a soreness which feels like stiffness. Regular readers will know most of my problems are on the left and it's quite worrying as I'm left-handed. I'm trying to make myself ambidextrous. Typing is an amidextrous activity and maybe I need to move the mouse to the right hand side - like everyone else - in order to prevent RSI on the left. Just to be clear, this problem is not at root RSI. As well as the stiffness there's a red rash  indicating that's where the salicylate reactions are concentrating at the moment.


Thursday, October 07, 2010

Good caterers!

I went to an event and gave them my dietary requirements. Yes, the caterers will do salicylate-free, I was told.

So there I am waiting for my dry  tuna and cheese sandwiches. Then I glance at the hot-dishes from which they are serving food. That looks good, I think. It looks like salmon, spinach and leek?

Sure enough it is. And everyone is eating a healthy salicylate-free meal. Now that's what I call good catering! Congratulations. (I wonder whether they got the idea from this site?)


But this is bad news...

Not long since I kept a packet of bean sprouts in the fridge for quite a long time. Has anyone ever successfully managed to cook bean sprouts?


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

UV therapy

Several weeks since I returned from holiday and The Splodge has not returned. It's tried once or twice - the odd bit of itching and small rash - but no sign of it making a come-back. So that's the benefits of sunlight therapy.

On holiday I ate fish and seafood and drank wine and ate olives and swam in the sea and was mostly healthy. Now back in the real world, small abuses build up. I've tried keeping fish in my diet and tried drinking wine. I blame the wine for the arthritis creeping up my left side. For there is the question of maintaining fitness. Walking is fine but time-consuming and not possible daily. Jogging is out of the question as my left knee gives way fast. So I tried some upper body exercises. I had done this successfully before going away but now all of a sudden my left elbow has gone stiff and swollen. I'm pretty certain it's salicylate because there's also a slight rash on the elbow, my left eye is a little sore and the left index finger is a little painful.


Thursday, August 05, 2010


On holiday in a hotter place than normal and pushing the limits. White wine every night. Liberal doses of children's hypoallergenic suncream.

Then at the end of one day my left shoulder and left chest glowed bright red with a specific pattern of redness stretching around the Splodge. It was odd as nowhere else was sunburnt and I wasn't conscious of having sat still in one position, although it was possible my left side had more sun exposure than the right after swimming.

It seemed to have something to do with the Splodge, which was unaffected. In fact a red pattern, roughly the shape of a stag's head, with antlers, spread around it. Now if I'm right part of the redness you get from sunburn is an inflammatory reaction, caused by the body seeking to prevent damage from burn. So I wondered, in view of my slack attitude to the Diet, whether there was an extra inflammatory reaction. Probably a bit of both - the shoulder has browned while the stag's head remains - and what was The Splodge seems a lot better.

I took a montelukast but did nothing else. However yesterday a flea bit me under the same shoulder. I maybe scratched it once or twice and by the end of the day a huge red weal had emerged, as if stung by a jelly-fish. I wondered if something was going on earlier as the index finger on my left hand started to become stiff and sore. That's usually a sign something's swelling somewhere.

 I thought for a minute it might be a jelly-fish - but once I mouthed the word "weal" I remembered this had happened before. As I didn't feel great, emergency procedures swung in - montelukast plus a fast acting anti-histamine plus a ban on alcohol. I don't feel great today.


Saturday, July 24, 2010

Ear clear!

I was thinking of getting some Swim-Ear, which apparently you administer before swimming to protect your ears. Then I was in Tesco and saw some earwax remover drops. The ingredients are based on  camomile - which is okay - so I thought I would give them a try.

I tried in my left ear, which tends to be worst. Half the drops spilled out over my face. I tried swallowing to open the eustachian tubes to see if anything would flush through. I think something came.

Later, as instructed, I rinsed the ear with warm water. Some definitely dribbled through to the mouth. But then the ear hurt, quite a lot.

Whether there was any wax there and whether it's been cleared I have no idea. However a few hours later the pain has subsided. So I'm testing it by playing some music. I like music with mandolin, dulcimer and flute, which is ideal as it's the high frequencies you lose when the ears are blocked - I think. I've put headphones on for max quality and it sounds great!


Sunday, July 18, 2010

Giving up a dream

I've almost given up the idea of going scuba-diving. It's been a life-time dream. I did a trial run round a Cornish bay once - but this year we were going to a location where I could go on a course.

Firstly there is the problem of getting a medical certificate. Secondly I've begun to question whether I should really attempt it, that in fact having symptoms of sinusitis and blocked nose may be the worst possible thing for a diver.

British divers seem to have adopted a new medical certificate system which looks very good on paper. It should hook you up to a doctor who is reasonably expert.

Problem 1: I emailed a local doctor who is on the list of the UK Sport Diving Medical Committee and have had absolutely no response.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Cashews and spices

I was walking round with a splitting headache this morning and wondering why. Eventually it subsided and I realised it centred on my left eye, which was yet again sore and bloodshot.

Then I remembered I visited a lovely Asian family last night and they insisted on giving me hospitality. Brown rice, I thought, and tucked in - only to discover it was highly flavoured white rice. They assure me their food was quite plain - but the word is relative. They produced some meat which they told me was unspiced. Maybe - but highly flavoured.

The food was delicious and I tried not to eat too much of it. When I got home I took a montelukast.

Sadly someone had also stocked the house up with cashew nuts, which I also snacked on yesterday. Cashews are meant to be okay but are in fact rich in omega-6 oil, which, of course aggravates any reactions.

When I got up this morning I felt utterly drained and could not manage my normal morning exercises. Then the headache. Thankfully it seems to have passed and I have stocked up on bananas and cheese for lunch.


Saturday, July 03, 2010

Rash about radish

For some reason I got it into my head that radish is okay. I even picked up a bag of the round red crunchy vegetables at the supermarket. I like them but, boy, did they sting my mouth.

That may explain why for the last couple of days the Splodge - which is now the Strawberry - has been itching quite a lot and why my left eye got quite sore and blurred. In fact my left jaw also got quite sore and I began thinking, yet again, it was probably a tooth infection.

Then as I crunched a radish for breakfast - sometimes I do desperate things - I thought I had better check. The list does not say radishes are low in salicylate. In fact it says they are "very high". So I've had to abandon the bag of radishes and try and persuade someone else to eat them.

The list does say beetroot is low and I've tried it recently without obvious effects. I think I should try more beetroot.


Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Montelukast - at last!

I popped in to the doctors' at midday and there was no queue. Nor was there a repeat prescription waiting. The receptionist admitted there had been some problems with email - in fact I think they've changed the address.

However she was very helpful and printed off a repeat prescription and then went off to find a GP to sign it. So I take everything back.

I popped a pill as soon as I got home. I certainly feel better now - the eye's not so sore, the jaw's barely aching and the Splodge is hardly itching. Maybe another tomorrow.


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Summer problems

It all started when we went to a wedding in rural England at the weekend. It was in  the heartland of rural England, green, lush fruit-growing country and rolling hills. Wonderful - but as we drove out my left eye began to itch. When I touched it, I could feel it swelling. And I hadn't had a chance to take montelukast.

It seemed to calm down but today is awful. The eye is sore, so's my left jaw and the Splodge (on my upper left chest) is itching. I emailed for a repeat prescription last week but haven't had an acknowledgement. This morning I tried to pop into the doctor's surgery to see if they had it - but there was a queue stretching out of the door at  reception. It always amazes me how long it takes GP receptionists to log that people have arrived and invite them to take a seat. It might not be their fault - it might be a patient.

I've tried a salt mouth-wash in case there's a gum or tooth infection aggravating it but it's not made the slightest difference. I don't want to take anti-histamine as I have a busy day and need my wits about me.

And I've still got to get my scuba-diving medical sorted out. I need the montelukast.


Thursday, June 10, 2010

Strawberries and splodge

One or two people have noticed I've been a little erratic in posting over the last few weeks. In fact I had wanted, time permitting, to do some commentaries on some of the allergy news that has been around. I thought the report that burgers aggravate asthma - but fish relieves - it, was interesting and relevant, especially as the researchers did not really get to the bottom of  the causes. The study found no link between meat and IgE allergy - the kind you can detect with a blood test and which causes normal hay fever. But the link between burgers, fish and asthma was strong. That may simply mean that children who eat lots of burgers tend to be overweight and do their asthma no good at all. Or it could reflect the impact of a smaller group whose problems are caused by salicylate sensitivity. Does anyone know how many people have problems with salicylate?

I've also been inattentive to myself. I've noticed over the last few days that the Splodge is no longer the shape of a reverse Australia. In fact it's beginning to itch a little. This may have been aggravated by a rare bout of sunshine and heat in England. Last night I was at a buffet and the "dessert" was a kind of chocolate-topped meringue nest with a strawberry cream in it - topped by a strawberry. I removed the strawberry and spooned out the strawberry cream. Not all of it, of course. Then I tried to eat around the edges. It wasn't very nice - like cardboard - so I had no qualms about giving up. But the reactions were almost instant and my left eye got quite sore for a short period.

Last night the Splodge was really red and itchy. This morning it had calmed down a little but still itches. I went to get a montelukast only to discover I had run out. The Splodge is now a splodge-shape, like a squashed strawberry. I think I had better measure it to make sure it's not growing. And must get some more montelukast.


Saturday, June 05, 2010


A week of glorious weather, by British standards, and I found myself at the seaside. I had no sun-tan lotion so I popped into the beach shop. As always the ingredients on the bottles of lotion are far too small to read. However I took a chance on a bottle of Aloha premium suncare, which claimed to have been "dermatologically tested". As it's been tested on a random and decent-sized sample of people I guessed any problems of salicylate sensitivity might have been exposed. Does anyone have any idea how many people suffer from reactions to salicylate? What sort of general sample would detect problems?

 I sprayed it on my face and arms with no obvious reactions. It might have helped that I ate lots of fish during the week and hardly any border-line food so was enjoying quite a lot of tolerance. Also I suspect a bit of sunshine helps!

Later I put my glasses on and discovered it contained aloe. However no problems following the day out.

PS the spellchecker on my blogger has highlighted two words as doubtful: dermatologically and salicylate. Curious.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


I'm  not one for spending time making salads but now it's summer, the cupboard is bare and I wanted a light but filling lunch. I normally keep a stock of crisp lettuce and celery.

I've noticed that commercial salads increasingly are fleshed out with red cabbage - and it's ok. We had some grated cheese sandwich filler in the fridge and nobody knows more about chopping red cabbage than me.

So that's what I've done - mixed red cabbage and grated cheese, eaten with a fork. Mmmm! It's been delicious and filling.

Perhaps I can come up with more ideas for tasty and easy salads over the summer. Any thoughts?


Friday, May 21, 2010

Was it the wrong tooth?

To tell the tooth, I'm not sure. I thought she was meant to take out a wisdom tooth on my lower jaw but instead she pulled it from the upper jaw. I questioned this and she said this was right. It came out fast  with a satisfying crunch. Maybe there are no wisdom teeth on the lower jaw. The problem is the ache on my lower jaw is still there.

It probably wasn't helped by my indulging in Shloer fizzy grape juice yesterday. I took a montelukast beforehand but my lower left lip has been thick and my teeth aching since. Yesterday my left eye was quite sore and itchy. It's still sore but a little better today.

No harm done. As I managed to get it on the NHS, it cost less than £30, a fraction of what I was spending last year. And it didn't take much of the dentist's time - she has a reputation for pulling wisdom teeth. You may realise that I am increasingly wondering whether my allergic-style symptoms have been aggravated by gum problems. Which came first: the chicken or the egg?

The operation seems to have solved very little. I now need to get on with sorting out my scuba diving medical and see if  the medical expert passes me to dive or not.


Monday, May 17, 2010

Sore eye, no tooth

Now my left eye is really sore. That's because I had the wisdom tooth removal today. I was told to expect soreness and pain - but in reality it's no worse than I've had to put up with at different times in the past few years. I'm hoping it's the last time and this will remove a source of inflammation. I'm hoping.

So far I've taken just one paracetamol.

The stop-start British spring has reminded me of horrors to come. Saturday was a lovely warm muggy day and as I was out in it it felt as if hordes of insects were alighting on my skin. I don't know if it's the bugs or the heat irritating the skin or reactions to vegetable matter in the air. Even though it's mid-May the volcanic ash and whatever else is going on with the climate has made spring cold in Britain. Maybe we won't have a long hot summer after all.

The dentist told me I could not exercise for 24 hours so my original plans to do some gardening today had to be put to one side.


Saturday, May 01, 2010

What difference does a wisdom tooth make?

It's early the end of April and I didn't realise it was so long since I last posted.

I went to the dentist and she confirmed that a wisdom tooth on my right jaw is playing up. It only needs a filling but we agreed we might as well take it out. I used salt-water mouth washes and lots of flossing to calm my teeth down and haven't had any major problems for a couple of weeks.

My left eye remains a little sore so I'm looking forward to seeing the impact of the wisdom tooth removal which is booked in a couple of weeks.


Monday, April 05, 2010

Scuba diving and wisdom teeth

I have found an NHS dentist and booked an appointment for the coming week. I thought by now I would be agony as for most of the last week I have been convinced a wisdom tooth on my left jaw was about to blow. Oddly, I have survived Easter and a great deal of chocolate and food - and some whisky - with minimal harm.

What happened last week was alarming. The left-side syndrome concentrated on my jaw, my ear, my left eye and my left neck. I wondered for a while whether it was in fact meningitis triggered by a tooth infection. Am I becoming a hypochondriac?

I assumed it was an infection, triggered by allergic inflammation, and took regular mouthwashes of warm salty water. I imagine that is what worked. My leg is a lot better and Australia (on my chest) is quite faint - which is what makes me alarmed that the current problems are caused by infection

I have now found the procedure for getting a medical certificate for scuba diving. It's been simplified recently -  you start off with a telephone conversation with a local expert and you may be called for examination. However they are likely to be concerned about ear problems - and at the moment I have a faint sensation in my left ear.

If there's a wisdom tooth aggravating the problems, I want it pulled before I make that call.


Saturday, March 27, 2010

Left-eye syndrome

I don't know what I did. Maybe it was the pre-cooked "flavoured" chicken from last night.

Today I realised I've got a left-side syndrome. All the problems are on my left-hand side - a painful eye, aching tooth, stiff shoulder, Australia - which was The Splodge - on my left chest and gout in my left knee. By this afternoon I even had a headache in the left side of my head. When my fingers hurt, it's on the left-hand. You can explain some of it by sinusitis but not the knee and shoulder. I've wondered whether there might be a wisdom tooth problem also. My dentist doesn't think so - but the right side wisdom has been removed.

It's not just been today. My shoulder's been stiff all week.

I haven't taken many montelukasts recently and that may have allowed problems to build up. I took one last night and another tonight and am feeling a little better.

Is there any point in discussing the left-side problem with a doctor? I know the cause and what to do about it. It just means I have to police the diet more rigorously than I have been.


Saturday, March 20, 2010

Pain and gain

I think I overdosed on redbush tea.

Last night and this morning I had an aching pain in the index finger of my left hand - and a fair amount of aching on my left arm.

I took it to mean I had overdosed - and in fact when I woke up this morning there were few signs of the cold. And Australia, which was the Splodge, was quite red.

So I've given up redbush tea again and taken up decaf instant coffee - which doesn't taste too bad now. Tonight I took a montelukast and the ache has almost gone.


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

More dish-water

I've been drinking redbush tea for the last 48 hours. This morning at breakfast it tasted like dish-water but tonight it's been okay.

It makes me feel a lot better, especially at breakfast. This cold, which may not be a cold, is complicated to make sense of. Tonight I'm feeling itchy, especially around Australia, and my nose is stuffy. The tongue's a little tingly but my chest feels wheezy and cold - like with a cold. That suggests  hay fever- like reactions - maybe at the same time as a cold.

Last night I tried some instant decaf. It wasn't too bad but had absolutely no taste. There's another explanation for the dish-water taste - that is that my sense of taste was impaired before and has now been restored. Maybe I was just tasting instant decaf and badly brewed redbush for what it is - dishwater.

Tomorrow I may find out.


Monday, March 15, 2010

Drinking dish-water

I made a cup of instant decaf coffee the other night and it tasted like dishwater. In fact I threw it away, thinking maybe it was dishwater.

The same happened yesterday at breakfast-time and I haven't dared touch the stuff since. You may say, of course it tasted like dishwater - it's not as though there's much original coffee left in instant decaf.

The trouble is I normally enjoy my decaf coffee. So something's gone wrong. Over the weekend I had to dine out. I took a montelukast - the first in ages - and let the brakes off a little, even drinking half a glass of wine.

No appetite for days so I've been wondering what's going on.

Tonight I think it might be another cold, another one! It feels like one. I'm sneezy and starting to cough and narcoleptic. Australia - which used to be The Splodge - is quite faint, but that could be the montelukast. Or could it be a hay fever type reaction?


Sunday, March 07, 2010

Taking the brakes off...

This weekend I took the brakes off. I drank wine with my meals. I had a pecular Chinese concoction when I went out for a pub lunch. It was based on bean sprouts and egg fried rice - which are all okay - but had other vegetables too, such as onions.

I thought last week's cold might have made a difference. And I wasn't sure whether it was still around. It seemed to turn into a chronically stuffy noise - but then I have lived with one of those for some years, and it's not caused by a cold virus.

I was wrong. When you take the brakes off, you slam into a brick wall. Today I have red blotches all over me. There's not been too much itching I'm pleased to say. But Australia - which was the Splodge and before that The Ring - has been quite red. And there is chronically stuffy nose.

It's helpful to be reminded sometimes that
a) there is a problem and
b) the diagnosis seems to be correct.


Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Australia fades

As luck would have it, I was due to go to a Chinese buffet meal last night. As I've said before a cold should be a cause for partying, not for misery - as it was over the weekend.

I had some sandwiches at lunchtime yesterday and they were quite spicy. I'd love to say that last night I really indulged - but habits are hard to break. What happened was I didn't worry about what I was eating. I chose essentially low salicylate food - plain meat, so-called crab feet, chicken and sweet-corn soup, egg fried rice and banana fritter. And cheese cake, sweet, plain cheese cake.

In the last stages of a cold it's difficult to know, yet again, whether breaking the diet is going to aggravate the runny nose and sore throat. Today I'm still feeling a little sneezy and tired but it's mainly gone. My left eye has been sore, on and off, over the weekend. So is that the cold causing sinusitis - or sinusitis caused by attempts to get rid of the cold by drinking redbush tea.

The Splodge, which was The Ring, has been looking like Australia for a couple of weeks, almost so that I could uncover in the summer and pretend it was a tattoo of down under. Alarmingly over the weekend it seemed to darken in the area of New South Wales.

Today it's very faint, in spite of last night's excesses. In the back of my mind, I've been wondering whether the cold meant the allergic problems are going away - or even that the virus itself might solve them. If that happened, I wouldn't be able to write so much on this blog. But I'd be able to enjoy my summer holidays.


Monday, March 01, 2010

The thick of it

This has turned out to be the mother and father of all colds. I feel like one of those unfortunate native Americans who were first exposed to the cold and flu viruses against which they had no immunity.

For the last four years, no cold has got past the tip of my nose. So why have I suddenly succumbed.

I have been drinking redbush tea all weekend. Each cup gives me a temporary fillip. On Saturday night I slept for 12 hours and stayed in bed until the afternoon. I did stir at 8am and had a cup of redbush and a paracetamol and then went back to bed. I had a couple of glasses of sherry before lunch - a good tonic but it burnt my tongue.

Despite a restful Sunday and another good eight hours sleep last night , I am still thick with cold today. Perhaps I should consume more salicylates - maybe try an orange - to stir up the immune system some more.


Saturday, February 27, 2010

A stinking cold!

I have a stinking cold! It really is a cold, I am convinced and not hay-fever.

It came on overnight and last night I wasn't sure. But this morning I checked and The Splodge was nearly invisible. And tonight it felt as if I was getting the shivers. So I had the pleasure of having redbush tea for breakfast and another cup tonight. Both cups made me a feel a lot better

A funny week. I've switched back to buying cheap, dark chocolate. In fact we came back with eight bars of it from the supermarket - that's a lot. The advantage is that I eat less of it than of dairy milk - which is far too addictive and fattening.

However my teeth and mouth have not been happy. Soreness around the jaw and an ulcer in the mouth. My dentist would say it's a return of gum disease and I did swill my mouth with salt water a couple of times, especially when my left wisdom tooth seemed to get sore. Is that the dark chocolate or the sugar in the dark chocolate? Maybe both.

I'm a little worried my immune system seems to be swinging from one extreme to another - from over-reacting to succumbing fast to a cold virus.


Saturday, February 20, 2010

The search for shampoo

Someone gave me a pack of Nivea "sensitive" products for Christmas. It's taken me a long time to report on them as it's taken me a long time to test them.

That's not quite true. There is a shaving cream, which is just fine. It's main plant ingredient is chamomile, which we know is okay, and some palm oil product.

So I have been thinking that Nivea might have solved the problem and produced a range of salicylate free bathroom goods.

This week I tried the shower gel. It seemed okay. The Splodge, which was The Ring, did not flare up. But in the light of day I have just checked the ingredients, which are written in incredibly small print. They are radically different from the shaving cream and include sodium salicylate, citric acid and I suspect quite a lot of coconut oil.

So why no reaction? If you remember the Imperial Leather test, that particular product is choc-a-bloc with salicylate, and long before I knew anything about this problem it used to leave me bright red and scorched after a shower.

As stated earlier we do have cold viruses around so my immune system may be a little low this week. And until my encounter with the Tandoori prawns I had been successfully observing a salicylate-free life. Perhaps I will try a little again sometime.

Some advice to manufacturers: you are not "sensitive" if you include salicylates; nor are you "sensitive" if you write your ingredients in tiny print.


Friday, February 19, 2010

Tandoori and curry

In my search to make salicylate-free curry, I recently tried to find tandoori spice in our local supermarket, which serves an ethnically mixed population. No luck!

Finally last night I found myself in curry house eating with friends. My main course was chicken and chips, no spice, no curry. And I had forgotten to take any montelukast.

When it came to starters there were a number of tandoori choices. Time to give it a go, I thought. So I selected tandoori king prawns. Only two came on the plate. They were okay but pretty insubstantial..

No obvious or immediate consequences. We've had cold viruses around all week and I may have one. As always it's impossible to tell except by measuring The Splodge, which has been quite pale. So that may have helped prevent reactions.

Was it my imagination or were my lips strangely blue last night? I've just checked again and now they are red - they were definitely oddly blue last night.

I've now checked Wikipedia, which is the fount of all knowledge, and it turns out that "Tandoori" is not a specific spice at all. It is a method of cooking.

So what on earth is "tandori spice powder" (sic) doing on my diet list? Wikipedia goes on to explain that tandoori chicken is marinated in  "garam masala, garlic, ginger, cumin, cayenne pepper, and other spices depending on the recipe. Cayenne, red chili powder, or other spices give the typical red color. Turmeric produces a yellow-orange color."

Presumably at some point a biochemist picked up a vial containing something called "tandori spice powder". But what was in it?

No wonder my lips turned blue and I spent half the night in the bathroom.

This is all very sad -  as it seems to put paid to my hopes of ever eating curry again.


Monday, February 08, 2010


Someone slipped  me a caffeinated coffee today. It appeared in front of me when I wasn't looking and I didn't think to check before I downed half of it.

I know it was caffeinated because
a) I've been buzzing round like a honey-bee all day;
b) my left eye became sore and painful and my tongue swelled.

It may have helped shake off the last of the flu-like virus. I haven't felt so stiff and sore today. However tonight the temperature's plummeting - and as I sit shivering that makes it hard to know whether it's me or the drop in temperature.


Sunday, February 07, 2010

Flu scare!

I am reluctantly concluding that I may really have flu this week. If so I've made a hash of it.

It started with a sneeze on Monday and by Monday evening I was getting shooting pains somewhere between the lungs and stomach. Then my shoulders got stiffer and stiffer. Now the aching is running all round my back and I've lost my appetite. On top of that my body seems to want more and more sleep - and even when I've had enough sleep I've been dozy. But there's been no obvious fever. And although I've had a snuffle all week there's not been any obvious coughing. And there's nothing new about a persistent snuffle.

I had a good walk yesterday and was then in bed by about 9pm. I slept through to 9am with one interruption but still felt rotten this morning. Maybe the result of too much sleep?

When it started happening I took montelukast for a couple of days. I thought someone had probably fed me caffeinated coffee rather than decaf. I don't suppose there's any official guidance on taking montelukast during flu but it seems to me it must be the worst possible thing - as it dampens down the immune system. I wonder whether that explains the absence of fever?

So this morning I had my old friend redbush tea for breakfast. It didn't make me feel any better, not nearly as refreshing as it normally is. The Splodge, which used to be The Ring, is still quite faint so that suggests the immune system is a little weak. I've got a swelling in my throat now - but I don't know if that was the redbush or if it's a virus. How can I tell?

I've just used the NHS Direct symptom checker. Its conclusion is "flu-like illness or swine flu". That sounds right, although I think the symptom-checker was confused by the absence of fever. I hope it's right because otherwise all these symptoms could be quite disturbing.


Saturday, January 30, 2010

Scuba diving

I have a life-long ambition to go scuba diving. I've done it once - a trial run round the bottom of a Cornish cove. Cornish coves are terrific - great underwater forests and a reasonable number of fish swimming in them.

This year I thought I might achieve it. We're planning a holiday in a bay with training centres and warm water.

It occurred to me to check the medical criteria. I've found the self-certification form used by one of the training centres. No chance! If you have allergies, sinusitis, rhinusitis or a history of ear problems, you cannot just turn up and dive. You have to get checked by a doctor. So your breathing has to be perfect.

Today it's not feeling perfect. I have chronic catarrh and my left eye is sore again. It's probably been aggravated by a glass of whisky last night. I am fairly sure none of this is the common cold. But I don't feel any difficulty breathing. And when I flew last year I didn't have any problems.

The way it seems to work is that you sign up to a dive centre, they give you a medical form and then tell you to go and see a doctor. We cannot risk that happening on holiday. So I need to get hold of the most official form I can.

I can imagine my doctor's reaction. I guess they could jump either way - don't do it because it will be their fault if anything goes wrong - or what's the fuss about? Really I need to find a specialist doctor who knows what the risks are. Do they exist? Should it be a problem?


Friday, January 22, 2010

How to miss the point and offend millions

I can see what this report in Britain's Daily Telegraph was getting at .... but it, oh, so misses so many points.

The writer quotes experts as saying too many people are diagnosing themselves with food allergy and that food allergies are much rarer than people think. They then state that people are starving themselves of nutrients in pointless attempts to avoid food allergies.

Yes, up to a point Lord Copper.

I'm one who self-diagnosed with wheat allergy. I lost half a stone in a year. But I didn't give up wheat or gluten before seeing my GP. As I've said before, I was lucky - I developed obvious symptoms. My mouth and tongue swelled and my skin sprouted peculiar rashes. So I got a referral to a specialist. Before that I'd suffered from all those general symptoms associated with food intolerance. After a big meal of pizzas I spent about a week in the bathroom.

And when the wheat allergy tests came up negative, the specialist made another suggestion by letter. That was salicylate. Subsequently I was able to follow this through with a specialist hospital dietician. I understand not everybody gets this service, not everybody gets obvious symptoms.

The point it is wasn't wheat. It wasn't the pizza crust, it was everything else - the tomato, the spices, the herbs. I'd never liked tinned tomatoes.

Now there is no test for salicylate hypersensitivity. I understand there are other basic chemicals, such as sulphates, that can cause similar problems.

So yes, I accept that wheat allergy is rare. I starved myself of wheat and gluten unnecessarily for a year - but it was an experience and I lost weight. If somebody has allergy or food intolerance symptoms, it doesn't mean there's not a problem - just that there may not be an easy answer.


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Onion and coleslaw

I'm eating a cheese and coleslaw sandwich from Tesco and I taste onion. I have just put on my glasses and checked the ingredients, which are in small print. Sure enough there is onion and pepper. Why do they put onion in everything?

Really I should throw it away but it is snowing and I am hungry so I will continue eating it. I have not  taken a montelukast today so I can expect to get itchy later. I must be careful for the next few days as a dentist appointment is due and I want to avoid inflammation in my mouth - so she does not prescribe all sorts of treatments and visits to the hygienist.

Yesterday I took a montelukast and ate a piece of black forest gateau. It was mainly chocolate with a little bit of cherry. Frankly, the unaccustomed taste of the cherry did little for me. I removed the cherry glace from the top. No major effects apart from a little bit of itching and a slightly embarrassing runny nose.


Monday, January 04, 2010

Gout and marzipan

In the run up to Christmas I got occasional bouts of stiffness and mild pain in my left leg. I assumed it was a dodgy shoe-lace making me walk slightly off centre.

However, over the holiday, as I indulged for three glorious days in white wine, it came back - and the pain was all the way up the leg. Not too bad but enough to make me hobble a little. It's gone now - maybe the result of some vigorous walking in the snow and ice after Christmas and the New Year. I can only assume it's a kind of gout caused, ironically, by indulgence in white wine and probably a little too much whisky before Christmas.

Sometimes I manage so well I forget how susceptible I am - as I discovered at two New Year's parties.

At the first one, I thought there would be no harm in trying a blue cheese dip - after all what is it? Blue cheese and vinegar. It might make The Blotch - which used to be The Ring - flare up a little but not much else. I dipped a bread stick into the dip, put it in my mouth and tasted onion. My mouth burned and my throat choked and I rushed off for a glass of cold water.

Something similar happened two days later when everyone was dipping into a plate of Christmas cake with a layer of sugary icing on it. I dived in and sliced off the icing, just to get a taste of the fun. "It's marzipan," someone mentioned. Marzipan is made with almonds but it surely cannot cause too much damage. It was the same as the cheese dip - a rush for cold water to prevent the choking. When I say rush, I don't mean making a fuss about it - just making the tap the next port of call. Make a fuss and you don't get invited back.