Saturday, December 31, 2011

Swollen tongue syndrome

Last night my tongue suddenly swelled. This hasn't happened for quite a long time. At first I thought I had an ulcer - then I realised my tongue was getting somewhat unwieldy. The prime suspect is a chocolate biscuit I picked up. It turned out to have an orange icing filling. The second suspect is quite a large glass of whiskey a friend gave me. Whisky should be okay - although I note one of my lists merely states it is low, rather than zero. I also suspect a lot depends how it is distilled. Anyway the chocolate biscuit tasted disgusting - I used to like the taste of orange. I can't think why now. So I didn't finish it.

I took a montelukast and the problem faded away. Odd.

No whisky for me to bring in the New Year. Happy New Year!


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmases I have known

The countdown is under way to Christmas and I've decided to stock up the whisky for the day. Sadly I've had all the viruses I need during the autumn and am unlikely to have that excuse for enjoying a glass or two of wine on Christmas Day.

When elderly relatives are present, it's really not right to go round looking for cold and flu viruses. They need to be banished from the Christmas table - the worst thing is when somebody ends up in hospital with flu straight after the festivities.

I've been perusing my postings for the last few Christmases and it turns out that drinking wine never worked out. Here is a selection:

This was the reality of the first Christmas Day on a restricted diet, tough turkey! And that's with massive appreciation to everyone who tried so hard:

These were my reflective thoughts on Christmas Eve at the end of the first year:

12 months later things were getting easier:

By 2009 I was learning to create tolerance before Christmas - by rigorous abstention - combine it with a virus and enjoy some wine:

...but it wasn't wholly successful.

And last year I reported, briefly, that my indulgence in wine created a holiday that was "quite difficult".

So maybe I'll be sticking to whisky - but I'm sure the turkey will be tasty. And if anyone wants tips on how to make the most of Christmas dinner, here's how to do a salicylate free poultry roast:


Thursday, December 01, 2011

Viruses, teeth and everything

It started with a bit of beef stuck in my back teeth. When problems persisted, more food got stuck and a dull ache spread from the tooth I just assumed I'd pushed my fragile dental system too far.

Then there was a slight ache in the chest and a thickness in the throat. Looking back I've been through this many times recently - yet it's always hard to be sure what's happening. They say a dental infection can spread, causing pneumonia and heart disease (I'm not a hypochondriac - just reporting what I've picked up).

I used plenty of salt water and dental floss to fight what I thought was a dental infection - while the virus slowly climbed my throat and throttled the tooth

By the beginning of this week I was back where I was less than two months ago. Overwhelmed by a virus. On Sunday I stayed in bed. On Monday night I barely slept for a hacking cough.

The thing is: once you know it's a virus you know what to do. On Tuesday I was due to attend a function - so I attended and indulged myself. Wine, mushroom starter, everything - well, everything except the beef.

Several posters recently have mentioned wine being high in salicylates and I keep saying what I always say: it's a great way to kick-start the immune system. I've still got a bit of virus - but not much. I've suffered no ill-effects from my indulgence. My tooth is barely sore - just a little bit, almost certainly from the effects of too much flossing. And as well as getting an immune system shot, my body's probably had a chance to pick up nutrients it may be deprived of routinely.

Only problem now is that it's going to be tougher to pick up a virus on December 24th - in time to make Christmas dinner palatable.


Friday, November 18, 2011

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Apple juice

#BAD11 #worldfoodday I'm not sure about the Golden Nobles. They are yellow but I'm not sure they are salicylate free. In fact there's a distinct soreness of my throat and running of my nose after eating foods made from them.

I'm ignoring it. It's a cooking apple. It's yellow and  I should be able to eat it and we've got a stock of them. We've eaten apple crumble and made an apple cake. I added some water to some left over stewed apple and drank it as a juice. Apple juice! I haven't drunk that for some time. It left a funny taste in my mouth but did not choke me - so maybe they are only low salicylate. The two varieties of yellow pippin don't seem to have caused any harm. They are delicious but running out fast.

A new blender seems to have appeared in the house so we're thinking of trying some banana smoothies using Smartprice bananas. However I'm not sure it's a good use of expensive fruit. It took one large Golden Noble to make a glass of apple juice and just a couple of minutes to drink it.

Today bloggers are writing about food for World Food Day and also for Blog Action Day, which focuses on the world's starving. If I seem to moan that there's lots of food I can't eat, don't take it seriously. For millions around the world there's lots of food they can't eat, because they cannot get it. And that includes Smartprice bananas and apples and bread.


Sunday, October 09, 2011


The Wormsley Pippin - raised at Downton Castle
We were in Herefordshire the home of the English apple yesterday. And by all accounts it has been a bumper season for the English apple.

We came across an apple exhibition - and not only an exhibition but a sale of rare apples.

Now the diet sheets, as I recall, specify yellow apples only and then in brackets (Golden Delicious). I've never known whether this means only the Golden Delicious has ever been tested or whether they know something about apples in general. It certainly fits with the general principle the redder the fruit, the more dangerous.

But here, at this exhibition, was a host of other yellow apples. So we bought bags of them - one bag of a large yellow cooking apple called Golden Noble. Another bag full of the Wormsley Pippin. I have eaten a Wormsley Pippin tonight and it is delicious - soft and sweet but not round enough for the supermarkets. No obvious ill-effects - maybe my throat feels a little sore. But the diet sheets say "yellow apples" - so we will be eating yellow apples all winter.

There was also a small apple called the Downton Pippin. I got some of these and tried one. Very hard and aromatic and probably not good for the digestion - but I will have to eat them now. The Dowton, like the Wormsley, is raised at a place called Downton Castle, yes, really Downton Castle (If you don't know Downton Abbey is a hit costume drama on British television).

And given the glut of apples this winter, I bitterly resent paying supermarket prices. They are on the ground everywhere you go. We are in fact planning to invest in some Golden Delicious trees. Maybe we could get some Wormsley Pippin trees? Wouldn't that be great!

* If you are in Herefordshire, you have to head for the National Trust's Berrington Hall to find the exhibition.

* I have now googled the Wormsley Pippin and sure enough it is possible to buy the trees. There is a complication - they need a partner to pollinate. The good news is that the Golden Delicious tree will do the job. I can see an orchard coming on.


Monday, October 03, 2011

Granny's remedies

By yesterday morning one eye was bloodshot and had been for two days without any sign of healing. The other was aching and I was losing hearing in the left ear. It was definitely the worst cold I've had since I've had this problem and, worse, it was persisting.

Out of necessity comes invention - or rather reinvention. I remembered getting sinusitis and bad colds as a child. I also know well the symptoms of the other kind of sinusitis, call it inflammatory sinusitis if you like as I'm probably not meant to call it allergic sinusitis. Maybe non-allergic sinusitis to rhyme with non-allergic rhinusitis.

Anyway this was not non-allergic sinusitis, it was viral sinusitis. And the old remedy involves getting plenty of steam and sticking your face in it. This is what I did. It flushes the virus out of the cavities of the face. I combined this with some new tricks - like swallowing to open the  eustachian tubes and flush anything down from the ears. And, as my throat was quite lumpy, I put some salt in some hot water and gargled it.

Within a few hours I was cured. The blood went from the eye as did the aching. I haven't had a chance to test the hearing. At best all that remains is a mild cold.

So what on earth happened? My hyperactive immune system is meant to see off colds - and in case of doubt I thought to get it going with redbush tea and even a glass of wine. My theory is this and I'm no immunologist. The immune system works in several waves - the first is the blunt response to stave off infection. That's what you get when there's a salicylate reaction. Later on the immune system fine tunes itself to deal with particular viruses.

Now for the last five years I've barely had a cold or flu because it's been seen off at the outset. So there's been no fine-tuning against new viruses. The effect is similar to Native Americans or Martians being exposed to the European common cold. I'd lost my immune protection.

So once the virus got through I was vulnerable - and ended up spending two days and many more hours in bed together with a nasty bout of sinusitis.


PS In researching this I went back to several of the Wikipedia sources to make sure I'm not talking utter nonsense. Taken together they are very good. The article on salicylate sensitivity is good but you need to follow the link to Montelukast and on to leukotrienes, the arichidonic cascade etc to get the full story. The front-line immune cells are called neutrophils and they appear to be guided by leukotrienes, which also cause inflammation and hence asthma and other symptoms of allergy.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Breaking the diet

This is now officially the worst cold I've had in  five years. Yesterday I broke the diet to try and kick start the immune system. We were at a function and I just ate what we were given. Chicken in herbs, rhubarb crumble - delicious! Then there was no decaf coffee so I just had half a cup of ordinary coffee. At least it kept me awake for a longish journey home. But no appetite for wine. Sadly, although I was spared the embarrassment of having to ask for appropriate food, I then had to face the embarrassment of mingling with people with a cold that was just getting worse.

There were effects from the caffeine at first - I thought my eyes were going to pop out of my head.There have been no skin reactions I've noticed and no sinusitis or jaw ache. My throat is sore and my nose runny - you would expect that. I'm wondering whether these symptoms have been aggravated by breaking the diet. Although the rhinusitis and common cold always seem to have opposite causes, in fact they are both caused by immune system reactions. I may be doubling up.


Friday, September 23, 2011

A cold

I have gone down with a stinking, stonking, horrendous, wonderful cold - probably the worst cold I've had in five years.

For the last 24 hours I've been indulging in redbush tea. I ate a cream muffin with strawberry jam. I tried red grapes. My skin is fine, my throat is not but that is probably the cold virus.

I was going to indulge in wine tonight - but it is a real cold and is playing havoc with my tastebuds and appetite. So I haven't really enjoyed the redbush tea (it is rather old and may just be stale). All being well, thanks to a hyperactivated immune system it should be gone tomorrow.


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A decaf tester?

What we need is a thermometer style stick to test coffee for absence of caffeine.

Today I bought a small decaf latte from a caterer which specifically advertised a decaf option. This was welcome - I'm not sure whether the availability of decaf is improving or whether I'm just more discerning. For instance at a motorway service station I will head for Costa or Starbucks and take a decaf into the restaurant. No point in asking there as the best I will get is a dreadfully made instant sachet. I do drink a lot of instant coffee but it needs milk.

As I came away my throat was choking and that left eye started to ache - a surefire sign that something is wrong. Apart from that I felt bright and cheerful. It was a pleasant day - and I felt quite high ... as you would after an unexpected shot of caffeine. One possibility - as I have noted before - is simply that filter decaf or whatever they use in coffee shops is not fully decaffed. Another is that staff don't always remember to get out a decaf sachet and think you won't notice.

So we need a discreet testing device. Can it be done? A device for testing for salicylate would also be handy - but a little more complex as it's not going to be found uniformly in any food. So it would have to be some kind of scanner - maybe a project for the 22nd century?


Thursday, September 08, 2011

Caterers and muffins

I sent the following advice off to some caterers this week. Time will tell if I get an edible meal out of it:
It's salicylate allergy
Unfortunately salicylate - much the same as aspirin - is in many fruit and vegetables, in caffeine and in most nuts, herbs and spices including pepper. The simplest solution is plain food and ungarnished vegetables with no sauces or gravy. All meats and sea food and cheese are good.

The following foods are good and commonly eaten:
Decaf coffee

Small mistakes are not fatal!

I'm not sure if I should have mentioned chocolate as I have largely given it up - but not in chocolate cake. Some supermarket chocolate muffins turned up in our house this week. I have eaten too many of them and feel unwell. I can only conclude they were stacked with loads of caffeine. This morning my left eye was sore - a sure sign of problems - and it is now spreading down my left jaw and left neck. I have taken a montelukast.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A little knowledge

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing:

Where do we start? This gentleman, writing in a respectable British newspaper, has gastrointestinal symptoms and decides to be tested for "food allergy". How many allergies are marked purely by gastro-symptoms? Maybe cow's milk in children.

He then discovers he is not allergic to anything - having been told he could test for wheat by giving it up. He then rants on about "true immune-mediated" allergies, clearly recycling some highly condensed notes and quotes - moving allergy in one stroke from gastro-intestinal symptoms to life-threatening anaphylaxis.

Is there nothing in between, Dan? No mention of asthma, eczema, urticaria (hives to you), chronic rhinusitis (that's hay fever) let alone the chronic inflammatory conditions that are so badly diagnosed?

And it all concludes with some nonsense, apparently endorsed by an Allergy UK spokesperson, suggesting that we mostly eat too much wheat and dairy. Try living on bananas, fish and cabbage, I say.

Most of the comments are equally disturbing. Maybe it's just because the British are obsessed with their bowels.

* I was interested to see the main source is the London Allergy Clinic, about which I had heard little previously.  I'm amazed that when the NHS is so short of specialists they have the time to run a presumably lucrative joint private practice. I'd be interested to know if they provide effective on-going care for patients - or simply take fees for diagnosis.


PS My judgement may be a little harsh as originally it was gastro symptoms that alerted me to a possible problem. The second alert was when I started choking on my food. But it took me a while to relate it to a life-time of minor skin problems and the very disturbing ache in my left eye (which puzzled my optician). And I only dared go to the doctor when my tongue and lips started swelling.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Side-effects of Singulair

There's a new side-effect from montelukast reported by the US authorities here. And it's psychiatric. Actually it's not new but for some reason it's just hit the social media.

The range of effects includes "agitation, aggression, anxiousness, dream abnormalities and hallucinations, depression, insomnia, irritability, restlessness, suicidal thinking and behavior (including suicide), and tremor. "

I can't say I had noticed - I was like that (irritable and restless) before I started taking the drug so I will ask members of my family. If these effects exist they are nothing like the side-effects of anti-histamines. I had a relative who went through a period of temporary madness and lost the ability to distinguish between dreams and reality. That was how anti-histamines, taken in high doses regularly, felt. Deep, realistic and frightening dreams.

I wonder if some of those who have reported side-effects have confused them with the effects of anti-histamines which they might well have been taking also.

* In fact I think I'm much calmer now than I was five years ago, perhaps thanks to giving up caffeine. Can I report a beneficial neuro-psychiatric side-effect?


Sunday, August 14, 2011

Wasp sting

After five years of avoiding them, a wasp got me on the head today. I was at an event so went to the First Aid tent to see if they had any anthisan. They didn't so they stuck an icepack on my head and kept me under observation.

When I got home an hour later I took a montelukast and an antihistamine tablet. I wasn't going to die from it - but a flush had spread across my face, my lips were tingling - as was the back of my hand where the C  made a faint reappearance.

It could have been worse - it could have been a jellyfish.  I've been on holiday and meant to report. I took montelukast daily when I was on holiday - and enjoyed the occasional wine and other dishes that were not strictly "allowed".  And there was plenty of sea and sunshine. I came back and stopped the daily pills and a week later, even prior to the wasp sting, I felt as if I was going down hill fast. Was it the pills - or the sea and sun?


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Jellyfish alert

The C on the back of my hand stayed itchy for several days and grew , becoming more welt than weal. It's now scabby but is not obviously fading. And I'm reminded the jelly fish season is approaching. Last year on holiday we kept a high alert for jelly fish - without either letting it spoil our fun or having a clear idea what to do. If a flea bite can bring me out in weals, what will a jelly fish do? And what on earth does this have to do with salicylate?

My plan on holiday is to take a montelukast daily. Last year I drank quite a lot of wine - and suffered for it throughout the autumn. It will be hard to resist temptation - especially if it's cheaper than water.


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Weal bad news?

I think I must have had an insect bite on my right hand. I had forgotten what insect bites can do. It itched a little and then went scaly. That was alarming as I thought I might be getting hives on my right side.

Over the last couple of days it has grown into a large C branded on the top of my hand. It's astonishing how useful this diary is - as I had completely forgotten about weals and welts. This happened two years ago when I was attacked by fleas and I identified the problem as papular urticaria.

In the light of today's news linking allergies to protection against cancer, it's maybe reassuring to know I can still get these bizarre reactions. However this particular welt itches like hell and I am wondering whether to try an anti-histamine cream, as I did before. I just hope it's not something worse - like scabies.


Thursday, June 30, 2011

Cabbage and canaries

I was thinking that red cabbage might be the canary of our civilisation. Or possibly that its mysterious absence from the shelves is linked to the German e.coli outbreak. The Germans, I believe, love their red cabbage. I cannot think of any other reason for its disappearance - and  nobody has been able to suggest an explanation apart from e.coli.

Anyway tonight I found some in Tesco's - there were two red cabbages on the shelves. They were organic. But that's good news. They say you should mix red, orange, green and yellow fruit and vegetables in your diet to get a full range of nutrients. Well, red cabbage is the only red fruit or vegetable I can eat.

So maybe the canary has not croaked yet.


Thursday, June 23, 2011

Giving up chocolate

Well, not entirely, but I'm giving up slab chocolate. A few days ago I had an acute pain all up my left arm - and it then spread down the left side of my chest. It was a little bit frightening.

I took a paracetamol and it subsided.

I knew I had eaten some sandwiches which were a little mixed - and had also had one of those breakfast croissants with fruit in it. I thought it was pain au chocolat but it turned out not to be - and it was so tasty I could not stop eating  it. In the sandwiches, which came with a working lunch the same day, was onion and other oddities.

On its own that's not enough to provoke an extreme reaction. After a little thought I realised I had changed my chocolate type the previous week. It was the final see-saw in an issue that has been bothering me for some years. Mild chocolate seems okay and can be tasty and quite stimulating - in the absence of coffee. However it's rich in fat and sugar. Now this year I've been steadily putting on weight. Not enormous amounts and I'm not fat but it was beginning to feel a little out of control, especially in the light of my NHS Health Check.

So I decided to try, again, switching from the cheap dark chocolate - which is about 60 per cent cocoa - to proper dark chocolate, which was about 85 per cent cocoa. It's bitter and should deter over-consumption. It's also rich in caffeine - as I found out two years ago.  Silly even to think about trying the stuff.

My arm is still a little stiff. I've tried finishing my bar of dark chocolate. That's probably a mistake - especially since I have run out of montelukast and have deleted the email address for a repeat prescription.

So I've got to stop snacking on chocolate things. If they're safe, they're too fatty and sugary. If they're lean, they're unsafe. I'm now getting through pints of decaf coffee as a substitute. Then it will be back to chewing carrots I think.


Tuesday, June 21, 2011


The words salicylate acid suddenly flashed up on my TV screen. Actually I think it was salicylic acid. "Contains  salicylic acid" said the footnote about a product called Bazuka! which is sold for verruccas.

For a moment I thought it was an allergy warning. Maybe it was - or maybe they were advertising a magic ingredient.

 I have been on their web-site and think I have solved the mystery. There's an  "about" page which says the gels do contain salicylic acid - between 12 and 26% -  "which gently removes the infected skin tissue, thereby eliminating the virus". So it's not an allergy warning - as if!

That's fine - but it makes the Frequently Asked Questions problematic.

Nuts and lactose are mentioned. So is asthma - and the answer, if you have asthma, is "In the unlikely event of signs of hypersensitivity, or if there is known sensitivity to an ingredient in the Bazuka gels, then application should be stopped immediately." Okay so far as it goes - but you have to search around to find the ingredients.

Then there is this FAQ:

"16. How much aspirin is absorbed from the Bazuka gels into the main circulation?
None, there is no aspirin in Bazuka."

But it does contain large amounts of salicylic acid, which according to Wikipedia is the "main metabolite of aspirin". The denial does not ring true - there may be a scientific distinction but are they sure of it?

I am sure this product is excellent if you need it. But if it's worth a web-site, surely it's worth a decent and full page about the allergy risks?

PS Has anyone found any red cabbage? I am told I am getting anaemic

Monday, June 13, 2011

New Euro-allergy site

I was hoping to commend this new allergy site,, launched as part of the European Allergy Conference which has been bringing together specialists all week.

The conference, run by the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, has been impressive with some impressive findings. The news service is picking some of them up.

I've thought this organisation is a little mercurial and the incomplete nature of the web-site tends to confirm this. Even worse it's definition of allergy is a little incomplete - and guess who barely features?

Yes, salicylate hypersensitivity is, kind of, not there. In fact I have found it - and that's where there's a big inconsistency.

For there is a section on "allergic" reactions to NSAIDs - that's medical-speak for aspirin and nurofen and similar drugs. And from this I learn you can suffer from "non allergic hypersensitivity reaction" - which gives reactions similar to allergy. I also learn there's a relationship to Samter Triad. If you have it you are "specially at risk". You probably knew that if you knew you had Samter Triad (the Triad is a runny nose, nose polyps and asthma, caused by salicylates).

The difficulty is the real and daily problem comes from salicylates in food, not in aspirin. And when you turn to the food section of the site there is no mention of this at all. So if your food is giving you hives and runny nose and swollen lips and throat - and all the other symptoms - you may well be stuck.

Euro-clinicians, you can do better than this!


Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Where's all the red cabbage gone?

Does anyone know? Red cabbage is a staple of my diet. It is in fact pretty well the only red fruit or vegetable that I can eat, which is supposed to be salicylate free.

For several weeks now it has been unobtainable in the main supermarkets. I checked tonight in Asda again - plenty of white cabbage but no red. Where on earth has it gone? Is it some kind of seasonal thing? Are the Germans using it as a salad substitute. It is a mystery.


Tuesday, June 07, 2011


I've employed someone to do my hedges in recent years but he's quite expensive, leaves it late and doesn't shape it quite the way I like.

So I got in before him this year. I have electric trimmers but they are on permanent loan somewhere. So I used hand shears and got about half the hedges done to my satisfaction. On reflection I realised this was a good move. An electric trimmer causes a spray of dust, wood and leaf. Just the thing to cause a pseudo-hay fever reaction. With hand shears there was no spray and no hay fever.

My gardener was not too pleased and did all my work over again. But the hedge is the shape I wanted it.


Monday, June 06, 2011

Burger King

I was in Burger King and, as always, it was quite impossible to find a salad. I thought I would risk a Chicken Royale. The plain version seems to come with lettuce and mayonnaise and seemed fine. There was no taste of pepper on the chicken.

Then I spotted their diet sheet. It's an impressive document which has 20 columns setting out the content of all the menus. It tells you about carbohydrate and proteins, vegetarian choices and even sulphur(sulfur to my US friends) dioxide.

In fact there are 11 columns devoted to allergens, including milk, fish and crustaceans. There is egg and celery. But inevitably there is no mention of salicylates. Why is this always the case? I have met dieticians socially several times recently and they are all primed to deal with the problem. Not expert but they know where to look for advice.

So good marks to Burger King for producing a low-salicylate choice, good marks for trying and bad marks for not finding a column for this one.


Sunday, June 05, 2011

A dose of sunshine

England had a brief spell of summer in the last week and, unexpectedly, I found myself at the seaside all day. I had forgotten to pack any hyposensitive sun cream - after all there was little reason to believe we would have unbroken sunshine.

I popped into the beach shop and scanned the ingredients of a limited range of sun tan lotions. Carrot seemed possible - except I have no wish to sprout orange skin. They had an Aloha! oil made from aloe vera and promising Factor 15 protection. Apart from aloe there seemed nothing in the ingredients to cause problems and I reasoned an oil would be purer than a cream. I had studied a Nivea children's cream, which explicitly contained salicylate for some reason.

Now I have always avoided aloe. It doesn't appear on lists because you don't eat it but I tend to assume any unknown vegetable matter is risky. Without having a chance to check anything, I hoped it was made from a flower rather than anything else. I have now checked and that doesn't seem to be the case.

So does anybody know whether aloe contains salicylate?

Possibly not. I followed the instructions and applied it liberally throughout the day. There was no hives but when my knees reddened I could not be sure whether it was the cream or the sun.

Sometimes a gamble pays off. No sunburn and no discernible reactions, apart from a slight runny nose for the last couple of days - but that could be triggered by several factors.

Now I can look forward to the rest of the summer. Aloha!


Friday, May 13, 2011

Trying blue cheese

Some blue cheese appeared in our fridge. I used to eat a lot as it seemed like the only thing food I could eat with any taste.

Then The Splodge appeared on my chest. A dose of penicillin for a tooth infection led The Splodge to grow, covering much of my chest - and that led me to discover that the blue bits in Stilton cheese are actually penicillin. So blue cheese had to be abandoned and the  Splodge became Australia before finally being burnt off by the sun during our holiday last year.

With The Splodge well and truly gone I thought I might be safe to try a little cheese. Well The Splodge has not reappeared on my chest. But a red, scabby rash about the size of a finger-nail has appeared on my tummy. It could be a coincidence but I don't think I will risk it. No more blue cheese for a while, I think.


Sunday, April 24, 2011

Pink fingers

Easter weekend was going to be challenging as we have had a great deal of family festivity. And we are enjoying an astonishing bout of late April sunshine - the air is awash with various kinds of seed, blossom and pollen. I don't get allergic hay fever, so I'm told - but I seem to get pseudo-hay fever caused by exposure to floating vegetable matter.

I've been taking montelukast daily for the last few days - and have also concentrated on eating fish - following the reappearance of the speckled rash on my belly as well as the odd symptom of sinusitis.

We went to a Thai restaurant, where I ordered prawn crackers, trout and egg fried rice. You never know for sure what other spices and herbs have been added - I was hoping not too many to these dishes.

When I pressed anything against my fingers during the meal, a bright pink rash appeared. At first I thought it was just my index finger, which I'd burnt on a light bulb the night before. I thought it was a kind of blistering - but it did not last long. However these rashes appeared on the fingers of both hands. They were a kind of bright pink - I tried to find the colour and consulted this site Spicy pink perhaps? Well it was a Thai restaurant.

Today there is no sign of this happening. Weird.

Using the ever-helpful Wikipedia I've found a benign condition called dermatographic urticaria. It seems the best explanation for the moment.


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

National Allergy Week

I've just discovered it's supposed to be National Allergy Week in the UK. That's the week after World Allergy Week - now that's excellent timing. In fact it's so well co-ordinated that the nation's allergy specialists declared their backing for World Allergy Week last week, missing out their own National Allergy Week.

Is it too much to hope that a national week is truly national and involves all parties? Even better that the national week takes place at the same time as the world week? If you follow these things even a little, you will know there's a surplus of special weeks and days - sometimes they seem little more than a PR stunt. So to make an impact, a Week needs a lot going for it. Two weeks on the same topic one after the other are guaranteed to flop.

So far as I can tell National Allergy Week centres on Allergy UK. I checked their Facebook page but there's nothing there. However their web-site has a press release, which reflects what the British Society for Allergy and Clinical Immunology said last week.

In fact their entire PR strategy seems to centre on Weeks - three of them in the last year. This is the list of press releases on their site for the last 12 months. There's just five of them:
  • National Allergy Week: 11th - 17th April 2011
  • Food Allergy Intolerance Week: 24th - 28th January 2011
  • Indoor Allergy Week: 25th - 29th October 2010
  • Allergy Friendly Hotels
  • National Allergy Week: 10th - 14th May 2010
For the record here is a list of the proposed weeks for the coming year:

  • Indoor Allergy Week: 14th -20th November 2011
  • Food Allergy and Intolerance Week: 23rd - 29th January 2012
  • National Allergy Week: 23rd - 29th April 2012
  • Indoor Allergy Week: 12th -18th November 2012


Monday, April 04, 2011


I've been asked to support World Allergy Week by using the hashtag in the title. It doesn't seem to be getting going - and that's a shame.

Looking into this, I get the impression the week is driven by the World Allergy Organisation - which is mainly doctors. As these problems affect millions, especially at this time of year when hay fever gets going, isn't it about time the victims helped to get things going?

It's interesting when you look at the statement from the British Society for Allergy, reported here, that they are still at the stage of training GPs in diagnosis. Isn't that alarming? Most GPs probably do a little better by giving people prescriptions also. But I noted the World Allergy Organisation refers to "multiple organ" problems increasing. Now if you have salicylate hypersensitivity you know what that means .... everything from the eyes to the knees. That can mean a host of minor symptoms and, if you have to take them to the GP, you really need the doctor to understand the underlying issues.


Friday, April 01, 2011

World Allergy Week

Spring is stuttering into place in the UK. The trees and flowers are budding and blossoming while the weather alternates between hot and cold.

So, yes, it's a good time for World Allergy Week, which starts on Monday. To mark the occasion, I've remembered to get my repeat prescription, which I have managed without for several weeks.

Details here

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Baked well tart

Much classic cooking is simply about creating different textures and combinations from basic ingredients such as flour, eggs, milk and water.

So we set about making a salicylate-free equivalent of the Bakewell Tart. And it worked.

Actually my other half did the work. I'm told this is what you do.

Partly cook a thin layer of pastry on the bottom of a baking pan.

Lay sliced Golden Delicious apple on top - and then plain cake mixture on top of that.



It's not quite as jammy as proper Bakewell tart. We need some ideas. Perhaps prepare the apple beforehand and add some sugar?

* Talking of apple, we bought some cut-price green apples from Asda's. I was wondering why I had symptoms today - itching in various places and a strange bleed on the lip tonight. Then I realised that although they looked like Golden Delicious there was no guarantee they were. They tasted a little stronger than GD. They were probably something else such as Granny Smith.

I tend to live with mild symptoms without complaining - but maybe I should make more effort to identify what is causing them.


Saturday, March 05, 2011

Cheap bananas

A few weeks ago I bought a big bag of market-price bananas from Tesco's. If you're lucky with these bananas they are edible. If you're unlucky they go off fast or fail to ripen properly. For a few pence, it's hit and miss.

These were large bananas and apparently just about ripe and at first quite edible. We put them in the fridge, where the skin turned brown but the inside stayed white.

Usable bananas are usually quite expensive and that's put me off experimenting with them. This was different. As time went by the flavour changed - they began to taste like the banana you get in tinned fruit salad, so far as I can recall tinned fruit salad. Not especially pleasant to eat raw.

I've tried cooking with bananas before. This time I fried up a mix of banana, golden delicious and tuna, with a little cabbage - then adding soy sauce for more flavour. I ate it with spaghetti. It was delicious, and, surprisingly, it tasted like curry. So maybe it would be even better with rice. I wonder how I can make it even more like curry. There is still the outstanding mystery of why tandoori appears on the diet list.

I used one for a banana split meal - with ice cream and cream. You could add chocolate sauce as well, I suppose.

After nearly two weeks, we used the last few bananas to make banana cake. Delicious and it lasted for a long time.

Now I wonder about fruit salad. I could make it with banana, golden delicious apple and green grapes. But I wonder where the juice would come from. Commercial salads often use a syrup - but the better quality ones use a fruit juice. Does anyone know how you could make a juice? I am thinking of a fruit salad with ice cream and cream. I am thinking and salivating.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Dark chocolate

I'm not addicted to chocolate - I'm not - but without coffee it's the only stimulant that can help with working. I've been trying to eat plain, dark chocolate because it's supposed to be better for you. And I tend to buy cheap 200g bars from Tesco or Asda.

The visit to the GP about the health check still hasn't happened -  but fitness and weight are now serious matters in my mind.Maybe some very dark chocolate would be the answer. It kills the appetite quicker than smoother, sweeter chocolates and should contain as much kick. It should be a way of cutting down fat and sugar intake. So a bar of Tesco 75% cocoa chocolate seemed a good idea.

In all this the research I did two years ago was forgotten. The problem is the darker the chocolate, the more the caffeine. 200g of plain chocolate is said to be equivalent to two cups of instant caffeinated coffee. Let's say the plain chocolate is 50% cocoa.  So 40g of 75 per cent cocoa chocolate would be about 60% of a cup of  caffeinated coffee.

And that's how it felt. Yes it killed the appetite and gave me a kick. It also gave the digestion a kick. It may be responsible for the ulcers in my mouth. It may also have triggered a bout of left-side syndrome (with gout in the left arm and leg and soreness in the eye.) It felt like the after-effects of drinking defac, filter coffee - which always seems to contain quite a lot of caffeine.

Tesco are now selling another brand of cheap, dark chocolate by Ryelands, and it's cheaper than Tesco's own brand. It claims to be about 50% cocoa. That's probably too strong but I'm trying it.

Depending how I get on with the doctor - if I ever get round to it - I may have to find a way of doing without chocolate.


Tuesday, February 08, 2011


Sometimes I need a sharp reminder there's a problem. I normally assume cookies are okay. After all they are just dough and chocolate chips, aren't they? I've always loved them and cheap cookies from Tesco or Asda don't cause a problem.

Someone gave us a packet of Maryland cookies and I have been happily munching them - even in spite of the visit to the doctor I must arrange to discuss the health screening. I was wondering about the crunchy bits, especially as my throat is getting lumpy and my tongue feels funny. I have checked the packet - they are indeed choc chip and hazelnut cookies.

Reminder to me: nuts are a problem, a real problem. Now to find a montelukast.

* Ref that health check: a friend had an identical scary letter from the screening company received on the same day. He went rushing to his doctor only to be told his cholesterol was mildly elevated. No pills, no exercise prescription, nothing. On the other hand....I must do something about it.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Bad news! Health check results

It's well over three months since I had my NHS healthcheck. So I was gob-smacked today to get a letter telling me I have failed it. The letter actually says some of my indicators are 'outside the normal range' and that I need to see my GP, who will tell me about it. No information about which indicators.

I've been in a bad mood all day. My first thought was to write straight back and demand they give me the indicators before I see the GP. I was out walking for three hours this morning. At first I got really hot - which suggested to me I was about to have a heart attack. In truth I was too well wrapped up against the cold. Then I felt nothing - and that's been a problem with walking recently. I don't feel like it achieves anything - probably because I'm fitter than I was and stepped up my walking during the cold and snow, while others stepped down.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Tomato, tuna and tummy

I tried my home-made tuna and tomato sauce. As I'd got a supply of tinned tomatoes I made the rest of the family a bolognese sauce at the same time. I cook  for others like Beethoven wrote music - I have no idea what it tastes like and cannot taste as I go along. It's all pure guess work.

We also obtained a pack of shallots - which are allowed but we very rarely use. It was the last pack in Tesco's and reduced in price to 75p. I feel I could do more with them - can you pickle them like onions?

That was about two weeks ago and I may still be suffering. I had severe tummy-ache for several days following the meal. The Italian restaurants must be using a magic ingredient that counteracts the tomato - perhaps olive oil? This needs to be investigated further. I used about a third of the tin of tomatoes on myself and gave the rest to the others.

So I cannot recommend tuna and tomato as a way of getting tomato into the diet. However in case you have to cook bolognese sauce for the rest of the family when they refuse to share your sardine/mackerel/tuna and cabbage sauce, here is what I did:
brown mince in rapeseed oil;
stir fry some leek, cabbage and shallot in separate frying pan (and that formed the base for my own meal);
add the fried vegetables to browned mince, along with tin of tomato;
add a liberal dose of Italian herbs;
add a little bit of soy sauce;
add two beef stock cubes;
simmer and add some water from the pasta saucepan. If still too runny add a little flour to thicken.
I did not taste this once but they assured me it was delicious - and I did not catch them making faces behind my back.


Monday, January 03, 2011

Trying tomato

Sometime ago I reported eating out in an Italian restaurant and having to eat a dish packed with tomato and herbs. The dish seemed to be fine because it was fish, rather than meat.

I've now had the same experience again. We found a reasonably-priced Italian restaurant with a good variety of choices. The dish I chose was linguine and king prawn. I didn't expect it to have quite so much tomato in it - that wasn't advertised. But it was delicious, really tasty. And there have been absolutely no side-effects, zero side-effects. I did leave most of the chunks of tomato - but there was plenty in the pasta sauce also.

It helped no doubt  I took a montelukast that day and also helped I was eating a sea-food meal. But after a Christmas season which was quite difficult - and that may have been down to drinking white wine - it's fun to enjoy a meal with strong tastes and suffer absolutely no after-effects.

Now, if I remember right, my last list suggested tomato was low in salicylate - not high and not zero. But I've avoided it as I've avoided onion (see a current discussion on this site), because it seemed strongly implicated when problems first started. I vividly remember that meal of celery and cherry tomato when I was on a near-starvation diet and how my mouth just swelled up. The allergy consultant was also impressed by that story.

And Italian food was strongly linked to my initial symptoms. My body could not handle spaghetti bolognese and pizza. So should I try to introduce more tomato into my diet?