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!