Oesophageal pain

As I’ve mentioned in several recent blog posts my reflux seems to’ve gotten out of hand lately for reasons I can’t put my finger on.  I have constant pain where my oesophagus meets my stomach, a bit like I have a sharp piece of toast stuck.  The pain radiates to my back and goes up either side of my spine from my lower shoulder blades right up to the base of my neck.  It’s a stinging pain which nothing seems to alleviate.  When it’s really bad I also get burning, stinging pain down the outside of both arms right down to the elbows.  Thankfully I don’t have any stomach pain, but eating is no fun.  Drinking or eating anything warm is acutely painful and I’m fairly sure my oesophagus is inflamed or ulcerated.

Unbeknown to me, I had silent reflux for several years which resulted in acid being inhaled into my lungs giving me a chronic cough which was mis-diagnosed as allergic asthma.  Then in April 2012 my stomach really started playing up.  I had an endoscopy that year which showed very little, other than a dozen benign stomach polyps and some inflammation.  It was decided I had GERD and I was placed on an H2 anti-histamine (originally Zantac which gave me awful nausea and brain fog, so I switched to Tagamet which I tolerate really well).  It reduced the heartburn and upper epi-gastric/back/arm pain but didn’t cure it.

I’ve now followed all the usual recommendations for GERD for nearly 2 years:

  • My bed head is raised on 4″ bricks.
  • I leave 3 hours after eating my dinner in an evening before lying down.
  • Most of the foods to avoid on an acid reducing diet are things I can’t eat on a low histamine diet in any event, eg. tomatoes, alcohol, most spices, citrus fruits, fizzy drinks.
  • I’ve never smoked.
  • I’m normal weight for my height and build at 8st 4lbs (117lbs/53kgs).
  • I eat 3 small meals a day, and 2 snacks inbetween.

In addition I’ve increased to the maximum dose of Tagamet (4 x tablets per day) and inbetween doses I take Gaviscon Advance which means I take acid suppressing drugs every 2 hours.  Yet the pain just gets worse and my chest tightness and chronic cough are back.

The next step would be to take a proton pump inhibitor (PPI) like Omeprazole, but I’m reluctant for 3 reasons:

  1. I probably won’t be able to tolerate it.
  2. The Tagamet I’m on currently is one of the drugs recommended for Mast Cell Disease being an anti-histamine, so is preferable to a PPI which has no action on stomach mast cells.
  3. I’m only 46 years old and PPIs are the last drug left for me to try.  If the pain gets worse in 10 years time I’ve no drug options left.

Nothing I eat makes it worse or better and the pain is so acute when I lie down (even sleeping on a slope!) that it’s kept me awake at night for weeks.  Consequently I’m getting more and more tired and miserable, leaving aside the fact that long-term reflux puts me at risk for Barrett’s Oesophagus and ultimately cancer.

I can’t get an appointment to see my GP until 14th May, when I’ll ask for a referral back to see the hospital Gastroenterologist.  I will then have to wait about 4 months just for an appointment.  I’m dreading having to have another endoscopy if I’m honest, as my last one had to be done without sedation (I’m allergic) and the force used to get the camera down set off my dermographism and later that night my throat was so swollen I had to ring the out of hours doctor.  However, if I do end up having another scope at least I now know about my mast cell issues and can ask for some samples to be taken for staining.  In the meantime I guess I’ll have to at least try a PPI because at times I don’t feel like I can live with the pain for another second.  I wish sometimes The Powers That Be, and my body, would just cut me some slack and give me a break and some time off.

Weekly roundup

I was putting my (pre-prepared in the morning when I have most energy) dinner together last night when I started feeling a bit strange.  I realised that every time I moved the room spun a little.  I managed to eat my meal feeling like I was on a moving ship before retiring to bed, only able to listen to the TV rather than actually watch the moving images.  I have these dizzy spells now and again (which can vary in intensity from mild, as this one was, to so severe I feel like I’ve spent a night downing tequila slammers - I wish!) and have no clue what they are or where they come from.  During my worst M.E. years they were frequent, but have thankfully become much less so as I’ve improved.  Still not nice though and I’m spaced out and feel weird this morning.  I took my blood pressure, which was fine, although I felt really hungry and still feel hungry this morning, so maybe my blood sugar is a bit off or I’m about to get a migraine (feeling abnormally hungry is one of my migraine warnings).

Speaking of blood pressure, I’ve now completed a whole month of readings and found something surprising.  The first day of my period my blood pressure was 119/39 (my diastolic was so low it was off the chart – a normal reading is 80!).  This gives a pulse pressure of 80 when it should be 40.  So, no surprises I feel totally crap during The Curse!  Be interesting to see if this is repeated next month.

My hives are back.  It’s no surprise, because I’m also sneezing, my eyes are sore and dry and my skin is itching.  The Birch pollen is obviously now in full flight and my body is rebelling.  I’m on Zyrtec, and using steroid cream on the hives, but they’re getting worse not better!  Nothing I take has any affect on them if I’m honest, so I just put up with them for a few weeks and try not to scratch my arse in public ;-) .

I spent a whole morning trying some new recipes out last week, including home-made Bounty bars, Mexican bean wraps and a vegetable Cobbler, which were all inedible.  It’s soul destroying to spend 3 exhausting, painful hours cooking only to end up with a bowl of Cornflakes for your dinner!  I’m determined to get the Bounty bars to work though, so watch this space ;-) .

I woke the other morning, got dressed, and took my dog out on my mobility scooter (I have a dog walker but can only afford week days so at weekends I take him myself).  As I trundled up the road I realized my leg was stinging.  Really stinging.  To the point where I wondered if I’d actually been stung by a wasp or something.  I couldn’t wait to get home to roll up my skinny jeans and find out what on earth was going on, and this is what I found:

Photo of scratchesWTF?!  All I’d done that morning was lie in bed, then pull my jeans on.  If I’d scraped my leg on something sharp enough to cause a wound this big it would have hurt and I would have noticed.  I have no clue where these huge scratches came from, and it took the rest of the week for them to fade.  I’m starting to think I share my bed with a poltergeist!!

Oral & Dental

Like many people with Ehlers-Danlos I have my fair share of dental issues.  When my adult teeth had finished coming through it was obvious I had quite severe dental overcrowding, so at the age of 11 I had four of my molar teeth removed.  I wasn’t given a brace (kids weren’t in those days, at least in the UK) and I was just lucky that my front teeth grew reasonable straight afterwards, though they’re not perfect. By the time I was 15 all of my back teeth were filled.  I have to admit, brushing my teeth wasn’t one of my favourite past-times (I always had something better to be doing) and I was continually told off for not brushing my teeth more often (it got done once a day and to me that was more than enough!).  I now know that even if I’d brushed my teeth ten times a day they would still have been soft and needed filling.  I never had any problems with the local anaesthetic injections, which always worked fine, but of course this was to change when I developed M.E. and my drug reactions began.

Floss wasn’t invented until I was in my late twenties and by then I was trying to look after my teeth more.  The problem was, every time I flossed my gums bled.  I was told to keep at it, my gums would toughen up, but of course they never did.  As soon as I found out I had EDS, and that my gums were super fragile, I stopped ever trying to floss – my gums don’t bleed half as much but of course they’re not as clean either.  I’ve looked into water flossers, but I know myself really well and admit that the novelty would last all of a week before it would be put in a draw and never seen again ;-) .

I do have quite severe gum inflammation though, almost all the time.  It’s painful, makes eating difficult and causes tooth sensitivity.  I’ve now religiously cleaned my teeth twice a day for many years so I’m not sure if it’s down to plaque (even though I have my teeth cleaned every 6 months at the dentist) or skin fragility. I started getting tooth sensitivity when I was in my mid thirties and have used Sensodyne toothpaste ever since.  There are days when it’s really quite bad and eating ice cream stopped being pleasurable about five years ago *sob*.

I also have early receding gums, which my dentist told me was due to brushing my teeth too vigorously.  But I knew I didn’t brush my teeth hard – I only have a child’s soft toothbrush and hardly use any pressure.  Finding out I had EDS validated this and now he’s stopped telling me off ;-) .  My Mum, who I’m fairly sure I inherited my EDS off, lost all her teeth by her mid fifties due to receding gums  (they also told her she’d brushed them too hard!) so that’s something to look forward to, not.

I’m currently facing the possibility of a root canal on one of my molars.  Due to my drug reactions I haven’t had any kind of anaesthetic at the Dentist for about 15 years now and have all my fillings done without any drug intervention which, remarkably, has been fine and not painful in any way.  But a root canal is a whole other kettle of fish and I absolutely need my gum numbed.  I’ve never had a mast cell reaction to local anaesthetics, but it’s still a scary prospect.  My Dentist is also nervous, I can tell, so is going to try removing my current filling and putting a dressing on to see if he can get the tooth to calm down before we embark on the journey that is root canal hell.  I’m not even sure I’d be able to open my mouth long enough to get one done – three minutes for a check-up and my right jaw joint is in purgatory.

About ten years ago I started to get blood blisters on the roof of my mouth.  The first one was really quite scary.  I woke to find this huge, purple lump about the size of 10p and had no clue what it was.  It burst when I ate my breakfast and it felt like my mouth was literally filled with blood, eughhh!!  I only get a couple each year, so I haven’t even mentioned them to my GP or Dentist, and just put them down to fragile skin.  I’ve never been bothered with regular mouth ulcers though, so am thankful for that small mercy.

I started having subluxations in my right raw joint about three years ago.  I sleep on my left side, and I think this pushes my right jaw askew in my sleep.  I wake every single morning with the beginnings of a migraine due to pain from my jaw going up into my ear and then up into my eye and temple.  I’m currently on the waiting list to see the hospital orthopaeds to see if they can make me some kind of brace to stop this happening.

During my bedridden years I had huge problems chewing and swallowing.  I simply didn’t have the energy to chew much of the time, which is fairly common amongst people with severe M.E., and I lived for months at a time on liquid diets.  As I’ve improved, though, this is thankfully no longer an issue.  However I do still have some swallowing difficulties.  I feel every day like my tonsils are swollen and/or my throat is sore (a common M.E. complaint) so every time I swallow it’s like having Strep throat which, after twenty years, you’d think I’d be used to but….nope…..it still sucks.  And for about fifteen years now I’ve had oesophageal spasms.  I can wake up some mornings and I just know I’m going to have an hour where my gullet goes into spasm and I’m going to spend some time retching.  I don’t feel sick, it’s purely a muscular thing, and is seriously no fun.  I don’t know if this is M.E. related (it only ever happens when I’m having a bad M.E. day), or EDS related, or down to my misbehaving mast cells - not that it matters I guess.  It’s really unpleasant and all the retching makes my stomach hurt!  I used to be able to take a muscle relaxant which really helped, but I became allergic so now I just dry heave and get it over with.  Super.

As a treat to myself when I turned 40 I had my teeth bleached (I didn’t know about my EDS or MCAD then!).  I’m a very smiley person (yes, I know you all find this hard to believe ;-) ), receive lots of compliments about my smile, and I didn’t want to start being self-conscious about smiling due to my teeth being all yellow and yucky.  I just had it done at home, using trays made up by my dentist, though I had to use the bleach for sensitive teeth as the regular stuff made my teeth ache!  I used the bleach every night for 6 weeks and I just wanted to say it all went really well :-) .  My teeth were sensitive for about a month afterwards but this did settle down, and for someone horrendously chemically allergic I didn’t react in any way to the bleach.  Knowing everything I know now about my teeth and mast cell disease I probably won’t do it again, but I just wanted to mention that it went fine for anyone who’s thinking of having it done.  And I can say “cheese!” with my newly cleaned, slightly-less-yellow-if-not-altogether-pearly whites.

Letting go

The past few days I’ve been stewing over the fall-out I had with my former friend back in February (for those not in the know we’d been friends for many years, the friendship went down the toilet, she had a go at me for not saying publicly on my blog that she was a great friend, so I wrote and told her a few home truths including the fact that actually she wasn’t a great friend, and she put my private email on Facebook for 200 people to see and comment on (without my knowledge), some of whom I also knew and who then unfriended me).  I thought I’d let it go, but for some reason it’s surfaced again and I just can’t get it out of my head.  I woke this morning with such rage about it I felt totally overwhelmed.

My Mum is really poorly again and is currently on antibiotics for a chest infection.  Any kind of infection could kill her, so it’s been a tense week.  I feel so helpless, watching her gasping for breath every day.  Unable to eat.  Unable to sleep.  Distressed, exhausted and miserable.

I was on my way to see her this lunchtime when I got stuck behind 3 cars, who were all doing 20mph behind a tractor.  Fair enough.  But they were on a straight road with no oncoming traffic.  So in frustration I overtook them, only before I got to overtake the tractor a car came round the corner the other way.  So I had to squeeze infront of the first car. Who pipped his horn at me like I was about to kill a child.  Today, it was the last straw.

I pulled into the first car park I could find (which happened to be my local B&Q), got in the back seat with my dog where the car glass is tinted, and absolutely sobbed my heart out.  I didn’t just cry.  I had a serious meltdown.

I don’t usually do crying.  When you live alone there’s not much point.  There is no-one to comfort you.  No-one to wipe away your tears.  And no-one to make you a brew when you’re all done.  All crying does is wear you out and give you a stonking headache.  But today it wasn’t a choice.

I must have sobbed for 20 minutes, with the snot dripping off my chin end (I couldn’t find a tissue) but then I had to pull myself together, because I was on my way to see my Mum and couldn’t turn up upset.  Unfortunately I’m one of those people who, when they cry, their whole face swells up and goes blotchy, beetroot red.  So by the time I got to my Mum’s I’d concocted a story about forgetting to take my antihistamine and this had made my hayfever go bonkers (luckily, I woke with an outbreak of hives this morning so I could show her that as proof).  I’m not sure she really bought it, but thankfully she was too ill to care.

I’ve been thinking a lot about why I feel such rage about the incident with my friend.  I don’t give a crap that we’ve fallen out.  When I had my mast cell appointment in London in October it was the biggest thing I’d done in 20 years.  Yet I didn’t receive a single good luck message from her beforehand.  There was no text message to make sure I’d got on the train OK or had arrived at the hotel alright.  There was no offer of help, despite the fact her husband works in London and they only live a short commute away.  And I didn’t hear from her for weeks after I got back to see how it had all gone.  I got more support and offers of help from you all on my Blog who I’ve only just met, than I did from someone who considered me one of her “closest friends”.

I think the thing that’s really hurt has been the unfairness of it all.  That 200 people can sit in judgement, hearing only the case for the prosecution, not even tell the defence that the trial is taking place, then convict the defendant in their absence and without a chance to put their side of the argument.  Some of these people didn’t know me from Adam.  But some of them had been my friend for years, yet convicted me of being an evil monster without any of them even contacting me to ask what had happened to cause me to write the email.

I don’t do well with injustice and unfairness.  It’s been a theme throughout my life.  I was caught up in my parents’ marriage, totally powerless, yet when I got to 18 and became clinically depressed because I could no longer cope I was thought of as weak and told to pull myself together.  It’s unfair to blame a child for not being able to cope with an abusive situation.

My biological father was distant and really didn’t have much to do with me, yet when I told him this when I was 21 I was cast aside from my entire paternal family.  I’m still angry at the unfairness of being blamed for his poor parenting skills.

When I got M.E., I was given a mental health label and accused of being lazy and depressed.  This time I was blamed for catching a disease that no-one even knows the cause of.

When I struggled with my chronic and severe physical pain, yet all the scans and tests were negative, I was told I was just “sensitive” to pain and attention seeking.  Blamed for having a genetic disease no-one even bothered to look for.

When I became allergic to drugs I was completely disbelieved, told I was just a panicky person, and that if I wouldn’t take the drugs I obviously didn’t want to get well.  Being blamed for anaphylaxis really takes the biscuit.

Then I was blamed for not including my former friend in my Friendship blog post, but I only excluded her because she was an increasingly shit friend that I barely ever heard from.  Then I got blamed by 200 complete strangers for telling my friend she was a shit friend.

OK Universe, I get the message.  Life is unfair.  You can stop smacking me round the head with the concept now ta very muchly!

Two years ago this former friend lost her Mum.  She was in her 80s, was totally fit and well, and had a heart attack while out playing bridge with her friends.  It’s horrendous to lose your Mum, though surely not totally unexpected by the time you’re in your eighties, plus I’d been told they weren’t particularly close and in fact my friend had always told me she dreaded her Mum ringing or visiting because she didn’t understand her illness.  I, on the other hand, am really close to my Mum.  She has been my best friend my whole life.  She’s the only person on the planet who really gets me.  She has been the only person I’ve been able to depend on my entire illness.  And I’m watching her die, slowly, painfully, agonizingly, struggling for every breath, panicking, and unable to do a thing for herself.  I didn’t ever say in my email to my former friend that she shouldn’t grieve for her Mum (though after 2 years if she’s not moving on she needs some counselling).  But am I being totally unreasonable to expect that she doesn’t mention it every single time she contacts me?  Am I such a bitch for not wanting to be faced with her grief every single time I log on to Facebook?  Is it just me that thinks it’s grossly insensitive to go on and on about her grief when my mum is terminally ill and I’m struggling to come to terms with that?  If she needs to talk about it, fine.  Just show a little understanding and do it with someone else and not me.

I realised today that, despite the fact my Mum is still alive, I’m already grieving for her.  I’m grieving for the relationship we used to have but no longer do.  I’m grieving for the fact I can’t tell her I’m sick or having a bad day, because she’s dying.  I’m grieving for the fact we don’t do anything together anymore because she can barely leave the house.  I’m slowly trying to let go, while still caring for her and loving her.  And to be blamed by my friends for my pain and sorrow, and for not currently being able to cope with someone else’s 2 year old grief, seems incredibly harsh.

My Mum’s long battle with illness has been tough.  Just because I don’t go on Facebook telling the world about my personal life doesn’t mean I don’t have one.  And just because I don’t talk about my personal life in emails to my sick friends, because I don’t want to burden them with my problems, doesn’t mean I don’t have any.  I feel such hurt that I would be ostracized for not sharing my need publicly, as my former friend constantly does.  But I’m going to have to let it go.  Just like eventually I’m going to have to let my Mum go.  But that doesn’t mean it all doesn’t hurt.

Me and my Mum

Me and my Mum

There’s a book in all of us

I’ve always loved books.  Through a difficult childhood they were my only means of escape and they literally saved my sanity.  During my bedridden years my inability to read was devastating, but as I’m a trained touch typist I found I could write even if I could no longer read!  That’s when I started contributing articles to ME magazines, helping to create websites and doing newsletters for both a national ME charity and my local Church.

But secretly I’ve always wanted to write a book of my own.  My most beloved author is Catherine Cookson, who wrote ripping yarns about the poor working classes set in the North East of England in the late 1800s/early 1900s.  They resonate with me because they depict vividly the lives of my ancestors: my maternal grandmother left home at the age of 11 and was sent into service to work on a farm in the middle of nowhere.  She got one half day off a month and had to cycle 11 miles home to visit her family and then 11 miles back in the same day in all weathers.  She was married at 16 and went on to have nine children (two of whom died shortly after birth and don’t even have graves).  Her family of eleven lived in a house with one room upstairs and one room downstairs, no bathroom and a loo at the end of the garden.  She cooked on a black-lead range hand fed by coal and washed once a week in a tub over an open fire.  She became a widow at 52 and had to get a job cleaning to makes ends meet.  When she died, aged 84, my Uncle took her hands in his and said “by ‘eck Mam, those hands have seen some work”, and he wasn’t wrong.  Catherine Cookson wrote about people like my Nan and the ordinary, extra-ordinary lives they lived.

My own life has always seemed pretty boring and normal until I speak to other people and realise that, actually, it’s been anything but dull.  My childhood was chaotic and I witnessed physical altercations and emotional abuse on an almost daily basis.  I’ve been technically homeless and at one stage moved nine times in two years couch surfing with various relatives who didn’t want me.  I was severely bullied for over 10 years and, unsurprisingly given the circumstances, lost my virginity at the age of 13 (I could, so easily, have gone totally off the rails and I’m so thankful it’s a road I never travelled).  I dated the same boy all through Senior school and when I was 17 he dumped me on New Year’s Eve – I later found out he was seeing both a married woman and sleeping with my best friend.  At the age of 18 I was clinically depressed, on medication and regularly seeing a Psychologist (who was wonderful and really changed my life).   I tried in vain to please my critical biological father for years until I was sent to Coventry by my entire paternal family and by the time I was 21 I’d been married to, and divorced from, a man who (surprise!) was critical and emotionally abusive.  I eventually escaped and travelled round the world working on a luxury cruise liner.  I then spent 10 years bedridden with M.E., isolated, neglected and abandoned, before realizing I had a rare genetic disease even my doctor had never heard of.  I’d love to say my life has been a blast but I’d be lying through my rotting teeth ;-) .

I blogged recently that I’d re-watched the DVD My Left Foot, based on the book by Christie Brown.  His was a harsh, Irish, poor, working class, ordinary, extra-ordinary life which we’d never have heard about if he’d not put pen to paper.  There are millions of working class people whose stories are never told because they lack the education to be able to tell it.  Luckily for me despite all the chaos, uncertainty, drama and turmoil that was my childhood I made education my number 1 priority and, although my body conked out before I was able to achieve much, at least it’s given me the ability to express my thoughts in words.  Miss Swan (primary school teacher), Mr Bellward (primary school teacher), Mr Howarth (middle school teacher) and Mr Spence (senior school English teacher) you have no idea how much you all changed my life for the better and for that I will be forever grateful.

If I ever get a book written, let alone published, I’ll be sure to send you all a link to buy it on Amazon ;-) .

“We read to know that we are not alone.” — C.S. Lewis

 

 

 

 

Weekly roundup & blood pressure

Just for my own amusement I’ve been keeping a track of my blood pressure.  I do it at roughly the same time each day (8-9pm), while sitting upright and relaxed in bed but obviously with my legs raised.  A ‘normal’ blood pressure is considered to be 120/80, but my average for the month is 110/53 (my pulse is normal at 73).  I’ve had a couple of weird heart-beat episodes during the month which has raised my systolic to 129 and 122 respectively but my diastolic never gets above 60 (the lowest reading was 42).

photo of blood pressure monitor

 

The difference between the systolic pressure and the diastolic pressure is called the pulse pressure.  A normal pulse pressure is around 40, whereas mine is consistently 55-62.  A widened pulse pressure is considered an important indicator of poor heart health, and most people with a pulse pressure of 60 or greater are packed off to the cardiologist for investigation!  However, all the studies assume you have a widened pulse pressure due to rising systolic pressure (ie. hypertension/high blood pressure), not falling diastolic pressure (ie hypotension/low blood pressure)!!  Low blood pressure is never considered to be a problem, but surely it has some significance?  How is it good for the heart to have a stronger contraction than relaxation?  An imbalance like that must affect functioning I would have thought, though I admit I’m no Cardiologist ;-) .

I haven’t taken my blood pressure when sitting and standing, as I’m going to the dysautonomia clinic in June and they’ll do all that, but I just wanted to do a baseline reading to see what is normal for me.  I exercise every day, eat plenty of salt, wear compression socks, and drinks lots of fluids, so it’s clearly not a lifestyle issue.  Maybe I’m just really healthy, after all having low blood pressure is considered a good thing!  Or maybe not ;-) .  Be interesting to see what the POTS clinic says in the summer.

As mentioned in my last weekly roundup I’m back on Ceterizine (Zyrtec), an H1 anti-histamine, for my hayfever symptoms and it does seem to be helping.  My eyes are still suffering, but the sneezing and nasal congestion have stopped and I don’t feel as tired, yayyy.

I don’t seem to’ve mentioned my Ehlers-Danlos much in recent posts and that’s because it’s been quite good lately!  I’m not using any of my finger splints or my back brace, though I do still wear my SI belt if I’m going to be walking my dog.  I did go over on my ankle last week when walking on some rough ground and strained the ligaments, but I strapped it up for a few days and all is fine now.  The only thing that’s really been playing me up is my right hip.  It’s now so stiff I struggle to get in and out of the car (I have to lift my leg in), or to stand up from a crouching position (why do shops put things down so low on shelves?!).  I strained/sprained my SI joint again last month so it could be as a result of that, or it could be the actual hip itself, who knows?  If it doesn’t improve soon I might have to consider using a stick so that I have that for leverage/support when bending and straightening back up.

My nausea has also been really good this month and I actually think it’s the Zyrtec that’s helped.  I know this sounds bizarre, but an interesting personal account I read in 2012 by sufferer Paul Robinson says that an H1 antihistamine cured his gut issues!  He was told he had urticaria in his GI tract and I can see why this would obviously be helped by an H1 blocker.

That’s the good news.  The bad news is that I’ve had constant reflux for an entire month, ever since my last period which was a humdinger.  My period is due again in the next week and ever the optimist I’m hoping it might right itself ;-)  There’s no rhyme or reason to the acid so I can’t find a way of alleviating it.  Yesterday was Mother’s Day so I took my Mum out for lunch.  I had a huge meal, including pudding and all sorts of foods I shouldn’t really be touching like tomato ketchup, and had no heartburn at *all*.  At 8pm last night I was getting a bit peckish so decided to have 2 slices of toast and I’d barely finished eating it before the pain started :-/  So much for the “don’t overfill your stomach” theory!  In fact, my reflux is often worse when my stomach is empty (which is my excuse for snacking all day long and I’m sticking to it ;-) ).

The past two months have been a bit mental, with my Mum’s heart attack and my dog’s operation and following complications.  I’ve felt a bit like I’m drowning and my stress levels have been quite high (which doesn’t do my mast cells any favours).  Being a Virgoan I’m quite anal and orderly and my life just lately has been anything but.  So I decided to sit down and have a look at how and where I was spending my time.  I’m not surprised I’ve felt overwhelmed because there were simply not enough hours in the day to achieve everything I was trying to do!  So I’ve devised a schedule where I can get my jobs done but which also incorporates plenty of rest and relaxation time and I feel less pressured already.  I won’t actually stick to the schedule (today I’m in bed with a hormone-related thumping headache) but that’s not the point – the point is to feel more in control of my life, even if it’s only in my head ;-) .

 

 

New recipes

As regular readers of my blog will know, I’ve been having some trouble getting my rhubarb jam to set.  On my third attempt I used proper jam sugar, which contains added pectin.  I also boiled it for 30 mins instead of the usual 15, and thought it would be so solid I’d need to eat it with a knife and fork ;-) .  But it still didn’t set.  Arrrggghhhhh!!  I’ve come to the conclusion I’m just going to have to wait another month for the rhubarb to be more mature before trying another batch, but I’m already having jam withdrawal symptoms.

I get seriously stuck for lunch ideas, especially as I’m out of the house 5 days a week and need something transportable.  There’s only so much cold salad and couscous a girl can eat, especially when it’s still behaving like winter here in the north of England and was -6C last night.  I decided to try making some sausage rolls, only minus the sausage, which turned out better than I’d imagined.  I’d love to put the recipe up, only I now can’t remember how long it took or the quantities involved ;-) .  I do know I used half a block of fresh Jus Roll puff pastry (putting the other half in the freezer), rolling it out as thinly as I could and cutting into sausage-roll sized rectangles.  For the filling I used some of the mixture I use to make my lentil loaf (see Main Courses section of the Recipe page), although you do only need a couple of teaspoons per roll.  I then wetted the edges of the pastry with some milk, rolled them up and made sure the edges were well stuck down.  To make the pastry brown and crispy, beat an egg and brush it over the roll.  Bake in the oven as per the instructions on the Puff Pastry packet.  If you want to make your own pastry I’m sure shortcrust would work just as well.  I’m sure the rolls would be freezable too, although I haven’t tried yet.

Photo of sausage-less roll

I also made some vegetable (in this case mushroom) patties, which can be eaten either hot or cold – recipe in the Lunches section of the blog.  Just make sure you only add as much stock as you need to make the onion mixture thick – if it’s too runny the patties won’t hold together very well and will be soggy in texture.  These were surprisingly tasty, and could be adapted using different herbs, veggies or spices.   They were nice cool (but not freezing cold) with some raw veggies and a dollop of sweet chilli dipping sauce (see Jams & Sauces section for the recipe).

Photo of mushroom pattie

I also tried my hand at a Lentil & Sweet Potato spread/dip and some home-made yeast-free crackers and breadsticks.  The dip turned out great and the recipe is also up in the Lunches section, but the crackers and breadsticks need some tweaking before I share the recipe with you!

Photo of lentil & sweet potato spread

I’ve also added a main course recipe for Butternut Squash Risotto to the site:  see the Main Course section of the Recipe Page.  It’s delicious, and again could be adapted using different root veggies (parsnip, sweet potato, carrot) and spices.

Photo of butternut squash risotto

My quest for crunchy carob cookies continues ;-)  I did make a really nice recipe, based on a ginger snap biscuit from my 1970s Be-ro cookbook, but although they tasted gorgeous they were still too cake-like in texture!

Speaking of the Be-ro book, I find I’m consistently turning to old recipe books for inspiration.  When I was a lass food was very plain.  There was no balsamic vinegar, mayonnaise, yoghurt, very few spices and herbs (in fact the only herbs I ever saw were parsley and cress!) or any of the things we 22nd century gourmets now take for granted.  The only rice we had was pudding rice, pasta was unheard of and there were no imported fruit or veg such as mangos, sweet potato, passion fruit, garlic or courgette (zucchini).  In addition there were scant few store bought ‘convenience’ foods and my Mum made all her own custard, gravies, jams and preserves as did her Mum and her Mum before that.

I remember Friday nights as a child were the highlight of the week.  The pop man came round in his van and I was treated to a bottle of Dandelion & Burdock.  The rest of the time all I drank was water, milk and the odd Robinsons Barley water or Orange squash.  Sweets were also rationed: I got my pocket money on a Friday and came home from the shop with a handful of penny chews.  Crisps (chips) were a rare treat my Dad sometimes brought home from the pub on a Sunday evening and nearly all the biscuits and cakes we ate were home-baked (with the exception of Wagon Wheels which again were a weekly treat).

I’m not saying my childhood diet was perfect.  There were definitely still nutritionally defunct foods on offer: Angel Delight, Sugar Puffs…………actually I’ve just got stuck thinking of any other crappy foods we were given as they were so few and far between!  When you think about it, it’s scary how far from a natural diet we’ve deviated in just the last 35 years or so.  No wonder our insides, and our immune systems, are groaning under the strain.

We worry too much about things like probiotics (which didn’t exist until about 20 years ago and millions of our ancestors managed quite well without them thank you very much) and eating enough fibre.  We should worry a LOT more about all the preservatives, yeast, vinegar, citric acid, colours & flavourings (even those marked ‘natural) that’s in every single item of food we buy these days.

Going low histamine has been a complete pain in the rear end but I feel, on the whole, I’m eating food as nature intended again now and that can only be a good thing.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m incredibly thankful for imported foods such as mozzarella cheese, chickpeas, red peppers and seedless grapes, as well as new foods like Quorn, because being vegetarian in the meat-and-two-veg orientated 1970s would have been impossible and I still remember the monotony of having the same old meals (shepherd’s pie, corned beef hash, hot pot, chops, sausages, and the obligatory Sunday roast) week in week out.  But making everything from scratch with organic, fresh ingredients is the key.  Of course, this brings with it new challenges: cost for one, and time for another.  In the 1970s women were, by and large, housewives and a large portion of their day was taken up with shopping for, and preparing, food.  But that’s a topic for another day!