Saturday, 30 July 2011

Still keeping up with the diet change. I have started to really crave oily fish. I think I've eaten that much fish recently that my body has adapted to recognising it as my main source of protein and triggered my fishy cravings. At the moment, my staple diet is breakfast of soya yoghurt with a piece of fruit cut into it, and around 15g milled linseeds and a few sunflower seeds. For tea, I've been having quite a lot of polenta, with dry-griddled oily fish with a fresh picked garden salad. I'm still experimenting with snacks - today I am going to cook a plum cobbler! We were given a box (about 5lbs) of damsons, and the natural response was to make crumble...d'uh! ...can't make crumble without fat! I did some research and have found a recipe which is both vegan and fat free...BINGO! plum cobbler! - so I carefully de-stoned nearly the lot of them whilst watching a film last night, and now have go over the most laborious part of making a plum pudding! We also experimented yesterday with homemade sushi, though my son was the only one who wanted to try the raw fish - he liked it though. We stuck with vegetables and cooked prawns! It got me thinking though, we have a sushi bar in our nearest town, and I think that sushi is pretty much based around stuff I can eat (if I avoid stuff like tempurah etc)...hmmm ...maybe I shall go there for my birthday (it's a whole month away, but you've got to allow time to plan such things!)

Cooking aside, I've had this creeping feeling of isolation recently. I think I need to do something about it before it becomes a real problem. I've found myself in a social doldrum..I think it's partly that I get fatigued so quickly that I've shied away from going places where it's mostly dancing. It seems a bit pointless going unless you want to dance cos you can't usually hold a conversation unless you want to shout, which I don't! And then there's the fact that I'd probably have to stay sober and drive home which puts me off - I still feel like I could end up stuck somewhere because my legs are too tired to drive.
I need to resolve to get out more, but to be honest, I'm just so tired, I barely get through the things I have to do. So my plan is to finish decorating my kitchen and start inviting some of the friends who seem to have drifted out of my reach to come to tea...


Thursday, 14 July 2011

no chocolate...ever

I found this website yesterday...against the advice of my MS nurse who said I should only look at the MS Society and the MS Trust websites...

from what I've seen so far, it seems to be quite well presented. I am so far impressed that they are at least trying to find scientific evidence for the things they say. It is very much based on dietary changes, which is what I'm most interested in at the moment. It just seem to make a lot of sense. The downside is it suggests even more restrictions to my diet... no coconut milk or chocolate (although I can still use cocoa in cooking so not too devastating), only egg whites are allowed, avoidance of cooked fats -so no deep fried stuff. It's all good healthy changes that everyone should consider, made all the easier with the thought that it might help reduce the occurrence/severity of relapses. Another thing I'm going to try to change is I want to start taking fish oil capsules. I haven't quite go my head round what dose to go for yet, but this website recommends quite a huge dose. They say to stick with fish oil for a time, then flax seed oil can substitute for the fish oil once your system is well greased with the right lubricant! Basically it's to do with leaky membranes and fats that stay hard at body temperature. I think I need to reread the science bit to really understand it, but it resonated as I read it yesterday. It also recommends exercise, meditation and regular sunshine.
It feels like a really positive step to take - something I can take control of and usefully DO something about...

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

who needs cheese?

well my arms feel a little better now, but my shoulders are paining me, especially my right shoulder. I don't know if it's the MS or just muscle strain from grinding all them lovely seeds with a pestle and mortar, but sometimes the pain takes my breath away. Luckily it's only twinges, and luckily it's generally only when I'm resting that it plays up. There is also a numb spot on the top of my right shoulder that I've become aware of over the last few days..only a small patch, but it does feel like nerve damage to me..can't feel any sharp sensation there. Hey ho, just thought I'd mention it here in case I want to remember when my dodgy shoulders were bad at some point in the future.
I've been feeling quite low, emotionally, recently. I think this might have something to do with my achy shoulders, and the ongoing fatigue. That really gets to me sometimes. It' so damned frustrating! I have taken it into my silly head to redecorate the kitchen now that I'm mostly better. This is a job that is long overdue and that has been shelved since my first big relapse a year ago. I have decided that what I really need to maintain my new healthy diet is a pleasant environment in which to prepare my nutritious yet savoury offerings. It actually sounds like quite a reasonable idea...on paper! Our kitchen is very old and damp and in need of professional attention. What it has is me...enthusiastic as f***, but with the physical tenacity of an 80 year old! An interesting and exhausting combination! I am taking it as easy as I can tolerate, but it is happening so slowly. It is, in one way, encouraging and empowering to be getting up and doing something really constructive that will improve my daily life, but on the other hand it serves as a constant reminder of my acquired frailty; my 80-year-old's arms shake with the effort of trying to get screws out of the walls - I had to stop that for fear that my arms would yield before the screws did!
The dietary changes are going well. I'm quite enjoying the challenge. Today we all had pizza for supper. The rest of the family had regular pizzas, and I made myself a lovely dairy free version. I overdid the anchovies and chillies a little, but with a bit of tweaking I think I could be onto a winner! Here's the toppings I used...

tomato paste
polenta slices
lots of shredded spinach, washed
jalapeno peppers
fresh basil
olive oil drizzled on top

ok, it was a bit of a jumble sale of toppings, but very tasty and definitely worth repeating the experiment. I think the polenta worked really well in conjunction with the spinach as a substitute for cheese..the spinach goes all soft and moist, whereas the polenta maintains its soft firm texture - both have a mild, unassuming flavour that went really well with the more forceful flavours of anchovies, capers etc.

I also tried out the dairy free Benecol live yoghurt drink, as the shop had run out of Alpro Soya live yoghurt...I was impressed that they offered a dairy free version of the little yoghurty health fix, but it was absolutely disgusting! I think if they run out of Alpro Soya yoghurt again I would be tempted over to the Dark Side and eat cow yoghurt as a one off!

another thing that I've enjoyed making recently is good old fashioned soya cheese, a recipe passed onto me in a squat in Westcliff-on-Sea many many moons ago...

Soya cheese

dairy free margarine
soya flour
yeast extract

melt some margarine in a pan
stir in enough soya flour to make quite a thick paste
add a bit of yeast extract
mix together, put into an old washed out margarine tub, label it "soya cheese" and put in the fridge. After a while it gets a really good crumbly spreadable texture and is divine on toast, in sandwiches or wraps etc.

it's lovely, easy to knock up and keeps for a few days...


Monday, 4 July 2011

contemplating independence

well it's been a tough but productive time since my last blog. I saw the MS nurse team. They were, as anticipated, the most clued-up and approachable face of the NHS to date regarding my MS. I now have a number for their bat-phone, so can now have some advice and support when I actually need it (assuming that I will need them in the future sometime!).
Symptom-wise, I'm not feeling so brilliant. I'm not sure if it IS the MS, but my arms are killing me. To the point of wanting to just strap them down to my body so I don't even have to use the muscles to hold them in place. As I'm typing now, it's paining my biceps, which in turn is making my fingers move lazily, like the tendons are affected or something (many careless typos later!), and my right shoulder has kept me awake at night for the last couple of night with some searing throbs. I will give it a week and see if it starts to clear up before I dial up the bat-phone!

On a positive note, I've at last got around to approaching the thorny issue of diet-change. I've been trying, but not really, to change my diet to a more MS-friendly version, but something clicked inside me about a week ago, and I have finally thrown myself into it wholeheartedly and hopefully permanently.
I have to declare now, I hate diets! I have the wrong personality to adhere to such nonsense generally - if it involves will-power then count me out! But,though I say that flippantly, I am not so silly as all that, and am prepared to give it a go - it's a healthier diet than my previous one...which I would say was healthy-ish, but too much convenience stuff if I was entirely honest with myself!
So the regime I have imposed upon myself, after some research (though not yet exhaustive), is this...
Absolutely no red meat or dairy products. At the moment I'm eating stuff with eggs in sometimes, but that's subject to review. I am eating fish pretty much every day, and trying to eat green leafy stuff twice a day (plus all the usual 5-a-day malarkey). Where possible I'll have the green leafy stuff with a little olive oil dressing, as this helps absorb the green leafy nutrients apparently. I am also increasing my seed intake - linseed, hemp seeds, sunflower and sesame seeds are used as much as I can squeeze into a dish. I've been baking healthy option snacks, which are delicious and taste even better thinking it might be benefiting my body...though that's possibly the root of my poor arms. We use a pestle and mortar to grind our seeds, and we have a hand-cranked coffee grinder....hmm! I might need a more sustainable approach to grinding seeds!

So it's all good really, the garden is looking lovely, the sun is shining and life is pretty damn good. We had a hectic weekend of puppet shows and open air gigs, and by Sunday night I was absolutely shattered. I felt very smug on Saturday when the school we were puppet-showing at provided us a lunch of ham rolls and cakes and sausage rolls...I had a salad wrap with soya cheese out in the sunshine instead, washed down with hand-ground coffee and my home-made apple and cinnamon flapjacks (I will most definitely make these again - in fact, I shall dig out the recipe and post it here - even if no-one else ever reads my blog, I will at least know where to find the recipe next time I'm baking!) :)

(I swapped the sunflower seeds for linseeds. If I hadn't run out of sunflower seeds, I would have put them in as well!)