Saturday, 22 March 2008

Preparing for the nipper

Last year, as documented on this blog, I went on a no sugar, no yeast diet for three months to try and sort out my CFS symptoms. Despite this being quite a challenge, both physically and of my will power, the diet was a great success. Three months on and I was feeling more alert and full of life than I had since the onset of my symptoms. However, after that I gradually slipped into my bad ways. Starting out with a bit of chocolate each week, which turned into a bar .... you get the idea.

This year I have been OK health-wise, managing to control the symptoms through no dairy and wheat. However, I was still having problems especially in the mornings and a bad night's sleep and I was not fun to be with. Expecting the birth of my first child in June meant that I was also expecting a few (with any luck) sleepless nights, so I wanted to be back in tip-top condition for that. So, about 3.5 weeks ago I decided to go back on the diet.

It is funny how it followed almost the same pattern as last year. Apart from a few cravings for sweet stuff, the first week was pretty easy and I was feeling quite good. Weeks 2 and 3 were not so pleasant - I started to feel slightly sluggish and concentration was a problem. This week has been extremely tough. Stomach cramps, lots of wind, heavy arms and legs, poor concentration. My insides have been like a war zone. However, with perseverance I think I am starting to turn the corner.

I'll keep you posted on my progress

Saturday, 23 February 2008

So what is a milk-machine anyway?

Now that I have recovered from the nasty flu/cold bug I reported on last week, I can talk a little about this milk machine I mentioned recently. So, what exactly is a milk-machine? No, before you say it, it is not a cow. Instead it is a kitchen gadget that makes milk from nuts, rice, beans, seeds ... pretty much anything. It is a rather strange gadget I must admit. It combines the water heating function of a kettle, with a high powered blender and squeezes the pulp through a filter. It works a little like this. You put in the nuts, seeds or rice (after they have soaked), push a button and 20 mins later you have tasty milk. Well more or less.

I must admit that it took me quite a while to find a nice recipe. However, I now have many, but here are the step by step instructions to make milk the way I do at the moment.

1. Soak half a beaker (about 20g) of almonds and half a beaker (same volume) of long or short grain brown rice over night.

2. Put these in the machine and wait for it to do its job.

3. Add 1/2 tsp honey and the seeds from a vanilla pod sliced.

4. Wait for it to cool.

5. Give it a good shake and you're done.

This can be used (without the flavourings if you prefer) in soups and hot drinks, in baking etc. It is also the perfect substitute for milk in cereal.

Give it a try!

Thursday, 14 February 2008

in from the cold

It has been over two years since I have had a cold or flu. It was around New year 2005/ 2007 and it was my first ever experience of a proper achy flu. Needless to say it wasn't nice. Three months on I had my first CFS crash. I don't know if the events were related, but it is possible. However, I find it very strange that someone with such a poor immune system over the last few years - I have picked up infection after infection - has not had even a sniffle in that time. It was with a feeling of inevitability then, on Sunday when after my wife had had her fight with a bug, that I would get my turn. However, by Monday I thought the worst had passed. I was feeling pretty much OK again. Tuesday was fine, a little achy, but fine. Wednesday, I kept working away, but by the evening I was dead. This is where you find me now: an achy, painy, nausea-filled, choked-up feeling sorry for myself mess. Actually I'm starting to worry that this might lead to a full-circle situation. I don't even want to think about that!

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Living Dairy Free

I've been dairy-free for about a year now. This has meant removing milk, cheese, cream, and butter from my diet. Considering the number of (favourite) foods that rely on dairy products (pizza, soups, pastas, risottos, hot drinks, cakes, chocolate ...) for many people it is quite a challenge to stay dairy-free. However, there are options that you can take. The first is just to bite the bullet and avoid all of these foods. Another option is to try products containing no lactose (milk sugar) such as goat and sheep milk and cheese or even special lactose-free dairy milk. A third option is to search for dairy substitutes such as milk made from soya, rice, nuts or oats. This is my preferred option - these milks can taste great (depending on which brand you choose) and they can be used for any purpose that dairy milk can. However, there is a downside to some of these milks. Check the packet for the list of nasty ingredients that are included. This is not true of all dairy-substitute milks, but it is true of a great many of them. They are also quite expensive (the good ones at least). Cue my new toy and ultimate solution. The milk machine (see picture below).

This wonderful device allows me to make my own milk very cheaply, where I have full control of how the milk tastes and what goes in it. It has taken me a few goes to find recipes that are tasty, but the wait was worthwhile. In the next few weeks I will share these experiences.

Friday, 1 February 2008

9 months on ....

It's been a while - over 9 months in fact - since I last posted. There are a number of reasons why I stopped sharing my views on CFS, although the most important was that I personally was growing tired of whinging about my difficulties. I didn't (and don't) want to be perceived as someone who thinks the world is against him.

When I started blogging my intention was to share my experiences, both positive and negative and I think I did this quite well. However, after a while I felt like my posts were becoming repetitive: I could only share the same stories, the same problems, the same solutions and the same experiences. So, I just stopped writing.

So where am I nine months on ....

Well a lot has happened in that time and I have achieved a lot too. I have completed and defended my Ph.D. I succeeded in persuading my beautiful lady wife to marry me, and I have a baby on the way. I have also moved permanently to Germany. So, with all these things happening is CFS no longer a problem and just a bad memory? Well, in a word, NO. From the outside it may seem that I am completely healthy and living a full and active life. However, the truth is that a lot of effort goes in to managing my symptoms and making life liveable. I have learned that avoiding wheat, dairy and sugar helps. I have also learned to find my limits, manage my work load and my sleeping patterns. Despite all this, I still get my bad days where I struggle to get out of bed and do anything productive. Mornings are usually pretty difficult. However, I am very confident that I will continue to improve and one day I will rid myself of CFS completely.

In the mean time however, there are a few topics that I would like to discuss and a few things that I have learned that I would like to share. So until I run out of words again I have decided to return to blogging - hurray!!!

Tuesday, 3 April 2007

Back home

I have been home now for a few days and all is going well. I still seem to be stable with a lot more get up and go than I have had over the last year. I still have a bit of wind, but I am hoping that this will sort itself out if I continue with the diet as I have been.

On Saturday it was my Grandparent's 55th anniversary celebration. It was also my first anniversary of becoming ill. I have read many posts about other CFS sufferers' anniversarys and they all have a familiar pattern. Before such and such a day I was really health, outgoing person and then bang, without warning, my life was lost. My post would have followed similar lines, but recently I have been thinking this is not quite true. Thinking back there were a number of warning signs that I missed. About a week before I had my first crash, my girlfriend and I enjoyed a well earned holiday weekend in Arran. Looking at the photos from this break, shows me looking terrible - baggy eyes just looking really tired. I had been pushing myself really hard that month, both with work and physically competing in a charity fitness event called "move for Malawi". During the month of March I went to the gym everyday and really pushed it. Thinking back to a walk in Arran I decided not to climb the extra bit of a hill because I was too tired - not the behaviour of the fit 25 year old as I would have described myself back then. Also, the other day I spoke to a lecturer in my department who also competed in the move for Malawi. He said he remembered seeing me in the gym on the 30th of March (the day before the crash) and thinking that I looked awful.

So the warning signs were there, I just didn't read them. This is the moral of the story - listen to your body and if you are pushing too hard, stop before you push too much.

Wednesday, 28 March 2007

My last day in Germany

So this, my friends, is my last day in Germany. I am really torn about moving back - just as I am torn about many things in my life at the moment. On the one hand I have enjoyed my time here - albeit it has been an up and down time healthwise. I have made a good group of friends, have started to familiarise myself with the language once more and Germany has an awful lot going for it. However, there are so many things I miss about home. Obviously the main thing is my family - my mum, my dad, my brother and my grandparents, and of course, my friends. But, there is much more to it than that. I miss the way people interact with each other in Glasgow. People smile a lot more - believe it or not. People talk to others that they do not know. It is small things like this that I miss. When you get on the train in Germany everyone sits with a straight face and looks directly ahead. In Glasgow, whenever you get on a bus or a train you get a friendly comment, a smile or at very least some comical outburst from a ned and this, for me, is enough to brighten up a day.

I've spoken to Christine's Dad about this and he believes that it would annoy him if people started talking to him on the train - why?

Don't get me wrong Germany is wonderful and the people here are really friendly. It is just that serendipitous interaction between the people is somewhat limited and this frustrates me. I would like to return here and live for longer. The chances are that, if I am healthy, I will return to Germany in May and finish off the write up of my thesis. However, long term, I see my future in Scotland. It is with envy that I read the events and happenings within my university. There seems to be so much going on. Collaboration that has been missing in the past seems to be igniting and I want to be part of this. However, I want to be with Christine and she is going to be here. I would really like to be in two places at once.