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.

Monday, 26 March 2007

Salmon and Asparagus Risotto

Now for today's second recipe. I tried this for the first time tonight and it was delicious. So delicious in fact that after finishing her plate, Christine decided she would scrape mine. She won't be happy that I shared that with the world, but hey ...

This is a really easy meal to prepare and it is made with kitchen staples.


1 filet of salmon (skinned, boned and chopped into small pieces)
8 to 12 cooked asparagus spears cut into 1-inch lengths
1 lemon
500 ml of veggie stock
2 tablespoons of butter
1 medium onion
130g of arborio rice (I used organic short-grain brown rice to correspond to the diet)
dash of cream (optional)

- Gently fry the onion in butter over medium heat until soft, then zest the lemon and stir it with the onion.

- Stir in the rice to coat all the grains of rice with butter.

- Start adding stock approx. 150 ml at a time. Have the heat such that the stock just simmers. The stock will reduce and thicken. Every time this happens, add another 150ml. Stir frequently and continue until the rice is just about done. Meanwhile, squeeze the lemon and add a couple tablespoons along with some broth.
(Save the last bit of lemon juice to season the dish with at the end.)

- When the rice is just a tad underdone, stir in the asparagus and salmon. Season with salt, pepper, and lemon juice.

- Cover the pot and let it sit for 5 minutes. By then the salmon is usually cooked, but it may need a minute more. If you wish add a dash of cream now.

Soup da loop

Time for the next recipe. I think today I will post two - just cause!

The first is a soup. When on a candida diet you are not allowed fruit so you have to make up for this with numerous portions of veggies. One way of doing this that never gets tiresome is soup. One of my new favourite soup recipes is creamy Kale - it is wholesome, filling, delicious, not to mention full of fibre, nutrients and flavour. I adapted the recipe from one I found at Fran's house of Ayurveda. I know nothing about Asian life philosophies, but Fran's website has a great collection of recipes.


1/2 cup Green lentils (or lentils of your preference)
1/4 cup brown rice
1/4 cup quinoa
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic
4 tbsp olive oil
1/2 bunch of kale
5 cups water
1 tsp veggie stock

1 tsp of cumin powder (heaping, or as desired)
1 1/2 tsp of curry powder
1 tsp of sea salt, to taste

1 Tbsp tahini (heaping, or as desired)
2 Tbsp flax / olive oil

Before you start to cook, add all spices together in a small bowl and mix well (prevents clumping when added to the cooking pot later). Wash kale and chop finely.

Add olive oil to a pre-heated cooking pot on medium temperature. When the oil is hot, add onions and garlic and cook until soft. Add the spices, being careful to blend well. Then add lentils, brown rice and quinoa right away and stir well. When that is done, add chopped kale and mix.

At this stage, take a moment to appreciate how beautiful the mixture looks -- but not too long, because the water must now be added. Cover the pot and bring to a boil. Simmer on low for 45 minutes.

With about 10 minutes to go add the Tahini mix.

Thursday, 22 March 2007

Potato, fennel and basil salad

The first post from my promised series on Candida diet tips and recipes. This has become of one of my favourites - in fact Christine and I ate it tonight for dinner. The fennel and lemon juice go together wonderfully.

The recipe is adapted from one by James Tanner and is extremely quick and easy to prepare. Perfect for those on the Candida diet who have to prepare everything from scratch.

Serves 2

1 tbsp olive oil
300g of potatoes sliced
1 fennel bulb, finely sliced
1 lemon, juice only

salt and freshly ground black pepper
small handful fresh basil leaves, to garnish

1. Heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat and fry the potatoes until golden-brown. (I prefer to par-boil the potatoes)
2. Add the fennel and lemon juice and stir well. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and cook until the fennel is tender.
3. To serve, place the warm salad onto a plate and garnish with basil leaves.

Enjoy! More to come

The first of two posts for today

I've been a little slack with my blogging lately. This is probably because I have been feeling better - it is amazing how when you feel healthy the number of things to do just multiplies. This is a great feeling!

A quick update on the diet and the capryllic acid. I think it is going well. After the second day on the acid I thought I was going to get a reaction similar to the replete, the wind came back etc. However, it has not worked out like that. I started to drink lots of water and this may have helped my body deal with things. I read that the capryllic acid finds its way into the liver and plenty of fluids help to flush it out of the system - hopefully along with any toxins from the candida growth.

I have uncovered, in the last few days, some evidence that I think points towards a milk intolerance (apologies to those who suggested this before for my prompt dismissal of the idea). After visiting the German doctor the other week, on the advice of the doctor, I started to drink lots of milk. He recommended a litre of milk per day. I love milk so I happily indulged in this. I have since learned that milk is a big no no for the candida diet (oops). Anyway, after over a week of enjoyable but heavy milk drinking, I noticed that the dermititus on my pinky (I have posted before about how this disappeared when I started the diet) returned and was worsening on a day by day basis. The only change I had made was the milk so I cut this out straight away. After only a few days the redness lessened and the pinky seemed to be healing. I can only think of two explanations. The first is that I have a milk intolerence. The second is that the lactose (milk sugar) had influenced the candida. Yoghurt and cream do not seem to be a problem, so it could be the latter. However, I have read that the fermintation process involved in yoghurt and cream lessens the quantities of lactose. I think the only thing for me to do is to stop milk for 2-3 months. Hopefully I will be healthy at this point and then try to re-introduce it.

Monday, 19 March 2007

Lamenting a wasted day

I'm pretty angry with myself at the moment. Despite a good day healthwise I just could not get into gear and do some work today. When I think of all those days wasted when all I wanted was to work but wasn't well enough to manage it, it makes my blood boil when I waste away days like today. However, it wasn't all my fault. I spent most of the morning fiddling with my computer, which over the last day or so had more or less ground to a halt. Closer inspection revealed a trojan had sneaked its way through my defenses. It took 5.5 hrs to run the virus check completely, while I struggled to work along side. After removing the virus, the machine still required over 12 minutes to boot. I couldn't believe it - the machine is not even 1 yr old. So, I cleaned the registry, deleted all temporary files and cookies etc. and made a few tweaks. This appears to have improved the performance somewhat, but not enough for my liking. Top of my priority list for when I get home is a fresh install of windows. It is times like this that I wish I had splashed out for a mac.

Sunday, 18 March 2007

The sugar and yeast free diet - a 3 week update

It is now 3 and a half weeks since I started my diet. For those readers new to this blog, I am following a sugar and yeast free diet after self-diagnosing Candida-Albicans. With the help of my herbalist and a lot of reading, I designed a diet designed to kill off any yeast growth in my digestive system. The basic rules of the diet and information about candida are given in a previous post.

The diet has taken quite a lot of thought and preparation in terms of what I can eat and how I can maintain a balanced diet with all of the nutrients that I need. I have spent a lot of time looking at labels to see if any nasty extras have been sneaked into food products that would make them unsuitable for me and a lot of time searching for recipes. When following such a diet, most meals have to be prepared completely from scratch. I have made my own mustard without sugar or vinegar, my own mayonaise and my own bread spreads. Bread spreads are important even though I am not allowed bread. Staple snacks have been oatcakes (homemade), rye crackers and rice waffles and after a while the same spreads become tiresome.

As you can imagine it has been quite a challenge to keep an interesting and varied diet while following the rules of the sugar and yeast free diet, but my girlfriend and I have managed it. Actually it has been an opportunity for us both to search for new recipes and some of the ones we have found are delicious. I plan to post a selection of candida diet friendly recipes and guidelines over the coming weeks to perhaps ease the workload of others following a similar path.

The diet itself has not been the main challenge for me, the problem has been how I have been feeling healthwise as I have been following the diet. The first week was so easy because I could see that I was improving healthwise. There was an almost immediate effect. My eyes were clearer, I had more energy and the wind that I had been suffering from died back somewhat. This made it easy to continue with the diet because I felt it was doing me good.

The second week was not so easy however. I had problems with low blood pressure and was panicky about this even though I don't think this was anything to do with the diet. On top of this I had increased wind which worsened as the week went on. I also had increasing tiredness towards the end of the second week. I attributed these second symptoms to two things: 1)the relete acidophilus that I was taking along with the diet to rebuild my gut flora and 2) some kind of die of reaction from the candida.

Sure enough, at the start of the third week, when the course of replete was complete, I came to a turning point. I started to feel much better, both mentally and physically and this continued for the whole of week 3. I've been able to work effectively, get out and about more and generally enjoy my life. Christine and I have been able to do things together; we've been to museums, out with friends, and to watch her nephew play football. So this week has been great. Hopefully, it continues this way.

Now, I am moving on to the next phase of the diet, where I take capryllic acid, which should take care of the remaining candida. I have been warned during this phase that I may experience some discomfort due to the yeast dying off, but hopefully because I experienced these symptoms earlier this final phase of the diet will become easier. Wish me luck!

Thursday, 15 March 2007

Brain fog and its many guises

There are a few CFS topics that I have wanted to write about for some time and brain fog is one of these. Brain fog, described as "a state of confusion or lack of clarity" [1], is a symptom suffered by many people diagnosed with CFS. It is something that I too have experienced regularly over the last 11 months. For me, however, brain fog is more than the inability to think because of a muddled head. I have had a range of symptoms relating to my cognitive abilities, each of which I associate with the term brain fog. Many of these are experienced by healthy people and I too had some of these before I became ill, but since I have been diagnosed I have noticed them happening more and more, especially when I am tired. I wondered if anyone else with or without CFS had suffered these scenarios. What are your thoughts on the subject? Here are a few of the things that i relate to brain fog:

  1. When I read signs, adverts or newspaper billboards, the words that i read are often not the words printed, but words that look similar, relating to something that I have been recently thinking about. After a second look the real word comes to me.
  2. A similar thing happens with people. Often, when I walk past people in the street, for the first few seconds I see a person that i recognise. Again, a second or closer look makes it obvious that the person is not who I am thinking and often looks nothing like that person. This has been happening a lot to me in Germany.
  3. My memory for names has become apalling. I find that when I am introduced to someone their name never sticks in my head. This never used to happen.
  4. Also, I don't really pay attention to what I'm doing. I often find myself asking - did I lock the door? Did I take my tablets?
  5. Again, relating to attention, my concentration span is terrible. I cannot concentrate on anything for any length of time before my mind wanders off elsewhere.
My research is associated with memory and I know quite a lot about it. Indeed, I have even studied everyday memory lapses [2]. So, I know that these are all fairly common memory lapses and in themselves don't merit any worry. The point I want to emphasize is the frequency with which they now happen to me. I'd really like to hear other peoples' thoughts and experiences.


2. Elsweiler, D., Ruthven, I., and Jones, C. "Towards Memory Supporting Personal Information Management Tools" Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology 2007 (pdf)

Tuesday, 13 March 2007

A new day a new frame of mind

I felt wonderfully positive today. It makes a nice change to write like this rather than the negative claptrap I have been blogging recently. I really did notice a difference. I woke up without the heavy legs and arms that I have become accustomed to, without the blurry brain, and without the wind - well I had reduced wind anyway. This has continued throughout the day without the hangover that I was expecting from the doctor's appointment yesterday (I will explain in a minute). So all in all a good day all round - positive mentally and physically. Lets hope it continues.

As far as I can tell there are two reasons for this - well three if you count the glorious sunshine we had today.

The first is that I never had to take the replete today. While my herbalist is convinced that the stuff will restore my gut flora to a healthy state, I never did feel comfortable taking it. It really is so strong and upset my entire digestive rythmn and latterly I believe my energy levels too. So, not having to take a sachet this morning, I believe, has made me feel so much better in myself.

The second reason that I believe I am feeling better is the thorough examination I received yesterday at the heart specialist. I never believed that there was anything wrong with my heart or my CV system, I've had it checked out before, but the low pressure mystery and the fact that someone felt it needed to be checked starts to eat away at you.

So, to the examination. Firstly, I had a full ultrasound. Starting with the heart, the doctor proceeded to check all of my major organs. All of which were healthy and normal. Then, I had a "belastungs EKG" or to you and I, a heart test while going through a full workout.

I did more exercise in this one session than I have in one go since I became ill. While hooked up to the heart monitor I had a 12 minute session on the exercise bike, starting from a moderate pace, building up to 250 watts (so the doctor told me) or in laymans terms, a pretty high level. My pulse and blood pressure reacted as they should and after the session was complete, returned to a normal level reasonably quickly. I was really proud of my efforts, especially considering it was only 2 days ago that I needed to find a seat while shopping. However, as everyone who has experienced CFS will know, at the back of mind I was expecting a crash today. It did not happen! I know that it could still happen tomorrow, or at somepoint later this week, but at the moment I just don't believe that it will.

I don't believe for one minute that I have been magically cured, but I am determined to keep this positive outlook, continue this diet and look after myself. With hard work and a happy face I will beat this thing!

Sunday, 11 March 2007

A step back in time

I've definately regressed over the last few days. It is not the wind that is bothering me, although this too has been pretty severe. The main problem has been my energy levels. Christine and I went food shopping yesterday and I had to find a seat twice within an hour. I have not been in this situation for months. When we got home I was completely knackered. We had planned to go to an art gallery yesterday, but I just didn't have the get up and go needed. Instead I sat in an easy chair and tried to recharge the batteries. Three hours or so later I felt a bit better and we went out for a short walk - 20 mins or so at a slow pace. Again, when I returned the batteries were completely flat.

Strangely, I have been able to concentrate ok. My work has progressed over the last week, despite my overall health going the other way. This has been my shining light. My other positive is that I believe that this replete, that I have mentioned a few times, is the root cause of my lack of energy. It is only since I started taking it that my energy-levels have suffered. I hope, I really hope, that after I take the last sachet tomorrow that my system will return into its natural flow and my energy will return.

Tonight I am meant to be going to a concert. Fanfare Ciocarlia - the fastest brass band in the world and one of Christine's favourite bands - are playing in Nuremberg. I bought the tickets as a treat for us both and a thank you to Christine for putting up with me. However, I was feeling somewhat better when I bought them and now I am really dreading it. At the same time though I do not want this illness to define who I am and I am determined to go. I will take a nap this afternoon and hopefully this will leave me in a fit state to enjoy myself this evening.

Thursday, 8 March 2007

The german specialist

So what was the verdict of the specialist I went to see about my blood pressure mystery? "Oh dear you don't look good at all!". This is unfair. In fact, the doctor was very supportive of my cause and told me that in cases like this. When I am not 65, but 25 and I look so unwell, we must search and search and search until we find the answer. He even said that if he could allocate it he would sanction a hospital trip where they could do tests for 2 weeks without time to do anything else. This wont happen of course, but only the other day I turned down the opportunity to go into hospital for checks - 2 days in a foreign hospital does not sound appealling to me.

However, the tests begin tomorrow. I have had most of these tests before, but I was not about to turn down this man's help. I am scheduled for "ein grosses Blutbild" (full range of blood tests), ecg, blood pressure tomorrow with the results coming on Monday.

The doctor was not too supportive of my diet. He said that at the moment I should eat anything that takes my fancy. This way I will not become deficient in anything on top of CFS. However, I want to continue with this. I have put a lot into this diet and do not want to give up now before I potentially reap the rewards. There are a few things worrying me however. The first is having blood tests without any sugar afterwards. I am not the greatest when it comes to giving blood and usually, to keep me from collapsing in a heap, I take a supply of chocolate with me. The other thing that is worrying me is the replete. It has really changed my digestive pattern and I am not comfortable taking it at all. I will have to chat over all of these issues with my herbalist.

So, we shall see what the tests bring. I am pretty sure they will all come back normal but we shall wait and see.

Wednesday, 7 March 2007

The events of the last few days

Wow it has been a hectic week. This is the reason that it has been nearly a week since my last post. Since I first became ill I have had many ups and downs, false dawns and setbacks. I think this week has been the perfect example of this. When I last posted I wrote about my niggling doubts about the candida diet because of the wind and disappearing energy etc. However, I continued on and after a few days started to reap the rewards (ish). My energy came back and the wind died back somewhat. However, as there always seems to be, there was a sting in the tail. My blood pressure was low at the start of the week and continued to drop almost daily to worrying lows (I had one reading of 87/38). My hands and feet were freezing, my head was dizzy and I had pains in my hands where the veins embossed. The blood pressure raised when I did some exercise, a little dancing (don't tell anyone) or a brisk walk, but soon fell again as soon as I sat down for any length of time. Naturally I was worried. Although, on the other hand, it was reassuring to find that I was able to do all this exercise without any problems. I did more exercise in one day on Monday than I had done in months before. However, on Tuesday it came to a head, perhaps as a result of the exercise - who knows?

Tuesday morning, after a hot and cold shower and a few stretches, the b.p was on the verge of normal (105/59), but by lunch time this had lowered to (100/41). Desparate for it not to fall any more I went for a short, brisk walk. When I returned I had lunch but I wasn't feeling great. I thought a short 30 min nap would sort me out. I woke up 2 hrs later, panic stricken, heart pounding, sweating and disorientated. I lay in bed not knowing exactly what to do, but I tried to go back to sleep. A few hours later I woke up, felt ok (ish). I took my b.p, which was normal (something like 115 / 70 - the highest it had been in a week). I found this bizarre. I went to the doctors to check it out anyway. Again the doctor read my b.p as normal, but recommend I see a specialist to get my C.V system checked out properly. This is what I am doing tomorrow. However, since then my readings have been fine and I have had no other symptoms etc. This seemed truelly bizarre until I discovered that the readings my girl friend's parents' b.p measure varies depending on the position of your arm. When I hold it in the position I was instructed by the doctor I get a low reading (altho everyone else seems to get a normal reading this way) and when you hold it as instructed in the manual, you get a normal reading. This means that the chances are my bp had never actually been as low as I thought. However, how do you explain the dizzy headaches, cold hands and feet, embossed veins and pains? All of these disappeared on Tuesday afternoon so were they all manifested by panic? Hopefully the specialist will get to the bottom of my little mystery.

During all of this I entered the next phase of the diet. On Monday I started taking the replete that I was actually meant to take along with starting the diet, but found difficult to source in Germany. So I have started 2 weeks late. Biocare Replete is high strength acidophilus recommended to me by my herbalist. It contains 100 billion bacteria per sachet (50 times the strength of my quest acidophilus) and you take 1 sachet per day for 7 days. You take each sachet dissolved in water and with your first sip you can feel the effect. Actually, it is not a particularly pleasant sensation, bringing about wind (not disimilar to what I have been experiencing). The tub notes this as a possible side effect, so I will keep an eye on it and consult my herbalist if it continues.

Well that was my week. I hope this post makes sense. I feel as if I have just blurted out everything in one incoherant rambling. Maybe this is the best way to blog. Let me know what you think.

Friday, 2 March 2007

Diagnosing Candida

Over the past few days, my (candida) symptoms have progressively worsened. My eyes have once again become cloudy, my energy levels decreased and the wind problem has returned to almost as bad as it has ever been. Interestingly though, brain fog hasn't been a problem and I have been able to be (comparatively) quite productive.

The worsening symptoms have really caused me to question whether or not the problem is candida. I have been searching for ways to diagnose Candida and here is what I have found.

Generally, diagnosis comes from symptoms. Several websites / books provide a list of symptoms that candida can cause and suggest that if a person has one or many of these symptoms Candida could be the answer. The most complete list I found was by Lindsey Duncan CN, a nutritionalist and founder of the Home Nutrition Clinc in California. A similar list is given in The Complete Guide to Food Allergy and Intolerance by Jonathan Brostoff and Linda Gamlin. However, I have misplaced my copy so I will need to refer to Lindsey Duncan's list.

Ask yourself the following questions. One or more "yes" answers is a strong indication you have Candidiasis.

1. Have you ever taken cortico-steroid drugs or antibiotics, or been on antibiotics for an extended length of time?

Yes, when I was in my teenage years I took several courses of antibiotics for acne. One period lasted over 2 and 1/2 years. I am convinced this is the reason for my illness. Since becoming ill, I have reluctantly had to take 3 more short courses of antibiotics for infections that could not have been controlled in any other way.

2. Are you currently on birth control pills or ever taken them for a period of two years or more?


3. Have you ever been plagued with vaginal yeast infections, vaginitis, PMS, menstrual pain, endometriosis, prostatitis, or loss of sexual interest?


4. Do you crave sweets, bread or alcoholic beverages?

Yes, I have often craved chocolate and other sweet goodies. Never alcohol though

5. Do you suffer from unexplained aches and pains or headaches?

Yes, I have had various unexplained aches and pains including headaches since my illness started

6. Have you been pregnant more than twice? (Hormonal changes contribute to candidiasis susceptibility.)


7. Are you overly sensitive to chemicals including perfumes, tobacco smo
ke, paint, insecticides, etc.?

Not that I know of

8. Are you bothered by chronic digestive complaints such as bloating, gas? Do you have constipation or diarrhea?

Yes, I have suffered wind for some time. Chronically over the last few months.

9. Do you find yourself having to deal with problems like athlete's foot, jock itch, nail fungus, ring worm? Do you have bouts with psoriasis, eczema, hives or chronic dermatitis?

Yes, I have had several fungal infections over the period of my illness in various parts of my body including my toes. I have also had dermatitis on my pinky for some time, although this has cleared up significantly since starting this new diet.

10. Are you chronically fatigued? Do you suffer from memory loss ("brain fog"), erratic vision, spots or "floaters" in front of your eyes, nervous tension?

Yes, I have been diagnosed formally with CFS. I have sometimes, since my illness began, suffered from tip-of-the-tongue situations and I have often referred to "brain fog" although this is not a permanent thing. My eyes are often yellow, blood shot and glased. Further, I have (uncharacteristically) been nervous and panicy many times since I became ill.

11. Do you feel depressed or ill for no known reason? Do you feel worse on damp days?

I have had many down days in the last year. However, mostly I remain a very positive person. I'm not sure about damp days that is something to look out for.

12. Do you often have cold hands and feet?


13. Is your tongue coated?

It has been but in the last few days I have noticed that it is less so - good sign?

So I scored high on most of these questions. In addition to taking this test I have taken the "Candida Spit test" that was first recommended to me by Sarah. I have since read about this test in a number of places. Including this site. who recommend the following:

First thing in the morning, before you put ANYTHING in your mouth, fill a clear glass with room temperature Bottled Water.

Work up a bit of saliva, then spit it into the glass of water. Check the water every 15 minutes or so for up to one hour.

If you have a potential problem, you will see strings (like legs) traveling down into the water from the saliva floating on the top, or "cloudy" saliva will sink to the bottom of the glass, or cloudy specks will seem to be suspended in the water.

If there are no strings and the saliva is still floating after at least one hour, you probably have Candida under control, and have nothing to worry about. Congratulations.

I took this test and my saliva was stringy. More evidence for the candida problem. So what does this mean? According to these tests (how reliable they are I have no idea) the evidence points to a candida problem. So why am I getting worse again despite being on this diet? This has been puzzling me. One explanation is that I am suffering Herxheimer or "die-off" reaction. According to some websites such as this one, this is said to occur as a result of the yeast being killed too rapidly which overwhelms the body with yeast cells and their toxins. Any number of nasty symptoms can arise as a result, most frequently a flu-like feeling or worsening of symptoms already present. The solution to this may be to take a lower dose of anti-fungal for a while or take extra fibre or a product like bentonite clay to help carry the toxins out of the body before they are absorbed. My herbalist never mentioned this when he recommended the special diet, nor did the food allergy book, but it is certainly something I will ask him about.

So what do I do in the mean time? I think all that I can do is continue with my diet and perhaps try and increase my fibre intake.

Tuesday, 27 February 2007

A wee bit confused ...

The last few days have been a bit of a puzzler for me. The first week or so of this diet had been so profitable. The progress I had made in a short period of time made it easy to avoid eating foods that normally would challenge my will power. My eyes were clearer, my mind was clearer and my energy levels were continuously improving. Then, on Sunday I had a wee dip in energy that got me down a little, but in the evening it came back and I was fine. Yesterday I was feeling ok in the morning, but the wind was quite bad mid-afternoon (albeit not as bad as it once had been) and continued until bed time. Today, I just feel terrible. My eyes are bloodshot, my arms and legs are heavy and I have the brain fog again. I have not had any of the foods I am meant to avoid so what does this mean? Does it mean that Candida is not the (main) problem? Is it just another period of adjustment that my body needs to get used to this diet? Is it perhaps that the problem is a food intolerance - I have been avoiding a particular food for a week and then inadvertently consumed it in the last few days?

These are challenging questions and the setbacks - I say setbacks because they are not full blown crashes, no where near - have thrown niggling doubts into my will power. Am I avoiding these goodies, things that give me pleasure for no reason? Is it sheer coincidence that I felt better for the first week?

I have to be strong and give this diet the full month to do its job. I have also finally been able to order the high strength acidophilus (biocare replete) that is meant to complement this diet.

I will also make a note of what I have eaten in the last few days incase I need to find patterns for a food allergy later. For now, though, keep the chocolate away from me....


breakfast: Live yoghurt with oats
Lunch: Russian savoury mince with leak and potatoes
Dinner: Red lentil and coconut soup with rye crackers and oat cakes.


breakfast: Live yoghurt with oats
Lunch: Red lentil and coconut soup with rye crackers and oat cakes with walnut, tofu and aubergine spread
Dinner: short-grain brown rice and pepper stir-fry with pork

Sunday, 25 February 2007

A wee bit down

I'm feeling a wee bit low at the moment. I knew that I was probably setting myself up for a fall by believing that I had found a miracle cure and it is still possible that it may be the help that I need. However, it is mid-afternoon and I am feeling really worn out and its enough to lower my spirits again. It's not like a crash - the tiredness didn't come on suddenly. Rather it crept up and gradually this afternoon I have just got more and more lackluster.

So what I'm going to do now is have a wee meditation then listen to Parky, which usually cheers me up.

Dealing with those heavy legs

One symptom common to most sufferers of chronic fatigue syndrome / ME is the "heavy legs".
I know that other suffers refer to these by other names such as "lead-legs" or "velo-gubbed legs".

From my experience this is not always the same feeling, but a spectrum of feelings. At one end the problem is "chronic" with me not being able to move my legs at all, feeling as though they are lumps of metal, at the other end it is a mild heaviness that means I cannot walk as fast or as far as normal. When I was first diagnosed with ME I often experienced heavy legs (and arms) at the chronic end of the spectrum. If I was lying in bed it actually felt as though I had an invisible man lying on top of me who was pushing my body into the bed. I can assure you that this is a very disturbing feeling. I still experience heavy legs and arms from time to time, but usually the feeling is on the milder side of the scale. I have found mild stretches in the morning and evening reduce the problem considerably.

I don't recommend these if the problem is at the "chronic" side of the spectrum, but if the problem is on the milder side give them a go. Don't over do it - if your muscles are not used to being stretched then break them in gently. My physio recommended the following stretches when to aid my route to recovery.

1) The hamstring stretch (figure: left)

lying flat on the floor with knees stretched to 90 degrees and back flat on the floor. Slowly raise and straighten one leg, grasping it loosely with behind the thigh with both hands.

2) The calf stretch (figure:right)

Standing 3-4 feet from a wall with feet in position shown perpindicular to the wall. Lean against your forearms while maintaining a straight line through the spine and your back heel firmly on the floor.

3) The quad stretch (figure:left)

Stand with one hand against the wall for balance. Bring the foot up to the hand and grasp around the ankle. Pull gently upwards until the stretch is felt. Remember to keep the knees side by side.

Thank you to the city of Saskatoon leisure programme for the images and text.

Saturday, 24 February 2007

Killing 2 birds ...

Two problems I have had with the sugar and yeast free diet are 1) I am worried about my vitamin C intake because of my lack of fruit and 2) I cannot find anything interesting to put on my bread substitutes (rye crackers, rice cakes, and oat cakes).

I have been exploring different ways of tackling these problems. I thought about vitamin c supplements, but these are loaded with nasty extras including sugar and various E numbers so that is out. I thought about veggie spreads that Christine loves so much and are freely available here in Germany. However, these also seem to have one or more of the things that I cannot have: sugar, yeast-extract or lemon juice.

Then I found a solution to both problems in one go. A recipe for walnut, aubergine and tofu pate. Walnuts are rich in vitamins C and E, as well as zinc. Aubergines are full of calcium, phosphorus and beta-carotene, which help clean the blood and protect arteries. Tofu is a great source of protein and iron.

So all in all a healthy snack. When I get a chance I will post the recipe to snacksby.

A strange thing happened last night ...

For the first time in over 10 months, Christine, my girlfriend was more tired than I was on a Friday evening. We visited friends to watch a DVD and returned home unusually late for me - around 1 am. I felt strangely fit, whereas Christine was dead on her feet.

Perhaps I am getting my hopes up; setting myself up for a fall, but half of me firmly believes that this diet free of sugars and yeasts may be the answer to my problems. I have now been avoiding sugars for nearly two weeks (strictly without fruit and yeast for 5 days) and an increase in energy has not been the only change. The amount of wind that I have experienced as dropped by a huge amount and the dermatitis in my finger - something that has been with me for 8 months - has cleared up considerably too. Are these all coincidences? Only time will tell, but for the moment at least, I am remaining cautiously positive.

Friday, 23 February 2007

Getting enough veggies

One problem that I have found with this new diet is getting enough vegetables into my daily intake. I never used to have problems with this because I ate lots of fruit and drank fruit juice. However these are all no nos now. Yesterday I resorted to steaming myself an extra portion of veggies before dinner to satisfy the need. I have also thought about nibbling raw carrots or peppers, but these may be difficult to digest.

Does anyone have any ideas on how I can sneak more veggies into my diet? All thoughts appreciated!

Yesterday's diet was the following:

breakfast: porridge (no sugar or fruit, but plenty of milk)
lunch: rye crackers with smoked salmon and ham
snacks: cashew and brasil nuts and a portion of steamed veggies
dinner:salmon pasta, cooked in onion, garlic and cream with spinach

Thursday, 22 February 2007

A no-sugar, no-yeast diet update

So, I continue on with a no-sugar, no-yeast diet in Germany. I am surrounded by goodies that I cannot have: beer, saurkraut, bread, cake, chocolate, fruit ... the list goes on. However, in truth it is not too bad. Ok, so I cannot have treats, but otherwise my diet can be pretty normal.

So yesterday when everyone had Apfelreis for dinner (not a dinner but a dessert in my book) I had to do my own thing. For breakfast I had porridge (without sugar and fruit but with lots of milk), for snacks I had rice cakes with either butter and ham or pumkinseed butter and lots of nuts. For lunch I had the remainder of the previous night's dinner - wholemeal pancakes with veggies. For dinner I had chicken with millet and veggies.

All in all not too bad a diet and the wind is disappearing. The problem is that I am still losing weight. I am now down to 66kg. I cannot continue to lose like this. Another worry is my blood pressure. I just measured it at 100 / 61 with pulse of 86. Pulse is normal, but 100 / 61 is really low. I wonder if there is a connection between blood sugar and blood pressure. Does anyone know?

Tuesday, 20 February 2007

A bug in the system - Candida albicans

I have long suspected that my CFS / ME symptoms were, in part at least, due to some kind of bacteria imbalance in my gut. There are many evidences that point to this. The fact that I, along with much of the teenage population of Great Britain took anti-biotics for acne for a long period of time (I took them on the advice of my doctor at the time for 2.5 years) is one possible pointer. The numerous infections I have had in the last ten months is another. I have had fungal infections in various body parts, Epididymitis three times and various urinary tract and throat infections, which all point toward a damaged immune system (50-60% of the body's immune system is in the gut). My recent digestion problems were the last piece of evidence that I needed to confirm my suspicions of some kind of candida type problem- it is now time to do something about it.

Candida albicans is an overpopulation of yeast in the stomach. As with most things relating to CFS / ME there is controversy regarding Candida and a large amount of disagreement. Some doctors deny that Candida is a common problem, while a few claim that it underlies the majority of cases of food intolerance. A third group suggest that Candida itself is not the guilty party and the real culprits are still to be identified. Only time will tell who is right.

All of us have millions of bacteria and yeasts living harmlessly inside us (the gut flora); these are natural inhabitants of the large intestine. In a healthy person these are a balanced community of different organisms and act in defense of infection etc.. However, the balanced nature of the gut flora can be disturbed in a few ways. The use of anti-biotics which kill off good and bad bacterias and allow others to grow can be one cause of imbalance. A severe bout of diarrheoa, which flushes a lot of microbes out of the bowel, can be another. The result is a yeast growth that feeds on the sugar in our diet.

I am now undertaking a strict diet to try and recover the levels of bacteria in my system and bring them back into balance. Already, for over a week, I have been avoiding sugars, but I have not been strict with fruit etc. Weight is something that I am very worried about at the moment because I have lost over 10kg since first becoming ill and in the last week I have lost a further 2kg. I am now at the 67kg mark, when really I should be around 80kg. I cannot afford to lose more.

I think this diet is something that I have to plan carefully so this week I have been creating with the help of my herbalist what we think will be a balanced and safe sugar and yeast free diet. The diet is summarised below:

The basics to avoid are sugar, refined carbs such as biscuits, rice krispies, bread, cheese, miso, soy sauce, mushrooms, vinegar, most fruits, dried fruits, any non-fresh veg, anything else fermented, alcohol, tea and coffee. Good foods are - wholegrains, veg, proteins, garlic, onions, Pau D'arco tea. So the diet is based around protein foods of fish and meat complemented with lots of fresh veggies - probably steamed so as not to kill off the vitimin C that I will most definately lose by cutting out fruit.

It will be a tough month, but I hope to start the diet next week. I will be giving details of my progress, the meals I have eaten etc. on a daily basis. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, 14 February 2007

Food for the digestive system

Since I was diagnosed with CFS, I have paid particular attention to my diet. I am very much aware of the relationship between what I eat and how I feel - when I eat poorly, I feel bad. In the last few days, however, I've not been able to eat much at all. I have been surviving on Fennel and Celery soup and rye bread because it is all that I can digest. Lucky it tastes nice!

Here is my recipe.

Homeopathy update

After a few hours the tablets took effect. The wind became progressively more acidy, then it was almost suffocated. It is difficult to describe, but it was almost as if there was a bag thrown over it - it was still there but it couldn't get out. Over the course of the day the wind became less and less uncomfortable. However, there was a downside. I had spells of hot and cold shivers, headaches etc. Then I would be fine for twenty minutes, then the hot and cold shivers would return. By the end of the day I was completely worn out. I went to bed at around 10.30, but I was freezing. I used two duvets and finally got to sleep. I woke up at around 1am. The wind had returned and I was boiling. It took me some time to get back to sleep after that.

This morning, I started the whole thing again. Hopefully, after a few days of this the problem will be dealt with.

Tuesday, 13 February 2007

First experience of german doctors

When I moved to Germany to be with my girlfriend and to continue my recovery I never imagined that I would visit a German doctor so soon. I thought that I knew enough about my state of health to recover by pacing my activities and working on my diet. Nevertheless I was wrong. During my time in Germany I have been plagued by digestion problems. This was initially just trapped wind, which occasionnally caused some pain when the pressure built up. However, on Sunday last, the heat turned up a little.

Suddenly the wind was no longer trapped and causing pain, but free flowing and endless. I have been rifting continuesly since Sunday evening. This sounds comical, at worst embarrassing, but I can assure you it is much worse than this. It is extremely uncomfortable and the condition has worsened steadily since Sunday, with the air becoming more and more acidy and pressurised. Last night I could stand no more. I decided to go to the doctor. In Scotland I would have gone a long time ago, but a number of factors put me off going in Germany. The first factor is the unknown, what will the doctors give me? Will this undo the good work of my herbalist and doctor in Scotland? Then there is the language barrier. My German is hardly fluent and my medical vocab is not my most complete. Again, my timing here is attrocious. My girlfriend is fluent in both languages and would have been able to translate without problems. However, she is away at a conference until tomorrow evening. Could I wait until Thursday? I don't think so I was so uncomfortable that I didn't think this was an option. Further, on Thursday we were meant to be travelling to Essen to visit my family there. I'm not sure if this will happen or not.

So, I decided to brave visiting the doctor, hoping he or she would be fluent in English. Alas he was not, so I gave it my best shot of communicating 10 months of illness with particular emphasis on the last three weeks. I was rather proud of my efforts as the Doctor seemed to understand, but of course one always has niggling doubts. My bloodpressure and pulse were taken and were incredibly high! I was thrown back at this because these usually return normal like every other test. My pulse measured 120 and bloodpressure 156 / 68. I also gave a sample of blood but I am unsure what they used it for.

I was given the option of homeopathic or traditional approach, which was a difficult choice for me. I know nothing about homeopathy, but the natural approach appealed more than say an antacid. Although for all I know the homeopathic method, it may have the same effect. Nevertheless I chose this option and was prescribed gastricumeel, which is described as "relief of indigestion and heartburn. Helpful when overeating or eating bad food combinations".

This is not the most informative of statements but it is the best I can find. All I can do is trust in the doctor.

Anyway, after returning home, I checked my bp and pulse, which had started to lower. Now (3 hours or so later) thankfully, they have returned to normal. The airflow has not relented since taking my first tablet, but I will give my digestion some time. The other advice the doctor gave me was to eat little sugar, beans and pulses, onions, alcohol etc. and to drink herbal teas such as peppermint and fennel. Most of this I have been trying to do over the last few weeks, but I will continue and try to be more disciplined.

I will keep you updated with my progress. Meanwhile, I will try not to panic.

Friday, 9 February 2007

Nietzsche on fatigue!

"Even the strongest have their moments of fatigue." Friedrich Nietzsche "

Thursday, 8 February 2007

School Teaching

Today was my first teaching experience at a school level. I had volunteered my services to help with a few English classes that are tought by one of Christine's friends.

This was quite a big deal for me for a number of reasons. Firstly, I had to get to the school, which was an area unknown to me and I had to get there alone. Secondly, it was going in to the unknown when I hadn't been feeling great in the last couple of days. As I have mentioned in previous posts, I tend to get slighly panicky when I am in unfamiliar settings, particularly on my own.

The first surprise to me was that I was actually taking the class and not just helping out. I was given the topic of "Scotland and streotypes" and the goal of making the class chat to me.

This was not a problem at all. The kids were great and very chatty. We explored what they knew about Scotland, their perceptions of scottish people and discussed whether or not I matched those perceptions. It was a lot of fun!

I think there is a slighly different atmosphere in German schools than I remember from Scotland. In Germany the classroom atmosphere is definately more relaxed, there are no uniforms and while there is respect for the teacher there is certainly no hesitation to speak or chat etc. I quite liked this approach.

Actually, the experience was not too different from giving tutorials at university level and that tells you a lot about the attitudes of the kids! Also much like lecturing and tutoring at university the experience of teaching was completely draining. About 1 hr after the lessons I felt very,l very tired. I have resisted the temptation to take an afternoon nap so as to not disturb my patterns of sleep.

So it has been a good day and I am proud of myself for making it through trouble free!

Monday, 5 February 2007

Just a blip!

I am happy to report that last Friday's off day was indeed just a blip. I have not been feeling 100% since, but in no way has it been a major set-back. Actually, with the exception of my digestion, I have actually been pretty good. The weekend was spent as a mixture of relax and recover and web design. I am currently working on a new web site to do with CFS. I hope to make it a central resource for high quality information on ME / CFS. The motivation for the website will be clear for anyone with CFS. There is so much information out there, but it is scattered all over the place. There is also a lot of misinformation and it is difficult to know what to trust and what not to trust.
Hopefully, by only linking to accredited research and well known sources the website might be able to help with this problem.

Watch this space for more information.

Friday, 2 February 2007

Another set back or just a blip?

Days like today are extremely challenging. After a pretty good week, where I have felt my health improve continuously while achieving my goals (I will talk about these another time), today I cannot get the motor running.

It really started last night around 8.30pm. In the time it takes to flick a switch I went from feeling great, to completely shattered. It also coincided with a return of the chest pain and trapped wind that had all but faded during the week. I went near enough directly to bed - there was nothing else for it - and I fell fast asleep.

When I woke up this morning I felt terrible. It is not too uncommon for me to get days like these and they mean one of two things: just an blip day where I am off colour and don't get much done or a full set-back that means back to square one. I will find out the answer tomorrow. The important thing is, and I have learned this lesson, to stay postive and not to worry too much about it and try to get on with as normal a day as possible. Just don't over (or under) do it.

I have likened the feeling to a hangover. My head has a dull ache, my legs and arms are heavy and I generally just feel like crap. When I do finally manage to get out of bed, I just cannot seem to get the motor started. I struggle to concentrate on the simplest tasks and work is almost impossible. But, this won't stop me from trying. It is so frustrating because yesterday I was getting myself into the groove quite nicely and the week generally has been quite productive.

This is the nature of the beast - I keep my fingers crossed for tomorrow

Monday, 29 January 2007

Psychological Aspects of ME / CFS

For me last Friday's events typify the main difficulty with living with ME / CFS - panic.

Christine and I were invited to attend a Ceilidh in Nuernberg. I wasn't feeling particularly great on Friday evening, still troubled by the digestion problems that had plagued me all week, but as I am Scottish and I knew many of the people who attend and I also love Ceilidhs, I felt obligied to attend.

The Ceilidh started wonderfully. We went along a few hours before because Christine had to help with the hall decoration etc. and this was good because it gave my stomach time to settle. By the time people start arriving I felt much better and for the first hour or so I was really in my element. I was talking to people, meeting friends from the past. It was wonderful!

Then came the turning point. I think I had just exerted myself a little too much, I hadn't danced (just 1 very slow gay gordon's), but the number of people, the heat in the hall, and general social interaction must have just taken its toll. I started to feel a little off. Then the panic set in. What if my legs go? How will I get home? What if this is another setback? . . . etc.

For me panic is the worst aspect of this illness. It has completely changed my personality. Before I became ill I was confident, outgoing and relaxed in most situations. Now, when I don't feel 100%, I turn into a nervous wreck and don't want to be anywhere but home where the sanctuary of bed is not far away! When I get home, I loosen up, relax and start to feel better almost immediately. The symptoms might not go away, but my outlook definately changes. I know that if I do take a bad turn, I am in a safe place.

Therefore, although I don't think CFS is a purely psychological condition, I do believe that there are psychological aspects to it and this is something that I am trying to deal with.

Monday, 22 January 2007

Germany so far!

I have now been in Germany for a few days. So far I have settled in very well and feel quite comfortable here. Health wise it has been a mixed bag. My energy levels have been fine, I could possibly even be described as sprightly, but my digestion has not been so good. I have been troubled by continuous trapped wind since Saturday evening. Originally, this was causing quite a lot of pain in my chest, which always worries me. However, the pain has moved further down towards the bottom of the ribcage, which while not pleasant, causes me far less concern. I think that part of the problem with suffering from CFS is that because of the way it is diagnosed i.e. by eliminating other symptoms, I am always frightful that there is something else, something more serious, lurking in the background. Due to the range of symptoms that I have suffered, my confidence in my body is non-existent and the least little symptom soon becomes a terminal illness. For example, chestpains must be a problem with my heart, swollen gland in my throat or infection in my testicle must be cancer etc. With hindsight, after the problem has disappeared, these thoughts seem ridiculous, but it is something that has seeped its way into my character since I became ill.

My goals for this week are:

1) to settle in completely in Germany
2) attempt not to worry about this trapped wind and try to treat the problem naturally by controlling my diet and eating easy to digest foods.
3) to complete and submit a paper to Sigir2007

We will see how I get on with these.