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