Archive for October, 2017

This isn’t a running post! I’ve had a health problem for 16 years (since my 2nd pregnancy) that hasn’t been diagnosed, despite numerous scans and visits to gastro consultants and neurologists. I can’t be the only person with these symptoms, so I thought I’d write a blog post in hope of finding either an explanation or a fellow sufferer!

I was 6 or 7 months pregnant when the first attack came on. The main symptom was nausea such that I was unable to eat for 2 days. The fasting seemed to cure it, and I could then eat normally. I had one further attack during the pregnancy, and one when our daughter was 6 months old. Each time, fasting for 2 days was the only way to end the nausea.

Then nothing for 9 years. We were on holiday in Sardinia in 2010 when it struck again. The nausea felt identical so I fasted and it went. This time I had episodic attacks at home afterwards, so I started keeping a food diary. When I’m ill I can generally carry on doing what I’m doing (apart from being a bit sleepier than usual), and the longer into the fast I get, the better I feel.

I paid privately to have allergy testing, but nothing was detected.

In January 2012 I came across York Laboratories who diagnose food intolerances using a simple finger-prick test, where you send a blood sample through the post, which is then analysed for IgG antibodies against a a range of food and drink. The results looked like this, and correlated amazingly well with the food diary I had kept for 2 years.

York Test 2012

My York Laboratories IgG antibody test results. I had a further test in autumn 2014 and can now eat kidney beans, but remain intolerant to most of the other food and drinks listed

Bizarrely, the day I got my results, I’d had chilli con carne (kidney beans, right at the top of the list) for lunch and fell asleep on a course that afternoon. York Test’s advice was to cut out the foods scoring a 3 for 9 months, those scoring 2 for 6 months and those scoring 1 for 3 months. You get 2 x 30 minute phone calls with one of their nutritionists included in the £300 you pay for the test.

This worked with kidney beans, although I’m still careful not to have chilli 2 days in a row. Milk was much more difficult to eliminate as it’s present in a lot of baked goods in the UK, as whey powder, lecithin, skimmed milk powder etc. Obviously butter and cheese were out too, which meant the only pastry products I could buy were pork pies and certain steak pies, where the pastry is made with lard or vegetable margarine rather than butter. I immediately switched to soya milk, which I prefer over the other milk substitutes. Together with sunflower margarine Vitalite, soya milk makes wonderful cakes and pancake batter!

Yeast was a major headache as this is present on the surface of dried fruit and in tropical fruit. The only fruit I eat is a couple of small oranges 3 or 4 times a week. Also I had to cut out sugar as yeasts can only work in the presence of sugar. So I tried a sugar-free diet for 3 months, no wine or beer either (I did drink gin and whisky in small amounts).

I was much better for about 18 months, but when I tried reintroducing milk and yeast (very slowly as per York Test guidelines) I became ill again. So I’ve resigned myself to sticking to the dairy-free and yeast-free diet.

In the last couple of years I’ve had more attacks and they’ve been different in that I’ve had to stop all fluids during the fast. I can’t even swallow water after cleaning my teeth. I find having to go without water for 60 hours quite worrying, but my GP assured me there has been no permanent damage to my kidneys.

It takes a good few weeks to return to normal fluid intake, and I start with glucose or lemonade. Plain water instantly gives me pain in the sinus under my left eye. It’s not until 3 weeks after an attack that I can take plain water.

Low-level eye pain has been present for 10 years now and gets worse during attacks of nausea. It’s a useful little barometer in that it starts to hurt when I have too much water for the stage of recovery relative to an attack. If I’m going for a run, I can normally manage 500ml water on that day.

I’ve had some treatment along the way, but the following drugs haven’t helped: Omeprazole, Buccastem (anti-nausea drug that you put between your gum and teeth) and Amitriptyline. The only thing that I can do is to stick rigidly to the diet.

Being dairy- and yeast-free is easy at home, but going out for lunch can be difficult. Lunch menus often centre on bread and paninis, which are out of the question. A baked potato with tuna mayo or baked beans is fine, as is an all-day breakfast!

Evening meals in restaurants are better. Steak and chips is a favourite, ditto fish and chips. I always avoid mashed potato as it’s likely to contain milk and butter. Having chips with everything must make me look really unhealthy! Salad Nicoise is another option, but you need to make sure it’s not sabotaged with grated cheese or croutons.

Eating out abroad is difficult, and I take the precaution of writing my intolerances in the native language and showing it to the waiter, asking which dishes are suitable for me. My family are very patient with all this!

If any readers can shed light on these issues, or have similar symptoms, please get in touch! I think the doctors I’ve seen think it’s psychological, but the symptoms come on within seconds of having the particular food in my mouth, so I don’t think it can be.


soya favourites

Yeast- and dairy-free staples. Even pitta and naan breads contain yeast, while the wraps have sodium bicarbonate as the raising agent. The ice-cream is amazing – the whole family love it!

As a nurse, I worked with patients with Crohn’s disease. Along with ulcerative colitis, this is an inflammatory condition of the bowel, which can be debilitating for sufferers. Patrick (one of my patients) told me a story. He had been asked “If there’s one thing you could change about your body, what would it be?” Patrick said, “I’d like perfect eyesight,” not to be free of Crohn’s. He said that having Crohn’s had taught him a lot about himself. Although the condition is painful and, at times, embarrassing, Patrick wouldn’t change it.

It’s only now that I have come to understand what Patrick meant. Since acquiring the intolerances, I’ve learnt so much about food, about my own body, and about problem-solving that it really is part of who I am. I’ve learnt a lot, too, from other people with dairy intolerance. For instance, did you know that the only biscuits that are dairy-free are ginger nuts and bourbon creams? But it’s still worth checking these biscuits in case some rogue whey powder or lecithin sneaks in!

Unfortunately incidence of food intolerances are rising, and there is much that medical professionals do not know. The pragmatic way forward is simply to stick to a diet that suits you.



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It’s about time I did another Yorkshire cake post, even though the Leeds Uni cake proved to be unlucky in the end. I got a flash of inspiration at the recent Airenteers Dales Weekend – grey clints from mouldable grey icing, flooded afterwards with green glacé icing for the grass in the grykes – easy!

no icingI did double quantity of my dairy-free chocolate mayonnaise cake. This nicely fills a 24 x 34cm baking tray and gives enough for the cliff layer and to cut off the burnt edges. The stile is made from the olive picks that come with our Graze boxes (and a lot of superglue)!

The cliff-face was textured with the imprint of a bracelet.

braceletI made the limestone blocks in mainly rectangular shapes, but started with a triangle formation, so that there was some randomness. I put a thin layer of butter icing to hold them in place, then piped the green into the gaps afterwards. You could put the rocks directly onto the green icing, but you would need to have made them all first, otherwise the icing would dry.


Dave with mapThe wall was held together with butter icing, and finished with an authentic layer of coping stones. I butchered some old maps to cover up the edges and found a Playmobil man that looked a bit like Dave and even made him a tiny map!

All together it took about 4 hours, and I have to say, I didn’t have the energy to add candles after all that. Happy Birthday Dave … I could have numbered one of the controls 54, but it was getting late!


finished cake from front

finished cake from above


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