Category Archives: Uncategorized

Dairy Difficulties

2014-09-19 13.28.50

Homemade yoghurt served with jam.

There are two main potential problem particles in dairy.  One is lactose (you’ve probably heard of lactose intolerance).  The other is Casein, which is less widely known.  Some people also have a milk allergy (different to an intolerance), and it’s also possible to react to Whey.

Lactose – Lactose is a sugar found in milk (and milk products).

Casein – Casein is a milk protein.  You may remember from previous posts that Gluten is a wheat protein.  It is quite common to find that if you have a gluten sensitivity you also have a casein sensitivity, since the two are handled in a similar way by the body.  Here is a great post from ThePaleo Mum which explains Gluten Cross-Reactivity to dairy and other foods.

Whey – Whey is another milk protein which can cause similar reactions to casein.  If you are using whey protein and are reacting to it, then you could be reacting to the whey, but it could also be because the product is not 100% whey, but also contains lactose and you are reacting to the lactose (confusing isn’t it).

Our family’s experience

I have been making home made yogurt, which I ferment for 24 hours, for many years.  This supposedly leads to all the lactose being converted to lactic acid by the yoghurt making bacteria, and hence it is safe even for those who are lactose intolerant.  I plan to write more about this in a future post, but in the meantime, here is the information that got me started on this path.  When I first became ill yoghurt making was one of the many activities that stopped.  However, as soon as I was able (probably 18 months after my crash) I began making the yogurt again.

A few months ago I removed all dairy from my diet for a period of 2 weeks and then reintroduced it.  I did not notice a difference in symptoms on removal or reintroduction, so I therefore do not think I am intolerant to lactose, casein or whey.  I do not avoid dairy, and regularly eat my homemade yoghurt, and I occasionally enjoy some cheese or a creamy dessert.  However, I don’t go out of my way to consume lots of dairy.  I am focusing on a nutrient dense diet, and most of the time I think there are other foods that will benefit me more.

When my daughter started her gluten free diet our nutritionist warned us that many people who react to gluten also react to casein and hence she may also need to avoid dairy.  We’ve never removed dairy completely from her diet, if you’ve read my post about our experience of going gluten free, you’ll know that given the state of my health at the time it was challenging enough to remove gluten.  Writing this makes me think that we should probably do a trial to eliminate dairy and reintroduce it and see if there is any reaction, but this will rely on her co-operation.

Over the last few months we have also been trying to work out the cause of my youngest son’s regular tummy aches.  After excluding gluten from his diet we noticed that the tummy aches came when he ate dairy.  We therefore excluded gluten and dairy for 2 weeks (he was fine) reintroduced gluten (he was fine) and a week later reintroduced dairy (he was not fine).  Over the summer there have been several instances of him eating dairy and getting tummy pains.  However, he seems able to consume my homemade yoghurt with no problem.  This makes me think that he is lactose, and not casein intolerant.  I am still experimenting to see what he can tolerate.  For example I read that many people with a slight lactose intolerance can tolerate butter, because it is mainly the fat portion of milk and hence does not have much lactose.  However, his consumption of chocolate brownies made with butter did not have a happy ending.  That was 2 weeks ago, so I am now going to try some whey protein isolate to see if he can tolerate that.  Again this is supposed to be a different fraction of milk, with very low lactose.  I consulted with our GP before I excluded gluten, and my son had a coeliac test (which was negative).  At the end of the summer we went back to the GP to tell her the conclusion we had reached, but she does not want to do any testing to confirm lactose intolerance, and is happy for us to continue as we are.

All our meals now need to have gluten free and lactose free versions and packed lunches are even more challenging than before.  It’s a good job I have more energy because an awful lot of it is going into thinking about and preparing food. Over time I hope to get better at gluten and dairy free options so that it is less effort.

Super Juice Me and Summer Break

The film Super Juice Me is available to watch for free this weekend. I saw it a few weeks ago (also for free). The film takes 8 people with a range of chronic conditions and puts them on a juice only diet. The changes they experience are incredible and inspirational.

I Juice nearly every day, but I’ve never done a juice fast; and whilst I think my body would be strong enough to cope with it now, I think if I had tried it earlier in my illness it would probably have made me feel worse.

Please be aware that to watch the film for free you do need to give your email address and you will then receive some very sales orientated emails from Jason Vale (you can unsubscribe). I don’t think you need to buy his books or apps if you want to get into juicing. There is plenty of information available for free on line or look for books in your local library, and of course my very own post on Vegetable Juicing.

This may be my last post until the kids go back to school in September.  I certainly won’t be posting regularly over the holidays.  I am going to enjoy this time with my kids.

The first summer I was ill (2012) I couldn’t look after the kids on my own and they had to spend the summer with relatives and friends.  Last summer I did manage to look after the kids for some of the time on my own, and we did a few outings, although they had to be relatively short and carefully planned and  I used my mobility scooter to get around.

This summer I am looking forward to longer outings, and to walking and cycling with my kids.

Just remember if you’re struggling at the moment things can get better.

Best wishes for the summer.

Planning for Success

Last week the Tour De France came to my home town.  I have been an avid Tour fan for many years and I really wanted to see the event live and join in with the festivities.  I needed a plan that would enable me to enjoy the day despite my limitations.

Things I considered when planning my outing:

  • Transport – how to get close enough to where I wanted to go so that I remained within my walking limits.
  • Food and Drink- I eat gluten free and try to get vegetables with every meal.  It’s hard to find healthy food at an event like this.
  • Clothing – I’ve always been sensitive to changes in temperature, but my ME makes me less able to tolerate being too cold or too hot.
  • Sensitivity to Noise and crowds
  • Company – who should I go with.  Who will help me if I start to get symptoms?
  • Location to watch the race
  • How to limit standing time
  • How to reduce other daily activities

Successful planning means planning around the limitations of my illness so I can participate in the activities I want to.


Transport to watch the Tour de France is a challenge for anyone, but even more for someone who has limited walking ability.

Driving – Most of the roads and car parks in the centre of town were closed, either from the night before, or from 7am on the day of the race.  This meant driving and using my blue badge to park nearby was not an option.

2. Bus – There is a park and ride bus service, but I was concerned that there would be long queues for this and I would struggle to stand in the queue, especially on the way home.

3. Train – the train station was not close to the start of the race.  This would have been too much walking for me.

4. Electric Bike – I’m really lucky to have an electric bike.  Cycling was the obvious way to get close to the race, and the option that my race going friends were all using.  Unfortunately we live 6 miles (12 miles round trip) from the start of the race and my bike has a range of 10 miles without pedaling.  I’ve never tested my bike to the limit, but now did not seem like a good time to start!

Solution: Drive a couple of miles down the road with my fold up electric bike in the back of the car, then cycle the rest of the way, secure in the knowledge that I could make it back to the car without running out of charge.

Food and Drink

I took a packed lunch and plenty of water.  This meant I didn’t have to waste energy walking round the numerous food stalls trying to find a suitable gluten free option, and then joining the long queues to buy food, leaving more energy to enjoy the festivities.


Clothing wasn’t really an issue on this occasion.  The weather forecast was warm and sunny , so comfy clothes and a cardigan in case it got chilly were all I needed.  I  made sure I had comfortable shoes to maximise my standing/walking ability.

Sensitivity to Noise and Crowds

Now that my health is improving I did not think this would be an issue for me at all.  In retrospect, this was one aspect I should have thought more about and I did wish I had packed some ear plugs.  I was right in thinking the crowds (and the noise from them) would not be an issue, but I had not factored in the four helicopters circling overhead.  The noise from them did affect me, but I used mindfulness, deep breathing and reassuring self talk to minimise this.


We had planned to go as a family, taking all 3 kids with us to see the start, even though it was a school day.  However, my husband had work commitments which meant he couldn’t go with me.  I know that if I’m struggling he will find a way to help me.  I was a lot less confident about going on my own, but I still wanted to go.  I decided to only take my oldest son, to make the day easier for me and arranged to have a friend on call in case of emergencies.

Friends invited me to go with them, but we couldn’t cycle with them, due to needing to drive part of the way.  We did meet up with them, but my son and I did not stay with them as with a big group there is lots of hanging around, waiting for people and making decisions about where to go.  I decided it would be better if just me and my son found ourselves a suitable vantage point.

We saw lots of people we knew, which helped make my day more enjoyable, even though I didn’t chat to anyone for long, because I was focused on finding my next sitting point.

Limiting Standing Time

My standing ability is much improved from where it used to be, but it’s still not “normal”.  I knew I would need to rest whenever I could, but also that there would be points of unavoidable standing and walking.  My choices of transport, food and drink and company were all related to limiting standing and walking, but I also took a fold up stool, so that I could wait sitting down.  Actually I didn’t need this; we perched on some railings waiting for the start, and then by standing on them managed to get a good view of the start line, and then made our way to the big screen where we sat and ate our lunch whilst watching the race.

Location to Watch The Race

Many people I know watched along the streets, once the riders were going.  We chose the start because I knew there would be a big screen, so if it was too difficult to get a view of the race we could still soak up the atmosphere and watch on the big screen (sitting down).  I think I made the right choice.

Limit other activities

I arranged for my husband to take my other two children to school, and I arranged for my son to cook dinner.  This meant I freed up more energy for my day out, and had time to rest when I got home.


For me, watching The Tour was everything I wanted it to be.  I saw the start  and then watched part of the race live on the big screen.  I got a great view of the start of the race, and really enjoyed the pre-race build up and the atmosphere and  I didn’t suffer from Post Exertional Malaise afterwards, so all my planning paid off.

I love it when a plan comes together.

Hannibal – The A Team

What our doctor’s really think …..

I’ve just read this response (reproduced below in blue text) to an old paper in the BMJ entitled What Causes Chronic Fatigue Syndrome? .  The response is written by Anthony D Collings, Consultant Physician and David Newton .  The article originally stated where they worked (Essex CFS Service, Southend University Hospital), but Essex CFS service disassociated themselves from the article,  so the article now states they are writing in a personal capacity.

How can these doctors continue to work with patients with ME/CFS if they believe what they have written in this article?  If you really believe your patients are imagining themselves ill through their ideas and beliefs what are you doing working with them?  And if they don’t believe what they have written, why are they writing it and publishing it on the site of a widely read medical journal?

According to Essex CFS service, in a letter to Dr Shepherd at the ME association, the purpose of the article was “to spark debate in the medical arena.”  Lets imagine a trainee doctor reads this article and a few weeks or months later he meets a patient with ME/CFS.  Lets imagine this doctor has had no specialist training in ME/CFS.  The patient is referred to them because of symptoms, which may be completely unrelated to their ME/CFS.  During their first consultation the patient mentions their ME/CFS and they find that the doctor is uninterested in it and brushes it aside.  The patient doesn’t know why, but it’s because instead of being exposed to useful information about the illness this doctor is exposed to ideas that the disease is a Meme, so instead of being concerned that the patient’s mitochondria are not functioning properly, or that the patient has a poor tolerance to exercise, or that the patient may become brain fogged during the consultation and not fully take in what they are being told, the doctor does not think about the effect of ME/CFS when deciding treatment, or the effect of the treatment he proposes on the ME/CFS.

If this article had been published in an obscure location and not written by doctors who work with ME/CFS patients every day I would be a lot less concerned.  As it is, this article seriously damages the credibility of everyone who has ME/CFS.  I frequently hear stories of sufferers encountering medical practitioners who “don’t believe” in ME/CFS.  This article encourages those views, instead of helping sufferers to persuade doctors and the public that just because there is not yet a diagnostic test for ME it doesn’t mean it’s not real. MS used to be called Hysterical Paralysis (paralysis caused by emotions).

Fortunately for MS sufferers brain scans can now show whether they have the illness, and hence doctors believe that their symptoms have a genuine physical cause.   So, please read the article below, but replace CFS with MS and you will instantly see how ridiculous the article is.  If you need more convincing, below the article I take it apart in more detail.

 In his 1976 book ‘The Selfish Gene’ (1) Richard Dawkins coined the term ‘meme’. Dawkins used the term particularly in relation to religious beliefs and defined it as an idea or group of ideas which propagate between individuals and which share many of the characteristics of life, including the abilities of propagation and self defence, and the capacity to evolve.

The concept of culturally-driven disease-disorders is not new (2) and memes have been suggested as a means of cultural transmission in various disorders including, in a general sense, in CFS (3).

Meme-mediated syndromes, it may be argued, are common in the history of medicine, from railway brain which dogged early travellers on railways in the mid-1800s, manifesting itself as neurological agitation and psychosis, attributed by some at the time to invisible damage to the brain caused by the unaccustomed jolting which necessarily accompanied railway travel in that era, via neurasthenia, a term used in the 19th century to describe ‘nerve weakness’ to (perhaps) whiplash and fibromyalgia. They arise and fall or in the case, arguably, of neurasthenia, evolve, to suit the culture that they live within.

Aaron Lynch (2) described general patterns of meme transmission:

Transmission within families Transmission of memes vertically from parent to child.

Cultural separatism Separatism creates a barrier to exposure of competing ideas

Proselytic-transmission Horizontal transmission: beyond the family.

Preservational Ideas that influence their hosts to hold them for a long time.

Adversative Ideas that influence those that hold them to attack or sabotage competing ideas and/or those that hold them.

Motivational Ideas that people adopt because they perceive some self–interest in adopting them.

How well does Chronic Fatigue Syndrome fit this model?

CFS has no known organic cause. It is diagnosed on the basis of exclusion of other morbidities which otherwise might explain the presenting symptoms. To use Lynch’s general patterns of meme transmission, with some examples:

Family: CFS clusters do occur in families, for no known cause.

Adversative. Preservational. There is a large group of sufferers who vociferously deny the possibility of a psychosocial cause for their symptoms, and discount accordingly the value of psychosocial treatments, though the only evidence based treatment addresses such causes. These sufferers tend to regard their condition as beyond cure

Cultural Separatism. Proselytive: It is generally accepted that membership of a CFS peer group is a predictor of poor outcome of treatment, and it has been argued that this may be due to negativity within the groups as to diagnosis, treatment and prognosis. CFS groups often make extensive use of information technology to promote their ideas and activities. Conversely, it has been suggested that being Asian (groups, arguably, whose distinctive cultural identities might well form barriers to memes) is a protective factor against CFS (4)

Motivational: A medical diagnosis can help to secure benefits and insurance recognition/validation.

It seems unlikely that memes alone account for the aetiology of CFS: quite likely many factors combine to bring about the condition. CFS might perhaps be most usefully thought of an emergent phenomenon, an ordered entity arising from a disordered combination of psychological, memeological, social and behavioural factors, much as a wave emerges from the complex, chaotic interplay of wind on water. It does however seem reasonable to conclude that the transmission, retention and evolution of the defining characteristics of CFS, particularly perhaps in the group one might term ‘Psychosocial Deniers’ might usefully be viewed through the meme model lens.

What is the practical use of viewing CFS as a meme?

Harmful memes can be displaced by benign memes, or influenced to evolve towards benignity. The mechanisms of bringing this about, as applied for instance in the ‘deprogramming’ of cultists may have useful applications in ‘dememeing’ CFS sufferers. Of course, GET and CBT, the sole treatments with significant evidence for the efficacy in CFS treatment, could be viewed as processes of dememeing.

Following this model, avoiding reinforcing of the meme would be advisable: avoidance of CFS (ME) peer groups; discouragement from indiscriminate reading around the subject (particularly on the Internet, a notoriously efficient spreader of memes); avoidance wherever possible of labelling sufferers with a diagnosis of CFS. Involvement of family therapists in treatment would be beneficial, to explore and combat vertical transmission.

Some or all of the above measures, as workers in the field would recognise, are followed to a lesser or greater extent by CFS services: reference to the meme model offers additional back-up for clinical practice.

CFS, then, might be usefully viewed as a meme, a dysfunctional culturally-transmitted idea-infection. Characteristics of transmission and retention of CFS fit well the characteristics of meme transmission and retention described in the literature. Present mainstream treatments for CFS make sense when viewed as a process of dememeing. Lessons may be learned for refinement of existing therapies or creation of new ones when viewing CFS from a meme perspective.

Let me list all the ways in which this article is inaccurate for me and my illness which is officially diagnosed as ME/CFS (the doctors can’t even agree on the name).
1. Transmission within families – no-one in my family has ME/CFS or any similar condition.  I suggest that where more than one person in a family has CFS/ME it suggests some sort of genetic susceptibility to ME/CFS that has been inherited.  This has not been discovered yet, but that is probably due to the woefully small amount spent on biomedical research.
2. Cultural Separatism.  Being housebound (occasionally bed bound) and unable to manage social interaction due to fatigue and brain fog for a long period of time does lead to separatism.  At times I have felt isolated from my friends and extended family and been unable to take in much information at all.  During this time I found interaction on facebook enabled me to feel some connection, both to others with ME/CFS and my existing friends and family.  I did spend a lot of time in the first year researching my illness and finding out about treatments which might help.  I think this is a normal state of affairs for someone with a disabling long term  illness who is getting little help and advice from the medical profession.  For me it led to me working with a nutritionist and taking up meditation.  Both these have been extremely positive for me.  People with other illnesses (e.g. diabetes) are often encouraged to learn from others with the illness.   I understand that some ME groups on line can be very negative.  I was lucky to find a supportive and encouraging group which has been tremendously helpful to me.  Learning to cope with ME/CFS is the biggest life change I have had to make and learning from others who have already gone through things (e.g. losing my job) was tremendously helpful.  I stay in the group and am now able to offer support and advice to newly diagnosed people.
4. Prosyletic Transmission.  No one I know in my wider circle of friends or acquaintances has been diagnosed with ME/CFS since I became ill.  My “ill thoughts” have not infected anyone else (yes I’m being sarcastic here).  This idea is so offensive to me.  By talking about my illness I can make other people ill?  I have talked extensively with a friend undergoing cancer treatment in recent months.  We can relate to each other in ways our healthy friends can’t, and yet I haven’t got cancer and she hasn’t got ME/CFS.
5. Preservational – Ideas that influence the host to hold them for a long time.  If you are ill for a long time it does affect your thinking, but it’s not my thinking that is keeping me ill.  I have worked hard to build my belief in recovery and have also used meditation to reduce negative self talk.  I firmly believe I will recover from this illness despite being told by the NHS ME/CFS clinic that this is a chronic condition which I must learn to manage.  Who’s preserving the ideas of illness here?  I do not believe my illness has a psychosocial cause, any more than I believe cancer or heart disease have a psychosocial cause.  
The authors also bring up the PACE trial by mentioning “the only evidence based treatment addresses (psychosocial) causes”.  There has been much criticism of the PACE trial which I won’t get into here. If you’re interested in finding out more about the PACE trial here’s a starting point.  Suffice to say if more money was spent on bio-medical research more effective treatments may be found.
4. Adversative.  This article is making me adversative!  I am ill.  I don’t hold onto an idea of being ill, and when I’m well again I will stop believing I’m ill.  Don’t tell me this is all an idea and that there is no test to diagnose my illness.  Spend more money on bio-medical research and find a test.
5. Motivational.  This is the most offensive idea of all.  I had a happy, full life before I became ill.  You can read what my life was like here.  I was not motivated to give that up and lie around feeling awful.  I was not motivated to be unable to care for my children, spend time with my friends and family, walk, wash my hair, have a shower or any of the other things I was forced to give up by this illness.  I am incredibly grateful that I am recovering and able to do more now.  I can’t wait until I can go on bike rides, play football with my kids, go hill walking etc. etc.  I am motivated to recover, not to stay ill, but even with great motivation it is not easy.  Additionally, anyone who has had to go through the ESA and DLA/PIP assessment procedures would not do this unless they were forced to.  Applying for benefits is certainly not a motivating factor in my illness.
So there you have it.  One response article in the BMJ has sparked a massive rant from me.  Let me know whether you agree and what you think should happen to the authors of this paper?

May 12th – International ME/CFS awareness day

Yesterday was ME Awareness day.  Due to my ME I didn’t manage to get a post out yesterday, but better late than never.  Here’s my contribution to raising awareness by trying to explain a bit about how this illness affects me.

Last May I joined a group of ME sufferers in a Sponsored Pyjama Day to raise money for ME charities.  I was amazed by the amount of sponsorship I received, and so made an effort to get out in public in my PJs.  Here I am visiting the garden centre, on my mobility scooter.

ME Awareness day 2013 – Pyjama Day

 I shared the picture above publicly last year to thank my sponsors, and yet the picture below is a much more accurate picture of how I spent the day (the band round my head is earphones which you can wear lying down – I use them every day.)

How I spent most of the day

How I spent most of the day

The only people that see me at my worst are my family, because at that point I’m too ill to go anywhere or invite people to the house.

One of my main symptoms is Post Exertional Malaise (PEM).  ME is not well understood by the medical profession, but it is believed PEM is caused by the mitochondria in cells not functioning properly.  Mitochondria are the engines of our cells, they provide the energy for all cellular functions.  We have many different cells doing different jobs in our body; brain, heart, blood, muscles etc.  All these cells are powered by mitochondria, and hence if the mitochondria are not providing the energy they should , none of these cells can function properly. In an attempt to keep supplying energy, the mitochondria switch to anaerobic metabaolism.  As any athlete knows this is unsustainable; it causes a build of lactic acid in the muscles, leading to pain.  It can take an ME sufferer several days to recover from this, and during this time we suffer from PEM.    A fuller explanation of the cellular processes that lead to PEM can be found on Dr Myhill’s website.

For me, PEM feels like I’ve been poisoned, other sufferers say it feels like having the flu.  I think the poisoned feeling is due to my body struggling to process the lactic acid and other cellular by products.

The threshold of activity that causes PEM is rising for me, so I’m able to do much more this year than last year before I suffer.  However, yesterday I was suffering (mildly compared to how things used to be) following a busy weekend at my sister’s Hen Do (picture below).  It’s great to be able to join in activities like this, but I am reminded that although I can now appear relatively normal for 1 day, I can’t yet sustain it.

My illness is invisible now

My illness is invisible on the Hen Do

My ME symptoms are classified as mild, but there are many sufferers who are housebound or bedbound.   Action for ME have made a short (4 minute) film to raise awareness of ME.

If you would like to support an ME charity then there are several main charities in the UK.

Thanks for taking the time to read more about my invisible illness.  Hopefully this time next year I will be talking about my ME in the past tense.



If you’re at the stage in your ME/CFS when you are struggling to cook a simple meal, then please feel free to ignore this post. However, I’m trying to get from 70-80% recovered to 100%, and Kombucha is something that I’m hoping will help me.

Why Kombucha?

Kombucha contains lots of beneficial bacteria and yeasts and as such is supposed to be great for gut health. My nutritionist says that most of my remaining symptoms relate to digestion and absorption issues, so I’m keen to do everything I can to improve my gut health. The idea to try Kombucha did not come from my nutritionist (she’s wary of suggesting actions that require a lot of effort since I was unable to implement several recommendations in the early days), but she is supportive of my decision to try it. I have read about the benefits of Kombucha on various blogs and websites, and also in The Wahl’s Protocol.

What is Kombucha?

Kombucha is a fermented tea drink. It is made by making tea, with sugar, and adding a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast). The SCOBY forms a layer on top of the tea and slowly “eats” it. After 4-7 days you remove the SCOBY and bottle the liquid Kombucha. At this stage you can add fruit to flavour the Kombucha or just drink it plain. The resulting drink has a pleasant fizziness.  I must stress that Kombucha does not taste like Tea. One of the reasons I didn’t try kombucha sooner is that I do not like tea, so I assumed I would not like Kombucha.   Kombucha tastes more like cider (or vinegar if left too long) than tea, and in fact does have a low alcohol content (apparently about 0.5% c.f. 3-4% for beer).

What are the benefits of Kombucha?

The health claims for Kombucha include:

    • Aids detoxification – it is rich in the enzymes and bacterial acids our bodies need to detoxify
    • Cares for our joints – because it contains glucosamines
    • Aids digestion and gut health – it’s a probiotic drink, rich in bacteria and yeast
    • Boosts the immune system – it’s rich in anti-oxidants
    • Rich in B vitamins and minerals

Since I started drinking Kombucha I have stopped taking the probiotic capsules that I’ve been taking for nearly 2 years.  Kombucha is much cheaper than buying probiotics.

How to make Kombucha

I have followed the instruction on the Seeds of Health website. After a few run throughs I have found the most efficient way for me to bottle my kombucha and get my new batch started. These instructions are designed to be read after you’ve read the Seeds of Health  instructions, and are based on you having a batch ready to bottle and wanting to start a new batch at the same time.

  1.  Filter 2 litres of water and place in saucepan. If you do not own a water filter you can boil the water for 5 minutes to ensure all the chlorine (which will kill your SCOBY) is removed;
  2. Boil water;
  3. Turn off heat, add 4 tea bags and 160 g sugar to your boiled water. Put a lid on the pan and leave to cool;
  4. When you return to the kitchen (I usually wait several hours – there’s no rush here) check your tea is sufficiently cooled
  5. Ensure your bottles for the batch of Kombucha you have just made are clean;
  6. Retrieve your Kombucha from wherever it has been brewing (mine lives in the airing cupboard);
  7. Uncover the Kombucha and using clean hands remove the SCOBY to a plate;
  8. I “brew” my kombucha in a pyrex bowl, so at this point I tip the kombucha into a large jug. If there are bits of SCOBY floating in the kombucha you may wish to strain it, but I’ve not done this;
  9. LeaveDo not pour the dregs into the jug: dispose of them. I understand they are dead bacteria and they won’t add anything to the finished drink;
  10. Using a funnel (I don’t have one yet so my bottling process is quite messy) pour the Kombucha into bottles and seal;
  11. Wash out the bowl you brew your Kombucha in.  Do not use antibacterial soap, as any remnents left in the bowl will kill the SCOBY ;
  12. Remove the teabags from the cooled tea and pour into the bowl. Add approx one cup of kombucha from the batch you’ve just bottled and then carefully place the SCOBY on top of the tea. Cover with a tea towel, and place somewhere where it won’t be disturbed for 4-7 days.
  13.  Add any flavour that you wish to your kombucha bottles.

Kombucha flavours.

I have experimented with a few flavours, and plan to keep trying different ones. I’ve had great success using Cherry Active Concentrate.  I also made a lovely pear flavoured bottle (chopped up a pear and added it to the bottle), but I didn’t like a similarly made apple flavoured bottle.  My latest experiment was lime and ginger, which I love.   There are plenty of flavour ideas on the Cultures for Health Website.

Where to get a SCOBY

Apparently you can buy SCOBYs online, but I got mine via a facebook group similar to freecycle. I simply put a request for someone to let me try their Kombucha (remember I thought I wouldn’t like it because it’s made from tea), and if I liked it to give me some SCOBY. A very nice lady replied to my post and invited me round to her house to drink Kombucha, and then she gave me some SCOBY. My SCOBY is looking really strong after three brewing cycles, so if anyone local wants SCOBY I am now in a position to donate some myself.

Final Words

I’m really enjoying experimenting with Kombucha, and hopefully I’m experiencing lots of great health benefits.   At the very least, I’m saving myself over £20 a month by getting my probiotics from kombucha rather than buying probiotic capsules.


What Quantity of Vegetables Should We Be Eating?

If you live in the UK you probably heard the news last week that a study found that eating seven or more portions of vegetables a day is healthier than the current minimum recommendation of five a day.

How Fruit and Vegetable intake reduces risk of death

You can see from the graph that even though the news coverage featured 7 portions a day, the benefits continue to increase if you eat more than 7 portions a day.

This study came out hot on the heels of me reading The Wahls Protocol.  One of the central recommendations of The Wahls Protocol is nine cups of vegetables and fruit a day (three cups green leafy, three cups colourful and three cups sulphur rich*).  This is what Dr Wahl’s research showed provided the correct nutrition for cell and brain function.

Both pieces of research point in the same direction; increasing the vegetable content of our diet is good for health, and it is particularly important when our body is trying to heal itself.  This is not surprising given that vegetables contain all kinds of micro-nutrients (vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals) as well as being a source of carbohydrates and fibre.

If you’re eating a typical western diet and you have limited energy then the idea of nine cups of vegetables a day is extremely daunting.  So I recommend that you don’t aim that high, at least to start with.  The graph above shows that each extra portion of vegetables you eat in a day has health benefits, so that’s a good place to start. Aim to eat one additional portion of vegetables per day.  Once you’re managing that try adding another one in, and just keep going.  You may not reach nine, but each extra one will help provide the nutrients your body needs to heal itself. I have been monitoring my vegetable consumption and I think I typically manage 6-7 cups per day.   I have experimented with nine cups, but at the moment I’m happy with my progress and have decided that the additional effort to maintain nine cups a day is not a priority.

Easy Ways to Increase Your Vegetable Intake

Vegetables generally require a bit of preparation, but when I was very low on energy I worked out a few ways to get them in my diet with minimal effort.  I’ve written about some of this in Feeding Hungry Kids (and Husbands), but a little reminder can be useful.

  • Buy ready washed salad and spinach.  This was/is the simplest way for me to add green leafy vegetables to any meal.
  • Buy ready prepared fresh vegetables.  I keep bags of carrot batons in the fridge which are easy to add to salads or for a quick snack with hummus.
  • Use frozen vegetables:  These are generally frozen soon after picking and hence have high nutrient content, they are already prepared and can be cooked quickly in the microwave or a steamer on the stove.  I have also added them to slow cooker meals.  If you add them at the start of cooking they tend to end up very mushy, so if your cognitive and physical function allows it’s best to add them near the end, but for a while our family had to make do with mushy slow cooked frozen vegetables.

Cooking Methods

After years of cooking whatever we received in our organic vegetable box (at first I used to have to look up what some of the stranger vegetables were on the internet) I have concluded there are a few main ways to prepare vegetables: the traditional steam/boil; stir fry with ginger and garlic; roast in the oven; or add to soups or stews.   Name a vegetable and I’ll bet that by using one of those methods you’ll end up with a delicious dish.

* Here’s a list of some vegetables and fruits that fit into Dr Wahl’s 3 categories.

Green Leafy Vegetables

  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Beet greens
  • Pak Choy and other asian greens
  • Chard, all colours
  • Chicory
  • Collard Greens
  • Coriander leaves
  • Dandelion leaves
  • Lettuce – not iceberg
  • Mustard greens
  • Parsley
  • Radicchio
  • Watercress
  • Wheatgrass

Colourful Vegetables and Fruit – mix your colours, eat the rainbow.


  • Asparagus
  • Artichokes
  • Avocados
  • Green Beans
  • Green Cabbage
  • Celery
  • Courgette (skin on)
  • Cucumbers (skin on)
  • Green Grapes
  • Peas
  • Kiwi
  • Limes
  • Melons (honeydew)
  • Okra
  • Green Olives
  • Green Peppers


  • Beetroot
  • Blood Oranges
  • Red Cabbage
  • Cherries
  • Cranberries
  • Red Grapefruit
  • Red Grapes
  • Red Pepper
  • Pomegranate
  • Radishes
  • Raspberries
  • Rhubarb
  • Strawberries
  • Tomatoes
  • Watermelon


  • Ariona Berries
  • Aubergine
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Dates
  • Elderberries
  • Black or Purple Grapes
  • Figs
  • Purple Kale
  • Black Olives
  • Plums
  • Prunes
  • Raisins


  • Apricots
  • Carrots
  • Grapefruit
  • Lemon
  • Mango
  • Nectarine
  • Oranges
  • Papaya
  • Peach
  • Orange and Yellow Pepper
  • Pineapple
  • Pumpkin
  • Squash
  • Sweet Potato and Yams
  • Tangerines

Sulphur Rich Vegetables

  • Asparagus
  • Pak Choy
  • Broccoli
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Chives
  • Collard Greens
  • Daikon
  • Garlic
  • Kale
  • Leeks
  • Mushrooms
  • Onions
  • Radishes
  • Rutabagas
  • Spring Onions
  • Shallots
  • Turnips and Turnip Greens


Food is Love

This week I’ve been doing lots of cooking. Firstly I made two huge pans of soup for a family get together at my aunt’s house. The purpose of the get together was a birthday celebration. It is lovely to spend time with my extended family, but there’s a lot of us and we all need to eat, so everyone brings something for the table.

Then during the week I heard that two of my friends were going through a tough time – one due to bereavement and one was involved in a car crash. I decided that instead of buying flowers of chocolates I would make them both a meal. It was a pleasure to spend my energy shopping and cooking for people I wanted to help, and I enjoyed delivering the meals to my appreciative friends.

I’ve written before about how supported I felt by friends and family that cooked meals for us when feeding myself and my family was often beyond me. Passing that gift on to others feels wonderful and made me reflect on how much more than nourishment food is.

“Food is symbolic of love when words are inadequate.” —Alan D. Wolfelt

Technical Difficulties

I’m sorry there have not been any posts for over a week.  I am having some technical issues with my blog. You may have noticed it is loading extremely slowly at the moment, sorry if you’ve found that frustrating.

I am working to fix things, and that’s using the time I usually use for writing.  Since I don’t have any technical support, and this is all new to me it takes me a while to work out what to do.  I now have a plan and  I will be taking a leap into the technical unknown.

I’m looking forward to getting back to the writing, but I will have a tremendous amount of satisfaction if I manage to sort this out by myself.  I hope to see you on the other side (If not I’ve done something wrong!)

Update 8/4/14

Thanks to help from Technical Support at Dreamhost this blog should now be back to normal performance.  If you experience any further problems then let me know.

The Habits of Recovery

I’ve just finished listening to the audio book The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.   The book is very well written and surprisingly entertaining, using real life stories to illustrate the points about habit. Here’s a review which explains a little bit of the theory behind the book.  Finishing the book has made me realise how I’ve been building positive habits that help my recovery.  Here are a few that spring to mind:

  •  I use my infra red sauna daily,
  •  I meditate silently most days,
  • My eating habits have changed dramatically compared with what I used to eat before I was ill.
  • I take supplements
  • Resting

The habit loop consists of a cue (time, location, other people, environmental state or immediately preceding action), a routine and a reward.My reward for all the routines related to my recovery is feeling better. My cues vary, but are mostly time or immediately preceding actions.

My habits have changed as my recovery has progressed.  For example I used to rest 4 times a day at specific times for 30-60 minutes, lying down and listening to guided relaxation.  Now, I have a time cue for my daily meditation  (after lunch, but before school pick up) but if I feel low on energy (cue: my emotional state – feeling tired) I will add in additional rests as needed.

Of course it’s also easy to get into unhelpful habits like spending all day on facebook, watching TV, eating doughnuts, having a glass of wine every evening or going to bed really late.  The most important thing I am taking away from the book is that with a bit of work you can figure out what is driving your habits, and this will give you the power to change them.

I’ve heard that BJ Fogg’s Tiny Habits Programme can help with creating new habits and I also recommend the blog Zen Habits by Leo Babauta.

So what habit do you want to build?  Don’t try and change everything at once and remember from my Increasing or Decreasing post it’s easier to focus on adding something positive in rather than what you are removing/stopping. Here are some suggestions from me if you’re looking for ideas:

  • Add an extra portion of vegetables to your evening meal;
  • Think of a time of day when you are particularly tired and add an extra rest into your day, preferably an hour before that time;
  • Write down 5 things you are grateful for every night before you go to sleep;
  • Hug your family members when they come in from work/school.