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Posts from the ‘Specific conditions’ Category


The Weight Loss Programme that is Working for Me – 38 lbs Lost So Far!

10 February 2013

Screen Shot 2013-02-10 at 15.58.48I have now dropped 38 lbs since I started my weight loss programme. There have been some periods when my weight has levelled off and it has taken real determination to get it dropping again. Four more pounds to go and I will have lost 3 stones.

The effect is really noticeable – I can get into my size 12 clothes – that is the biggest bonus and I noticed yesterday I can cross my legs. Another thing, I can kneel on the floor, something I haven’t been able to do for years! I can get into my sheepskin coat that has been languishing in a cupboard for more years than I can remember. I have been buying cashmere jumpers on eBay at an alarming rate! I go for the auctions of used items. There is a knack to getting what you want, at least I have devised a method where I receive items that are clean and ready to wear. I send an email to the seller asking them to confirm the item has been cleaned and ready to wear. If I don’t hear from them, and that does happen, then I don’t bid for it. I also ask for confirmation the label shows it is what the seller says, for instance one item was described as silk, but turned out to be polyester. Look out for ‘style’ or ‘type’. For instance cashmere type, or silk type, or couture style. I have found it means whatever the item is it is not 100% silk, or cashmere. That’s what I have learned so far – check out detail before you buy. I have made mistakes, mostly with measurements. I get carried away with the photo and forget to actually check the measurements given … this entails returning the garment and that is tedious, especially as return postage is seldom refunded.

One incentive to keep to the weight loss programme I have devised is to aim for couture clothing in size 10! I have to decide whether the investment will be worth it, whether in fact my willpower will ensure I succeed in further weightloss. It is so easy to slip back into old, negative ways. I still have a tendency to overeat when I feel a bit blue, or feeling stressed. I have no trick to get over this. I can foresee getting into size 10 clothes may well be a size too far. Or shall I just keep trying? Probably! I love being able to wear my ebay bargains!

17 November 2012

Most of us who seriously need to reduce our weight, and I’m thinking here of anyone with more than 3 stones to lose, need to spend a long period concentrating on food. Which may seem a contradiction in terms.

One of the biggest challenges during that long period is maintaining motivation.

Sometimes serious health conditions help focus that effort, and most long term dieters are aware of the possibility and danger of developing diabetes, heart disease, cancer – just a few of the serious health problems associated with serious over weight.

If assured we would definitely be dead within two weeks through eating more than 1200 calories a day I’m pretty sure we would all make certain we kept under that target, indefinitely.

To begin with controlling our appetite is hard. The trick is to maintain that control – we have to be creative with food, keep meals interesting, colourful, tasty, satisfying and recorded. This in turn can work to prevent a sense of deprivation developing. Deprivation can include resentment, isolation and the downward spiral of eating more than we need to survive.

Sooner or later those of us on the Sainsbury Diet find food becomes less important. Why this is is not clear, but I think it might be a consequence of a smaller stomach that no longer demands food so often. Also the taste of highly sweetened, or salty food is not as attractive as before. It would seem our tastebuds become more sensitive. However fat in food doesn’t seem to lose its attraction, it’s so high in satisfaction. Alarm bells should ring if you start eating more than 20% of your total daily food intake. This is all monitored on the diet so you can quickly see if you are close to making a mistake.

However, like recovering alcoholics, we are vulnerable and have to be vigilant. That’s the reality … food can never be what it was before we took our health seriously.

The importance of exercising can’t be emphasised enough. The making and maintaining new muscle which is heavier than fat can in turn lead to what is referred to as a plateau. No one likes this to happen but it seems an inevitable feature of serious weight loss. The body seems to need time to rearrange itself – well that’s how we see it!

Exercise can become addictive! It stimulates endorphins and adrenaline and although to begin with might be painful it really is worth it to feel more alive, move around more and feel more energetic. What’s not to like?

The Sainsbury Diet Forum is littered with references to hunger. Many of the long term dieters are able to provide sound advice. Onesuch is: If you feel hungry try waiting for 5 minutes – still hungry? Then eat. It’s more likely you no longer feel hungry. Or it could be your body needs fluid. Try a glass of water.

The Forum is a positive self moderating organism – providing support, empathy and down to earth feedback.

I have at last reached a two stone loss after a three week plateau. What a relief … On now to my next stone to lose … I can do it! Yes, I know I can!

Why not join us? If you are serious about weight loss this could be the site for you.

November 5 2012

Tracking Progress

There is nothing, absolutely nothing, as dispiriting as, when following a diet, any diet, reaching a plateau for whatever reason. What is hard to bear is when no matter how hard you try, the weight will not budge. How long will it go on? Can you avoid succumbing to temptation because you feel so low. Jam, bread and butter, cheese, chocolate, crisps, peanuts all raise their profile and the mouth waters.

Recently, on the 8th day of a plateau, I went for a bike ride, 8 miles in an hour. Not as fast as I used to be two years ago, but acceptable.

I returned home absolutely ravenous.

I ate jam on Ryvita, two little tubs of chocolate mousse, biscuits, bits of cheese, two glasses of wine, a biscuit, leftover meat. All eaten out of hunger – the thought of possible weight gain the next day didn’t stop my guzzling.

Next morning: My weight had dropped by a pound!

Ah! But the following week my weight rose by 2 lbs and stayed the same for the next two weeks and no amount of ‘being good’ had any effect. Very, very frustrating but perhaps understandable. I simply couldn’t get back into the swing of restraint and although I kept to my 1200 calories a day I did slip from time to time, especially in the evening with the odd biscuit.

I lost my pedometer down the loo – now this may seem insignificant but it really put me off making sure I covered 2,500 steps a day. It took me 6 days to replace it, during which time I was fairly inactive.

I then restarted using my stationary bike, 5 minutes the first time, then 10 the next day and that did the trick! Phew at last weight loss – miniscule but significant.

With the target of 15 minutes on the bike every day.  I have also been keeping a note of the number of steps with my new pedometer. So that and the bike riding should beat it! Onwards and downwards at last!

Tracking progress 

October 15 2012 – 92nd day

Today the weighing machine shows I have now dropped from 14 stone to 13 stone and .8 of a pound. So close to two stones lost!  My BMI is now 31.9, a drop from 37 since 9 July 2012.

The key to this steady weight loss has been achieved through following the Sainsbury Diet. Using their website I now plan up to 7 days’ meals ahead and make sure I have the food available, so accurate shopping lists are very important. Everything is recorded as it is eaten on the Food Diary. This calculates the calorific value of any food from the weight entered. It’s a very flexible system and works well if I decide to eat less, or sometimes, more, or change my choice of bread to potato. Whatever, the flexibility suits me down to the ground.

Another use of planning is a way I thought up to cope with anticipated social events and others that crop up before the big festive season. I have begun to ‘save’ a few calories each day from my 1200 daily allowance. Difficult to begin with, but I keep a note and watch the total grow, it’s a bit like saving money in a bank account! The plan is to use this accumulation of calories to cover those inevitable, irresistible goodies. Using the saved calories will eliminate that feeling of deprivation when everyone is having what they want and I can’t. Whoopee!

Over the 14 weeks spent on this diet I have identified a sense feeling of deprivation as being key to much of my past indulging and overeating behaviour. I intend eliminating that sensation at every possible opportunity, it feels that important.

My current target is 11 stones 2 lbs … planned to be reached by 1 December 2012. Just over a 2 lb weekly drop, my weekly average has been between 1.5 and 1.75 lbs a week so far, but I’m travelling hopefully … Onwards and downwards is a familiar cry on the Sainsbury Diet Forum! A huge support that reinforces achievement and helps those who lapse from time to time, and that includes me!

Tracking progress 

September 25 2012 – 78th day

Although it has not been a steady drop of 2 lbs a week, overall 22 lbs have gone now in 11 weeks. I am very happy with this result and really amazed how effective the regime is that I’m following.

I’ve had a lot of emails asking which diet I am using. Well, I’m trying out, with what I think the best possible results, the Sainsbury’s Diet. Essentially you weigh and record every single thing you eat during the day. All the hassle is taken out of the recording if you use the Food Diary: enter a food, add the weight and hey presto the result is recorded on your screen diary as carbs and fat in grams and totalled by meal and day. Or you can use a Meal Plan at any time, for any day. This is where everything is planned for you to follow, including a shopping list. When you join the Sainsbury Diet you are given a daily food allowance and every gram is counted down until you reach your target for the day.

The flexibility really suits me. I like to plan the day ahead, depending on what’s in the cupboard/fridge. If I change my mind later about a food, or the amount I want to eat, that’s endlessly adaptable.

If you wish you can request an Exercise Plan. It’s emphasised that reducing your food intake together with exercise – as gentle or strenuous as you want to make it – gives you the opportunity to lose weight faster. It seems to work for me. Over the 11 weeks I have gradually increased the amount of exercise and I have maintained the weight loss.

My current target is to reach a 28 lb loss – due in about 3 weeks. I am experiencing a bit of a plateau but with a bit more table tennis I should manage to get there!

There is a forum where you can vent your feelings, congratulate other participants on their loss and commiserate when things don’t go the way they want.

So far, this diet has worked remarkably well for me … I’m hoping to reach my final target of a 4.5 stones loss by the end of March 2013.

I’ll keep you posted!

August 11 2012 – 34th day

11 lbs gone – and am feeling pleased with myself. Have ‘discovered’ Weightwatchers Chocolate Biscuits! At 89 calories and 4.3 fat and individually wrapped I have to keep them in a box at the top of a cupboard that I can only get to using the steps. To get at them I have to make a real effort and that strategy, together with being out of sight, has meant I have managed to eat just one every other day.

My husband really likes another Weightwatchers biscuit –  Fruit Crumble 89 calories and 2.4g fat.  He likes them so much they’re on the shopping list already! He’s lucky, he doesn’t need to watch his weight, nor does he have the same food cravings I have. Explains why we are like Jack Sprat and his wife!

Onto the next goal to make it 14 lbs lost. Then I will be able to make a new target. This breaking down the whole amount to be lost is a really positive feature of the programme. Bit like eating an elephant, one bite at a time!

August 3 2012 – 26th day

Weight loss chart

8lbs down, just don’t ask how many more to go! But this is progress and I’m delighted. Been shopping in the charity shops and was pleased to find a pair of slacks size 18 that fitted me! Have gone through all my clothes and put them in size order. Some size 22′s have gone into a big bag in the attic to be used for painting jobs. Others I returned to the shops for recycling.

Had a sneaky look at size 10 clothes and there were some lovely dresses. Was so tempted to buy one but resisted … can look forward to that treat sometime next year … in the meantime size 16 is my next target but haven’t found anything in the trouser line yet. It will be my daily walk about the town to get those 5,000 steps in.

I have a pedometer and can note every day’s total in the record ‘book’. So far it is a bit erratic but is gradually improving.

George Foreman Fat Reducing Grill

A new George Foreman fat reducing grill arrived today. I’ve had one for about 8 years and it is still going strong. This new one is slimmer and will stand on its back to give space on the worktop when not in use. It’s really sleek.

I interviewed George Forman on one of his promotional visits about 9 years ago and he is a sweetie pie. The rumble in the jungle was a distant memory even then but he was just as lean and lithe as ever. He still oozed raw energy though and made me jump when he suddenly laughed and thumped the table!

He delighted in showing us how the grill worked and how much fat it removes. I’m looking forward to using this new one especially for its space saving feature. What I like is that it saves having to put on the oven grill, or use the oven thereby saving such a lot of time and costly energy. The grill makes the most delicious toasted sandwiches and cooking vegetables is a breeze.  It comes with a recipe book and a tray for the fat that runs out. It’s easy to clean – to finish off I use a damp sheet of kitchen tissue that removes any residual bits and pieces. The grill is available in stores and on the web. This the one gadget my husband actually uses! He just loves toasted sandwiches.

July 25 2012 – 17th day

Nothing in the wardrobe was suitable for the heat so I went out and bought 3 cotton tops for all of £7.49 from the local Help the Aged shop.

The good news is they are size 20, down from 22 … Although they are just a little tight, I feel I’m on way to success … keeping a tight grip on my appetite, lots of exercise and lots of glasses of water and strict weighing and recording food.

Looking forward to donating the tops back and getting ‘new’ ones size 18 … until I get back to size 12!!! What a prospect!

July 24 2012 – 16th day

5.5 lbs lost so far in 16 days.

Am loving this diet, I’m in control and am choosing all kinds of food, safe in the knowledge that every gram is calorie counted. With a target of 1200 calories a day and exercise built in, I’m feeling confident and optimistic that at last I will be able to reach and maintain a sensible weight for my age and build. If you would like to know the programme I’m following just send an email There is absolutely no catch, it’s just that I don’t want to publicise a weight loss programme that I might just not complete or fail at totally. If I do lose the 5 stone I want to shed then I’ll announce it to the world! Plus pictures of before (ugh) and after!

July 15 2012 – End of First week

When I want to eat I have to eat, I don’t want to hang around. So you can see why/how I have always had a weight problem! Monitoring exactly what I eat has been the key to successful weight loss in the past and today, after a week of keeping a very accurate diary, I have dropped 4 lbs in week , a huge boost to my confidence.

Yesterday, feeling very hungry at lunchtime I luckily had ingredients in the fridge ready prepared when it was crucial to eat a sensible meal.

My 323 calorie home made open sandwich

Here are the ingredients of the open sandwich I put together. It added up to 323 calories, well within my lunch target.

Slice of Vogel’s soya and linseed bread  42 g
Generous covering of Sweet Harissa Houmous 58 g
Teaspoonfuls of Philadelphia Extra Light Cheese 28 g
Small tomatoes sliced 37 g
Grated carrot 24 g
Sultanas cut in half 11 g
Sprinkled with squeezed lemon juice 4 g*

This was sufficiently large enough to need a knife and fork to eat it – very tasty and filling too.

Sultanas came from a tub of reduced mix from a supermarket deli section
The tomatoes gave the moisture I like
The houmous gave body and flavour
The carrot was left over from the previous evening which gave crunch and the sultanas sweetness
The Philadelphia extra light cheese gave it creaminess
The bread gave it a satisfying chewiness

*The weight of each ingredient was of course my choice and is endlessly adaptable to suit any appetite

Of course the next few days’ lunches will have similar ingredients but with a bit luck I’ll be able to add different bits and pieces to make them interesting to look at and great to taste.

We have a supermarket just across the road from us and tend to buy most of our food there. Occasionally I nip over about 7 pm to see if there are any ‘Reduced’ items – there generally are. It’s true to say all the ingredients for today’s lunch, apart from the Philadelphia Extra Light and the soya and linseed bread, were at a reduced price.  This access to low cost food could make for overeating, in fact it did until recently. I buy all kinds of unusual things to try, like the harissa houmous. I found some salmon loin and some fillet steak at half price last night. Kept in the freezer with other bits and pieces bought over the last couple of weeks they will give me the opportunity to produce some interesting, low cost and carefully weighed meals.

I have sometimes bought a really high calorific item, like treacle tart which goes in the freezer. This week I found some at the back of the freezer and cut off a very slender slice, weighed it, made a note of the calories* and ate it with a feeling of righteousness! There is some cheesecake in there too … Yummy outlook!

The food weighing machine is the key to success for me. I really enjoy entering an allocation of grams in the diary and then comparing later how the quantity I want matches up with what I have planned. This makes for a really flexible recording system and eliminates any feelings of deprivation. Everything is my choice, including any drop offs from my schedule.

The systematic weighing of food is the most important aspect of the diet for me.  I write down everything I weigh as I go along. The weighing machine is zeroed between each item weighed as it is all too easy to forget the number of grams and I want to keep as accurate record as possible.

There are many calorie recording schemes for dieters on the web. I have used several in the past, especially those provided by pedometers.

This time I’m using a calorie recording diary on the web provided by a supermarket, it requires joining as a member with a very affordable monthly charge.  We’ll see how it goes. There are forums to read other members’ experiences, very useful as I’m a bit sceptical as to the extent of my determination, I have not been hugely successful in the past. Mark Twain’s ironic remark: Giving up smoking is easy, I do it all the time, is all too true of my dieting behaviour!

Right now I’m travelling hopefully – I feel quite good too!

*A little wire bound notebook to write down everything is kept with the weighing machine.

Val Reynolds Brown, Editor


Val Reynolds, Editor


Super Strength Cat Repellent

Florence, a 12 year old cat, fostered by Laura

Florence, a 12 year old cat, fostered by Laura

When I heard of a super strength cat repellent I was sceptical – I have tried so many products over the years. Cats wander through our garden at will and catch and kill birds visiting the garden. We feel responsible for the safety of birds visiting our garden as we encourage them by  providing a seed feeder and apples from our trees for a pair of song thrushes.

One year we had a great spotted woodpecker that visited regularly and brought its two young to eat the hazelnuts we put into a bough of a dead tree. To read that feature click here.

However, to our great delight the Neudorff Super Strength Cat Repellent has worked! We haven’t seen a cat since I scattered the granules where they appear over the fence, through the privet hedge and under the garden gate.

At £4.49  I thought it was a bit on the dear side. I also read on the instructions the granules will lose their strength if it rains, so another tub would be necessary after rain. But, in view of its complete success I won’t begrudge the cost.

The clay based mineral granules are grey in colour that hold plant based oils – garlic oil in fact. The long lasting odour is disliked by cats so the best places to scatter the granules is where the cats enter the garden and also where the birds are most active. In our garden this is where the bird feeders are, on seed beds and beside the pond.

Depending on the weather, the period of protection is 3-4 weeks.

The granules come in a 500 g can.

So would I buy more? A resounding yes! And I would have a couple of spares to make sure I can keep those pesky critters out of our garden forever, or is that tempting fate!

Super Strength Cat Repellent is £4.49 available from:

Blue Diamond centres, full range at Derby, Trentham and Le Friquet
Hilliers group
Haskins group
All good garden centres

Val Reynolds, Editor


Beware Dr Google – The dangers of self diagnosis on the web

© Pintail Media

© Pintail Media

One in four British women has misdiagnosed themselves on the internet – then bought the wrong product in an attempt to cure themselves, a study revealed yesterday.

Researchers found Dr Google is now the first port of call for women with genuine health concerns who are almost twice as likely to check online before consulting a doctor or even talking to Mum. A trend towards trusting the internet over friends, family and medical professionals meant half of the 1,000 women studied would first try to treat an ailment themselves rather than risk embarrassment. But searching their symptoms online and self-medicating has led a tenth of the country’s women to endure unpleasant side effects as a result of their misdiagnosis.

The research, which was commissioned by feminine health brand Balanceactiv found a quarter of British women will trust the internet for advice on treatments if they find their symptoms embarrassing.

Penny McCormick, spokeswoman forBalance Activ said yesterday: ”There is an increasing trend towards using the internet to diagnose any irregularities or worries we have about our bodies.

”The web gives us a wealth of information that can be useful in reducing our worries until we’re able to gain proper advice from a medical authority if it’s needed, but the results show how easy it is to make mistakes when diagnosing ourselves.

”It’s important we learn which information to trust online and that we’re able to make the distinction between what can be self-diagnosed and easily treated, and what definitely requires the help of a medical professional.

“What can seem like a relatively harmless but embarrassing symptom could develop into something more serious so it is important for women to ensure they are asking the right questions and treating certain conditions effectively in the first instance.”

Carving on 15th century font  © Pintail Media

Carving on 15th century font © Pintail Media

The study was carried out to mark National BV Day on 18th April – which aims to raise awareness of Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) – a condition that is almost twice as prevalent as thrush that 2 out of 3 women are misdiagnosing. If left untreated BV has been linked to some serious health implications including an increased risk in contracting STIs, infertility and miscarriage if present during pregnancy. The report also found despite having diagnosed themselves online and decided on a high street treatment, 45 per cent never check they are buying the right thing with a pharmacist or counter staff.

The agonising wait for answers is what drives thirty per cent of women to look for help online, while one in ten hesitate to tell friends or family of any health problems because they don’t want the issue to be ‘made into a fuss’. Tellingly, three quarters of the 1,000 women said there are certain health issues they aren’t comfortable talking to friends and family about. Indeed, women are more likely to trust their own diagnosis when embarrassed by their symptoms – half of the study would always try to deal with the problem themselves before seeking help from others. Over a quarter of respondents dread talking to doctors about anything they are embarrassed about.

Most women had spent a few days worrying over symptoms before speaking to anyone, while a worry-stricken third of the sample had endured at least two weeks sweating over an ailment. Remarkably, one in twenty women said they had spent a number of years worrying a particular symptom was something serious before eventually getting it checked out. Because of waiting times, thirty per cent only visit the doctor as a last resort, while half of the women studied said they would always try all they can to cure themselves and only seek medical advice if the problem didn’t go away.

The symptoms most likely to prompt women to diagnose themselves are problems sleeping, headaches and depression, while muscle pain, itching and fatigue regularly cause women to consult Dr Google. A fifth of women had at some time suspected they had a serious disease – the most common false alarm came over breast cancer, while many women had wrongly diagnosed themselves as having thrush, high blood pressure or asthma.

Skating along Eastbourne promenade © Pintail Media

Skating along Eastbourne promenade © Pintail Media

Penny McCormick, spokeswoman for Balance Activ, continued: “With the resource the internet provides us, it makes sense that women now see this as the first place to consult, especially as they can do so in private.

“However women choose to get advice about their health, being embarrassed by symptoms should never lead to them making a quick or unsupported diagnosis on their own unless they are certain of the quality of the information.

“Worrying symptoms or anything relating to our intimate areas naturally makes it harder to deal with and often leads women to rush to a diagnosis or avoid the issue completely.

“Leaving symptoms untreated, particularly with BV, can lead to serious health implications including an increased risk in contracting STIs, infertility and miscarriage if present during pregnancy.

“That is why we have launched an online symptom checker so women with any health concerns relating to their intimate areas can diagnose themselves accurately to help treat it right.”



1.            Breast cancer
2.            Other forms of cancer
3.            Thrush
4.            High blood pressure
5.            Asthma
6.            Arthritis
7.            Depression
8.            Diabetes
9.            Sexual health problems
10.          Thyroid problems

Data provided by Balanceactiv to raise awareness of Bacterial Vaginosis Day 18 April 2012.


Indoor Plants – Pest Management & Pollution Control

Scented orchid

Scented orchid

Indoor pest management includes a careful inspection before purchase and when bringing plants in from the garden. Meeting a plant’s environmental needs reduces plant stress and a healthy plant is less vulnerable to attack.

When pest control is necessary non-toxic or less toxic insecticides can offer effective control. Natural pyrethrum spray is relatively safe, synthetic pyrethrum is less desirable. A 0.2 per cent solution of mild washing-up liquid is generally an effective method of washing plant leaves. Cotton buds dipped in surgical spirit is a good way to remove spider mites, mealybugs, scale insects and aphids, although I found scale insects needed this treatment for far longer than I imagined. The only effective method I found was to lever them off with a flat ended knife.

Making your own non-toxic spray: Mix 2 teaspoons (10 ml) vegetable oil, 1/8 teaspoon (0.6 ml) washing-up liquid, 8 fl oz (230 ml) warm tap water is quite rewarding. Shake vigorously.

Not all my plants are strictly houseplants, I raise a lot of fuschias from cuttings. These are wholeheartedly targetted by whitefly so I have an ongoing fight! Now I keep them outside for the birds to take their share right up to the last possible day before frost might wipe them out.

My absolute favourite indoor plant book was written by Wolverton – Eco-Friendly House Plants: How to grow and nurture 50 houseplants to ensure you have clean, non-polluted air in your home and office. Wolverton undertook some pioneering research on clean air in space stations by the US Space Agency. You can read more about his work here.

Of the houseplants that fall into the category of eco friendly according to Wolverton a rubber plant is the most likely to be successful. Bred for toughness, it will survive in less light than most plants its size. It has a high resistance to insect infestation and is easy to grow and, very important, is especially effective at removing formaldehyde most often found in furnishings that take years to cease emitting fumes.

Weeping fig in conservatory

Weeping fig in conservatory

A ficus longifolio alii commonly known as the weeping fig, has proved to be exceptionally hardy in our conservatory. It is sited partially in the sitting room and has tolerated neglect over the past 15 years. Apparently it does like misting – now becoming a bit difficult in view of its size – almost 10 feet high. I spread polythene around and use the step ladder! It is good at removing a range of chemical vapours, is easy to grow and maintain.

Christmas and Easter cactus have the unusual property of removing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen at night – the opposite of most plants – which makes them suitable for bedrooms. These plants often become quite large and survive for many years. Easy to propagate from cuttings and very resistant to insect infestation they make a great gift for friends.

Source: Eco-Friendly House Plants by B C Wolverton How to grow and nurture 50 houseplants to ensure you have clean, non-polluted air in your home and office.

THIS IS THE ONE BOOK I WOULD NEVER EVER BE WITHOUT! and when my copy lent to a friend wasn’t returned I looked on Amazon and found a used copy at £2.01+£2.80 pp.

It has been recently updated as How Grow Fresh Air

Val Reynolds, Editor

Photography Pintail Photo


Call The Midwife author, Jennifer Worth’s Fight with Eczema

Jennifer Worth, author of Call the Midwife – currently a hugely successful TV series – sadly died just before filming began in 2011.

Some seven years previously she had contacted me offering a feature about the severe eczema she had developed at the age of fifty five and her efforts to relieve it.

The first line was startling: Severe eczema doesn’t kill you; it just drives you insane.

Written in much the same style as her books the feature chronicles the development and relief of the eczema she experienced.

Jennifer Worth at the worst of her eczema

Jennifer Worth at the worst of her eczema

I developed eczema for the first time when I was fifty five. Within three short months two tiny patches of eczema on my legs had spread to cover my entire body. It is the itching that drives you mad. I would scratch the whole night long until I drew blood, then it would begin to hurt, but the pain was infinitely preferable to the itching.

Dermatologists could only offer steroids. These helped a little, but the itch came back worse than ever afterwards. I was in despair, until I happened to eat a Chinese meal, which gave me food poisoning and I did not eat for four days. During that time my eczema virtually cleared up. When I started eating again it came back. The cause was obvious – food allergy. 

The dermatologists told me it was coincidence, as in their view there was no connection between food and eczema. But I was not convinced and searched every path for the offending foods – with no success. Let me say here that most people fail if they try to identify food allergies alone. It is too complex for the layman and you need an allergy specialist, a qualified nutritionist or at least a reputable book to follow.

Eczema on Jennifer's arms

Eczema on Jennifer's arms

I was fortunate in finding the right specialist, who guided me through a strict elimination diet. Once we had found the right diet, my skin cleared within three weeks. Then he led me through the challenge/reintroduction phase of the diet, which was very difficult and troubled by many pitfalls. After about six months, my skin was completely clear and I felt wonderful. Incidentally a side effect of an elimination diet is a surge of good health. Eliminating dairy products, gluten, yeast, sugars and chemical additives from your body can only be beneficial. We all eat the wrong things and suffer for it.

My specialist advised me to have a course of Enzyme Potentiated Desensitisation (EPD) because, he told me new allergies would develop. I have had EPD – see below –  twice a year for nearly ten years and my skin remains perfect, for which I thank God every day of my life.

Clear of eczema

Clear of eczema

The charity Action Against Allergy asked me to write a book about my experiences detailing the elimination diet given me by my specialist. I was asked for this because there is so little information available on this subject. My book Eczema and Food Allergy was published in 1997 and featured in the Nursing Times, the Sunday Telegraph and the magazine Here’s Health. It sold out of two editions and last year they decided to republish online – see below. 

This is a very controversial subject. Doctors, dieticians and even the National Eczema Society will state that eczema is not connected to food. But I have proved that it is.

Jennifer after treatment

Jennifer after treatment

In this article, I have deliberately refrained from giving any advice to eczema sufferers about diet. It would be rash and irresponsible for me to do so, because the subject is far too complex for a short article. But my book contains all the details necessary for a successful elimination diet and includes many addresses for specialist treatment. My heart goes out to anyone afflicted with severe eczema. I know the suffering involved and it is beyond description. If my experience can be of help to anyone, I am well pleased.

Many people have asked me what EPD is; how does it work, where can you get it, and what does it cost? It is a very subtle and complex medical process, and I give below a brief summary of what it is about.

Enzyme Potentiated Desensitisation is a form of immunotherapy developed by Dr. L. M. McEwen in the 1960s and now used worldwide. It has the potential to desensitise anyone to the allergens to which they are allergic. This includes foods, dust, animals, birds, grasses, pollens, moulds, and many chemicals. An ultra-low dose of allergen is used – approximately 1/1000 part of a routine skin-prick test – combined with the natural enzyme beta-glucuronidase which enhances, or potentiates the desensitisation process (thus we get the rather curious name). It is particularly effective for the treatment of eczema, and will work quickly for children – the younger the child the quicker it will work. It takes about 2-5 years to be effective for an adult.

EPD is only available on the NHS at the Royal Homeopathic Hospital (60 Great Ormond Street, London W1N 3HR). Dr Michael Jenkins, Consultant Allergist will see patients via a referral from their GP. EPD has a ‘Specials’ licence. This means it is accessible only to suitably accredited doctors to supply on a ‘named’ patient basis. The doctor must be a qualified MD trained in allergies, and who is specially trained to hold a licence to administer EPD.

There are about twenty such doctors in the country, and their names and addresses can be obtained from the British Society of Allergy and Environmental Medicine, PO Box No. 7, Knighton LD7 1WT Phone: 01547 550378; Web site: This is a charity which will give you the address of your nearest medical practitioner of both EPD and Neutralisation. An adult course of EPD, lasting about five years, will cost around £2000, but far less for a child. This may seem a lot, but, believe me, EPD is worth a second mortgage.

In my book ‘Eczema and Food Allergy’ I devote two chapters to EPD, which gives far more detail than I can give here.

Eczema and Food Allergy is available in print from Merton Books

Jennifer Worth, born 25 September 1935 died 31 May 2011, was a nurse, midwife and ward sister from 1954-1973.

Her book Call the Midwife about her years as a district midwife in the slums of London’s East End is published by Orion Books There is an interview with Jennifer talking to Danuta Kean about writing her books on that web page.

Two more books Shadows of the Workhouse and Farewell to the East End make up a trilogy. All three books have sold almost a million copies and stimulated a publishing subgenre of nostalgic true life stories.

You can watch a short video interview where she talks about her nursing career and working with the nuns in the East End of London.

Val Reynolds Brown, Editor


What is it about chilli that polarises opinion?

Supermarket chillies

Supermarket chillies

A quick survey of friends and colleagues showed that more men than women like chilli.

Some men were quite adventurous and consumed meat dishes containing large amounts of chilli. We wondered whether there would be any taste in the dish apart from chilli, so why such a volume?

We guessed it might be the endorphins that are stimulated, so chilli gives a kick, or perhaps it’s something else …

Another question is what positive benefits are there to be gained?

Searching Google with chilli+stomach we found:

  • Chili stomach ache
  • Chili stomach cancer
  • Chili stomach ulcer
  • Ghost chili stomach pain
  • Chilli and stomach ulcerts
  • Stomach pain from chilli
  • Stomach pain after chilli
  • Chilli burning stomach
  • Chilli and stomach cancer

We didn’t go any further.

We then entered chilli+stomach+healthy and found many websites with advice for all kinds of ills, including cancer, from all kinds of self-appointed experts.

So, what should the discerning enquirer do?

Our advice is to follow the old adage of a little of everything does you good and, if you like chilli make sure you which find out which are the most reliable websites to refer to.

Websites providing reliable health information we recommend are: is a website where you can pay to talk to a doctor direct

Val Reynolds Brown, Editor


Luscious Chocolate Recipes

Ok, you’ve guessed! We’re total chocoholics and we want to share our love with you! Here are some more of our favourite recipes from Menier, the cooking chocolate we couldn’t be without.
Mexican Pinto Bean, Sweet Pepper & Garlic Soup with an Avocado Salsa  – Serves 4-6 Ingredients:

Mexican Pinto Bean, Sweet Pepper & garlic Soup with Avocado Salsa

Mexican Pinto Bean, Sweet Pepper & Garlic Soup with Avocado Salsa

Soup 5 tbsp olive oil 1 medium red onion, finely diced 6 garlic cloves, crushed 1 fresh red chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped 1 red pepper, de-seeded and roughly chopped 1 yellow pepper, de-seeded and roughly chopped 1 tsp ground cayenne pepper 1 tsp ground cumin 1 tsp ground coriander 1 tsp smoked paprika 2 tbsp tomato purée 1 tin pinto beans, drained 2 tins chopped tomatoes 400ml vegetable stock 35ml red wine vinegar 1 tbsp white sugar 30g Menier dark chocolate 1 tsp salt Large pinch ground black pepper Avocado Salsa 1 ripe avocado ½ red onion, finely diced ½ red chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped 1 tbsp fresh coriander, finely chopped Juice of 1 lime 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil Large pinch salt To make the soup: Heat the olive oil in a medium/large saucepan. Once hot, add the onions, garlic and red and yellow peppers, stir and cook for 6-8 minutes, or until the onion and peppers start to colour and soften. Add the fresh red chilli and all the ground spices – cayenne pepper, cumin, coriander and smoked paprika – then gently cook for approximately 15 – 20 minutes. If it starts to catch on the bottom, add a little water. Add the red wine vinegar, sugar and tomato purée, stir and cook for a further 5 minutes.  Add the pinto beans, chopped tomatoes and vegetable stock.  Bring to the boil then lower the heat, cover and gently simmer for about 30-40 minutes. Meanwhile, to make the avocado salsa, peel, stone and finely dice the avocado. Place in a bowl and combine with the red onion, chilli, coriander, extra virgin olive oil and lime juice.  Season with the salt, and set to one side. To serve: Ladle the soup into 4 pre-heated bowls and top with a good spoonful of the avocado salsa, a dollop of sour cream, and a drizzle extra virgin olive oil. The soup should be served piping hot.
White Chocolate, Raspberry and Lime Drizzle Cake     Serves 8 – 10 Ingredients:

White Chocolate, Raspberry and Lime Drizzle Cake

White Chocolate, Raspberry and Lime Drizzle Cake

Lime Syrup: Juice of 5 limes Zest of 1 lime 140g golden caster sugar Cake Mix: 220g golden caster sugar 225g unsalted butter, softened 4 medium-sized eggs Juice of 2 limes Zest of 1 lime 25g ground almonds 210g raspberries 100g Menier white chocolate, chopped 250g self-raising flour For the cake: Pre heat oven to 160°C. Line the base and sides of a 22cm square cake tin with greaseproof paper, then butter the paper and set aside. Cream the sugar and butter together until light in colour and texture, then gradually beat in the eggs. If they start curdling, add a little flour, folding in gently. Add the lime zest, followed by the rest of the flour and the ground almonds. Next, add the lime juice one spoonful at a time, as you don’t want the mixture to be too wet. (It needs to be dropping consistency.) Gently fold in ¾ of the white chocolate and the raspberries, then pour the mixture into the lined cake tin. Give the tin a little shake to ensure that the mixture spreads evenly to the corners.  Place the rest of the chocolate and raspberries on top. Bake for 40 minutes or until the cake is firm to touch. To make the lime syrup: Put the lime juice and sugar in a small saucepan and place on a moderate heat. Cook for 3-4 minutes or until the sugar has dissolved, then remove from the heat and add the lime zest. As soon as the cake comes out of the oven, prick the cake all over with a metal skewer, then pour the syrup all over the top of the cake. Leave for 1 hour so that the cake absorbs all of the syrup. To serve: Remove the cake from the tin, then gently pull away the greaseproof paper. Cut into wedges and dust with icing sugar.
Hot Chocolate Mocha – Makes 2 generous cups Ingredients:

Hot Chocolate Mocha

Hot Chocolate Mocha

100g Menier dark chocolate 400ml whole milk 20ml double cream 1 tsp vanilla essence 1 cinnamon stick 50ml strong coffee 2 tbsp orange blossom honey For garnish; 2 cinnamon sticks (optional) Put the chocolate in to a heatproof bowl and set to one side. Place the milk, cream, vanilla, cinnamon stick, honey and the coffee in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Once boiling, set aside to steep for 30 minutes. When the milk mixture has steeped, place the saucepan back on the heat and bring back to the boil. Remove the pan from the heat and let the milk subside. Pour a small amount of the hot milk and cream over the chocolate and stir to a smooth consistency, then gradually pour in the remaining milk, stirring gently until the chocolate is completely melted. Return the chocolate mixture to the saucepan and reheat gently. Don’t let it boil at this stage or it might split. Remove the saucepan from the heat and whisk to a foam using a balloon whisk or a cappuccino frother. Pour into pre-warmed cups or heat proof glasses and garnish each with a cinnamon stick.
More Cooking with Chocolate features:
Cooking with Chocolate – Gifts for all occasions
Cooking with Chocolate – Sweet and Savoury
Chocolate Cake for Coeliacs
Menier Swiss premium cooking chocolate is available in major supermarkets nationwide with a RRP of £1.19.
Val Reynolds, Editor


Washing Hands – Hygiene Matters

Washing hands

Washing hands

The importance of hand washing should never be under estimated. I wondered how many people picked up on it following Global Handwashing Day and was interested to see some feedback from the UK public.

Are we worried about hygiene?

It would seem we are, especially when visiting, and leaving, a public toilet. Some ingenious if rather ingenuous tactics are adopted by some people to avoid touching doors in the loo and on leaving. However, it’s all very well making sure you use a piece of toilet paper to hold the door handle, or wait until someone enters the toilet area to hold the door open for you, or failing that, keeping the door open with your foot and or elbow. But if, for instance in a pub, you go straight to the bar and eat a few peanuts from a bowl, just how many people have also taken some peanuts and did they wash their hands … Apparently e.coli has been found on nuts, crisps, even olives in open bowls on bars.

And what about cash machine keys, card readers in supermarkets, keyboards on computers, hand rails on buses and the Underground, the list goes on. You could say a ha’peth of dirt doesn’t do anyone any harm, but it isn’t just any old dirt we’re talking about. We’re concerned about campylobacter and salmonella bacteria both likely to cause a gastric infection and easily passed on through fecal contamination.

When out and about some people take a small container of antiseptic gel. It is a token gesture towards hygiene as it is not entirely effective. So it’s always wise to wash your hands before you get to eat anything. That’s a great restraint on your appetite – you would be off to wash your hands before you ate that luscious cake, cup of coffee and biscuit in the coffee shop of even the irresistible chocolate bar at the checkout! You would have to wait until you got home to wash your hands after touching the keypad in the supermarket and the trolley or basket handle!

Hand washing techniques

John Oxford professor of virology thinks people don’t wash thoroughly, or long, enough – singing two verses of Happy Birthday – to yourself – is a good guideline. Just rinsing your hands under water won’t wash the germs away. They need soap to slide off your skin.

And it isn’t just after visiting the toilet. It is important to wash your hands if you have been handling raw meat and poultry.

Increasingly public toilets have devices to avoid hands touching infected areas. For instance taps that operate when you waving your hand in front of a sensor, another sensor dispenses soap. The new blow driers from Dyson are becoming more common, so are ultraviolet light hand cleaners.

Did you know copper door handles kills MRSA?

Whether or not a recent study suggesting one in six mobile phones contaminated with fecal matter is statistically anomalous, the findings were interesting. Does it mean people use their phones in the loo? It wouldn’t surprise me. I remember a student who had been on work experience had transcribed an audio tape in which she distinctly heard the dictator using the loo. Luckily it was of the watery kind … Her experience had us in stitches!

So, while diarrhoeal disease remains one of the world’s biggest killers in developing countries and handwashing  saves lives, here it will help prevent a nasty stomach bug. In the UK it is more likely that children pass on stomach bugs. They have a habit of constantly putting their hands in their mouth, and love to handle pets and all that entails.

Did you know there are wipes available that kill 99% of harmful bacteria?

National Handwashing Day logoThe Global Handwashing Day website has a lot of very interesting statistics and background information.

So should we really be worried about hygiene? The consensus is yes, but keep it in proportion. Do you agree?

Val Reynolds, Editor


New Cereals for Coeliacs – In Our Basket

Bread is not an option for coeliacs

Bread is not an option for coeliacs

It has often been suggested that many people could benefit from a gluten-free diet for many reasons. Gluten is a sticky starch (gliadin) found in wheat and related cereals such as barley and rye but absent in rice and other related cereals. Most doctors agree that bowel problems are mainly genetic. Ancient Greeks gave its name, Coeliac.

The problem arises from an immune reaction to an enzyme in the starch, causing an inflammation in the small bowel, damaging the food absorption process.

Symptoms may range from extreme intolerance – excessive tiredness to extreme bowel problems (IBS) – to a barely noticeable effect.

Interestingly tennis player Novak Djokovitch claims his stamina has improved since switching to a gluten-free diet. Djokovitch has sworn off pasta, pizza, beer, French bread, Corn Flakes, pretzels, empanadas, Mallomars and Twizzlers — anything with gluten, since last year. And with the results he achieved in 2011 who’s to say he is wrong!!!

Choco Crispies made by The Groovy Food Company is one of our favourite gluten free breakfast foods. These really are crispy and yummylicious as they describe on the box! Specially made for coeliacs in a totally and utterly dedicated gluten free environment they are free from wheat, dairy, colourings, dodgy additives and sweetened with Agave Nectar.

Special flakes - a maize and rice mix © Pintail Media

Special flakes - a maize and rice mix © Pintail Media

Others in the range include Cornflakes, Frosted Flakes and Special Flakes made from a maize and rice mix.

We have tried them all and have to confess we liked the Choco Crispies best … we blame our chocolate addiction!

The Groovy Food Company cereal collection is available throughout major multiples and health food stores nationwide and online at: More information on

The Coeliac UK website gives a great deal more valuable information.


A Bad Back is a Painful Thing

Orange tulips

© Pintail

Janet ruefully writes about her Back. A bad back. Something a lot of us suffer from. We are all in a search to soothe, relieve, strengthen, our back. The back is our weakest part of our structure and as Janet says, once it goes, there’s not going back. This is how it is for Janet.

The world is divided into two kinds of people; those with Backs, and those without. And before you sigh and turn to another feature, let me remind you that you could find yourself in the other camp at any time and without warning. And once you’re in that camp, you’re there for life.

For me, it all kicked off at the age of around 40 when I was slim and supple, and attended a weekly two hour yoga class taught by an inspiring teacher. I don’t know what mischievous yogic demon persuaded her to introduce her class of middle-aged mothers to the splits, but one fateful day this is what she did. To my great joy, and very short-lived sense of smugness, I was pretty successful and went home determined to keep practising, though quite what I thought mastering the splits would do for my life, I don’t know.  But sheer stupidity led me to think that I could safely attempt at 7.30 am the next day what I’d done previously at the end of a long series of stretches. The pain as I tried to sink into this extreme position was excruciating, and my 40 years of not having a Back had ended. I soon learnt to tell no one how I’d hurt it as the looks of incredulity followed by badly concealed amusement spoke volumes.

So from then on life changed, as it does for all Back sufferers. Because you, the owner of a Back, are constantly searching for the ultimate goal – a permanently painfree back – your antennae are always on the alert for some new and amazing therapy. Your address book is full of chiropractors and physios, while your postman is at risk of developing a Back himself due to the volume of books on Back Care that you’re ordering,

Then you discover a book called You Can Heal Your Life and find that the cause of your problems might not be physical at all, but a reflection of your financial anxiety, or of feeling unloved and unsupported. You pass some of this information onto your partner who takes instant offence and moves into the spare room – where he’d been thinking of going anyway as he’s fed up with falling over the arsenal of back support devices littering the bedroom (Tens machines, magnetic blankets, etc) and with the hour which you now need to prepare for bed every night; gentle yoga postures followed by a period of meditation while lying on the floor, aromatherapy oils burning to help your spine to absorb new energy.

Travelling is well nigh impossible unless accompanied by someone strong who can lift all your suitcases as well as their own, and who hasn’t by now lost all sympathy for you. And when/if you reach your destination, well, hotel beds! Almost without exception, hotel beds are soft enough for that neurotic princess with the pea phobia, and provide no support for aching joints. If you don’t have the nerve to ring beforehand to ask them to provide a stiff board to be placed under the mattress, resign yourself to sleeping on the floor. Don’t take offence if your partner appears to be delighted as this means he gets a nice bed all to himself after weeks of being condemned to the tatty old spare bed. After all, he’s resigned now to the total lack of sex since your Back injury. Oh, hadn’t I mentioned that?

Not only is your sex life non-existent but your social life dwindles. Shopping – of the recreational kind – becomes a challenge. How long will my Back hold out while I try on new clothes? More importantly, how will my best friend react when I have to leave her alone to try things on while I retreat to the coffee shop to rest? You could of course take a leaf from the book of another friend – also a Back sufferer – who simply looks for a quiet part of the store, and lies on the floor! This might just work in Liberty’s or Selfridges where they’re used to eccentrics, but I wouldn’t recommend trying it in Primark in Oxford Street.

Concerts and films? Forget about what’s on; what’s important is how good the seats are. People with proper backs don’t understand this. Their thinking is that if you’re sitting down then you’re resting and your Back is OK, but those of us in the other camp know a bad seat is worse than no seat at all. And sometimes it’s impossible to tell good from bad at first, but slowly the truth reveals itself, and you find you’re starting to wriggle, searching for support for the lower Back. You find it and relax, but several minutes later you’re wriggling again because now there’s no support for the upper part of your Back. Eventually you come upon a way of sitting that suits all your Back – bliss! – until you realise that a serious pain is developing in your buttock and down your leg. To alleviate this you slide your hand underneath your buttock to cushion it from the hardness of the seat and stretch out your leg and this works for a few minutes until your shoulder begins to hurt due to being twisted, and you’re contorting yourself in your seat as your calf muscle has developed cramp. By now you’ve thoroughly infuriated the people sitting next to you and behind you, and you have to annoy them still further because you can’t stand sitting for a moment longer and have to get out. But you can’t leave without your handbag which is somewhere on the floor, so you have to bend down to feel around for it which of course hurts your Back, so gasps and little groans are added to the rustling noises which you’re already making. Heads are now turning in all directions to identify the source of the disturbance, and a chorus of “tuts” and indignant mutters accompanies you as you limp along the row of seats, invariably tripping over outstretched feet. Your partner, unable to withstand the embarrassment, has remained in his seat pretending to be unaware of what’s going on, his face a picture of serious concentration.

Will I ever get better? you think to yourself after months of this. Well, I can say with some certainty that my days of doing the splits were over before they really started, and I’ll never be able to dig the garden again, but with care I can manage a fairly normal life, most of the time. You might be able to do almost everything you did before, but Backs have long memories. One day, probably when you least expect it, the Back will be, er, back.

Back Books

Back Sense by Dr Ronald Siegel, Michael H Urdang and Dr Douglas R Johnson is a selfhelp programme that I can recommend. The cycle of Pain-Fear-Tension-Inactivity-Pain is explained clearly. I wouldn’t accept for some time that pain didn’t necessarily mean that I should rest, but gradually came to notice that after a day of resting, I usually had more pain. Dr Siegel was himself immobilised for some time with back pain, so understands what we go through.

The Body Control Pilates Back Book by Lynne Robinson is also good, though I’d suggest consulting a qualified Pilates instructor before embarking on some of the exercises.

Janet Hamer, Contributing author

We would like to hear of readers’ experiences of a bad back and anything they found gave them relief. Just email

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