Health Diary Week 75: Food, Exercise and a Positive Mind

My Medical Week

I got a Covid vaccine sticker – like when I went to the dentist as a kid

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Hi, welcome to another weekly instalment of what’s on my plate: health updates, meal creations and smile-provoking experiences.

Covid vaccine and my side effects

Excitingly, I had my first Covid vaccine, at the centre I should be working in soon (no updates yet about when I’m starting). And I must say, it was well organised – efficient, yet friendly. I was given the AstraZeneca vaccine[1] – the one where concerns were raised about strokes as a possible rare side effect. Personally, I’d rather take the much smaller risk of a stroke than the much larger likelihood of contracting covid and its nasty complications. I mean, have you seen the potential side effects from taking paracetamol?![2]. Interestingly, all I found about this stroke complication (that wasn’t just a media news report) was a science article[3] linking to a research paper based on only nine patients (not yet peer reviewed)[4] with an Editorial note advising that the researchers work for Pfizer – massive potential for bias!: “The authors disclose conflicts of interest, including personal fees from Pfizer and other pharmaceutical companies”[4]. They also state “At the time of this posting, the World Health Organization maintains that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine outweigh its risks and recommends that vaccinations continue”[4].

So, what happened to me? I had my vaccine at 9.30 am (it just felt like someone touched my arm – easy peasy). At 6.30 pm I started getting shivery – I checked my temperature and it was 36.6o Celsius (C), within the normal range (35.7 – 37.3 o C, 96.3 – 99.1o Fahrenheit (F)). After dinner, I had gut ache and felt a bit nauseous for a couple of hours. I became increasingly shivery and by 8.30 pm I had a low-grade fever of 38.5o C (101.3o F). I took some paracetamol and gradually my temperature and shivering decreased. I became incredibly hot for a while and had a headache. By the morning my temperature had returned to normal, although I needed to take more paracetamol for my headache, but this soon eased up. My most surprising symptom started about the same time as the shivers; I developed pins and needles, and numbness in my right-hand fingers (the arm I chose to have vaccinated as it was already injured) – the information leaflet stated this occurred where there was already nerve inflammation – I guess that makes sense. The next day and onwards, I’ve just had a sore, achy arm. Overall, a small price to pay to hopefully avoid catching Covid-19 (again).

Covid vaccine card (1st dose completed) and new staff ID card (“Covid Administrator” sounds like I’m actually dishing out Covid!)

Clicking jaw

I had dentist check-up and hygienist appointments this week. It feels so weird going inside a building, removing my mask and having someone poke around inside my mouth, when the rest of time I’m being so cautious. I’m pleased to report no fillings were required and my gums were okay. But I have a clicking jaw on my left side (probably a hypermobility thing) – the dentist checks it each visit, but this time, she noted an issue with a “heavy bite” on my right side that could be making it worse, so she wanted to do some research and get back to me. Later that afternoon she phoned and advised the “heavy bite” could be impacting the bone healing from where I’d had an extra tooth removed (right side), so they want to shave it down to reduce the pressure and it may also relieve the clicking – so that’s happening next month.

Antihistamines continued

I had another phone Doctor’s appointment to reassess the histamine intolerance. We agreed the Fexofenadine wasn’t going to work if all formulas contained Allura Red (E129), so I offered to contact the pharmacist and ask about this. We briefly discussed first generation antihistamines as an option, but I’m not keen on these, because they cause drowsiness and I’m unsure about potential long-term neurological health effects[5]. We discussed trying the other second generation options, Loratadine and Acrivastine, although weaker than Fexofenadin. There didn’t seem much difference between them, so I was told I could investigate and choose which I wanted – I’ll let you know what I decide and the outcome.

Food challenges: Excessive risks were taken

I took some excessive risks this week. I went overboard on the Quorn vegan ham and Sainsbury’s free from grated ‘cheddar cheese’. I hadn’t realised until looking back while writing this post that I’d eaten these foods three times in one week (that’s too much). Also, I’d avoided looking too closely at the ingredients, until now – they both contain several ingredients incompatible with histamine intolerance. I’ll probably still eat them occasionally, but I need to keep track of how often and how I react. Then of course there was the yeast from the two pittas I ate, also filling up my histamine cup/bucket.

And on Mum’s birthday, I indulged in some chocolate mint ice cream and mango sorbet (both containing risky ingredients) – what was I thinking? Sometimes its so hard to stay on track on this low histamine diet. To be fair, I resisted some of the temptations on offer, but I admit, I’m a little worried about the looming consequences from the foods I caved into.

Food challenges. Clockwise: Quorn vegan ‘ham’ slices in salad pitta. Jacket potato with Quorn ‘ham’ and Sainsbury’s free from ‘cheddar cheese’. Northern Bloc ice cream and Hackney Gelato mango sorbet. Quorn vegan ‘ham’ and Sainsbury’s free from ‘cheddar cheese’ pitta

Food creation: Quinoa and brown rice vegetable burgers

For months now, I’ve been meaning to attempt making burgers with a quinoa base, to get more of this great plant protein in my diet, despite not being keen on the stuff. My first attempt went well (details here), but I need to make a few tweaks for next time. I definitely need to add more chia and flax seed binder and maybe chop the veg smaller to hold the burger together better. The flavour was decent, but next time I’ll rinse the quinoa more before cooking to remove any bitterness (thanks for the tip Deb):

Food creation: Quinoa and brown rice vegetable burgers. Clockwise: Making the patties. Pre-cooked burger. My messy hands! Cooked burgers ready for freezing
My dinner: Quinoa and brown rice vegetable burger with roast potatoes, celeriac, fennel, bell peppers and courgette/zucchini

Positive Thinking: What Made Watson Smile

What made me smile this week? Quite a few things. Here’s a few…

A walk in the park:

I went out for two walks this week before I succumbed to post-vaccine tiredness and took it easy for the rest of the week. I walked through a park and noticed a tree full of white blossom – such a contrast compared to its surrounding bare trees. I actually saw this last week too, but I couldn’t get a picture (without looking dodgy) as there was a cute couple sat under the tree kissing:

Walk in the park. Clockwise: Blossomy tree from afar. Closer. My shadow. Blossom close-up

From sunrise to sunset:

I just love a sunrise or sunset (although its rare I’m awake for sunrises). This week I was treated to both. Such beautiful colours. My favourites are those over the ocean (whilst sipping on a cocktail) – maybe I’ll get to see one again (and have a cocktail) in the not-too-distant future:

Left: Sunrise. Right: Sunset. Both beautiful in their own ways

Low histamine wine:

Instagram can be a useful resource (and a source of procrastination). I was excited and delighted to find that low histamine wines exist – I think the one below only supplies to Austria and Germany. But when I shared the post in the Long haul Covid food Facebook group, someone else found a company in the UK – yippee! And, then I stumbled across wine wands, which apparently filter the histamine out of your drink. I’ll be looking into these further – they’re not a complete solution as the actual alcohol itself encourages your mast cells to release histamine, but I’ll take it as hope for an occasional tipple further down the line:

Low histamine wine options – woo hoo hoo! Left: Low histamine wine (source: bioweingut.weiss, Instagram). Right: Wine wands (source: Lowhistamineeats, Instagram)

An abundance of Italian herb seasoning:

I like to have a mix of dried herbs to easily flavour my meals. I had asked Mum (who places the online grocery orders) to order some more Italian herb seasoning. It turns out she got a little carried away and ordered six lots! Apparently my usual one (M&S) said out of stock, so Mum ordered alternatives and both came, but that still leaves the random one in the middle. Unfortunately, I can only use the M&S ones as the others contain black pepper. We did laugh at Mum’s surprise excessiveness:

Over-ordering Italian herb seasoning

I hope you enjoyed this week’s ‘What’s on Watson’s Plate’. Please feel free to follow my bite-sized updates on Instagram or Facebook. See you next week for another catch up.

>>>Week 76
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References

1. GOV.UK, 2021. Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency: Information for UK recipients on COVID 19 Vaccine AstraZeneca.
2. Drugs.com, 2021. Paracetamol Side Effects.
3. American Association for the Advancement of Science, 2021. A rare clotting disorder may cloud the world’s hopes for AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine.
4. Greinacher, A., Thiele, T., Warkentin, T. E., Weisser, K., Kyrle, P. and Eichinger, S. 2021. A Prothrombotic Thrombocytopenic Disorder Resembling Heparin-Induced Thrombocytopenia Following Coronavirus-19 Vaccination. Research Square.
5. Coupland, C. A. C, Hill, T., Dening, T., Morriss, R., Moore, M. and Hippisley-Cox, J., 2019. Anticholinergic Drug Exposure and the Risk of Dementia – A Nested Case-Control Study. JAMA Internal Medicine, 179 (8), 1084-1093.

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Health Diary Week 73: Food, Exercise and a Positive Mind

A New Style

Me 60’s style, NYE (2007)

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Hi, welcome to another weekly instalment of what’s on my plate: health updates, meal creations and smile-provoking experiences.

Job updates

I was unsuccessful for last week’s job interview for admin support in training and education at a local hospice. The feedback was helpful – I was told it was a positive interview and I was very likeable (of course) and highly organised. Where I fell short was needing to give more specific examples of my admin experience – another lesson learnt and stored in my brain for next time. All these job applications and interviews feel a bit like Groundhog Day – I have to keep learning what I did wrong and try to correct it, so that I can move on.

In the meantime, I’m really looking forward to starting my temp admin job when all my checks and mandatory training are completed. I thought I’d completed all my initial training, but then I was emailed with more modules due to training changes for vaccination hub staff.

I felt pretty rough this week (more on this below), so I’d decided to rest up over the weekend. Sadly, this was not to be. One of my friends emailed me a Graduate Management Trainee job on Friday, and said I just had to apply – I agreed. Frustratingly, I realised the closing date was Sunday afternoon (noooo!) – And so there dissolved my planned weekend lazing in bed watching the Six Nations Rugby.

Antihistamine fail and swollen lip

I gave my prescribed antihistamine (Fexofenadine Hydrochloride) another try, despite identifying an ingredient, Allura Red (E129), as incompatible for people with histamine intolerance (Swiss Interest Group[1]). As before, on the third day, I experienced terrible rhinitis, brain fog and fatigue. As a result, I mostly spent Monday and Tuesday in bed feeling rough. I’ll report back to my Doctor and request other options.

I returned to my usual Cetirizine Hydrochloride antihistamine on Tuesday and took a corticosteroid nasal spray (Beclometasone Dipropionate) for a few days to help control my flare up. But then on Wednesday, my bottom lip became sore and swollen for about 24 hours. I don’t know why this swelling happened – it hasn’t happened before. Was it the Fexofenadine? Was it my grapefruit and orange bath gel? I’m unsure, but hopefully it won’t happen again.

Food challenge: Red lentils

My rhinitis was much improved by Thursday. So on Saturday, I decided to try red lentils again, as I was okay last time I ate them (Week 65). Conveniently, I had some dhal and brown rice in the freezer that Mum had previously made. I had a bit of gut discomfort afterwards, but that could just have been because I ate loads of rice – there didn’t appear to be any other adverse reaction – phew:

Red lentil dhal and brown rice – there is rice hidden under the dhal (picture from Week 65, the first time I’d re-introduced lentils)

Food creation: Risotto cakes

I love risotto, but it’s just not the same when reheated from frozen – the result – a stodgier consistency, although still tasty. And then I found a solution – inspired by cookingstefano who shared their risotto omelette creation on Instagram. I figured I could do something similar (without eggs) with my butternut squash risotto leftovers from Week 72. All I did was add some extra flax and chia seeds to my defrosted risotto and formed the risotto into cakes using a ramekin.  I pan fried them in a little rapeseed oil and finished them off baked in the oven – they had a lovely outside crispy crunch. Of course I’m already devising plans on how to improve them next time:

Risotto cakes. Clockwise: cookingstefano risotto omelettes. My risotto cakes from Week 72’s leftover risotto. Stodgy re-heated risotto from freezer (Week 53). My beautiful butternut squash risotto (Week 72)

Freezer food saviours

The freezer has been my saviour since following a low histamine diet. It can be hard cooking from scratch when you’re busy or just plain tired. So, I was relieved to be able to heat up the frozen leftovers from my birthday dinner and enjoy them one night. Another day, I had a half jacket potato filled with courgette, sweetcorn and seeds, which I re-heated and served with some salad – so satisfying. Then there’s batch cooking cornmeal and quinoa flour bites I have with salad lunches – yum. And I’m always grateful for those days I don’t mind chopping loads of veg and then freeze portions to keep it fresh and ready for when I’m cooking up a meal:

Freezer food saviours. Clockwise: Cauliflower ‘cheese’. Jacket potato with salad. Chopped veg. Cornmeal and quinoa flour bites

Positive Thinking: What Made Watson Smile

It was a quiet week, but of course there were some smile-provoking occasions…

It was warm enough to get my legs out:

It was a gorgeously sunny morning on Monday and thankfully the full effects of the rhinitis hadn’t quite set in yet. We had cuppas on the driveway, watching the birds come and go. I even went back inside to put on cropped yoga pants to let part of my legs and feet catch some rays. We saw Ratty, a rather cute looking water rat, swim across the pond. We’re hoping Ratty hasn’t got any family and friends close by:

Me sat in the sunshine, sunning my lower legs and feet

Being checked up on:

It was so lovely that a fellow Admin on one of the Facebook groups, contacted me a couple of times during the week to check how I was doing. Dawn gently suggested I should probably try to find some time to rest and recover from my flare up – she was right. This reminded me I should check in on a few people too, as it can make an important difference to someone:

A relaxing scene. Sunset from the Brecon Beacons, Wales (2012)

My Mum:

My Mum is the best, just saying. It was Mothers’ Day this Sunday, so of course I treated her to a couple of treats: jewellery – silver bee earrings, from Oranges and Lemons (Etsy), and Booja Booja fine de Champagne chocolate truffles. I also made Mum scrambled tofu, but on Monday, because we both forgot I was going to make it for her on Sunday – whoops. I’ll try to be a better daughter for next year’s Mothering Sunday:

Mum, Emma and I (I’m the baby that kind of looks like E.T.)

I hope you enjoyed this week’s new style ‘What’s on Watson’s Plate’. Please feel free to follow my bite-sized updates on Instagram or Facebook. See you next week for another catch up.

>>>Week 74
<<<Week 72
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Reference

Swiss Interest Group Histamine Intolerance (SIGHI), 2016. Food Compatibility List.

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