Health Diary Week 91: Look up

Image: My dawn hot air balloon trip, 2007

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<<<Week 90

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

Firstly, I’m sorry, this post was so delayed – there were some unexpected circumstances – more on that in Week 92.

Histamine Intolerance – Insect Bite Reactions

What can I say? I’m an insect magnet! Or rather, whenever an insect nibbles on me, I react with horribly red, raised, itchy bites – a typical reaction in people with histamine intolerance[1].

I’d sat on the grass in Bevy’s garden after covering myself in insect repellent. But I missed a strip along my lower back, and of course the insects feasted on this small patch. Bevy didn’t notice any bites on her, despite wearing zero repellent.

Histamine Food Risks

I was treated to some absolutely delicious food this week. Let me tell you more…

Yeast (pizza):

Oh, how I’ve missed pizza – I haven’t had any since going low histamine in October 2020, mainly because of the tomato base. It also contains yeast, which can be problematic[2], although I take calculated risks by consuming gluten free pittas.

Ben (aka Ben Cooks Plants) made pizza in his new pizza oven (built himself). For me, Ben made a specially adapted low histamine dough (no gluten and minimal yeast), and a white sauce base instead of tomatoes (my hero!). I polished off two pizzas – excessive, I know. And yes, I felt absolutely stuffed for the rest of the evening!:

Image: My low histamine pizzas, courtesy of Ben Cooks Plants. Clockwise: Beetroot and green pepper pizza pre-dressed. Beetroot and green pepper pizza dressed with pumpkin seeds and fresh herbs. Peach and ‘parma ham’ pizza dressed with ‘parmesan’. Peach and ‘parma ham’ pizza pre-dressed

Cashew nuts (ice cream):

Now, I very much enjoy ice cream and the weather has warmed up considerably, so I thought it was about time I tried the Booja Booja honeycomb caramel ice cream waiting patiently for me in the freezer. Cashew nuts (replace dairy) are one of its six ingredients – they’re listed as “Moderately compatible, minor symptoms, occasional consumption of small quantities is often tolerated”[2] – I didn’t notice any symptoms, which is great as they’re more affordable than macadamias and pistachios, my other nut options. The ice cream verdict? – Heavenly!:

Image: Booja Booja honeycomb caramel ice cream (yum!)

Alcohol (vodka):

I indulged in four singles of potato-based vodka (two with apple juice, two with cola) in Tina’s and Ben’s garden. The riskiest of these ingredients was the vodka as it not only contains histamine, but also encourages histamine to be released (by mast cells) and blocks histamine degrading enzymes (e.g. diamine oxidase)[2] – very risky indeed, but not as much as wine. So, this was one of those occasions when I chose to take one of my DAO enzyme tablets to help break down excessive histamine consumed. I didn’t have any noticeable ill-effects (phew):

Image: Naturdao, plant-based DAO enzyme supplement

Positive Thinking: What Made Watson Smile

It was a good week – a great start to my two weeks off work…

Hello sis:

My sister and her boyfriend Carl decided to visit us before covid restrictions were lifted (they didn’t want to travel to us by train when other travellers may not be wearing masks, especially as covid cases are rising again). As always, it was lovely to see them. Mum prepared an impressive buffet lunch. Emma’s friend visited – Madeleine and I were amused watching Em and Carl practice setting up and packing away their newly acquired tent – definitely wouldn’t be my forte…

Image: My sister and Carl visit. Top: Buffet lunch. Bottom: Watching tent practicing skills

Gin and tonic o’clock:

We had gloriously hot and sunny weather, so much so, that we’ve had to stay inside during the hottest time of the day. Whilst watching our bird friends by the pond, I was treated to my first gin and tonic since before I started my low histamine diet in October 2020 – no noticeable ill-effects – lovely:

Image: Gin and tonic, pondside

Uninvited guest:

Oh, the cheekiness (and delight) of inviting yourself over to your friends’ garden and then being offered homemade pizza. It was a beautifully sunny day and there was much hilarity – at times there were tears of laughter running down mine and Tina’s face:

Image: Pizza delights, al fresco. Clockwise: Ben’s home-built pizza oven. ‘Ben Cooks Plants’ preparing pizza. Ben’s standard, gluten free, vegan pizza in the oven. My low histamine, gluten free, vegan pizza in the oven

Looking skywards:

I love being able to sit outside looking up at the sky. In Tina and Ben’s garden, we saw loads of noisy seagulls above us feasting (it was flying ants day). And I was surprised to see a group of eight magpies gathered on the rooftop. It was also a night where we spotted several satellites travelling past. But my highlight has to be catching sight of a meteor, during daylight, enter and burn up on entry into our atmosphere – such a sight:

Image: Meteor, Free-Photos (Pixabay)

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 92
<<<Week 90
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References

1. Dr Tina Peers, Ca. 2021. Introduction to Histamine Intolerance (HIT).

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

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Health Diary Week 89: A Day Out

Image: Winchester Cathedral, UK, 2021

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<<<Week 88

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

The Histamine Saga

I received my ENT (ears, nose and throat) referral letter and followed the instructions to book my appointment – but there were none available, so I need to wait for the clinic to contact me. As I said last week, I’m not confident that an ENT investigation is what I need for what I think are histamine related issues. But I will jump through the hoops as required to get to the bottom of my severe chronic rhinitis issues.

Histamine Food Challenge: Chickpeas (Garbanzo Beans)

Since successfully re-introducing chickpeas (garbanzo beans) into my diet, I’ve been craving hummus every day! Thankfully it’s a nutritious craving, providing good quality plant protein, fibre, and health-promoting fats, as well as various vitamins and minerals (e.g. iron, folate)[1].

So, unsurprisingly, my favourite meal this week included a generous dollop of hummus with my go-to jacket potato – scooped out potato mixed with cooked courgette, sweetcorn, white onion, garlic, chia and hemp seeds, mixed dried herbs, turmeric and sweet paprika – always a winner:

Image: My vegetable filled jacket potato with a generous serving of hummus

Keeping Active

As walking is my main exercise for now, I use the free Active 10 app[1] on my mobile phone to track how much I walk (until I get a snazzy smart watch). Active 10 is part of the One You campaign launched by Public Health England and targets middle-aged adults (40 to 60 years – yep I’m in that age bracket). Health benefits of walking[2] include reduced activity of weight-promoting genes, chocolate cravings, risk of breast cancer and also eases joint pain and improves immune function.

I was interested in my amount of walking during work shifts (6 hours, 45 minutes), especially when directing patients into the assessment and vaccine bays. I was pleased to discover I’d clocked up 73 minutes, albeit none were brisk – regardless, any physical activity is better than remaining seated all day. When I’m allocated a seated task, I get up and move around when possible.

Positive Thinking: What Made Watson Smile

I had my first proper day trip since before the pandemic started – we went to Winchester. So, this is the focus of my week’s smile-provokers…

Climate change awareness:

At Winchester Cathedral we happened across a climate change display created by school children across the County – it’s encouraging to see such awareness raising activities. The display features some ingenious drawings, sculptures, recyclable and upcycled pieces. I particularly loved the owl made out of a plastic carton, octopus tree and somewhat squashed-looking turtle:

Image: Climate change awareness display. Top: Octopus and beehive trees. Bottom: Tree of birds
Image: Climate change awareness display. Animal sculptures: bears, jaguar, elephant and (squashed) turtle

Random art:

During my wanders, I stumbled upon some interesting art creations, including a Banksy-style piece by Hendog and a random chicken sculpture. Also in, someone’s garden we spotted a plant pot lighthouse and green figure:

Image: Clockwise: Banksy-style painting by Hendog. Chicken sculpture. Plant pot green figure. Plant pot light house

River walk:

I was keen to avoid the busy city centre, so we detoured to the river and surrounding gardens. It was peaceful and pretty, and I saw a beautiful swan:

Image: River walk. Clockwise: Stream. Swan. Gardens. Yellow rose

Ducklings swim school:

My highlight has to be watching two ducklings practising their swimming – soooo cute! I nervously observed the little ducklings navigate the river. Mummy Duck seemed completely unconcerned – she started off in the water with them and then casually watched from the riverside. She didn’t even seem worried when the yellow duckling got caught in the current and shot backwards down the stream out of sight. Thankfully, the little one emerged a few minutes later, swimming against the current with surprising strength:

Image: Ducklings swim time

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 90
<<<Week 88
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References

1. Harvard School of Public Health, Ca. 2021. The Nutrition Source: Chickpeas (Garbanzo Beans).
2. Public Health England, Ca. 2021. One You Active 10.
3. Harvard Health Publishing, 2020. 5 surprising benefits of walking.

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Health Diary Week 87: Lots Happening

Image: Owl at Hawk Conservancy Trust, 2012 (I was quite proud of this action shot)

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Week 86

Hi, welcome to another weekly instalment of what’s on my plate: health updates, meal creations and smile-provoking experiences. There’s so much to tell, but so little available time – I’ll do my best to be informative, yet succinct…

New Job?

The feedback from my Staff Wellbeing Hub Admin interview was that I was a strong candidate… But I was their second choice. They were concerned about my work-life balance, because of my interests outside of work – Ironically, I’d started adding my outside interests into admin job interviews to demonstrate that my mind would still be challenged outside of work. This was to counteract the other concern that always comes up when I apply for admin – “Would the job satisfy me when I appear to be better suited to an advisory role?” I honestly enjoy admin; I also enjoy advisory work too. I’d like to do both.

Excitingly, I was offered two days a week, because their first choice wanted to work three days, so I gratefully accepted. The bonus is that this still leaves the possibility of doing some advisory work too… Or perhaps a Health and Wellbeing Coach? – there’s currently adverts for this role within the NHS.

Image: Me listening to a student (well, posing for a promotional photo) at our work enquiry desk. Ca. 2003 (I look so young!)

The Histamine Saga

Here are the latest updates on my challenge to find out more about my histamine issues…

Allergy Clinic:

Last week the Allergy Clinic changed my appointment to a phone one – I reasoned maybe it was because the first appointment is just a consultation. But this week, the clinic rejected my referral – Nooo!  I phoned to check if this was an error… it wasn’t. They’ve recommended I’m referred to an ENT Clinic – I’m confused – I don’t think I need my ears, nose or throat checked out?

Food Risks:

We had family visiting for my Dad’s birthday, so I took some small food risks, with the support of my DAO enzyme tablet. Mum had prepared a curry for dinner – I had the dhal (lentils), potato and peas from the curry (tomato based), poppadom (chickpea) and Nita’s Mum’s coriander chutney (chilli, cashews). Thankfully, there were no ill effects from rhinitis, but I had a slightly sore (burned feeling) tongue for about a week – probably from the chilli, maybe also the tomato:

Image: My histamine food risk dinner: Lentils (dhal), potato and peas from the curry (tomato base), popadom (chickpea). Nita’s Mum’s green chutney not pictured

Positive Thinking: What Made Watson Smile

I love identifying things that make me smile. Here’s a few things from this past week…

I had pudding:

Mum made rhubarb crumble for Dad’s birthday treat, instead of a cake. I rarely get to have a proper pudding, because of my histamine issues. I decided since I’d already had my DAO enzyme tablet, this was my opportunity. And of course I drowned my crumble in the vanilla custard freebie gifted by the Vegan Kind Supermarket (Week 81) – delicious:

Image: Left: Coconut Collaborative vanilla custard freebie from the Vegan Kind supermarket. Right: Pudding: Rhubarb crumble drowning in vanilla custard

A gift from work:

I was just leaving work when one of the Admin Shift Leads asked, “Would you like a brown bag?”. I assumed this could only be a good thing, so I said, “That would be lovely, thank you”. And within my brown bag were two rhubarb and pineneedle drinks and a box of chocolate (my Dad’s favourite). What a lovely gesture. I passed on the chocolate to my parents and saved the drinks for myself:

Image: My brown bag contents: Monty Bojangles chocolate and Double Dutch drinks

Another friend reunion:

When I was studying for my Nutrition degree, my two main buddies were Magda and Emelie. Emelie has since moved back to Sweden, although we’re still in regular contact. Magda doesn’t live too far away, so we arranged to meet up in person for the first time since the pandemic started. We decided to have a walk in a country park and wow, we had so much to tell each other – it was so lovely to see Magda in person rather than online. The walk was picturesque – a change from my usual roadside walks. And my Active10 app reported I’d completed 168 minutes total walking, of which 88 minutes was brisk – go me:

Image: Countrypark walk – river view (it was a pity about the fallen tree, but a beautiful view nonetheless)
Image: Countrypark walk – field view

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 88
<<<Week 86
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Health Diary Week 74: Food, Exercise and a Positive Mind

Blossom

Tree blossom

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<<<Week 73

Hi, welcome to another weekly instalment of what’s on my plate: health updates, meal creations and smile-provoking experiences. Okay, I’ll start with the job stuff…

Psychometric assessment

I received an email on Monday to undergo online assessments for the NHS Graduate Management Trainee job I applied for. I’m not a fan of being assessed, especially in timed circumstances, because I have a slower reading and processing speed due to my Dyspraxia[1]. At university, I received extra time for exams to provide a more level playing field, but I felt uncomfortable asking for this under these circumstances, despite declaring a disability on my application.

There were two parts to the assessment; the first was to check if your personality fit with the NHS and management, consisting of statements on a Likert scale from “Strongly Agree” to “Strongly Disagree” – this was okay. But then there were the timed, four minutes per section assessments: Verbal reasoning (24 questions), numerical skills (16 questions) and abstract thinking (10 questions). I ran out of time on each part and completely messed up the numerical questions, despite being capable of answering them. I decided I had to just congratulate myself for trying and draw a line under that experience.

Covid Vaccine Centre

I completed the mandatory training and online DBS (criminal record check) for my temporary, bank admin job in a Covid vaccine centre. I received an email back from the lovely admin person, advising I should be able to start work next week – Yay! – I can’t wait to work again.

The Administrator also advised that once I receive the welcome letter, I can book my COVID vaccination – fabulous news – such a relief, especially with the expected slow-down of UK vaccine availability during April (supply issues) and potential restriction of exports to the UK by the EU to enable them to catch up on their programmes. The government reported that despite this slow-down, they still aim to offer the vaccine to all UK adults by the end of July – I really hope this happens.

Typical meals

I didn’t experiment with making anything new this week and just stuck to my easy go-tos: Oats and/or fruit for breakfast, salads for lunch, and mostly pasta or rice (rice details here) for dinner:

Week 74 meal examples. Clockwise: Porridge oats with blueberries, seeds, sweet cinnamon and maple syrup. Salad with potatoes, cornmeal bites, beetroot and celery

Food challenge: Tofu

My weekly challenge was scrambled tofu (again) because Mum wanted me to make her some and I love it so much and didn’t want to miss out. Previously, I experienced mild rhinitis reactions after having tofu in seeded wraps in Week 68 and Week 70. But the seed wraps contained sunflower seeds, listed as “Incompatible, significant symptoms at usual intake” by the Swiss Interest Group on Histamine Intolerance[2]. So, this time I opted to serve my tofu in a pitta bread with notomato sauce (details here)  – I didn’t have a reaction – excellent! Next time, I think I’ll try it Nana’s spaghetti-style (Week 46) with adaptations of Quorn ‘ham’ slices and notomato sauce – I’m excited:

Food re-introduction challenge. Clockwise: Scrambled tofu in pitta bread. Nana’s spaghetti-style scrambled tofu (Week 46). Scrambled tofu seeded wrap with potato roasties (Week 68). Scrambled tofu, salad leaves and notomato sauce seeded wrap (Week 70).

Freezer food finds

Where would I be without my freezer food saviours? Hungry! I found portions of cauliflower and broccoli ‘cheese’, roast potato, sweet potato and stuffing – I felt like a winner. Sadly, I forgot about them cooking away in the oven and ended up with an overly done dinner, although mostly recoverable – phew!:

Freezer food: Cauliflower and broccoli ‘cheese’, roast potato, sweet potato and stuffing. Clockwise: Frozen. Charred! Plated pre-gravy. Plated with gravy

Exercise

I’m supposed to be doing my twice daily physiotherapy interim exercises while I’m waiting for my actual physio appointment for my shoulder hypermobility injury. I’m ashamed to say I’ve been a bit lax. I’ve done them once most days, but it just hurts so much – I will do better.

I went out for three strolls this week, totalling 162 minutes, of which 89 minutes were brisk walking. It was lovely to have a stroll and chat with my neighbour who I hadn’t seen for ages due to lockdown rules.

Positive Thinking: What Made Watson Smile

And let’s finish off with sharing some of my smile-provokers…

Mandatory training completed:

I was pleased to complete the additional mandatory training courses for my NHS temp admin job, a) because I enjoy learning, and b) so that I can start my role soon – I really want to get back to work now:

NHS mandatory training. Left: Recognising and managing anaphylaxis. Right: Resuscitation – Level 1

Food horrors:

So there I was sat in the cosy warm kitchen, at the little table, happily munching away at my dinner, when suddenly I realised I was literally facing my own food horrors – foods I used to love (tomatoes, satsumas, bananas and avocados) but I can’t eat now because of their high histamine content. I realised I was surprisingly okay with that:

My food horrors – some of my former favourite foods: Tomatoes, satsumas, bananas and avocados

Driveway sun and Spring flowers:

It’s wonderful there’s increasing opportunity to sit out by the driveway pond without being wrapped up in coats, hats, scarves and gloves. And I’m enjoying watching Dad’s potted flowers gradually appear:

My favourite driveway flower photo, so far (it’s actually really small, but so beautiful close up)

Spring is here (again):

We’ve already had the start of Spring from a meteorological perspective (1st March). And on the 20th March, Spring began astronomically[3] – yay! I’m loving noticing more signs of Spring when I’m out walking. So, of course I have to share some of my favourite picture snaps:

Spring is here (again)

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 75
<<<Week 73
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References

1. Dyspraxia UK, Ca 2017. What is Dyspraxia?
2.  Swiss Interest Group Histamine Intolerance (SIGHI), 2016. Food Compatibility List.
3. Met Office, 2020. When does spring start?

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