Category Archives: Health Topics

As promised… results from my blood tests

Well, the good news is that I am resoundingly normal.  Seriously… nothing at all to report from the blood tests, except that my triglycerides are a little elevated.  My doctor has suggested I reduce my carb intake and that will help that number.


The bad news is that the pain I have in every joint in my body is, according to the doctor, because I have lost weight and if I continue to lose weight then I will magically stop being in pain and it will all be fine.  What a total crock.  I am so angry.  I had hoped that this GP would be better than my last one.  To be fair, he was lovely about it, and was not rude or belligerent, which is a nice change, but still the doctors in this country won’t look at the person in front of them as an individual.  They see the symptoms.


The doctor has told me that I have to get down to a BMI of 25.  You all know my thoughts about BMI in the first place (another absolute crock) and I have done the calculations.  To have that magic number on my medical records, I need to lose 91 and a half pounds from where I am now.  That is 6 and a half stone.  For goodness sake.  It has taken me 13 years to get down 6 stone, and another year to lose the last 28 pounds.  I am fighting for every sodding ounce to leave my body.   Another 91 and a half pounds?  Someone pass me a saw and I will lop a limb or two off.  Seriously, I just can’t see how I am can keep this up.


However… I am supposed to be training to be a herbalist and naturopath, so I will do the whole “Physician Heal Thyself” thing.  I have done my research… assuming I have fibromyalgia, which is what I think I have, I need to top up the Vitamin D levels, fish oils need to be in my diet, preservatives are out as is “fake sugar”, I have to cut out or cut down on caffeine (*sob*) and I need to up even further the number of fruit and veg I have in a day.  How, I am not sure, but there you go.

veg patch

Needless to say, I am a little overwhelmed with this at the moment.   Once I have a plan of action, I will let you all know and we can see if I can sort myself out where conventional medicine has singularly failed to do so.




Helping out a very stressed little one… as naturally as possible…

Sorry for the gap in posts again.  I am afraid it is going to happen with more regularity, as the big news from us is that we have FINALLY been approved to adopt a little boy.  We have met him, we have been in front of a panel of people and they agreed we would be a good match, and we have even planned the introduction process.


But over the last couple of days, I have been thinking about our prospective little boy, and how confused and upset he is likely to feel when he leaves his foster carers and their home, the only home he has ever known and comes to our home, the home he will be in for the rest of his life.  The only word I can use to describe what he will feel is trauma.


Now, we will of course do our utmost to ensure that the little guy is as comfortable as possible with the transition, but I am expecting some upsets.  Despite the best will in the world, his routine is going to be disturbed and upset, and that is unsettling for anyone.  Plus, you know, we are strangers to him at the moment and that has to be unnerving.   I have done some research into what I can do herbally to help him recover though, and I think it is advice I might be taking for hubby and I as well.


The first major thing in getting over any trauma at all, is to get support while you are going through it.  Obviously, we will be supporting our little boy, and luckily we have a wide and diverse network out there to support us.  I have no doubt we will be availing ourselves… be it with help with the ironing, to walking the dog duties, to being at the end of a telephone in case things get a bit much for us and we need to bounce ideas off of them.  We are blessed to have so many people ready and willing to help us out.

toddler sleeping

The next important thing is rest.  I am sure that our little one will sleep a lot.  He is at the age where he is making a lot of brain leaps anyway, and add into the mix the trauma of changing families, and he is going to be sleeping quite a bit more… on these occasions, sleep is great.  It rejuvenates, it helps the body to reinvigorate, and it restores the nervous system.  Sleep even brings greater resistance to stress.    Even if the night time sleep is patchy, there are always naps.  Naps are awesome and I have every intention of taking advantage of them as and when I can.


Optimal nutrition is going to play a huge part in the recovery for our little guy.  We are lucky because the foster carers have done an amazing job with him, and he has a healthy appetite.  He eats everything that is put in front of him.  Except peas.  Well, that is okay, I don’t suppose I was wild about peas at his age either.  I am going to be keeping food simple, cooked from fresh and low on sugar and wheat.  He will get some wheat, because my readers will know I do not hold with cutting out major food groups just for the sake of it.  Sugar, of course, we all know is the enemy our modern age.  Fruit sugar… no problem.  Added sugar?  Not on your life!


The big thing though is going to be how he processes the trauma.  For adults there are myriad talking therapies, but for a little guy… well, we are kind of at a loss. We have made an introduction book for him which will be important to read with him again and again, and we can sit and quietly read books to him and tell him stories.  I think the major thing will be to create a calm atmosphere, maintain that calm atmosphere and be understanding when the meltdowns inevitably happen.



But one thing I am definitely going to have in my arsenal is Bach Rescue Remedy.  I have seen it turn a hysterically crying child who is in shock after falling down and hurting themselves into a biddable quiet child again in very short order indeed.  I am even going to pack some in our baby bag (you know, the pantechnicon which is carried EVERYWHERE with you and is packed with everything you might possibly need!).  You never when you might need it… and not just for the baby!


I have no idea when I am going to be able to get back to this page… but I am sure you understand that my priorities lie elsewhere just at the moment.  In 1 months time, I will be a full time Mum to a nearly 14 month old.  Wow.  That takes some computing!



How to keep safe in the summer heat…

It is relatively unusual for the British Weather forecast to contain a weather warning for heat!  Usually we have weather warnings for rain, wind, ice and snow!  However… this week, due to a lot of heat over Spain and South Easterly winds, we are due to have heatwave.


There is an old adage about “Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun”.  I have observed that Northern Europeans certainly seem to get into sleeveless tops and shorts the first time sun shows up (my husband and I went to Rome on Honeymoon – it was 15 degrees celsius at the end of February and the Roman natives were snuggled in winter coats and the Northern Europeans were all in T shirts and shorts!).  But this abandon in sunshine can lead to discomfort and illness, and I don’t know about you, but I like to avoid that if at all possible.

tap water

So, the first things to mention are the most obvious.  Keep hydrated.  In hot weather, you will sweat more, so drink more water.  I am not suggesting you gulp down 4 or 5 litres, but be sensible.  If you do lots of high octane activity, you might want to tone it down in hot weather.  Also, always be safe in the sun and use sun protection creams, wear a t-shirt, sunglasses and a hat.  Yes, even if you look daft in a hat.  We are talking safety here, not fashion.  And keep out of the sun between 11.30 and 3pm.  It is when the sun is at its zenith and when the day will be hottest.  That midday sun we were talking about!!

water drop

However, if you do get heatstroke or sunstroke, here is a rehydration liquid recipe from one of my favourite websites….


  • 6 level teaspoons of sugar
  • 1 level teaspoon of salt
  • 1 litre of boiled and cooled water
  • 200ml of orange juice or a splash of fruit cordial to make it more palatable

Put everything in a glass, stir until the sugar and salt have dissolved and neck it.

I am reliably informed that this works a treat, and I hope it helps if anyone gets caught out by the heat.  In the meantime… stay safe and enjoy the sunshine!

Some ideas to help deal with Adrenal Fatigue, naturally

Adrenal what?

Yeah, I know, you may not have heard about it before, and if you haven’t well, lucky you.  I have noticed a distinct upswing in the number of people I know who are dealing with it recently.  That could be the people I am hanging out with (a lot of us have fertility issues and adrenal fatigue can be a contributing factor),  but after doing some research about it, I think adrenal fatigue is being caused by our modern lifestyles as well.

adrenal fatigue

What is it?  Effectively, it is the body burning out.  Adrenal fatigue is characterised by a disruption of your adrenal glands ability to make cortisol in the right amounts at the right time in response to stress.  Basically, it is your flight or fight response, and because it has been used soooo much, your body just can’t deal with it all any more.  Your adrenal glands (on top of your kidneys) are kicking out cortisol all the time, and it becomes background music in your chemical composition.  Your body can’t tell if it a sabre toothed tiger or that mountain of paperwork you need to run away from.  The adrenals keep pumping out the cortisol but the rest of the body pays it no attention.   So, why is it a problem?  Well, the adrenal glands are the bodies hormonal powerhouse.  They form the nexus of the feedback loops in the body co-ordinating the production of nearly every hormone in the body.  If they are overworked, then the hormonal balance in the body is going to be out of whack, pure and simple.


According to my research, there are three levels of adrenal fatigue.  The first level is the wired and tired stage.  It is characterised by high cortisol levels especially at night, leading to insomnia, insulin resistance and abdominal weight gain.  Often sufferers feel energised but in an edgy and wired sort of way.  The second level is the stressed and tired stage.  The sufferer will wake up early, like 3 am early, and then no be able to fall back to sleep.  Later in the day stressors kick in and they feel more awake.  According to the medics, in this stage, the cortisol level peaks early, then flattens out but there is generally a rise midday or in the early evening.  The third, and most serious, stage is burnout.  This is characterised by exhaustion, regardless of hours slept, a completely flat cortisol curve and in some cases low DHEA (a hormone which acts as a neurosteriod, among many other things) and thyroid hormone levels.  It is a dangerous place to be, not just because you feel mentally woolly and unable to think straight, but it is also associated with a higher risk of autoimmune disease.


Personally, I think I have been in each of these three stages at least once in my life, and quite possible more than that.  The disruptive sleep patterns and hormonal imbalances ring very, very true for me, not to mention the insulin resistance and the abdominal weight gain.   Every time I go to the doctor and they take their barrage of blood tests, they always come back telling me that everything is in balance… but I have been diagnosed with asymptomatic Poly-cystic Ovary Syndrome – which is also characterised by insulin resistance and a real difficulty in losing weight.  Hmmm.  I know self diagnosis is risky, but this is ticking some serious boxes for me.


What can I do to turn this adrenal fatigue around?  Well, a change of diet is essential.  My research reveals that eating a diet high in brightly coloured vegetables, lean and clean protein and whole grain carbs will really, really help the levels of inflammation in the body.  If there are food you know you are sensitive to, but are still eating, then get them out of the diet as well.  One item it was interesting to find was that if you cut carbs entirely, then it will actually exacerbate adrenal fatigue, and not fix it.  Well… that explains my reaction to the Atkins diet and its variants that I have been on over the years!

You should also go to bed early… and by early I mean before 11pm.  Ideally before 10pm if you can manage it.  I have been trying to manage it since I began living on my own nearly 20 years ago… and so far I have not managed it.  You need to have lots of B vitamins in your diet.  If you are not getting it from your diet (green leafies and lean proteins), then by all means take a supplement.  B vitamins are food for the adrenals.  You need to cool inflammation in the body – you can do that by making sure that you get Omega 3 fatty acids in your diet along with lots of vitamin C and curcumin as well.  All these are known to lower systemic inflammation.  You need to make sure you are getting the nutrients your body needs.  Vitamin D, Selenium, magnesium, zinc are all incredibly important for thyroid and adrenal function.

water drop

Everyone knows you need to stay hydrated.  This is even more important in adrenal fatigue.  Adding some lemon juice to your glasses of water might help matters as well.  Plus it makes it taste a bit more interesting into the bargain.  You might want to consider using Adaptogenic herbs.  Herbs like ginseng, liquorice root and Astralgus are really good at counteracting the effects of excessive cortisol.  My research also suggests that you need to build rests into your day.  I am really bad at this.  I keep going until either I am at the end of my to do list, or I am nearly dead… whichever happens first.  One thing you should steer clear of though, is a lot of high impact and high energy exercise.  It is not going to help.  Exercise needs to be stretching and calming.  Restful.  A nice stroll in the spring sunshine, yoga, or tai chi sounds just the ticket.

change your perspective

And finally?  The best way to start treating your adrenal fatigue is to change your perspective.  It is actually possible that your definition of success might be killing you.  In modern times it is easy to compare your own life to the edited highlights of every one elses life, and you can sometimes feel that it is so important for you to do things better, harder, faster than everyone else.  Hello cortisol overload.  Changing how you define success might be the quickest and easiest way to start to revolutionise your life.

Giving you gut some extra help…

I am currently on industrial strength antibiotics to deal with an armpit cyst.  I know.  Glamorous, right?!  I am supposed to take 2000mg per day – but I can’t fit that in, so for the past week (and for the next week as well) I am taking 1500mg per day instead.  The cyst is responding to the antibiotics, though it isn’t completely gone, but my gut and I are not feeling very happy with all those bacteria killers flying about my system.


I decided to have a look around on line for some ideas to help my gut feel better during and after this course of treatment.  It appears I stumbled onto something, because there is a large amount of information out there for people who are troubled with Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Irritable Bowel Disease, Colitis and all sorts of other stuff.  I have distilled the information into just four things we can use to give our gut some help.


The first thing is dandelion.  Yes, the dandelion which throws gardeners into a froth and often brings out the homicidal tendencies in them… oh… just me then?  Actually, all parts of the dandelion are excellent digestive aids.  You can use the root, the leaves, the stalks (though be careful with them) and the flowers.  You can use them in teas, tinctures, vinegars, honey, oil or even just in a salad.  If you take some before meals you can stop heartburn.  If you take it after meals it can help with gall bladder pain and improve digestion.  Taking dandelion morning and night can alleviate gut pain and even tone your liver.

slippery elm

Next is something called Slippery Elm.  Sounds rather disgusting if you ask me, but apparently it is fabulous for assisting a digestive tract in crisis.  It is actually the bark from the slippery elm tree which is used to make the remedies (available in health food shops I understand) and it can help to restore balance to an irritated system (IBS/IBD) or a system under attack from Lupus or Crohn’s.  Even people undergoing chemotherapy with deeply distressed guts have found improvements with taking Slippery Elm.  Something to consider if you are in deep discomfort.  Apparently it acts as a counter to food poisoning, can quell acid refluxes and even helps with diarrhoea or constipation.

fennel seeds

Next are the aromatic seeds.  These are caraway, coriander, cumin, dill and fennel seeds – I have several of these hiding at the back of my pantry cupboard. Take 1 teaspoon of any of these seeds, put in a cup with boiling water and leave it to steep.  Drink it while it is still warm, sweetened or not, depending on your taste, and there you have it.  It is great for alleviating gas pains and for speeding up digestion.  It can also help to counteract the digestion effects of heavy painkillers.


Finally, an ever present item in my house is yogurt.  Plain and unsweetened is best,  or you can make your own with real (unpasteurised) milk.  It is of great use to people with colitis and can also help gut pain, gas pain, stomach pain, nausea and even bad breath.  Also, if you have Bioactive yogurt, then you can help to recolonise the good bacteria in your gut once any antibiotics have done their stuff.  Yes… bioactive yogurt features high on my shopping list this week!

I hope, if you are in the same boat as me, with a distressed digestive tract, that these remedies might offer some relief to you.

Curiosity why some things work…

I am sure my best friend won’t mind if I use my darling Godson as a blog post subject.

My 2 year old Godson has been stricken with croup and a chesty cough on top of that now, and he has been sleeping fitfully and being sick a lot as well.  Poor little chap.  It was suggested by one of our mutual Facebook friends that she try putting Vicks Vapo-rub on the soles of his feet to stop the coughing.  It worked!


After reporting this fact, my friend was curious as to why it worked, and to be fair, I was thoroughly intrigued and so I have done some speedy research.  I know from previous research that a traditional folk remedy for bad chests is to put poultices on your feet, and I know anecdotally that it works a treat, but what is the scientific reason why it works?

My research turned up something called the Theory of Counter Irritation.  Essentially, what this states is that if you have an internal pain, or discomfort in one place, then causing a pain or irritation in another place  or externally will help alleviate the original pain or discomfort.  That seems something of a circular argument to me, seeing as you will still have a pain or irritation, but I suppose the menthol, eucalyptus and camphor in the Vapo-rub is not really pain.  It isn’t really discomfort either.  Still.  I am not sure I am necessarily convinced by this argument.

reflexology chart

So the other explanation I found surrounds reflexology and how parts of the feet essential parts of this holistic practice.  Basically, the idea behind reflexology is that there are different areas of the feet which have links to different parts of the body.  Massaging the feet can, according to this theory, really assist you in maintaining overall health.  My hypothesis in relation to Vicks Vapo-Rub is therefore that rubbing the warming jelly on the feet will relax the body and if the body is relaxed, then hopefully coughing will be less of an issue.  I don’t know about you, but after having a foot rub, I tend to be all floppy and relaxed, so this theory persuades me slightly more.

toddler sleeping

In the final analysis however, who cares why it works.  When you are desperate to do something to help a small person struggling to sleep and coughing a lot, you are really only worried about making sure SOMETHING works, not necessarily why it works or how it works.  Still, something to be remembered for the next time I feel like death warmed up and have a cough that just won’t quit!

The health benefits of a jolly good cuppa…

It is snowing where I live today.  In the UK, snow is either greeted with unadulterated glee or with unadulterated dread.  I am not that bothered by the white stuff myself, but I will confess to loathing attempting to get around in this weather.  I am a capable driver.  It’s the other idiots on the road that I worry about.


Anyway, with this cold and snowy weather, I love making steaming hot cups of tea.  I love tea.  I love coffee as well, but I do feel that tea is somehow encoded in my DNA.  My Mother’s family were tea planters, and some of their knowledge has been passed down to us.  We know a lot less than they did, of course, but I find the best cup of tea is without milk, possibly with a slice of lemon.  Obviously, you make it in a pot, preferably with leaves rather than bags, and you always warm the pot before pouring the hot water over the leaves and leaving it to steep.  If you have to put milk in tea, then put it in after the tea has been poured.

tea and lemon

A few years ago, my husband and I made a deal with one another.  If we were going to drink more tea and coffee than we strictly ought to, then we needed to make it the absolute best quality we could.  That is what we have done.  We get fabulous tea from a supplier in Canada (yes, I am serious!).  It is my best friend’s favourite tea shop, and when we were visiting there last year, we went in and bought stocks of my favourite blend.  Seriously this tea (The Baroness, by The Tea Girl) is the most restorative cuppa I think I have ever had the delight of tasting.  It takes me from utter exhaustion to back up on my feet and raring to go.

It got me thinking though.  We all know that tea is an antioxidant and it doesn’t deliver as much caffeine as coffee does, but does it help with anything else?  Turns out yes.  Black tea reduces the risk of kidney stones and artheroclorsis, osteoporosis and helps to raise low blood pressure.  Oolong tea is great for mental alertness and Green tea… well, this might be the biggest super food out there.  People have claimed it has cancer prevention properties, but that might be accounted for by the fact it is an antioxidant., but it also lowers high cholesterol and helps with the old mental alertness.  I really don’t like green tea.  I don’t like the taste of it.

oolong tea

Then I looked into  Tisanes.  Well, first of all what is a tisane is any hot drink made of something not from a camellia bush.  Yes, really.  Tea is the only hot drink that comes from the camellia bush.  Any other infusion is strictly a tisane.  (My tea planter Uncle, a mild mannered man, was extremely vociferous on this topic).  Herbally, we know that chamomile calms and peppermint is great for soothing stomach pain.  But a Thyme tisane is great for coughs.  And Ginger infusion is brilliant for nausea, dizziness and menstrual cramps.


I think, in this cold and snowy weather, hot drinks are a must.  And if they do you good, then so much the better!  Keep safe and warm!