Super-food Sunday: Quinoa

Ah, “Quinoa”, that mispronounced cereal eaten by hipsters and health freaks. 

However you say it, the question is; do you consume it?

No? 

Well you should. 

Quinoa (pronounced keen-warh) contains an abundance of vitamins and antioxidants that have health boosting properties! 

It’s been eaten in south America for thousand of years and was considered sacred by the Incas. 

It can be eaten hot or cold; in a salad, by itself or as a side, and even as substitute for white rice – making it very versatile. It’s packed with protein and fibre, making it perfect if you’re after something filling, but also super healthy! It has more fibre than any grains with similar properties, and contains all the essential amino acids we need. 

It is also gluten free!

It has a low GI, making it suitable for people with diabetes, but is high in carbohydrates.

You can get black, white or red quinoa. All types are packed with compounds such as manganese, folate, copper, magnesium, zinc, potassium and even contain omega 3 fatty acids and a trace of calcium and vitamin E! 

Whilst quinoa is very high in minerals, it also contains phytic acid which can partly prevent them from being absorbed. It is advisable to soak the quinoa before cooking to get rid of most of the phytic acid.

Quinoa contains large amounts of flavonoid antioxidants; including Quercetin and Kaempferol. These are plant antioxidants that have anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-cancer and possibly even anti-depressant effects. When quinoa is left to sprout, these antioxidants become even more potent. 

There are some studies that suggest that quinoa can lower your metabolic rate and help stabilise your blood sugars, meaning it is good for weight loss. 

It is simple to cook:

  1. Put 2 cups of water in a pot, turn up the heat.
  2. Add 1 cup of raw quinoa, with a dash of salt.
  3. Boil for 15-20 minutes.

This is the most basic way to prepare your quinoa. It is available to buy in many supermarkets, and also online. It has a nutty flavour and a nice bite to it.

What is your favourite way to enjoy quinoa? If you’ve never had it, try it and tell me what you think. 

Quick Update

Hello everybody, little update as haven’t really uploaded anything this week but I’ve been very busy behind the scenes!

I’ve finally got all the information I need about the PIP benefit application and plan to start the application process soon. I have also been researching a university grant for people with disabilities. (All UK only as far as I know). 

Many people are not aware that the broad spectrum of PIDs are actually classified as a disability under the Disabled Act (in the UK), and therefore you can get help accordingly to cope with day to day struggles! It’s a very depressing process trying to mentally put yourself in the position of how you feel on your worst days and trying to note down how hard things are for you to undertake at those times, such as showering or getting dressed. However it’s also hopeful as at the end you may finally end up with a reward that can help improve your quality of life somewhat! 

If you need any information or questions, please email me at: liveyourselfbetter@gmail.com

I have felt rather unwell this week; but on my better days I have been busy busy. Yesterday I had a solid half day at school of back to back lessons, then rushed home in time for my driving lesson which was TWO HOURS! It was my third lesson and my instructor took me on the dual carriageway.. I went up to gear 5 and was driving 50mph. Crazy! Very fun though. It’s so empowering to actually feel like you’re accomplishing something, as recently I’ve felt rather unconfident in my abilities (or rather inabilities) to focus and concentrate for a sustained period on things such as my studies or reading a book etc. It’s been a challenge but I’m enjoying driving so much!

I then had 2 hours of maths tutoring to help me catch up in prep for mocks next week (but also for my As maths exams this year as they are my only unreformed subjects). By the time I had dinner it was 9pm and I was completely exhausted! 

The relief that it is infusion day today is just unmeasurable! I hate doing them, but I’ve felt so dreadful for the past 5 days that I was almost tempted to bring it forward! Does everybody else get that? It must be pretty common to feel the lull before your infusion. 

Also, fun fact of the week;

The combined gratitude but also frustration when somebody tells you how well you are looking when in fact you often feel like you’ve just about scraped through surviving WW3 you’ve been so I’ll is because … *drum roll please*

… It is not actually the infection/illness that makes you look ill, it’s the action of the immune system! PID = no immune system function = looking peachy when really we just want to curl up in a ball and hibernate for 200 years! Mad, huh?!

Have a lovely weekend, and pop back on Sunday to have a read of this week’s Super-Sunday Post! 

Super-food Sunday: Blueberries

Now, blueberries have been highly regarded for their health benefits, but also under scrutiny because of their super-food status being questioned as another FAD. 

However, I can assure you that they have an abundance of vitamins and nutrients that are amazing for your health and also your immune system. They also are very low in calories and have a low Glycemic Index which helps to regulate blood sugars for those with type 2 diabetes. 

Blueberries are full of antioxidants and allegedly have the highest antioxidant capacity of all commonly eaten fruit and vegetables. They can be frozen for 3-6 months without this content being affected significantly, which means that even if fresh blueberries are too expensive or out of season; you can buy frozen! If price is no issue, it is recommended to buy organic blueberries as they are reported to contain more of the delicate antioxidants. 

A small study concluded that daily consumption of blueberries helps to improve the brain’s capacity to remember things and improves overall cognitive ability. 

1 cup of blueberries gives you 25% of your DRA of vitamin C – helping you to stay youthful and also improving your immune system. 

The antioxidant that gives blueberries their distinct colour, anthocyanin, is also responsible for improving heart health. Eating 3 servings of blueberries per week can help a woman to reduce her risk of heart disease. Possibly, this antioxidant may also be able to prevent the growth of cancerous tumours due to the free radicals it releases. 

Similarly to cranberries, blueberries are also able to help stave/fight off urinary tract infections. They both contain compounds which inhibit bacteria from sticking to the wall of your bladder. 

There is no recipe today, as blueberries are great alone, over yoghurt, with American pancakes, in a fruit salad or quite frankly HOWEVER YOU FANCY! 

Tuck in regularly and feel the benefits. 

Here’s some advice…

So, a while ago I wrote a post about the spread of germs (you can read it here). 

However, recently I have thought of some more nifty tricks to keep you from catching viruses from your family members, and also yourself! 

Tip 1

  

Write your name on water bottles you are drinking from! In my household we generally just drink bottled water. This means half empty bottles can end up accumulating.. The water is still fine to drink, but whose water is whose?? ESPECIALLY if one of my family members or I am sick, I like to write my name in sharpie pen (other permanent markers would be fine) on the water I have been drinking so that I know what water is mine and we don’t share by accident. I have a small family and sometimes write on my mum’s bottles too, but you could just write on your own so that way you know if it doesn’t have your name on it – don’t drink it!

Tip 2

STERALISE YOUR TOOTHBRUSHES REGULARLY! I recently learnt that when you are contagious with a virus or bacterial infection (especially throat), that the pathogens from your saliva and mucus can live in your toothbrush for two to three WEEKS! How disgusting?! For people with compromised immune systems this is a nightmare because it’s really easy to reinfect yourself! For everybody else (and for us) it would most definitely slow down your recovery time, and you are still at risk of reinfection! To avoid this, sterilise your toothbrush head in boiling water from the kettle each time you clean your teeth when you are sick! When you are well, I would advise sterilising around twice a week just to keep it hygienic! You should change your toothbrush every 3 months, but more frequently if you notice damage to the bristles or marks of other wear and tear. 

Tip 3

When you sleep, it’s common to dribble on your pillow.. Again, gross!! If you are sick this means all your germs are being dribbled into your pillow and living there ready for you to go and lay on again in bed the next night. I would recommend 2 sleeps on one side of the pillow and then flip it over to the fresh side with no dribble! Two more sleeps then change the pillow case! Changing your bedding regularly is important for personal hygiene anyway, but your pillow is particularly important as it is in contact with your mouth, nose and ears – the 3 most vulnerable places for germs to enter. A pillow protector is a good investment if you don’t have one, as it will absorb the saliva and can be washed/replaced easily – reducing the need to wash your pillow. HOWEVER, there is an essential pillow test that can help you to know when your pillow is due for a clean…

Give your pillow a shake, and then stretch out one arm and place the pillow over it (so your arm intersects the long end perpendicularly). If the pillow sags at both sides, I’m afraid to say it’s full of all kinds of nastiness including dead skin cells, the dreaded dribble(!), sweat, and all sorts! Time for a wash!!!

Pillows should be replaced every 2-3 years. 

Tip 4

Wear a face covering if multiple members of your family are ill or if you are ill. You may be conscious of looking like a fool, but better safe than sorry!

Tip 5

There are some places that you may not remember to disinfect regularly, such as the steering wheel of your car or your keyboard at work! For quick cleaning use some antibacterial surface wipes such as the ones by Dettol.  

 
Perfect to carry around with you to sanatise all your work surfaces! (AND YOUR STEERING WHEEL!!)*
If I think of any other tips I will update this post, but I hope these are helpful to you. 

*updated 10/02/16 after realising how few people think to disinfect their cars and how many germs live on your hands, and thus get transferred to your steering wheel to live until you pick them back up again! 

Super-food Sunday: Pineapple 

Pineapple. 

That exotic fruit that screams summer and reminds you of being on a beach, piña colada in hand (possibly). 

They got their name due to their resemblance to pine cones, and are in fact from South America and not Hawaii, despite popular belief!

But did you know that it’s actually being used now in revolutionary treatment to help prepare even serious burn patients for skin grafts? This article explains how. 

In addition to this medical use, studies have shown that bromelain, the enzyme that helps eat away at the burnt skin, can also reduce swelling, bruising, healing time, and pain associated with injury and surgery.

Bromelain is being used to treat and reduce inflammation from a number of conditions such as tendinitis, sprains, and post-operative swelling. 

Pineapple is also great for your immune system as it is packed with vitamin C. It contains calcium and manganese which are essential for bone, cartilage and skin development. It contains beta-carotene which can help to reduce your risk of developing asthma, and also along with the minerals copper, zinc and folate (found in pineapples) can improve fertility for both men and women!

It is also rich in fibre, helping to prevent constipation and improve digestion, as well as making it filling (great for breakfast or an afternoon snack!).

Despite the amazing health benefits of pineapple, there are some things to be aware of that could be detrimental to your health;

  • Pineapple has high potassium content and if too much is eaten whilst taking beta-blockers, a medication commonly administered for heart disease, the potassium levels in your blood can spike too much and cause complications. 
  • If you have poor kidney functions, you may be unable to process high levels of potassium and remove them from the blood, which can potentially be fatal. 
  • Pineapple is very acidic, eating too much can cause mouth ulcers and also be problematic if you have acid reflux (or similar problems) as it can lead to heartburn. 

Those are risks that mainly materialise if you eat A LOT of pineapple! 

It is easy to incorporate pineapple into your diet. It’s great alone, in a fruit salad, even caramelised in a frying pan/ with a blow torch, served with ice cream for an indulgent dessert. I like to eat it in my daily breakfast smoothie! Here’s one recipe you can try..

Recipe: Fruit smoothie

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup freshly chopped ripe pineapple
  • 4 strawberries
  • 50g blueberries
  • Half an apple
  • Handful of spinach leaves

Method:

  • Place all of the ingredients into a blender with 200ml of cold water/coconut water and blend until smooth. 
  • Enjoy!

Lack of a 2nd weekday post..

I’m literally so exhausted having actually attended a fair few lessons this week.. I had planned to write a medical blog post yesterday, but after my infusion and then my maths tutor I really just didn’t have the brain capacity! I’m still on antibiotics and the side effects of my subcut infusion leave me drained. 

I have been up since 6:30am today (haven’t seen that hour in a long time!), had my first full day back at school since Christmas break, and have been babysitting since 6pm for hyperactive 2 and 8 year olds. They’re finally in bed now but to be honest after 3 stories I’m ready to go to sleep, I don’t know about anything else!

Hopefully their parents come back soon so I can get into bed myself. I have my home care infusion pack being delivered tomorrow, and also my first driving lesson! I’m so excited!!

I hope you all have a lovely (restful) weekend 🙂

A word or two about juice…

JUICE

It’s my latest obsession!

I got a nutri ninja for Christmas and it was an absolute gem of a present! I asked for it before I received my diagnosis, but it couldn’t have been a better present given my current (and future) health situation.

I now have a juice (I use the term lightly as it’s more of a smoothie) EVERY day for breakfast. Each one is packed full of nutrients, as the joy of a nutri ninja (and similar products) are that none of the pulp, consequently much of the nutritional value, is lost. All the gorgeous nutrients are trapped in the juice and I really feel like I have had a healthy start to my day afterwards.

Consuming your fruits and veggies in blended form is an amazingly easy way for your body to absorb the vitamins from them. Also, I prepare a large batch of juice bags ahead of time and keep them in the freezer, so I can really control how much of each fruit/veg I am consuming each day, to make sure I am more likely to eat my ‘five a day’.

My super-food Sunday posts (check out the last one here) coincide perfectly with some of the best fruits and veggies to pack your juices with! Convenient, right?!

Personally, I have been using fresh fruits and vegetables, but frozen ones would work just as well, as I freeze all my bags anyway. You may decide to make your juice bags day by day, which works very well too, but I have found that defrosting them actually helps them to blend better as the fruits with less water content become soggier (delightful description) and make for a smoother result.

However you decide to prepare your bags, here are some tips and tricks to make for better juices:

  1. Don’t pack 1 juice with too much fiber; carrots and apple taste great together, but they both have a relatively low water content compared to other fruits and vegetables – this can make for a fairly thick and claggy drink. Try and combine fibrous fruits and veg with high water content fruit and veg like oranges, strawberries, cucumber or tomatoes.
  2. Think about the colour of your juice. Grouping colour groups is a good way to get an appealing looking juice as well as a hit of one specific vitamin. This means you can use less of each fruit/veg whilst not losing out on the nutritional value and also maximising the flavour.
  3. Your juices can be tailored to suit specific needs. If you are unwell, pack your juice with vitamin C and natural antiviral compounds. Similarly, if you want to reduce fatigue/improve your skin/improve your digestion etc there are many resources online that tell you what ingredients are best suited for each need.
  4. Juices don’t only have to be sweet, they can be savory too! I tend to include naturally sweet veggies in my juices, or compensate for more earthy vegetables such as beetroot by including very sweet fruits in my bags such as pineapple and orange. However, there is no reason why a lunch-time juice could not be made from pure veggies for a low GI punch of nutrients! Think gazpacho..
  5. Mix your juices with coconut water instead of normal water for extra nutrients the easy way! Almond/coconut milk is also good for a non dairy mixer, but it doesn’t go well with all juice combinations (in my opinion). Have a play around with mixers and see what you like. Just try to steer clear of shop bought juice in a carton as they are often full of sugar and made from concentrate.

Super-food Sunday: Watercress

Unbeknown to many, watercress has amazing nutritional value and contains over 15 different vitamins!

The presence of the compound PEITC can ward off the growth of cancer cells and possibly even fight existing cancer cells, research shows. 

It’s also great for the blood, bones and also for the immune system! Watercress contains more calcium than milk, more iron than spinach and four times more beta-carotene and vitamin A than apples, tomatoes, and broccoli, as well as the same amount of vitamin C as oranges.

Futhermore, watercress is a great source of:

  • Fiber
  • Potassium
  • Protein
  • Magnesium
  • Folate
  • Vitamin B6

It also contains the caroetenoids zeaxanthin and lutein, which help to lessen the risk of contracting eye disease. 

Recipe:

The delicate leaves are slightly peppery and the tender stalks have a nice crispness that makes watercress ideal in green salads and egg sandwiches. 

It is best enjoyed raw whilst all the nutrients are trapped inside, but should you wish to cook it, here is a delicious recipe for Watercress Soup

First Subcutaneous Infusion!

Today, I had my first subcut infusion of 8g of immunoglobulins. I’m learning to do them myself so I don’t have to visit the hospital every week!

I say had, but really I mean ‘did’. My nurse was showing me how to do everything and then I had to do it too. Oh my goodness I was SO scared to push the needles in!! I had to put two in, and not knowing how it was going to feel made me so nervous. I was chatting to my nurse who is just lovely, and my mum, and managed to talk about 4 different topics whilst I was half psyching myself up and half getting more wound up about doing it. Eventually I just took a deep breath in and just jabbed the needle into a big pinch of flesh on my stomach…

And guess what?!

IT WASN’T THAT BAD!

I was so relieved, I can’t tell you. 

 

shortly after the infusion started

 
Sadly, once the fluid started going in I experienced severe itching and some discomfort, as well as redness, and have now been left with two big lumps that look like very small breasts either side of just below my belly button – delightful! Initially they were huge, but they have gone down slightly now as it has been 6 hours since my infusion finished. But overall it honestly was nowhere near as bad as I expected and I actually don’t feel too grim either!

some of the remaining swelling

 The whole process took about an hour, including preparing the infusion; i.e drawing the fluid, connecting all the tubes, sorting out the pump and puting the needles in etc, and then also the fluid going in. I don’t feel too bad now – I just have some slight aching in my abdomen and mild burning/pain around the puncture holes. I am waiting to see how I get on over the next few days, as after my first IV infusion I got so sick and have been on antibiotics since! Fingers crossed I feel fighting fit. 
On another positive note, my blood counts are normal!! I have healthy IgG levels and I’m so happy about that! Thank you infusions! Eeek

How many of you have subcut infusions that you do yourself? How did you find it when you first started?

Dealing with ‘it’

It can be very overwhelming when you receive a diagnosis for something that has been affecting your life for a number of years without any explanation. There’s a whole host of emotions you feel, ranging from relief and happiness to despair and loss of hope. For many, a main diagnosis can also be delivered alongside other complications that have been discovered, contributing to a bulk of information that is just thrown at you. It can be very difficult initially to come to terms with it.

For me, initially it was actually very easy to deal with. I dissassociated myself with the condition (CVID) and looked at it from a medical perspective with biological interest. I openly spoke to friends and family, explaining my condition and what it meant, but never really absorbed what it meant for ME, and not just in general.

This meant that the blow came a few weeks later. It all sinks in at once meaning it is very tricky to process.

Of course there is hope, as there is often a treatment plan that can significantly improve your standard of living, maintaining it at almost ‘normal’ level. Also, especially for rare/chronic conditions, you tend to develop a good relationship with your consultant team who are the experts in your condition and the best people to care for you.

It is important to seek support from those closest to you. Bearing in mind it will also be a lot for them to take on too, as you mean a lot to them and they care about you, it’s good to try to support each other in the early stages of treatment. A positive mind can help so much in improving your overall health, irrespective of what is wrong with you, therefore surrounding yourself with positive people is important. Do not spend too much time dwelling on the negative impacts of your condition, but instead look at all the things you can still do and the bright future ahead of you.

Try to research the condition; “knowledge is power” as they say. The more you know, the more you can do to help yourself stay as fit and healthy as possible. There may be specific foods that can help your immune system or act as natural antibiotics/antiviral agents. Also, keeping fit by doing light and regular exercise is not a bad thing – it helps keep your body stay on top form, and also releases endorphins which are hormones that make you feel happy (just what you need when you’re having a bit of a tough time!).

The most important thing to remember is dealing with things like this takes time and affects everybody differently. No matter what you read online about how other people people dealt with their diagnosis, it doesn’t mean it will be the same for you. Just get through the best you can and if you have a bad day health wise or if you’re struggling to cope mentally, just try and make the next day better.

Take it one day at a time.
How do you deal with things? Comment below with tips and stories of your own