Monday, May 14, 2018

Coeliac Disease

Until six months ago, I didn't really know much about coeliac disease. I presumed it was a stomach disorder which had people rushing to the loo.

Then I discovered there was a lot more to it.

I had been in and out of my doctor's surgery so often that they were on the point of inviting me to their Christmas party. My symptoms were many and varied. As well as all my usual back, rib, face, head and joint pain, I also had (still have) other neurological symptoms such as strange tingling sensations and numbness. I felt so tired all the time and I had weird heart palpitations. My doctor was doing her best to try to investigate all my symptoms, then she struck gold. Blood tests came back revealing deficiencies in several nutrients including vitamin B12, phosphate and folic acid. That made her think there was a malabsorption problem and she decided to check for coeliac disease.

I thought surely not. Coeliac involves the stomach. My stomach was fine. Well, kind of fine. I often felt really bloated, but a lot of people are like that. I was always constipated. But I'm on a lot of medication. So, no, surely I couldn't have coeliac disease.

Another blood test revealed that she was probably correct, but I needed further testing. I was sent for an endoscopy, which meant a tube with a camera was put down my throat into my stomach. A biopsy was taken and a few weeks later I had the result that I had severe damage to the lining of my stomach which was caused by eating gluten.

The test had confirmed that I do have coeliac disease.

There are little Christmas tree shaped things called villi on the lining of your stomach which help the body absorb nutrients. My little Christmas trees were flattened, so I'd not been absorbing nutrients. I had a healthy diet, but it wasn't doing me any good. And that was because I ate gluten. And the cure was not to eat gluten.

It was explained that coeliac is an autoimmune disease. The body attacks itself when gluten is in the diet. It can cause stomach problems and malabsorption of nutrients, which can lead to things like osteoporosis and neuropathic problems. And if it goes undetected, it can cause bowel cancer.

Apparently it is a lot more common than people realise. About 1 in 100 people have coeliac disease in this country, but that number may be a lot higher if people don't really have the stomach symptoms, so don't get tested. If someone has it, there is a 1 in 10 chance of a close family member also having it.

Since my diagnosis, I have not intentionally eaten any gluten. That sounds pretty simple - cut out bread, cut out weetabix, cut out biscuits - sorted! No, not quite that simple. Wheat, barley, rye and a few other cereals are the culprits - and they are to be found in so many foods. Sometimes unexpected foods. Like beans, bisto, soup, sausages, corn flakes, crisps, chocolate (yes, chocolate!). I have had to become an expert label reader. Sometimes it's just a 'may contain traces' on the label, but those traces will do damage.

If I go to a restaurant, it's a panic! They often serve gluten free food, but there is normally a disclaimer on their menus about the food being prepared next to non gluten free food, so cross contamination could be a problem. Those are the restaurants that know about coeliac. Other restaurants will say, "don't worry, the gluten's been burned off in the fryer" or "see you folk with your fad diets!" Gluten doesn't burn off and coeliac disease isn't a fad diet.

The cross-contamination issue is a big one. I need a separate toaster for my bread. Separate breadboard. Separate butter. No double dipping the jam or pickle spoon. If I touch my husband's normal bread, I need to wash my hands just in case a crumb makes its way into my mouth. If I accidentally eat a single tiny crumb of glutenous toast, I'm in trouble.

I didn't have stomach symptoms before, but I do now. My little Christmas tree-like villi are starting to recover and are enjoying a gluten free living space. But if the tiniest grain of gluten gets into their happy home, they are not quite so happy and like to let me know fairly quickly.

So looks like this silly yak is on a gluten free diet for the rest of her life.

Monday, September 04, 2017

Under the Weather

On the radio today, there was a discussion about conversation starters with strangers. The 'expert' said that people in the UK often talk about the weather but in other countries they never do, simply because their weather is more consistent. As I was driving in torrential rain at the time, I thought, no, Mr Expert, you have that wrong. Our weather is pretty consistent too. At least, here, in Scotland, it is. It's been consistently bad for a long time. Summer? What summer? We're now into September and it is definitely wintery. Miserable weather. No wonder we talk about it.

I do remember we had two nice days. The problem was I was in hospital and couldn't enjoy them. The sun decided to make an appearance while I was attached to a drip in the Borders General Hospital. I'm not going to complain though, because I had a scenic view and was well looked after. I even received a lovely phone call from afar, which caused great excitement to the staff and other patients as much as myself. The worst part was at night....why are hospitals so noisy at night?

My stay there really wasn't too bad. In fact, I liked it so much that I stayed another night a couple of weeks later. My GP was concerned about my level of post surgery pain, so had me readmitted. Turned out I had a broken rib. And no, I have no idea how I came to have a broken rib.

So, that was my summer taken care of. And now, here we are in September, looking as though we are jumping straight into winter. I'd like autumn. I like autumn colours. Actually, I love autumn colours. I don't want to jump straight into winter.

Sunday, April 16, 2017


I remember after moving here, all the family loved to visit. It was the place to make memories. Paddling in the river. Feeding the ducks. Watching the lambs. Barbecues. Picnics. Easter. Never Christmas, because the weather never complied. (But one year we did Christmas, complete with tree, decorations and turkey in April, just to prove Christmas could be celebrated anytime.)

It was decided that there were no better hills for Easter egg rolling than the hills where I live. One of my favourite memories is when my niece and nephew (and the adults) spent the morning painting boiled eggs. We created masterpieces, but if my memory serves me correctly, my Dad’s was best.

Ian drove up the hill on his quad with the boiled eggs. With my Mum on the back of the quad! Yep, my Mum, in her seventies, on the back of a quad for the first time in her life. She was game for anything. Oh, how I miss her. I have a picture in my head of her that day on the quad…she was loving it. She always put her faith in God. That day she put her faith in my husband instead, and he didn’t let her down. I knew he wouldn’t. I'm sure there is a photo of my Mum on that quad with Ian, but I have searched and searched and can't find it. Maybe there never was one...maybe the picture was only ever in my head. I'm sure this photo was taken the same day.

So the eggs were rolled, the kids ran to get the eggs, but my dog, my lovely Red, chased after the eggs too. He beat the kids. I also have a picture in my head of Red that day, running after those eggs, laughing. He loved to laugh. I stood at the bottom of the hill shouting not to let him have any more eggs. Everyone laughed at me…‘Leave him be…he’s having fun!’ Yes, he is, I thought….but I’d need to live with the result. Oh, our house certainly didn’t smell of roses for the next couple of days.

It was a fun day.

Everything has changed since then. The kids have grown up. I no longer have my Mum. I no longer have my Red. But the memories stay.

I like to remember days like that. I know they won’t happen again, but remembering makes me smile.

Memories are wonderful, aren’t they?

Saturday, April 01, 2017

Just What the Doctor Ordered

A photo taken a few years ago of double rainbow where we live. We took the photo from the house and we were obviously too close to get it in one shot, so I'll have to ask you to use your imagination to join the two photos together, because my attempts at joining them on the computer resulted in mis-aligned hills and jagged rainbows. Not very pretty. 

But how gorgeous is that? I mean, our view is gorgeous already, but when you get a double rainbow like that!! They say there is a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, so we had four ends to choose from that day. We searched. Trust me, we searched. Every nook and cranny of that barn, we searched. Turned it upside-down. Not a pot of gold in sight. Just old sheep's wool and a few hay bales. Was fun searching though!

Trying not to sound all gushy and sickeningly sentimental, I guess the view is my pot of gold. 

And it is what I see every day...obviously without the rainbows. But I do get to look out of my window to this view every single day.

But today, I'm going to have a much closer view though. An up close, under my feet kind of view this morning.

At 5.30, on this glorious April morning, I'm out of bed like a shot. No alarm clock needed to waken me from my slumbers. And I'll not be needing to check the television or computer to see what date it is. I know and I'm just getting on with this. I grab a big bowl of crunchy nut cornflakes, and bite into a nice crisp and crunchy granny Smith apple and I’m all ready and raring to go. I have such a spring in my step these days.

Fix my hair...that doesn't take too long - just half an hour with the straighteners. Then I quickly slap on some make-up. I mean, a girl’s got to look her best, doesn’t she…even 800 metres up the top of a hill! Just never know who you might bump into. Nails were done yesterday…went for a nice sparkly look this time. Just so me! I might actually do a review of nails in another blog sometime. Anyway…hair done, lipstick on, lashes done, bit liner and I think I'm ready to go.

What to wear, what to wear? Girl’s worst nightmare, isn’t it? Well, not a nightmare for me this morning. My favourite outdoor wear - oh, my brand new Berghaus Women’s Extrem 7000 Pro jacket. Snagged it on eBay. Bargain - £280! Couldn’t believe it. Going for a total Berghaus look today with the trousers too. They go so well with my Scarpa Manta Pro walking boots. I broke them in on this very day last year when we climbed Ben Nevis. 
Sun, snow, gale-fore winds, hail, rain….I guess just a typical day in Scotland. Huddled up inside an MSR Hubba Hubba tent, we hardly noticed the below zero temperature at the summit. Brilliant those little tents…well worth the money at four hundred pounds when we bought it. 

Today’s little stroll is more of a doddle though. Hopefully no sub-zero temps, just lovely, fresh cool wind in the face (and some Scotch mist, of course) as I trek across the hills, over to St Mary’s Loch. What a view that is. Just a five mile walk, so not bad at all. Then back again, of course. Flask of tea in my back-pack and a few granola bars should see me through until I get home.

And when I do get home, it's straight to work. Big night planned. Not far to travel though...just down the track to the barn. Yes, same barn we searched for that pot of gold. Barn dance with nice hog roast. Perfect way to end the day. Might even have another look for that wee pot of gold.

It should all be perfect…just what the doctor ordered.

I like to plan things well ahead, so I'm thinking of bungeeing from the Victoria Falls this time next year. No doubt, some people will say I'm a fool, but I know I'm not.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

International Women's Day

A few wee lines to celebrate being a woman in a modern world. At least, here....not every woman is quite so lucky.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Dream Jobs...

Oh, just missed the boat on this one. They've now stopped taking applications.
But I guess it would have been too far from home anyway.
But yes, my dream job.

Chocolate and Cocoa Beverage Taster
for Mondel─ôz International (the company which owns Cadburys)
Key Responsibilities
  • Be able to taste chocolate and cocoa beverage products and give objective and honest feedback. (Definitely)
  • Work within a team of panelists to share opinions and collaborate to reach an agreement on taste. (As long as it's only opinions...I won't share the chocolate!)
  • Use a clearly defined vocabulary to describe products and aid in the discrimination between products. (Mmmmm....will that do?)
  • Be consistent in the results given. (Mmmmm and Mmmmm each time)
  • Know the ethical and legal compliance responsibilities of the position; raise questions and concerns when faced with an ethical or compliance issue; apply integrity in all aspects of professional conduct. (Yes)
  • Chocolate tasters are key in helping Mondel─ôz perfect and launch an entirely new product all over the world. (So I taste chocolate. For lunch. And I'm perfect? Sounds fair enough.)
  • A passion for confectionary and taste buds for detection (My taste buds are the best part of me)
  • Honesty when it comes to giving an opinion (I honestly love chocolate)
  • Eager to try new inventive products (If they're chocolaty, I'm eager)
  • A firm grasp of the English Language (There's only one letter needed when tasting chocolate. Mmmm...)

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Every good voice is needed

I'll keep it simple.

1. I don't understand how Donald Trump became President of the USA.
2. I find some of what he is doing and suggesting disgusting and vile.
3. I worry about my friends and relatives in USA.
4. I worry about the world.

I know there are millions of articles and blogs which are well worth reading, so another from someone like myself probably isn't needed.

Except it is needed.

People around the world need to speak out. And my blog is my voice.

I know people may say, but it doesn't affect you, you don't live in America, so you should just keep quiet. But why should I? If the leader of my country was suggesting some of the things he is suggesting, I would hope other people in other countries would notice and speak up. Besides, what happens in America, affects the rest of the world.

I know people may say, but it doesn't affect you, you're not a Muslim, so why be offended? I am offended because Muslims are people.

I know people may say, but it doesn't affect you, you're not a refugee. Thankfully!! Just thankfully!!

I could go on. I'm white. I live in a country where, at the moment, I have free health care. Where sick, disabled, young and elderly are all looked after. Where the children are entitled to a free and good education.

So why should I bother? Why should I care?

Why not just keep my head down and stay quiet. My life's good. So just forget those whose are not. Forget those people, because it doesn't affect me.

Because they are people. That's why.

That's why my voice needs to be heard.

Because I care about other people.