Vegan Challenge | Day 16 – 20

Two thirds of the way through the challenge and still going strong. This has been a better few days physically, but a harder few days psychologically.

CRAVINGS are back in full force.

Watching my children scoff easter chocolate, and eating with other people, has been hard. Not so much for meat, but oh for delicious dairy…

I am really tired of substitute milks now. Coconut is by far the best (and not too coconut-y, would you believe), but just some normal milk with cereal, or some yoghurt with my breakfast, or a lovely creamy decaf mocha, or something else creamy, or buttery, would be SO GOOD.

The problem is (I think) that most of the dairy stuff I would consume also contains sugar, so I think I’m actually craving sugar deep down.

Anyway, that aside, having the husband do this with me has kept us both on track, even though we’ve both admitted to craving all sorts of things over the last few days.

Physically my eczema seems a little less itchy, and the skin on my face is calming down. Thank goodness.

I’ve actually eaten less fruit and vegetables over the last few days. We’ve gotten lazy and repeated a lot of meals, and I haven’t been having my usual green smoothies.

Makes me wonder if what is aggravating my skin is sugar – not just refined, but also in fruit form (although after a fair amount of personal research the jury is still out on whether I believe fruit sugar is bad for you).

I’ve also been sleeping so much better since cutting out the black tea.

So, after today, just 10 more days to go.

Here’s the food diary:

Day 16

Breakfast
Strawberries, banana, almond milk, muesli. White tea. Half slice bread with vegan spread and marmalade.
Snack
White tea. About a million dark choc mint crisps :-(
Lunch
Green smoothie (pineapple, spinach, cucumber, grape, strawberries). Slice of toast with vegan spread and marmalade. Pistachios. Grapes. Liquorice tea.
Dinner
Tortilla chips with home made guacamole. Pitta bread. Kidney beans, mushrooms, pepper, onion and fajita spice. Lettuce.

Day 17

Breakfast
Home made toasted bread with vegan spread and marmalde. White tea.
Snack
Carrot, cucumber, tomato, water melon, grape. Fruit tea.
Lunch
Two slices home made bread, vegan spread, marmalade. Banana. Pistachios. White tea.
Dinner
Oven chips and shop-bought mexican vegan burgers.
Eczema itching like crazy.

Day 18

Breakfast
Two slices home made bread toasted with marmalade. White tea.
Mid-morning
White tea.
Lunch
Covent garden soup (roasted tomato), bread with vegan spread. 1.5 vegan chocolate bars.
Dinner
Sundried tomato and spinach risotto with pine nuts. Two glasses vegan red wine.

Day 19

Breakfast
Muesli, strawberries, coconut milk. White tea.
Mid-morning
White tea.
Lunch
Peanut butter and raisin sandwich on home made bread, banana, grapes, pistachios. Fruit tea.
Dinner
Pitta bread. Rice. Home made guacamole with tortilla chips. Black beans, mushrooms, peppers, onions, fajita spice. Lettuce. 2 glasses vegan red wine.

Day 20

Breakfast
Two slices home made bread, toasted. Marmalade and vegan spread. White tea.
Mid-morning
Green tea.
Lunch
Covent garden soup (red lentil and tomato), slice home made bread with vegan spread. 3 home made olive oil biscuits (not great). White tea.
Dinner
Home made mushroom massala curry with rice.

Coeliac Disease Home Testing

coeliac

18 months ago, I bought a home blood test for Ceoliac Disease. The test result (positive) is pictured above.

I bought this test two months after my first miscarriage (when trying for baby no.3). I was suffering (and occasionally still do) from digestive complaints – wind, massive bloating, cramps and (TMI) even two occasions of leaking a bit of poo (how horrible!!!!! I can’t even believe I’ve written that down!!!!!).

Anyway, seeing the positive result, I went straight to the doctor and they ordered me a blood test.

Which came back negative.

I was stunned. Not only do I have many of the symptoms, but coeliac disease tends to run in families. My mother has suffered from IBS for years (she has never been tested, but coeliac is often mistaken for IBS) along with a whole host of other immune issues. And her mother suffered osteoporosis (which can be a result of coeliac disease).

Not only that, but coeliac disease is often linked to recurrent miscarriages. My count stands at seven (at no point has anyone suggested coeliac disease might be worth investigating, nor did the doctor I saw think it was relevant).

In fact, my doctor didn’t even want to see me – the receptionist gave me the results and said there was no need to come in and see her.

I guess my digestive problems weren’t considered serious enough to warrant any further action.

What did I do?

I cut right down (but not completely out) on gluten products. We switched pasta out of our meals (we used to eat a lot of it) and included more rice and potatoes. I cut down on bread.

I felt better.

And that’s how things have been for 18 months.

Eating vegan has prompted an increase in gluten and my skin and eczema are now really bad (could be the dark chocolate). I’m full of wind (could be the extra beans) I’m bloated as hell (could be my big ovarian cyst). I just feel so crappy all the time (no, that’s not a medical term, sadly).

But now I’m wondering again.

Why was the home test positive and the doctors test negative?

Is the home test just rubbish?

I’ve read as many reviews as I can on the home tests – many people have got a positive home test and gone on to get a positive test at the doctors.

What is happening in my case?

Why the discrepancy?

I decided to do some research.

The coeliac test I originally used is this one. It tests for:

  • IgA antibodies to tTG (ATA IgA)
  • IgG antibodies to tTG (ATA IgG)

ATA IgA is almost certainly an indicator of coeliac disease. However, coeliacs can be deficient in IgA and produce excessive IgG. The problem is, IgG is not as definitively linked to an immune response to gluten (as far as I understand).

So I was testing for two variables in one test. And I don’t know which was positive.

Maybe my blood test at the doctor only checked IgA?

The doctor is closed for the weekend, so I went out and bought a test for IgA only, so see what the result would be:

coeliac2

Negative!!

So I have no IgA antibodies to tTG.

Logic therefore dictates that I tested positive to IgG antibodies in the first test. This may also explain why the doctors test was negative (to be confirmed).

Next step:

Why would I have raised IgG?

Two possibilities:

  • I am a coeliac with IgA deficiency
  • I am a coeliac with normal IgA levels (some people have a positive biopsy despite a normal blood test)
  • I am not a coeliac. My body is producing an immune response to some other condition or issue (I have long suspected an immune issue, as I mentioned in the antihistamine protocol)

IgA Deficiency

From Medscape: Immunoglobulin A deficiency (IgAD) is defined as an undetectable serum IgA level. In the past, this was usually confirmed with the low-level radial immunodiffusion method (lower limit of detection is 50 mg/mL [5 mg/dL]). However, this test is rarely done in current practice, and results are usually reported as < 0.07 g/L or < 0.05 g/L.

And from coeliac.org.uk: When the laboratory is measuring your antibody level they should also check your total serum IgA to detect IgA deficiency. If you are IgA deficient your GP will need to test you differently for the condition.

So I need access to my blood test results from 18 months ago. That will have to wait until next week.

If I cannot obtain any further confirmation via my doctors, I will try an elimination diet and subsequent gluten challenge.

Vegan Challenge | Day 11 – 15

Half way!

I have found sticking to vegan to be a pretty straightforward process. Because I eat a mainly vegetarian diet anyway, I don’t miss or crave the meat. Eggs I have missed now and again. Butter has been replaced with vegan spread, and I don’t love either, so that was simple. I have given up yoghurt, which I miss. Soy yoghurt tastes like cardboard to me and the popular brands contain all sorts of weird additional ingredients. Finally there is milk. There is one simple place that I have missed my milk: tea.

In order to overcome that I’ve switched to drinking white tea, which is pretty nice to drink (it’s not a British cuppa, but it’ll do). And I have the bonus added side effect of less caffeine, which has definitely helped my restless leg syndrome at night.

So all in all, no problemo.

Now I’m half way through, here are some downsides:

I am not sure that I am really eating any healthier. In fact, I think I might be eating less healthily than I was.

This is because the program (which we have loosely followed) relies on lots of shop-bought items, such as oven chips, veggie burgers, all different kinds of breads, and all different kinds of vegan substitutes (fake meat, milk, butter, yoghurt, eggs, etc). I have an intense distrust of fake foods, so have avoided many of them simply because I find them distasteful and would, for example, rather not eat meat at all than have fake meat. The amount of bread and carbs in general that I eat has gone up hugely over the last two weeks, and I am not feeling great about it. Shop-bought tortillas, and other breads, contain many dubious ingredients that I think we should keep out of our bodies. Before eating vegan I would have made salads, or had lots of boiled veg with feta, goats cheese, or sometimes meat, but instead I am eating carb-heavy options such as chips and tortillas with beans. Salads (for me) need something protein-based to make them into a good meal, but beans (which I have never really liked that much) just don’t do it for me :-(

I am definitely not looking or feeling any better than I was before I started

I’ve had some bad problems with my skin breaking out – which I’ve attributed to vast amounts of dark chocolate. Not only that, but my eczema has been getting progressively worse.

Despite lots of veg and green smoothies, I think the high carb load I’m eating is really affecting me in a negative way. My eczema itches so much at night it is driving me crazy and no amount of cream seems to help. My skin has just been terrible this month too. In fact, my skin is so bad that I haven’t told many people  I’m eating vegan because I’m worried they will look at me and think I am crazy because it is clearly not doing me any good!!

I haven’t weighed in, but I don’t think my weight has changed at all (unlike my husband who has lost almost 5lb since we started).

I am going to try to reduce the carbs over the next two weeks, but in all honesty I think it is carbohydrates that are keeping me full and on-track. Without them maybe I’d be turning to meat, eggs or cheese to fill me up.

So, overall, I’m really not in love with this way of eating.

The nitty-gritty food diary:

Day 11

Breakfast
Muesli, strawberries, oat milk. Tea w/oat milk.
Snack
Green smoothie: mango, spinach, grape.
Lunch
Peanut butter sandwich with vegan spread. Grapes. Tea w/oat milk
Dinner
Home made mushroom curry, poppadoms, homemade peshwari nan, mango chutney

Day 12

Breakfast
Muesli, banana, oat milk. Tea w/oat milk.
Snack
Banana. White tea.
Lunch
Covent garden soup (roasted tomato). Homemade bread with vegan spread. Grapes. Decaf coffee w/coconut cream.
Dinner
Pasta, jar of sauce, chilli powder, spinach, mushrooms, tofu.
Headache all day. Terrible.
Pains in abdomen (back and front of lower ribs). Skin looking slightly better now I’ve stopped dark choc. Eczema really itching.

Day 13

Breakfast
Green smoothie: spinach, cucumber, lime, pineapple, strawberries, water. White tea.
Snack
1.5 bananas, cashews and raisins
Lunch
Chips and pitta and humus at pub, J2O apple mango drink.
Snack
White tea. Large handful raisins.
Dinner
Courgette, mushroom, tofu, pepper, rice noodles, wagamama chilli stir fry sauce.
Headach mild today. Still pain at bottom of ribs all round. Eczema playing up in night, really itching.

Day 14

Slept a bit better last night. Less restless.
Breakfast
Green smoothie: Pineapple, spinach, lime, grapes. Wholemeal home made bread, vegan spread, marmalade. White tea.
Snack
Banana.
Lunch
Covent garden soup (tomato and  roasted pepper), Wholemeal home made bread, vegan spread. Large mango.
Snack
White tea. 2 dark choc mint crisps
Dinner
Mushroom, onion, pepper, black beans. Fajita spice. Pitta bread. Home made guacamole, tortilla chips.

Day 15

Last night best nights sleep in weeks.
Breakfast
Muesli, strawberries, banana, almond milk. White tea.
Snack
White tea. 2 x darkchoc mint crisps
Lunch
Covent garden soup (tomato and roasted red pepper), home made bread and vegan spread. Grapes. Granola bar. Berry tea.
Snack 
Extra large green smoothie: spinach, carrot, cucumber, 1/2 pineapple, water and almond milk. 4 crackers.
Dinner
A lovely sundried tomato and spinach risotto (no cheese or butter!).

Door To Door

17:08

A woman knocks on the door.

I find door-to-door sales really irritating, but these people are just doing their jobs so I am determined to be kind, even if she tries to sell me double glazing.

Hi, I’m doing a survey and I’m looking for a lady…

She chuckles uncomfortably.

Although I’m sure you’re not…

I raise my eyebrows.

She continues:

I don’t mean to be rude…

I blink at her.

She looks awkwardly at me.

I’m looking for a lady who is…

She scans her clipboard and pokes her finger at it

…under 24.

She looks up from her clipboard.

I keep my smile fixed in place, although it is even less genuine now than when I opened the door.

No, I’m not.

No… no… I didn’t think you were…

She is shaking her head and walking away, smiling sadly.

I take my rictus grin back inside and shut the door gently.

Other People’s Opinions

You know what the hardest thing about moving on from having another baby is?

It’s the fact that there are people out there who will be proved “right” and who will believe it’s “all for the best”.

These are the people who never understood why we would want another baby in the first place.

Those same people would have loved another baby if one had come along, which makes it even worse.

I have sold the cot, and the double buggy. I have even toyed with the idea of selling all the other baby items we have left in the loft.

I am, in all honesty, feeling ambivalent about the third baby thing.

Mostly, at the moment, I genuinely have no desire to try again. I really don’t mind how long it takes for my cycle to resume, for the bleeding to stop, or for this cyst to resolve, because I’m not on any kind of schedule any more. All of those things are handily preventing me from having to think about it. And that is a relief.

I think I’d kind of reached acceptance of the end of the journey before my last pregnancy, and this latest miscarriage has only strengthened that feeling.

But those doubters.

Those people who are secretly glad we failed. I hate the fact that they have been proven “right”. And these are people who are (supposedly) close to us. They aren’t people we can cut out of our lives.

I don’t know how to manage this part of the journey.

And part of me hates them for their thinking. For the fact they believe that what we have been through, all the losses and tears and broken dreams, are somehow “the right thing in the end”.

How can everything that has happened to us be “all for the best”? Anyone that believes that is surely not someone that cares for us or our dreams.

Vegan Challenge | Day 4 – 10

I have been so busy over the Easter holidays, so this is a quick summary. The Vegan Challenge is still going strong!

In summary, days 4-10 were about finding my feet. I ate way too much sugary stuff and snacked like crazy on dark chocolate.

I came out in a rash of awful spots by day 9 – probably the worst since before I was married, six years ago.

Also, I was sleeping terribly. Every night I woke up and was so restless I tossed and turned for ages without being able to get back to sleep. On the plus side I was feeling OK in the daytime, so my energy levels were pretty good.

I’m still not sure if all this was just a reaction to way too much sugar and dark chocolate, or a detox symptom after 39 years of eating dairy foods.

On day 8 of the plan that we are loosely following, there was no suggested dinner option, which left me feeling a little bit lost.

On day 10 I discovered white tea. After 10 days on black tea with various “milks” (coconut, oat, rice), I had to find an alternative. Black tea is just so bitter without milk. Green tea is not much better (in my opinion), but I bought some white tea after remembering I’d read about it years ago. It is steamed and dried (rather than being fermented or partially fermented like black or green tea). Oh wow – such a lovely delicate drink. No bitterness and no milk required :-)

All-in-all though, it was pretty easy to stay vegan and my initial cravings for milk/cream/yoghurt/ice-cream subsided quite quickly after the first few days.

Day 4

Breakfast
Muesli, prunes, coconut milk. Tea w/coconut milk. 30g dark choc with mint.
Snack
30g dark mint choc
Lunch
Peanut butter sandwich. 2 home-made oaty bars. Tea w/coconut milk
Snack
Banana, 3 home-made oaty bars!
Dinner
Lovely mushroom curry!!! (I used this recipe)

Day 5

Breakfast
Muesli, coconut milk, prunes. Tea w/ coconut milk
Lunch
Peanut butter sandwich on home made bread. Oaty bar. Tea w/coconut milk. 2 squares dark choc
Early Dinner
Tortilla, fajita spiced beans, rice, 1/2 little gem. Home made guacamole.
Evening snack
Two poppadoms and mango chutney. Cornflakes and coconut milk (I was craving non-vegan food, so eating just to stop the cravings here)

Day 6

Breakfast
Muesli, prunes, coconut milk. Tea w/ coconut milk
Lunch
Covent garden soup (quinoa, bean, chilli, lime). Home made bread, vegan spread. Handful grapes. Vegan tiffin. Couple squares dark choc.
Dinner
Oven chips, shop-bought vegetable quarter pounder, salad.

Day 7

Breakfast
Muesli, rice milk, strawberries. Tea w/rice milk.
Lunch
Covent garden soup (tomato, pea, lentil), home-made bread, vegan spread. Vegan tiffin. Tea w/rice milk. Few raisins. Several squares dark choc.
Snack
Handful of nuts.
Dinner
Mushroom and green lentil risotto.

Day 8

Breakfast
Muesli, strawberries, rice and oat milk. Tea w/ oat milk.
Snack
2 vegan tiffin. 60g dark choc
Lunch
Covent garden soup (tomato, pea, lentil), home-made bread, vegan spread. Grapes.
Dinner
Chickpea chilli and rice

Day 9

Breakfast
Muesli, strawberries, oat milk. Tea w/oat milk.
Snack
50g dark choc
Lunch
Leftover chilli and green salad, orange juice.
Dinner
Oven chips, shop-bought vegetable burger, with ketchup, salt and vinegar. Large glass of white wine (almost certainly not vegan).

Day 10

smoothie

Breakfast
Leftovers smoothie: 2 small mango, 6 strawberries, 1/2 courgette, 1/2 lime, 3 large romaine lettuce leaves, 200ml water. Tea w/oat milk.
Lunch
Peanut butter and raisin sandwich. Handful grapes. Banana.
Snack
Smoothie: spinach, 1/3 pineapple, 1/2 mango, handful grapes, 200ml water. Organic white tea. Half dozen strawberries. Few nuts and raisins.
Dinner
Roast potatoes, shop-bought vegetable burger, salad. Mixer sized bitter lemon drink.

The Loft Is Done

loft2

I have cleared out the loft, hurrah!

The loft now contains:

  • suitcases
  • christmas stuff
  • empty boxes for more expensive in-use items (we always save these in case we sell the item at a later date)
  • a collection of baby things
  • some framed photos (once the house is decluttered I have a photo wall project I want to do)
  • my sewing machine
  • some of hubby’s bits and bobs
  • a box of our wedding memorabilia
  • tax paperwork
  • the pedestal for the bathroom sink (long story. the bathroom has been half-finished for about 6 years)

Hmm. Actually, that’s still quite a long list, but considering how much space we have up there it doesn’t feel cluttered at all.

Everything is stacked neatly and labelled where necessary, and it feels AMAZING.

It hasn’t been this clear and tidy at any point in the entire 7 years we have lived here.

The weird thing is, I can’t even see it when I’m just pottering around the house, but I feel SO much better for knowing that it’s done.

Hidden clutter is maybe the most emotionally draining of all.

loft1

Just for comparison, here’s how it looked when I started:

loft

I’m working from the top down, so next is the upstairs of the house.

I’ll probably start with the boys room, as that’s an easy win.

The Last Sanitary Towel in The House

I went shopping yesterday and one of my top priorities was to buy (yet more) sanitary towels.

Somehow I didn’t write that down (cause you can’t really forget when you’ve been bleeding for 29 days, right?).

Somehow I didn’t pick them up in the supermarket, and somehow I didn’t remember that I’d forgotten until I got out of bed this morning and reached into the drawer for a new one.

One lone towel stared back at me from the otherwise empty pack.

I remembered I had forgotten to buy them, sighed, and decided I’d pick some more up on our way out this morning.

I peeled the adhesive back off the last remaining sanitary towel, popped it in my pants and went straight into the bathroom. I sat down for a wee and somehow as I sat down the towel pinged out of my pants and flipped straight down the toilet.

And I thought 2014 was gonna be my year.

A Teeny Bit of Good News

My ultra-sensitive pregnancy test this morning was a snowy white negative.

Hurrah!

At least that part of things is now sorted out.

Also my mum came over today and looked after the boys while I had a bath. She watched them in the garden while I made lunch, even though they bickered and shouted. She then came to the supermarket with me and bought them both a toy while I got some food in. She was generally brilliant.

Those that know me will know how incredibly out of the ordinary this is.

But even weirder is how this suddenly happened, on a day when I needed it most, while I was slobbing around in my dressing gown, in a dirty house being a miserable, shouty, picky mum.

A couple of weeks ago I made a difficult, conscious choice to stop blaming my parents for my childhood and to just accept that they did the best they could at the time.

I have a half-written post about forgiveness, and my relationship with my parents, that I’ve been meaning to finish. It explains a lot more than I can write now.

I don’t know about karma, but today, to suddenly have a mum that looked out for me, has made more difference than she will probably ever realise.

Ovarian Cyst Update

I went back to the gynae ward today.

It has gotten to the point where I know many people by name and the faces of pretty much everyone. They smile and say “Hello Rose…” in sympathetic voices as I walk past.

When I spoke to them on Monday about the fetal test results they booked me in for a scan because I mentioned I was experiencing some discomfort over the weekend, especially when driving, on the side of my 6cm ovarian cyst.

They explained on the telephone that it was a haemorrhagic cyst, which is filled with blood from a small blood vessel leaking after an egg is released (I ovulated?? Was my first thought). They wanted to check up on it.

However, after a second look today the consultant said it looks less like a haemorrhagic cyst and more like a dermoid cyst, as there seems to be “tissue” in the centre.

Its diameter is half a centimetre larger than it was 5 days ago.

A dermoid cyst is one of those crazy things that grows teeth, bone, skin and hair inside it. They come from the overactive cells of an unfertilised egg.

Ew.

I find it oddly compelling to look at pictures of these things on the internet. It is so amazing that they can grow body parts inside them so quickly (three weeks ago both of my ovaries were normal, with no cysts at all. Hell, four weeks ago I had a living baby growing inside me).

Anyway, that aside, here are some stats from my research:

  • dermoid cysts usually require surgical removal
  • 57% of surgeries result in removal of just the cyst, the rest remove the ovary, and occasionally the uterus too
  • 1-3% turn malignant (ovarian cancer), the chances of which increase dramatically with age and when post-menopause
  • 3-5% result in ovarian torsion (surgical emergency where the ovary becomes twisted and the blood supply is cut off)
  • it is rare for them to rupture
  • they are common in women of reproductive age (20-40, so I just about fit in that category) and generally benign

I’m sitting here this evening gulping sipping a very cold glass of white wine. A rare treat for me.

This body of mine is starting to feel like a stranger.

The body I’ve relied on all my life, which I thought I knew, faults and all, now rejects babies and grows shit I don’t need.

Or maybe it is trying its absolute hardest to comply with what I want, but it just can’t do it. For reasons that I may never know.

I have wondered if I should be feeling annoyed and upset that there is no chance of trying for a baby any time soon, but strangely, that doesn’t even seem important at the moment.

I am to return in eight weeks time and they will decide whether or not I need surgery.