Staying Gluten Free and Dairy Free in Italy

When people think of Italy one of the first things they probably think of (after Rome, Venice, Florence etc) is the food.

If you are like me and have to be mindful of what you eat (especially gluten and dairy) you might be a bit apprehensive about travelling to and eating out in Italy – oh hello there pizza, pasta and gelato!  Normally when I travel I like to stay somewhere with a kitchen so that I can cook at least one or two meals a day.  So I was a little nervous myself about my three week honeymoon as we were going to be staying in hotels (not a kitchen in sight).  But travelling around Italy was a lifelong dream trip and I was determined to make it work.  And do you know what?  It wasn’t too difficult navigating my dietary restrictions.

We stayed in three places – Malcesine in Lake Garda, Rome and then Sorrento.

Breakfast

We were lucky in that a buffet breakfast was provided in each hotel.  The breakfast in Malcesine (Hotel Castello) was nothing short of amazing.  Along with the usual breakfast fare (cereals, breads, cakes, crepes which I don’t eat) they also had fresh fruit, eggs of different types (hard-boiled, scrambled, omelettes, fried), salad, a wide range of deli meats and even prawns! They had a great variety of individually packaged gluten free products such as breads, biscotti, breadsticks, museli and freshly made cake too.  One of the breads on offer was not only gluten-free but also dairy and egg free too!  While I normally steer clear of gluten free products for the most part as they’re usually quite processed I did have some of the gluten free/dairy free bread and I was impressed!

While the buffet breakfast in the hotel in Sorrento was pretty similar but not quite as good (the gluten free offering consisted of white bread and biscuits), the breakfast in the hotel in Rome wasn’t great (tinned fruit yikes!).  Luckily there was a health food shop NaturaSi just up the road from the hotel there where I was able to pick up organic fruit, coconut yogurt, coconut milk and some on-the-go snacks.  As we had a mini fridge in our room I could leave the yogurt and milk in there which was handy.  There are a number of these health food stores around Rome so if you are looking for one, they’re a great option.


Snacks and Lunch

I didn’t come across any health food shops in Lake Garda or Sorrento but the supermarkets had a wide variety of fresh produce, gluten free products and milk alternatives such as almond, rice and coconut.  There was a pharmacy in the main square in Sorrento (Farmacia Farfalla) that actually had a free-from section full of gluten-free, dairy-free, and sugar-free products and healthy snacks so I managed to pick up a few things there too.

For the most part, lunch usually consisted of salads – either in a café or bought from the local supermarket.  Most places offered sandwiches or pizza’s for lunch and a small range of salads but a lot of these weren’t both gluten AND dairy free so I actually found lunches the most difficult meal.   I found the safest options when eating out were tuna salads with minor modifications or prosciutto and melon.  I was surprised that chicken salads weren’t offered on a lot of menus, however I found a lovely place in Malcesine (Osteria Santo Cielo) that had a delicious grilled chicken and orange salad.  My own salads from the supermarkets usually consisted of a bowl of leaves, cucumber, olives and olive oil with prosciutto or tinned sardines or mackerel.  And on days when we were out and about, I’d have snacks on hand like fruit and some fruit and coconut bars or I’d pop into a deli and get some fresh slices of prosciutto.  Gelateria Cristallo in Riva had a wide selection of gluten free pizzas, pastas and sandwiches as well as vegetarian and vegan options and green juices and smoothies.

Dinner

Eating dinner out gluten and dairy free was actually fine.  A lot of restaurants had allergen menu’s and the waiting staff usually had very good English.  I’m a meat/fish and two veg kinda girl anyway so I usually chose the grilled fish or meat (fried may have posed a problem as they tend to coat stuff in flour) with a side of grilled vegetables or mixed salad.  But I ALWAYS said to the waiting staff  that I was gluten and dairy intolerant.  I used “senza gluten and senza lattosio” a lot in case they didn’t understand my English fully!!  I’ve been stung too many times with a menu that doesn’t explain properly what’s in a dish.

Most restaurants had a very very similar menu with the same dishes on it – antipasti, first course (pasta), second course (meat/fish), pizza, side dishes and desserts and you can pick and choose what you want (i.e. you don’t have to order a first AND second course).

Finding gluten free pizza and pasta was easy as most restaurants offered it.  What I found hard was getting gluten free pizza or pasta which was dairy free and also tomato free so I usually didn’t go for this option and stuck with my fish/meat and veg.  But I wanted to try pasta while in Italy so when I saw a restaurant in Sorrento that advertised themselves as gluten free on their signage I thought that it might be the place.  They said they made their own gluten free pasta in the restaurant and I found a dairy-free and tomato-free option on the menu (lemon, basil and green olive) so went with that.  It was an EPIC fail!  The sauce was gloopy and oily and it didn’t look appetising at all.  I ate about a quarter of it and decided to leave it.  Unfortunately I was pretty sick the next day.  I’d like to think it was the sauce that didn’t agree with me but I didn’t chance any other gluten free pasta dishes on my trip.

Restaurants in Lake Garda:

Hotel Castello in Malcesine (may have been our favourite dinner which included a thunder and lightning show over the Lake)
Ristorante Italia da Nikolas (we went here twice – the grilled salmon cutlet was really good and eating right on the lake was great)
Restaurant La Pace and Osteria Al Vecchio (5) where I had the grilled octupus.
Bar Pizzeria Da Pedro (I had grilled swordfish and polenta).

Restaurants in Rome:

Brillo (2) near the Spanish Steps – A cool restaurant just off the shopping street. I had lamb chops with a red onion marmalade – delicious.
TED Lobster and Burgers (6) in Prati near the Vatican – When we were craving something other than Italian food.  I had a burger on leaves with salad.
Cul Du Sac (7) near Piazza Navona – A real traditional Italian restaurant where I had salmon and veg cooked in paper. Worth the wait.
La Soffitta Renovatio (4) in Prati district – I had veal covered in prosciutto and sage which I’m definitely going to try to replicate at home as it was so so tasty.

Restaurants in Sorrento:

Ristorante L’Abate (1) just off the main square – I had grilled squid which was lovely but the boiled veg was boiled within an inch of its life!
Ristorante O’Murzill.  Gorgeous tiny little restaurant with the red and white checkered table cloths and great customer service.  We liked it so much we went twice.  Once I had the lamb chops and the second time I had grilled fish.  But what I liked most was the grilled vegetables which were done to perfection with a hint of herbs and garlic.  So so good!!
Restaurant Da Gigino (3).  Another place we went to twice.  They made their own gluten free rolls which were still hot when they came to me.  I had roast chicken one time and then grilled fish and salad the next.  The restaurant has its own cookbook and I can see why.
Le Grazie.  Probably the best grilled salmon I had on the whole trip.  Crispy but not dry.
Ristorante O’Parrucchiano.  We ate out on the terrace under the lemon trees and fairy lights.  Super pretty.  I opted for lamb and broccoli florets.  I preferred the romantic atmosphere to the food but it wasn’t bad.

Gelato

I couldn’t get over how many gelato shops there were and that people were eating it morning, noon and night.  Most places offered a dairy free option but not all so I definitely asked.  The dairy free options were usually fruit based flavours or sometimes the dark chocolate flavour. I pretty much had some every day of the trip (when in Rome…).  Some of my favourite places were:

Cento Per Cento in Malcesine right beside the Castle.  They had vegan offerings too and stayed open until 11pm.

In Rome, Wonderful Ice Cream (2) was great and Grom in Verona was amazing.  Grom have outlets all around Italy and actually internationally too.  They have a great menu for those with intolerances.  I got the blueberry sorbet in there and it felt like I was just eating frozen blueberries – so good!

In Sorrento I loved Raki (3) which is award-winning and I can see why, Gelateria Primavera (5) which had an amazing selection and We Love Puro (4).

So eating out in Italy was much easier than I expected.  While I relaxed some of my normal restrictions and ate some foods that I wouldn’t eat much of at home (such as nightshade vegetables, nuts, gluten free products and dairy free gelato etc.) I still was able to stick to gluten free and dairy free with relative ease.  I learnt that I can probably tolerate some foods much better than before and that it could be more of a case of having a tolerance threshold now (can have some but not a lot).  I’m so glad I had my Crohn’s surgery when I did as I don’t think I would have enjoyed my honeymoon as much!!!

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How I’ve Been Managing Stress During A Very Busy Year

Tips for managing stress

It’s been a pretty busy (and somewhat stressful) few months for me with getting over major surgery, working full time, studying part-time, doing exams and planning a wedding!  I’m a stresser/worrier by nature anyway so having everything come at once has been at times overwhelming.  But I know that stress can be inflammatory and I didn’t want to encourage a Crohn’s flare especially with my wedding and honeymoon coming up so I needed to be extra proactive in managing stress over the last few months.

I thought I’d share some tips that have been helping me handle this busy time and hopefully keeping stress at bay.

Prioritise

I’ve had to learn to prioritise what’s most important at a particular moment in time and realise that usually something’s gotta give.  For me certain things needed to take a back seat over the last while like this blog and social media.  Which brings me on to….

Let It Go

I’ve had to accept the fact that I can’t do everything (which has been hard).  I’ve had to let go of thoughts of managing everything myself and that it’s alright to leave some things to the side and to also delegate.

Talk it Out

A problem shared is a problem halved.  Rather than bottling stuff up, I made sure to talk about any stresses and worries.  I’ve been going to talk therapy for a number of years and it’s times like these that I really appreciate it and see the benefit.

Sleep

Sleep has been a huge priority for me.  I can handle so much more after a decent night’s sleep so I’ve been adopting good sleep hygiene practices – consistent bed time routine, no devices, using amber glasses to read, keeping the room cool, breathing exercises etc etc.

Nutrition

Stress can deplete the body of many nutrients so I’ve been conscious of eating a wide variety of nutritious food (especially colourful fruits and vegetables for the extra vitamin and mineral hit).  I’ve also been making sure to include plenty of anti-inflammatory foods every day (like ginger, turmeric, oily fish, green tea).

Supplements

To boost my nutrition, I’ve been taking a good quality multi-vitamin, Vitamin D, a good quality pro-biotic for digestive health and a mix of B vitamins and magnesium to help my nervous system.

Get Outside

I’ve made sure to get exercise every day that I can.  And since it’s summer I’ve tried to get outside as much as possible.  Exercise like walking and yoga really relieve stress for me and the added sunshine and fresh air boost my mood.

Breathe

While I would love to say I’ve meditated every day I have to confess that I just haven’t built in a practice into my daily routine.  However, I make sure to stop at moments throughout the day and check in to how I’m doing – am I holding tension anywhere? is my mind racing? – and take a moment or two to get present and breathe a few deep breaths and tell myself everything is figureoutable.

Take a Break

I’ve made a point of meeting up with friends and NOT talking about what’s going on with me but listening to what’s going on with them.  I found it has given me a little perspective.  It can be very easy to get caught up inside my own bubble where I’m ruminating on to-do lists etc.  It’s good to know that there’s life outside wedding planning, exams and Crohn’s.

I’ve also tried to make sure myself and fiancée take a break at the weekend – whether it’s a date night, a long walk or brunch – we make sure to do something nice to get out and about and leave the wedding planning behind.

I don’t think any of these tips are reinventing the wheel but they’ve been helping me and you may find them of help if you are going through a busy / stressful period yourself.  If you’ve any tips yourself I’d love to hear them.

My Surgery Experience: Small Bowel Resection

My Surgery Experience

 

Warning:  This is a long blog post but I wanted to give an account of my surgery experience.  Before going in for surgery I didn’t find much on people’s experiences on the internet so I thought posting this might help someone who was facing their first bowel resection surgery and doesn’t know what to expect.  Hopefully it’ll give a little insight.

Day Before Surgery

I had thought there’d be prep the day before surgery (like prepping for a colonoscopy) but I was pleasantly surprised that no prep was involved and all I needed to do was fast (no food or drinks) from midnight the night before surgery.  I hadn’t really been given any guidance on eating after the surgery (what could I eat, when etc) so I tried to enjoy eating (from the small range of food I could manage to eat) while I still could.   Went to bed at my usual time but drank more water than usual and between that and my nerves, I was up and down most of the night.

Day 1 – The Day of Surgery

I was told to be at the hospital for 7.30am and I was expecting to be hanging around and waiting for most of the day.  It was hard not being able to drink anything when I woke up especially as my mouth was extra dry from nervousness.

I checked in upon arrival and within a few minutes I was brought in to see a junior doctor who went through a questionnaire to get all my details, I had to give a urine sample and bloods were taken.  I was then told to get changed into a surgical robe and I’d be taken down to theatre.

It came as a bit of a shock that I was going down to theatre so early and as I said goodbye to my fiancée I did get a little upset.  I’ve never had surgery or been put under general anaesthetic before.  I was totally going into un-charted territory and I was scared.  As much as the surgeon and hospital staff were nice, nobody really went through what would happen to me in much detail.

I said my goodbye’s and headed down to the theatre holding area where I was put in a bed.  There were a few other people in this holding area who I guess were also going for various surgeries.  Various doctor’s/nurses came over to me to insert needles etc.  I remember asking if I could be knocked out before going into the theatre as I didn’t want to see or hear any discussions of my surgery at that stage.  The way I saw it, there was no going back now.  They said they couldn’t knock me out before going into the theatre but they would do it as soon as we got in there.  And just like that we were off into theatre.  I remember looking up at the big surgery lights above my bed and seeing a number of nurses / surgeons around my bed.  But the last thing I remember is putting a mask on and true to his word I was knocked out pretty quickly.

Next thing I know I’m waking up, very drowsy.  I sort of make out my surgeon at the side of my bed and he’s talking to me but I’m not taking in a lot of it.  From his expression, he seems pleased. Then he was gone and I was left with the orderly’s.   I remember being wheeled to my room which was a bit of a trek as while my operation was in the public hospital, my room was in the private (with an underground tunnel in between the two).

My fiancée arrived shortly after me and let me know that he spoke with the surgeon.  He said that they took out just over a foot of intestines but it wasn’t the terminal ileum like they thought from the MRI, it was an area higher up in the intestines.  This made me hugely relieved.  I was petrified of losing the terminal ileum as getting this section out can mean trouble with bile salt reabsorption (and therefore potentially lots of diarrhoea) and b12 absorption.

I remained quite drowsy for the day and pretty much just snoozed.  I had a catheter in so I didn’t have to get up to use the bathroom and it wasn’t as awful as I thought it was going to be.  I barely felt it to be honest.   I had a number of needles in my hand and arm and I was hooked up to drips and monitors and had oxygen in my nose.  I wasn’t put on pain medications for about an hour after arriving in my room and out of 10, I’d say the pain was a 9.  But once they gave me a shot in the abdomen and an anti-nausea injection I started to feel better.

Later they hooked me up to a morphine pump but I didn’t need it too much.  The worst thing I remember that first day is having a very very dry mouth and gasping for some water but not being allowed any.  They gave me this gel to moisten my mouth which was better than nothing but was awful.

By the evening time I was allowed sip on some water.  Water never tasted or felt so good!!  The pain in my intestines started to kick in but the pain in my left shoulder was actually worse. I had heard that bloating could be really bad from trapped air as they pump your intestines full of air but I don’t think I ever heard about it being trapped in shoulders.  But seemingly it can be quite common.  I was given heat pads which relieved the pain as did a few pumps of morphine.

I was very weak which made it hard to move in the bed but I made sure to move legs as even though I still had my surgical socks on I didn’t want any chance of clots happening.

I slept with the back of the bed up so it was like I was sitting up.  A nurse came in a number of times during the night to take my temperature, blood pressure etc.

Day 2

This morning I was allowed a cup of green tea.  I thought I would have been starving at this stage but I was happy enough just to be allowed have liquids again.

I was visited by the physio who got me to some breathing exercises.  I think the point of the exercises was to stop the lungs filling up with fluids.   After I had my bloods taken in the morning I felt a bit nauseous but the feeling passed.  I was tender in the stomach area and the pain in my shoulder was still there.

The surgeon came to visit and told me about the surgery.  He said it went better than had imagined and other than the part of the intestine they took out, the rest of my intestines were pristine!  He showed me a photo of the section he removed and where it was distended and strictured.  It looked huge!  I couldn’t believe he had taken that out of me.  He didn’t know how anything could pass through that section of the bowel as it was so bad and how I managed it for so long.  He said that it was old scarring.

Two nurses brought me to have a wash and freshen up which was lovely.  I wish I had brought a night-shirt rather than just PJ’s as I would have been able to change into it but as I still had the catheter in I had to keep the surgical robe on.

I was encouraged to get up and walk around a little and to keep my legs moving.  I sat out for a good bit of the afternoon and evening.  It was sore getting out of the bed and I needed help (and a few pumps of morphine) but it felt good not to be in bed.   By the evening I was allowed some broth I had brought in and jelly.  Unfortunately the jelly was the hospitals radio-active, full-of-sugar version but I was so hungry I ate it even though it tasted very artificial.

The pain in my left shoulder was pretty bad and I found it hard to breathe.  The nurses gave me heat pads which helped relieve it.  Again I was woken up numerous times during the night for temperature and blood pressure readings but I don’t think it was quite as often as the previous night.

Day 3

I got the catheter taken out early and was able to get into my PJ’s.  I was able to get up and get to and from the bathroom which was good as I had to measure my first bladder output in a jug.

This morning the catering staff brought me in a menu.  They didn’t explain anything to me about it – what I could have or couldn’t have etc.  I had a read and couldn’t believe it.  Options for breakfast included Cornflakes, fruit salad crackers, options for lunch included roast lamb, herb roast potatoes and lemon slice with custard and options for tea included chicken and mushroom pie and prawn salad.  Surely this wasn’t correct.  When they came back in to take it from me, I asked them if they were sure that menu was for me…. to which they replied ‘yes, it’s gluten free!’.  I had to ask again “Surely this menu isn’t for somebody who had major bowel surgery less than three days ago?”.  She took the menu and said she’d ask the nursing staff.

She came back in a few minutes later with a different menu with light low residue options.  I often wonder if I hadn’t said anything if they would have given me food from that initial menu.  I’m sure there’s a lot of people who may not have questioned it.

This new menu had a lot of white and beige food – white bread/toast, eggs, boiled chicken, white fish, boiled potatoes etc.  I actually couldn’t believe that I was actually going to be allowed to eat food.  I had thought I’d be on a liquid diet for weeks after the surgery.  I know it was low fibre food but still… it was actual food.

My first breakfast consisted of gluten and dairy free white toast together with a bowel of broth and a coconut yogurt from home.  It was brilliant that I could bring in food and store it in the fridge.  I didn’t manage the full yogurt as I found it quite heavy but I did manage the toast and the broth.  For lunch I had a plain piece of plaice and for dinner I had two poached eggs.  And I had plenty of liquids.

I spent most of the day out of the bed.  I was encouraged to get up and walk around so my fiancée took me on a couple of very slow laps of the floor of the hospital.  I’m not used to going so slow and being so tired after a short amount of exertion.

For the first time since the surgery I passed wind.  I saw this as a good sign.

Day 4

The surgeon came in early to see how I was doing.  He was happy with my progress.  He said we just needed to see what happens when I had a bowel movement.

I had a lot of visitors today and walked a lot.  I also managed to have three bowel movements.  They were as you’d imagine for not going for four days.  They were pretty normal though which surprised me and no diarrhoea.

All the needles were taken out today.

I started to feel a little off by the end of the day and my back was sore from the surgery or from sitting or lying in the bed.  I started to use the heat pads for my lower back.

Day 5

The surgeon came in this morning.   He was delighted with the bowel movements.  He said that if I continued that way I could possibly go home within the week.  I couldn’t believe it.

I was dizzy, light-headed, nauseous and tired though.  I probably overdid it the previous day.  I had a visitor in the morning and I just couldn’t muster the energy to engage in a lot of chat.  I felt crap and she even said that I looked quite pale.  I just wanted to curly up on my chair.  Every other day people were saying they couldn’t believe how well I looked etc but this day I felt and looked like shite.

Later though two nurses brought me in to have a shower and wash my hair.  They gave me anti-nausea tablets which helped a lot and I definitely perked up after those.

A dietician called in to see me in the afternoon.  She said to follow a low fibre diet for a few weeks and then slowly introduce new foods every two days or so.

My back was still sore but the heat packs helped.  My wound was pretty sting-y.  It was checked out and I was put on antibiotics in case it was an infection.

I tried sleeping with the bed a bit flatter tonight.  It’s hard to know which makes it more comfortable.

Day 6

The surgeon came in – he wasn’t too concerned with the wound and said that if I had a bowel movement today I could go home tomorrow.  Had bowel movement.  A little hard to pass but formed.  Had shower and washed hair by myself and could definitely walk faster.

Day 7

I’m allowed home at lunch time.  Much quicker than expected.  The surgeon didn’t think my wound was infected but that I was actually having a reaction to the dressing.  So they put me in a different dressing and took me off my medication and I didn’t have to go back on my immunosuppressant drug either.  And with a bit of paperwork etc I was on my way home at.

Overall, I don’t think the experience was as bad as I thought it was going to be.  The staff were lovely, my hospital room was top notch and I felt I received great care.

In an upcoming blog, I’ll give an update about recovering at home and what life is like now months after the operation.

Health Update: Why I Elected For Surgery

Wow, it’s been a while since I wrote a post and a lot has happened in the last few months including bowel resection surgery for my Crohn’s.  I wanted to do a post about why I chose to have the surgery as it definitely wasn’t an easy decision to make.

Last year I wrote about meeting with a surgeon in early 2016 who wanted to take out over 30cm of my ileum including the ileocecal valve and then do stricture-plasty in about five other places. This came as a shock as I always thought I had a mild case of Crohn’s and that eventually the inflammation and disease would go away once I got the diet and lifestyle stuff figured out.  But even though I had been doing everything ‘right’, the scar tissue from previous flares and inflammation had gotten worse.

What I was most concerned about was the removal of the ileocecal valve.  It’s a valve between the small and large intestine that makes sure there’s no back flow from the large intestine into the small amongst other things.  This can lead to SIBO (there’s nothing to keep bacteria out of the small intestine) and chronic diarrhoea.

In a bid to avoid surgery I underwent Clear Passage therapy (read about my experiences here and here) but unfortunately it didn’t have the outcome I wanted and flash forward to January this year when I found myself sitting in front of a surgeon again (this time a different one to get a second opinion) who basically told me the same story as the previous surgeon had the year before.

This time I was more prepared for the conversation and basically my symptoms had gotten to the stage where I couldn’t ignore them anymore.  The scope of foods that I could eat without causing bloating, distention and fermentation had whittled down to basically nothing – well cooked meats, fish and low residue veggies and green juices.  Fruits had become a no-go area (apart from maybe half a very ripe banana) as had raw vegetables.  I was worried about most meals but eating out or at family events had become nearly impossible.  I remember heading home early from a Christmas dinner out with my friends and having the worst bloating and pains.  Another time I went to my in-law’s for Sunday dinner and I just sipped on warm water while everybody else tucked into their roast.  I lied and said that I had met a friend for a late lunch but really I just didn’t want to risk eating anything I hadn’t prepared myself.   I missed out on a trip to New York as I was afraid that flying would put pressure on my intestines and they’d perforate.  I used to bring a hot water bottle or hot pack into work and college to easy my tummy pains when I was distended or experiencing spasms.  The effects of the internal scarring was so bad that I actually couldn’t even drink a cup of tea without hearing and feeling the liquid gurgling its way through my system.

What really sealed the deal for me was going to see my wedding band one evening doing a show-case and being doubled-over with stomach pains.  I just thought to myself that I didn’t want to feel this bad on my wedding day and that life shouldn’t be this miserable.

While it was a very tough decision to make and some part of me felt like a bit of a failure (surely I should have been able to ‘fix’ myself through diet and lifestyle), I felt that I had given the natural route the best shot – diet, lifestyle, Clear Passage therapy – and I was ready for surgery.  I had a good rapport with the new surgeon and while nervous about what was to come I felt it was worth the risk as I couldn’t continue living life as I was.

In my next post I’ll discuss my experience of the surgery and what life is like now!

I went to Clear Passage with a number of issues – strictures from Crohn’s, lack of periods, low nutritional absorption, SIBO, fatigue, leg ache etc.  My main reason for going though was to avoid major surgery for strictures.  Now that the therapy is over and I’ve been doing the home programme for about six months, I thought it would be good to do an update.

Okay so the positives from doing the therapy:

  • The support before, during and since treatment has been amazing!!!!  Seriously, these people care!  Anytime I’ve had any questions or haven’t been well I can email and they get back to me within a day or two.  That has really blown me away.
  • I got my period back!!!  After 18 months of not having one naturally.  While they aren’t like clockwork and it’s great to know I can have them back naturally.
  • I used to have achy legs all the time (especially in the morning – my knees used to really ache) but I haven’t experienced that since the treatment.
  • I learnt so much about my posture and how everything was connected – so trouble with my hips / glutes etc stemmed from the adhesions in my abdomen etc.
  • I got a home programme so I continue to do therapy on myself every day which I find very useful.
  • The treatment is very very individualised – I have a feeling no two treatments are the same.
  • My blood work shows slight improvement in absorption of nutrients so I’m heading in the right direction.  While I’m still low in certain nutrients and still am fatigued sometimes, it doesn’t seem to be as bad as before the treatment.
  • The treatment experience itself was really good. I enjoyed the week.
  • I definitely felt very different after the week – I could feel everything inside move with more ease and less rigidity.  My flexibility has improved also.
  • What I liked about Clear Passage is that they are very research orientated.  They want to put together scientific research papers together to validate their work.  Any staff member I came in contact with was lovely.  They are super picky about the therapists they head hunt and the training that the therapists go through.  With regards SIBO, they have been given the thumbs up from Alison Sebecker (siboinfo.com) and others like her.

Now the not-so-positives (or maybe I should say the disappointments):

  • I found that I experienced more gas bubbles, tummy gurgles, fermenty-feeling and a strange feeling whenever my bladder gets full.  They feel this could be due to hormonal shifts or a candida infection or both.  But it turns out that this could be due to dilation of my intestines and a resulting back-up of its contents.
  • I wanted to be able to increase the foods I was able to eat without adverse reaction and unfortunately due to this gas/bloating etc my scope has gotten narrower which gets me down a little.
  • And as for avoiding surgery?  While my latest MRI scan showed significant improvements in some areas of stricturing, unfortunately there is an area that has gotten worse and I’m still at high risk of a perforation.

    So while Clear Passage was a positive experience, it didn’t have the particular outcome that I wanted and I’m now facing surgery.   More on this in my next blog.

Recipe: Carrot Cake Porridge (Grain-free, Gluten-free, Dairy-free, Nut-free, AIP, Paleo, Vegan)

Carrot cake porridge

Normally I have meat or fish and veggies for breakfast these days but with the change of season I found myself craving warming oaty porridge.  I used to love porridge and could easily have had it morning, noon and night (I kid you not!!) with lashings of milk and spoons of sugar (I was a divil for the sugar)!

Flash forward a few years and thanks to a Crohn’s disease diagnosis and many food intolerances, I find myself with a grain-free and dairy-free diet.  Not one to be deterred by a minor detail like this I tried to come up with a porridge of sorts that would still give me the warm comforting feeling of porridge but with none of the bloating side-effects.  Using ingredients that I tolerate I played around with this carrot cake porridge which was extremely easy to throw together in the slow cooker and turned out pretty well.   It’s paleo and vegan and nut free too (if you want).

carrot cake porridge

Ingredients (serves 2):

4 medium sized carrots

½ can of coconut milk (room temperature) – (I like Aroy-D as it just has two ingredients – coconuts and water)

1 tablespoon creamed coconut

1 tablespoon coconut flour

1 tablespoon mulberries (brands such as Iswari and Nua Naturals sell these)

1 tablespoon raisins or chopped medjool dates

½ teaspoon cinnamon powder

 

Method:

Grate the carrots and add them to the slow cooker.  Add the rest of the ingredients and stir until all mixed through.  Make sure that all the ingredients are covered with the coconut milk (adding more if needed).  Cook on high for an hour or two or low for four to six hours until the carrot is cooked and soft.

Serve up with toppings such as chopped banana and mulberries or really what you like!
Options:  Here are a few ideas to mix up the porridge

  • Swap out a carrot for a peeled apple (which you would grate before adding)
  • Swap out a carrot for a chopped banana
  • Add in a tablespoon or two of walnut pieces (or other nuts or seeds of your liking)
  • Add coconut shavings
  • Add in some maple syrup if you need it sweetened up

Enjoy!

October Favourites

A little of what I was loving in October

October Favorites

HEALTHY

Loving Earth Raw Chocolate

I don’t eat chocolate too often these days (I like it, it unfortunately doesn’t like me much).  I can seem to get away with a little taster here and there but if I have too much or too often, my stomach will let me know!  When I do indulge, I like to get a really good quality chocolate and it’s best I don’t get a big bar (too much temptation).  So when I saw fun sized bites of new-to-Ireland Loving Earth Raw Chocolate I indulged!!!   While their website shows an amazing array of flavours (mint, salted caramel, lemon cheesecake, mandarin to name a few), there seem to be limited lines on offer so far here.  I opted for the Creamy Coconut Mylk Chocolate which was indeed creamy which can sometimes be missing from raw chocolates.  There are very few ingredients too which I love – Certified Organic Raw Cacao (47%), Organic Coconut and sweetened with a little Organic Evaporated Coconut Nectar – that’s it!

Squash

There is an abundance of squashes this time of year from pumpkin to kabocha to spaghetti squash and more.  While normally I opt for butternut squash, I’m going to try as many varieties of squashes while they are in season and available.  The health benefits range from improving the quality of your sight, boosting skin health and strengthening the immune system to protecting heart health, preventing inflammatory conditions and reducing blood pressure and many others.

I usually cook them in my slow cooker overnight (with skin still on) and scoop out the flesh once cooked. This may work better on some varieties over others.  After spending €10 on a small spaghetti squash in Fallon & Byrne and cooking it in the slow cooker I was a little disappointed with the outcome.  Maybe it would have been better to cook it in the oven but with that price, it won’t be something I’ll be trying this year.

HAPPY

Coldplay

Something that made me super happy in October was getting tickets to see Coldplay next summer.  It’s been said we get a big boost of happiness from experiences and not only will the concert itself be great the run up will actually give me a boost too – the anticipation, listening to their albums etc.

Autumn colours

I love this time of year….. the colours of the trees turning can be absolutely stunning!  Has been making me happy anyway!

GLOW

Ren Lip Balm

With the colder weather and the increase in use of central heating etc. my lips tend to get dry.  I’ve been loving Ren Vita Mineral Lip Balm.  Void of a lot of nasty ingredients, it’s rich and creamy and lasts ages!  Big thumbs up.

 

Make Halloween a Little Healthier

A Healhty Halloween

Halloween has changed a lot since I was a kid.  Back in the day everybody made their own costumes (normally from a black plastic sack), there were no decorations, you asked neighbours to ‘help the Halloween party’ rather than saying ‘trick or treat’ and you usually came back from doing the rounds with a bag full of apples, nuts, mandarins and only if you were really lucky did you get raisins or homemade popcorn.  Sweets were the Holy Grail and it was only the rare house that would be giving any out.  Needless to say, as word got around that there was a house giving away sweets all the kids of the neighbourhood descended on the house meaning they were cleaned out pretty quickly.

When you got home from going around the neighbourhood you had to have the nut cracker ready to break open the hazelnuts and walnuts and your fingers would be sore from pinching monkey nuts opens.  Come to think of it, it was hard work!

Fast forward twenty (ahem!)-odd years and it’s a different ball game.  Costumes are sold everywhere, houses are decorated with ghosts, cobwebs and carved pumpkins and kids come home with treat bags brimming with fun-sized chocolate bars or bags of sweets.

With childhood obesity here in Ireland rapidly on the increase, we have to look at holidays such as Halloween and think of ways they can still be fun for kids without them revolving around all the crap sugar laden ‘treats’.

So here are my tips for making Halloween a little healthier for kids:

Instead of giving out chocolate or sweets, why not give out non-food treats?  There are so many places to buy inexpensive treats that kids will love such as:

  • Glow sticks, bracelets, or necklaces
  • Mini sets of pencils, pens, crayons or markers
  • Stickers with gouls and ghosts
  • Stencils
  • Transfer tattoos
  • A bottle of bubbles
  • Halloween erasers or pencil toppers
  • Novelty toys
  • Halloween accessories like vampire fangs or rubber spiders
  • Book marks

If you are having a Halloween party, there are loads of treats you can make for kids that still are fun but are that bit healthier than the normal party fare.  Here’s a few that I’ve seen on the internet that look easy to do:

Instead of toffee apples, why not try dark chocolate dipped apples?

chocolate apples

 

These tangerine pumpkins and banana ghosts look so cute and ridiculously easy!

Tangerine Pumpkins Banana Ghosts

Spooky (but tasty) witches fingers

Halloween witches fingers

And can’t forget these monster mouths

Halloween apple monster mouths

While I don’t have kids myself, I think I may just give these a try anyway!!

I’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions on healthy Halloween treats and recipes.

A Hygge Happy Glow

Autumn is definitely upon us…  the days are getting shorter, the weather is getting colder and the leaves on the trees are turning all colours of red and gold.  While I do love this time of year I normally dread the drudgery of winter (I’m a cold creature).  But this year I’ve decided I’m going to try to embrace the Danish concept of hygge, which has been popping up on my radar quite a bit in the last few weeks.  While I was vaguely aware of the term before, the fact that Denmark is often deemed one of the happiest countries in the world made me stop and take notice this year.

So what is hygge and how can it help achieve a healthy, happy glow?

The term seemingly comes from a Norwegian word meaning “wellbeing” and has now evolved into the Danish attitude to life.  The best translation I’ve come across for hygge is “cosiness of the soul”.

Louisa Thomsen Brits, in her book The Book of Hygge:  The Danish Art of Living Well, describes it as “a feeling of being warm, safe, comforted and sheltered…. It’s a feeling of engagement and relatedness of belonging to the moment and each other.  It’s a sense of abundance and contentment.  Hygge is about being not having.  It can be found by asking yourself where you feel most at home, what are the activities and customs that anchor you, who makes you feel at ease, what is it that contributes most to your sense of wellbeing, what do you do to unwind, what do you reach for to create comfort?”

Helen Russell, author of The Year of Living Danishly:  Uncovering the Secrets of the World’s Happiest Country says that hygge is about “being kind to yourself – indulging, having a relaxed, cosy time with friends and family, often with coffee, cake or beer which can be good for the soul”.

I really like these concepts – connectedness with loved ones, being present, being grateful for the abundance in your life, being kind to yourself, relaxing, appreciating little indulgences and creating a cosy atmosphere at home where you want to nestle in!   All of which go a long way to bringing more happiness and health into our lives.

So what will bringing some hygge into my life this winter look like?

Maybe it’ll be buying some new cosy cushions and throws for making curling up on the couch a little more pleasurable.

Maybe it’ll be making more time to relax with a great book while drinking a delicious hot herbal tea surrounded by candles with a beautiful scent, wearing something extra cosy.

Maybe it’ll be baking some home-made goodies (healthy versions of course) and eating them while watching my favourite movie under a duvet.

Maybe it’ll be having family or friends over for dinner and really being present in their company.

They’re pretty good for a start but I’m sure there are plenty more ways of embracing hygge.  Maybe winter won’t be such a drudge after all this year!

September Favourites

September Favourites

Here are a few things I was loving in September:

September favourites

HEALTHY

Bone Broth from Alchemy Juice

As the weather is changing to being a bit chilly, I’m craving warming foods.  Bone broth is like a warm hug in a mug and it’s so nutritious – loads of health benefits.  It’s pretty easy to make but I’m a little lazy sometimes so it’s been handy to be able to pick up a cup of it in Alchemy (upstairs from where BT2 used to be) on Grafton Street (http://www.alchemyjuice.ie)

#SprinkleAwesome Masterclass with Linwoods

This last Saturday I was lucky enough to be invited to a Masterclass with Linwoods Health Foods (https://linwoodshealthfoods.com/ie/) in Medley in Dublin.  The speakers were healthy cooks Roz Purcell, Susan Jane White and Madeline Shaw along with food photographer Joanne Murphy who gave us some hints and tips for food styling and photography.  Susan’s demo for chocolate seed soldiers was pretty awesome: http://susanjanewhite.com/2016-chocolate-seed-soldiers/.  Hard to believe that something that looks and tastes so delicious (that hint of orange!) is so healthy!  Was totally inspired to start experimenting in the kitchen with recipes more suited to my own diet needs!

 

HAPPY

‘The Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo’

I love a good giggle (it’s good for your health!) and I’ve been having lots of laughs reading Amy Schumer’s ‘The Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo’.  I was probably on the fence with Amy before reading this book as I find her comedy a bit too vulgar sometimes but I’m well over the fence now and a huge fan.  Not only is she funny, she’s very smart, insightful and brutally honest.  Totally recommend this book.

‘The First Monday in May’

Back before health and wellness was my passion, I was very much into fashion and design so I love going to costume design and fashion exhibitions (the V&A in London is awesome) and watching documentaries or films about fashion and design.  The First Monday In May is a behind-the-scenes doc about putting together a costume design exhibition in The Met in New York and the infamous Met Gala that launches the exhibition every year.  I was blown away by what goes into putting on such an exhibition and event and I developed a new found respect for Anna Wintour who features heavily in the film.   A visit to The Met in NYC is now firmly on my bucket list.

 

GLOW

Trilogy Ultra Hydrating Body Lotion

I’m experimenting with different body lotions at the moment and this month I tried Trilogy’s Ultra Hydrating Body Cream.  It’s hydrating without being greasy, has a subtle scent and leaves a hint of a shimmer too so you actually have a little glow after applying it!  Its ingredients include rosehip oil and Manuka honey which boost nourishment and help with repairing and hydrating the skin.  While it has more ingredients than I’d probably like, there are a lot of pluses to their products – the company use natural, organic and non-GMO ingredients, don’t test on animals and support ethical trade production.  https://www.trilogyproducts.com/uk/products/category/body/ultra-hydrating-body-cream