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Corneal Grafts and Vaccinations

Blog post written by Nat Hawes, author of the Nature Cures series of books.

Nat Hawes shares important information for anyone having the COVID-19 vaccine who has had a corneal graft. There is a risk of graft rejection if ameliorating action is not taken. This means you can have the vaccine but must take special care of your eyes at the same time.

Corneal grafts are also referred to as corneal transplants or keratoplasty. They are used to correct problems caused by medical conditions or injury e.g. from infection.

Nat tells us:

‘Anybody who has had a corneal graft should be aware of the possible risk of rejection of the transplanted cornea following vaccination because vaccinations enhance the immune system. They should contact their eye consultant to be prescribed steroid eye drops to administer four times a day, or they may be advised to increase steroid drops if they are already using them. They will also need to have their eyes checked two weeks after they have had the vaccine. This is appropriate for both the influenza and the COVID-19 vaccines.

‘Although, as yet, there have been no confirmed cases of rejection due to the COVID-19 vaccine, there has been some documented from flu vaccinations.[1] It is still early days though and most people have only had the one dose of the COVID-19 vaccination so far in the UK. Rejection can take place up to 2 months after the influenza vaccination and is potentially reversible.[1]

‘Corneal rejection is caused by CD8 and CD4 T cells (defensive white blood cells) fighting to eradicate the foreign body (transplanted cornea) from the body and it is these very same T cells which are boosted by the COVID-19 vaccines so it is a distinct possibility that corneal rejection might occur.[2]

‘This may be much more of a risk after the second dose of the vaccine so it is important that corneal graft patients are made aware of this so that they can take the appropriate steroid drops to counteract it, and have their eyes checked. They should still go ahead with having the vaccine, but cautiously.’

 

  1. Wertheim MS, Keel M, et al. Corneal transplant rejection following influenza vaccination. Br J Ophthalmol 2006; 90(7): 925-926. doi: 
  2. Pluddemann A, Aronson JK. What is the role of T cells in COVID-19 infection? Why immunity is about more than antibodies. The Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine. 19 October 2020. 

 

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Coping with osteoarthritis during Covid-19

Blog post written by Frances Ive, author of One Step Ahead of Osteoarthritis

 

The Covid-19 pandemic is the number one health issue everywhere, but despite that we still have to manage osteoarthritis. According to a recent article in the British Medical Journal, Covid impacts on osteoarthritis in a couple of ways:[1]

  • There is more likelihood of being hospitalised when suffering from the virus if you already have osteoarthritis.
  • OA sufferers are likely to have additional pain in the joints when they contract Covid.

A key recommendation in the BMJ article is that physical activity is extremely important, regardless of age. Although this would seem to be difficult during a severe outbreak of the virus, it is feasible if the symptoms are mild. Also, all activity keeps us healthy and more able to fight illness.

I emphasise the importance of exercise in One Step Ahead of Osteoarthritis, in order to keep us active and mobile and enjoying a good quality of life. A glowing statement from Professor Sir Sam Everington, GP in Tower Hamlets, Chair of NHS Tower Hamlets Clinical Commissioning Group, and a board member of NHS Clinical Commissioners, who wrote in his foreword for my book: ‘This book should be prescribed on the NHS by all doctors. It can’t be, but if you have osteoarthritis or want to live a happier and healthier life, buying this book is the best investment you could ever make.’

Professor Sir Sam’s involvement in the social-prescribing initiative increasingly being adopted by GPs (pre-Covid) would account for his enthusiasm. The main message in One Step Ahead of Osteoarthritis is taking responsibility for your own health through:

  • exercise
  • weight management
  • healthy eating
  • supplements
  • complementary therapies
  • practical tips (shoes, keeping warm, bathing, etc.)

Even in lockdown we can walk locally and there’s no limit to how long you can stay out. If you are used to doing yoga, Pilates or other classes, there is a wealth of sessions being provided online either free of charge or for a nominal sum under £10. For those people who find exercise very hard due to chronic arthritis or other conditions, Chair Yoga provides a good alternative and that too is available online.

Finally, try not to overeat when confined at home and stick to the Mediterranean diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables. Recognised by doctors as the best diet for all conditions, it can also help us to keep our weight down, an important factor for reducing pressure on weight-bearing joints. Both Vitamin C and Vitamin D are essential for supporting the immune system, helping all conditions and giving us a fighting chance against Covid.

 

[1] https://ard.bmj.com/content/80/2/151

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Therapist Sally Baker tells it like it is – one sober day at a time

Blog post written by Sally Baker, author of Seven Simple Steps to Stop Emotional Eating and How to Feel Differently About Food with Liz Hogon.  

I decided to stop drinking for a while.

There was no set target on the number of days I planned to stay abstinent because I wasn’t confident I could last even seven days. I thought I had a normal relationship with alcohol as a social drinker, but I didn’t want to put too much pressure on myself.

I’ve now been sober for more than one hundred days.

I had been aware for a long time that there was a part of me that was too eager to pour a glass of wine every night.

Without consciously acknowledging it I’d begun marking the end of my working day and the beginning of an evening’s relaxation with a glass of wine.

It was easy to justify to myself what I considered was my light-weight drinking habit as I know so many of my women friends drink much more. It’s a self-deluding game to play.

Opportunities for excess were certainly more common in my twenties and thirties, but if I was feeling happy or reckless I would press my internal ‘fuck it’ button. Then I wouldn’t want to stop drinking, laughing, dancing or even to go home.

Abnormal drinking has been normalised

As a therapist, I have clients who black-out from drinking. Or wake up naked in strangers’ beds with terrible hangovers, struggling to recall names or even the events of the previous evening. They all tell me they think their drinking habits are pretty normal.

Sometimes people come to see me because their insomnia is ruining their lives and they have crippling anxiety. If they speak about their desire to cut down their drinking or take a sobriety break it tends to emerge later. People rarely identify their use of alcohol as the root cause of mental health challenges.

Working therapeutically with clients to help them transform their relationship with booze made me sober curious.

I also know when I recommend a period of total abstinence to a client they are often anxious about being able to manage even a few days without drinking and would much rather cut down or limit the number of drinks they have during a session than go without completely.

For my own authenticity, I wanted to know and understand what teetotal felt like and the challenges it involved, so I set about going without booze just like they tell you in Alcoholics Anonymous — one day at a time.

Day 1

I’m not drinking but it feels like an energised state in as much as I’m very aware I’m not drinking. I’m counting days and I’m using red dots in my desk diary to signify days of no drinking.

It feels okay. I’m interested in my progress and feeling a bit like a lab rat observing myself and how all this feels.

Day 8

I’ve felt more tired since I’ve stopped drinking. I’ve wanted to go to sleep earlier at night and sometimes even had an afternoon nap. I feel slightly despondent as I thought I’d have more energy not less.

Other than that I’ve not noticed feeling very much else. Wondering if, as the weather is so cold, that my feeling tired could be my natural seasonal desire to hibernate and sleep more. Hope so.

Day 12

I’m sleeping more soundly than I have for years and I’m not waking up at all during the night. Previously I would wake around three or four in the morning and then struggle to go back to sleep. These days I’m sleeping for England!

Day 14

I feel like I’m being tested this month.

In my personal life, an upsetting and not completely unexpected dispute erupted over some legal and financial arrangements.

Professionally, the marketing mentors I was thrilled to have working with me for over a year have badly let me down and we’ve parted company.

To say I’ve been having a trying time would be an understatement.

It would have been very easy to drink more with this all going on around me. I feel really appreciative that I’m not drinking at all. I feel confident I can trust and fully own my emotional responses because I feel clear-headed. I love not drinking — hey who knew!

Day 18

I am naturally waking consistently an hour earlier in the morning — every day.

I’ve been using EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) for several days in a row to work through some of the painful emotions I’ve been experiencing from the fall-out to the events in my personal and professional life.

I’ve been embracing all of these feelings as a way to face up to them and do the work to get clear. There is no hiding. I’m accepting negative emotional triggers as the gift they are to see where clearing work needs to be done and getting on with it.

Day 24

I notice that I experience moments of feeling awesome, energised and really healthy. They are fleeting but savoured and highly prized.

Day 34

Not drinking feels much more normal now. Abstinence has lost its high energy status and I’m feeling much more relaxed about it. I am now really fussy about having classy, high quality chilled bottled water on the table at dinner with lots of ice and slices of fresh lemon or lime. It feels like a treat.

Day 37

Still sleeping well. I rarely wake in the night now. Not feeling particularly energised when I wake in the mornings though and, without alcohol, I feel tired earlier in the evening. Perhaps this is just my new normal but it’s hardly thrilling. If anything, not drinking feels slightly underwhelming.

Day 40

It feels a bit like a watershed day as I’ve had the realisation that I’m waking every day clear-headed and energised. It feels like my new normal plus feeling more energised and positive in the afternoon too. All of these feelings might be the holy grail I’ve been waiting for.

Day 65

Being sober feels completely normal now, so much so I hardly even think about drinking at all. That old trigger of preparing dinner comes and goes without me missing a glass of wine at all.

I can even sit in pubs and bars with my husband or with friends and it’s fine. I do notice how noisy people get when they drink and how after about 9.30 pm I want to go home. Even though I might be struggling with their vibe, sometimes there is no sense of deprivation or going without for my part. Booze seems to have disappeared off my agenda.

Day 67

On numerous nights out or at dinner parties I must have tried all the alcohol-free wine out there and they all taste pretty disgusting. The small number of wine producers who create zero wine seem to be on a mission to take out the alcohol and replace it with sugar so that they all taste revolting and are undrinkably sweet.

There are a couple of pleasantly drinkable Prosecco fizzy wines that are okay but fizzy wine without the accompanying fuzzy feelings from imbibing the alcoholic versions leave me feeling a bit flat.

Day 68

There are more alcohol-free beers available now than ever before. Most of the big breweries seem to be producing their own version of a zero beer but many seem to brew it just to tick a box and they seemingly don’t care how awful they taste.

Microbreweries tend to try harder and are better tasting. Some alcohol-free beers successfully achieve the criterion of looking like an appetising beer and some even taste pretty much like beer.

Ultimately though it doesn’t matter how good the facsimile of a beer or wine or even gin is, I resent their empty calories and their carb load without the benefit of making me feel different.

Of course, none of the alcohol-free drinks out there causes a change of state and that is why most people drink — to create a change in how they feel and, without that, booze is pretty boring in and of itself.

Day 70

My favourite drink now is Angostura Bitters with ice and soda water and fresh lime. Looking at it mixed in a glass it could even pass as a proper grown-up drink and so, having surveyed all the fake beers and wines, I’ve embraced that I’m not actually a drinker any more and let go of the fantasy of fake alcoholic drinks.

Day 80

I’ve noticed I’m far more awake in the evening and more alert in the mornings too. I barely ever think about drinking and although I’ve had plenty of opportunities to drink alcohol I haven’t been tempted once.

I no longer make a note every day that I’m not drinking as it just feels very normal.

Day 90

The strangest thing has happened. I used to never ever remember my dreams. I know we all dream every night when we sleep but for years I would remember only one or two dreams every few months. Now when I wake I remember what I have dreamt!

I love having access to my dreams and now I regularly wake and can recall them I realise what a loss it was all those years not being able to access that part of my subconscious processing. I’m really thrilled to have my dreams back.

Day 100

I’m ready to say goodbye to alcohol without a backward glance — taking it one day at a time, of course, for as long as I want, and I’m excited to face the prospect of my future as a non-drinker. I never thought I’d ever say that when I embarked on this experience over one hundred days ago.

If you think you have normalised your own drinking and you know alcohol is adversely affecting your life and your relationships, you too could benefit from taking a break from drinking too.

Useful contacts for alcohol problems (UK)

  • Drinkline is the national alcohol helpline. If you’re worried about your own or someone else’s drinking, you can call this free helpline in complete confidence. Call 0300 123 1110
  • Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a free self-help group. Its “12-step” programme involves getting sober with the help of regular support groups.

With thanks to www.nhs.uk

If you realise you have normalised your drinking habits and need to take a break or recalibrate your relationship with alcohol book an obligation free discovery call with me via the link on this page.

Sobriety isn’t for everyone nor does it need to be forever. Make that call now.

 

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What Hammersmith Books authors recommend for National Reading Day

In honour of National Reading Day on 23rd January, we’re very pleased to share recommendations from Hammersmith Books authors about the books they loved best when growing up, or that got them reading.

 

Frances Ive, author of One Step Ahead of Osteoarthritis, says: ‘I am going to say: Alice in Wonderland, which I loved so much that it got my imagination going. I think Peter Pan and all Enid Blyton books (especially The Famous Five) did the same.’

 

Craig Robinson, author most recently of The Energy Equation with Sarah Myhill, says: ‘Red Shift by Alan Garner. Do read it – all in one sitting! And then leave it and read it again! I have now read it about 8 times (last year being the most recent)… and each time I feel something new……achingly new.’

 

Caroline Freedman, author of The Scoliosis Handbook, says ‘My favourite childhood book way ahead of any other is Chitty Chitty Bang Bang by Ian Flemming. I used to wait for my father every evening to come home from work and read to me. I must have been about 3 or 4 years old as I can remember sitting in our old family home in Wembley waiting for him. The most exciting part in the book for me and one I would make him repeat over and over again, in a funny and scary voice, is the line…”These guns belong to Joe the Monster”. We would then discuss the story and what we thought might happen just so I could stay up as long as possible.

 

Raymond Perrin, author of The Perrin Technique, says: ‘My favourite 2 books as a child were All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot and My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell. I loved animals and wanted to be a vet or own a zo, so definitely recommend these two if any child has the same dreams.

 

Trevor Griffiths, co-author of forthcoming Emotional Logic (May 2021) says: ‘For National Reading Day, [co-author] Marian’s first choice is Black Beauty. Mine is Swallows and Amazons. This feels timely, because an 8-year-old granddaughter who is a fast reader is running out of ideas.’

 

Magnolia Cardona, author of forthcoming When the Time Comes: stories from the end of life (March 2021) says: I can’t really remember THE first book that gave me the love of reading but one of the early ones was The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

I couldn’t have enough of it and read it in three languages over the course of my primary school. However, to get today’s children reading passionately I would highly recommend Matilda by Roald Dahl.

This little book got my daughter reading 10 books per week (she was the public library’s best customer!), and she later moved to another one I highly recommend: George’s Secret Key to the Universe by Lucy and Stephen Hawking (and the rest of George’s series). That book collection led her to join the local astronomy club for years until end of high school.’

 

Sarah Russell, author of The Bowel Cancer Recovery Toolkit, says: ‘The first book that made an impact on me was the Sports Nutrition Guidebook by Nancy Clark. Even as a young girl I had an interest in health, exercise and nutrition. I used to read and re-read this book over and over again.’

 

Sandra Hood, author of the forthcoming Feeding Your Vegan Child (June 2021), says: ‘My recommendation for National Reading Day has to be The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I remember reading this at school and borrowing it from the book cupboard. I had to write my name in a book that was 

hung up on a string with a pencil attached. You felt like you could go into this wonderful world just through the wardrobe and meet lovely Mr Tumnus at the lamppost and being offered Turkish delight from the witch in a sleigh – magical!’

Antonina Mikocka-Walus, author of IBD and the Gut-Brain Connection, says ‘Too many books to choose the favourite, but The Six Bullerby Children by Astrid Lindgren (author of Pippi Longstocking) was probably one of the first I read myself rather than being read to me by my parents.’

 

Susan Koten, author of Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Giardia, says: ‘I loved reading Just William by Richmal Crompton.’

 

Martyn Hooper, author most recently of Five-a-Day Plus One: the Vitamin B12 Cookbook, says: ‘My love of books started with Enid Blyton, especially the Secret Series and particularly the Secret of Moon Castle. The books were readily available in my primary school library and we were actively encouraged to take a book home over the weekend. But, I soon tired of the plots that started to sound far too similar. And it was when I was around 10 years old that my grandfather gave me my first proper book; it was a thick hardback complete with a dustcover showing a one-legged pirate, propped up by a crutch looking dangerous, mean and foreboding. A golden hoop earring hung from his left ear. From page one I was not only captivated by the characters but also capitulated into the 18th Century world of Pirates. There was talk of Buried Treasure. Black Spots and Mutiny all centred around a parade of wonderful characters somehow related to Captain Flint and his old shipmate Long John Silver. There was Billy Bones, Black Dog, Blind Pew and Jim Hawkins. And the wonderfully eccentric, intelligent and cheese-loving (toasted mostly) Ben Gunn. It was Treasure Island that led to my first and last nightmare, but none of the above was responsible. It was the cruel, frightening, stealthy and sly Israel Hands who chased me, and Jim Hawkins, up one of the Hispaniola’s masts with a large knife held between his teeth.

 

Mary Jordan, author most recently of The ‘D’ Word: Rethinking Dementia, says: ‘When I was very young I read a lot of Enid Blyton. I have no idea why she is so frowned upon. She used good clear English and wrote stuff that kept you reading. However, probably the book I would nominate would be The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, together with the other Narnia books.’

 

Julie Sullivan, author of The Gallstone-friendly Diet, says: ‘Two books are responsible for my early love of reading – Watership Down by Richard Adams, and The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis.’

 

Jo Waters, co-author of What’s Up With Your Gut?, says: ‘I loved Noel Streatfield’s Ballet Shoes , which my mother had loved as a child too . It was about the Fossil family, Pauline, Petrova and Posy, who were all very talented and lived in London and had been adopted by an (absent) professor who was away fossil hunting and were cared for by a nanny. They were left to their own devices a lot and I liked the sound of that . After that I read all her books and joined the Puffin Book Club and ordered a book every month. It was really Ballet Shoes that kicked off a lifelong love of reading.’

 

Clarissa Foster, author of Understanding BRCA, says:My first favourite book was The Famous Five novel series by Enid Blyton. I first read them when I was around 8 years old and couldn’t put them down!’

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How not to be blue this Blue Monday

Blog post written by Lynn Crilly, author of the Hope with Mental Health series. 

The third Monday of every January has been named ‘Blue Monday’; the theory behind this is that this time of year is when it is cold, we find ourselves stuck with credit card bills and less money, our New Year’s resolutions (if we have made them) have often already failed or are not going to plan which creates an element of guilt and we are just not feeling our best. This year, in the UK we have the added anxiety of being in a lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

I would like to help you to feel more positive and hopeful this January and to feel more optimistic about what the now has to offer and what the future holds. Below are some – I hope – helpful ways to change how you think and to turn some of the ‘blue’ negative thinking into positive.

At the moment we are all looking at updates on the news about the COVID-19 pandemic, which are often quite depressing and rarely the good news we are hoping for. Instead, try to look for the good news that is going on in the world. Whilst writing this blog I came across a website that focuses on good news only: Good News Network. Take some time to learn all the positives that are happening around us. Dwelling on the negative will keep you stuck in a dark place.

We all have a way of thinking we can predict the future; even though we have no idea what will happen tomorrow, we still like to predict the doom and gloom scenarios we think are going to happen. When we imagine negative scenarios, whether it is about the current pandemic or a work meeting, this negative ‘guessing game’ can turn into a self-fulfilling prediction if we are not careful. Focus on the now. If you want to look to the future, look at the positive scenarios that could happen rather than the negative.

This last tip might be the hardest to achieve but, once you nail it, it is the key to a more positive outlook, replacing negative with more realistic and motivating thoughts. This can inspire you to create the kind of life you want to live. For example, instead of thinking to yourself, ‘at this rate I will never be able to afford my own place’, this negative thought could be replaced with, ‘I am unsure of what the future holds, but if I make a clear savings plan, it is possible I may be able to afford my own place.’

I do hope these simple but effective changes can help to create a more optimistic mindset, for you or someone you know who may be struggling with Anxiety or Depression. You can learn more about these mental illnesses and ways to cope in my books Hope with Anxiety and Hope with Depression.

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A Low-Carb Christmas

Blog post written by Hanna Purdy, author of Could it be Insulin Resistance?

As you know, 2020 has been a very challenging and eye-opening year for most of us. This year has made many of us realise how important maintaining a healthy lifestyle is in keeping us physically and mentally healthy and our immune functions strong. However, staying consistent with a healthy diet during the holiday season is, of course, a challenge. This is because most people believe that keeping healthy during Christmas means that they’re missing out on the festivity, as food contributes largely to what makes us feel “Christmassy”. It may be tempting to put your diet plan on hold and enjoy different desserts and beverages, but it’s important to know that neglecting this lifestyle for the entirety of the holiday season could make you easily relapse into unhealthy habits, making it very hard to return to the consistency maintained before.

The thought of eating healthier in the holiday season probably makes most people feel disappointed, as many believe that eating healthy is no fun at all, and a definite no during a celebratory season. However, this is not the case. Healthy eating can, indeed, be Christmassy too, contrary to the popular belief that sugary, high carb foods are essential in the “Christmas spirit”. It is important to detach yourself from this mainstream belief, as it simply isn’t true.

My family and I plan our menu for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day well in advance. We cook and bake everything ourselves, which is, for us, a central part of Christmas as it is so enjoyable and really sets in the mood. One of the biggest differences between unhealthy and healthy foods specifically on Christmas (in my experience) is the impact they have on the way I feel both mentally and physically. Eating healthier makes me feel fresh, energetic and happy, whereas eating high carb, sugary foods has the opposite effect. This is how many people stick to a healthier diet and integrate it into their lifestyle, especially during Christmas, because they notice the impact it has and how much more enjoyable it makes Christmas feel.

Staying healthy is now more important than ever. If you are following a low carbohydrate diet in order to reverse insulin resistance, know that just because it means you need to stay healthy over the holiday season, doesn’t mean it will not be “Christmassy”. You may notice that food tastes better when there are no excess carbohydrates and sugar and, like I mentioned before, will leave you feeling great.

I have come up with a few recipes for you to try over Christmas. The side dishes below complement turkey or any other main course you choose to have. I have also come up with sweeter recipes with no added sugar. Of course, all recipes are perfectly suitable for those suffering with insulin resistance.

Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

 

Appetisers

Prawn salad

For 6

  • 250g prawns
  • 400g crème fraiche
  • 1 red pepper, finely cut
  • 1 boiled egg, finely cut
  • 1-2 tbsp mustard
  • juice of 1 lime
  • pepper
  • fresh dill

Mix the crème fraiche, egg, pepper, mustard, pepper and lime juice in a bowl, add the prawns and chopped dill.

 

Smoked salmon appetisers

For 6

  • 200g smoked salmon, cut into bite size pieces
  • 250 cream cheese
  • 50g sour cream or crème fraiche
  • handful of chopped fresh dill
  • squeeze of lemon juice
  • salt
  • pepper
  • iceberg lettuce for serving

Mix all the ingredients apart from the lettuce in a bowl. Serve on a small lettuce leaf.

Chicken liver pâté

For 6

  • 400g chicken livers
  • 2 tbsp Brandy
  • 300g unsalted butter, diced
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 2 small shallots, finely chopped
  • 0.5 tsp dried thyme
  • 0,5 tsp grated nutmeg
  • salt
  • pepper

Gently cook the shallots and grated garlic in a pan with about 30-40g of the butter, until lightly soft, about 5 minutes.  Add the livers and cook for a further 4-5 minutes, until the livers are slightly brown on the outside. Add the Brandy and stir, then add the remaining butter and the thyme and nutmeg. Place then into the bowl of the food processor and pulse until smooth. Alternatively you can use a blender. Season with salt and pepper. Place into servicing bowl or a terrine dish. If you like, you can top this with 50g of melted butter or clarified butter(ghee). Cover with cling film and place into the fridge for at least 3 hours before serving.

Pickled onions

  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 100g cranberries (or lingonberries if available)
  • 100ml apple cider vinegar
  • 100ml water
  • pinch of salt

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and leave to marinate in the fridge for 1-2 days.

 

Side Dishes

Brussel sprouts

For 6

  • 500g Brussel sprouts, trimmed and the outer leaves removed
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3-4 rashers of smoked streaky bacon, chopped
  • few leaves of fresh sage, chopped
  • olive oil
  • knob of butter

Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a pan and cook the bacon until golden, add the onion and sage, turn the heat down and cook for 5-10 minutes until the onion is soft. Place the  Brussel sprouts in a sauce pan with boiling water, boil for 5 minutes until just tender. Drain and then add to the bacon and onion mixture. Add a knob of butter and season.

 

Steamed red cabbage

  • 500g red cabbage
  • 2 tbsp butter or goose fat
  • 1 cooking apple
  • 500ml apple juice
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar

Cut the cabbage into think slices. Melt the fat in a large skillet or sauce pan, add the cabbage, chopped apple and the liquids. Bring to boil and simmer on low heat under a lid for 1-2 hours until the liquid has evaporated

Roasted swede wedges

  • 0.5-1 swede
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • dried rosemary
  • dried thyme
  • paprika

Peel and trim the swede and cut into bite size wedges or cubes. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Place the wedges evenly onto an oven pan lined with baking paper. Drizzle with olive oil and roast in the oven for 15-20 minutes until tender and golden brown. Season well.

 

Roasted butternut squash

For 6

  • 2 small or 1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into bite size chunks
  • 1 red onion, cut into wedges
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 tbsp mustard
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • handful of fresh parsley

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees, place the vegetables into an oven pan lined with baking paper. Toss with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes until golden brown and tender. Mix together the mustard, vinegar and 1 tbsp olive oil, season with salt and pepper. Drizzle over the squash. Garnish with chopped parsley.

 

Red cabbage salad

For 6

  • 500g red cabbage, sliced thinly
  • 1 apple, cut into small cubes
  • 5 tbsp lingonberries or cranberries
  • 3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper
  • sprinkle of ground clove

Mix the cabbage and apple. In a separate bowl mix together the berries, vinegar and olive oil. Season and add to the cabbage. Mix well, keep in the fridge for 2 days before serving. This will keep fresh in the fridge for 1-2 weeks.

 

Desserts

Christmas chocolates

  • 100 ml cacao butter, usually available in health shops
  • 3 tbsp creamed coconut
  • 100 ml cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup or a pinch of stevia according to your taste
  • vanilla according to taste
  • pinch of salt
  • 50g chopped almonds
  • 10g dried berries of your choice
  • small handful of other nuts if you like

Very carefully melt the cacao butter and creamed coconut in a sauce pan, avoid the mixture from getting too hot. Cool down, add the cocoa powder through a sieve, add the vanilla and some salt, mixing well. Mix in any berries or nuts, pour the mixture over a baking sheet and let it set in room temperature for 2-3 hours. Then cut or break into smaller pieces. Alternatively you can pour the warm mixture into chocolate moulds and cool in the fridge for an hour.

Chocolate truffles

  • 300ml coconut cream
  • 3 tbsp coconut oil
  • 200g dark chocolate (over 70% cocoa)
  • vanilla extract
  • cinnamon
  • cocoa powder
  • shredded coconut

Warm the coconut cream carefully in a small saucepan . In another pan, carefully melt the chocolate and coconut oil. Add the warm coconut cream. Add vanilla and mix carefully. Let the mixture cool in the fridge for at least 4 hours or overnight. Once set, have small amounts of cinnamon, cocoa powder and shredded coconut ready on a plate, either mixed or in separate small piles. Then take small spoonfuls of the chocolate mixture or if difficult, form small balls with your hands, and roll them in the cinnamon, cocoa powder and/or shredded coconut and then place on the serving dish. You can also use ground nuts or ground dried berries to make different kinds of truffles.

Spicy ginger cake

  • 4 egg whites
  • 4 egg yolks
  • stevia
  • 200ml double cream
  • 150g butter
  • 150ml ground almonds
  • 150ml coconut flour
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground all spice
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 2 tsp baking powder

Melt the butter, and let it cool. In a separate bowl, mix all the dried ingredients. In another bowl whisk the egg whites and cream. Add the cooled butter and the yolks. Then add the dried ingredients carefully. Pour the mixture into a greased cake tin and bake in a pre-heated oven, in 170 degrees for 40 minutes. Serve with clotted cream.

 

Frozen berry dessert

For 4

  • 400ml any frozen berries; red currants, black currants, blueberries and/or raspberries
  • 3 leaves of gelatine
  • 1 drop vanilla extract
  • 400ml double cream
  • dark chocolate for decoration

Place the gelatine leaves into a bowl of cold water for 5 minutes until they are soft.  Place the berries into a small saucepan and gently heat for 10 minutes. Use a blender to make them into a berry sauce. Add the soft gelatine and vanilla. Whip the cream and then carefully mix into the berries. Divide between 4 dessert bowls and put into the fridge to set. They will be ready in 2 hours. Serve with some whipped cream and decorated with a piece of dark chocolate.

Chocolate mousse

For 4-5

  • 200g good quality dark chocolate (real chocolate so cacao butter, NO vegetable fats)
  • 500 ml double cream
  • 2 eggs

Carefully melt the chocolate and let it cool. Add the eggs, mix well. Then add the cream and mix until well combined. Divide between 4-5 dessert bowls and let it set in a fridge for 1-2 hours.

 

Drinks

Mulled apple drink

For 6-8

  • 1l apple juice
  • 3 star aniseeds
  • 1 cinnamon stick

Put the ingredients into a saucepan and bring to boil.  Turn off the heat, cover the saucepan with a lid and leave for 1-2 hours. Remove the start aniseeds and cinnamon stick and re-heat the drink. Serve warm.

 

Mulled wine

For 4-6

  • bottle of red or white wine
  • 1 tsp cloves
  • pinch of ground ginger
  • pinch of bitter orange peel (if available)
  • 1-2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 star aniseed
  • 1 tsp cardamom
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Heat the ingredients in a sauce pan, on a low to medium heat, for 5-10 minutes. Avoid bringing to a boil. You can add a little honey or maple syrup if you prefer to bring in more sweetness.

 

Good life and good food!

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Reporting Harm – The Development of New Vaccines

The development of new drugs, and especially new vaccines, is very much in the public eye at the moment. This development is hugely costly not least because most potential products have to be rejected during development as not sufficiently safe and/or effective – this means the successful products have to carry the costs of all the failures as well as their own. It also means that once a product has made it through to official approval and general use there is inevitably huge reluctance to find fault with it as long-term problems emerge – very few drugs and vaccines are withdrawn at this stage. This makes it particularly important that any one of us who experiences a problem with a drug or vaccine reports it so the side-effect/bad reaction/failure can become part of official statistics about the product.

The phases of drug development are…

  1. Discovery and development when bio-scientists look for likely candidates based on knowledge of human biology
  2. Preclinical (lab-based) research
  3. Clinical research (what we think of as ‘drug trials’ where efficacy, dosage, safety etc are assessed)
  4. Official review and approval for specific uses by the relevant national authority (e.g. FDA in the US; MHRA in the UK; HPRA in Ireland)
  5. Post-marketing surveillance and monitoring (‘pharmacovigilance’)

Those of us outside the industry can contribute to drug and vaccine safety and efficacy by taking part in clinical trials, if the opportunity arises, if we have a particular health problem or are prepared to act as healthy ‘control’ patients. However, ALL of us who receive any medication or vaccination can contribute to ongoing monitoring by reporting any negative effect. In the UK this is done via the Yellow Card system (there is a great article about the Yellow Card system on the website of Independent Living here). In the US, the FDA monitors adverse events that may occur related to receiving a vaccine through its Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System.

How many times have you, or someone you know, grumbled that a flu jab has given you a fever and a day or more off work? Or an asthma attack? Or that an antibiotic has had strange side effects, such as loss of hearing? Or that a statin has left you constantly weak and exhausted? But have you recorded the problem so that anybody who could take this into account knows? Just as we should exercise our right to vote, we need to exercise our right to speak out about the ill effects of health products – and the Yellow Card system applies not just to drugs and vaccines but medical devices (e.g. implants) and equipment (e.g. hearing aids which are often overly complicated for those to whom they are sold) too. With the roll-out of a number of brand new vaccines developed at unprecedented speed we must not be complacent or keep problems to ourselves – it is time to exercise our pharmaco-vigilance!

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How The Beginner’s Guide to Sanity was co-produced

Blog post written by authors of The Beginner’s Guide to Sanity, Erica Crompton and Professor Stephen Lawrie. The Beginner’s Guide to Sanity has been shortlisted in the Non-Fiction category of The People’s Book Prize 2020/21. Click here to give it your vote. 

Our self-help guide for people with psychosis is, we believe, the first written by a doctor and a patient. In a review in Therapy Today our book is described as ‘the epitome of co-production’. Unlike some accounts of co-production in clinical or academic settings, we’ve come together on an even footing to write this – and even shared the advance equally. Here’s how we got started and created something we feel is equal in every way.

How we met

Erica: Stephen and I met at a conference in London titled ‘Schizophrenia: new routes to better outcomes’ in March 2014 where we were both speaking about our areas of interest regarding schizophrenia. It was my first conference and I attended in glittery tights.

I’d been invited to the event by a speaking agent in Sweden who approached me on Twitter. What made me stand out to her was my pro-medical stance on treatment for schizophrenia and my journalism about my experiences with this. I jumped at the chance to present at the conference and pre-recorded an interview with Elyn Saks for this too. It was while this was showing on a big screen to the packed auditorium, that Stephen came over to my table and introduced himself. He asked if maybe he could tempt me to give a lecture on the stigma I’d experienced as a result of my illness at the University of Edinburgh, where at the time he was Head of Psychiatry.

Stephen: We do a regular external speaker ‘Special Lecture’ slot in Psychiatry in Edinburgh and are always looking out for new speakers and topics. I have always admired Elyn Saks and the account of schizophrenia in her book The Centre Cannot Hold and remember Erica doing a great job of interviewing her.

How we got started

Erica: It’s been a life-goal of mine to write a book for as long as I can remember but a few things were holding me back – my inexperience writing long-form copy, and ‘getting it right’. I wanted to write about my experiences of psychosis but felt another voice (in particular a ‘sane voice’) would add weight to all that I could say.

There are a lot of other voices from people with experience of psychosis I could include too. Every piece I write about my own journey with illness usually means someone gets in touch on email or via social media who can relate. I hoped to include these people’s thoughts in a book, too.

It was his mix of seriously impressive clinical expertise but also approachability that inspired me to ask Stephen if he’d be interested in working with me on a book.

He’d already helped with many articles I’d written for newspapers and Stephen is always an utter pleasure to work with.

Stephen: Thanks and ditto! I had been wanting to write an accessible book about schizophrenia for a general audience for many years but hadn’t really appreciated the importance of getting the voice of lived experience until around the time I met Erica – and when I also attended an event for pitching ideas to agents, who told me the same thing.

The write-up

Erica: We used a shared Google Doc to write the book and both added content, and notes over the course of a year. During this time I learnt so much from Stephen that is helpful for me in managing my psychosis. As I get very little time with my own care team, reading everything Stephen thinks we should know about psychosis has answered many of the questions I’m left with after an appointment with my own psychiatrist.

Stephen: The writing was a shared and fairly dynamic process. I put in everything that I thought someone with schizophrenia or any other psychotic condition, and those who care for them, might want to know. I tried to keep it as simple as possible – and then had to make it even more so and easier to digest after feedback from Erica and others.  Erica brought the text to life with quotes from others and was remarkably open about her own experiences.

Twitter trashing

Erica: One thing that unnerved both of us was a potentially negative reception from the latter-day anti-psychiatry and anti-meds brigade on Twitter. However, we’ve been lucky enough to avoid that so far. I do think some of these prolific ‘pill shamers’ on Twitter – many with fancy psychology doctorates – may have some unpacked attention seeking issues of their own.

Stephen: Yes, I remember saying to a friend that Erica would probably ‘get shit’ for co-authoring a book with a psychiatrist which is unashamedly pro-diagnosis and pro-medication – and him being appalled to hear that. Maybe we have got away lightly so far  because we are also pro-many other ways of handing psychosis – or maybe it’s because it was genuinely co-produced – or maybe the abuse will kick off later on. Even if that happens, the positive feedback we’ve had from people who have been helped by our book is hugely encouraging.

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What Survivors of Major Illness can Teach us

Blog post written by Dr Jerry Thompson, author of newly released Curing the Incurable: Beyond the Limits of Medicine.

Could we have underestimated our ability to heal ourselves from even the most serious of diseases? Could our innate powers of recovery be far greater than we realise?

This book examines healing from an unusual angle: it looks at those remarkable people who have recovered against the odds? I believe they have something absolutely crucial to tell us. Whether we have a serious illness or we just want to keep illness at bay they have information that can make a profound difference.

But how did they succeed? What did they do after their doctors told them they had an incurable disease?

I have been fascinated by these people that I call “survivors” for years. This book explores their stories and what they did. Recovering from a life-threatening illness is no small feat and you can be sure they did not get better by chance. They achieved it by following certain fundamental principles of health. And it is these fundamental principles of health that this book explores.

They used four main strategies, typically in combination. The book covers each one.

Few will be surprised that one of those principles, eating healing foods and avoiding harmful ones, was a popular and successful strategy amongst survivors. Combining information from case studies, research on the effects of food extracts on cancer cells and population studies this section gives us a useful guide on using food to heal.

Many know that our minds can powerfully impact on health but can mind power cure a life-threatening illness? In fact it can and there are many examples using many methods. We can use our mind to up-regulate our immunity, to go into healing mode or to create health. The case histories in this section are some of the most extraordinary in the book. The methods may surprise you and many are simple to use.

Mainstream medicine largely ignores toxicity but survivors cannot afford this luxury. How many carcinogens and neurotoxins do we meet in an average day and where do they come from? Which are the most dangerous? How can we reduce our and how can we excrete our accumulated chemical load. All this is covered in the book.

Changes in our energy field precede disease. They also precede healing. So understanding energy makes sense.

Again the stories could surprise: cancers the power of groups to bring about extraordinary healing, how lethal cancer can be cured from thousands of miles away, cancers disintegrating in minutes, and energetic blocks to healing that could prevent a good treatment working.

What emerges from these many remarkable accounts of recovery from major disease are basic and powerful principles of health and healing. Using them can make the difference between health and disease and many of are surprisingly easy to put into practice.

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How to Survive the Stress of Caring, and Look After Your Own Health

Blog post written by author of Who Cares?, Sara Challice. Who Cares? has been shortlisted in the Non-Fiction category of The People’s Book Prize 2020/21. Click here to give it your vote.  

 

Caring for a loved one is, without a doubt, a kind and selfless act. Not only does it give another a better quality of life, it may even extend their longevity.

But whilst caring, your altruism could cost you more than your time and energy, because around 70% of carers fall either mentally or physically unwell – this included myself!

During my time out recovering, I realised I needed to make changes so as not only to survive my caring role, but also to regain my health and start enjoying life again.

So how can you overcome the stress of caring, to become more resilient and safeguard your own health?

1. Check in with yourself

As a carer, you’re often so busy being there for everyone else that you ignore your own health. And during the pandemic, this is ever more so whilst trying to talk to your GP, let alone arrange a hospital appointment – all time-consuming tasks that take even more of your precious energy and time.

You may even be suppressing your emotions, as you’re so busy tending to and protecting those around you who are almost certainly classed currently as ‘high risk’ for coronavirus. The pressure can build up, bit by bit, and go unnoticed until crisis strikes.

Do you have a good friend or family member you could check in with for a short time, once a week? This can be either face-to-face (socially distancing of course!), over the phone or via Skype. Or you could try journaling – writing down your feelings and the issues you’re experiencing. Observing what is actually happening can help lead you to making better choices for yourself, as well as for your loved ones.

2. Take a break

If you see each day as a list of chores – just doing this, just doing that – you’ll end up simply falling into bed exhausted!

Even though times are ever more challenging, you still need to have regular breaks, as well as have quality time. You’re not just here for a loved one, you are also here for you!

Try taking a short break between each chore, even if it’s 10 minutes. This will help you pace the day. You could jot down a list of things you enjoy doing during these breaks, such as reading a magazine, having a kip, or calling a good friend for a chat. You can then pick from your ‘break menu’, when you stop for a rest.

3. Focus on the good stuff

There is often a lot to deal with and carers are often in survival mode – focusing on the issues, to ensure everything and everyone is okay – but this does not make for an enjoyable life.

What are you happy and thankful for in your life? It may just be a hot shower that morning, or your comfy bed. It could be having loving and kind friends or patting your pet. If I’d had a bad day, I would climb into bed and think of five things I was grateful for that day. It always put a smile on my face and put me in a better state of mind before sleep.

Just remember to be kind to yourself and recognise all that you do. You really are amazing, being there for loved ones. Make sure you are also there for you!