Beauty & the bakery… a blogger’s dream

When my friend and fellow blogger, Emma, were invited to Edinburgh’s Fort Kinnaird to spend the afternoon being pampered at the Body Shop, followed by a meal at well known bakery, Patisserie Valerie, we jumped at the opportunity.

From a young age, I have had quite dry skin. I have to moisturise at least twice a day and if my face was to get slightly wet without instant moisturising, my skin would feel taut and horrible. So on arrival at the Body Shop, sales assistant Gwen asked if I was interested in having a skin consultation. Having seen people have this done before, I was aware that there are certain machines that are able to identify your skin type. This would then rank you, with 1% being abnormally dry and 100% being extremely oily. I sat around the 20% mark, having both dry and dehydrated skin. What surprised me was that Gwen gasped when she saw the reading.

Now, I am the first to admit that I can be quite lazy when it comes to my skin. I tend to just chuck on a load of E45 cream and as I drink around 4 litres of water a day, I expect to get by. Gwen told me that this was not the case and introduced me to a number of different products that I could be using. The range that she suggested being best for my skin was Drops of Youth (how depressing at the age of 26…) as this is full of hydrating ingredients that sink deep into the skin, repairing it. I was lucky enough to try a number of different products and even managed to get myself a bag of samples. As someone with not only very dry, dehydrated skin, I am also extremely sensitive to perfumed products. Therefore, these cute mini samples are great for me as I need to be sure that nothing will irritate my skin.

One of the products that I found really appealing (and was able to take away a whole bottle) was the Drops of Youth Liquid Peel. You work this into your routine twice a week and it gently exfoliates your skin, removing the day’s pollutants. I have to admit, it was quite shocking to see the dirt come away but this left my skin feeling silky smooth and alongside my other goodies – Drops of Youth Concentrate, Youth Cream and Vitamin C Reviver, I’m hoping I’ll be working my way up the hydration chart and hitting 60% on my next visit.

After being beautified at the Body Shop, we headed to the much loved high street bakery, Patisserie Valerie. We had originally been promised afternoon tea but were made aware a few hours prior to our arrival that this was no longer possible. It used to be the case that if you were gluten-free, Patisserie Valerie was your worst nightmare (hello soft bouncy sponge cake). However, they have recently introduced a gluten-free range to cover all tastes – chocolate brownie, butter flapjack and marble slice, to name a few.

We were welcomed by a friendly team of staff and they told us to order as much as we liked. So naturally Emma and myself did just that. Starting with a delicious hot chocolate, I scanned the menu, opting for a ham and cheese omelette. Although the omelette was nice, this was one of the only options for me as the menu was full of sandwiches, quiches and other heavenly goods that you would expect to find in a bakery.

As a food blogger, I obviously couldn’t have left without trying out the new gluten-free range. There were many treats that took my fancy but my cravings were directed towards the chocolate muffin. If I’m being critical, it was sadly not as good as I had hoped however this could have been because I was staring at Emma digging into not one, but two slices of fresh, bouncy cake.

The overall dining experience in Patisserie Valerie was pleasant and is definitely somewhere that I would go again. I am keen to try out the other sweet treats in the gluten-free range and hoping that one day, this range will expand and include the much loved gateau slices.

 

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M&S at Valentine’s… don’t go breaking my heart

So, I have to admit, it has been a while since my last post… I just don’t understand where the months are going! It will be Christmas again before we know it and I still need to write all about my Valentine’s experience with Marks and Spencer. So it may be a month too late but I’m going to share it nonetheless…

To me, Valentine’s Day is all about being with the people that you love – whether that’s your parents, partner or pooch. I am, personally, less interested in the balloons and bouquets of red roses and prefer myself a nice glass of red wine whilst enjoying a delicious, home cooked meal.

To celebrate Valentine’s Day this year, S and I followed in the footsteps of thousands of others and opted for the Marks and Spencer ‘Dine in for £20’ deal. Now, let me start by saying, I love Marks and Spencer. I love their food and think that they are leading in the way with their Free From section. However, I was really disappointed with their choice of food on the Dine In offer. The majority of dishes on offer for starters, mains, sides and deserts included wheat and for those that didn’t, they included other ingredients that were high in FODMAPs, i.e. onion or garlic. Whilst I appreciate that it’s hard to create low FODMAP, pre-packaged food on a large scale for a mass audience, there could have been a lot more gluten-free options. Even the chips contained gluten!

Although I was unimpressed with the variety of options, we did end up having a really nice meal opting for chicken pate as a starter, followed by steak, broccoli and potato wedges for our main. This ended with a very indulgent white chocolate and raspberry bomb. It is very hard to criticise the quality of Marks and Spencer’s produce and this is not something that I am doing here. I am merely expressing my frustration that they let themselves down with their Free From options. For a brand that are getting it so right on the day to day aisle, why did they let themselves down on what would have been one of their busiest weekends for food shopping? Let’s hope that next Valentine’s, I’m more in love with their options.

 

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Senza Glutine in Milano

S and I recently went on a Christmas getaway to Milan. Although we found that restaurants were quite hard to come by, we dined in some fantastic places, sourcing out the best gluten-free hot spots in the city and walking miles to find them.

If you are planning a city break to Milan and in the need for gluten-free or should we say, “Senza Glutine” inspiration, then look no further as I have tried and tasted the city, collating some of the best below.

La Porta Rossa

Located close to where we were staying, S and I walked past La Porta Rossa on the first night when heading to our hotel. We noticed that they offered gluten-free pasta and were keen to try. If you are after a traditional Italian restaurant with polite staff and amazing food, this is for you.

I opted for the traditional Spaghetti Carbonara and was advised the gluten-free pasta took an additional 20 minutes to wait and this was due to the fact they made the pasta fresh in the restaurant.

Milan

As I was unaware of the Italian for onion and garlic, I was worried as to what I would be presented with but I would go as far to say that this was the best bowl of pasta I have ever eaten. It was simple, made up of spaghetti, eggs, parmesan and thick, smokey pancetta that melted in your mouth. Accompanied by a 6 euro glass of delicious red wine, I was very satisfied.

La Specialita 

When in Milan, it would have been rude to not have tasted a traditional Italian pizza. With a craving for cheese and tomato, we set out to La Specialita, a good 30 minute walk from our hotel. On a busy Sunday lunchtime, we managed to get a seat, squished next to another couple, which we realised, was the norm.

I had read really good reviews of this restaurant and I was like a kid in a sweet shop when we first arrived. After scanning the menu, I decided on a gluten-free smoked ham and cheese pizza. When it arrived, I realised that I had made an error – there was no tomato on the base. In my eagerness to eat, I had overlooked that all of the other options included “tomato” within the menu. Having said this, the dough was crisp and the smokey cheese complimented the ham beautifully. Although not your ‘normal’ pizza, it was still a delicious meal albeit there may have been too much ham…

Milan

a Peperino e Milano

Having visited La Specialita for lunch, it was only fitting to squeeze in my second Milanese pizza of the day. a Peperino e Milano had come up as being a fantastic restaurant offering a varied menu including gluten-free pizza (which was renowned to be the best option).

Having learnt from my earlier mistake of ordering a pizza without the tomato base, I ordered a gluten-free pepperoni pizza. I can say without hesitation, it was the best gluten-free pizza that I have ever tasted. I may not have tasted a non gluten-free pizza for over a year but I would say that this came close to what that tastes like. The dough had a stone-baked, char-grilled taste but was not dry like other gluten-free dough. It was a perfect mix of crisp and moist.

Milan

In terms of the restaurant’s atmosphere, this is not somewhere I would recommend if you are looking for a cosy, traditional Italian restaurant however it is clearly very popular with the locals and was buzzing. It is definitely worth a visit. I just wish they delivered to the UK…!

Glu Free

Our trip to Milan was full of walking (10 miles a day) and sight-seeing in the freezing cold. We would wake up everyday and not have breakfast as we knew that we would be having big meals for lunch and dinner. However, on the third day, we wanted to try a variety of local delicacies but these were naturally non gluten-free. Whilst S dug into a freshly baked panzerotti (savoury style donut tasting like a pizza), I was dreaming of tucking into my very own gluten-free treat. Luckily, I had read that there was gluten-free bakery en route to where we were next visiting.

Just as it started to snow, we stumbled upon Glu Free, a bakery entirely dedicated to gluten-free baking. Excited and hungry, I ordered a slice of gluten-free pepperoni pizza and a chocolate filled croissant. Both had been freshly baked that morning. I really enjoyed the pizza but must admit that the croissant was slightly disappointing as it was a bit chewy.

Although the croissant was not as good as I had hoped, this was a great find and it was great to see that Glu Free is popular with the locals and making good business.

Milan

As you may have guessed, our trip to Milan was very food-heavy with a lot of indulgence on pizza. But as the saying goes, when in Milan…

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Symprove your life? Sadly not for me.

Having recently undergone the Symprove 12 week challenge, I wanted to share my findings. Before I delve into this, I will start by trying to explain the science behind the product and how it has been created to improve digestive health. I must stress that these views are my own and from my research, know that other users have had a different experience.

As an IBS sufferer, when I heard about Symprove, I thought that my prayers had been answered. In short, IBS is often caused by a lack of ‘good’ bacteria that sits within the gut. Symprove has been designed to tackle this, with customers taking one shot of the liquid bacteria each morning before eating. This is carried out across a 12 week period. As explained on their website, “Symprove is a water-based multi-strain supplement that contains 4 unique strands of live activated bacteria. These include:  L. rhamnosus, E. faecium, L. acidophilus, and L. plantarumNormally a healthy gut would already contain all four of these, however when it doesn’t, it can soon become unbalanced”.

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By pushing ‘good’ bacteria through the body, Symprove has been created to combat digestive issues and the balance of bacteria in your gut. To do this, Symprove must do three things – Arrive, Survive & Thrive.

1: ARRIVE alive right from the start so it’s ready to get to work

2: SURVIVE the strongly acidic and hostile environment of your stomach.

3: THRIVE in the intestines and targeted areas of your gut quickly and effectively.

Gut_Health

Naturally, before jumping on board, I wanted to know more about this marvel product. I had read a lot of very positive reviews but I wanted to carry out my own research, ensure that these tales were legitimate and not generated/sourced by Symprove themselves. But, the more that I read, the more I wanted to try it. Across blogs, forums and national publications, Symprove was receiving rave reviews. Some customers had even gone as far to say that, thanks to Symprove, they were now able to eat foods such as onions, garlic and whole-wheat pasta without any ill effects… now that is the dream.

Over the past year since starting the FODMAP diet and taking Fybogel twice a day, there have been many ups and downs. However, I feel like I’ve finally got to a good place with my IBS; I understand my body more; know what stomach cramp is good and what’s bad; when my stomach needs a bit of TLC; and when to not push myself. I kept asking myself; am I going to rock the boat by taking this supplement?

Erring on the side of caution, I contacted Symprove to ask whether I would be able to continue taking my daily fibre supplements and expressed my worries. They were quick to reply, gave helpful feedback and reassured me that I could go about my day as normal. I was even given the first 12 week course free of charge to see how I got on. I was very grateful for this as the four bottles (12 week course) is not cheap, setting you back £158.

I must admit, when the package arrived, it sat on my bedroom floor for about 2 weeks. I was nervous and constantly finding excuses not to start the course. Important meetings at work and weekends away were interrupting my daily routine and I did not want to risk having side effects. Knowing my body, if I was going to react to Symprove, it would be within the first 3-4 days of taking the supplement. So I found a time that worked, starting on Wednesday when my work diary was clear and I had a quiet weekend ahead.

I should start by commenting on the taste. You would imagine it to be disgusting, but it actually was not too bad. I had opted for the mango & passion fruit flavour over original as I had read this was more pleasant. For the first two days, I felt normal. I had partly forgotten that I had even taken it. Then came the third day. The Friday. I started the day as always – gluten-free toast with peanut butter. My stomach felt a bit gripey but I just put this down to to the fact that I might have eaten something iffy the day before. It was not until after lunch that I felt the pain: waves of nausea, stomach cramps and awful dropping sensations. It came in sharp bursts that lasted about 2 minutes and within that time, all you could think about was the punching sensation happening within your stomach. After about an hour of this, the pain was getting more intense and I knew that I was going to be ill. I explained the situation to a colleague and took myself home. Let’s just say, it was a wise decision.

Waking up on the Saturday, I felt fine. I decided not to take my daily shot of Symprove as I had figured out quite quickly the day before, that it was causing the problem. I went about my day with no bother and S and I even went out for dinner. After finishing my main meal and 2 glasses of wine, my stomach started to churn*.  I must stress that this is pretty common for me but there was something about the punching motion that was all too familiar. We left pretty sharpish and were back at my flat within no time at all. Sitting on the sofa having opened another bottle of wine, I tried to forget about the rumbling motion in my tummy. But the churning got more and more intense. I was flat out on the sofa, having stomach pains that I have never felt before; similar to those of the day before but this time they were heightened. I felt hot, sweaty and curled up into a ball. This lasted for about 30 minutes before I had to rush to the loo and well, you know the rest. The following day I was so scared of what might happen that I didn’t eat for the whole day (for those who know me well – this is very odd behaviour).

I thought it was really important to share my findings of Symprove. I’m sure that it is helping a lot of people with their digestive troubles but, for me, it was just too much. I have come to realise that, maybe, there is no immediate cure for me and I should perhaps stop eagerly awaiting this. Like I said, I feel I’ve got to a good place; and yes, although I have bad days and hate the fact that I cannot drop into any restaurant of my choosing, I’m managing, so why rock the boat?

*Note – I had not drunk for the whole week up to taking Symprove. Saturday was the first day of drinking alcohol and only 2 glasses of wine were consumed. On the Symprove website, it states that although alcohol can have a negative effect on gut bacteria, it does not say that you cannot drink alcohol. It merely states that you shouldn’t take it for a few hours after taking Symprove.

To learn more about Symprove, visit www.symprove.com

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FODMAP: where to begin?

Since starting this blog and the low FODMAP diet, people are always asking how I’m getting on. The simple answer? This diet has changed my life and for the better. Okay, I can’t say that I’m completely cured and that I enjoy how difficult it can sometimes be, but my tummy does seem a lot happier. With such a positive reaction to their question, I know people who suffer similar symptoms and are tempted to follow suit and start the low FODMAP diet. Yet, most people do not know where to begin. So, here are my top tips for where to get started on your very own low FODMAP journey…

  1. Start a food diary
    1. I cannot stress this enough. Monitor everything that goes in and out of your body. This includes both food and drink along with how it affects your stomach. I also monitor my exercise and if I’m having a flare up or feeling a bit rotten, I have been known to track my sleeping behaviour to see if a pattern emerges
  2. Keep a list of FODMAP foods
    1. Whether this is a print out in your wallet or a screen grab on your phone, it’s really useful to have. This is especially true when you’re in the supermarket buying ingredients for a new recipe or out for dinner, as you can quickly refer to what is a high and low FODMAP product
  3. Experiment with recipes
    1. Try out new flavours and alter recipes to fit the FODMAP diet. It’s also great to identify products that can be used as a substitute for something which can no longer be eaten. A perfect example of this is using Marmite as beef stock replacement
  4. Eating out – always plan ahead
    1. I love to go out for dinner. It’s one of my favourite pastimes but I can often get quite stressed at choosing a restaurant that caters for me. With close friends and family, they are very aware of my dietary restrictions and 99% of the time choose restaurants sympathetically. However, I would always recommend a bit of forward planning:
      1. Look at the menu in advance and decide on a dish that you know you can have. For me, it’s steak, salad and chips (which of course is still yummy but not every time you eat out. Plus it’s often the most expensive dish on the menu)
      2. Call the restaurant prior to the event to inform them of any allergies
      3. Be prepared to ask the waiting staff a lot of questions
      4. Be prepared for your dish of choice to not be FODMAP friendly and revert to the backup. Steak anyone?
  5. Be open with people
    1. Yes, it’s much easier said than done and I still struggle with this. But once people know that you suffer from IBS or have particular dietary needs, they tend to be much more understanding, rather than just categorising you a “fussy eater”

When starting the FODMAP diet I would recommend that you spend quite a bit of time researching what the diet is, what you can and can’t eat and speaking to those who are on it. BBC Good Food has useful articles along with recipes which can be found here. But if those are not to your liking, there are hundreds of sites set up and dedicated to assist you with your low FODMAP needs.

So there you have it. My top tips for becoming a FODMAP-PER. I wish you all happy, healthy tummies 🙂

 

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‘Free From’ trip to Glasgow

When my boyfriend told me that he had got us tickets to Glasgow’s Allergy & Free From show I was a bit lost for words (which is rare for me). Firstly, because it was probably one of the most thoughtful things anyone has ever done for me but secondly (and probably more importantly…), at the pure excitement of the food that would be on offer.

On arrival, we were both handed a ‘goodie bag’ containing various leaflets along with a Genius chocolate cup cake. I can safely say these were absolutely mouth watering and something I would definitely buy in the supermarket. From that moment on it was non stop eating and drinking. There were so many great products that the stalls had to offer, from gluten free beer to dairy free ice cream. As these products are not often at arms length, I was taking every opportunity to taste and savour. I do believe that S saw another side to me and admitted that he had never seen my true appreciation for cake until that day.

free from

As it was such a great event and there was so much to see (and eat), I’ve broken down my highlights of the show & brands to look out for:

  • Seriously Good Venison offer a range of gluten, garlic and onion free sausages which can be ordered online
  • Tesco now offer a ‘free from’ chocolate caterpillar cake which has made my dreams come true. Granted, it does contain milk from the chocolate so be sure to eat sensibly if following the low FODMAP diet
  • I’m not often a fan of milk-replacements and stick to basic lacto-free milk however Tesco’s free from coconut milk is really delicious and definitely worth a try
  • Cocoa Libre dairy free dark chocolate is some of the nicest that I have tasted. I recommend the dark chocolate raspberry slab!
  • Out of all the supermarket bread brands that were at the event (Schar, Tesco, BFree, Warburtons etc) I would definitely say that Genius offer the best quality in terms of taste and texture

To end our ‘free from’ day trip to Glasgow we had dinner at Sarti, a family owned Italian restaurant in the city centre. S knew that they offered gluten free alternatives and that I should be able to find something to suit my diet. I originally wanted a pasta dish but having explained my dietary requirements to the waiter, he advised that my dish of choice was pre-made with garlic. After asking more questions and the waiter dipping in and out of the kitchen, the chef herself came to speak to me. Not only was this extremely kind but very helpful as I was able to talk through my allergies and what the restaurant were able to offer. I settled for a gluten free pizza with parma ham and it was absolutely delicious.

free from

The Allergy & Free From show will be returning to Glasgow’s SECC on 11th and 12th March 2017

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IBS and the dating game

Over the past few years as the symptoms of my IBS heightened and I gradually became more intolerant to specific foods, I was also drifting further away from the dating scene. I thought of myself and my symptoms as so awkward, demanding and downright un-sexy that I struggled to see how I would ever get myself back out there.

When I wrote ‘IBS and the every day struggles’ I was terrified at the thought of dating someone and letting them into my life. There have been times where I have got close to someone but never fully felt that I could trust or confide in them and as a result I would seize up, back away and cool things off. I knew that in order to find the confidence to begin dating in Edinburgh, I would need to battle and resolve my own personal views of IBS. I needed to stop viewing IBS as a nightmare (which it totally is) and falling out with my stomach when I had a flare up. Instead of my tummy being my enemy, it had to become my best friend. Someone who, even at 3am when it was keeping you up being ill, you would love, cherish and sooth. Since starting the low FODMAPs diet, I monitor everything that goes into my stomach and treat it with the respect it deserves.

Alongside switching to the low FODMAPs diet, which has dramatically changed my life and ultimately made me happier, writing a blog has given me more confidence to openly talk about IBS. From the overwhelming number of positive responses that I have received after writing a post, I have come to realise that no one thinks negatively of IBS and if they do, it’s from lack of understanding. This blog has taught me that it is not helpful to shy away from telling people you suffer from IBS because it ultimately increases the stress you’re under, thus increasing the likelihood of a flare up. Writing this blog has given me the confidence that I needed to be open about my issues. Shortly after writing ‘IBS and the everyday struggles’, where I openly admitted that I would struggle to have a boyfriend, I met and started dating someone. For anonymity reasons, I shall call him S.

It was on our third date when I explained about my IBS. Well, if I’m honest, he said it as I was too busy going bright red, twisting my hair and shuffling my feet with embarrassment. But due to the fact it can play such a massive part in my life, I knew that I had to confide in him. And his response? “So what… you can’t help it”. And that was it. After all that worry, it took one sentence to realise that I didn’t have to suffer in silence and he has shown incredible support of something I thought would be a challenge.

When you begin dating someone, whether you suffer from IBS or not, you are likely to get the ‘nervous tummy’. Those churning butterflies that go round and round and you question whether you’re ill, excited or just plain terrified. Of course, there have been times when I’ve suffered a flare up and wanted to cancel but as my Mum so frankly put it “you can’t let IBS rule your life so drink some peppermint tea and be on your way”. And she was 100% right (as always). And a lot of the time it is down to nerves and as soon as those nerves settle, often so too does my stomach.

I would say the main downside of dating with IBS and following the FODMAPs diet is the restrictions on choosing a restaurant. There are so many amazing restaurants on offer within Edinburgh but many are limited with their FODMAP options. Having spent hours trawling over menus and Googling “low FODMAP Edinburgh”, only to find limited results, I have taken it upon myself to write restaurant reviews and rank their suitability. Eating in is slightly easier and I have found recipes that we can both enjoy, even if the macaroni cheese was gluten free, lacto free and wheat free…!

The last time I saw my friends all of them commented on the change that they have seen in me. In the words of my best friend SB, “you complain about your stomach less”. There are many factors as to why this is but, ultimately, I am a lot happier now than I have been for a long time. This just goes to show that a healthy mind really does lead to a healthy bowel.

Dating

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IBS: benefits of exercise

It is a well known fact that exercise improves our well being. For me, if I am not exercising at least 3 times a week, whether that’s a gym class, weights training or roller derby, I start to get slightly agitated as it has a massive impact on both my physical and mental state. I don’t need to write about how exercise improves a negative mindset because we all know that endorphins are released when physical activity takes place, making us feel oh-so-fabulous. But if you suffer from IBS, exercise should play an important role in your life as it has been proven to help and possibly lessen symptoms.

Before I delve into this post, let me firstly start by reiterating that I am in no way a health expert. A lot of the points that I discuss are from personal experience along with many hours of research.

For those who do not know me well, keeping fit is something that’s really important to me. (Granted, this is mainly due to my other obsession, chocolate, and the two needing to balance one another out). Over the past few months I have set myself personal fitness challenges and I am slowly, but surely, working towards them. You’re probably wondering how this is relevant? Let me explain. Not only does irritable bowel syndrome affect your stomach, but it also plays an incredible part on your emotional well being. If I’m suffering a flare up, I feel a whole range of emotions from anger to anxiety, tiredness to sadness and frustration to embarrassment. There is a lot of medical research which highlights stress as a common cause of IBS.  The irony of this being that those who suffer are likely to become more stressed during a flare up, ultimately making their symptoms worse. Before starting this blog I used to get so worked up at the thought of being ill or explaining the situation to people that it resulted in me becoming the most ill that I have ever been. As soon as I stopped worrying (well, to an extent) I became so much healthier, and happier.

When I was diagnosed with IBS my Doctor explained that anti-depressants are often used as a way of relieving symptoms as they offer patients a way to relax and de-stress. Whilst I have heard positive stories about how these drugs have helped, I made the decision to have a daily dose of the gym, before trying something more drastic.

Having spent a lot of time researching IBS and how best to tackle symptoms, I read a lot about how yoga and pilates can help. This is said to be down to the calming environment and way that the body is stretched out. With that in mind, I decided to give Body Balance a try. As a combination of Tai Chi, pilates and yoga I thought that this would be perfect for relaxation. I was wrong. I spent most of the time awkwardly giggling whilst trying to manipulate my body into the downward dog. I left, hoping for miracles but felt no change. I assume that this is something which I will need to work on…

I appreciate that when you’re feeling a bit sluggish, both physically and mentally, the last thing you want to be doing is working up a sweat. But, for me it has always worked! So grab your trainers and get that heart rate going. Whether it’s a bimble through the park or a boxing class, just 30 minutes a day will make all the difference.

exercise

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Flaxseed: relieving symptoms of IBS

flaxseed

As many IBS sufferers, including myself, react badly to wheat and other grains, there is often a lack of fibre that is missing from our diets which can result in difficulty going to the loo. As a way of getting enough fibre into my diet, and something that is gentle on the tummy, it was recommended that I try flaxseed (also known as linseed). Flaxseed can be bought as a bag of seeds but other products such as supplement tablets, oil and pre-ground powder can also be bought off the shelves.

Not only does flaxseed provide a healthy source of fibre, but there are a wealth of other nutritional benefits such as;

  • Protein
  • Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Vitamins
  • Minerals

In order to receive the most nutritional benefits from flaxseed, it is recommended that they are ground to a powder as this allows the outer husk to pass through the body more efficiently.

Compared to other seeds, flaxseed has quite a mild, pleasant taste and can add a nut-like flavour to your meal. Flaxseed is a fantastic supplement to add when baking (see my delicious snack bar) but can also be sprinkled on cereals, salads or added to smoothies.

flaxseed
Banana, peanut butter and seed snack bar

So where to buy?

Flaxseed is available in a variety of health food stores and the larger supermarkets. In Edinburgh I have located them in Holland and Barrett along with Real Foods. They can be quite pricey in comparison to other seeds however if they help to reduce symptoms and relive pain, well I’d say they’re worth it.

* It is recommended that you consume a lot of water when taking flaxseed to allow ease of absorption

 ** For IBS sufferers who are looking to try flaxseed, I would recommend that you start with small amounts and gradually increase this. I, personally, monitor my portions and reactions within my food diary

*** If you are interested in reading into the science behind flaxseed and other health benefits, I would recommend this article by the University of Maryland

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IBS and the everyday struggles

As I wrote this post I was feeling quite emotional having had a flare up that morning. Whilst I am now feeling a lot more positive, reading over what’s written below is similar to that feeling of waking up hungover on a Saturday morning; reaching for your phone in sheer panic, cringing at the messages that you vaguely remember sending the night before, only to spend the rest of the day hiding under the duvet. Sound familiar? That’s often how I feel at the concept of writing a blog. But then I received a message completely out of the blue from a family friend. She congratulated me for being so honest and explained how she could relate to everything that I was saying and to keep on writing. So what follows is probably my most honest post to date so please be nice after reading…

Having followed the FODMAPs diet for a few weeks, openly told people about my IBS and felt a lot calmer, I had a bad flare up last night/this morning which resulted in having to call in sick for the morning*. Even though I could remotely log in and work from home, I couldn’t help but feel an awful sense of guilt. Would my colleagues think I’m skiving? Is this going to put a black mark against my name? I had tried numerous times to leave the house but my tummy had other plans and I was bound to my house for the morning. I managed to make it into the office at lunchtime and was greeted by people who were genuinely concerned for me, asking whether I had made the right decision to come in, rather than questioning me about my symptoms. This was in fact a great comfort.

But the concern that I felt this morning is something that is all too familiar and I’m sure other sufferers of IBS and IBD can relate to. Suffering from IBS/IBD is not only physically painful and awkward to discuss but it intrudes into your everyday life and takes control. I live with the constant worry of not knowing where the nearest toilet is and my eating is dictated by this. Travelling is the worst. Those 30 minutes on a flight for take off and landing fill me with dread. The thought of not being able to go to the loo often sends me into panic mode which immediately makes my tummy churn, even if I don’t need to go.

But the hardest part of having IBS is the inability to let new people into my life and it’s still something that completely terrifies me. In the past if I have been having a flare up, I have been known to make excuses when people invite me out for drinks because I’m too embarrassed to admit what the problem is. When friends invite me to stay over for the night rather than go out of my way to get home at 2am, I make an excuse because I don’t want to have the embarrassment of having to use their toilet. And when it comes to boys, well, sometimes I just put them off entirely as I can’t face the conversation or embarrassment let alone what it would be like to stay overnight.

When I moved to Edinburgh I knew that this was something which was needing to be addressed as I was going to be thrown out of my comfort zone, having to attend events or go to people’s houses where I didn’t know anyone. But I’m slowly doing it. Although I may not be able to say this out loud, even to my nearest and dearest, I can type it and blogging offers something thoroughly therapeutic which is helping me slowly overcome my fears.

*Reading back over my food diary I concluded that my flare up was due to the amount of fibre that I had been putting into my body. In such desperation to cure myself, I decided to increase my fybogel intake from 1 sachet to 2 a day, as well as adding flaxseeds to pretty much every meal that I consumed. I don’t need to spell out what happened but I would not recommend this unless you have no plans for the day…

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