Is An Allergy to E Numbers My Problem?

I think that I have finally uncovered the mystery of why I have been having strange symptoms for the last few years. I can go days without any symptoms and then suddenly get all the symptoms at one. My symptoms have include rashes covering large parts of my body, bowel problems, joint pain, muscle pain, fatigue, and swelling. At one point I was seeing a rheumatologist, a dermatologist, an oncologist and a haematologist.

Nobody could find out what was wrong with me but they did find several other problems. For example, I had a severe vitamin D deficiency and moderate levels of lupus anticoagulant in my blood along with raised red and white blood cells. However, none of this explained my symptoms. 

I began to wonder if my diet was having any impact on the symptoms as several doctors said that my rash looked like an allergic reaction to something. I have racked my brains to think what I have eaten that has triggered the symptoms and was even keeping a food diary at one point. 

Over the past few weeks, I have not had many of the symptoms and then this week, I have had two bad flare-ups. The first was after visiting my local Indian restaurant (for which a review will follow). I have eaten take away food from there on several occasions and usually order the madras.  The night I visited the restaurant was a special promotional event where they were giving away free food on a set food menu. We had a selection of dishes including a tikka masala, a rogan josh, and a vegetable curry. When I got home, my skin was in a terrible state, covered in hives. My bottom lip was so swollen that it felt solid.

The second flare up was this morning. Over the past few weeks, I have made several diet and lifestyle changes and this may be why I have not had many of the symptoms. One thing I have given up is fizzy drinks. At the shop this morning, I decided to treat myself to a bottle of fizzy pop that was on offer. I am not sure if I should name the brand on my blog, but it is bright orange and associated with Scotland. I will let you guess. Within minutes of drinking a glass of this beverage, I was itching all over and had huge hives all up my arms. 

I Googled the name of the drink along with the word allergies and thousands of results came up stating that people are commonly allergic to this beverage because it contains a coloring called E214, also known as cochineal. This made me think about the tikka masala I had eaten. Food coloring is often used in this dish to achieve the bright red color. 

The more I have looked into E numbers in food today, the more convinced I am that this may have caused my health problems. For the most part, I cook all the food in the house using fresh produce and use very little canned or pre-prepared food that is likely to contain additives, such as flavourings, preservatives, colourings and stabilisers. Anything that I have included in my diet in the past that would contain such things has been beverages, such as fizzy drinks and wine. As these are things I have avoided over the past few weeks, it makes sense that this is potentially the cause of the problems. 

I also found an interesting chart that identifies the most harmful E numbers, the alternative names for them, what they are used for, and the symptoms they are known to cause. If you are interested in this subject, you can read this here.

I think that it is also important that I add a DISCLAIMER at this point. This article is not intended as dietary or health advice. The information included is based on my personal experiences and not on any proven medical studies. My degree is in education and not in medicine or nutrition!

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Can Following a Mediterranean Diet Reduce the Risk of Developing Dementia?

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Scientists have conducted many studies into whether there is a link between the diet you eat and the likelihood of you developing dementia. Some have even found that following specific diets may reduce the risk of suffering from this debilitating condition later in life. According to the Alzheimer’s society, the best diet to follow if you want to reduce the risk of suffering from dementia is a Mediterranean diet and evidence also shows that this diet also helps with reducing the risk of developing memory and thinking problems.

What is a Mediterranean Diet?

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Mediterranean diet is now a term used to describe a diet that is influenced by the ingredients traditionally used in the region surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. It is typically high in fruits and vegetables. Other food groups that are largely used in this type of diet are cereals and legumes. The diet includes a moderate consumption of dairy and oily fish, while it is low in meat content. Other foods that are rarely used are those that are high in sugar and saturated fat.

Studies into Mediterranean Diet and Dementia

There have been many studies into the benefits of a Mediterranean diet. One of the earlier studies was conducted in the 1960s and this showed that there were lower rates of heart attacks amongst men living in Mediterranean regions. Further studies have also shown links between following this diet and reduced rates of type 2 diabetes. In terms of dementia, studies began into links between this diet and a decreased risk of dementia when scientists learned that those who followed this diet experienced fewer problems with memory and thinking. Recently, more research was conducted to pull all the previous findings together to learn more about the potential link between following a Mediterranean diet and a lower risk of dementia development.

How Does a Mediterranean Diet Reduce the Risk of Dementia?

One reason it is believed that this diet can impact on the chances of developing dementia is that many of the foods eaten are high in antioxidants. These can help to protect brain cells against the damage caused by conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease. The diet can also reduce the signs of inflammation and lower cholesterol levels. Both factors are proven to have an impact on memory and thinking. It is important to note that there have been some inconsistencies amongst the studies and it is possible that the reason people eating a Mediterranean diet have lower rates of dementia is simply as a result of this group of people living a generally healthier life.

Is Diet the Only Factor?

Of course, eating a Mediterranean diet alone will not reduce the risk of developing dementia as there are many other factors that are believed to contribute to the development of this condition. Some people are genetically predisposed to develop dementia and there is some evidence to suggest that you are more likely to develop dementia if someone else in your family has suffered from this condition. Lifestyle factors also play a part, so reducing alcohol intake, not smoking, and exercising regularly are all important steps to take to reduce the risk of developing dementia in the future.

To learn more about working with people with dementia, visit  https://www.createcare.co.uk/ and check out the range of courses available.

Source: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/info/20010/risk_factors_and_prevention/149/mediterranean_diet

The Unusual Diet of The Inuit People Living in the Frigid Zone

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The Frigid Zone is the area including and surrounding the Arctic, that encompasses Alaska, Greenland and the most northern parts of Canada. This part of the world has a very low population and is only inhabited by the Inuit people. Due to the cold climate and the sparse environment, the Inuit have a very unusual diet.

Traditionally, the Inuit are hunters and fishers who eat only what they can catch themselves. They have no access to grocery stores and eat only what is naturally available. This results in a somewhat limited diet of seal, whale, reindeer, birds, and seafood. Their diet is almost carbohydrate-free and fruit and vegetables are generally limited to seaweed, tubers, and berries that are gathered during the season and then preserved. 

With all the hype about eating a healthy and well-balanced diet, this lack of carbohydrates and fresh fruit and vegetables may seem concerning. It makes sense to believe that a diet that is so protein-rich would potentially cause health problems.

However, studies have shown that this is not the case. Despite what most would consider a very poor diet, the Inuit enjoy extremely good health and research shows that they are accessing all the vitamins and minerals they need to maintain good health. 

Written in response to the Daily Prompt ‘Frigid’ on The Daily Post.

7 Foods to Include in Your Diet for Radiant Skin

Anyone who is interested in health and beauty will know the importance of taking good care of their skin. There are plenty of products available on the market, each of which has a different role to play in good skin health. However, diet can play just as an important role in the health and appearance of your skin. A healthy balanced diet can have a significant impact on the health of your skin and whether or not it looks radiant. It is vital to make sure you are getting all the vitamins and minerals you need in your diet to maintain good skin health. If you want to make your skin healthier and appear more radiant, you should try including the following seven foods in your diet.

Leafy Greens

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Foods such as spinach and Brussel sprouts are high in alpha lipoic acid. This helps to protect against premature aging and keeps the skin tight and wrinkle-free.

Oily Fish

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Examples of oily fish include anchovies, sardines, and salmon. This fish contains dimethylaminoethanol which protects the skin, reduces the risk of premature aging, and strengthens cell membranes.

Eggs

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Eggs contain choline and lutein. These are both important nutrients in terms of skin health. Choline plays a role in keeping skin smooth and also regulates vitamin B levels. Vitamin is needed to keep skin smooth and firm. Lutein is an antioxidant that prevents skin damage and protects skin elasticity.

Blueberries

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Blueberries are full of antioxidants that will protect you against many diseases. An additional bonus is that the antioxidants will also make your skin more radiant.

Red Grapefruit

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Eating just one red grapefruit a day will give you your daily recommended dose of vitamin C, which is essential for good skin health.

Walnuts

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Your body needs omega-3 fatty acids but can’t produce it itself. Walnuts are a great source of these and it will keep your skin cell membranes strong and help them to retain moisture.

Tomatoes

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Tomatoes contain lycopene, which is a powerful antioxidant. It can help to protect skin from the damage of UV rays and the effects of premature aging.

Written in response to the Daily Prompt ‘Radiant’ on The Daily Post.

Why You Should Consider Using Micro Greens in Your Cooking

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Many people are unaware of what micro greens are let alone why they should use them in their cooking. Also known as microgreens or micro herbs, these are simply the early versions of herbs and vegetables. You may have seen them being used in television cooking shows or garnishing plates in fine dining restaurants. However, these are not just an ingredient for the use of celebrity chefs as there are plenty of reasons why you should consider using them at home. Here are just a few of the benefits of using micro herbs in your cooking.

You Can Grow Your Own

Even those who are not green-fingered and do not have a large garden can grow microgreens. You can grow them at home in small pots on your windowsill and snip off the leaves to use in your cooking.

Micro Greens are Packed with Nutrients

Research has shown that younger plants are packed with more nutrients and antioxidants. They are especially rich in beta-carotene, vitamin K, and vitamin C. If you are looking for a health boost, it is well-worth considering adding these into your meals.

They Have an Intense Flavour

The flavours in younger shoots are more intense than the flavours of older leaves. For example, the micro greens of arugula or radish have an intense peppery flavour, while young pea shoots have a strong flavour of fresh peas.

Visual Appeal

Many people believe that you eat with your eyes before your mouth and that the presentation of a dish has a big impact on a person’s experience of eating the food. Microgreens look pretty on a plate and add to the overall visual appeal.

Written in response to the Daily Prompt ‘Micro’ on The Daily Post.

Cooking Tips for Students on a Budget

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When people leave home to become a student, it is the start of a new chapter of their lives. Along with the freedom and independence come additional responsibilities which require the development of new life skills. Two such skills are cooking and budgeting. The majority of students will have limited funds and will need to cover bills in their new accommodation as well as making sure they eat a healthy and nutritious diet. To achieve this on such limited funds can be tricky, but it is manageable with a little thought and planning into shopping and the preparation of food. Here are some ideas of some staple foods that every student should buy and some ideas for student meals on a budget.

Pulses

These are a much cheaper source of protein than meat. They can be used to make vegetarian alternatives to meals or to bulk up a meal if only a small amount of meat can be afforded. Chilli con Carne is one such meal where meat can be entirely replaced, or kidney beans and haricot (or baked) beans can be used to bulk up the meal using only a small amount of minced meat.  Beans on toast are also a really quick snack or meal to eat that is cheap and packed with nutrients. Opt for tins with low salt and sugar content.

Rice

Rice is usually really cheap to buy and you can buy it in large bags to store for long periods of time, thus avoiding wasting money and food. You can use rice as a side dish to accompany another item, such as a curry, or to create a dish on its own. Adding spices, small amounts of meat or fish and as many vegetables as you like are quick, easy, cheap and tasty ways to use rice. Rice is also an ingredient that you can experiment with a little as it will absorb the flavors of the other ingredients with which it is served.

Pasta

Similarly, pasta is inexpensive and you can but it in large quantities that store for long periods of time. There are countless ways of serving pasta.  One really easy and cheap option is to simply add a tomato sauce to the pasta.  You can do this either by using a jar of pasta sauce or making a homemade sauce using fresh tomatoes and some herbs. A simple ratatouille added to the pasta is another option for a cheap, tasty and nutritious dish. There are many variations of this but frying courgette, tomatoes and peppers together is really easy even for an amateur cook. Other options with pasta include tuna pasta bake, pasta carbonara (adding cheese, ham and mushrooms) or spaghetti bolognese. 

Experiment

Finally, the best advice that can be given to a student is to experiment with the food you create. Buy lots of things that store well and try out different combinations of ingredients together. Keep a stock of dried herbs and spices in the cupboard so you can get experimental with flavours in your cooking.

Reducing Salt Intake In Your Diet

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There is a never-ending stream of advice with regards to how people should live a healthier lifestyle.  Doctors, magazines and TV programmes alike are telling everybody to reduce their alcohol intake, quit smoking, eat five fruit and vegetables a day and exercise on a regular basis.  Amongst the things that they tell people that they should be doing is reducing the amount of salt that is in their diets.

The Health Risks

Whilst some salt in your diet is essential.  Too much salt is linked to many illnesses and diseases including heart disease and increasing the risk of having a stroke.  It can also cause damage to the kidneys if eaten in large quantities.  This is bad news for people who crave salt in their diets.  However, there are healthier options for people who crave salt in their diet.

Reduced Sodium Salt

A kitchen essential for those who are trying to reduce their salt intake but enjoy the flavour that salt gives their food is reduced sodium salt.  Using this when preparing food or adding it to food once it is cooked will still give you the flavour of salt, but will have a less harmful effect on your body. This is the first step in cutting back on salt in your food.

Avoid Pre-prepared Foods

Whenever possible, avoid buying pre-prepared foods as these are often high in salt. This applies to food in packets, frozen meals, and tinned food. If you prepare your meals yourself, then you have full control over how much salt goes into the dish. If you must buy ready meals, then choose ones that have reduced salt.  This means that they still contain salt and will have the flavour, but there is a reduced amount in that product, thus making it a healthier option.  Gravy granules are also available in reduced salt varieties.  Gravy is generally a very salty product so this is a good alternative.

Choose Naturally Salty Ingredients

Another tip is to cook with food that has a naturally salty flavour and will not require you to add salt to the dish.  Gammon and bacon are good options as they are naturally salty and will flavour any food that is cooked in the same pan.  You can also save the stock from a gammon joint to add to soups or gravy giving them a meaty, salty flavour.

Use Alternative Flavours

Finally, if it is simply that you feel that food is bland without the addition of salt, then look for alternatives to use in your cooking to add extra taste and flavour to your meals.  Experiment with different herbs and spices to find ones that tantalize your taste buds and use these instead.  They are a much healthier option and you will greatly reduce the amount of salt in your diet by doing this.