Sunday, July 03, 2016

Are you sick of mushrooms yet?

Today I have re-filmed the 'ingredients' part of last week's vid, made a thumbnail and Youtubed it for the world to see.

I've also got a few facts for you about wonderful 'shrooms (the nutritional ones, not the other sort).
  • Mushrooms are not a vege, they are a fungus
  • They are one of the few plant foods to contain as much protein as carbohydrate (about 3% of each)
  • Mushrooms can be an excellent source of Vitamin D2 (not D3, as is sometimes claimed), depending on how much sunlight they have received
  • They are high in vitamins B2, B3 and B5, are a decent source of copper and may be high in selenium (again, depending on soil conditions)
  • Mushrooms, particularly the exotic ones such as reishi, shitake and maitake have been received quite a bit of attention for their potential immune modulating effects. This 2014 review is a good summary of the bioactive components found in 'shrooms.
  • Mushrooms are high in polyols. They can be one of the worst foods for people sensitive to FODMAPs.

I hope you're having a wonderful weekend, either soaking up the D3 in the Northern Hemisphere or keeping cosy and warm over here in the chilly South.  Here is my revised Marinated Mushroom video and I think next week, it's time for a change of subject!

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Marinated Mushrooms + Important Tip for Making Videos

Hello! I've had quite a few requests via instagram for my marinated mushroom recipe.
I'm always posting pics of my favourite marinated mushroom pizza.. I don't know.. it's the only sort of pizza I like.
So, I thought I'd film a little video for the blog and Youtube. And, I did film it, got most of the way through editing it and then, while viewing a playback, realised that my goddam fingernails look dirty!  


They're not even really dirty, it's just a stain from working with grapeseed extract. It doesn't look good though, and nor do the sticking plasters on my fingers. Definitely not ready for the public, but I know you readers aren't judgemental, so here you go.
I'll refilm the first part on the weekend and upload the public version. This is a Fit to Blog exclusive.
Lesson learned. If you're going to put your hands in a video, make sure they are photo worthy!
The music is by Retrovision. Their Facebook page is here.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Popular Post Update / Clothes Purge

The world of blogging is very strange. I can spend weeks researching and writing a post that I think is incredible, only to have it flop in terms of views, or I can make a short and quirky post that people seem to love.

This post (click for link) is one of the latter. It's from the end of 2011 and features my niece, Miss J delivering a happy new year message and singing in German. It also discusses how to embed audio into a blogger post.

That post has had over 11,000 views! I'm not sure how many are from bots but it's still a Fit to Blog success story. This week I even got a message from a reader telling me that the audio files no longer work.

So, I headed over there and fixed that up, learning a few things in the process. The HTML code has changed and the old one doesn't work any more. So, if you've used the previous instructions on your own blog, then you currently have a broken post.  You'd better head over there and learn the new way.

Simplifying and Organising Update

This last weekend I made some major inroads in my simplifying mission.  I finally faced up to my clothes issue.

Seriously, I'm a clothes hoarder. I just love buying clothes and like to have a variety of styles and colours. I'll never be a clothes minimalist. I'm also not averse to keeping something for sentimental reasons.  I have some handmade velveteen (yes..) crimson bellbottom pants with a shoelace fly that I bought in my early twenties and wore to many fun parties and concerts. I would only wear them now for some kind of dress-up party, but I feel like they've earned their place in my wardrobe, as have the cargo pants that stuck with me through numerous international adventures.

However, those items are few and most of my clothes stash was just junking up my life. 

The method I used this time is:

Dump everything on the bed
Quickly sort things into five piles:

- Definitely keep
- Give away (charity / give to friends pile)
- Sell (designer items only - I can't be bothered selling things for $1 on TradeMe)
- Really undecided
- Mend

The undecided pile takes up a mere half a drawer at the moment and most of them are not seasonal anyway. I'll revisit those when the weather warms up.

Here's a pictorial:

Step 1: Remove cat from the bed

Step 2: Dump all the clothes on the bed and sort them.

Step 3: Marvel at the volume of clothes in the 'donate / giveaway' pile.

Step 4: Wonder if you need to buy more clothes to give these a purpose in life ;)

Just kidding. :)

I also turned my exposed clothing rail into my new 'capsule wardrobe'. We do have some hidden clothing storage in a small cupboard but there is also a clothes rack adorning one wall of the bedroom.  This is where I'll hang my most used work and leisure clothes so that they are easy to find and easy to put away at the end of the day. I even bought some sexy wooden coathangers from Briscoes so that it looks ultra swish.

I was so proud of that effort that it had to be instagrammed.

saralake_ if you want to follow me.
I always follow blog readers back.
Ok, that's it for this week! I hope that wherever you are your week is lovely, your audio files are working and your closet organisation brings happiness to your life. ;)

Monday, June 06, 2016

My Research: Gastric Bypass

Over the last few weeks I've been super busy organising things for my masters research project.  Therefore, it seems the right time to finally blog about it,  It's quite nerve-wracking putting it out there after nearly a year of working away in private! Here we go..

The title of my research project is:

Before and After Roux-en-Y: A Grounded Theory Study of Non-Surgical Factors which may Affect Dietary Quality and Acceptance of Dietary Change after Gastric Bypass Surgery in Women.  

I sweated over it but couldn't come up with a cute-but-relevant study acronym. In the end, we went with a nickname: the RYGB study.  I wanted to call it the BABeS (Before and After Bariatric Surgery) study, but it was already taken. :( 

For those of you unfamiliar with research methodology, a Grounded Theory study is one that starts with no hypothesis but develops one or more of them as the study progresses.   I am not looking for anything but  instead paying close attention to the data from depth interviews and food records and seeing which themes emerge. These should become meaningful hypotheses about which areas need focus if we are to improve the experience and outcomes for gastric bypass patients. Or perhaps I'll find that in my group everything is groovy and  things couldn't be better.  You just never know.

The sampling method is iterative,  which means that I continue interviewing people until we reach the point of 'saturation', where no new themes emerge.  There is no set-in-stone number where this magically happens but Grounded Theory studies generally hit saturation at between 10 to 30 participants.

I'm still looking for participants,  so if you know anybody in New Zealand that is preparing for gastric bypass surgery or you are preparing for it yourself,  please have a read of the details below, or click through to the university site here.  

I hope you have a great week and god bless the Queen, and her inherited official birthday, for an extra day off work. :) 

What are the goals of this research?

The purpose of the RYGB study is to ‘get inside’ the personal experience of undergoing a Roux-en Y gastric bypass. In particular the study aims to understand the factors which affect dietary quality and acceptance of the lifestyle changes which are necessary for success. The information gathered will be used to inform best-practice guidelines and improve outcomes for patients.

Who are we looking for?

We are looking for women over the age of 18 who are in the process of preparing for a Roux-en Y gastric bypass.

What will be involved in participating?

Study participation involves the following:

-        * Two semi-structured interviews: one before your surgery and one six-months out
-        *  One 3-day food record for analysis. This will be taken at the point you are eating normal food post-surgery

-       *  Optional involvement in a Facebook chat group for study participants

Interviews may be conducted either by Skype or in-person, depending on your location. The researcher is located in Christchurch.

What are the advantages of taking part in the study?

You will receive:

-         * A $50 travel voucher at study completion
-         * A summary of study results, should this interest you

Participants may also find the process of reflecting on their journey to be personally helpful.
This study is led by Masters of Science degree student Sara Lake. Sara’s supervisors are professor Jane Coad and senior lecturer Janet Weber.

To register your interest and receive a detailed information sheet, please contact:
Sara Lake

Professor Jane Coad                                                     Dr. Janet Weber
School of Food and Nutrition                                       School of Food and Nutrition
Tel: 06 951 6321                                                           Tel: 06 356 9099

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Tips for Resolving Caffeine Addiction

It's only taken 20 years-ish, but I'm finally in a happy place with caffeine.

Long-term readers will know that over the nine years that I've been blogging, I have endured cold-turkey caffeine withdrawal four times, and managed various caffeine-free periods. The longest of these was nearly a year.

During this long experimental phase, I've determined three things:

1) I, personally, have a really hard time with cold-turkey caffeine withdrawal. I suffer weeks of lethargy, at least five days of sciatica, headaches and don't feel like myself for about a month. The first week requires time off work.

2) Once I'm off caffeine I feel.. better than I did when fully addicted. Not 'amazing all the time' like some would have you believe, but pretty good. I no longer have a severe afternoon slump (I still have a slump, but not the level that requires a snooze), I sleep better, I don't get 'tired eyes' at random times of the day and my mood is generally more friendly and positive. The difference is not huge, but it's an improvement.

3) To be perfectly honest, 'moderate consumption without addiction' gives me all the benefits of complete abstinence, and it's easier to deal with. I have a fantastic coffee machine and putting teechino through it just resulted in a $300 malfunction. I'd rather use it properly.

It took me ages to admit the last point to myself because I imagined that if I just abstained for long enough, I'd hit some pure nirvana of endless energy and motivation. It never happened. In addition, there is no science showing that abstinence has any real health benefits. Coffee just isn't that bad for you, and may even be good for you in relatively small doses. In my mind, the difference is: do you need it for energy, or are you just enjoying your coffee? If you are using it to try and resolve a situation of fatigue, then you either have an underlying health issue, or you are caffeine-dependent. That's not fine. If you feel generally great and just want to enjoy the aroma and taste of a natural brew, then that's more than OK. Nobody ever lived to 100 by being a puritan.

Last year I did 12 weeks completely caffeine free and was feeling pretty good. Then in October, I attended a conference and succumbed to the espresso machine. In true 'all or nothing' fashion, I punished myself with another espresso and went from  0 to 3 overnight. Then I continued the trend and was quickly up to my usual five a day and suffering the subtle, but annoying, effects of caffeine addiction.

A few months ago I decided that zombie afternoons and restless nights were not working for me  and had a think about 'what to do'.

I decided to cut back slowly to a level where I could a) feel fine without caffeine for a few days and b) wasn't affected negatively by my level of consumption.  I thought about going cold-turkey again but could not get motivated. For a start, I'm super busy right now and just can't have sub-par days, and secondly, it's just not worth it. The benefit of abstinence is not enough to make me care.

So, over a short period, I cut myself back to four coffees a week. I have three caffeine-free days a week and once a month I do a full five days decaf (Thurs to Monday) just to be sure I'm not addicted.

It was easy. I suffered very few withdrawals and on my first decaf day, didn't feel any different. I'm sleeping very well, my energy is pretty good, and I don't feel any pressure to be identify as a decaffeinated.

Here are my tips for taking control of your caffeine intake:

* Pick a starting point. Usually you'll be able to cut back your consumption quite  bit before hitting withdrawal. I was drinking the equivalent of five espressos a day (~500mg caffeine), but could comfortably handle two espressos (~200mg), so made that my starting point. If you're chugging the energy drinks you might need to start a bit higher. Pick a point where you can function.

* Decide on your goal. Mine was 4-6 espresso a week (or equivalent, say, in green tea), 3 caffeine free days (Sunday, Monday and Thursday), and I wanted to be able to go five days without caffeine once a month.

* Set a weaning schedule that is about 10-14 days. You don't want to make it too long because you lose motivation. The goal needs to be in sight.

* Cut your caffeine by 50-100mg every 2-4 days.

If you're a nerd like me, you might like to make a sophisticated app for this:

The reason I work in 'half a coffee' increments is because my espresso machine (see pic above) does double shots. It's easy enough to put the demitasse cup under just one stream, and thus get a one shot espresso (0.5).

As you can see, on day 8, I had an extra one, but then got right back on track. With any health habit, messing up does not put you back to square one.

* If you find it hard to cut back, do your reductions on a Friday. The second day on a new level is usually the hardest. You could cut back 50mg on Tuesday and 100mg on Friday, for example.

* Keep your painkillers close. I am NOT a fan of self-medicating with panadol. However, when cutting back I was not in a space to tolerate any downtime. At the first sign of a headache or body ache, I downed a couple of panadol, on day four and five I needed to do this twice, but otherwise I took one dose on a couple of days. Nothing major.

* Exercise. This helps so much with those subtle withdrawal symptoms. A yoga session late afternoon and I was good to go.

* Plan to be a little less productive than usual. You won't be as brain-dead as when going cold-turkey, but you might not be sharp in the afternoons. Just go easy on yourself, if possible. The worst is over quickly.

* Find a substitute beverage. My favourite is peppermint tea. It just feels refreshing. I've given up on the fake coffees. For a start, I'd rather have the real thing, less often. Secondly, as mentioned above, the main attraction was that I could still use my machine, however, the residue blocked the steam filters and damaged the coffee burr (steam+coffee makes a lovely thick sludge that gums up the grinders). Expensive lesson there.

* Believe in yourself. If I can do this, with my apparent proliferation of caffeine receptors, anyone can.

I found that by weaning off like this, I was in a better state at day 12 than when I'd gone cold turkey in the past. I think it was easier on my body and brain and my system ultimately adjusted more easily and more quickly to the new normal of caffeine-independence once I got there.

Ok, let's hear your caffeine stories (again, haha). How is it going for you. Are you a willing caffeind, or a reluctant bean-slave. Or, like me, have you finally got it together? ;)  What do you think? cold-turkey or caffeine wean?

Thursday, May 12, 2016


Ugh, what a week! I had some sort of weird cold/flu/headache thing for most of last week, then my washing machine broke.. ya know?

I thought I'd do a post today to show you some of the food photography I've done over the last few months. I'm slowly gaining some skills, but it's a slow and frustrating process. If you've been following me on instagram you will have seen most of these already, in between the pics of Razzy being cute.

In some of them you'll spot some lazy editing, but this is a good record of where I'm at right now. I'll do an update in a few months and see if there's been any improvement.

I have issues with getting photographs of dinner items because there is no natural light. I'm working on that though. There are ways and means, I just have to.. well, get around to organising the means to purchase the way.

Any other budding photographers out there that want to share their moments? I'd love to see your work. Link it up in the comments or on Facebook.


Sunday, May 01, 2016

Food Waste Follow Up / Chocolate Bliss Bombs

Hello! Welcome to our little Sunday catch up, which for once, I'm actually writing on a Sunday!

I'll start by updating you on how things went in my first week of total vege utilisation and then I've got a very simple and delicious sometimes-food recipe to share.

My mission for the last week was to actually use all the fruit and veges that I bought, and to minimise waste.  Here's a before and after of the fridge.

We did well, I think. Jase even made a dent in the beer supply! There are a few unused veges, but those will be eaten today, and I've got leftovers for tonight's dinner and a huge vege curry stashed in the freezer.

Last night I roasted up all the remaining root veges with rosemary and garlic.

With the fire blazing, and a gorgeous herby aroma emanating from the oven, the kitchen last night was like an autumn-themed foodie heaven.

You can't see it, but to the left in the fridge pic please envisage a shelf packed with chocolate. Not orderly wrapped chocolate bars, but a mess of half-wrapped, half-eaten, mostly escaping the shelf chocolate pieces.

Upon scooping those into a bowl, I discovered there was about 500g of chocolate which was practically begging to be made into something tidier. For example:

Chocolate Bliss Bombs

Really, this isn't a recipe that requires exact measurements. What it does require though, if you want an easy life, is a silicone muffin pan.

I can't show you mine because it's ancient and looks really grubby even when it's clean. But, it looks like this.. or it used to when it was new.

The technique is so simple.

Melt your excess chocolate on a very low heat with some coconut oil. I used:

500g dark chocolate
1.5 Tbsp coconut oil

Keep stirring until everything is melted and smooth.

Pour a little of the chocolate mix into each cup of the muffin pan. This will make the bottoms of the bliss bombs.

Pop that in the freezer and mix up your filling.

3 heaped Tbsp peanut butter
2 Tbsp dessicated coconut
2 Tbsp liquid sweetener (I used rice malt syrup, leftover from the Snickery bars)

1/2 tsp vanilla essence
2 tsp Maca (optional)
pinch of salt

Mix that up in a bowl. I actually got hands on and just squeezed it all into a soft ball.

Pull the muffin pan out of the freezer (the chocolate won't take long to solidify).

Spoon a little of the filling onto each base, press it down and add anything else you'd like inside your bliss bomb. I added some of my pear and ginger jam to half of them.

Then pour the remaining chocolate over the tops of each bliss bomb, then put the try back in the freezer to solidify. This will take about 15 minutes.

Done! These hold up quite well at room temperature, but it's best to keep them in the fridge or freezer and take them out about an hour before you want to make friends and influence people.


Monday, April 25, 2016

Reducing Personal Food Waste

"Kiwi consumers are throwing hundreds of dollars worth of food away every year because they 
buy too much, do not store it properly and do not use it well"

Guilty!  As part of my getting organised mission, I've decided that I need to do something about my 'more is more' style of food shopping.

Most of my issue stems from busyness. If I haven't pre-organised myself, I'll probably buy something easy cook on my way home, rather than try to mentally recall what is already in the fridge. But also, I just overbuy

Perhaps it's a personal issue that I need to introspect about.  I feel secure when my fridge and cupboards are stuffed, even though most nights there are only two of us to feed. As a result, in spite of the Sunday ritual, our green bin and compost heap are often full of last week's good intentions.

No more! I've done my shop for the week, and my fridge and fruit bowl look like this:

There are also things in the freezer and cupboards, but mostly it's fresh fruit and veg that go to waste.

This week I bought far less than usual, and I'm determined to actually use as close to all of it as possible. This should also save me some money, which would be a damn fine thing as I've got a few expensive things coming up.. such as a Fitgenes training workshop, and visit from Kerryn (yayyyy!).

I'll let you know how this worked out next weekend. Speaking of weekend, this was my breakfast this morning. It's oats with a somewhat clunky swirl of chocolate and pureed pumpkin. Autumn is here, and that means, pumpkin everything. :)

Monday, April 18, 2016

Product Review - Active Naturals Pea Protein Powder


**this is not a sponsored post**

I actually do have a policy for products that I promote on Fit to Blog and it is this:

If I feature a product on Fit to Blog, it means two things:

a) I use and genuinely like the product and

b) I personally know the person that manufactures and sells the product, and believe them to be a top bloke, or bloke-ess. 

And, when I say 'personally know', I mean, in person. As in, if I saw them on the street, we would hug, catch up about our actual lives and talk smack about people we don't like.

So.. a week or so ago I was out doing some nutritiony stuff at Scorpion supplements, and picked up some of their Active Naturals Pea Protein, which is 'Vanilla Chai' Flavoured.

I've been enjoying the dairy free life, but as mentioned in my previous post, want to increase my protein intake. I have experimented with plant proteins (mostly rice protein) and found them gritty, but as I had heard about the blood, sweat and tears that went into this particular product, I gave it a go and was really impressed.

The protein content is about the same as Whey Protein Concentrate (WPC), and they've used the novel sweetener thaumatin, which is a rising star in the world of natural sweeteners. It does not have the aftertaste issues of stevia.

The flavour is, in my opinion, more vanilla than chai, and it's not gritty! There is just a nice hint of cinnamon, but it's not intensely spicy. I found that it worked well with anything else I threw in there: berries, greens, maca, cacao... you know, 'smoothie stuff'. 

The amino acid breakdown is in the table below. The WPC values are there as a comparison and you'll see that it's pretty good in terms of what you'd look for in a protein. I'd say it's the best profile that I've seen in a plant protein. The only thing that I like less in the pea protein than the whey is the arginine/lysine ratio.  This can be a problem if you have a latent herpes situation, particularly the coldsore virus. There's a good discussion about that here, and some science here.

It's not a problem for me, but if you are prone to coldsores and get an outbreak when using plant proteins, you may need to increase your lysine intake.

And then I had to do a photo shoot....

I don't know if it's noticeable, but I've been upskilling my photog skills lately. I've even stopped using the 'auto' mode of my camera, which was exactly like stepping off a cliff into an uncertain void. I'm slowly getting there, shutter speed, aperture, exposure, different lenses.

Negative space, rule of thirds, 45 degree, straight up and down. The one below was supposed to from directly above, and I didn't notice until the editing phase that I was off-centre.


Depth of field, props.

And sometimes, less really is more.

Here's a link to the Active Naturals Vege Protein

and, of course, if you want regular whey protein, you can find it here.

I'll be back next weekend with ... something.  I'm also looking for some instagram accounts to follow that are about food and/or photography. Can you recommend any?


Saturday, April 02, 2016

ITP Update

I've got a stack of emails in my inbox asking how I'm doing on my ITP-busting mission. There aren't many things people email me about, but that is one of them, and it's always nice to hear from others that are on the ITP rollercoaster. Hello!

So, how am I doing? Have I managed to 'healthy live' myself into a drug-free remission?

Not really. But, I'm doing ok.

It's been nearly four years since I found out I have ITP. At first I thought I contracted it after suffering glandular fever in 2009, but in talking with family, I now think that I may have had it since childhood.

I particularly remember at times my legs and forearms being covered with bruises and people asking me if I'd fallen off my horse. I remember being inexplicably fatigued, unable to keep up in cross-country runs, falling asleep in high-school. So.. who knows?

The only normal platelet test I have on record is from 2003, and that was 173,000. The normal range for platelets is 150,000-450,000, so, 173,000 is low-normal. In 2009 my platelets were at 100,000, and at the end of 2012 they were also 100,000, rising to 107,000 a few months later. Since then, it's been mostly downhill. My most recent tests (approximately every 3-4 weeks) have been 57,000, 54,000, 67,000, 57,000. Since August 2014 all counts have been between 54,000 and 85,000.

However, over the years, I have seen a few trends, things that 'possibly' correlate with either lower or higher platelet counts. As you can imagine, I've tried quite a few things over the past four years, nearly everything that anyone suggested might help platelet count or immune system modulation. 

Things that seem to help:

* Vitamin C intake at about 5g a day
* Probiotics, particularly lactobacillus rhamnosis
* Turmeric
* Gluten-free diet
* Consistent strength exercise and (especially) yoga. The count of 173,000 in 2003 was when I was training for a bodybuilding competition. I was very, very fit.
* Lower body fat levels
* Minimal intake of caffeine and alcohol
* Maca powder
* The 'happiness factor'. I'm going to elaborate on that later in this post

Things I'm on the fence about (i.e. seemed to help at first, but the effect was not sustained, or I didn't keep it up):

* High dose vitamin D (first count after starting it was 95,000, next was 75,000)
* Vitamin E supplementation
* Intake of dairy products. Whey protein does seem to increase my counts: at my highest counts I was was drinking it every day, and I have a personal theory (i.e. I've seen no science on this) about the immunoglobulins in it. These can confuse the immune system temporarily (this is how an IVIG infusion works) and I'm not sure if that's a good thing for someone trying to reduce a particular antibody.  I've been off dairy for about two years now, but it's filed in my brain as something to investigate further.
* Grape seed extract and green tea (this was part of a diet designed to influence the Th1/Th2 balance, but I did not continue with it as it didn't seem to be working, and was really complicated)
* Boswellia (I want to try this again, but was using a product sample and ran out)
* Vitamin A (I'm trying this now)
* Alcohol and caffeine abstinence (no difference between complete abstinence and a 'now and then' approach although counts trend higher when I'm not addicted to caffeine)
* Digestive Enzymes
* No added salt (hated it, didn't keep it up)
* Higher protein intake (generally higher counts, but I've also had a few high counts on a lower protein diet. Consistently higher counts have been with higher protein intake.)
* Eating shellfish (mussels, oysters)
* Exotic mushroom extracts (Reishi, Shitake)
* Fermented foods (When I'm drinking a lot of kefir and kombucha counts trend lower, but it might be coincidence)
* Plant-based/vegan diet (my lowest counts happened when I started a plant-based diet, but I've also had a couple of unexpected spikes into the 80's)
* High dose K2 (I think this has no effect, but I've only been on it for two months)
* Low fat diet
* Intermittent fasting (This had a slight positive effect, but it triggered some binge eating after a few months).

Things I think had no effect:

* Paleo Autoimmune diet (however, this was super useful as it removed suspicion from everything excluded: all grains, legumes, seeds, nuts, dairy and eggs)
* All other strict exclusion diets, with the possible exception of gluten
* Omega 3 supplementation
* Papaya leaf extract (had high hopes for this effect)
* Sesame seed oil
* Mastic gum
* Juicing and smoothies

Things which I'm pretty sure lower my count:

* L-lysine supplementation (have tried it a few times, counts dropped each time)
* Regular gluten consumption
* Complete alcohol abstinence (yes, weirdly, but I've also had a few spikes while alcohol-free. I think alcohol abstinence has coincided with times when I've been trying to adhere to a diet as pure as what a monk on a mountain would eat. That is: making myself miserable)
* Melatonin 
* Ketogenic diet
* Low protein diet (?)

And the one thing which I know lowers my count:

* Stress! It's so bad for you!

As for symptoms, there are two things that seem to affect my symptoms without affecting my platelet count (i.e. they affect function of the platelets I do have), and those are:

* Green vege intake (vitamin K1 intake, I'd say). More = fewer bruises and bleeds
* Alcohol.

A combination of stress and too many wines in the evenings can be relied on to see me wake up one day looking like this:

Forearms, elbows, knees and hips are my bruisy places, and sometimes the tops of my hands. I used to hide them but now I don't care. All my friends know what its about.

Keep in mind that we are dealing with three things here: platelet destruction by the immune system, platelet production by bone marrow and platelet function. As I cannot get an antibody or platelet function test every week ($$$), it is impossible to really know which aspect of ITP is being affected by anything!

Lastly, as I only test every 3-4 weeks, I could just be catching some random ups and downs. In other words, as regards all of the above:


There is one other thing that I feel confident about, and that's the previously mentioned 'happiness factor'. I keep pretty good journals, and it's clear that higher platelet counts have correlated closely with times of my life when things were going well, and I was feeling happy, optimistic and relaxed. These were times when I'd say I felt most like the 'me that I want to be' and had things to look forward to.

A few things happened between highest and lowest counts. For a start I injured my shoulder, which stopped my daily yoga practice, then I injured my back, which stopped all exercise for a while.  Then I came under some stress with my university research project, said 'yes' to too many volunteer activities, experienced unrelenting time pressure and had that feeling where life is squishing the joy out of your soul.

I also realise in retrospect that I created stress for myself by trying to micromanage my nutrition.  At times it has seemed that the harder I try, the more I restrict my diet, the lower my counts get. I don't think that's because of what I was eating, or not eating per se, but because I was getting tizzy three times a day about food. I was going down the deep dark rabbit hole of trying to find a food trigger for ITP: 'omg, it's gluten! no, it's PUFA's! maybe it's nuts and seeds! maybe it's eggs! it could be grains! it could be red meat! starches? sugars! plant toxins! etc etc... etfreakingcetera'. It was much better to eat delicious meals with fresh ingredients and just chill out about it all.

Ok, what now?

What I'm doing at the moment is just getting myself back into a generally healthy low-stress lifestyle and mindset. Nothing complicated.

* Healthy nutrition, mostly plant-based, whole foods, things I like
* Reduced alcohol and caffeine to 'now and then' (alcohol is no problem, caffeine is a  WIP as I'm currently very addicted (yes, again... you may judge me harshly for this, I deserve it)).
* Exercise (2-3 days weights, 2-3 days yoga)
* Time management and time out
* Sleep 8-9 hours a night
* Positive self-talk (sounds very new-agey doesn't it? Works for me though)
* Fun and relaxation
* Avoiding stressful interactions, including online (Facebook groups... ugh... why do I do it to myself?).

I'm also going to try a few things that I think raised my platelet count, but in a more coordinated manner, starting with the vitamin C (5-10g a day) and lactobacillus rhamnosus. I'll continue that April to July, see if anything changes and get back to you.

That's it, apologies for the novel, but there's a lot to say! If you are an ITPer, please comment me below, let me know how you are doing, and if you've found anything that helps / doesn't help.

Next weekend I think it's time for a recipe. :) I'll write another ITP post at the beginning of July.