Being kind to yourself

 © Jasmine Irving
© Jasmine Irving

Recent mornings have brought a world that was starting to look a little bleak. This made the spring in my step slump into retreat.

Whether physical or emotional, when something doesn’t feel quite right there are many quick-fix solutions in modern life. They’ll cover up the problem in the short-term but it goes without saying that the root of any problem needs fixing to ensure there will be no unnecessary long-term consequences or the problem rearing its ugly head again when you least expect it. This is why I have been looking into a more holistic approach to health than the options that have been suggested (or not suggested) by western medicine.

Alongside quick fix solutions, readily-available distractions lie in abundance. Everywhere we turn there is something to distract us from the problem at hand. More times than not, when I’m at a loss of what to do and can’t seem to tame the unsettled, nagging feeling inside begging for attention, I ignore it. Or I get really angry at it. Rather than sitting myself down and having a poke around my head and breathing into my body to locate any areas of discomfort, so I can discover the problem and find a solution, I’ll just convince myself that nothing can be done anyway and that the stupid feeling should just shut up and go away!

Consequently I sit wasting hours and hours distracting myself, with negative thought processes, trawling through the internet, and of course the all-consuming facebook. It’s amazing how long you can spend doing nothing on there whilst under the illusion that you’re ‘communicating’ with people, ‘catching up’. What happened to scented letters? Or sharing printed photographs of distant travels with loved ones whom you have returned to? Okay, so this is an idealistic view but you get my point. Having everything there at the tip of your fingers kind of takes away from the value it had in the first place. But of course, here I am using the big wide web for this blog so it has its uses.

I feel its important to remember the need for checking up on yourself, reflecting and being kind to yourself. This allows you to be the best you that you can possibly be so that you can go out there and have the most positive impact on the rest of the world that you can possibly have. However, despite my firm belief in how the recognition of the good in yourself, in order to nurture this good and let it grow and spread, allows us to see the good in everybody, sometimes it’s not so easy to be nice to yourself. Especially when a western way of life teaches us to always want more than ourselves, and that ourselves are not good enough until we have obtained more, more, more, always more. But of course there is no end point where it all fits into place and you have achieved the dream, its just an endless chain of trying to fill a void then it doesn’t quite work so more needs to be done (or purchased). This is why adverts make me feel drained.

Anyway, what IS achievable and worthwhile is compassion – small and big acts of kindness in everyday life. Of course, this is what really keeps the world ticking over, and keeps people truly happy. Every act of kindness has to start somewhere and where better than from the place it is to come from? You, me, us, humanity, the universe.

Health, physical and mental, needs to be looked after not only by positive lifestyle choices and diet but just as importantly, by outlook and focusing on self-nurture, recognising your own self-worth. Everyone knows stress can be the main culprit for a very long list of health problems and most people have heard the saying “sound body, sound mind.” We must extend a helping hand, not just to others but to ourselves as well.

So, this is my written agreement with myself to promise to try and stay positive at all costs. Even though it can feel like everything I try and do to be healthy again and bounce back from illness, doesn’t seem to be working, I must be patient and allow time to do the healing. I will show compassion for my body rather than getting angry at it for not doing what I feel its supposed to.

And in the mean time, there are plenty of things I can do to try and keep happy, as healthy as possible and stress-free.

What makes you smile when there’s an obstacle in the way? (Be that obstacle tiny or huge)

 © Jasmine Irving
© Jasmine Irving
Love Life, why aye!!
Love Life, why aye!!

Picnic Time

The Barefoot Ampitheatre in Cornwall, © Jasmine Irving
The Barefoot Ampitheatre in Cornwall, © Jasmine Irving

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The perfect day for a picnic on top of a cliff accompanied by beautiful live music.

We had a sweet potato salad, potato salad, green nut salad, boiled eggs, crisps and fruit for pudding.

You can see the nut salad recipe here.

Sweet potato salad: Roast the tats and some red pepper in olive oil and rosemary, when done leave to cool then put in a tub with spinach leaves, chickpeas, kidney beans and rocket leaves.

Potato salad: Boil some potatoes, then crush ’em with chopped spring onions, wild garlic, fresh parlesy and mayonnaise.

Another favourite for gluten free picnics is chopped up carrots, pepper and cucumber to dip in hummus. Which you can make by whizzing up some garlic, chickpeas, lemon juice and a spoonful of Tahini in a food processor.

Fresh air, sunshine and a wonderful view is the best way to eat 🙂

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© Jasmine Irving
© Jasmine Irving

Taking Time To Heal

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I wish I had known after diagnosis what I know now – but there’s no use thinking like that, what I can do is put this blog post up in the hope that newly diagnosed Coeliacs will stumble upon it and take something away from it to help their healing process.

If you don’t want to read the long post, then here are the most important highlights:

-Stay positive
-Take the time to heal, get a routine going, good sleeping pattern, and be prepared to make changes to lifestyle
-Get serious about looking after your body
-Focus on healing the gut. Take Glutamine (helps with repair), take Pro-biotics (to help with immunity) calcium supplements (as we have increased risk of Osteoporosis), Vitamin D (helps with immunity), cook with Organic raw coconut oil (anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties, amazingly good for your health in many ways AND it aids with repairing tissue damage and healing)
-Cut down on sugary foods as your likely to have yeast infection from damage eating gluten and drink fresh ginger tea for this also
-Do research and find what works best FOR YOU
-Say I LOVE YOU to your body!

 © Jasmine Irving
© Jasmine Irving

If I could sit myself down after my diagnosis I would say:

Firstly, don’t worry, you have a positive journey ahead of you where you will develop a new relationship with food, discover lots about health, wellness and nutrition. There are big changes to make but with every change comes a new discovery and the knowledge that you can look after yourself.

Secondly, take the time to heal. Having a label attached to you in terms of illness can be daunting and a knee jerk reaction is to think “I won’t let this stop me! I’m gonna keep doing what I love doing – Screw you label!” But if you’re a 19 year old student and what you love doing involves drinking, smoking, staying up all night continuously and spending the next days catching up on uni work after no sleep, whilst trying to work out how the hell to live away from home for the first time – then you need to stop, take a minute to breathe and re-order the priorities in your life. Your body has suffered a lot and your insides are very damaged so you need to take time to heal, and get serious about looking after yourself.

I didn’t realise this, I didn’t stop, and in the end I pushed myself so hard that I ended up in A and E with Anaphylactic shock, which I was told could have killed me, I believe this was directly linked to the lifestyle I was leading and the low immunity of my body from years of eating gluten and not taking time to heal after diagnosis meaning I was more prone to something to go very wrong. It might seem boring to get early nights, quit drinking, focus on diet and lifestyle, spend time taking it easy, but the long term benefits are worth it. If I had concentrated on looking after my body after diagnosis I believe that not only would I have not had to deal with the terrifying night I lost consciousness and collapsed, ending up in hospital, but I would also be symptom free and happy now rather than still trying to get better.

The people you thought would help you may not give you the answers you’re looking for (other people will have good stories I’m sure, but most of my visits to the doctors surgery and dietician appointments were a complete waste of time) but you will meet some amazing people elsewhere with some gems of information. For example, I’ve been back and forward to the hospital for appointments with a gastroenterology specialist and although he has my best interests at heart and wanted to help, there was nothing he told me that I found useful and there was nothing much he could suggest whilst trying to fit in many patients into a very short space of time.

Yet with one visit to The Natural Health Store I met a very helpful woman who gave me all sorts of suggestions. To begin with taking Glutamine to help with repair, she pointed out that work needs to be done to help repair all the damage that the gut has suffered from eating gluten in order to start feeling better. Docs just told me to go gluten free and sent me on my way but I have realised its really not as simple as that. Also take pro biotics which boost the body’s immunity and help with getting the natural flora in our tummies to a good balance. I’ve been taking pro-biotics for a week and a half and already my tum feels a lot better.

Last but not least, figure out what works FOR YOU. Everyone has a different approach and a different way of doing things. Take time to figure out what makes you feel better. The body we’re in now is the only one we have so it makes all the sense in the world to look after it the best we can. And looking after your body does not need to mean having less fun, I LOVE my new lifestyle: no hangovers, refreshing swims in the sea, walks to the beach, relaxing nights in, nights out (not too late!) seeing beautiful music, weekly dance class, seeing friends, doing uni work, extra projects on the side.

Just do what makes you happy and what you know in your heart keeps you healthy.

And I’ve also found that routine is good, if you can get a regular sleeping pattern and set things to do every week such as morning yoga then that will help stay positive and keep you happy whilst the bodies healing.

© Jasmine Irving
© Jasmine Irving

Vegetable Lentil Soup

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1 Onion
1 Sweet potato
Some carrots
Broccoli
Greens/cabbage
Garlic
Stock cube
Red split lentils

Fry onion in olive oil with some turmeric, when soft add half a mug of lentils, then a pint of water.
Bring to the boil and simmer for ten mins.
Add all other chopped up veg and stock, simmer for about fifteen to twenty minutes. Add more water if needed.
Add chopped/crushed garlic about five mins before the end to get more flavour.
And of course, add wild garlic if its in season 😉

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Sweet potato chips with Salmon Salad

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Making yummy dinner is so unbelievably easy I don’t understand why ready meals exist.

Anyway. For this I just chopped up some sweet potato and put it in a baking tray with olive oil, rosemary and chopped garlic then put it in the oven for about half an hour gas mark 7. Then I put some salmon in with it after about ten mins so the salmon could have twenty mins, splashed some lemon juice and olive oil on that. When everything’s cooked, serve with salad and some balsamic vinegar. Simple.

Now back to writing essays!

Introduction to Gluten-Free, Vegetarian Travel in Morocco

Essaouira, © Jasmine Irving
Essaouira, © Jasmine Irving
Souks in Fez
Souks in Fez

All kinds of rich smells find their way into each nostril, sticking to the hairs on their way in. There are the spices which catch in your throat when they’re being ground, the sweetness of incense smoke curling around hanging rugs and eventually resting in the stitching. Then there’s the stench of raw meat combined with dirty water stagnant in the heat. Or the pungent smell of caged chickens and their faeces which make my nose wrinkle and lips twist. Soon this is covered up with fresh bread, the aroma of loose herbs and crepes frying in hot oil. I remember those crepes from the last time I was here, dressed in honey but neatly wrapped up; they made the perfect snack for resting the feet after hours of getting lost in the souks. So what would I eat this time round when most foods available make my body attack itself?

Well, there are lots of ways around it so travelling as a coeliac, although more complicated, needn’t put you off – there are still plenty of adventures to be had. In summer 2012 I spent a month exploring Morocco, and there were ups and downs as I discovered the dos and don’ts of gluten free travel. In Fez, there were many little street stalls throughout the Medina, my friends all got kebab sandwiches dripping in sauce and then I noticed a bowl full of plain boiled rice and another full of boiled eggs. So, I asked for a plate of rice with an egg and it was the equivalent of 30p – bargain. It helps being able to speak French in Morocco. Another very helpful way to get round food issues, which I hadn’t anticipated, was we made friends with the locals in every place we visited; the guys I was with were musicians so the music was a good way to get talking to people. Our new friends talked to people I was getting food from in Arabic to inquire about gluten which worked much better than my bits and pieces of French.

The main point about gluten free travel is to stay in places where you have access to a kitchen then you can’t go wrong. This way you are in control of your own eating, and can easily buy fresh fruit and vegetables from the local markets to cook up anything you like in the safety of your own kitchen! In Morocco, I found the best things for breakfast was yoghurt and fruit, then for lunch something simple and light such as salad and nuts with omelette, dinner would be a big vegetable tagine – a Moroccan dish which is simply delicious. The people I was travelling with were amazing at accommodating my needs, especially as not only am I gluten free but also a vegetarian which makes things even more complicated! We would make a big tagine together and everyone would let me take out my portion first before they all dug into the shared tagine pot with bread.

We didn’t have a plan; we just went where it seemed natural to go. In Essaouira, there was lots of fish to eat and I even tried an octopus tagine (I should really start calling myself a pescetarian considering Octopus is not vegetarian…). Marrakech, there are plenty of amazing food stalls in the main square and a Moroccan friend we had made who joined our travels, talked to the stall holders for me to make sure I could get something to eat. Street prices are so cheap. Of course, there are travel cards you can get online which explain coeliac disease in different languages, so have a look on coeliac UKs website or google “gluten free travel cards” if your not from the UK and download them to show to anyone you will be getting food from. There’ll be more detailed blog posts about the different places we visited in Morocco but this is just an Intro.

So, my Main tips for your gluten free back pack are :

-Substantial emergency snacks, i.e gluten free cereal bars
-A plastic bowl and spoon (this was very useful when we were camping and I needed to take out my portion of the dinner before everyone else contaminated it with bread)
-Pro-biotics, these boost your immune system which is a great extra protection when travelling and will help your tummy sort itself out if you do pick up anything like Diarrhoea
-Rehydration sachets, again for potential Diarrhoea, that goes for people who aren’t gluten free too!
-Always carry water
-A bag of gluten free muesli for emergency breakfasts when there’s nothing else
-Pick up any packaged gluten free snacks along your travels and keep them on you

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Chefchaouen
Chefchaouen
Fez
Fez

Risotto with Nut Salad

© Jasmine Irving
© Jasmine Irving

An onion
Garlic
Asparagus
Mushrooms
Peas
Vegetable stock
Risotto rice

Fry a couple cloves of garlic and a chopped onion in olive oil with a bit of salt.

When onions start to soften, add in chopped asparagus and chopped mushrooms. When all soft, leave in the pan. Meanwhile in a different pan, cook the risotto rice in vegetable stock, keep adding stock until rice is cooked, keep stirring. Add a bit of black pepper and coriander.

Add in vegetables to risotto when rice is cooked, stir it all up and add peas, cook through for a couple of minutes, continuously stirring. Then it’s ready.


And for the salad:

Rocket leaves, iceberg lettuce, lamb’s lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, plum tomatoes and crushed nuts (blanched almonds work well)

Chuck it all in a bowl and add dressing of your choice. Lemon juice, olive oil and balsamic vinegar usually does the trick.