Do you know why Tiny Pioneer came into existence? It was because I developed Persistent Genital Arousal Disorder (PGAD) in my late twenties and very quickly decided that mine was not going to be one of those horror stories you read about elsewhere on the internet. I decided that my PGAD would improve and that I would create a hopeful place for others. Interestingly, my post Tiny Tips for Dealing with a PGAD Flare consistently gets more reads than my Introduction to Persistent Genital Arousal Disorder. I consider this interesting because in order to discover the former post, you really have to know what PGAD is and be searching for a solution; by contrast, the latter has the word ‘genital’ in its title and will appear in a wider range of more exciting internet searches, which should, in theory, give it a broader appeal.
We have a couple of pieces of news to share with you here at Tiny Towers!
Firstly, Desert Harvest is in the process of rebranding, so don’t be alarmed if you receive some very different looking products in your next order! The logo has changed; the colours have changed; and Reléveum® is even moving from bottles to tubs. We’re still receiving some stock in the old designs, but some has already moved across to the new branding. That means for the next few months, your orders might have a mixture of old bottles and new bottles in them. None of the ingredients or formulations has changed – they’re all still the same products you know and love, just in different clothes!
It was the Summer Solstice last Friday and here in the North West of England we actually got the kind of sunshine that befits such an occasion! Across the world, for thousands of years, people have used solstices as an excuse to connect with nature, appreciate the world, and inwardly reflect. Some cultures believe that solstices have special spiritual significance and are times for new beginnings and transformations. Recently in the UK, there seems to have been quite a lot of media coverage about the environmental and health dangers of plastics in body care products. With summer holidays right around the corner and in honour of the Summer Solstice, I thought I’d write a blog post about some plastic-free personal care products that you might pack in your suitcase if you’re going away! Read on to discover the brands/products that Tiny loves that can help minimise your exposure to toxic ingredients and protect the natural world!
All of the brands listed below are, to the best of my knowledge, free at the time of writing from:
These are synthetic preservatives used in all sorts of skincare, haircare and cosmetics. They are known endocrine disruptors, meaning they can cause hormonal imbalances.
When I first started Tiny Pioneer as a result of my own persistent genital arousal disorder (PGAD), my focus was very much on nutritional and hormonal approaches to resolving it. I did try some yoga and osteopathy, but I knew nothing about internal physiotherapy and would have dismissed it out of hand in any case. I felt that any kind of internal stimulation exacerbated my problem, so even when I read about people using physiotherapy to help with pelvic pain issues, I never considered trying it myself. It seemed so counterintuitive that I just couldn’t imagine that it would help!
However, at the BAUN conference in Glasgow, Heather from Desert Harvest introduced me to the work of Nicole Cozean and Amy Stein, who both pioneer physical approaches to interstitial cystitis and related conditions. She also told me about Iliana Brockman of IC Relief, who has designed and manufactured glass wands especially for sufferers of IC. I’d already been asked by a few customers whether I had tried pelvic physiotherapy myself and after hearing Heather’s recommendations, I resolved to learn more about it. After all, even if it wasn’t something I wanted to personally experience, I felt I should still know something about it in case I was ever asked about it!
Hello! I’ve been in two minds whether to upload this post or not, but as I’ve been thinking about it, Ellie from BBC’s ‘Countryfile’ has been on television visiting some medical herbalists, so I shall take that as a sign to proceed!
People have been asking me increasingly often about the herbs I used to help dampen my symptoms of Persistent Genital Arousal Disorder (PGAD). In Tiny Tips for Dealing with a PGAD Flare I didn’t publish the combination, because it is not freely available and may be contraindicated in some cases. However, I now get emails about it on almost a weekly basis, meaning I spend a lot of time repeating the same things to individual people! I’ve therefore decided to write a post about it, so that everyone will be privy to the same information.
When humans develop an illness, we tend to become preoccupied with wanting to know exactly how it happened. For example, where did the germs come from? What did we do wrong? What aspect of our body is imbalanced and allowing this to occur? When the issue is chronic, we can easily get into a habit of rumination about every little thing we did that could have contributed to our unhappy situation. If you have interstitial cystitis, you probably regularly ask yourself:
Is this being caused by something I eat?
Is this being caused by an infection?
Is this because I had sex in the wrong position?
Is this because I didn’t drink enough?
Am I bringing it on myself by being neurotic about it?
Is it hormonal?
Those of you with pelvic pain conditions will know that underwear can be the source of a very literal pain in the bum! If you have interstitial cystitis, lichens sclerosus, vulvodynia, urethritis, vaginal dryness, persistent genital arousal disorder, anal fissures, haemorrhoids, or are just chapped from excessive wiping, the last thing you want is underwear that digs in, rides up, chafes, or is made from irritating materials. Many people choose to go commando, but this isn’t always practical. Loose fitting, cotton boxers or granny pants are also recommended, but again, they’re not always practical or desirable. There’s no need to get your knickers in a twist about it though, because I think I have discovered the perfect pant for those with sensitive secret places.
Have you ever heard of bamboo being used as a clothing material? I certainly hadn’t until just before Christmas, when I was sent a promotional pair of bamboo fibre socks and a catalogue from a company called BAM. It was a real stroke of genius to include the socks, because instead of thinking, “Another stupid catalogue,” and throwing it in the bin, I got quite excited about being the recipient of an unexpected present. Also, the socks were super soft. It isn’t possible to describe how nice they feel, which is exactly why BAM enclose a pair so you can stroke them for yourself. Alas, I’m only a tiny pioneer, so the socks were too big for my size 2 feet, but my mum was thrilled with them and reports that they are the most comfortable socks she’s ever had. She’s since bought several more pairs, which shows that both BAM’s marketing strategy and product quality are on point.
If you’re a regular reader of these blogs, you’ll know that I place huge emphasis on keeping the gut in tip top condition as part of the quest for good health. No matter what people’s chronic health complaints are, I almost always find myself recommending that they Google ‘leaky gut’ and spend some time healing, sealing and repopulating their digestive tract. I believe that for many interstitial cystitis sufferers, properly addressing intestinal health allows them to make real headway in managing their bladder issues. With that in mind, I want to talk about some different types of fermented foods, what they taste like, and where you can get them!
I joined the charity Bladder Health UK a couple of weeks ago and I was so impressed that I decided to write a blog post about it. If you’re already a member, as I know several visitors here will be, please feel free to go and find something more fun to read – you don’t need me to tell you how great the organisation is! However, if you suffer from a bladder illness and are not a member, please read on to find out more about this fantastic charity.
Bladder Health UK was founded as the Interstitial Cystitis Support Group in 1994 by two sisters, who both suffered from the disease. Very little was publicly known about the condition back then, so the sisters started a national charity to provide information and help to fellow sufferers. Some years later the charity changed its name to the Cystitis and Overactive Bladder Foundation (aka the COB Foundation) to provide support for a wider range of bladder issues. Then, in 2017, it became Bladder Health UK. It now provides resources for sufferers and the medical profession, with the aim of helping people to live more positively with bladder illness through the provision of support and personalised care.
Happy Boxing Day!
I was hoping to upload a blog post last week, but it’s all about the charity Bladder Health UK and I’m waiting for them to approve it before I publish. In the meantime, as it is Boxing Day, I thought I’d do something a little different and share a couple of festive recipes with you.
I used to think I didn’t like sprouts, but a few years ago I realised I’d been cooking them all wrong, the way pretty much everyone in the UK does. A man from Poland, who works just down the road from where I live, gave me a recipe for garlic sprouts and I suddenly discovered what I’d been missing out on. I’ve modified the recipe as my dietary requirements have changed and I now present for you two versions: a healthy one, and an indulgent one. I make no claims that they are IC-friendly, but they are very delicious! In the summer months, you can substitute the sprouts for cabbage. The healthy version is one of my all-time favourite meals and I’m so grateful that I have grown to love this nutritious and under-loved vegetable.
Calling all interstitial cystitis and non-bacterial prostatitis sufferers! Do you experience any of the following?
Hives or non-contact dermatitis
Itchy, runny, or sore eyes
Runny nose or scratchy throat
If so, your painful bladder symptoms might have a histamine component to them. Histamine is an organic compound, produced in the mast cells. Mast cells are found in connective tissue including the skin, stomach and intestines; in mucosal tissue; and around blood vessels, nerves and lymphatic tissue. The purpose of histamine is to provoke an immune response such as inflammation, increased mucus production, capillary dilation, or smooth muscle contraction when the body is exposed to an allergen. It also acts as a neurotransmitter for the brain, spinal cord and uterus, assists with digestion, and helps regulate the sleep/wake cycle.
At the beginning of October, Tiny Pioneer took a trip to Cardiff to attend a conference of Pelvic, Obstetric and Gynaecological Physiotherapy. We were there to exhibit Desert Harvest’s products, in particular the Aloe Glide™, the Aloe Vera Gelé and the Reléveum®. Cardiff is a long way from Tiny HQ, so we travelled down the night before, set up our stand early in the morning, and spent the exhibition day meeting with dozens of physiotherapists who specialise in treating pelvic pain disorders. Some practitioners had already heard of Desert Harvest, which was great to hear, and one had just returned from visiting an Aloe Vera farm in Mallorca, which was especially exciting! We gave out goody bags, of course, and plenty of people requested sample sachets to give to their patients, so if you are visiting with a pelvic physio soon, do ask if they were at the event and came to see us!
In the lead up to the event, Desert Harvest gave us lots of new information about the Aloe Glide™, the Aloe Vera Gelé and Reléveum® to help us prepare for any technical questions the physiotherapists might ask. It was great to learn so many new things and we’ll be updating the product pages in the next few weeks to make them more comprehensive. However, one thing we really loved was this infographic that Desert Harvest sent to us, showing which products go with which vulvovaginal conditions. We wanted to share it with you, as we think it’s a great resource for helping to select the right product for your needs!
When I speak to customers on the phone, a significant proportion of them tell me that their pelvic pain symptoms started with the onset of menopause, a pregnancy, or a hysterectomy. Younger women often report that their symptoms change during the menstrual month and when my own PGAD was more of an issue, I certainly noticed that my cycle affected things – I still do sometimes. Although there is no hard and fast rule that connects hormone levels to pelvic pain disorders, it is known that low oestrogen can increase propensity to urinary tract infections and women with interstitial cystitis are therefore often prescribed vaginal oestrogen cream. For some this is very helpful; however, in others it actually worsens symptoms. The same is true of other pelvic pain conditions like vulvodynia, lichen sclerosus and vaginitis. While most medical professionals feel that hormonal factors may be relevant in IC and related conditions, there is a lack of consensus as to which hormones, at which levels, may hinder or help. Not all pelvic pain patients are offered hormone testing and when they are, they are often told that their blood work is showing normal results. However, does this mean that the investigation should stop there? I think not.
Regular readers might remember that last year there was great excitement at Tiny Pioneer when Desert Harvest announced that they were going to be making a calcium glycerophosphate supplement. For those of you who don’t know, there is a supplement called Prelief that lots of people with interstitial cystitis use. It removes up to 95% of the acid from food and drinks without affecting stomach acid levels, meaning that those who experience flare ups of bladder pain as a result of ingesting acidic foods can find some relief. Hence, one supposes, their choice of brand name! The fact it acts on the food and not the stomach means it does not compromise the digestive process and can be safely taken by people with low stomach acid.
In one of my earliest blog posts, Tiny Tips for Dealing with a PGAD Flare, I talked about various things that I found helpful in dealing with the symptoms of my own persistent genital arousal disorder. Although it took me a while to notice any patterns or triggers, I eventually realised that sitting at my desk for long periods of time made me much worse. I worked as an audio typist when I first got PGAD, so I spent hours a day sat at a desk with my foot on a pedal. I also liked to sit on my bed with my legs crossed to read or study, which meant I had to lean forwards to see my books. This created a lot of pelvic tension, which I now know certainly wasn’t helping matters. It was only when I got a few days where I wasn’t working much and had spent more time on my feet than usual that I realised sitting down was such an issue – up until then I’d discounted it as a factor, as I’d tried taking regular breaks when working to move around and do stretches and it hadn’t seemed to make any difference. I’d also tried to improve my posture when working and had experimented with different kinds of cushion to no avail.
This week is Herbal Medicine Week, so to mark the occasion I thought I’d write a post! As regular readers will know, my mum is a medical herbalist, so using herbs as medicines has been a natural part of my life. I tend to forget that not everyone knows what herbal medicine is and that not everyone can just pop in ‘the surgery’ when they’re feeling under the weather and whip up something appropriate for the ailment. I feel very fortunate to be able to do so and thought I’d take this opportunity to share a little about herbal medicine for those who may not know anything about it.
Simply put, herbal medicine is the use of plants to treat illnesses and restore health. When they first hear of it, most people are quite sceptical and ask, “Do you actually believe in it?” or, “Does it really work?” However, when you consider the things we do and do not eat because of the effects they will produce on our bodies, it stands to reason that plants would be capable of exerting both health promoting and health damaging effects. For example, most people are very happy to see their children eating fruits and vegetables, because it is widely accepted that these plant materials are nutritious and beneficial to eat. Most people would be deeply distressed to learn that their children had eaten holly berries or yew berries, as these plant products are highly poisonous. Nobody questions these facts or asks another person whether they believe them. They are just accepted truths. And so it is that most plants, if ingested, exert effects of some sort on the body and mind.
Sunburn season is already well under way in the UK and here at Tiny Towers we think every home should have a bottle of Desert Harvest Aloe Vera Gelé on hand for at the end of a sunny day! Tiny is a real English rose – or a pasty prickle, depending on your perspective – so some degree of sunburn on the shoulders is an annual occurrence for her even if she’s really careful. She tried some Gelé in place of after sun lotion a couple of years ago and she is totally converted – it’s amazing! In fact she’s discovered that it’s useful for so many other things besides intimate comfort that she thinks it should be a household staple for everyone! We therefore thought we’d write a light, summer blog about the many things we’ve tried it out for and a few things we haven’t! Please note that we’re not doctors and we’re not saying the Gelé cures any particular ailments – it’s just a fun list of things we’ve tried it out on and have personally liked.
A few nights ago I was cutting open an avocado to have with my tea. I am a northerner, so the meal I really mean here is dinner, should the timing of the event be important to you. Whenever I eat avocado, I always feel like a truly healthy person – it’s the kind of food I used to aspire to eat, as if it represented some milestone in having ‘made it’, nutritionally speaking. All the top nutritionists and health bloggers tell us how delicious avocados are. How good for our skin. What a good source of healthy fats, essential for brain and heart health. How we’ll have to be careful not to overindulge on them, because they’re surprisingly high in calories. Avocados are the food of the beautiful, the successful and the optimally healthy. There’s only really one problem. They’re not actually very nice.
Cutting open that avocado, I was reminded of the first time I ever tried one. A woman I worked with in my late teens, who to me seemed very healthy, used to enthuse about them on a regular basis. Keen to see what all the fuss was about – and definitely keen to get some goodness into my then fairly poor diet – I purchased one and called my mum into the kitchen to share the excitement of the grand opening. Firstly, we couldn’t figure out how to get in the thing – it seemed to have a big stone in the middle so you couldn’t just cut it in half. Unaware of the slice around and twist trick, we just sort of hacked and pulled at it until the poor thing was all squashed. Secondly, when we got inside, we didn’t actually know how best to eat it. The flesh didn’t look like any other fruit we’d eaten, so we were slightly put off by the texture and smell. We peered at it, somewhat underwhelmed, and then spooned a bit out and ate it. It was, we declared, disgusting. And that was that.
Did you know that there is a word to describe the phobia of having a bowel movement when other people are around, or are likely to be around? If you are a naturally confident, uninhibited person with normal, healthy bowels, you have probably never imagined that there could be such a fear! However, if you are a shy or socially anxious person – and especially if you suffer from a digestive disorder – it doubtless comes as no surprise to learn that inhibitions surrounding bowel movements can develop into real and serious issues.
Many people would admit that they feel awkward emptying their bowels in situations where other people might know about it. Ideally most of us try to cultivate a routine where we go to the toilet before or after work, so that we can have privacy and secrecy for the act. While it’s acknowledged that everyone empties their bowels at one time or another, it is considered a requirement of polite society that you do it in your own home whenever possible. I’ve found that in general men tend to be a bit more free and easy about it, but as a woman, there is often an unspoken rule that you must hold it in until you get home. It would be considered a faux pas indeed for a female to poo in cubicle toilets at work; in her friend’s bathroom; in any place where she was known (e.g. her local pub); or in ANY public bathroom if someone she knew was in one of the other stalls. Only a really confident, unapologetic, socially dominant sort of girl would generally feel comfortable doing anything like that. Mere mortals are expected to wait until we get home, or do it very secretly.
Announcements are like buses at Tiny Towers this week – there are none for ages and then two come along at once! This one will be brief, but we’re very excited – we have now opened up our website so that anyone in a European Union member country can order from it!!
We’ve had a few requests in the past to ship overseas, but people outside the UK and Ireland have previously had to email us their order and pay by bank transfer or PayPal. We’ve also had to mess about with exchange rates and weights to calculate shipping costs in advance, which hasn’t been ideal for either party. We’ve now made it so that the online shop is accessible in all EU countries, which is great for Desert Harvest’s European customers, as they should now be able to get hold of their favourite products more quickly and more cheaply than before.