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.
Last October I told you that some new Desert Harvest products were to be launched. I’m excited to announce that all four of them are now in stock and ready for you to purchase!
We’ve had the calcium glycerophosphate for a few weeks now – this is the same form used in Prelief and can be taken to reduce the acidity of food and drinks, without impacting on stomach acid. I think this will be a really popular product, as no matter how careful we are with our diet and lifestyle, flare ups can occasionally happen. When they do, most people just want some symptomatic relief and calcium glycerophosphate should make eating and drinking during a flare up much easier. It can also be taken to raise calcium levels, if this is something you need.
In my last blog post, I wrote about our time in Glasgow helping Desert Harvest on their stand at the annual conference of the British Association of Urological Nurses. Over the two days, many delegates visited the booth to collect goody bags (a high priority at any conference!) and to ask questions about the products. I obviously already knew quite a bit about the sample items, how each is used, and some background information about Desert Harvest, because it’s my job to know about the products we stock at Tiny Pioneer and the suppliers we use! However, listening to Heather, Chief Operating Officer of Desert Harvest, interact with the nurses was a truly educational experience – not only does she know her business inside out, but she knows a LOT about aloe vera in general. I learnt loads of interesting things about the field-to-bottle journey taken by Desert Harvest’s aloe plants and I thought they’d make an excellent topic for a blog post. Read on to find out what makes Desert Harvest’s Super Strength Aloe Vera Capsules so special and why you can’t just drink juice to get the same effects!
Did you know it takes a whole aloe vera plant a whole year to grow enough leaves for a single pot of aloe capsules? And I’m not talking about a pot plant like you might have on your kitchen window for burns – each plant grows to between three and four feet high and three feet wide before being harvested.
The end of November was an exciting time for Tiny Pioneer, as we finally came face to face with Desert Harvest at the annual conference of the British Association of Urological Nurses in Glasgow! Desert Harvest had flown over to exhibit at the conference and Tiny Pioneer was invited along to help out on the stand. Of course we were delighted to go: it was a wonderful opportunity to promote our little business; a great chance to help Desert Harvest raise awareness of their products within the urology community; and both parties were finally able to put faces to names!
Team Tiny packed up our trunks on Saturday 25th and drove north, arriving in the city just in time to cook our tea (turkey stir fry, should you be interested). It was an early start on Sunday morning, as we headed over to the SECC to help set up the stand. The venue wasn’t quite ready for us when we arrived, so after we’d said our hellos and found our approximate stand position, we went our separate ways for the afternoon. We met again at 5pm and Tiny stuffed brown bags full of goodies for the nurses while the more experienced people erected the screens.
Take a mustard powder footbath.
This is another thing I swear by in the early stages of a cold – a bowl of really hot water with a tablespoon of mustard powder dissolved in. Soak the feet in it (or hands if you prefer) for about 15 minutes, ideally just before bed. It’s great for warming you up and helping you to sweat things out – I do this whenever I feel like I’m coming down with something. I sometimes do it just to warm my feet up as well, especially if I’ve been wearing high heels and am feeling ‘cold to the bone’. Mustard is a good detoxifier and in a footbath it draws blood to the surface (you can tell by how pink your feet go), relieving congestion from other areas. I sometimes add a cup of sea salt for added detoxifying effect. You can also apply mustard poultices externally to the chest area to assist with congestion or respiratory infections, although I have never tried this, so I can’t vouch personally for its efficacy.
It’s that time of year when colds are upon us again, so I thought I’d write a blog post all about how to deal with them. I used to think a lot of this was common knowledge to everyone, but it turns out many people outside the alternative health community have no idea what to do when they get a cold, other than take painkillers and feel miserable until it passes. I’m not averse to taking painkillers and feeling miserable myself when I get one, but I’d be seriously panic stricken if I didn’t have all my remedies with me at the first sign of a prickly throat! Once in a while we all get hit by a horrible cold, but there is no reason why we have to catch several of them a year, nor why each one has to last for days. Here I share loads of tips to catch your cold before it catches you and send it on its way!
If you visited the Tiny Pioneer website while it was down, you may remember that we promised you some exciting news once we were back up and running. We don’t have full details yet, so when you’ve read this you’ll know as much as we do, but drumroll, please…!
Desert Harvest is introducing a new low acidic, IC friendly, multi vitamin and mineral supplement!
We were SUPER excited when we heard this news – anyone with interstitial cystitis who has tried to find a multi will know that it is tricky getting one with everything in the form you want and in decent amounts. We don’t know exactly what will be inside the Desert Harvest version yet, but we can’t wait to find out and we think it will make life much easier for anyone with special bladder or dietary requirements! When Tiny was swapping her multi vitamin a while ago, she actually thought how nice it would be if Desert Harvest made one, but she never asked about it. It looks like lots of other people must have had the same idea and we bet it’s going to sell like hot cakes as soon as it’s launched! We hope Team DH will bake enough for us, because we think lots of our customers are going to be really keen to try this!
What would you do differently if you could see the inside of your bladder or bowels? How would it alter your attitude to their healing process? I frequently hear from IC sufferers who are experiencing only limited relief from symptoms with Desert Harvest Aloe Vera Capsules, Waterfall D-Mannose, or other herbal and nutritional supplements. They are usually aware that what they eat and drink can impact on their wellbeing, but all too often they tell me they ‘mostly follow the IC diet’ (which I don’t recommend – see this blog post), or ‘try to avoid gluten’, but on closer questioning what they mean is they still eat/drink things that they know exacerbate their symptoms at least a couple of times a week, even though for some days of the week they comply with what they believe to be appropriate protocols.
“Will D-Mannose help with my interstitial cystitis?” is one of the questions I am most frequently asked by customers, closely followed by, “Can I take D-Mannose and the aloe vera capsules together?” I have therefore decided to write a blog post to address these in detail.
Regarding the latter, the answer is a simple yes. Yes, you can take D-Mannose and Desert Harvest’s Super Strength Aloe Vera Capsules together. And yes, you can take each or both of these alongside any other medication you might be using as well. Regarding the former, the answer is less straightforward, but if I had to sum it up in one word I’d go with ‘probably’.
I’ve been struggling with how to write this blog post for weeks now. Having been candid in my thoughts regarding the IC Diet, I knew I wanted to write about the nutritional approaches I DO recommend for managing interstitial cystitis. I receive quite a lot of enquiries from IC sufferers and in general they have had no dietary advice from their doctors or specialists, nor are they aware that their condition may be very much improved with some adjustments to their eating habits (beyond the avoidance of orange juice and coffee). Having been passionate about nutrition since my late teens, as well as managing my own anxiety, tummy troubles and persistent genital arousal disorder (PGAD) with careful nutritional practices, I almost take it for granted that everyone understands the link between gut health and overall health. I also tend to assume that everyone knows how to eat in a way that will restore them to good health, whatever ails them. However, when I ask people, “Have you tried eliminating this?” or, “Have you tried doing that?” they usually sound quite surprised that this may have any bearing on their bladder symptoms.
As cystitis is such a painful condition, with IC being especially debilitating, I wanted to write a post to encourage sufferers to take a look at their diets and perhaps try a new approach to addressing their bladder health. However, these tips are certainly not limited to managing IC – they make up the nutritional foundations of addressing a wide range of chronic health conditions, including among many others:
- Pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS)
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Type 2 diabetes
Most interstitial cystitis sufferers know that vitamin C comes in many forms and understand that, for the majority of people, only the ascorbic acid form is irritating to the bladder. Other forms such as Ester-C and mineral ascorbates are usually perfectly safe for sensitive bladders, even in high doses. I get bladder pain from only tiny amounts of ascorbic acid, yet can take magnesium ascorbate all the way to bowel tolerance with no urinary side effects at all.
Far fewer people seem aware that vitamin B6, also often blamed for bladder irritation, also comes in different forms. The one most commonly used in multivitamin supplements or B-complexes is pyridoxine hydrochloride, although pyridoxal and pyridoxamine can also be found in some brands. Before these can be utilised by the body, they must be converted into the active form of vitamin B6 – Pyridoxine-5’-Phosphate (P5P). For many individuals this is not a problem and the conversions occur just fine. However, some people are unable to carry out the conversions efficiently enough and can therefore fail to absorb sufficient B6 from their supplements. Most IC sufferers avoid B6 anyway, relying only on food sources to get enough.
Reading around interstitial cystitis forums as I occasionally do, I am often frustrated to see posts from people who follow the IC diet, yet continue to experience symptoms. While the IC diet may work as an emergency short term strategy for a minority of people, I have absolutely no time for it as a long term strategy for the majority of IC sufferers and I am going to use this blog post to outline why. If you are unfamiliar with the diet but are interested in why I don’t like it, you might want to Google it and have a look at the list of safe foods and unsafe foods before you continue with this article. If you have been following the diet without much success, or with limited success but without a sense that you’re actually healing, this post is for you.
It should be noted at this point that I am not a doctor and the views expressed here are purely my own personal ones. Do your own further investigations, consult with professionals and don’t take my word for anything! There will inevitably be people for whom the IC diet has been a roaring success, so if you’ve never tried it and want to give it a whirl, by all means have a go and if it works for you, hurrah! If it doesn’t you can always come back later, have another read of this and see if you find it helpful further down the line. In the meantime, this post is likely to be most useful for those who already follow the IC diet, continue to experience symptoms and have no idea why this might be the case.
Following on from Part One where I talked about feelings of denial and anger in making major changes to diet and lifestyle, I wanted to continue in Part Two by discussing the final stages of grief – bargaining, depression and acceptance. We tend to associate grief only with really traumatic events like deaths, relationship breakups, or rehabilitating from serious addictions; however, when we have to eliminate certain foods or behaviours from our daily lives we can go through a similar, albeit less marked, grieving process. Hopefully this two part blog post will help to prepare those of you in the early stages of making changes for any negative emotions you may experience en route to acceptance!