Saturday, September 28, 2013

Natural Food Coloring and Homemade Sprinkles

My daughter and I did a little experimenting in the kitchen with natural food coloring/dye.  I found these four posts, which helped me along my way:

Homemade Food Coloring for Colorful Spring Cakes!
Natural Homemade Food Coloring For Baking, Frosting, and Easter!
How To Make Sprinkles for Cupcakes, Cookies & Cakes!
Homemade Sprinkles

I couldn't use some of them as-is, since we can't use eggs, or certain other foods, etc., but these sites helped me piece together a plan.

We had the ingredients on hand to make 4 colors: orange/yellow, pink, purple and blue.  We made pink by mashing raspberries through a fine strainer.  The orange/yellow color was made by pureeing carrots and extracting the juice.  I don't have a juicer, so I just used my daughter's dedicated small blender and then squeezed the carrots through a cheesecloth.  For the purple, we boiled some red cabbage and took out the water from the pot.  (Why is it called red cabbage, when it isn't even red?)  For the blue, we followed the "science-experiment" instructions, adding a bit of baking soda to the purple cabbage water and it magically turned blue!

Natural food dyes/food colorings
Our starter palette
I decided to use our newly created natural dyes to make homemade sprinkles.  Following the recipe, I mixed together powdered sugar, rice milk and light corn syrup.  (I believe you could substitute brown rice syrup, if needed.)  I then separated the mix into small bowls and added the colors.  I think I made my icing mix a little too thin, because it came out very quickly, but I managed to drop dots onto my cookie sheets, covered with parchment paper.  I just put the icing into small snack-size zipper storage bags, and cut a tiny hole in the corner.  It took a full cookie sheet for each color.  
Homemade sprinkles
Dibble Dibble Dopp!
They took a few hours to set and I used a small, metal spatula to pop them off the parchment paper.  I will say that I was surprised at how little my yield looked, once I gathered them all in the small cup, but they sure looked pretty!  The colors definitely came out pastel, but I think that is to be expected with many of the natural food colorings.
Homemade Sprinkles
Homemade sprinkles - complete!
My daughter said she wanted to frost her Enjoy Life Foods Crunchy Sugar Cookie with the extra icing and top it with sprinkles. :)  She then told me that she wants these sprinkles all over her birthday cake.  I think I'll have to work up a stockpile of sprinkles for that!  (If you have enough empty counter space, you could probably just run a really long strip of parchment paper and drop the dots all around, if you are going to end up mixing the colors together, or drip them in separate sections, if they need to be sorted.)
Frosted Sprinkle Cookie!
She was more interested in having her cookie, than having her picture taken. ;)
Even though it was a bit of work, we were both really happy with the results!  

Friday, September 20, 2013

Messages Everywhere: Lark Rise to Candleford

Even though I hardly get to watch TV, since my daughter was born, I grew up watching TV and I have seen more movies than I can count.  I've often felt that when I have something on my mind, that particular subject will pop up throughout the day's viewing.  It's probably like when you get a certain car and start seeing it, everywhere.  

I know this is switching gears, abruptly, since my last post was about adorable, educational videos on asthma attack prevention, but I was just watching an episode of the BBC show "Lark Rise to Candleford" (I need something wholesome to balance out Breaking Bad! *gah*) and this episode spoke to the part of me that aches with food allergy fears and anxieties.  I'm watching the show on Amazon Prime, so I am into Season 3, right now.  This episode finds the town of Lark Rise and one child of Candleford struck with an outbreak of measles.  This show is set in the 19th century, so as you might imagine, no illness is taken lightly and there is always the risk of loss.  

There were two particular snippets of the show that I wanted to share.  Here is a link to the first clip on YouTube (the segment runs 7:18-8:10):
Margaret: I thought perhaps I might help.
Dorcas: Thank you, but the doctor has given me very clear instructions, I am able to manage.
Margaret: I have no doubt...but it is so terrible to be left alone with one's fear, is it not?
Dorcas: Oh Margarget, I have been given so much and I cannot bear to have it taken away, now I cannot bear to have him taken.
In this scene, above, Margaret has come to support Dorcas just by being with her, in her time of need, as she cares for the ailing boy, who has been left to be raised by her, for the time being.  I felt Dorcas' comment about getting "clear instructions" from the doctor, conveys how Dorcas usually relies on her intellect to handle a situation, when that's really not enough to cope with things, since this is a very emotional time for her.  I felt Margaret was spot-on in pointing out to Dorcas, that she needs more than pure instructions, at this time.  It IS so terrible to be left alone with one's fears.  Dorcas expresses what I think every person who loves another feels, when they sense that their loved one is in danger.  I love how she puts it, though..."I have been given so much"...

[Spoiler Alert!!]
The next segment transpires after one  of the Lark Rise children has passed away from the measles.  Thomas, Margaret's husband, explains earlier that his family was "reduced" by the measles when he was younger.  He is reliving those pains, through the loss of the Lark Rise boy.  He is crying in his room and Margaret comes in to see him.  Here's a link to that clip (5:13-5:55)
Thomas: We pray, we hope, we yearn and they are born to become fodder for the epidemics...
Margaret: To love is to lay yourself open to loss, but that is the bargain we make with ourselves, Thomas, because it is worth it.
Margaret is certainly very wise, for as silly as they make her out to be, at times.  I find I am continuously reminded of the quote by Elizabeth Stone:
"Making the decision to have a child - it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body."
 I don't always like that, though.  I don't like that my heart is exposed, seemingly defenseless, out in the world, where others may do it harm.  However, I fully agree that this is the bargain, in exchange for the soul-healing moments of love and the privilege to have a front-row seat to my daughter's life.  I sometimes forget these things, in my haste to get things done, but these messages pop out at me, from the universe, and I just thought I would share one of these instances with you all.  

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Breathe Easies - Asthma Rock Band

I received an email announcing a campaign by the Ad Council and the EPA, about a new band of puppet characters, called "The Breathe Easies", who sing sounds about how asthma sufferers and their caregivers can take simple measures to reduce the frequency of asthma attacks.

At the bottom, you'll find the information from the press release.  I finally had a chance to watch these videos with my daughter and she loved them!  They have three videos, which are each just under one minute long.  She made me play them all over and over and over.  I must admit I was doing a little dance in my chair to the catchy beats!  They also have the three videos available in Spanish, which I think is excellent and helps reach more of the at-risk asthma population.  Here are the 3 videos, for your viewing pleasure. :)


Parry Gripp’s New Puppet Rock Band “The Breathe Easies” Star in Music Videos to Help the Seven Million Children in the U.S. Who Have Asthma

Ad Council and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Join The Barbarian Group and Buck for National Campaign to Educate Parents about Asthma Triggers

Washington, DC, September 17, 2013 — Seven million children in the United States have asthma and nearly two-thirds of them will experience an asthma attack this year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In an effort to educate parents of children with asthma about simple steps they can take to prevent attacks, the Ad Council and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today the launch of a series of public service advertisements (PSAs) featuring a new band of puppet characters called “The Breathe Easies.” The campaign includes a series of online videos, radio PSAs and Web banners, available in English and Spanish, featuring the band performing songs about asthma triggers. The songs were written and recorded by YouTube star and singer-songwriter Parry Gripp.

“The Breathe Easies” – the world’s first asthma-centric rock band – were conceived of by New York-based ad agency The Barbarian Group. The band, which is comprised of three puppet characters designed and built specially for the PSA campaign by award-winning production company Buck, delivers messages about asthma triggers in a trio of songs. Viewers and listeners are informed about ways to prevent attacks such as cleaning up mold, not smoking in the house and vacuuming the floor, and directed to find more tips by visiting  Each song is introduced by band manager, Goldie the goldfish, a modern spin on the EPA’s iconic fish featured in their Childhood Asthma PSAs for the last 12 years.

“Too many Americans, particularly children, minorities and people living in poverty suffer from asthma, spending their time at doctor visits and hospitals instead of at school, work and play,” said Janet McCabe, acting assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation. “By working together with the Ad Council and other partners in communities across the country, we can make a real difference in the lives of millions of Americans dealing with asthma.”
Nearly one-third of the 26 million Americans suffering with asthma are children. African-American and Hispanic children are disproportionately affected. Asthma causes children to miss 11 million school days each year, according to an estimate from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Although asthma has no known cure, experts agree that reducing exposure to certain environmental factors, or triggers, can reduce the frequency of attacks.

“This campaign is a wonderful and entertaining continuation of our efforts with EPA to help reduce asthma attacks in children,” said Peggy Conlon, President and CEO of the Ad Council. “The brilliant collaboration between Barbarian, Buck and Parry Gripp yielded a unique and lovable campaign that will appeal to both parents and children and, ultimately, help eliminate more asthma triggers in the home.”

The Ad Council is distributing the new radio and web PSAs to its network of more than 12,000 media outlets nationwide. Per the Ad Council’s model, all of the PSAs will air in advertising time that is donated by the media. The online videos will live on, and also be posted on YouTube, other video sharing sites and Parry Gripp’s social channels.

"We wanted to create a positive radio and web campaign that appeals to both parents and children" said co-founder and CEO of The Barbarian Group, Benjamin Palmer. "By creating a puppet band that performs catchy songs about easy, preventative behaviors, we're delivering a serious message in a fun way."

Buck is an award-winning motion graphics production company known for their visually compelling commercial and animation work for clients such as Google, Sherwin Williams and MTV.  In addition to Buck’s design expertise, the company has a particular focus on puppetry and children’s television. The team worked with puppeteers to capture live action footage for the new YouTube videos.

Parry Gripp is lead vocalist and guitarist for the pop punk band Nerf Herder, a notable singer-songwriter and one of YouTube’s most popular musicians. His hits include Chimpanzee on a Segway,” “Baby Bunny,” “Baby Monkey,” and “Nom Nom Nom.”  Many of Parry Gripp’s songs have garnered millions of YouTube views, appealing to both adults and children. Parry wrote and recorded all of the songs featured in the new campaign.

The new PSAs are an extension of the Ad Council and EPA’s Childhood Asthma campaign first launched in 2001. Since the campaign’s debut, the percentage of parents who feel they can make “a lot of difference” in preventing asthma attacks has risen by 18 points (from 49 percent to 67 percent), according to the Ad Council’s tracking surveys. Additionally, the PSAs have received $365 million in donated media to date and the campaign website received more than 24 million visits.

For more information about the campaign visit or follow the campaign at and Twitter @EPA.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
The U.S. EPA is a federal agency founded in 1970 that is committed to safeguarding the environment and human health. In 1999 EPA created a national, multi-faceted asthma education and outreach program in response to the growing asthma problem. This effort stresses the importance of incorporating environmental management into asthma education, outreach and management strategies. EPA has a variety of other initiatives that encourage people to take preventive actions to improve the quality of the environment and public health. You can learn more about EPA’s work on asthma at its website

Founded in 2001 and a subsidiary of Cheil Worldwide, The Barbarian Group provides end-to-end marketing services to clients including GE, Samsung, PepsiCo and Beam Spirits. The digital creative agency -- which recently won the inaugural Cannes Lions Innovation Grand Prix for its pioneering software, Cinder -- helps brands navigate a world where the Internet has won and become a central driving force behind culture and commerce.

The Ad Council
The Ad Council is a private, non-profit organization with a rich history of marshaling volunteer talent from the advertising and media industries to deliver critical messages to the American public. Having produced literally thousands of PSA campaigns addressing the most pressing social issues of the day, the Ad Council has affected, and continues to affect, tremendous positive change by raising awareness, inspiring action and saving lives. To learn more about the Ad Council and its campaigns, visit, like us on, follow us on Twitter @adcouncil or view our PSAs on YouTube.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Invisible Illness Week - Hyperkalemic Periodic Paralysis

This week is National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week, or Invisible Illness Week, for short.  My daughter has the invisible illnesses of life-threatening food allergies and asthma.  I would like to share with you, today, a little bit about my own invisible illness.

I have a muscle-weakness condition called Hyperkalemic Periodic Paralysis, or HyperKPP.  You can find a description here, but the condition presents itself differently, in each person, to some degree.  Here is an excerpt:
What is Hyperkalemic Periodic Paralysis?
Hyperkalemic Periodic Paralysis (HyperKPP) is a rare inherited muscle disorder which causes episodes of paralysis or weakness. It's estimated to occur in only one of 250,000 individuals, though since it is inherited there may be several patients in a single family. It was only recognized as a separate disorder in 1955.
Why do I get weak during episodes?
During attacks of muscle weakness, potassium moves from the muscle cells into the blood, causing an imbalance in the ratio of potassium inside and outside muscle cells. This makes the cells unable to contract properly.
My potassium level is always normal yet the doctor says I have Hyperkalemic periodic paralysis. Why?
The term 'hyperkalemic' is somewhat confusing, because in most patients the level of potassium in the blood does not rise above normal during attacks.  'Hyperkalemic' refers to the fact that attacks may be triggered by eating potassium-rich foods or by giving the patient potassium.
There is another variation of this condition, that is more prevalent than HyperKPP (1 in 100,000) and that is Hypokalemic Periodic Paralysis.  They, basically, have the reverse problem - their potassium gets too low, in general.  In the most general terms, Hypers have a low-potassium diet, whereas Hypos eat a high-potassium diet.  Either way, we all experience bouts of paralysis.

The paralysis episodes were more frequent and more pronounced in my younger years, as I wasn't diagnosed until I was 18 years old, even though my symptoms started in early toddler-hood.  That's too long a story to cover in this post, though.  After diagnosis, I started taking a medication that dramatically reduced the number and frequency of full-body paralysis episodes.  However, I still had plenty of episodes of partial weakness.  Sometimes it would be one leg, one arm, weak knees, a "floppy" foot, etc.  The full-body paralysis episodes came when I got very sick, like the times I had food poisoning (how many times can one person have food poisoning?!) or some other depleting illness.

Let me explain a little bit about what full-body paralysis is like, for me.  It does not come on all of a sudden.  It's often a gradual process, that sometimes happens during sleep, though it has happened many times during my waking hours.  I can usually sense it coming and lie down.  If it happens in my sleep, then I wake up, and basically, I can't move.  It's not a rigid immobility, though.  I can sometimes wiggle my toes ever so slightly, or my fingers.  I cannot lift my head, but I can usually turn it side to side.  I have full sensation, so my body isn't numb.  Sometimes, the most torturous part is when I get a strong itch, somewhere on my body, that I cannot reach.  It also causes great discomfort when my legs are immobile for a long time and it feels so wonderful when someone picks my legs up and moves them around for me.  I am lucky not to experience pain during these episodes, as some do, with myotonia.  The only time this causes me pain is when I have what they call "abortive attacks", where I don't go into full-paralysis, but perhaps one leg is weak and the other leg has to pick up the slack, and then there's soreness from that.

As I lie on the bed, depending on the severity of the attack, I might be able to rock myself back and forth and flop my arm over me, in an attempt to grab the sheets on the other side of the bed, so I can attempt to pull myself onto my side.  If I am too weak for that, I will need help.  When someone helps me sit up, I might not even have the stomach muscle strength to keep myself upright and will need support.  I can be in this state for a few days, with my strength levels fluctuating.

It's best if I am kept warm, as cold can be a trigger for me.  I have to eat throughout the day, to keep my strength up.  I am always surveying the landscape, even on my "good" days, looking for bumps, dips, and things which might trip me up.  A trip can lead to a full-blown fall, without enough strength and ability to really catch myself, depending on the angle of the fall.  I have trouble with stairs a lot of the time, but I can usually walk up a short staircase, on a good day, if there's no alternative.  I can't run and haven't since I was a child.  Sometimes I can't lift my leg up at the knee, from a sitting position, but I'll be fine walking on a flat plane, for a longer distance.

I have a handicapped parking pass, and I've read so many threads by people who complain about seeing others who look "fine", yet are using passes.  I'd like to explain that these passes are prescribed, with physician approval, for a wide range of conditions.  I, personally, use them on days when I'm feeling weak in the knees, and need to be close to the ramp, avoiding the curb.  A longer walk through the parking lot provides more opportunities for tripping and falling on uneven, gravelly surfaces.  Once I am inside a store, I can lean on a shopping cart for additional support, etc.  I also, sometimes, use my pass at large theme parks, which may seem strange, at first, since you know I will be walking quite a bit.  However, that is precisely why I need to park close.  Once we're done, I will be spent, and again, getting to my car ASAP is helpful, without navigating the busy, pitted parking lot.  I don't use my pass when I am feeling fine.  Nobody has ever approached me about using my pass, but I ask if you ever think to do that to someone, please consider that they might have an invisible illness.  If they don't, it's on their conscious.  

I don't usually focus on what I *can't* do, but I've mentioned some of my limitations, in this post, to explain the nature of my condition.  I have been so many places and done so many things in my life, but I cannot deny that having this condition affects every single facet of my life, in some way.  I was lucky enough to participate in a clinical trial that pretty much gave me a year off from my condition, but since it's a rare disease, the funding ran out, there's no interested manufacturer, etc., we may never get that drug on the market.  (It has been in the FDA approval process for *drum roll* 22 years!)

I know there are so many of us out there, with a wide variety of "invisible illnesses/conditions", and the effects of these conditions vary and affect everyone differently, so please consider that, in your interactions with others.  There is a video on the Invisible Illness Week website that you might relate to, if you have an invisible illness.  (The first 15 seconds comprise the intro and it's not a malfunction.)  If you don't have one, I especially urge you to watch this video, so you don't say these things to your affected friends.

Thank you for reading. Please feel free to share any invisible illnesses that you may have, so we can all learn more about the struggles that hide in plain sight.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Lysol Air Filters Discount - Extended!

If you haven't heard/read about the new Lysol Air Filters, please check out my original post.

Good news!  The coupon code "SELENA" that saves you 25% off and provides free shipping, has now been extended through 9/30/2013!  There's also more good news - the filters are now available in a 2-pack via  This is a really great deal, at a more manageable price, so I encourage you all to check them out.

If you visit the site, you will find more details about the design of this product, including the following:
The lofted, wire-backed media (pleated fiber fabric) holds a high amount of dust while allowing air to flow through easily. Furthermore, we have put a lot more media than standard wireback media filters. Most residential pleated filters have 14 pleats per foot; ours is built with 22 pleats per foot meaning that there is about 50% more surface area to work better and last longer than most.
There's even a video, showing how these fine filters are made!  If you've been waiting to try these out, now's a great time. :)

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Discovery Channel Documentary on Food Allergies

We canceled cable when our daughter was 3 months old, so I was VERY excited to see that the link to the Discovery Channel documentary, An Emerging Epidemic: Food Allergies in America, was up earlier than expected!  I am overjoyed that this topic is finally getting coverage on such a platform, with such a far reach.  They only had 53 minutes to cover quite a lot of ground, but I was very pleased with the overall content.  For those of us who spend our days and nights researching food allergies, the information presented, and even the families, doctors, etc., will already be familiar to us, but remember that this documentary is for the general public, to raise awareness and educate those who do not live this allergic life.
(Edited to add: I'd rate it PG-13, depending on your child's temperament.  Though there are no stories of loss, they do candidly discuss the risks and realities of having a life-threatening condition.  There are also emotional accounts from some of the families.)
In case anyone's interested, here is the play-by-play, with some occasional commentary by yours truly. :)
00:20 - Right off the bat, we're presented with the staggering statistics - 15 million Americans have food allergies!
03:00 - The point is made that many people think of hayfever, sneezing and such when they think of the word "allergies", but when it comes to food allergies, it is, indeed, much more serious.
03:20 - Max's story is told, with re-enactments by his family.  There is one picture that might be a bit upsetting to younger viewers, of Max hooked up to the hospital equipment.  Other than that, I don't think the documentary was particularly "scary".  There are no stories from families who have lost children, as I believe they wanted to make the show one that could be watched by the entire family.  (Well, maybe not the little ones...I know my almost-5-year-old would find that one image a bit upsetting.)
10:54 - Dr. Kari Nadeau speaks of the constant fear food allergic families face - "They live in fear every day of the year"...
11:20 - Story of Mireille (seafood allergy) and her daughter Charlotte (peanut/tree nut allergies)...I think this helps illustrate the point that parents will not necessarily share the same food allergies, but children of food allergic parents (or parents with other allergic conditions) are at a greater risk of developing their own food allergies.
12:30 - I appreciate the part where Mireille speaks about being diagnosed 30 years ago - so many people say "we never had people with food allergies when I was a kid" and this is simply not just wasn't as prevalent.
12:41 - Dr. Ruchi Gupta notes that people can be allergic to ANY food, then lists the Top 8.
13:00 - There is a discussion of the prevailing theories about why food allergies have spiked...Hygiene Hypothesis, vaccines, antibiotic use in infancy, birth methods, but they note that nobody knows, yet, about the true cause(s).
14:00 - I like that they mention how people are often first seen by their primary care physician, but they need to see a board-certified allergist, for proper diagnosis.
15:25 - Mireille shares the story of how she gave her daughter peanut butter at age 3 and she suffered a reaction.
16:24 - Explanation of how doctors will ask questions to get a full history from the patient, then additional testing may be done.
17:00 - They discuss the process of skin testing and what IgE is...
17:46 - I am so glad they made the point, which I have been wanting to highlight, that because skin testing can cause anaphylactic reactions, it might not be safe for all patients.  I don't think this point has been made widely enough...
19:04 - FIRST line of treatment is epinephrine, then call 911.
19:37 - Teens at a higher risk for fatal reactions
19:45 - Talking to Andrew (who is also in this video from the former Food Allergy Initiative, that has now joined with FAAN, to become FARE) who is allergic to milk, eggs, and peanuts/tree nuts.
20:15 - Andrew tells of how he was flying to a championship sporting event and told the airline 2 hours before boarding about his nut allergies...Sorry, but that is too little notice, in my book.  The airline should know as soon as the reservation is made, with reminders all along the way.
21:18 - Andrew had an anaphylactic reaction to formula
21:27 - Anne, Andrew's mother, tells of how Andrew would get welts if they kissed him on the cheek, even after just having milk in their coffee.  She noted that everyone's threshold is different, but for Andrew, just a touch was enough to cause a reaction.
21:43 - The effects of diagnosis...stages of grieving...then you learn to manage...
23:00 - Anne discusses that the management of her son's allergies was based on age-appropriateness and changed over time...I think this is an important point - very young children need more protections and precautions, in general, than older children.
23:58 - She discusses her fears and worries for when Andrew goes off to college...
24:45 - Doctors discuss the availability of epinephrine auto-injectors
25:03 - Dr. Nadeau explains that epinephrine is just adrenaline, which I think it a step towards demystifying epinephrine.  She also explains what it does to counter the effects of anaphylaxis.
25:30 - They note that biphasic reactions can occur, and that is why medical treatment is necessary, after the dose(s) of epinephrine.
26:20 - Andrew/Anne discuss how his friends were trained on how to use epinephrine...I didn't quite appreciate the "exploding orange" comment he made, since you don't have to be THAT forceful. :P
26:54 - Andrew discusses dating
28:33 - Erin, of Allergy Shmallergy, talks about her children, one of which has a soy allergy.  Though my daughter is not allergic to soy, I think it was great to point out that it is very hard to avoid soy in prepared food products.
31:35 - They discuss how one child's food allergy affects the people around them, and spreading awareness helps to keep these children safe.
32:00 - Statistic: 8 million children in the U.S. have food allergies.
32:30 - A school administrator notes that they are responsible for ensuring the safety of all students.
33:53 - The story of Danielle and her sister Lauren.  You may have read about the Rhode Island teen who got a law passed to have allergy awareness training for all RI restaurants.  There's also mention of how her sister is adding allergies to her list, over time, and not outgrowing them.
37:29 - This is a big point that we often repeat - past reactions are not predictive of the severity of future reactions.  Even though previous reactions may have been "mild", one must be prepared for the possibility that the next reaction will be severe.
37:52 - More details about Danielle passing the law, on behalf of her sister.
42:00 - They make the important point that there is, currently, NO CURE.  Treatments are being researched, but no definitive cure is available.
43:20 - They note that unlike in the past, milk and egg allergies are proving to be harder to outgrow.  They tend to persist much longer than they did, previously.
43:45 - They discuss Oral Immunotherapy (OIT)
45:15 - An important note is made that OIT is still an experimental treatment, and should only be done in a research setting, due to the risk of anaphylaxis.
48:00 - They share the story of a family who had success with OIT, but also note that if the maintenance dose is discontinued, the allergy can return.
48:30 - They mention SLIT and the skin patch. (Viaskin, though they do not mention it by name.)
48:50 - They also mention researching milk OIT with "an additional drug" (Xolair, I'm sure...)
48:57 - Alex's family discusses how completing the clinical trial opened up so many options.
50:00 - Summary about how people with food allergies must be vigilant at all times.  They are working on treatments and hope to, eventually, have a variety of treatment options available, since not all therapies will work for everyone.

Overall, I thought it was great!  I did wonder why there was no mention of the FAHF-2 treatment studies, which have been very promising, and treat multiple food allergies, simultaneously.  However, as I said, they only had 1 hour to cover so much material.  We all have a million things we want the general public to know about the subject and I think they did a wonderful job, in the time allotted.

Many thanks to FARE and Mylan for creating this documentary, and getting it in front of such a large audience.  Let's hope that this sparks some discussions, and helps to raise the level of awareness about a topic that is central to the lives of so many of us.  

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Guest Post - 60 Nuggets of Gold from 10 Years of Eczema

I was contacted by Harrison Li, of Cure Eczema Slowly, who wanted to share some of the things he has learned during his 10-year struggle with eczema.  I believe that lifestyle changes and dietary changes can be very helpful in remedying certain ailments.  In my post "Milk Did My Body Wrong", I explained how simply removing one problem food group from my diet resulted in amazing changes to my health.  The following are Harrison's tips, which he has asked me to share with you all, in the hopes that it might also lead to improvements, for those suffering from eczema.  These are presented as suggestions and as a personal testimonial.  Everybody is different, so please consult a physician or health care professional, before making any major adjustments.

60 Nuggets of Gold from 10 Years of Eczema

Hi, reader of Amazing and Atopic. I’m Harrison. I’m honoured to be featured on Selena’s blog here today.
I would like to share with you my success story of becoming eczema-free.  I was a fine kid until 6 years old, when bad luck struck me and I started getting dry skin.  Dry skin turned into itchy skin.  Itchy skin turned into never-ending wet bloody sores.  The wounds got so bad the plasma got stuck on to my white school uniform all the time.  I hated life, I hated myself.  I hated getting into showers because upon water contact with my young delicate broken skin would make me cry in agony.  I have all these memories of my so-called “childhood”.  All these didn't matter too much, but as I grew up I felt the social humiliation and embarrassment in front of my friends and even strangers. It was annoying being stared at and looked away.  I knew it had to change.

I tried many kinds of lotions, creams, steroids, herbal medicines and bathing formulas.  Nothing gave me a permanent relief. I dived on to my laptop and searched endlessly of the whole internet for a practical solution.  Finally, I found a method that made sense – dietary changes.  I followed an extremely restrictive diet which took a little over 6 months for my body to heal and detoxify unwanted toxins from my body.
It was a painful process because I had to go through the healing crisis, a period of time (3 months for me) that worsened my eczema to the extreme due to the natural effect of detoxification. My skin was crocodile-like it even hurt to move, I could literally feel my skin stretching.

After 10 long years of suffering from eczema, I must say, through a combination of dietary changes, habitual changes, lifestyle changes and a little bit extra of everything, has allowed me to recover from eczema.  I’ve decided to share my personal tips with you.

Note: The advice listed here come from my personal experience and achieved results, but everyone’s different so may have to make certain adjustments.

1.       If the place you live at has high humidity or high dryness levels, install the appropriate appliance to bring the levels back to the mean.
2.      It depends on the household size, but if you are to use any air conditioner for heating or cooling, do not move the temperature to the limits of each appliance instead, have it in the middle is best. That means no AC for down to 16 degrees (60°F) in the summer.
3.      Clean your house every week, sweep the dust, but wet it first so they don’t fly in the air which can get into your breathing. And try to clean your house right before you have to leave, so you can avoid breathing in most of the dusty air particles.
4.      No carpets, rugs or any substance that is hairy-like in your house, this includes teddy bears – try to avoid contact if you really need to keep them. These fabrics cause build-ups of dust mites, bacteria and unwanted substances.
5.      Have multiple bed sheets and pillow cases for exchange every month.
6.      Switch your closet with all 100% cotton only apparel. Don’t buy or use anymore artificial fabrics.
7.      Never wear tight clothing because it will interfere with proper breathing of your skin pores.

8.     No steroids at all, not even for emergency or any type of situations. Steroids not only block the detoxification process of your body, you’ll also be able to develop steroid-induced eczema and you’re simply trading a short-term relief for a long-term suffering. Not worth it.
9.      Have three levels of topical treatments: casual lotion, petroleum jelly for really dry skin if the casual lotion doesn’t work and an emergency itch buster that is organic.
10.  Some itches are intolerable, learn to relieve itches properly. There are multiple methods that can reduce your itch without breaking your skin cells. First, you can slap the affected spots hard, because pain covers up itches. Still itchy? Slap it again and make it stronger.
11.   Second, you can grab some water and rub it on your itching spot, the water helps soothe the itch and also rubbing it in circles is still a lot better than pure scratching. Ice-packs are even better.
12.  Third, divert your attention to something else, for this to be effective the activity you do must be really attention-grabbing e.g. watching a hilarious comedy.
13.  Fourth, manually pump out your adrenaline levels. How? Do vigorous physical activities in a short amount of time e.g. kicks and punch, continuous jumping and so on. This is my personal trick but I find it useful.
14.  For infants, consider using a pair of Scratch Me Not mittens– they are skin-safe mittens for infants with eczema to wear without allowing them damage their skin.
15.   Allergies are a big problem in life, being uncertain of the triggers is worse. I highly recommend taking an allergy test, although the results may not be 100% accurate, it will still give you a clear grasp of what may be dangerous to you. Remember, the test for IgE levels is the one that matters. Here’s more information about blood tests.

Dietary Changes
16.  Eat an apple every single morning (morning is best), because it’s full of antioxidants and essential nutrients.
17.   Drink at least 2L of water every day.
18.  Drink no artificial beverages and no acidifying beverages.
19.  Don’t drink icy cool water or boiling hot liquids.
20. Don’t use a plastic container for your frequent water consumption, as long periods of usage, the chemicals of the plastic bottle will degrade and come off, mixed in within your beverage.
21.  Consume zero amounts of artificially processed, refined, made products.
22. Retain an eating balance of 80% alkalizing foods and 20% acidifying foods. Here are food charts.
23. Drop omega-6 intake, sodium (salt) intake and raise omega-3 intake and potassium intake. These are crucial diet factors that can affect your inflammatory responses.
24. Eat low amounts of foods high in natural chemicals such as salicylates, amines and glutamates.
25.  Each meal should contain at least 50% vegetables, 25% of proteins and 25% of carbohydrates. Do not deviate.
26. Consider eating plain organic natural fresh yoghurt as part of your daily ritual, they contain live cultures which are beneficial bacteria for your gut to help fight off harmful bacteria.
27.  Try to only eat acidifying protein (meat, fish) during the day, and go vegetarian at night because when you digest the acidifying foods, you face a chance of itching, therefore it’s better to face the itch while your conscious than to uncontrollably itch your skin while your asleep.

28. Wash your hands every single time as soon as you get home. You can’t see the germs with your naked eye.
29. Shower only, never bath. Never shower for more than 10 minutes.
30. Only shower with cold water. In winter if you have to, lukewarm only.
31.  Never start a shower warm thinking you can gradually cut it down to cold, because it’s impossible and counter-effective.
32. Don’t use shampoo at all. Trust me. Human beings don’t need chemicals to survive. Not just because of that, but because shampoo strips off your natural hair oils.
33. Don’t use artificial body wash, only use on necessary parts (you know where).
34. It sounds silly to LEARN how to clean yourself, but eczema sufferers must only rub, no scratching or hard rubbing.
35.  Never rub yourself dry, only pat yourself with the towel and let the water absorb into the fabric.
36. Apply moisturizers within the 5 minutes after your shower to lock in all moisture.
37.  How to properly moisturize? Squeeze lotion into your hands and rub it in circles until it’s equally spread out on your palms, then rub it on your skin. Don’t squeeze directly to your skin because that overloads the lotion into your pores.
38. Don’t use facial wash or any artificially made products. Why do we need to survive off chemicals?
39. Try to choose a type of toothpaste that has low potency of chemicals. This is going to be one major source of artificial chemicals going into your body if you follow a diet of strictly organic foods.
40. Don’t use any artificially made products, at all. This includes: body sprays, deodorants, perfumes, facial masks, make-up, shaving cream…etc.
41.  Try to use a homemade laundry detergent, there are recipes out there including the use of apple cider vinegar and coconut oil.
42. Wear gloves when washing dishes, at all times.

Physical Activity
43. Plan 3 times of vigorous aerobic exercises every week for around 30 minutes, and 2 sessions of strength training. This is the recommended weekly schedule for physical activities. Sweating promotes itches at first, but it goes away later. But that doesn't mean sweating is bad, it is actually one of the best detoxification mechanisms.
44. Cut all high-intensity physical activities during your recovery. High-intensity means while you’re in the act, you can barely talk in a conversation.
45.  No swimming in chlorinated pools at all. And try to avoid swimming, even if it’s at the beach with natural sea water, prolonged sessions of skin contact under water is still damaging and will cause extreme skin dryness after.  If you have to go in the water, pre-treat your skin with a safe protective ointment.
46. Bring a towel to wipe your sweat during physical activities. An excessive accumulation of sweat will block out skin pores which creates itching.
47.  Go get a shower as soon as you can after a strong session of sweat.

The Mind
48. Learn to take deep breaths. Slowly: inhale through your nose and pump out your stomach, exhale through your mouth and move back your stomach. Repeat 3-5 times.
49. Every day, spare 10-15 minutes of your time in a quiet room, free of distractions, sit down, close your eyes and take a reflection of everything: what you've been doing today, what you want to achieve, how close you are to your goals, are you on track and so on.
50. Learn to not act on burst emotions: anger, jealousy, hatred…etc. These will stress you up and stress promotes itching. Harness your anger.
51.   Learn to de-clutter your house and organize everything, your mind will subconsciously feel frustrated and stress due to the messiness, and you don’t want stress for eczema.
52.  Understand that having eczema is not the worst thing that could happen to you, there are more unfortunate people in the world such as people with cancer, diabetes, heart disease…etc.
53.  Don’t compare yourself with other people, it doesn't tell you anything, you’re just making unnecessary thoughts that simply stresses you out.
54.  Eczema sufferers are more introvert-like, so you need to cover up the loss of not being able to outgoing. Simple tips: smile every day, say hi to everyone, be friendly, polite and kind! Your attitude really means everything.
55.  Substitute your hobbies and passions that are restricted because of your eczema, into something you can focus mainly under the ceiling.

56.  Stretch every night before you go to sleep, it helps promote good blood flow and allow proper rejuvenation of your body’s maintenance system. Stretching includes: sitting on your bed with your feet parallel lined out and bend your back to aim for your toes. Repeat on both legs, hold for 10 seconds each and finally perform on both feet together.
57.  Every morning you wake up and every night before you sleep, wipe dead skin cells and dust mites off your pillow and bed. They are itch-promoting substances.
58. Sleep by 11pm every night. You’ve got to let your immune system and vital organs take a break to rest and heal.

59.  Understand that eczema is curable. It is curable. Proof? I am a living proof. How? Through extreme dedication, persistence and patience plus the natural approach that I’m currently making it into a book. So, don’t lose hope.
60. [space left for your very own personal best tip, please share…]

The tips I provide here are all based from my personal experience all these 10 years through trials and error.
Now, I've left the 60th tip for you to fill up, what will you share?

Harrison Li once suffered from eczema for 10 years but he cured it in 2013. He is writing a book to help others do the same. Meanwhile, grab his free PDF on 13 Eczema Questions You’ve Always Want Answered Truthfully.