Don’t Put Bleach in Your Vagina

Flojo’s Easy Detox Tip #7

Ok, so as far as witty, catching and soothing blog post titles go, this may not have been my best one. But I wanted to get the embarrassment factor out of the way first. If you can get past the title, and I really hope you can, you can manage the content. Still with me? Yay! Then let’s begin…

With the onset of menstruation now often beginning in girls around the age of 9, and menstrual flow apparently getting heavier in successive generations of women we, in Western society at least, are becoming increasingly exposed to a dangerous cocktail of chemicals, absorbent synthetics and bleaches in and around the vagina from the products we use every month. And these are damaging our health in a very real way.

Contrary to popular belief, vaginas are pretty good at looking after themselves. They have their own microbiome: colonies of bacteria that are responsible for monitoring infections, cellular health, lubrication and specific diseases. But unfortunately antibiotic use, certain contraceptives, deodorisers, “sanititisers” and all commercially produced tampons and pads all destroy this perfectly balanced eco-system. And that’s when things start to go wrong. Thrush, bacterial vaginosis, inflamed and sensitive genitalia, potentially even cancer.

And why? It’s to do with what materials are used in producing tampons and pads. Here are just a few of the problems: that pure looking cotton? Produced from GMO and heavily sprayed cotton crops. This cotton will have been bleached for cosmetic reasons and treated for bacteria, mould and fungus, not always effectively. Then treated with absorbency enhancers and possibly synthetic fragrances. And those pads? Those weird jelly like absorbency  crystals with “odour neutralisers” release toxic chemicals that have a direct path to your reproductive system. It’s no wonder that women are suffering an increasing amount of “women’s ailments.”
Now there are a ton of different ways to encourage your vaginal microbiome back to a healthier climate. But this is one of Flojo’s Easy Detox Tips so lets just choose an easy one for now eh? Here are your easy instructions for claiming back your vaginal health:

  1. Read through the recommended reading from the links below. Education here is everything.
  2. Next I’d really like it if you went online and found yourselves some washable pads. You’re looking for some that are some kind of cotton and bamboo mix, possibly with a charcoal layer to safely absorb odours and stains. They’ll have poppers to secure them to your pants (no more accidentally sticking the pads to your delicate bits!) and to fold them shut in between use. And all you need to do is chuck them in the washing machine at the end of the day – no fabric conditioner please – and they’ll probably be dry by the morning if you hang them out to air. Yes, they might feel like a large outlay at first but I figure the average woman (whoever she is!) should have broken even within a couple of years.
  3. Finally, have a look into a silicon menstrual cup to replace your tampon use. Yes, they are a faff to get the hang of for a few cycles but it does get considerably easier. And you can use them while swimming. And, most importantly, many women (myself included) note a significant decline in the amount of blood lost over a few cycles. Have a look for various online communities discussing the merits of the different brands and the different ways to fold and insert the cups if you are interested.

Recommended Reading

What Exactly Are You Putting up Your Foof

Wellness Mama: The Problem with Pads and Tampons

Meghan Telpner: Tampons

Podcast with Nadine Artemis: Self Care A Woman’s Guide

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lost in Paris

I was all fired up to write either a recipe or a detox post today, but then I got sidetracked editing this blogs categories for a drop down menu, and I haven’t got the time now. Bother. But I did promise myself that I’d write something so I’m going to give you a memory post.

Back in the mid-90s, while I was a music teacher, I joined a friend’s band called Movietone for a couple of years (I think that link should take you to album tracks etc. I’m playing on the Day and Night and The Blossom Filled Streets albums) During that time we also did two sessions for John Peel, played some gigs (Bristol, London and Brighton) and did a mini tour in Paris! In case you are wondering, I mostly played viola but also doubled up on piano, glockenspiel, guitar and bass (the last two of which I had to learn specially.)

Now, a thing I have noticed about us Autistic people is that our personal risk assessment processes are not generally in line with those of the rest of the population. Make a phone call? Panic. Try to leave the house? Panic. Cross the road? Panic. Walk the streets of Paris alone late at night with minimal grasp of the language, a poor ability for map reading, and no working mobile phone? Meh! Which is why, when we had a night off and I found out that another friend of mine was also playing in town that night I figured I’d try and find him to say hello. How hard could that be?

It took me nearly two hours. My map skills sucked more than I can explain. I found myself in various dead ends and alleyways (some with suspicious looking deals going on), and I realised that I had completely misjudged the scale of the map. I retraced my steps several times and I finally realised that setting off on this quest was not, in retrospect, a smart move. I kept ending up the wrong side of the river and I couldn’t work out safe places to cross some of the busier roads. And I didn’t know how to ask for help! A few times I considered turning back but figured that I should see this through. I didn’t want to admit defeat.

Eventually I found the venue but by this time the doors were closed and the queues were building up outside. So now the question – how do you blag your way into a well attended Courtney Pine gig with no language skills? I pushed my way through the throng of fans to the door and, with a highly apologetic tone and some poor miming repeated the two poxy phrases I’d practised to myself before leaving – Er, mon amie? Un bassiste? Seriously, that was all I’d learnt! But you know what? Those crowds of fans, patiently waiting for the doors to open, they worked out the deal and yelled at the security guys to let me in. And, when he tried to argue, pretty much opened the doors and shoved me through as I shouted Merci!! Merci!! What lovely people!

Sadly I only had about half an hour to see my friend before he had to disappear and then I figured that I should probably find my way back to the apartment rather than stay for the gig. But as I left the building my heart sank and my knees buckled with the realisation that it was now about 10.30pm and I still didn’t really know where I was. I sat on the steps, stared at the map and wondered how the hell I was going to hold my shit together. And then the rain started. And when I say rain? It was that freak kind of rain that runs down your neck and soaks you to the skin within minutes. What the hell to do? I couldn’t even clearly see a few meters ahead of me the rain was that heavy. The only upside was that nobody would have been able to see the tears.

Now this next bit was pretty crazy. I took a deep breath, somehow went into some kind of hyperfocus and saw the route back in my head, by which I mean that all the side roads and distractions kind of fell away from my vision and I started to run like I was following a satnav. I think it took me less than half an hour to run my way back without any mistakes and in torrential rain, with a map that was so wet it completely disintegrated. As I got to an area I actually recognised I started laughing out loud and sprinted the last bit.

My friends opened the door to me laughing hysterically while pouring the rainwater from my shoes. I couldn’t get the words out I was laughing so hard.

I wanted to think of a witty and snappy way to round this post off but I can’t. Au revoir!

 

Celebrating Christmas


Here’s the thing. I love Christmas. Truly, truly love it. But maybe not in the way that others do. While we don’t celebrate the day in a religious context my family (my husband and two daughters) and I mark this time with rituals and symbolism that have meaning and significance to ourselves.

Might as well get it over and done with, here’s a list of what we don’t do and why!

  • Cards (massive drain on the environment, finances and executive function.)
  • Increased sugar intake (and thus increased anxiety, irritability, insomnia, acne and weight gain.)
  • Parties (social interaction when our emotional energies are at their lowest of the year? Nope.)
  • Flashing Christmas lights (headaches and anxiety.)
  • Christmas crackers at home (I really can’t justify buying plastic tat produced by severely underpaid and mistreated factory workers and destined for the bin.)
  • Presents for the sake of obligation (honestly, we don’t need anything. Nothing worse than having to smile and gush over yet another item produced by those poor factory workers and using up the earth’s resources.)

But here’s what I love, love, love!!

  • Getting to spend time around my precious husband and daughters. They are my favourite company. I know we may only have a few years left before our girls create their own traditions so we’re making the most of eating good food and snuggling with them while we still can.
  • Food. Easy, simple, delicious. We do the same every year: Nigella Lawson’s cranberry and orange Christmas muffins for breakfast with orange juice and prosecco. (And coffee. Lots of coffee.) Then a mid-afternoon, fully organic roast dinner which I prepare on the day while they watch some Christmas movie. Nuts, a bit of chocolate, a bottle of organic beer or a glass of port will feature at some point but not heavily. And then Christmas pudding with custard or cream for supper. Delicious, filling and minimal food coma!
  • Decorations! Every year a real tree, and foraged mistletoe, holly and ivy. Tiny static fairy lights and decorations made from wood, metal, ceramic or glass. Also pine cones and dried orange slices. And lots of beeswax or organic soya candles.
  • We also have a range of Christmas CDs ranging from pop to jazz, classical and soul. Something for every mood.
  • And time. Time away from school and jobs is precious. So we share the housework and spend our time, resentment free, in cooking, eating, watching movies, walking the dog, reading, playing board games or just chatting and catching up – checking in with each other.

That’s the magic for us. Wishing all of you your own magical festive period, and sending you huge love 💜

Fiddle Lessons. 

A random conversation with a good friend (always the best) about rollup cigarettes sparked a few memories yesterday. They made me smile and I thought they might make you smile too…

In my teenage years the run up to Christmas was always fiendishly busy due to playing viola in a gazillion carol services and end of term concerts. Which left me one year (I think I was 17) doing my gift shopping a mere two days before Christmas and a frantic couple of hours before closing time. But I got distracted by a pair of buskers… a violinist and guitarist putting on a dazzling display of folk, Gypsy jazz, Cajun and bluegrass (amongst other genres). And found myself an hour later still standing there with frozen hands and an empty shopping bag. So I gathered up all my bravery, took a deep breath and asked for the violinist’s phone number. 

Skip forward a couple of months and I’d bought myself a bashed up 200 yr old French violin, bought in pieces from an auction and badly patched back together. And I had started lessons! Unlike my formal viola and piano lessons in dedicated music rooms, this was a matter of sitting cross legged on the bed (more precisely a mattress on the floor), the only available space in her cramped bohemian ground-floor one-room bedsit. She was a whirling dervish of energy scribbling dots on scraps of manuscript paper and recording music tape-to-tape for me to study at home. While I played she rolled up skinny cigarettes (I love the smell of fresh rollies to this day) and left the result hanging out the side of her mouth while she played. And she was amazing! Sadly, my fiddle playing pretty much sucked – I didn’t have the ability to improvise or memorise – but I did truly love my lessons. 

When I left my hometown to study music at uni I had to cease lessons but I did get to see her once more when we recorded backing tracks for XTC (remember them? No, thought not!) but then she moved to France and I lost contact. 

Fast forward a few years and Simon and I went to an intimate jazz gig – vocals, double bass and guitar – and I was struck by the strangest sensation that I could hear my fiddle teacher playing along. I got to meet the musicians afterwards and mentioned this to them, turns out she’d written a couple of the songs on their playlist! 

I think that’s it. I just wanted to add something a little more whimsical to this blog! Catch you later lovelies!

Grief

It’s been a helluva year! While the storms of political egomania, brewed from ignorance and fear have raged around the world; tidal waves of very real threats to the marginalised, the environment and to any hopes of a more peaceful existence have been triggered. The collective grief to these metaphoric event hazards has been overwhelming. 

And, on a more personal level, grief is very much a part of me at the moment. Six months ago I found out that I was autistic. An explanation as to why social interaction has been so, so difficult for me over the years. 

Through this new information and self-understanding, I’ve finally been able to piece together why so many of my relationships have been dysfunctional and have ended so badly; why breakdowns, shutdowns and meltdowns have been such frequent intrusions in my life; and why I’ve never been able to match up to either my own or other people’s expectations. 

And so I’m grieving for missed opportunities, failed friendships, and for years spent wasted in beating myself up for not scoring higher on a set of values that were not, after all, appropriate for me. I was hoping to have finished and done with the introspection by now. Enough already! Get over it!

But I remembered this week that we, in the Northern hemisphere, are currently in the season ruled by the Chinese Five Element of Metal, that of Autumn. Metal governs grief, personal and metaphysical boundaries, the lungs (I’m finally recovering from a month long chest infection) and large intestine. 

The Metal element describes the final leaves falling from the trees and rotting down in time for Winter’s period of stillness and restoration. Metal is the element of of pure blue skies and clean air, of the final harvesting of crops and of fields to be ploughed and picked over by the birds. Metal governs old age – a time of reflection; questioning and refining core beliefs and of purifying and eliminating anything that is no longer useful, whether stale air, waste material, ideas, beliefs or emotions. If there were ever a good time to grieve, that time is now. 

But grief is not a comfortable emotion. And it’s hard to control its outward flow. Like adjusting a pressure valve it can be a delicate act to find the balance between stomping grief down and becoming all consumed by it. But the process of letting go is, particularly right now, vital to being able to greet the stillness of Winter with a clear heart and a calm mind. 

We cannot stop the destruction of hurricanes created by climate or politicians but by honouring time-honoured spiritual rhythms we have a better chance of refining and fortifying our personal resolve and conviction to create those micro-eddies of love, humour, warmth and kindness that help return humanity to a place of balance. 

Autism Is…

My good friend over at The Silent Wave responded to a twitter request for the hashtag #autismis with this great post and I wanted to add my voice too because autism is a widely misunderstood condition that really deserves not to be. 

The criteria for an autism diagnosis is complex because it affects us, as individuals, in profound and unique ways. And yet I have noticed that people are reluctant to ask autistics how they are personally affected. Maybe out of lack of knowledge, maybe out of embarrassment, maybe because they are wary of being asked for support or maybe because they just don’t know the questions to ask. I don’t know. But as being misunderstood can be one of the most distressing aspects of being autistic I’d be ever so grateful if more people would put any preconceptions to the side and ask questions. 

See if this post helps for you to get the conversation started! 

For me personally – Autism is…

… having had to study reading body language, tone of voice and facial expressions as a kid by watching others, figuring it out and practising in front of a mirror. Still misinterpreting the subtleties. Being gullible. Assuming that someone being sad or angry is my fault and getting highly stressed at not being able to resolve that. Being completely clueless as to someone’s intentions towards me. I honestly find it almost impossible to know if someone wants to be friends with me, can’t stand me, wants to end a conversation or is flirting with me. This can result in crippling paranoia. 

…not undertaking anything (parenting, making health/lifestyle changes) without thoroughly researching it first but being unable to learn, research or revise anything that doesn’t hold my complete attention. I read six books on parenting babies before the birth of my first but didn’t read three of the four set texts for my Literature A level; and while I might spend months reading obsessively on, say, gut health I didn’t revise at all for my undergraduate finals. 

… obsessively cleaning or tidying a clothes drawer / under the bed / the bathroom cupboard half an hour before a guest turns up while panicking about the messy pile of washing up / living room in disarray / floor in need of vacuuming. 

… crying at sappy songs, Disney movies and happy endings in books. Not being able to watch the news or see certain films because of the inevitable nightmares that may still haunt me months later. 

… not being able to remember a basic sequence of verbal instructions, a phone number, someone’s birthday, or even memorise a simple musical phrase (I have a music degree). Often speaking or writing complete gibberish because I can’t access the words or put them in the right order. If I have to try and push through this state for an extended time or under stress I may not be able to speak at all. 

…walking into walls, missing my mouth with a glass, tripping up, mis-estimating how quickly a car is moving towards me (I’ve been in several road accidents and so have not learned to drive), not knowing how physically close I am to someone, being unable to throw or catch a ball. 

…being caused physical pain by the smell of strong perfumes, peoples breath, sweaty dogs, mould, washing powder, fabric conditioner and air “fresheners.”

…being thoroughly nauseated by stickiness, oxidising fruit, other people’s or animals saliva.

…being unable to function at all in busy, noisy, brightly lit places such as department stores or even some museums. I become quickly overwhelmed; unable to do much but find somewhere to sit and focus on trying to breathe and not be sick. 

…not being able to distinguish between concurrent conversations in a room. I guess that for most people it’s similar to being in a very noisy and echoing indoor swimming pool or gym hall. 

…finding all social transaction  exhausting. I want to be able to do it but every aspect of it is tiring. I’d like to spend time with friends, go to parties, go out spontaneously or even have an easy conversation in the street but all of these often cause a tailspin of anxiety due to the communication issues as mentioned above and are compounded by changes of plan, lateness and the potential addition of other people in the mix. A four hour shift at my pharmacy job leaves me in the state most people are from an eight to ten hour shift. 

… having behaviours that can seem childish. Jumping up and down when excited, doing a happy dance, hugging people enthusiastically, running away under stress. And crying. Always crying! 

…being misunderstood and talked down to all the damn time. I think I know why. I ask a lot of questions because I like to be sure of things, and I have a perplexed expression when I’m listening to the answer because my brain is a) filtering out other distractions b) figuring out the speaker’s facial expressions and c) jumping around making multiple connections to other knowledge or ideas I have. But I have a really high IQ. And a wide knowledge base. So it’s really frustrating when someone dumbs stuff down for me, doesn’t answer the question I asked, gives me an opinion rather than fact or just can’t be bothered to elaborate. 

…being great at acting for short periods of time. Because it’s easier to smile and tell people you are fine than it is to explain all of the above all the time! And because I don’t know if you have the time or emotional energy to take it on board either. And because the more stressed I am, the less I’m going to be able to find the words to communicate how I’m feeling anyway. So, yep, I’m Fine Thanks! 

If you’ve made it reading all the way here – Thank You! You are a most awesome human being and if I was with you I might be jumping up and down and hugging you right now!

Sweet Potato Fries

Sweet Potato Fries

Flojo’s Easy Detox Tip #6

Ok. I’m back in business. Made the decision, set some intentions and booked in some clients. And wow have I missed it! Seeing a nutritional therapy client transform in health, vitality and confidence in their ability to heal is profound and immensely rewarding.

As I scanned through a client’s food diary this week, making a few suggestions for easy swaps, it occurred to me that followers of this blog might find some of these ideas useful too. So, here’s a super easy alternative to the ubiquitous oven chip. Because your average oven chip, whether branded or supermarket generic; or even home-made is pretty much devoid of nutrients and is generally coated in sunflower oil which, while it sounds inoffensive, is an oil that is easily damaged by heat.

But these tawny babies are both properly tasty and sneakily healthy; packed with minerals and vitamins, cooked in coconut oil (which is one of the safest oils to cook with) and providing the all important perfect crunch to squish ratio.

While your oven is heating up to around 170c (these fries aren’t fussy and will happily adapt to whatever temperature your oven needs to be for other dishes) melt a tablespoon or two of coconut oil in a roasting tin. Meanwhile, give several organic sweet potatoes a quick wash and then cut into fries like so: Then stick them in your hot roasting tin and mix with the melted fat before sprinkling over generous amounts of sea salt and sweet smoked paprika.

Bake until nicely caramelised around the edges and serve (probably round about 30-40 mins). Appreciate that carby deliciousness. Feel smug that you are cramming some quality nutrients in with these as a side dish. Vow to never buy oven chips again.