Friday, 20 February 2015

Flexiseq Review - Does it Work?

I don't normally review non-kitchen related arthritis things on 'Cooking with Arthur' but over the past year I've been approached various times and through various agencies about Flexiseq - a pain-relieving gel for osteoarthritis. After a bit of umming and ahhing, I recently decided I would give it a go. Having my daughter has been tough on my joints. Lifting 10kg of exuberant toddler 30x plus a day it hard work and whilst my PA is relatively well controlled by the Humira, old mechanical problems like the OA in my back and shoulders have fared less well. I get by with physio and handfuls of painkillers but it's not always enough and I felt open to trying something different.
The idea behind Flexiseq is a simple one; if you imagine that osteoarthritis makes you feel like the tin-man, well, Flexiseq is supposed to act like the oil can. The 'sequessome' technology is claimed to deliver phospholipids right to the joint to lubricate it and relieve pain. 

Having worked in health and medicines policy, I'm inherently sceptical about anything that makes claims to help arthritis but Flexiseq has pleasantly surprised me. 

Morning and evening you spread a fairly large amount of the gel onto the soft tissues around the affected joint and let it dry (this takes 10 minutes). The gel has very little scent and is actually quite cooling and pleasant to use (certainly compared to an ibruprofen or diclofenac gel). My first experience with the gel was applying to to my back: I have OA in my spine and was keen to see if it could make much of a difference. Back pain is notoriously difficult to treat and I'm afraid Flexiseq didn't do much better than any other non-prescription treatments I have tried. I gave the gel a go on my shoulder instead however and found it did seem to help with that. The joint felt more comfortable and less stiff. The effect wasn't enough to stop me taking painkillers but it certainly helped on very difficult days. Finally, I let a friend with OA in the base of her thumbs and index fingers try the gel and she found it really helpful on mornings when her hands were stiff. She noted that the gel seemed to work from the first go but that she didn't feel like it got more or less effective over the course of 5 days testing.

 I think our differing results probably reflect on our suitability as users. I have an underlying autoimmune condition (the psoriatic arthritis) and therefore have widespread inflammation as well as little bonus pockets of OA. I'm used to taking pretty strong painkillers and am physically quite tough on my body (pushing a 25kg buggy up hills whilst singing nursery rhymes for example). For people like me, I think Flexiseq is probably of marginal benefit. However, for people like my friend with a discrete and well defined number of affected joints, then Flexiseq may well be a real help. I know both myself and my friend liked the fact that we didn't have to worry about it interacting with medications and it doesn't cause the heartburn of most inflammatory drugs.

You can buy Flexiseq in most chemists or online. If you'd like more information about it and the research conducted on it's effectiveness to date then visit Arthritis Research or the Flexiseq website.

Friday, 30 January 2015

Arthritis Friendly Recipe: Savoury Carrot and Courgette Flapjacks

Savoury flapjack?! Before you click on with a shake of your head and wonder whether my arthritis has somehow gone to my brain, let me tell you how delicious these are. I came across them on the wonderful Riverford Organics website (which is full of some great recipes) when looking for a good portable savoury snack for my cheese-monster of a daughter. I've adapted Cath Critchley's recipe slightly to add courgette, a bit more egg to make them less crumbly (for little hands) and a mild kick of paprika.

If your arthritis affects your hands then you might prefer to buy ready grated cheese, as I do. I'd usually use a food processor to grate carrots but as it's such a small amount in this recipe a good sharp microplane grater makes it fairly easy. 

Ingredients:
200g rolled oats
2 medium eggs
150g grated cheese (you can use reduced fat if you prefer)
1 small grated carrot
1 small grated courgette/zuchinni (the grated weight of the carrot and courgette combined should come to about 175g)
1/2 tsp paprika (I like the smoked kind)
1/2tsp dried garlic (or you could use a clove of fresh)

Makes 12

Beat the eggs together in a small bowl with the garlic and paprika.

In a large bowl, combine the oats, cheese, and grated vegetables. Add in the beaten eggs and mix everything together until it seems evenly distributed.

Spoon the mixture into a 20cm square tin and press down firmly with the back of a fork.

Bake for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and cut into 16 squares and then immediately turn out onto a wire rack to cool - this keeps them crumbly and crisp, rather than getting soggy bottoms!

These will keep in a tin in an airtight tin somewhere cool for 2-3 days or you can freeze them and warm them up in the oven as needed.

Arthritis diet notes:
These are a much healthier snack than the sweet kind of flapjack and will keep you going much longer thanks to their low sugar content and boost of fibre from the oats and vegetables. Although the cheese is high in salt and saturated fat, it also provides calcium and protein. The eggs provide a bit more protein along with vitamins A, D and the B group. 

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Arthritis Friendly Recipe: Jewelled Quinoa

If you have been on some kind of arthritis diet this New Year then chances are you have cooked, eaten or wondered about quinoa. Quinoa (pronounced keen-wa) is a small seed that is cooked and served like rice or couscous. It is gluten free with a nutty, mild flavour and is unusual in that it is a complete plant protein source, containing all 9 amino acids. It’s quite widely available in supermarkets and health food stores nowadays. I find the flavour best if it’s lightly toasted first in the pan before you add any fluid. If you struggle to find it or want a substitute, this recipe will also work well with brown rice but you will need to adjust the cooking times accordingly.

Ingredients:

120g 1/2 cup quinoa1 grated carrot100g kale (or two large handfuls with the tough stems removed)25g/ 1oz dried cranberries500ml hot chicken stock1tsp ground turmeric1tbsp rapeseed or olive oil
1 clove crushed garlic

Serves 2
Rinse the quinoa well and then put it in a saucepan. Cover with the chicken stock and bring up to the boil. Simmer the quinoa for around 15 minutes or until the edge of the seed begins to come away from the germ - it will look like little white squiggles! Drain the quinoa well and set to one side.




Heat the oil in a pan and then add the garlic, carrot, kale, turmeric and cranberries. Stir-fry for 3-5 minutes - just long enough to soften the vegetables. Tip in the quinoa and mix everything together. Serve hot or eat as a cold salad.

Friday, 9 January 2015

Arthritis Gadget Review: Spiralizer Comparison

So, in my Christmas stocking was an interesting new arthritis kitchen gadget - a vegetable spiralizer (pictured). I've been playing with it over the holidays and also have had the chance to test a freestanding model (like this) and I thought I'd do a quick review  and comparison of the models available for those of you wondering whether they could ever be and arthritis friendly kitchen tool.

What does it do?
If you read many healthy eating blogs etc you may well of heard of a spiralizer before but for those of you reading this going 'What?!', a spiralizer is basically a gadget that turns vegetables into long spaghetti or noodle like spirals. The vegetable spirals can be used as an alternative to pasta or can be added to salads, noodle dishes etc. In my household they are most popular with my 10 month old who loves dangling courgette ribbons from her high chair! 

Does it work?
I find that the handheld model could only really cope with courgettes. It tended to break up the carrot spirals. The larger freestanding model (in this case the Lurch Spirali) was much better at spiralising (is that a verb?!) carrots, potatoes, aubergine etc. Both were very easy to clean and dishwasher friendly but the blades are very sharp so you have to be a little cautious when dismantling them.

How easy is it to use with arthritis?
A freestanding spiralizer is much much easier to use with arthritis. You need to apply some pressure to the vegetable using a small lever and then crank a handle but both are relatively comfortable to use for a short time. I found harder vegetables, like carrots, a bit tricky with the Lurch Spirali as it was the lever does get a bit stiff and hard to grip with sore hands or wrists.

The handheld sprializer is useless if you find it hard to grip or twist with your wrists. I find it ok to do a small amount of courgettes but wouldn't want to use it for too long.

Overall verdict?
The freestanding spiraliser is more expensive and takes up more space but is probably a better bet if you have arthritis and think you might spiralize regularly.

Monday, 5 January 2015

Best Diets for Arthritis

Happy New Year! After the excesses of the Holidays, I'm sure many of us are embarking on a New Year's healthy eating plan, whether to help manage our arthritis or to lose weight. I know I've hidden my chocolate stash and promised myself that 2015 will be the year I learn to love oily fish. A healthy diet may not be able to cure arthritis but it can certainly help you manage the symptoms. Moreveover, if you are overweight, losing weight can help reduce the pressure on your joints and the amount of inflammatory processes occurring in your body. But, what's the best type diet for arthritis? Here's my assessment of some of the popular diets for weight loss and arthritis

Juice fasts - I watched Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead the other day and got a bit annoyed with them banging on about how juicing could cure arthritis. Juice is fine - as an occassional snack or drink but blitzing up fruit and vegetables destroys alot of the fibre they contain, means you miss out on essential macronutrients like protein and fat and can lead to you consuming way too much sugar (you'd never eat three apples and a banana in a sitting but you might drink them in a juice). Also from a practical persepctive, not that many people with arthritis frankly find operating a blender 5 times a day that easy! Yes, you'll lose weight on a juice diet but only because you aren't eating. 

Atkins/Dukan - supposedly the Duchess of Cambridge's diet of choice, these  high protein, low carbohydrate diet can help you lose weight by encouraging your body to enter ketosis (where instead of burning carbohydrates, your body switches to burning fat stores). These kind of diets can be quite useful for people with epilepsy or type 2 diabetes but aren't necessarily the healthiest diet for someone with arthritis as they cut out a wide range of fruit and vegetables and all their powerful antioxidants and generally mean that you end up consuming more pro-inflammatory fats. 

Vegan diets - apparently going vegan is the big health trend this year and there have been several studies which have shown it can help people with rheumatoid arthritis manage their symptoms. However a large scale review found no consistent evidence of the benefits of a vegan diet for arthritis and warned that people with arthritis were likely to miss out on nutrients on a vegan diet partly because of some of the difficulties they have with shopping and preparing a wide range of foods. Personally, I think that if you plan your vegan diet well then you should be able to get all the protein, calcium and B vitamins you need and it's a good way to increase your intake of fruit and vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats. 

Mediterranean diet - if  I had to pick one diet to recommend to people with arthritis, this would probably be it. The Mediterranean diet involves eating plenty of fruit and vegetables, fish, lean meat, wholegrains and olive oil. It's not necessarily the most exciting or on-trend diet out there but it's one of the most healthy, sustainable and enjoyable - plus it's really the only diet that has been shown to reduce people's risk of heart disease and stroke and even increase life expectancy. There haven't been any specific studies on it's benefits for people with arthritis but the charity Arthritis Action has lots of information on how to follow it if you have arthritis.

Gluten free or dairy free diets - unless you have a specific problem with either gluten or dairy, such as coeliac disease or some cases of enteroparthic arthritis. Anecdotally some people do feel that cutting out gluten and dairy can help their arthritis but there isn't alot of evidence for it unless these wont' help you arthritis sypmptoms . If you do decide to give gluten or dairy the heave-ho, make sure you are replacing them with healthy options, for instance a lot of gluten-free bread is much higher in fat, salt and sugar than ordinary bread. You can read more about gluten free or dairy-free diets for arthritis with these links.

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