Category Archives: Health

National Feet Week – Putting your best foot forward

AD/Gifted. Over the last few months I’ve increased the amount of exercise I’m doing in a bid to shift a few pounds. I’m making an effort to walk a lot more and I’m also going to a few dance classes a week. As a result, one of the things I’ve found myself doing is looking after my feet a bit more, without happy feet I can’t dance my socks off! This week (13th-20th May) is the first National Feet Week, so I’m taking a look at what that’s all about.

National Feet Week is a new initiative to draw attention to the importance of looking after our feet. Most of us take our feet for granted and only really start to notice them when problems start. A couple of years ago I realised that I had a fungal nail infection, and it was at that point looking after my feet became more of a priority for me.

National Feet Week - Putting your best foot forward

My husband is a runner and regularly sees a Podiatrist to have his feet cared for properly. The running has taken its toll on his toenails and he gets thick skin on his heels. His feet always look so much better when he’s been to the Podiatrist and he’s always much more comfortable.

A Podiatrist can treat or advise on –
  • Athlete’s Foot
  • Blisters
  • Bunions
  • Corns
  • Footwear
  • Gout
  • Heel Pain
  • Insoles
  • Ingrown Toenails
  • Sweaty Feet
  • Toenail Cutting
  • Verrucas

So it’s well worth booking an appointment if you have any concerns at all and definitely worth seeing a Podiatrist if you’re a runner like my husband.

Neatly trimmed nails, smooth heels and moisturised feet are essential if you want to wear sandals this summer. I try my best to look after one of the hardest working parts of my body and keep my feet looking good all year round. During this first National Feet Week I’ll be making sure I take extra special care of my own feet, and my son’s feet too, because his little feet work just as hard as mine.

There are a few things happening during National Feet Week which you might want to take part in. There’s a Twitter party on Monday 13th at 7pm, look out for the #NationalFeetWeek hashtag. You can also join in the #LaceRace where you race to get the fastest time for tying your shoelaces.

I hope you too can find time to pamper your feet during this National Feet Week!

Find your local Podiatrist at www.podsfixfeet.co.uk.

Disclosure: I was sent a box of pampering feet treats in exchange for this blog post. I have not been otherwise compensated for my time.

Health: Could you live without deodorant?

Last week I conducted a bit of a personal experiment. I gave up deodorant. It’s a bold move for someone living in a civilised society, but I thought I’d give it a try.

Over the years I’ve become increasingly aware of, and concerned about the chemicals I apply to and rub into my body. Deodorant has long had a slightly worrying reputation, many contain aluminium and parabens which have been linked to cancer. I’m no medical expert, so if you want to read more about this, click this link.

I’m also trying to reduce the number of products I use and as a household we are trying to reduce waste.

Health: Could you live without deodorant?

Before I began my experiment, I ran a quick audit of my lifestyle, just to gauge how much I was likely to sweat.

  1. I work from home on a laptop, most days my physical activity is a quick walk to school and back and some light housework.
  2. I’ll take a bath or shower every day and give myself a good scrub.
  3. I go to the gym twice a week for a swim and an aqua class.
  4. Sometimes I walk the dog for an hour.
  5. I change my clothes daily.
  6. I don’t drive, so most local journeys are done on foot.
  7. I’m not an excessively sweaty person.

I surmised that I was unlikely to get too sweaty, and if I did I could just have a shower. It’s also January which is the least hot and sweaty month of the year, if I did this in August I suspect there might be problems. I’ve added a Smell Rating for the end of each day.

Day 1

Got up, showered and spent the day toiling over a laptop. No school run for me today, just a quick dash out to Cubs and back. Smell rating 0.

Day 2

Tuesday is usually a bit of an out and about day for me. Showered, did some work, walked to the shops, picked my son up from school, took him for a haircut, went home, cooked etc. Late that evening I detected a slight odour, but only if you got right up in my pits, but the boys said I was fine. Smell rating 1.

Day 3

Off to the gym this morning, skipped my shower as I’d have one before I got in the pool. Hopped on the bus because it was chucking it down, but there’s still a 10 minute walk at the other end. Noticed that my armpits were smelling a bit, but figured the shower, 90 minutes in a chlorinated pool and another shower would fix that. Chlorine is an excellent deodorant. Smell rating (eventually) 1.

Day 4

Another quiet at home day. Realising that deodorant is a necessity for me. Scrubbing keeps on top of things and not inviting people to sniff your pits is helpful. Feeling a bit self-conscious now. Smell rating 2

Day 5

I’d like this to stop now. It’s Friday and I went to the gym again for another shower/swim/shower session which does help to keep on top of things. I’m careful not to choose an overhead locker for fear of wafting unwelcome smells around the room. Smell rating, back to 1.

Days 6 and 7

Weekend and that brings with it a whole change of pace for me and the family. There’s a round of kid’s parties, shopping, housework, meal prep and dog walking. I’m feeling really aware of myself now; real or imagined I feel like I’m smelly. The boys assure me that I’m perfectly acceptable, but I’m bored with it now and just want to stop fretting about being socially unacceptable and put some deodorant on. Smell rating, it feels like 10 but it’s probably 3 or 4.

Conclusion

I like to look, feel and smell clean. Even with showering every day, it took me right out of my comfort zone and it’s going to take more than a week for me to break this habit. Standard deodorants might not always be the most healthy; so I’m going to look at changing to one with fewer chemicals, or an organic one from a company like Weleda.

These days more and more people are switching to solid deodorants; like the deodorants from German company, Ben and Anna which is vegan and cruelty free; or dusting powders from Lush. Finding a deodorant which works for you, fits with your lifestyle and keeps you comfortable in your own skin is so important.

I’ve also realised that the deodorant I’m currently using (it’s a Dove spray one) is fine for two days, even with a good scrub between those days. The chemicals in it keep me dry and odour free for 48 hours, even though it’s not a 48 hour one. So perhaps I can halve my deodorant use without too much of an impact on my social acceptability.

For me there are a few options on the table for where I go from here. At the start of the week I asked the question, can I live without deodorant? My answer is no, but I can change my deodorant habits and find a balance that works for me and my lifestyle, and I can move to a product with fewer chemicals.

Could you give up deodorant? Could you?

Health: Could you live without deodorant?

Putting Marks and Spencer Opticians to the test

In August, M&S opened a branch of Marks and Spencer Opticians in their Manchester store. It’s been two years since my last eye test, so I went along to try out their new service. I booked my appointment at M&S Opticians online, which was quick and easy to do, my appointment was confirmed and all I needed to do was turn up on the day.

Since my good friend Claire at She Eats discovered she had a brain tumour during an eye test, it’s been in the back of my mind that I must get mine tested. Thankfully finding a brain tumour is pretty rare, but your eye health is a good indicator of your general health and can flag up conditions you might not have been aware of. Regular eye tests are a good thing, so don’t put them off.

Review: Putting Marks and Spencer Opticians to the test

I went along to Marks and Spencer Opticians in Manchester. It’s located on the first floor next to the cafe. Feeling a bit nervous, I made my way upstairs and booked myself in. I was early so I spent a few minutes checking out the frames and trying a few pairs on.

I was ushered into a room where they did a few tests on me. Danielle was really reassuring and talked me through everything. For the most part all I had to do was sit and look while they blew air onto my eyeballs, took photographs of my retinas and did a test where I had to press a button each time I saw a flashing light in my periphery. It was very thorough.

Review: Putting Marks and Spencer Opticians to the test

After the testing I was taken through to see the optician, Mohammed. He spent some time checking what my prescription was, I don’t think it’s changed much in two years, which is reassuring. He also had another look at my eyes and discovered that there was something a little bit amiss with one of my optic nerves. We had a chat about that and about how much sleep I don’t get. He suggested I use an eye wash a few times a week and he sent me back to the testing room to do a more thorough version of the peripheral vision test.

I was understandably feeling a bit on edge at this point, but everyone was really reassuring and Mohammed the optician spoke to me again afterwards, once he’d checked the results and explained that it was just a small anomaly and wasn’t affecting my eyesight. It’s probably something worth keeping an eye on though.

Review: Putting Marks and Spencer Opticians to the test

It was time to choose my new glasses. I’m a bit funny about my glasses, I like a particular style and round glasses do not suit me. There were hundreds of pairs to choose from, I spent a lot of time looking for what I wanted. I couldn’t find anything which really appealed in the ladies section, so I had a look at the men’s glasses. I was in luck, there were so many of the style I liked in the men’s section.

Review: Putting Marks and Spencer Opticians to the test

Glasses at M&S Opticians start at £40. I chose the “Favian” frames, which are described as “flattering, easy to wear frames – a great choice for men”. These were £80 for the frames and another £30 for the lenses, so just £110 in total. I’ve previously paid A LOT of money for glasses, so I thought £110 was a really, really good price.

Two days later I got the call to collect my new glasses. I was impressed at how quickly they’d come back. I went into town a few days later to go and pick them up and was met by Paul, who took some time to fit my glasses. With them being men’s glasses they were a little loose, so the arms needed to be adjusted to fit me properly. This was done while I waited and I left, happy with my new specs.

Review: Putting Marks and Spencer Opticians to the test

I was really impressed with Marks and Spencer Opticians, they were very thorough and I felt very reassured after my tests. I also thought their prices were very competitive, I couldn’t find any fault with the service I received. I’m absolutely delighted with my new glasses. I think they look great on and they’re really comfortable to wear too.

UPDATE 29/03/2019: Sadly Marks and Spencer Opticians closed all their branches today.

For more information about M&S Opticians, or to book an appointment, visit their website.

I was invited to review Marks and Spencer Opticians and given a pair of glasses in exchange for this review. Nevertheless, all images and opinions are my own.

How to strengthen your Pelvic Floor in your 40s

When I get together with some of my closest mum friends, the conversation generally lurches from holidays and skin care, to things we wouldn’t discuss with anyone else. One of these hot topics is incontinence, apparently trampolines are the trigger for most of my friends. It’s a fate I am keen to avoid. I’m not at that stage yet, but I’m keen to keep my pelvic floor in good health.

When I was pregnant, my pregnancy yoga teacher really drummed into us the importance of doing our pelvic floor exercises. She used to suggest we did them while waiting for traffic lights to change, or when certain adverts came on. Eight years later I’m still doing them when I hear the Go Compare advert. The trouble is, I’ve never been sure if the pelvic floor exercises I’ve been doing were correct, or if they were effective.

How to strengthen your Pelvic Floor in your 40s

Now I’m in my early 40’s I’ve started to make a few changes to try to keep myself healthy and fitter than I have been in recent years. The menopause will hit within the next ten years, so I want to try to make sure my reproductive health is as good as it can be. Part of that is having a stronger than strong pelvic floor. I decided my usual exercises weren’t enough, so I ordered a set of Kegel balls from Sent to Thrill.

Sent to Thrill was set up by a mum of 3 young children. She struggled to find products that would help her. Sent to Thrill began as a search for a product to help improve pelvic floor strength and they realised that good pelvic floor is the first step on a journey to increased body confidence and improved sexual health.

The Svakom Nova Kegel Balls cost £36 and include full instructions and a velvet bag to keep them safely stored away. There are three kegel balls included in the set; a single ball (49gm), a double ball (75gm) and another double ball (95gm).

They are made from body-safe silicone and they are phthalate-free and they are 100% waterproof. I chose them because they had a silicone “string” attached which I felt would make them easy to insert and remove after use.

How to strengthen your Pelvic Floor in your 40s

The instructions are very clear. They suggest using them for half an hour a day while you are active; that is stood up and doing something. They will be considerably less effective if you’re sat down or lying down. I decided to start with the smallest ball and to wear it for the half an hour it takes for me to shower, brush my teeth, blow dry my hair and sort my clothes out for the day.

The instructions suggest using the smallest ball for 30 days; then increasing the size for another 30 days and then moving onto the heaviest Kegel ball. I have used this set for a couple of weeks now. I’m still using the smallest ball but it’s very comfortable and I doesn’t feel intrusive. I wear it for around half an hour a day and it’s not until I’ve removed it that my pelvic floor muscles ache gently and let me know they’ve done some work.

Your pelvic floor muscles support your bladder, bowel and womb; keeping your muscles in good condition can help prevent prolapse and incontinence. Having a strong pelvic floor can also help to improve your sex life and can give you stronger orgasms.

How to strengthen your Pelvic Floor in your 40s

There’s no bad time to start exercising your pelvic floor. You are usually advised to exercise during pregnancy and afterwards. But the sooner you start, the stronger your pelvic floor will be. If we all did our pelvic floor exercises, or used Kegels, then we could stave off the threat of incontinence for much longer, maybe even forever.

For more information about pelvic floor exercisers, visit the Sent to Thrill website.

How to strengthen your Pelvic Floor in your 40s

Disclosure: I was sent this set of Kegels for review purposes. All images and opinions are my own.

How I conquered my Diet Coke addiction

I was addicted to Diet Coke. Until November 2017 I would routinely drink about two litres of the stuff a day, served fridge cold in a glass stacked with ice. Beads of icy condensation would form on my refreshing glass after glass after glass of Diet Coke. But I gave it up, and here’s how and why I did it.

I don’t really remember when I started drinking Diet Coke. I think it was in the early 2000’s and my first few cans were from the vending machine in the college I worked in. From memory, I’d found regular Coke too sweet and I wanted something like Coke but not as tooth-tinglingly sweet. It wasn’t so much the diet aspect I enjoyed, but the cold refreshing, thirst quenching nature of the drink. I was soon hooked and drinking one or two cans a day.

How I conquered my Diet Coke addiction

As the years went by I started drinking Diet Coke at home too. It probably started as a cold one after work and developed into the several litres a day habit I ended up with. I knew that regardless of the minimal calories I was ingesting, Diet Coke probably wasn’t that healthy for me. When I was pregnant I shifted to caffeine free Diet Coke, but soon shifted back. I’ve flirted with the odd month or two without caffeinated drinks over the years, but I always went back to Diet Coke.

Whenever the concerned voice inside my head mentioned that Diet Coke probably wasn’t that great, another voice would remind me that the school nurse encouraged me to drink lots of fizzy drinks as they would fill me up so I wouldn’t eat (who gives that kind of advice to a teenage girl?). I would also tell myself that there were so few calories in it I was doing myself a favour by drinking it. Of course now we know different.

In 2017 I’d spent several months being under the weather or just plain poorly. I knew I needed to make some changes, so in November I undertook a serious detox plan. It was pretty horrible but it did work and I felt better for it. During the detox I gave up pretty much everything except fruit, vegetables and water. When I came out the other side I was no longer craving Diet Coke.

I’ve probably had 15 years of drinking Diet Coke under my belt. Did stopping make me feel any different? Well, yes. Once I’d gone through the caffeine withdrawal headache, I felt much better. I have gone from having under three hours sleep a night to getting almost double that on average. More sleep also makes me a nicer, more humany human.

Tips for giving up Diet Coke

Mentally prepare yourself. Giving up isn’t easy and you will probably get a headache and a raging thirst for Diet Coke.

Find a few alternative drinks that you can drink instead. I’ve started drinking more water and I mostly drink very weak sugar-free cordial with ice. My current tipple is no added sugar Vimto and I also like an orange squash. I make mine very weak so it’s more like a flavoured water than anything.

Keep a note about when you stopped and what is different for you. You will probably find you’re sleeping better. If you’ve got a Fitbit this can help monitor your sleep. Seeing an improvement in this area was a big motivation for me.

Reward yourself. For me giving up fizzy drinks entirely is fairly unrealistic. Every week I choose a few interesting cans of fizzy pop and put them in the fridge, my current favourite is San Pellegrino. When I feel like a treat I will crack open a can. A little of something nice is good for you, two litres a day, probably not so much.

That’s how I gave up Diet Coke. I’ve been Diet Coke free for over two months now and I feel happier and healthier for it. I’m very pleased that I’ve managed to step away from my Diet Coke addiction. 

How I conquered my Diet Coke addiction

Review: Higher Nature Kids Vitamins

Getting kids to take their vitamins can be a tricky business. We’ve been trying Vital Vits and Smart Focus from Higher Nature – an independently owned business that’s based in the UK. Higher Nature make high quality, ethical and well researched nutritional products for the whole family.

After pushing for tests for a number of years, over the summer my son was finally diagnosed with having an iron deficiency. We were sent away with some dietary advice (which we’d already been following for forever) and told to come back in a couple of months for a re-test. What was clear that however good his diet is, he still needed top ups of iron and other vitamins to keep him healthy.

Giveaway & Review: Higher Nature Kids Vitamins

The worry is that he has inherited a genetic blood disorder – Alpha Thalassemia Trait from my side of the family. There’s not a lot that can be done if he has, he will just need to look after himself, which means taking vitamin supplements and getting lots of sleep, amongst other things.

The problem is supplements are often boring or taste horrible. Kids vitamins and supplements have come a long way in recent years and are easier and more enjoyable to take. We’ve been trying some of the children’s health range from Higher Nature, specifically the Higher Nature Kids Vital Vits and Higher Nature Kids Smart Focus.

Higher Nature Kids Vital Vits

The Higher Nature Vital Vits (£14.99 for 90 tablets) contain 19 of your essential vitamins and minerals (including Iron) and is a good all-rounder. They are suitable for children aged 3+ and you take just one a day. The Vital Vits are designed especially for fussy eaters to support their daily diet.

They come in three delicious fruity flavours with fun-shaped characters – mango robots, lime aliens and raspberry teddies. They are small-ish, chewable tablets and they’re really easy to take. These supplements are gluten, lactose and dairy free and don’t contain any artificial preservatives, colours or flavourings. They are also suitable for vegetarians and vegans and have not been tested on animals.

I’ve tried them and they’re really fruity and not at all chalky. My son really liked them too and would gobble them all up if we let him (which is why we keep them out of reach). These are a real winner for us; knowing he’s getting a daily vitamin boost is a weight off our minds too.

Giveaway & Review: Higher Nature Kids Vitamins

Higher Nature Kids Smart Focus

These Higher Nature Smart Focus Jellies (£9.99 for 27 jellies) contain omega 3 EPA and DHA with omega 6 GLA, all of the essential omegas in one delicious fruity jelly. The jelly is free from added sugars and artificial sweeteners. The jellies have been formulated to help children keep focussed in the classroom.

Getting kids to take fish oil supplements can be tricky. Thankfully my son thinks these jellies are a bit of a treat. They’re intensely fruity flavoured and have no fishy aftertaste which is a bonus. They’re best taken with food, so we usually give my son one with his breakfast.

I think we all need a boost sometimes, especially with the cold and flu season coming up. My son needs an iron boost and taking a multivitamin every day will help him to absorb iron better too. It’s peace of mind for me and the building blocks of good health for him.

For more information about Higher Nature Vitamins and Supplements, visit their website.

We were sent these products for review purposes. All images and opinions are our own.

Review: SJ WORKS Smart phone bicycle First Aid Kit

Ever since my days as a Brownie I’ve always carried with me a few first aid basics in my bag just in case. In the car we have a small first aid kit and we’ve got a kit which lives with our camping gear too. We are always prepared for scrapes and mishaps. SJ Works have created a handy first aid kit just for cyclists. Their Smart phone bicycle first aid kit is designed for regular cyclists. But is it any good?

Review: SJ WORKS Smart phone bicycle First Aid Kit

The Smart phone bicycle first aid kit straps onto the crossbar of your bike with adjustable velcro straps. It has a waterproof section where you can keep your smart phone and there’s a rubber headphone port for your headphone lead. This means you can use your phone (carefully obviously) hands-free when cycling.

The kit itself is comprehensive and well thought out. It contains pretty much everything you could need in a minor bump or scrape.

The bicycle first aid kit includes…

  • An American Red Cross First Aid Guide
  • 6 Antiseptic Towelettes
  • 5 Easy Access Bandage 3*1″
  • Easy Access Bandage x5 3/4*3″
  • 5 Junior Easy Access Bandage 3/8×1.5″
  • Butterfly Wound Closures x5
  • 2 Sterile Non-Adherent Pads 2″x3″
  • 2 Sterile Non-woven sponges2″x2″2pcs/pk 4ply
  • A Sterile Eye Pad
  • 1 Pressure Bandages 2″x2″
  • 1 Pressure Bandages 3″x3″
  • A1 Triangular Bandage 42″x42″x59″ nonwoven
  • 1 Tape Roll 1/2″x10yds.
  • 1 Emergency Blanket 38″x60″
  • A 3.5mm Headphone Extention Cord M/F
  • 1 SJ Works Reflect strip
  • 1 Security Seal

The kit is CE & FDA Approval and meets the ISO13485 International Standard required for kits of this nature. All of the medical components are sterile ready for use.

Review: SJ WORKS Smart phone bicycle First Aid Kit

As with all kits you should regularly check and update the contents so everything is in date and ready for use should you need to use any of the plasters, dressings or other components. The SJ WORKS Smart phone solution bicycle first aid kit is currently available for £33 from Amazon.

What do I think? I think if you are a regular cyclist, maybe for commuting or for going long distances on weekends, then a first aid kit is an essential you should carry with you. I like how it keeps your smart phone safe and dry while you’re out cycling. Knowing that you have a comprehensive kit close to hand gives you peace of mind if an accident happens.

Note: We were sent this product for review purposes. All images and opinions are our own.

Win a pair of Eyejusters adjustable reading glasses

If you’re having trouble seeing clearly when you’re reading, using the computer or watching TV, it may mean that you need reading glasses. British company Eyejusters have created reading glasses can give you perfect vision for all of these activities at just the turn of a tiny dial.

Win a pair of Eyejusters adjustable reading glasses

Eyejusters have created UK’s first ever smart glasses for vision correction. Their adjustable reading glasses have a +0.5 to +4.0 focussing range and their advanced lens technology has a ‘Super Close Up Macro Mode’ for glasses, making them ideal for close up work such as crafts.

These new glasses from Eyejusters look just like ordinary glasses but use discreet adjustable eyeDials to change the lens strength, in a similar way to binoculars or a microscope. These adjustable reading glasses mean there is no need to go to the expense of buying different pairs of glasses for different uses – buy one pair and see everything!

Now I’m in my early 40’s I’m noticing that I’m starting to struggle a bit with close up work, especially with crafts. Threading a needle is probably where I notice it the most. By our mid-forties many people start to struggle to see close-up objects such as small writing, computers and mobile phones. This is caused by an age-related condition called presbyopia, which is part of the natural ageing process of the eye.

Win a pair of Eyejusters adjustable reading glasses

There are 17 different styles to choose from. Each pair of Eyejusters glasses are either £69 or £79 depending on what style you choose.

Wearing glasses with the wrong lens can cause short-term issues such as headaches, eye strain, squinting, tired eyes, blurred vision, dizziness or a lack of balance. These Eyejusters glasses mean you always have the right glasses on whatever you are doing. Plus you have the ability to adjust your glasses as your eyesight worsens; meaning you can have the perfect vision at just the turn of a tiny dial.

Eyejusters are available online from their website for either £69 or £79 depending on which of the 17 styles you choose.

Win a pair of Eyejusters adjustable reading glasses

To be in with a chance to win a pair of Eyejusters adjustable reading glasses worth £79, simply complete the Rafflecopter widget below. Good luck!

Check out our other giveaways over on our competitions page.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Terms & Conditions:
1. The competition is open to residents of the UK only aged (18) and over.
2. The prize is non-transferable and no cash alternative is offered.
3. To enter, please use the Rafflecopter widget above, complete any mandatory entries and any optional entries you would like.
4. The winner will be chosen at random from all valid entries.
5. The winner will be sent a pair of Eyejusters adjustable reading glasses.
6. The closing date for entries is 11.59pm GMT on 8th November 2017.
7. The winner will be informed by email within 7 days of the closing date.
8. The winner will be asked to provide a full UK postal address with postcode for delivery purposes.
9. The winners name will be available on request
10. Address details will be passed onto an agency to post the prize out to the winner, and is therefore beyond my control. I cannot be held responsible for prizes being lost in the post although I will endeavour to liaise with the agency.
11. Your email address may be passed on to the promoter for marketing purposes, you may unsubscribe at any time.
12. Entry to this giveaway confirms that participants have read, understood and agree to be bound by these Terms and Conditions.
13. HodgePodgeDays decision is final in all matters relating to this giveaway.

I bite my nails and I’m ok with that

I bite my nails and I know that my nails make my otherwise ok hands look shabby. I don’t want to stop biting my nails. I actually quite like it. Other people seem to have a problem with it though. Should I stop biting my nails just to please other people?

I’ve got this slightly anti-social habit and I have no desire to stop it. Every so often when an occasion looms ahead, like Christmas or a wedding, I paint my nails in advance. This stops me nibbling for a while and my hands look briefly quite tidy and respectable.

I’m off to a blogging conference this weekend and it’s one of those rare occasions I think I might try to spruce myself up for. I’ve painted my nails and to anyone else they probably look terrible. But to me they look ok. I’ve got funny cuticles which need attention and the paint job isn’t great, but they’ll do. Anyone who wants to stare at my nails and judge me on them can judge away.

I bite my nails and I'm ok with that

I’d love to be able to go for a manicure. I’d love to spoil myself with one. I’ve had them in the past and almost without exception they’ve been joyless experiences. The nail technician always comments on my nail biting, the length of the nails, the state of my cuticles and has a resigned “what the hell am I going to do with these” look on their face.

No I don’t want false nails thank you. No I don’t want to grow them either. I hate the feel of having even slightly longer nails that I already have. Feeling the tips as they tap on the keyboard makes me feel sick and they have to come off. They have to be short and after 40 years of biting I’m not going to stop now.

I’d just love a manicure from someone who gets that I just want to make what I’ve got look pretty and tidy. I don’t want to stick false nails on. I don’t want to try nasty flavoured stuff either. My need to bite my nails is such that I will tolerate the terrible taste to get my nail nibbling fix.

My name is Jane and I bite my nails (and always will because I like it).

Health: Living with Alpha Thalassemia Trait

Way back in 2010 when I was pregnant with my son, I had the usual barrage of tests they give to pregnant ladies. I wasn’t really expecting anything to flash up in the results and I think my Doctor was as surprised as me to find that I had Alpha Thalassemia Trait, a genetic blood disorder.

My husband and I were quickly thrown onto a conveyor belt of further tests and genetic counselling. Something neither of us were expecting nor were in any way prepared for. Being pregnant and having a baby is scary enough, but when you find out there’s a chance of something unthinkable happening, your world turns upside down.

On its own my Alpha Thalassemia Trait is a bit like having anaemia. I’m a bit tired most of the time. I always have been. I remember being a teenager and family members telling me how lazy I was and how I didn’t have any get up and go. It wasn’t that I was lazy, I just had no energy at all. Thalassemia comes in various forms, some are far more serious than others and some people with other versions of the disorder can have terrible health problems. Thankfully Alpha Thalassemia Trait has pretty low-level symptoms.

As an adult, I learned to cope and manage my low-level exhaustion and factored those symptoms into my lifestyle. I can’t actually nap unless I’m ill, but rest periods are essential, as are lie-ins a couple of times a week. Caffeine is my friend, it gives me false energy and a little pep up when I need a boost to get me through. I work from home now and as much as I can I work when I’m energised and rest when I am not.

When I was first got pregnant in the days before I knew the reason why I was fatigued all the time, I was absolutely shattered. I’d do a days work, come home and get straight into bed. My husband would wake me up to give me a meal in bed and I’d fall asleep again. He’d wake me up later to make sure I had a drink and then leave me to sleep until morning. For a few weeks I thought I was seriously ill. I was just pregnant.

In terms of my health during my pregnancy it didn’t really affect me. I was advised to try to eat more iron rich foods and to rest when I could. I suspect that’s advice given to pregnant women regardless of their thalassemia status.

What I did find stressful, and it was something which definitely contributed to the deterioration of my mental health after my son was born, was the genetic counselling. It was supposed to educate us about the risks of having two parents with the disease, which is helpful, but at 18 weeks pregnant I was faced with the possibility that my baby could die if my husband also had this genetic anomaly. Until the test results came through I could not be reassured.

This dark cloud hung heavily over us while we waited for his test results to come back. My husband is half Armenian and thalassemia is prevalent in Mediterranean, South Asian, Southeast Asian and Middle Eastern counties. I knew this was a concern to the medical team treating me. It was a truly horrible time in our lives. The two weeks of waiting were torture. Thankfully his results came back absolutely clear and we were discharged from the Thalassemia Service and told our baby would be ok.

Alpha Thalassemia Trait is a strange condition. I have it but there’s no treatment for my minor version of it. There’s not a lot I can do to make myself better, I just have to factor in self-care where I can. The concern is that I will have passed my genetic anomaly on to my son. If I have then he will need to be cautious should he ever want children of his own. If he has it, then his partner will need to be tested to make sure that together they can have healthy babies of their own.

The test for Thalassemia is really simple, it’s a quick blood test. I’d never heard of the disease before I knew I was a carrier. It’s not infectious, you can’t catch it from me, not unless I give birth to you, which is unlikely. If you’re worried you may be a carrier it’s worth speaking to your GP and requesting a test, especially if you’re thinking of having a baby.

Health: Living with Alpha Thalassemia Trait

You can find out more about Alpha Thalassemia Trait by visiting this website.

This blog post does not constitute medical advice. I am just sharing my experience of  Alpha Thalassemia Trait.