Recipe – Egg Substitute

With shows such as “The Great British Bake-Off” on television in recent years, the nation has been inspired to do more baking. But what do you do if you have an egg allergy or intolerance? Here is a recipe for an egg substitute I found in my research after I learnt I had an intolerance to egg and use it all the time when I bake. This recipe is for one egg:

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons flaxseed (I get milled flaxseed)
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 tablespoons of water

Method

  1. If you don’t have milled flaxseed; grind it to the consistency of cornmeal.
  2. Mix the flaxseed, baking powder and water in a bowl.
  3. Leave for about 10 minutes to let it congeal.
  4. Add to your baking as normal

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My PCOS Story

My PCOS story started when I was 17. I had always had an issue with my weight but I had started losing it after my GCSEs because I wanted to be slimmer for when I started sixth form. I soon realised that I hadn’t had a period for about 3 or 4 months. I was not one of those girls who kept a really close eye on how regular my cycle was so I may have had irregularities before. I went to my mum and asked her “is it normal that I haven’t had a period for 3 or 4 months?” She said “no”. I said “oh”. We booked an appointment with my GP who initially put it down to my weight loss as losing quite a bit of weight can sometimes have an effect on menstruation and advised me to come back in a couple of months if they still haven’t returned. We also sought advice from my osteopath who also did homeopathy. He said that he often gets dancer clients who don’t get periods because of their training. I danced regularly and did Performing Arts at sixth form so we thought it could be a possibility. Overall, we weren’t overly worried. Nethertheless, we waited a couple of months and went back to the GP. The GP then referred me for an ultrasound (I may have had some blood tests too but I can’t remember – curse me for being a teenager who didn’t pay much attention). After my scan, the doctor told me I had Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, prescribed me the Dianette brand of the contraceptive pill and sent me on my way. Right … ok … now what? I had a condition name but no explanation of exactly what it is and what I’m meant to do to look after myself. I had to do my own research.

I did research on the internet and got a book called “Managing PCOS for Dummies” (perfect for me). Through this research, I learnt all about the potential problems I could run into if I didn’t look after myself properly; type 2 diabetes, infertility, cancers, etc. These thoughts scared me so I continued to research and learnt how much diet exercise and lifestyle have an impact on ensuring that these things don’t happen. I began to realise how important it was to get control of my weight. I had managed to lose some already and was feeling much healthier but I wanted to try and lose a bit more and maintain a healthy weight. So, I put all my research into action. I tried various “diets” such as Atkins which worked for a while but were not necessarily the best thing for my long term health. I decided that making sure I had a balanced healthy diet was better than restricting myself. I made sure to eat wholegrains and low-GI carbohydrates, started trying more vegetables and cut down on my intake of sugary foods such as, chocolate. It was a gradual process but I managed to make big changes to my diet which helped me lose some more weight. I also increased my exercise by doing some workout dvds. This also helped with my weight and started to enjoy exercise more which made it feel less like a chore. I still danced and did trampolining as well. I ended up changing from Dianette to Microgynon after a while because I found that Dianette gave me really bad headaches which were affecting my college work. I managed much better on Microgynon. Altogether, I was on the pill for 5 years. I eventually made the decision to come off the pill altogether because I worried about the health risks (i.e. blood clots) and my weight would fluctuate by half a stone. I was referred to a gynaecologist and she said that I could try coming off it to see if my periods came back on their own. She explained that I at least need to have one period every three months. It took a couple of months but they came back and were regular for two years. That is until this year when my periods suddenly stopped in February. I had an ultrasound some months later and had two sonographers confirm that my ovaries are no longer polycystic. Wow! I couldn’t believe it! I truly believe that all my hard work has led to this day. While there is still the question of why my periods have done a vanishing act now, the condition that has affected my life for so long has finally gone.

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What is PCOS?

I remember at the age of 17 being told I had PCOS, given a prescription for the contraceptive pill and sent on my way. This was scary for a teenager; only told the name of the condition and not really knowing what this condition could mean for me – present and future – and how to manage it correctly. I would never wish that feeling of “being left in the dark” on anyone. So, I have written this blog to give you a brief introduction to PCOS; whether you have already been diagnosed or suspect you have it.

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (simply known as PCOS) is one of the most common hormonal disorders affecting women. Polycystic Ovaries is the term used to describe ovaries which contain more small cysts than a regular ovary which are usually no bigger than 8 millimetres each and are located just below the surface of the ovaries. These cysts are egg-containing follicles which have not properly developed because of hormonal abnormalities. The term “Polycystic Ovary Syndrome” is used for a condition where women with polycystic ovaries have one or more additional symptoms.

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Normal Ovary v.s. Polycystic Ovary

Symptoms:

PCOS affects different women in different ways. Symptoms may include:

  • Irregular or no periods
  • Difficulty getting pregnant
  • Excessive hair growth (Hirsutism) – usually on face, chest, back or buttocks
  • Weight gain, especially around the tummy
  • Thinning hair/hair loss from head
  • Oily Skin with acne
  • Emotional manifestations – depression, anxiety, irritability and mood swings
  • Insulin resistance
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Sleep problems and fatigue/exhaustion

The cause of PCOS is currently unknown. It is thought to be due to abnormal hormone levels.

Diagnosis:

To get a diagnosis of PCOS, the first step is to visit your GP. Your GP may then refer you for the following tests:

  • Ultrasound scan – This procedure uses high-frequency sound waves and allows an image of the organ being scanned to be seen on a special computer screen. It is completely safe. The specialist will scan the ovaries to see if they are enlarged or if cysts are present. Before the scan, you will probably be asked to have a full bladder (this will be done by drinking around 2 pints of water and not going to the toilet) so the sonographer can get a clear enough image
  • Hormone tests – You may be referred for some blood tests. These tests show up any disturbed levels of hormones which control ovulation and give an indication that PCOS may be the problem
  • Other possible tests: Glucose tolerance test, fasting glucose level test and blood cholesterol measurements

Treatment:

The symptoms of PCOS can be controlled by making lifestyle changes. These are:

  • Diet
  • Exercise
  • Emotional well-being

Diet:

Diet is one of (if not the) most important factors in controlling PCOS. A PCOS-friendly diet helps to:

  • Lose weight and maintain a healthy weight
  • Reduce insulin resistance and therefore, reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes
  • Reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Ensure a balanced and nutritionally adequate dietary intake

Top tips for a PCOS diet:

  • Eat regular meals – breakfast, lunch, dinner and 2 snacks
  • Follow a low-GI diet
  • Cut down on unhealthy fats – saturated and trans fats – which are found in products such as fatty meat, cakes, pastry, etc.
  • Cut down on salt
  • Aim to eat 5 portions of fruit and vegetables daily
  • Cut down of refined sugar

Exercise:

Exercise has huge impact on reducing PCOS symptoms. The benefits include:

  • Helps maintain weight loss
  • Improves the relative amount of muscle to fat and improves overall body shape
  • Improves insulin sensitivity
  • Increases good cholesterol in the blood (HDL)
  • Reduces blood pressure
  • Decreases the risk of developing heart disease and diabetes
  • Improves bone density so reduces the risk of developing osteoporosis (brittle bones)
  • Improves psychological health such as, self-confidence, self-image and depression/anxiety

Top tips for exercise:

  • You don’t have to go to an expensive gym; you can exercise at home, go for a brisk walk, cycle or jog
  • Do something you enjoy; dance, swimming, etc.
  • Plan to do exercise that fits into your lifestyle so you can keep it up
  • If time is a barrier, incorporate exercise into your daily routine such as performing squats while doing the cleaning or cycling to the shops
  • Don’t be too ambitious otherwise you will never keep it up. Build it up gradually.

Emotional well-being:

PCOS can be a major stressor in the sufferer’s life. It can often lead to feelings of low self-esteem, anxiety and loss of control. Take time for yourself, breath, exercise, do yoga, eat well, make sure you get enough sleep, hydrate and smile.

Other treatment:

Your doctor will most likely prescribe you the contraceptive pill – especially if you have missed periods. Talk to your doctor about what strain of the pill is best for you as there are various strengths of the pill and it depends on what your symptoms are and the severity of them.

Finally:

Relax … PCOS might seem like a disaster but it isn’t. Look at celebrities like Victoria Beckham and Daisy Ridley who have overcome their PCOS diagnosis to have a successful life, maintain a normal weight, have great skin and go on to have children. With proper treatment and lifestyle choices, it is possible to lead a normal and happy life.

In future blogs, I will be discussing my experience with PCOS; from diagnosis to life with the condition to the discovery that my PCOS is gone. In the meantime, if you have any questions or would like assistance in managing your PCOS, do not hesitate to contact me.