Livia | TENS Machine

I was diagnosed with endometriosis when I was 16 years old and even though I've lived with it for a long time I'm still never quite prepared for how much pain I'm going to experience. Over-the-counter medications like paracetamol and ibuprofen don't touch it; I was prescribed mefenamic acid but with its numerous side effects it did more harm than good. So I've mainly been relying on a combination of head pads, dietary supplements, distraction techniques and prayer (if crying out 'please god, make it stop' counts as prayer...) Then a few weeks ago I was watching a video about a device that promised to deliver pain-free periods. I had to try it.

 Livia TENS Machine | © Helen Pockett 

Livia TENS Machine | © Helen Pockett 

Livia is essentially a Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation machine. When stimulated, nonnociceptive fibres – nerves which can't transmit pain signals – indirectly inhibit the firing of Aδ and C fibres, which in turn inhibits the firing of a projection neuron, therefore blocking the transmission of pain stimuli. TENS machines emit an electrical current to stimulate nonnociceptive fibres – to say that the machine itself stops the pain is too simplistic. The makers of Livia are reluctant to call it a TENS machine, but they do concede that it works on the gate control theory outlined above. It is more expensive than similar devices but, crucially, it is smaller, lighter and far more discreet. It clips on to the waistband of your trousers or skirt and can be worn under clothing, allowing you to go about with your day as normal. 

The electrical current is delivered via two electrodes, placed 10–15cm apart on your lower stomach or back. When you first turn it on (or turn it up) there is a slight shock – it's doesn't hurt but it is quite an interesting sensation. You'll know you've found the right level when you can hardly feel anything, but if your cramps are particularly painful, it might be necessary to increase the strength of the pulse every thirty minutes or so. The Livia can be worn for up to ten hours, but I would not suggest wearing it while sleeping. (And obviously it can't be worn in the shower or bath...) There are also some other limitations – it is not suitable for those with a pacemaker or for those who experience seizures. The electrodes should not be positioned on the head, neck, chest, over broken skin or in close proximity to cancerous legions.

 Livia TENS Machine | © Helen Pockett

Livia TENS Machine | © Helen Pockett

So...does it work? The honest answer is sometimes. It didn't do much to stop the very intense cramps I get on the first few days (I suspect the only thing that's going to stop them is a hysterectomy) but it did help between cramps and allowed me to be more active generally. If your pain doesn't typically confine you to bed then this would probably work perfectly for you, especially if, like me, you're loathe to take any kind of medication. Ideally, the next generation device would have some connectivity – an app on your phone that sends you a notification when the battery is running low would be particularly useful – and an indicator to show how high or low you have set the pulses. It takes about two hours to charge and a full battery lasts for about 12 hours. If you're looking for a pill-free option, I would definitely recommend giving it a try.

£145 | mylivia.com


Review sample kindly provided by Livia. 

Mildreds | Mango Summer Rolls

'Summer rolls have proven to be a very popular addition to the menu. Gluten-free, vegan and very light, they make a great snack on a hot day. They are really simple to make but you may have to go to an Asian supermarket to find the rice paper sheets.'
–Daniel Acevedo, Head Chef at Mildreds

 Mildreds Mango Summer Rolls + Spicy Peanut Sauce  | © Jonathan Gregson

Mildreds Mango Summer Rolls + Spicy Peanut Sauce  | © Jonathan Gregson

INGREDIENTS

 


For the spicy peanut sauce:

200g Crunchy Peanut Butter
200ml Water
1 Red Chilli, finely diced
Juice of 2 Limes
1
tablespoon Dark Muscovado Sugar
4 Garlic Cloves, minced
1.5cm Ginger Root, finely chopped

 

For the rolls:

90g Vermicelli Rice Noodles
100g Bean Sprouts
1 Red Chilli, finely diced
Rind of 2 Limes, 
finely grated
12cm x 22cm Rice Paper Sheets
Half a Cucumber, cut into 5mm-thick batons
1 Small Ripe Mango, cut into 5mm-thick batons
A handful of Mint Leaves
A handfuls of Coriander Leaves
1 Beetroot, coarsely grated
1 Carrot, coarsely grated


METHOD

1. Cook or soak the rice noodles in boiling water according to the packet instructions, then drain well and leave to cool. Once cool, tip into a bowl with the bean sprouts, chilli and grated lime rind and mix together well.

2. Wet a rice paper wrapper by dipping it in a bowl of water for 15–20 seconds until it starts to soften and become pliable, then place it on a clean work surface. Arrange a few batons of cucumber and mango across the centre of the wrapper, leaving a gap of 4–5cm with side for folding. Add a few mint leaves and coriander leaves, then a small handful of the noodle mix and grated vegetables.

3. Bring the bottom and top edges of the wrapper tightly up over the filling then fold the sides in over it. Continue to roll up tightly and place on a plate. Repeat this process with the remaining sheets and filling ingredients until it is all used up.

4. To make the spicy peanut sauce, put all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk together until smooth.

5. Serve the rolls accompanied by the spicy peanut sauce and garnished with coriander leaves.

Serves 4–6 | 30 minutes


Recipe kindly contributed by Daniel Acevedo, from his book, Mildreds: The Cookbook.

Mildreds | The Cookbook

Mildreds: The Cookbook is the first book from the chefs at Mildreds, an independent chain of vegetarian restaurants with locations across London. Daniel Acevedo and Sarah Wasserman have developed a collection of recipes that can be easily recreated while staying true to the founders'  ethos of delicious, affordable, ethical food that is sophisticated but unpretentious.

 Mildreds: The Cookbook | © Helen Pockett

Mildreds: The Cookbook | © Helen Pockett

Divided into seven chapters – Soups, Starters, Salads, Mains, Sides, Desserts, Sauces & Dressings –the recipes are clearly marked to denote whether (or not) they are gluten-free or suitable for vegans. (Many could be adapted by substituting an ingredient with an appropriate alternative.)

While the book contains all the usual dishes – hummus, guacamole, gazpacho, bean burgers, aubergine moussaka etc. – it's worth remembering that when Mildreds first opened in the '80s it upended expectations of vegetarian food. And there are some more imaginative offerings – mee goreng, roast pepper and black olive lahmacuns, pumpkin and potato pampushki. As always with books written by professional chefs, though, the value lies in the techniques it imparts and the seemingly simple recipes – the flavoured oils, dips and dressings, things you can incorporate into other recipes.

I'd recommend this book to people who love the food at Mildreds but don't live close enough to go often ... or those who do but can't bear the wait for a table.

256 pages | 60 minutes | amazon.co.uk


Review copy kindly provided by Octopus.

Pukka Herbs | Womankind

Asparagus racemosus, commonly known as Shatavari, is a species of asparagus. Its tuberous roots have been used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine to treat everything from stomach ulcers to anxiety disorders. The adaptogen is said to have demulcent, antispasmodic, galactogogue and diuretic effects, but it is most often taken as a tonic to ease the symptoms of hormonal imbalance and gynaecological dysfunction. I've been reluctant to load my body with synthetic hormones to mitigate the symptoms of endometriosis so when I heard that Pukka Herbs had developed a shatavari-based organic supplement to support women's health, I ordered some immediately.

 Pukka Womankind Supplements | © Helen Pockett

Pukka Womankind Supplements | © Helen Pockett

The capsules contain an blend of shatavari root, reishi, turmeric, red clover seed sprouts, broccoli seed sprouts, green tea leaf aqueous extract, aloe vera juice concentrate, motherwort, maca, pomegranate seed, seaweed, ginger, and spirulina. The casings are made from hydroxypropyl methyl cellulose so are suitable for vegetarians and vegans. 

I take two capsules a day, breaking them open and stirring the contents into some juice or a smoothie. The blend has an earthy, slightly bitter taste but I wouldn't say that it's unpleasant. I didn't notice any immediate side effects – it didn't upset my stomach or give me a rash – but by the fifth day all I could think about was sex. So if you're in this for the aphrodisiac effect, know that it works. Perhaps one must take it for an extended period (no pun intended) of time to see a significant change in the regularity of one's menstrual cycle but after the first month I did notice that my PMS symptoms were reduced – not so much bloating, skin didn't flare up, less nausea etc.

Even if it's a placebo effect – who cares? I'll keep taking them and will report back.

30 Capsules | £16.96 | www.pukkaherbs.com


THE SUPER ELIXIR | Nourishing Protein

Nourishing Protein is one of the newer additions to WelleCo's Super Elixir range. Formulated in collaboration with clinical nutritionist Dr. Laubscher, it is a truly delicious plant-based alternative to traditional protein powders. At present the flavour options are vanilla or chocolate – this review will focus on the latter.

 WelleCo Nourishing Protein Powder | © Helen Pockett

WelleCo Nourishing Protein Powder | © Helen Pockett

Made from a blend of 37 natural ingredients – the full list of which can be found here – each serving provides 30% of your daily allowance of protein, 25% of your recommended daily allowance of vitamin D, 67% of your recommended daily allowance of B12, as well as a healthy dose of probiotics. 

The powder is very finely ground and while it says on the packet that you can mix it with just water or almond milk, I prefer to add it to my smoothies.It has a pleasant chocolate-y taste and I've found it very easy to digest – none of that bloating or an over-full feeling that is usually associated with nutritional powders.

 WelleCo Nourishing Protein Powder | © Helen Pockett

WelleCo Nourishing Protein Powder | © Helen Pockett

I dislike swallowing pills so supplementing my diet in this way works well for me. I love that I can add a scoop to my morning smoothie and be set for the rest of that day – especially as it has probiotics in it, too. I know some people complain about the high price point but I firmly believe that you get what you pay for, and this is by far the best protein powder I've tried.

500g | £48 | net-a-porter.com


Review sample kindly provided by WelleCo.