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Scoliosis Follow-Up and Interesting GF Article

April 12, 2011

In my last post, I mentioned that I had been blind-sided by a diagnosis of scoliosis. Well, I spoke to my doctor, and as expected, it’s nothing I need to worry about. My doctor examined my back and informed me that my “scoliosis” is so minor he would never have noticed it if he hadn’t been looking for it. He said that if you took 100 random people off the street and checked them all for scoliosis, over half of them would have a tiny bend like mine, and it means nothing. Hooray! That’s one health problem I can cross off my list.

In other news, I found an interesting article on CNN Health this morning related to the gluten free diet. These articles are popping up more and more in the news these days as the GF diet grows in popularity, and most of them just give a basic overview of Celiac disease as the cause for the diet. What’s interesting about today’s article, called “Will a gluten-free diet improve your health?”, is that it goes into some detail about another less-known problem: gluten sensitivity/intolerance. I encourage you to read the article to learn more.

From Asthma to Scoliosis

March 24, 2011

I had my first full workout with my newly hired personal trainer this past Tuesday. Because I’m so out of shape aerobically, it didn’t take long to induce an asthma attack.

First, a little background. I have a fairly mild case of exercise-induced asthma. When I get an attack, I definitely get short of breath and I cough a lot, but my worst symptoms are the burning in my lungs and the tightness of my chest. While my attacks are highly uncomfortable (or downright painful), they usually subside when I stop exercising without the use of my rescue inhaler. I’m never in any danger of passing out or needing to be hospitalized from lack of air.

The asthma attack I experienced on Tuesday was a fairly normal one, although on the severe side for me. My lungs burned more than usual, and my chest was constricted in pain long after ceasing the exercise. I didn’t use my inhaler because despite the pain, I could breath. (I have since learned that my inhaler will help with the pain too, and I should have used it.) What wasn’t normal was that along with the attack, I experienced a very strong taste of blood in my mouth. So yesterday, I made a trip to my allergist’s office to discuss the issue and make sure there wasn’t something wrong. The nurse practitioner said that I had most likely burst a blood vessel in my throat from coughing and that it was nothing to worry about. However, she sent me to get chest x-rays to be on the safe side.

I got the x-rays done immediately following the appointment, and the nurse practitioner called later that day while I was in a meeting to give me the results. She left the following voicemail:

Hi Sabrina, I was calling to let you know that your chest x-ray came back normal. If you have any questions you may call us back. On the x-ray it did show a little scoliosis, um, but, it doesn’t.. it is still normal. Um, if you have any questions, call us back.

Wait, what? My chest x-ray was normal, but it shows scoliosis??? At first it didn’t register what exactly that meant, but after doing a quick Google search, I proceeded to FREAK OUT. I had just been informed that my spine is curved, and not as in hunched like you might see with osteoporosis, but rather curved sideways. I saw horrible images of people with curved spines and read about how I might need physical therapy, or a back brace, or even worse, surgery. Let me tell you, I was IN. A. STATE. I called my husband crying, and then I called my Dad and cried some more. I realized I wasn’t going to get any more work done that day, and I left early for home.

Well it just so happens that at the time that I called my dad, he was on his way to his own doctor appointment for a checkup, so he asked his doctor about the scoliosis diagnosis. It turns out that most cases of scoliosis (which affects about 2-3% of the population) develop during a person’s teenage years and are minor. People with these minor cases usually don’t have any symptoms other than a slight height difference between their shoulders or the two sides of their hips. They lead long, normal, healthy lives, possibly experiencing a little lower back pain now and then, but nothing more. Most likely, I am one of these people, and it has taken until now for somebody to notice the deformity. My dad’s doctor said that if I haven’t had any negative symptoms so far, I probably won’t ever have them.

My husband, who was also trying to make me feel better, sent me a picture (shown below) of a world class body builder with scoliosis (Lamar Gant). You can plainly see the curvature of this man’s back, and yet he has won numerous championships and is even in the Guinness Book of World Records. Clearly, scoliosis did not hold him back.

Lamar Gant had scoliosis and yet he became a world class lifter.

After the reassurances from my dad and my husband, and after doing my own research, I felt a lot better about my scoliosis diagnosis. I still need to talk to my primary care physician about it to make sure there are no underlying causes we need to be aware of, but most likely, this diagnosis will have no bearing on my life. My next appointment is on Tuesday, and I’ll let you know how it goes!

Eventful Saturday

October 4, 2010

It was an eventful Saturday.

First, some back story. Friday night I went to Bunco, which included a potluck. I brought GF pumpkin pie, and a friend of mine brought GF cupcakes. Since we had a Halloween theme, she brought chocolate cupcakes with chocolate icing and chocolate cookie crumbles on top. The cookie crumbles were meant to look like dirt, and she put gummy worms on top of that (sort of coming out of the center of the cupcake like they were crawling out of their hole in the dirt). The effect was quite good, and the cupcakes were delicious! At the end of the night, there were plenty of leftovers, so I brought three of the cupcakes home for consumption later. They were on a paper plate wrapped in cling-wrap, and I set them on the kitchen table at home.

Saturday morning, my husband and I got up relatively early (for a Saturday) and rode our new bikes to Pflugerville Lake and back. The round trip was just under four miles, and we were happy with how it had gone. (We’re newbies to bike riding.) However, upon arriving back home, we walked into the kitchen to discover an empty paper plate sitting on the kitchen table and a wad of cling-wrap and a bunch of chocolate crumbs on the floor. Our Great Dane, Daisy, had eaten all three of the cupcakes! Knowing that chocolate in large amounts is poisonous to dogs, I called the vet to find out if this was something we needed to worry about. The vet decided to go with caution and told us we needed to make Daisy throw up what she had eaten by making her drink several tablespoons hydrogen peroxide.

So I went to the bathroom, pulled out our bottle of hydrogen peroxide, took Daisy to the back yard, and started making her drink it one tablespoon at a time. The vet had said to use “a couple of tablespoons”, so I started with two. Nothing happened. My husband took a look at the bottle and discovered it was expired. Maybe that’s why it had no effect. So off to the store I went to purchase a new bottle. I didn’t know how time critical getting the food out of Daisy’s system was, so I rushed as quickly as I could to get back home. I fed her two more tablespoons of the (non-expired) hydrogen peroxide. Still nothing; although, it was clear that Daisy did NOT like being made to drink this stuff. On the phone with the vet: “How long should it take for the dog to throw up after we feed her the hydrogen peroxide?” “It should be pretty immediate. Just keep giving it to her a couple tablespoons at a time until she throws up.” Two more tablespoons down Daisy’s throat. By this time, I’m covered in the liquid myself, and Daisy is foaming at the mouth (it was just the hydrogen peroxide foaming when it came into contact with her skin/fur). I waited another minute, and just as I was about to give her some more, Daisy got up, walked off, and puked. Only once, but quite a lot came out. Gross, but I felt relieved. Then, to our complete horror and disgust, Daisy started to eat her own puke! We had to run over there to stop her, and my husband kept her distracted while I got a shovel and sent the mess over the fence. (It’s just a big field behind our fence – it will eventually be houses.) I called the vet back to let them know of our success, and they said that while Daisy would probably be fine (she is quite a large dog, after all), we needed to monitor her to make sure she didn’t get too sick and need to be taken to an emergency clinic.

By this time it was noon. My husband and I originally had plans to join some friends at one of their houses to watch the Texas game, but with our need to monitor Daisy, we asked everyone to come to our place instead. They were due to start arriving in one hour, and we still needed to shower (from our bike ride) and clean up around the house a bit. More rushing. Our first guest (whose house we had originally planned to go to) arrived just after 1pm to start cooking. I helped make GF meatballs while my husband finished cleaning around the house. Everyone else arrived after 2pm. We ate a delicious meal of spaghetti and meatballs (much later than anticipated due to the change in venue) and finally turned on the Texas game. At half time, we took about a 30 minute break while a friend went home to feed her dog; then finished watching our team fight yet another losing battle. It was nearly 8pm by the time everyone left, and after such an eventful day, my husband and I (with a migraine) were in bed by 9pm.

Needless to say, Sunday was spent relaxing and recovering.


August 25, 2010

A member of my Celiac listserve just sent the following email:

We have just been told by our pharmacy that they will no longer fill prescriptions for my wife because they cannot be sure that they would be gluten-free. They are citing potential liability if they goof. This is coming from the corporate level, not the local pharmacist who has been extremely helpful in researching the GF status of meds. I do know that a psychologist cannot abandon (refuse services to) an existing patient without providing them with a viable alternative. Doing so can lead to loss of license. Is there a similar requirement for pharmacies or pharmacists? My wife has been diagnosed with and is battling: Celiac, Porphyris, Ankylosing Spondylitis, Heart Disease, Bell’s Palsey, Thyroid disease, Stroke. Her prescriptions are essential. Basically, she will die without her meds. Many of her prescriptions fall outside MEDCO’s formulary, so they are very expensive. The local pharmacist has been giving us the ‘uninsured’ price which helps a lot, but we are still going into heavy credit card debt to buy her meds. This all happened about three hours ago and we are reeling. What it comes down to is that she will die without her meds. Any suggestions? Is it legal to discriminate against her because she has a disease?

WOW, SCARY. Can you imagine? I would be HYSTERICAL! I wish I knew what to tell this person, but I really have no idea if this is legal or not. If it is, it definitely shouldn’t be. I think I’d better do some research… I don’t ever want to be caught in this situation.

GF Wedding Cake

March 5, 2010

I wrote the following two posts for my wedding blog, one in November and one in January. If you read that blog, this will be a repeat, but it occurs to me that I really should talk about my search for a gf wedding cake here. The posts are followed by an update on the situation. Enjoy!

“Sabrina on Nov 12, 2009

Finding the perfect bakery to make my wedding cake is something I’ve been stressing over for a few months now. Gluten free cake isn’t easy to make, and not many bakeries are willing to try it. And those that do often end up with a dry, crumbly mess of a cake that doesn’t taste good at all. Knowing this, I started my search very early on.

At first I started with the places recommended to me by the Celiac list-serve that I’m a member of, but as much as my fellow Celiacs seemed to like these cakes, I just didn’t. Then I found another bakery in Austin that claimed to be able to make gluten free cake. However, they had only done it a couple of times, and they could only make chocolate or vanilla. I considered trying them out anyway (my options are limited, after all), but when I went to their website to see their portfolio, I thought their cakes were downright ugly!

After that I found out about this bakery in San Antonio that was quite experienced with GF cakes, and I got very excited. They had 4 flavors to choose from, including my favorite, strawberry. I began working with the bakery owner to design my cake, and in that process I discovered that she doesn’t typically use buttercream icing. She uses a whipped cream instead, which I don’t care for as much. When I asked about getting buttercream, she first tried to tell me it might not be gluten free, which I knew to be incorrect. Then she refused to make the buttercream from scratch, saying she would have to buy boxes of mix from Whole Foods to make it. What wedding cake bakery doesn’t make their buttercream from scratch?!?!? It’s not like it’s hard! Even I could make it! At that point I decided I no longer wanted to work with that woman, and I was back to square one.

The more I searched for a bakery that could make a delicious and beautiful wedding cake, the more I started to lose hope. My dad suggested that I expand my search to include other major Texas cities, saying he would drive there and pick the cake up if that’s what it took. I began searching for bakeries in Dallas and Houston, and in the process, I stumbled upon a reference to an Austin bakery I hadn’t heard of before that makes GF cakes. I immediately went to that bakery’s website for more information, but I couldn’t find anything that suggested this place, named Torte Bella, might have what I need. I took a chance and emailed the owner anyway, and to my astonishment, she said, “No problem, we make great gluten free wedding cakes.” Wow, really??? And as it turns out, not only do they make GF cakes, they make them in just about any flavor you want!

The Fiance and I had our cake tasting at Torte Bella this evening, and we were extremely pleased with the flavor and texture of the cakes. We figured out exactly what we want for our wedding cake, and we’ll hopefully be signing a contract soon. I can’t wait for everyone to see the final product on our wedding day!”

“Sabrina on Jan 29, 2010

Currently, I’m freaking out about our wedding cake. More specifically, I’m freaking out about the possibility that our wedding cake bakery has gone out of business. For the past week (at least), the website for the bakery has been down. I emailed the owner about it, but a day later I received a delivery failure notice for the email. And so far, I’ve also been unable to reach her by phone.

A friend of mine who got married recently had her first wedding cake bakery go out of business, so I know it can happen. What I don’t know, is what I’ll do if this turns out to be the case. It was an uphill battle finding a bakery that could make a delicious gluten free wedding cake, and I was unbelievably excited and relieved when the Fiance and I found Torte Bella. If it turns out that the business is no more, I’m going to have to start my search all over again. Most likely, I won’t find another place in Austin, which will mean the added stress of getting a cake delivered from another city. I’m hoping against hope that there’s a technical problem causing the website and email failures and that the owner is just slow to respond to her phone messages. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE let this be the case!!!”

After that last post, I received an email from Susan, one of the co-owners of Torte Bella. It read:

“We have had some changes with our company and the contact information has changed. Tracy has gotten so many requests for her sugar art that we have decided to stop taking any more cake orders and concentrate on just sugar art. We will fulfill all the signed contracts for cakes of course.”

As you can imagine, I was super relieved to get this news! It’s a shame that they will no longer be making cakes since their gf cakes are hands down the best I’ve tried. But at least I will still get my dream wedding cake! =)

Got Guts 5k Run/Walk and GF Food Fair

March 5, 2010

I’m sorry about my long hiatus from writing on this blog. I’ve been insanely busy planning my wedding, and I’m actually keeping another (private) blog related to that. So needless to say, this one has been neglected.

Things are good here. I’m in the process of getting my digestion issues figured out, and I’m starting to feel better. For a few days about a week ago, I had significantly back-tracked on my progress. I was really frustrated about it because I felt like for every step forward I was taking two steps back. But then I figured out I had been accidentally glutening myself for the 4 days previous! No wonder I felt so crappy! It was another case of eating a food that used to be GF, but the ingredients have changed and it now contains barley malt. Nothing like 5 days of complete misery to remind you why it’s so important to read those labels EVERY time! I quit eating the offending food, and I’m back to feeling good again.

In other news, I’m organizing a gluten free food fair! (Because I didn’t already have enough on my plate with the wedding planning. =) ) The Gots Guts 5k Run/Walk and Gluten Free Food Fair is an annual event in Austin, TX that raises money for Celiac disease research and awareness. All of the proceeds go directly to the cause – some to the national organization Gluten Intolerance Group of North America (GIG) and the rest to the local chapter, Alamo Celiac, GIG. I’m a member of Alamo Celiac, and I can attest that it’s a wonderful organization. The support group has been a huge help to me as I’ve dealt with this disease and the gluten free diet.

I attended my first Got Guts 5k and GF Food Fair in September 2008, shortly after my diagnosis. I showed up on race day, not really knowing what to expect, but hoping to have fun. I walked the 5k with my girlfriends who had gone with me for support, and then went to check out the food fair afterwords. I was blown away by the quantity and variety of GF food there, and I tasted anything and everything I could get my hands on. I even found bread that tasted relatively normal! (Before that day, my only experiences with GF bread had been more like eating sand than food.) Having only been gluten free for about 2 months, I hadn’t yet discovered foods that I liked. The Got Guts Food Fair gave me hope that I might actually enjoy food again, and I left with such a feeling of overwhelming excitement and relief that I was beaming from ear to ear.

Since that day, I’ve wanted to be involved with the Got Guts event in whatever way I could, so I could bring that same joy to others who are learning the gluten free lifestyle. Last year, I volunteered to oversee the food fair on the day of the event, and it was a lot of fun. I felt like I was in potluck heaven with so many choices that were ALL safe to eat. This year, I’m coordinating the entire food fair myself! I will be sending out my first information packets to potential participants tomorrow, starting off the process of establishing vendors for the event. My hope is for this to be our biggest food fair yet. Wish me luck!

GF/CF/LF Results

December 22, 2009

Well the 10 day GF/CF/LF diet was awful. I hated every second of it and found myself pissed off about having to deal with it much of the time. Fortunately, it didn’t seem to work. I saw the doctor (well, technically I saw his physician’s assistant due to a mix-up by the office staff) yesterday, and she agreed that I’m probably not dairy intolerant. HOORAY!!! Now all we have to do is figure out what is wrong. At least my next test won’t involve cutting out any more foods!