Monday, July 16, 2007

Survey Results: Blood Tests and Urine Tests Comprehension and Interest

Survey Results: Understand Blood Tests and Urine Tests

Last week I posted a survey regarding how well everyone understands blood-test results, and how interested people would be in having me write about the details of blood-tests and other lab tests.

The results of the survey were as follows:
Survey Results: Understanding Blood and Urine Tests
It sure looks like enough people are interested in me writing about health-science topics in the future to merit attention. I'm looking forward to it, and plan to draw from my technical background a bit to explain as best I can some of the science behind test results and their pertinence to Celiac Disease and living Gluten-Free.

As time allows, I will try to spend it researching and writing a series of gluten-free blog articles in the future that address this demand for health-science topics. I want to provide proper references for all the information I'll post (i.e., I don't plan to post opinions, but rather I want to post scientific fact) wherever possible. I have started collecting online reference links I can use, and this is going to take me some time to assemble into anything coherent.

I may forget to always come back to this entry and make links to any science and medical news I post here, so please use the quick-search labels at the side of the blog.  Here are some articles that quickly emerged after this survey:

I'm looking forward to eventually posting all sorts of useful health-science blogs and articles in the future.

Continue to read this Gluten-Free Blog for all sorts of gluten-free recipes, product-reviews, and related information. In addition, visit my Gluten-Free Recipes Site where many of the recipes I have featured on this blog are available.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Survey - Do you understand blood test results and the like?

Gluten-Free and Deciphering Blood Tests / Urine Tests 

I have created a couple mini-survey questions related to this gluten-free blog discussion (see the two survey questions at right [NOTE: Survey is Compete, image below shows the results]), that I'd appreciate getting your feedback on. Thank you!

Understanding Blood Test and Urine Test Results Survey

Here's what inspires these questions....

So, you have been to your doctor and you have have been provided with a printout of your latest blood test results (like a CBC), and/or urine test results (a complete metabolic panel perhaps), and so forth. Now, can you makes sense of all the various acronyms and reference-ranges and such on these reports?
Note: if you don't have a copy of your blood test results (or urine test results), I suggest always having the doctor print a copy of these test-results for your records, and I'll get into "why" a bit later.

If you are like most people, you may just take your doctor's word that "everything is fine" and not look further into the test numbers. Or, maybe you quickly scan the list of numbers/results on the report and see if any have been flagged as being outside the reference-ranges. Or, perhaps if you are the really inquisitive and/or diligent type, you always look closely at the numbers and question why the results are what they are, and even research the science behind each line-item. Finally, it is even possible that maybe you just don't care.

Well, I am interested in learning what the distribution of attitudes towards understanding lab-test results (blood, urine, etc.) is among my readers. The reason I ask, is that I am planning to eventually write a series of blog entries to discuss some of the human physiology aspects of Celiac Disease and why living Gluten-Free is so important to us, and discuss how Celiac can manifest itself on these blood tests and such (and, I don't mean on just antibody tests, but rather on things like your red blood-cell counts, corpuscular volumes, and much more). In addition, I plan to explain not just the tests, but some of the terminolgy surrounding the medical aspects of such tests - like reference ranges, differential diagnoses, contraindications, and more.

If there is sufficient interest, I'm going to begin by providing some "top-down" education about what all the test results mean, and then dive rather deep into the science behind individual tests as it may relate to things like iron-deficiency anemia, vitamin B12 anemia (even how to treat B12 anemia with sublingual vitamin B12, rather a miracle considering may be as effective as vitamin B-12 shots), controlling blood-sugar issues that may arise with Celiac Disease, and other conditions that we Celiacs are more prone to (because of nutrient absorption issues and so on).

Deciphering Blood Test Results, especially how they potentially relate to Celiac / Gluten-Free living, is an important thing to me, but I really want to understand what it means to the rest of you. So, please offer your input by voting on the two items at the right. Be honest - if you have no interest, just say so, and likewise if you find this intruiging and want to learn more, let me know.

I have also been prototyping some software to help people with simplified home blood test and lab-test result analysis, and help spot trends over time. I'm also trying to make it simple to identify correlations between multiple test results. My objective is simple: help people become more aware of what is, and is not, "normal" for them, and to identify potential problems at an early enough stage that any long-term negative effects can be averted. The software will be the last stage in my public-education and assistance series, if the demand warrants it, and if time permits me to create this.  I have competed a working sample using Google's spreadsheets and data-tables and charting components, which I can perhaps make public.

Continue to read this Gluten-Free Blog for all sorts of gluten-free recipes, product-reviews, and related information. In addition, visit my Gluten-Free Recipes Site where many of the recipes I have featured on this blog are available.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Remy is a Foodie (Rat from Ratatouille)

Ratatouille Movie Review

We just finished watching the new Disney animated movie "Ratatouille", and I very much enjoyed the film. The main character is a rat named Remy, who just happens to be an incredible Foodie that pursues his dream (of becoming a great chef) — a dream inspired by the book of a late, great French chef who published a book entitled "Everyone can cook" (how appropriate). Surmounting a few obstacles along the way, Remy eventually realizes his dream when his passion for gourmet food is put to use in a fine Paris restaurant, creating marvels that only a truly gifted chef could do.

Inspiration and Passion to Create Fine Foods

Although Remy is not necessarily creating gluten-free foods, his passion for fine food is certainly an inspiration to anyone that longs for foods that are gourmet and a cut above the mundane. As various ingredients are being combined, Remy's keen and discerning nose helps to combine just the right ingredients to fulfill his quest for food perfection. Remy knows that in order to eat the best foods, you have to start with great ingredients, and be creative and practice combining flavors while baking for yourself. This certainly hit home with me, as with very little exception, I much prefer home-baked gluten-free creations to any commercial counterparts — the reason being, we have final say in the taste and texture of each dish we make.

In addition to a nice tale of adventure and achieving success in the kitchen, "Ratatouille" is also visually stunning and entertaining. I think Ratatouille is perhaps the best animated film I have seen to date, and I was just amazed by how incredibly realistic computer animation has become over the years — and what better plot to showcase such a feast for the senses than a show revolving around great food!

The only thing better would have been coordinated scents to accompany the baking scenes, but then again... when certain rats are eating garbage early in the movie...

Starting the day with an English Muffin (from Foods by George)

Cinnamon Currant glutenfree English Muffins
Cinnamon Currant glutenfree English Muffins

Foods by George Review : Great Gluten-Free English Muffins

A little while back, I reviewed the plain gluten-free English Muffins from Foods by George. Since then, I have acquired their Cinnamon Currant glutenfree English Muffins (as shown above - toasted), and have become quite a fan of these as well. These are a great way to start the day — allergen free, and quite nice with a cup of coffee.

To give you a feel for how good these English Muffins are, regardless of whether they are gluten-free and safe for persons with Celiac Disease, they are tasty enough to appeal to the normal population. In fact, they have become a favorite breakfast item for my daughter, who is not gluten-free in the least bit.

So now, instead of purchasing a single pack of these at a time (I get them at Whole Foods), I buy three packages and hope to at least get around to eating one of the packs myself before they disappear! They keep well in the freezer for longer periods if you want to stock up on them. I've been keeping one sleeve of muffins in the fridge, and another couple in the freezer until we are ready for them.

If you like English Muffins, and want a bit of extra flavor over a plain one, then these cinnamon currant ones are definitely worth trying out. The flavor and texture is really nice, and they are so simple to toast up in a couple minutes (I use a wide-mouth / bagel toaster). I still get the plain ones too, but I now save those for my homemade "Egg McMuffins" of sorts (inspired by the McDonald's namesake).

Continue to read this Gluten-Free Blog for all sorts of gluten-free recipes, product-reviews, and related information. In addition, visit my Gluten-Free Recipes Site where many of the recipes I have featured on this blog are available.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Gluten-Free Birthday Cake and Biscotti

I recently had a birthday, and I was lucky enough to have two of my favorite things for the occasion: a gluten-free chocolate cake, and some gluten-free biscotti (chocolate orange macadamia nut). Both were homemade, and fulfilled my "gift" requests this year. I am at that point where I have no idea what to ask for when it comes to Birthdays, Father's Day, Christmas, etc., so one surefire hit with me is homemade treats.

NOTE: I now have a nice Apple Cinnamon Gluten-Free Biscotti recipe online, for anyone in the mood for baking some homemade gluten-free biscotti (Italian twice-baked biscuits).

My wife baked a chocolate-mint Bundt cake, adapting the chocolate Bundt cake from our book into a French-mint cake of sorts, using fresh Peppermint from our yard. The results were quite nice, and the subtle mint flavor throughout the cake was definitely a hit with me. The cake had a nice texture and plenty of moistness, plus that winning combination of flavors. Yum!

Then came the gluten-free biscotti (also dairy-free), courtesy of my daughter. She just follows the recipe from our desserts book (she actually created the recipe) for these, and produced one of my all time favorite snacks. I requested these specifically, since I absolutely love them and quite honestly am too lazy to bake them myself much of the time. Being biscotti (a twice-baked cookie), they do take a bit longer to make, but the results are worth it! They last a long time, and I have been munching on these crispy crunchy treats for a while now and enjoying every bit of them. Too bad there isn't a biscotti-making-machine, or I could have asked for that for my birthday and had these all the time :)

Now it is time to figure out what to do for the Fourth of July. At this time, the forecast is calling for rain and heat, so I'm not sure a picnic is going to happen this year. If it does rain (which we desperately need), perhaps it'll just be a relaxing day with some rented movies - or, maybe watching the new RATATOUILLE movie somewhere (it looks rather entertaining).

I wanted to cover some Celiac Science type things I have encountered during reading medical studies and other publications lately. I also how to write about various Gluten-Free nutrition concerns - especially conditions that seem to correlate closely with Celiac Disease -- things like iron-deficiency anemia.

But, first things first - July 4th makes for a good excuse to relax and do nothing for a day. Sounds good to me!