Friday, May 13, 2011

Glutinous maximus

At my most recent book-signing, during the question-and-answer section of the evening, someone asked me "If you don't eat gluten, what's left to eat?"

I do appreciate her candor, because I wondered the same thing at first. On the other hand, it left me wondering, how much wheat is this woman eating that if you cut out wheat there's nothing left? Talk about a gluten-ous maximus!

Of course it says more about our culture's food habits than any one individual. There is so much wheat in the American diet, it's hard to imagine living without good old regular bread. Sure, man can't live on bread alone, but how does man live without bread at all?

Things have come a long, long way since the first time I went gluten free in 1994. Then, if you wanted some straight up carbs, it was rice cakes, rice cakes, and more rice cakes. Now, I'm pleased to inform you, there are all kind of options in both the grocery store and even in some restaurants. Amy's makes a frozen rice crust pizza that is at many grocery stores. Bob's Red Mill makes a dough mix you can use to cook up your own fresh pizza at home, as well as a bread mix that is really fantastic; Udi's makes delicious GF bagels and bread; I've even seen gluten-free bread crumbs in the grocery store; Uno's Chicago grill serves GF pizza on their menu; PF Chang's has a tasty gluten-free Chinese menu; there are numerous GF bakeries popping up around the country. (find GF restaurants here: )

I also just learned about a gluten-free expo in October in Dallas, for those feeling adventurous:

And here is a very popular gluten-free blog I just found:

That being said, remember that a lot of the healthiest food you can eat is already naturally gluten-free, so don't forget to include in your meals some brown rice, beans, nuts (assuming you don't have nut allergies), fruits and vegetables, even fish in your GF diet. Oh, and rice cakes. :D

One more point that came up at the book signing: no, I do not believe the entire country needs to be gluten-free. In Europe, where there is far more awareness of gluten sensitivity, about 20% of the population is diagnosed with Celiac disease or gluten intolerance. Here, it is only 1%. So, we probably have about 19% of the population running around undiagnosed, thinking their problems are genetic or random, not realizing they are caused by consuming gluten. So, I do think that anyone with chronic health conditions might want to try being strictly gluten-free for a month and keep a symptom log. If it makes a difference, then consider staying gluten-free.

For those of us already committed to being GF, there's really no need to feel sorry for ourselves because we can't have gluten. There's a substitute for nearly every gluten-laden food out there. On top of that, if we've identified the one ingredient that we can eliminate, and thereby drastically improve our health, we are fortunate. Now get off your glutenous maximus and find yourself some tasty GF food! :)

Carla Ulbrich, The Singing Patient,
is the author of "How Can You *Not* Laugh at a Time Like This?"
Get Carla's Book at

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

It's Never Lupus? May 10 is World Lupus Day

If I hear "It's never lupus" one more time I'm going to personally track down the writers of House MD and force them to clean my toilets with their tongues. And we have 3 toilets.

I have a few questions for these writers:
Why are you running an anti-awareness campaign? Would you do this for any other equally terrible disease? Would you say "It's never cancer?" or "It's never MS?" or "It's never Parkinson's?"
How about "It's never a heart attack?" No, because if this were a comedy club, you'd be booed off the stage.

Why does anyone think "it's never lupus" is funny? My only guess is that it's because the word "lupus" sounds funny, like dodo bird or cuckoo clock. I wish we could rename the disease to better reflect how awful it is. How about "crapstorm?" No, still too funny.

It's never lupus... Having had lupus for 20 years now, I've had it cause anemia, kidney failure, stroke, hair loss, weight loss, congestive heart failure... oh, I guess none of that ever happened either.

I was watching House MD- the episode where the patient was in Antartica in a lab and had to be examined by House long-distance, over teleconference. While he was brainstorming about all the possible things she could be suffering from, one of the things House guessed was... LUPUS!!! (this coming from Mr "it's never lupus!"). But in order to keep their running "joke" intact, they referred to it as "SLE." (systemic lupus erythmatosis). Nice way to have your cake and eat it too, a-holes.

Because there are 1.5 million people or more in the US alone with lupus, it's just a matter of time before someone on the House MD writing staff (or someone in their family) develops lupus. I don't wish it on them, but the odds are good. Oh wait, I forgot, there's no such thing as lupus.

What a relief then. I'll just stop getting blood tests and chalk up my years of symptoms (and by "symptoms," I mean stroke, kidney failure, congestive heart failure) to hypochondria. Or maybe it was psychosomatic. In which case, if kidney failure is psychosomatic, then everything is. Cancer, MS, all of it.

And the world is flat, and we never landed on the moon.

"It's never lupus?"- it's never funny.

Thursday, May 5, 2011


In honor of lupus awareness month, today's topic is the drug almost all of us with lupus are faced with having to take: prednisone.

Or as some of us pred-vets call it, dreadnisone.

It is used for everything- rashes, asthma, sarcoidosis, inflammation of any kind.
If they don't know what to do, throw prednisone at it. And it often works.
The problem is the side effects. And side effects seems like such a dainty word for things like osteoporosis, cataracts, diabetes, hair loss, obesity- is it really just a "side effect" when it can be classified as a disease?

Yes, prednisone saved my life. But if I had stayed on it, I would have ended up with even more health problems.

But what I really want to know is this:
Why, when my cat and I were both on prednisone (he had a flea allergy)- why, I want to know, was his cherry-flavored while mine tasted like Ajax? Discuss amongst yourselves, and sing along to the prednisone song:

Monday, May 2, 2011

May is lupus awareness month

How do I say this? Happy lupus awareness month? That seems really inappropriate. We're not really celebrating the fact that this disease exists. On top of that, I'm a day late in getting started commemorating the beginning of this month.

I think we're finally getting it together. For a while, October was lupus awareness month. Then it was October for some lupus groups and May for others. And it was purple ribbons for some lupus groups and orange for others (I think that's still the case). And then there's House, MD. He's no help at all. I'll save him for another blog.

All that aside, here we are. For a disease that has over 1.5 million people diagnosed, lupus still needs some serious help in the awareness department. One of the reasons we need awareness is to cut down on the odd reactions we get from other people when we're finally diagnosed.

The comments I got when I was first diagnosed ranged from hurtful to just weird. Here I present to you, from my book (How Can You *Not* Laugh at a Time Like This?," The Top 10 Annoying Things to Say to Someone Who's Just Been Diagnosed.