Monday, January 3, 2011

Review: WLS Vitagarten Lab Tracker Workbook

When it comes to information about our blood, vitamins and nutrients, many post ops put their trust in their doctors. We read words like Microcytic Hypochromic, Thiamin, Ferratin, see all these acronyms like PLT, ALT, WBC, RBC and our eyes glaze over, our brain shuts down and we say, "Ok Doc. Am I normal?"  But what happens when our surgeon, that heavenly medicine man that we allowed to rearrange our innards, just doesn't know?

As Dr. Garth Davis, of TLC's Big Medicine has told us, doctors only have one hour of nutrition class in school. My first surgeon told me flat out, "My job is to cut you open, place a Lap-Band and close you back up. After that, I know nothing."

The time has come my friends for us to take charge of our bodies. That is where the Lab Tracker Workbook comes in.

I will be the first one to admit, prior to this workbook, I knew nothing and I mean NOTHING about my blood work. I didn't know my B6 from by B12 or my Iron from my A1C. I picked up a copy of this workbook at Houston Obesity Help conference. To be honest, I never had much intention in opening this workbook for my own personal use until I came to find I had a problem with my Vitamin D. I was under the impression, the very wrong impression, that VSGers don't need to take vitamins and we are just like the Banders and I will be fine. I bought the workbook for two reasons; To be supportive to my dear friend who wrote the workbook, and because I am a support group leader and I thought it would be a good resource for my RNY members.

Once I began exploring the Lab Tracker Workbook, I came to find a wealth of information, relevant to my life as a post-op. The writer begins with a diagram showing what nutrients are absorbed in which part of our Digestive Tracks. It really puts things into perspective for those who who have an intestinal bypass. You can now see exactly which nutrients you may have a hard time absorbing.

She goes on to give a detailed breakdown of the vitamin intake recommendation standards for each of the 4 predominant bariatric surgeries (Lap-Band, RNY, VSG, DS). Another thing relevant to my post-op life, I just never knew.

As the pages of workbook are turned, the reader will find a well of knowledge and be able to draw on it. Included in the workbook are the recommended blood tests to be done at 3mo, 6mo, 12mos and yearly thereafter. Also included you will find Common post-op deficiencies with brief, yet complete explanations as well as a glossary and reference list.

The bulk of this workbook is dedicated to the actual lab defining and tracking. The writer takes a full page for each lab test and explains the basics of the test. Then she breaks down the conditions of the test (fasting or not fasting), what the normal range is and what high or low levels may indicate. At the bottom of this breakdown you are given a blank graph chart that you can use to track your own personal lab score. Below you will find an example image. This is what each page looks like.

"The workbook comes to you in a hard cover, 3-ring binder to make it easy to add pages and inserts as desired. I’ve supplied some of the basic “bones” but I encourage you to make this workbook as much YOURS as you need it to be so you’ll actually use it." ~Andrea, Author of the Lab Tracker Workbook

It is my opinion, this workbook is an essential for every post-op, support group leader and professional working with the bariatric community!! 

I am sure some of you are wondering by now who this amazing author is, where she is located and if she takes your health insurance. Well, I hate to burst your bubble. Andrea S. Ullberg is not a professional. She is however someone who has suffered from a doctor's lack of knowledge. Andrea , is a 6.5 year, RNY post-op. She is the owner of the very informative blog WLS Vitagarten. , an active leader in the Bariatric Bad Girls Club and a friend and gadfly to many. She is someone who I respect very much. She has chosen to educate herself about her body and how/why it works. I have been blown away by Andrea's wealth of information. Example? When I received copies of my labs I was going over them with Andrea and she said to me, "Rachel, you're not drinking enough." Just so you can understand this... Andrea and I have seen each other in person twice in our lives. She lives hundreds of miles away from me so she would have no clue that I don't drink enough. She knew that, from me reading off my lab results to her over the phone! I have always had an issue with fluid intake and no doctor/surgeon/nutritionist/nurse/PA etc. has ever been able to look at my labs and say that. I can Andrea my Vitamin Guru. I ask her all my questions and she always has answers that are filled with facts. Researchable facts! I learn from her constantly. 

My breakdown of the workbook...
  • Structurally easy to follow
  • Lay language that anyone with half a brain can understand
  • Binder allows me to hole punch my labs and keep them in there
  • Binder allows me to reorganize the book if needed/desired and really make it MINE
  • A lot of relevant information with no fluff to sift through
  • Extra blank lab tracker sheets included that can be photocopied as needed! 
  • There is an SI version so no conversion tools needed for our Canadian and European friends!
  • Personally, I would have like to see some of the symptoms one may exhibit with each vitamin deficiency. Just as a little more meat in each of the breakdowns. 
Where to Buy:
This workbook can only be purchased directly from WLS Vitagarten's Product Page
Cost: $25 plus shipping 
*A portion of the proceeds will be donated to both the WLSFA and OAC

What people are saying:
"The WLS Vitagarten: Lab Tracker Workbook is a tool for empowerment. It lets you take your postoperative health into your own hands and gives you the information to make good decisions about your care. I highly recommend this product." ~ Kaitlin, Author of The Bypassed Life

"I got mine the other day…filled it in that night. Can’t wait to get my next set of labs drawn to fill out the book again and see if the trends are holding or changing." ~ Julie

"This workbook is a must have!" ~Sleeve Pixie, Author of this blog ;-)

I hope you found this review helpful!
Sleeve Pixie

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