Dionne is an Atlanta, Georgia, accountant who was diagnosed with celiac disease in April of 2006. Before learning of her celiac diagnosis, she had endured a host of problematic symptoms from the age of twelve; other symptoms developed after college. Among her symptoms were dizziness and fainting, anemia, night sweats, insomnia, leg and foot cramps, psoriasis and eczema. Years of medical tests indicated a variety of illnesses, ruled out others, and resulted in several misdiagnoses.
When she decided to start a family, Dionne stopped taking birth control pills, but was unable to get her period. She was also diagnosed with several illnesses, including Raynaud’s disease. After more than a year of fertility medication, Dionne began to menstruate and became pregnant. Although she was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis during pregnancy, nearly all of her symptoms went into remission during that time, and her daughter was born healthy.
After giving birth, however, Dionne’s health deteriorated. She experienced excessive diarrhea, blood in her stool, stomach cramps, chest pains, and a return of the night sweats, leg cramps and dizziness. This dizziness then evolved into mini-seizures, which caused her to fear leaving home as they were unpredictable and severe.
Suffering from these symptoms, and having no menstrual period for 2 years since giving birth, Dionne visited a series of nine specialists, finally seeing a gastroenterologist about the diarrhea and blood in her stool. After conducting tests, he spoke with her and asked, “How do you feel about celiac disease?” She had never heard of celiac and asked him to spell it so she could do some research on the disease. She would eventually learn that her anemia, Raynaud’s disease and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis are all related to celiac disease.
Immediately after the diagnosis was confirmed through an endoscopic biopsy, Dionne started a gluten-free diet and switched to gluten-free personal care products. She found support groups and websites, including NFCA’s www.celiaccentral.org
-- helpful for learning to live gluten-free. Within six months, her lifestyle changes ended the leg and foot cramps and decreased the night sweats.
Becoming gluten-free certainly presented challenges. Dionne’s first visit to the grocery store ended in tears as she realized many of her usual purchases contain gluten (she was surprised to learn that some chicken broths do), and she has had difficulty with cross-contamination when eating out and at home with her young children. Now, however, she says grocery shopping is much easier, as she is experienced and informed enough to take less than two hours to make her gluten-free purchases!
Friends and family have been very supportive of Dionne’s dietary needs, taking great care when cooking for her. She encourages those who are new to the gluten-free diet to “stick with it,” because it “takes time.” She says she learned from her support group that she “could still have a life and be gluten-free,” and that, “talking to others about their experiences is priceless.”
Today, Dionne has a healthy second child, despite the fact that many of her troubling symptoms returned during pregnancy. She still grapples with an array of difficult symptoms, and continues to seek their causes.
Does this story sound similar to your or a family members? You might have celiac disease, find out now, take our celiac disease symptoms checklist.