Christmas of 2000 was the first year I was ever not celebrating with family. I went to a friend’s house for dinner and even though I had a great time, it just wasn’t the same. I fell into a mild depression that seemed to last for weeks, even though life seemed to return to normal by New Years Day. Something inside of me just didn’t feel right and suddenly my bones started to ache and I felt like I was coming down with the flu. It felt like that for almost 6 weeks until I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and given a regime to follow which “should improve your mood in a few weeks”.
Well a few weeks came and went and I wasn’t feeling any better. Then my bowels started acting funny. I always had an issue with constipation on and off my entire life and suddenly I stopped going…. and then I would go non-stop. One day I found blood. To make a long story short the next six months were a living hell and I was loosing strength and body weight. Four doctors, more tests than I care to remember, and just as many diagnoses (from colon cancer to crohn’s disease to allergic reactions) and the final assumption was that I had some sort of parasite in my system and I needed to go through a detoxification to get it out. It was causing some kind of film to lie on my intestinal track and block absorption of food.
The last doctor I saw sat me down on a couch and told me that he read all the reports and “did not concur with” the first doctor I saw (who diagnosed colon cancer) and had trouble with the others as well. However he liked that I was sent an allergist because he saw that I was allergic to many things. First I was elated, but then my heart sank…then what was wrong with me? He said that the blood profiles (Ok, I’ll admit I have no idea what they were) did not reflect that of someone with any type of disease or malady in his or her system. For the next 15 minutes he asked me a lot of questions … more than any doctor had ever asked before. He asked me a simple question (at least it appeared simple to me), “How long have you had allergies?” I said for my entire life. He told me that allergies were the major cause of most reactions the body had its just that if it is not detected in time it turns into a full blown disease. He felt I was having a reaction to something, not that a disease was taking over my body. The parasite he questioned as well, because by then it should have left my system. But he highly recommended a detox regime to follow for the next three weeks. A mixture of herbs and supplements including a raw food diet (fruits and veggies (including juices) and lots of water). Well, now…THAT was the three weeks from hell. I had no problem with the diet portion of it but I was thinking that the herbs and supplements might have been overkill. Just before week three started, I was getting concerned looks from colleagues. I looked like “I was ready to die” and coworkers “wondered each morning if they would be told I was in the hospital” was what some told me afterward. I was pale and gray in the face, my arms and legs were breaking out, and I had no energy. I would get home from work only to fall into bed for several hours of sleep. When your boss tells you to take the day off when you just get to work (and your annual reports are due the next day), you know you look bad!
I called the Homeopath who changed the regime and it seemed to get better…took longer, almost 5 weeks, but it was manageable now. By the end I was feeling like a new person. I was encouraged to avoid meats and other dense foods that my body was having trouble breaking down. So I became a vegetarian and tried to stick to organic products, including organic dairy products and eggs. It was amazing. I felt like a different person come Christmas of 2001. Unfortunately I was an unemployed healthy person, following a corporate layoff, but healthy nonetheless! The next three years went by without a hitch, except for the miscarriage.
In May of 2005 I tried to go vegan. After two weeks I had lost almost twenty pounds and felt horrible, so I immediately went back to the dairy products and eggs and decided perhaps I needed to be more informed on the vegan diet before attempting it. Then November came around and I went to San Francisco to visit a dear friend and when I returned home I wasn’t feeling myself. Feeling bloated and achy I thought it was all the food I ate out while away and decided I knew enough about the vegan diet to make a go of it. That should make me feel better! By January 15th of 2006 I had moved up two dress sizes and was pushing my way into the next one…. but the scale barely budged. What the hell was going on with me?
On January 19th I went to a health fair (I remember because it was the day before my birthday) at a local health food store and got tested for the “most common allergens…soy, dairy, wheat, and nuts”. So what the heck I gave it a go. Now I was told that this was just a prick test (prick your finger and get a yes/no reading) but that if it showed something I should see an allergist right away. OK…so I walked around looking at books until they called my name. Seems I have a few possible allergies…. I was praying she didn’t say soy but it would have made sense if it had, because by going vegan that is one thing I introduced much more of to my diet. No, I wasn’t allergic to soy. Great, I thought! However, I was allergic to dairy and wheat. WHEAT! Ok, be calm….. I thought, I could do this…so what do I avoid? The list was so long I had her stop talking after a few minutes. The Physicians Assistant asked me about my background so I told him everything. He asked if that “rash from the detox ever came back”. As a matter of fact it had, but much milder. I showed him my right arm where I had some rashes. He asked me if I was eating more grains lately. Yup…. because I thought I hadn’t done that the first time I went vegan. Then he asked me if I knew what celiac disease was. NOPE…. Well, I was about to find out! Two days later I was in an allergists office being tested. I even had a note from my adventures at the health fair to be check for this thing called celiac disease. A few weeks later I got a call…. I was off the charts. One of the lucky ones I heard him say. Lucky? How the hell was I lucky? Seems others have difficulty testing positive…they get false reads and have to be tested several times. Well, I thought…at least now I know what is wrong with me! That was followed by many more visits and tests to find out what I know now.
I did not take the “poor me” route when I was told I had Celiac Disease. I hit the ground running! I got books, went all over the Internet, found support groups, to find out as much as I could about this disease. I looked at what I could eat, not what I couldn’t. A year later I started my own web blog to help others (www.glutenfreevegan.blogspot.com). Ok, so back to my family. Now do you really think they all listened to me and ran out and got tested? Of course not! Some ignored me while others said they didn’t have symptoms (yea, even after I told them the probability of having it without having symptoms because they had a relative with it). Well, you can lead a horse to water….. So all I could do was inform and pray they found the strength to get tested. That is partly why I thought about doing a blog. To inform my family and friends and anyone who will listen to me about how to value life and the body God gave us. It is up to us to make a difference in the world for each other, not wait around for some doctor to tell you…especially since most doctors don’t know all the latest research and testing that can be done! It saddens me when I hear of those who are scared into thinking they will be deprived some how of food. You will have more food than you know what to do with…I eat MORE than anyone I know (in a day) and I get more nutrients, don’t gain weight, and I have a healthy body to boot! There are many alternatives that taste great and I get to have my Oreo’s even if they are made by Kinnikinnick! I just don’t eat them very often. Just because I'm a Celiac doesn't mean it OK to eat poorly. Since I began the gluten free diet (immediately after my diagnosis) it took three months to feel better and loose all the bloat. Today I am back into the dress size I was last year and still losing weight (that’s not a bad thing for me! I could stand to loose a few more pounds….and I’m loosing it slowly). I feel like I never had an illness and live life to the fullest every day.
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.