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Rhonda's Story

 
9/9/2010

My celiac disease diagnosis put my entire physical life into perspective. I was 43 years old when I was diagnosed, but had experienced a lifetime of gastrointestinal distress. The last 3 years became almost unbearable, with intensifying gastrointestinal pain, bloating, gas, diarrhea, fatigue, painful migraines, frequent bladder infections, bone and joint pain and more. I became so vitamin- and mineral-deficient that exhaustion drove me to regularly spend 14 hours a day in bed.

My symptoms began as a child with intense gas pains and bouts of diarrhea. My mom described me as looking "malnourished" and shared her concerns with my pediatrician. I had bilateral dental enamel defects, now recognized as a marker for celiac in children. The pediatrician told her I had a nervous stomach and suggested I use Tums. By the time I was 16, my stomach pain intensified.  I was told I had an ulcer and was put on prescription antacids.

Throughout my 20s and 30s I continually sought answers for my repeated bouts of diarrhea, bloating, indigestion and stomach pain. I was given every explanation possible - I was told it was hormonal; I had a nervous stomach; I was sensitive to caffeine; I had GERD; I should have my gallbladder checked (which I did several times, and each time was fine); I was lactose intolerant; I was depressed; and I had IBS. I tried every elimination diet that was recommended to no avail. When I turned 40, I finally began to accept that it must be IBS; I resigned to a life of GI pain and began reading up on how to manage IBS.

After a traumatic event struck our family, my GI pain became almost unbearable. I was once again advised that GERD was to blame and was prescribed Protonix.

It wasn't until a year later that I was advised to get an endoscopy to seek answers for the unrelenting symptoms. By that time, I was convinced I had celiac disease, but the biopsy was negative. What nobody told me at the time was that celiac is patchy in the small intestine and doesn't cause uniform damage. I didn't know enough at the time to ask for the blood antibody or genetic test. So, I continued on my regimen of prescription proton pump inhibitors and nothing improved. Upon worsening symptoms and a second endoscopy a year later, a biopsy proved positive for celiac. A follow up genetic test showed I have the HLA DQ2 gene.

I'm only 5 months into my gluten-free life and am still healing. I'm so happy to finally have an answer and to get relief from my symptoms. Living gluten-free isn't easy, but it's the turning point in my life that will finally get me to good health.
 

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