It's hard to say when my symptoms began, because I always thought the pain I was experiencing was normal. I didn't pay attention to what my body was trying to tell me.
It all started when I came back from a trip to Santiago, Chile in December 2007. While there, I felt very overweight; I could feel the pounds packing on FAST. I decided that when I came home I would do something I had wanted to do for a long time: the Raw Vegan Diet. Upon my return, I became 100% raw vegan and felt incredible; I had energy for the first time in several years. After four weeks of eating this way, I discovered that I was pregnant. It was a shock because I had never been pregnant before, and even though we were not trying, we were open to the possibility. I credited my pregnancy to the change in diet. Prior to becoming pregnant I lost an easy 20-25 lbs. just by eliminating processed foods from my diet.
During pregnancy I had intense cravings for meat. Once I began eating meat, I added breads and other items that were not raw vegan. During the first trimester I did not have the energy to continue eating the way I was.
After I gave birth, I spent hours daily in the bathroom suffering from constipation. I had no energy. I tried to breastfeed, but had low milk production and a baby who did not want to nurse. When I exercised, I would come back exhausted and nap for several hours. Six months had passed since the baby was born, and I had not lost any weight despite employing the Raw Vegan Diet and daily exercise. I had back fat, which I had never had before, and I was terribly depressed.
I had my well woman exam at 6 months postpartum and explained everything to my midwife. She knew right away that it was my thyroid, blood was taken and I was a confirmed case of Hashimoto's. I was told I could take a prescription that would help, and I felt relieved.
I started taking Synthroid and was on it for about 4 months. It did nothing for me; I felt even more depressed than I had before. I asked my doctor for a different medication and he gave me a prescription for Naturethroid. Within two days I felt a difference and started to lose weight, albeit slowly. I thanked the heavens for this prescription, as I was slowly getting my life and my energy back.
A few months passed and my time in the bathroom seemed to become more frequent and longer-lasting. My mother-in-law thought something seemed very wrong and suggested that I should go to a specialist. I told her I thought the new medication needed more time to kick in. After all, bathroom issues are a symptom of thyroid, right?
More time passed and I Googled my symptoms. Celiac came up often, and I remembered the last time I drank beer, there was a painful aftermath. I mentioned my celiac suspicions to a few people, but everyone told me that celiacs were skinny and lost weight, rather than gained. I explained that maybe because of my thyroid condition, it was the opposite for me. People still thought I was silly for trying to self-diagnose.
I told my primary care doctor about my symptoms, and that I was drinking aloe vera, taking probiotics, fiber-- everything I could imagine. Even though he is an excellent doctor, I don't think the thought of celiac crossed his mind.
After a trip to Destin in August 2009 (during which I didn't enjoy the ocean because I was suffering each day), I decided to listen to make an appointment with a gastroenterologist. I had to wait a month to get into his office but, thankfully, it was worth it. I explained all my symptoms: severe constipation, abdominal pain, Hashimoto’s, depression, slight skin rashes and lack of energy. He suspected IBS and suggested a colonoscopy. He recommended testing for celiac disease. I agreed.
Just a few days after the blood test, I got a call from the doctor's office informing me that I do in fact have celiac and to immediately begin the gluten-free diet. I was so happy to have this diagnosis, especially after just one visit to the specialist. I was also advised to schedule an endoscopy.
The endoscopy proved that my villi were damaged and confirmed my celiac diagnosis. The colonoscopy identified other health issues that would require a scope every 2-3 years.
I immediately started the gluten-free diet. Since becoming gluten-free, I lost a substantial amount of weight, have been able to exercise and spend time with my family again. After 3 months of being gluten free I became pregnant with my second child; everything is going better with this pregnancy than with the last.
I take my diet very seriously because I do not want any other autoimmune diseases to develop. My health and that of my family are the most important things in the world to me. I know what it was like to leave my baby crying in her crib while I suffered in the bathroom. It broke my heart, and I am doing everything I can to ensure that after Baby No. 2 I will be "up and at 'em."
I'm also grateful for such great doctors: my primary care physician who supported me as I battled thyroid problems, and my gastroenterologist who identified celiac disease on my first visit. I know that so many others are not as lucky.
Tell your doctor how important it is to identify and diagnose celiac disease. Encourage them to visit www.CeliacCMECentral.com and take the Primary Care CME!