I am a healthy, vibrant young woman…or so I thought. I always had frequent stomachaches as a child, often necessitating days out of school. As an adult, I experienced periodic bloating, stomachaches and, most recently, fatigue.
This summer, I got a virus that seemed to finally set off my then-undiagnosed celiac disease. I was going to the bathroom 6-8 times per day; I had nausea so severe I didn't want to move; I was losing weight; and I had such severe joint pain in my hands I could barely bend my fingers. It all seemed so strange, but I wrote off each symptom to one thing or another and kept thinking it would go away.
After about 2 months, I described it to my parents and they insisted I see a doctor. My dad had been diagnosed with celiac disease more than a year ago, and although his symptoms were very different from mine, it was possible.
When I met with a gastroenterologist, he seemed very skeptical. He said he doubted it could just trigger that way and believed celiac was highly unlikely, but he drew the antibody titers since I had a relative who had been diagnosed. When he called me with the results, I could hear the shock in his voice. The titers were off the charts. I went on to confirm the diagnosis by biopsy, and have been gluten-free for 3 months. I feel like a new woman.
Although the gluten-free diet can be disheartening sometimes, you can almost always find an alternative. I like to say I have been diagnosed with celiac disease, but I don't suffer from it.