My name is Rhiannon Brown, and I am a new intern at the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness working under Beckee Moreland, Director of Gluten-Free Industry Initiatives. I am a 34-year-old single mom of two beautiful teenage girls.
I can remember suffering from depression since the time I was 17 years old, which coincides with the time I began a roller coaster of abusive relationships, so you can understand the difficulty in distinguishing whether I was depressed due to illness or due to my environment.
I can also remember having gastrointestinal issues back to early childhood, probably about the time I was 5 years old. I would tell my mom when my tummy would hurt and she would send me into the bathroom to sit while drinking glasses of hot water. Sometimes this would help, but most of the time it didn't!
I continued complaining of the stomach pain and around the time I was 11 years old, mom took me into the doctor. After the examination, it was deemed constipation. We were given a list of things we could do to try to make me more 'regular' - none of which made any difference! So, I continued suffering. I suffered stomach pain, constipation and diarrhea, 13 cavities filled by the age of 13 and dwindling dental health dwindling despite above average dental care, depression, excruciating menstrual cycles with abnormal blood loss, anemia, fatigue that caused me to lie in bed most days, loss of job after job due to illness, inability to properly take care of my kids without help from friends and family, and, finally, extreme irritability.
I visited the doctor's office and emergency room more times than should be necessary to accurately diagnose any problem. Not once was it suggested that my diet could be causing these issues. Because of seeing myself as a failure for so long, I didn't give myself the opportunity to be with men who thought I was something special. Abusive relationships apparently gave me something else to think about other than the physical pain I was in day in and day out. There were a few catalysts that precipitated my leaving behind the abusive relationships. Going back to school was the beginning of it (I started to find my self-worth). The end of it was finding the most wonderful, loving, supportive, and beautiful person! It was a miracle!
Even with the miracle, I was still suffering! My health was only getting worse and I knew I had to do something! Because of my sordid job history, finding a decent job with health insurance and willingness to work with a person who was unreliable due to illness was nearly impossible.
Without access to doctors or modern medicine, I turned to research and trial & error. I went to the Internet and spoke with anybody who might have helpful information. I started seeing a trend in my symptoms: If I didn't eat bread, pasta or fast food, I felt considerably better. Hm....could it be? Could it be a gluten issue? Time to find a symptom checker! Thank you, NFCA, for your Symptoms Checklist! Everything pointed in the direction of gluten intolerance. Whoa Nelly! Depression hit harder than ever. Was I only going to be able to eat grilled chicken and steamed vegetables? Thankfully, my educational path has already put me in the direction of food! I pulled the boot straps up and started doing more research. Are there foods on the market for the gluten intolerant? Am I going to miss out on flavor? Is the quality of the food what I want and expect? After purchasing the products that everyone was raving about online, I was disappointed
Here it is....my ‘A-ha’moment. I know that food has so much to offer our bodies when it is used properly and our bodies are able to digest it. I've done the research to learn about gluten-free flours and the science entailed in the use of them. Now, I have made it my quest to create gluten-free foods and baked goods that everyone finds delicious!
Read more of Rhiannon's Story on NFCA's staff blog: Meet Rhiannon: NFCA Intern and Symptoms Checklist Success Story