Celiac – it’s not a dietary preference, it’s a disease

In November 2013 I was diagnosed with Celiac disease. This is a severe allergy to wheat and gluten. I get a lot of questions when I tell people I have celiac – “What CAN you eat?” or “How do you survive?” or “How did you know you had it?”

To answer the first two questions – I eat a lot of meat, rice and veggies. I just have to be careful with seasonings and sauces. And I am surviving a lot better than I would be if I was still eating wheat.

The how I knew though…that is a much longer answer. My mom was diagnosed 15 years before me. I had the blood tests done three time and every time they both came back negative, meaning I didn’t have celiac disease. But looking back now, it was a series of symptoms that got worse as the years went on until I couldn’t deal with them anymore.

First came the headaches, which turned into debilitating migraines. I chalked it up to stress, it was my senior year of college – I was taking 18 credit hours, pledging the founding line of a sorority, and maintaining a relationship – come on!

After I graduated and moved back home I started seeing little water blisters on the inside of my arms and on my belly. I thought it was the lotion I was using or the change in the water. That was it for the next few years. It wasn’t until 2012 when I started noticing the next symptom. I would get really tired every day at 2pm, but everyone talks about that afternoon slump, right? This was different. I wasn’t just yawning, I could hardly keep my eyes open and coffee was no help. However, I once again chalked it up to something else.

Next, and probably the most important, the digestive issues. I was gassy and uncomfortable all the time. I took beano, pepto, tums, anything! But nothing helped. My bowel movements were really inconsistent. Some days I would empty right out and then other times I wouldn’t poop for days.

But even those digestive issues didn’t put me over the edge to say “I probably need to see a doctor about this.” I waited. I was now 27, working at the second job of my career. I was walking down the hall after lunch and I was hit by a dizzy spell. Like, I couldn’t walk.

That was it. I went to the doctor again. They did a variety of tests, drew a lot of blood and sent me home to do a stool sample – EW! The blood tests came back negative – again! But the thing that set off a red flag for my doctor was that I was bleeding. My poops were so inconsistent that I didn’t think much about it when it happened and I just waited for it to heal. She sent me to a GI (gastrointestinal) doctor. They performed two procedures – a colonoscopy and an endoscopy. They didn’t see anything initially but took three samples to do some tests and one of them came back positive meaning I had celiac disease.

I’ve been gluten-free for almost five years now and all those symptoms are gone! Everyone has different symptoms and a different reaction. If you are curious to learn more I encourage you to pick up a copy of Wheat Belly by William Davis. It explains the gradual genetic modification of the wheat grain and the awful effect wheat can have on the body and the brain. I hope this blog shed some light on whatever issues you or a loved one are experiencing. Don’t hesitate to comment with questions.


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