Do you know someone who has Celiac? Ever been curious about the gluten free diet? I have become somewhat of a spokesperson for the disease and the importance of people knowing the seriousness of what someone with the disease goes through. Trust me, it’s more than a fad.
I went 21 years with constant stomach pains, headaches, depression, major anxiety, brain fog, flu-like symptoms… You name it. Countless doctors visits had me believing I was such feeling like garbage everyday, or that I was a hypochondriac. I was told I had IBS, lactose intolerance, too much stress, lack of exercise, anemia, hypoglycemia, and gastroenteritis. All vague, meaningless diagnoses and recommendations that did nothing to help me feel better – just made me more and more untrusting of doctors. I was fed up. I felt like no one believed me.
I took one last attempt at finding a true diagnosis by scheduling an appointment with my gynecologist; I had read that many gynecological conditions can manifest as stomach issues. Thankfully, my GYN saw that I was going through something beyond her expertise. She referred me to a gastroenterologist and I was in for testing within a week.
After expressing my symptoms, the doctor asked me if I had been tested for Celiac. I had not, but I knew about the implications of the disease; I was earning my Bachelors degree in Human Nutrition, but the thought of having Celiac never crossed my mind.
After the blood test, I had to wait a week for my results. I did major research during that time, and even though I was desperate for an answer, I was praying it wasn’t Celiac. That would mean a life long commitment to one of the most restrictive therapeutic diets. That scared me.
The blood test finally came back. Positive for Celiac. I was scheduled for a confirmation intestinal biopsy and advised to not change my diet before the procedure. They needed to see the full scope of the damage done over the years. Only a few more weeks of pain, then I could start healing.
The endoscopy revealed major damage to my intestines – flattened, non-absorptive microvilli, and widespread inflammation. Bad news, but at least it could be healed after several months of strictly following the gluten free diet.
From that day on, I have stuck to bring completely gluten free. I would rather pass up delicious, bready goodness than feel sick ever again.
Here’s what I have to avoid. Everyday. Nothing with these ingredients, made near them, or in any way cross contaminated by them.
Here’s what I have to deal with if I accidentally ingest gluten. This is an exhaustive list, but it’s easy to see just how systemic and damaging Celiac is. When people try to tell me that indulging in a glutenous treat would be “worth it”, or that they wouldn’t be able to follow the diet, I cannot emphasize enough how worth it it is to strictly follow the diet. Feeling like I’m dying is not a good trade off to a selfish, unnecessary indulgence.
Living with Celiac is difficult, to say the least, but I have found comfort in knowing that I am much healthier now, plus I get to be super creative in the kitchen. The diet may be restrictive, but it also opens new doors to new flavors, vegetables no one has ever heard of, and always having the “interesting” thing at potlucks.