“Celiac disease (also known as celiac sprue or gluten-sensitive enteropathy) is a digestive autoimmune condition that damages the small intestine when a trigger protein – gluten – is ingested. When people with celiac disease eat foods with gluten, such as bread or cereal, their immune system inappropriately reacts to the ingested gluten and causes inflammation and injury to the small intestine.” Taken from Everyday Health
My symptoms varied from painful bloating and fullness, heartburn and acid reflux, cramping, and the strange occurrence of a swollen tongue whenever I ate wheat products. For years I woke up exhausted, such a strange feeling when I had slept 8 hours. I always wondered how people could race off to the gym in the morning…just the thought made me weak. The constant bloating and cramping had me thinking it was PMS and I wondered why it was all the time. I was taking Prilosec for chronic acid reflux morning and night, and I developed a rash of little bumps on my shins that itched like crazy. I experienced joint pain, weakness, dull skin, continuous sinus headaches, numbness and tingling, and nails so weak they peeled just buttoning a shirt. These things aren’t normal, and it’s amazing what you get use to living with…especially once you get better and realize how bad it really was. All those years my body was in pain and it was easily relieved once I cut out the gluten.
The trigger that made me finally try a gluten free diet was becoming dependent on Prilosec for acid reflux and it seemed to be getting worse…needing one each morning and night. Then a routine blood test had my doctor wanting to put me on cholesterol meds because it was so high…my body was inflamed and toxic…for me, that was it. I refused the meds and told her to let me figure it out on my own first…give me one year…I’m not a fan of being on prescriptions if one doesn’t have to. She wrote it in my file and warned of the risks. This is where I believe testing for celiac through a simple blood test should be part of routine exams…or at the very least, before administering medications.
I relied on the facts of the actual celiac disease site, after reading more about the disease and learning the only treatment is a gluten free diet, I figured I had nothing to lose in trying it. First, I had to learn what the disease was and what triggers the pain and inflammation. The more I learned, the more the pieces fit together that I indeed had a gluten intolerance. I have always been conscious of eating a healthy diet and I could never understand why, for example, after eating a nutritionally-sound sandwich of multigrain bread with turkey and lettuce, I would suffer through a miserable stomach ache for the remainder of the day. Or why after eating a healthy protein bar in-between meals, I would experience the same symptoms. They contained gluten!
Exactly one year later at my exam, my blood tests proved there wasn’t a need for any medications, not even Prilosec, and she said, “whatever you are doing…continue doing it…your tests look great!” I mentioned my research on celiac disease and that I had totally cut gluten out of my system. She alerted me that a blood test for celiac disease would be inconclusive since I no longer ate gluten, but if I ate it again for three solid weeks, they could test. Umm, no thanks. She then mentioned they could do an endoscopy of my intestines to diagnose since I wasn’t willing to consume gluten for the blood test. I took the information to schedule an appointment but decided it was too invasive…besides, I already had confirmation by finally being healthy and my symptoms were gone. I learned soon after that both my cousin and Aunt have celiac disease, and the disease is hereditary.
I committed to a gluten free diet starting December 2009 and the benefits were amazing. My symptoms subsided, and on the occasional instance where I ate something with a hidden gluten ingredient, I would experience severe reactions. The simple fact that I feel better, my tongue no longer swells from various foods, and my overall health has improved are enough reasons for me to live gluten free. There are no pills or prescriptions to take, just a gluten free diet and you heal. To me, that is miraculous in itself!