In the first part of this article, I discussed the physiology of celiac disease (CD) and how I was diagnosed. In this installment, I will discuss how I have learned to live with CD.
What were my symptoms before being diagnosed? Well, I did have symptoms, but didn’t know it. I was ten pounds lighter than usual, but didn’t know it. I always felt tired and thought a lot about sleep, had abdominal cramping, gas, and bloating (after eating fatty foods), diarrhea, irritability, and minor depression. I thought all of these things were normal for me and I had a reason for why each occurred. For example, the irritability was caused by something work-related. It wasn’t until all of these symptoms went away that I realized how terrible I had felt. Finally, I was able to feel like I was supposed to!
Six months after my diagnosis, I had a follow-up biopsy. It showed that I had done quite well with my diet-the villi were back! Since then, I have had at least three accidents, unfortunately. First, I accidentally picked up the wrong box of cereal (made of wheat) at the store one time. At home I ate a handful of it, then read the box. Aaaaaahhhhhh!!!! “Oh, my God!” I screamed aloud. Second, I ate three other kinds of cereals for a few months after my follow-up biopsy. Eventually, I started feeling poorly, again. As it turned out, these cereals, which the R. D. said I could have, were not gluten-free. Needless to say, I wanted to strangle her. Third, I had a baked potato and steamed vegetables at a restaurant. As it turned out, I unknowingly was eating a potato that had imitation butter on the skin.
Some products have gluten-type products for flavoring and/or consistency. The reactions those of us get from having gluten vary greatly. My first two “accidents” yielded no immediate reaction, but I felt the effects months later. The third “accident” caused a reaction right after my last bite. My stomach felt like it was bubbling and about to explode. I barely had enough time to throw away my napkin, before racing to the restroom. It was like the MonopolyTM game. I drew a Chance card that told me to go right to jail. The jail was the restroom, where I became one with the toilet.
As you can imagine, I have to be very careful with everything I put in or near my mouth. This includes food, chapstick, lipstick, lotion, soap, shampoo/conditioner, medicine, and many more. Also, I have to be careful before kissing my boyfriend. I could have a reaction from kissing him, if he had just eaten something containing gluten. Yes, I am that sensitive. Fortunately, he is considerate enough to be careful. Also, I have had to give up a lot of foods that I like.
I am the type who would reach for a piece of bread before a piece of cake. Some of my favorite foods that I have given up are bagels, other breads, and cereals. There are several gluten-free food manufacturers, but the products just aren’t the same. Although, I am very grateful they even exist. Oh, how depressing! Not really.
I look at my diagnosis as a positive experience. It was a relief to be diagnosed and get gluten out of my diet. It enabled me to feel great! That’s what has always been so important to me. Since 1987, I have done whatever it takes to lead a healthy lifestyle, including exercising a lot (which I always had done) and eating well (which I hadn’t done). A gluten-free diet was just one more piece of the puzzle in the pursuit of a healthy lifestyle. I will always work on making that puzzle more complete. “I need you to eat less chocolate,” Jeanne said to a client during a nutrition session. “But it’s so hard. I can’t do it,” said the client. Believe me. I know how hard it is. Yes, you can do it. Choose between a healthy diet and a lifestyle-related disease. You decide.
About the Author
Jeanne “Bean“ Murdock, is the owner Beanfit Health and Fitness Services. She is the host/producer of Celiac Radio and the author of “Ask Bean“, an online column and “Successful Dating at Last! A Workbook for Understanding Each Other“ and “The Every Excuse in the Book Book: How to Benefit from Exercising, by Overcoming Your Excuses.“ Contact Jeanne for more information at 408-203-7643 or through her website at www.beanfit.com.