symptomatic

The last thing I want to write about is the first thing on my mind these days. For the past couple of years, I have suffered from a ghost illness I self-diagnosed as “stress-related”, with symptoms that include gastrointestinal distress, severe headaches, extreme fatigue, and inexplicable mood-swings. Though my two major sources of stress (my last relationship, and my last job) are no more, my symptoms have recently intensified, sometimes to the point of incapacitation.

A researcher by heart, I started reading up on my symptoms, which were compounded a few months ago by a troublesome rash not unlike chicken pox. “Celiac Disease” kept coming up, so I read more and spoke with two friends who have it. With their information, and with my beloved‘s encouragement and support, I decided to go on an elimination diet, attempting to avoid all wheat, barley, and rye.

I immediately felt better. Immediately. I’ve been living with these symptoms for so long that I forgot what it was like not to feel sick after eating, to be my usual cheerful self, to be able to stay awake after work, and to go 48 hours without an eyeball-searing headache. Not everything has been perfect — eating at restaurants is particularly tricky — but the past two weeks have been amazing. So the next step has been taken: I have an appointment with an allergist next week.

Today is a not-so-good day, because I ate something at a restaurant last night that I should have guessed was thickened with wheat flour. It is also a not-so-good day because I am new at this, and feeling more than a little overwhelmed by the reality of a lifetime change in diet. But since the cloud is lifting, and since I have loving and supportive people all around me, I know I can do this. For the first time in a long time, I have hope for my health.

10 thoughts on “symptomatic

  1. wow thats so crazy isn’t it>? I read once in a book on kids/babies that a lot of time the troubles kids have at school and in other things can sometimes actually be food allergies. My sisters son has never had a reaction to food and she recently had him testing (I can’t remember why) and he was allergic to EVERYTHING accept cats. So crazy. I think the hardest is gluton, its in everything!

  2. Oh, man, that’s really cool that you’ve figured out the source of the problem. It’ll be a weird switch, I’m sure, but a little more research and you’ll find tons of things you can still eat, I’m sure, as there are ___-free variants of food all over the place these days.

  3. …Also, you just changed the template between me loading this entry, and me posting this entry. “WHOA WHAT WITH THE PAGE” moment. 🙂

  4. Ergh. Good luck with that. After having intense secondhand experience with celiac disease in the past, I’m sorry to hear you have it but am glad to hear you figured out what the problem is. Even if your diagnosis comes back negative, if it makes you better you should keep gluten out of your diet – the tests are apparently not very accurate.

    Let me know if you’d like to talk about dining hints, I had a lot of experience cooking and finding food that was edible.

  5. next time you log into LJ be sure to add ‘smileyfish’ to your f-list. she’s a twenty-something aussie who’s recently discovered she has celiac disease as well.

    her first entry on the subject (http://smileyfish.livejournal.com/180430.html) is likely one you’ll identify with strongly.

    also, check out Shauna James Alhern’s blog Gluten Free Girl (http://glutenfreegirl.blogspot.com/). She has celiac disease, is married to a chef and her book “Gluten Free Girl” was published in October of last year.

    knowing the cause of your illness is the first step to becoming healthy again. good for you, facing the task and finding the proper diagnosis.

  6. Best of luck at the allergist. My wife, who has chronic fatigue and IBS, tried the gluten-free lifestyle for a while on the advice of a naturopath, and was very pleased to find that removing only wheat (as opposed to all gluten) seemed to have the desired result. And the elimination diet gave me the chance to add a few more gluten-free dishes to my repertoire for the benefit of our friends who can’t tolerate gluten.

  7. That’s quite a change in your life. Wasn’t it great, though, to find out what was wrong all that time? To know what was causing those problems and to be able to switch them off like that?

    I’ve had a similar change. I was diagnosed with Diabetes two years ago, and I’m still learning how to eat correctly. Sugar is the enemy, and it is everywhere. My wife makes cookies at night. That’s like sending my boy into a toy store and saying, “Don’t touch anything.” It’s overwhelming. I have to take her to class with me so we can learn together how to change our diet. I understand how you must feel. It’s hard enough as it is for me, but if I had to avoid those things it would be just as difficult.

    You can affect your best Gollum accent and say “…and we forgot the taste of bread.” 🙂

    Take care of yourself.

    John

  8. Congratulations on figuring this out.

    After hitting too high a weight, I have been on a research tear. Trying to figure out what is the right thing to do dietarily.

    If you’re looking for gluten-free, you might check out some of the paleo-diet websites. That approach is that you eat only things that existed > 10,000 years ago. (You can substitute turkey for woolly mammoth).

    I wrote about diet choices on one of my blogs http://www.emotionsforengineers.com/2008/02/take-care-of-black-box-eat-right.html and have some links there.

    I’llleave you with a recipe for paleo cookies. It takes care of your sweet tooth without grain flour.

    Paleo Cookies

    Ingredients:
    2 cups raw honey
    2 cups ground walnuts
    4 cups almond flour
    1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
    1/2 teaspoon ginger
    1/2 cup dried fruit chopped

    Directions:
    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease cookie sheets, or line with
    parchment paper. Warm honey in a saucepan. Let mixture cool slightly.
    Sift together flour and spices. Place honey in mixing bowl; gradually
    add flour mixture and stir until well blended. Stir in dried chopped
    fruit.

    Roll dough about 1/4-inch thick on a floured board; cut into squares and
    rectangles with a pastry wheel or sharp knife. (If you prefer, you can
    also make drop cookies, dropping the dough by teaspoonful.) Bake ten
    minutes. Makes four dozen.

    http://www.fitnessandfreebies.com/paleo/paleo40.html

    Good luck. You’ll find that there are lots of ways to eat well without grains.

    Tony

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