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Posts from the ‘Health’ Category

My Celiac Story…

Vegan Gluten free Cupcakes

Image by paulr_42 via Flickr

…or subtitled: Thankful I Didn’t Die in the Meantime.

May is National Celiac Awareness Month. For me, it a reminder of where I was ten years ago, with my body collapsing from a myriad of painful symptoms  that I was to learn were caused by a little known and baffling condition, one I may have had since birth.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune digestive disease that damages the villi of the small intestine and interferes with absorption of nutrients from food. What does this mean? Essentially the body is attacking itself every time a person with celiac consumes gluten.  ~ National Foundation for Celiac Awareness

I cannot pinpoint an event that signaled when celiac disease started for me, but I remember in my teens and into my twenties having spells of carrying around a bottle of Pepto Bismol in my purse because of recurring sudden onset of diarrhea. If you’ve always been this way, and your well-meaning mother thrusts a Pepto Bismol bottle at you and says, “There’s probably something in the water,” you don’t think anything of it. Also, I did not have the type of relationship that I discussed such things with my mother, nor with anyone. In our society people will speak of intimate affairs on television, but are not about to mention the words diarrhea or constipation.

In my early thirties I did mention, in passing, stomach pain to my doctor; I was prescribed the then-new (and of course expensive) drug, Zantac. It worked! For the next decade, symptoms of digestive stress and low energy and melancholy seemed to abate. I got so busy with being a mother, a wife, a writing career, and enjoying my horses and all manner of nice living that I did not notice declining health creeping up on me in my late forties.

It began with aching joints and back. I had always suffered the aching, but it became more severe. My doctor ordered a bone scan; the result showed osteopenia, at the age of 46. I was told to take calcium. Then I began to suffer aching elbows, arms, shoulders. Read more

Keeping Joy (and Sanity) in the Holidays

Are you in the thick of things now? I am–baking, finally getting up the tree, ordered online gifts at the last minute! My friend Carolyn kindly shared with me her wise plan to stay healthy, joyful, and sane through the holiday season. We thought we would share it with you. I even printed it out as a reminder.

Today, and especially tomorrow, and all through the Holidays, I pray, hope, and plan to take care of myself by 1) not taking myself too seriously, and 2) not trying to solve any personal, family or world problems, because it probably would not only not work, but probably could make things worse.

“I deserve to not ‘make’ myself try to do this or that to be a better person right now, but to leave that to God, love all of who I am, love others, and when I can’t, get out of there, and most of all, have some fun for myself.  My God can and will care for me, and for all the others, whether it seems possible to me or not.” ~Carolyn Rock

God bless us every one!

So You Wonder About Having Celiac Disease

I have had a number of emails since my posts about celiac disease/gluten intolerance. I am not an expert, but I can tell my experience, and mostly point y’all in the right direction to find more information. There are the links at my sidebar under ‘The Gluten-Free Life’, and I offer more below. Here are some of the questions:

  • I’m wondering if I should try the diet. How does one find out if they have celiac or gluten intolerance?

The best place on the web I have found to explain about the testing is at the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center. This is the only place where I have seen they actually talk about error rates in the testing. You can read more about testing at  Enterolab, and at the Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG). There are a number of places on the web that does the gene testing; you can do a search for that.

Rant: If your doctor pushes aside your concerns, tries to tell you that celiac disease is rare, or simply knows nothing, he/she is ill informed. Find another doctor. You deserve good treatment. That was the hardest thing I had to learn during my own journey to find answers.

  • What is the difference between celiac disease and gluten intolerance?

There is a great educational bulletin on gluten intolerance at the GIG site.  Celiac disease causes damage to the gut and malnutrition; gluten intolerance makes you ill without the gut damage, but does affect many organs. As far as I can tell, the results are the same: you get really sick.

  • What does a gluten-free diet require?

You can eat no wheat, barley, or rye flours–no standard bread, pies, cakes, noodles, nothing containing these items. No gluten, not even microscopic amounts.

It is not as hard as it was nearly nine years ago when I started. Go through your kitchen and read labels on what you eat. Today, thanks to manufacturers and new labeling laws, it is so much easier. Wheat must be identified in products, and some manufacturers voluntarily list their products as ‘gluten-free’. Some also volunteer if the product is made in a gluten-free facility. I rarely buy products unless it is a total gluten-free facility. Have you seen how flour flies in the air?

Do be aware that there can be gluten in vitamins, and that for some people who are super-sensitive, gluten in things like lipstick can cause problems. I have to be careful about my grandchildren having eaten gluten foods and coming in with gluten crumbs and grease all over their hands and getting it on me and the table, etc., anywhere I might pick it up. Oh, and kissing– yes, kissing.

  • What do you eat?

I have found the major foods that I like and stick with them–plain meats cooked with plain herbs and seasonings, not pre-packaged, fresh and frozen and canned vegetables, fruits. Eggs are gluten free. We enjoy the Wal-mart brand sausage; Wal-mart lists gluten-free on much of their house brands.

Only gluten-free breads, cakes, cookies–there are many good ones. My favorites are Kinnikinnick Sunflower-flax bread toasted, with thick jam, Kinnikinnick carrot muffins, my own baked goods.

Many celiacs diagnosed late in life also have trouble with food allergies. I am somewhat intolerant to dairy and soy. Until I eliminated these from my diet, I continued with deep fatigue.

There is a wealth of healthy food out there, and getting better all the time, because manufacturers are aware of this growing allergy problem and are producing more and more foods naturally without gluten, dairy, or soy.

  • Should I try the diet and see what happens?

Oh, boy, this is a big controversy. Read the info on the links provided. That said, I initially found my own problem by trying the diet, as did a dear friend and thousands of others, many parents and spouses of confirmed celiacs. My radically good response to the diet showed me a definite gluten problem. I did pursue more care with traditional medicine, and eventually confirmed for myself with the gene testing. Personally, I think if you are an older adult, simply try the diet for two weeks. If it helps, keep on. This is what my husband has done. He eats mostly gluten-free, enjoying gluten on rare occasions. Be aware that one cannot do conventional testing for celiac if one is following a gluten-free diet.

  • What is the most difficult thing about the diet?

For me it is eating out and traveling. I, still, have trouble asking for what I want and need at restaurants, and too many instances where the restaurant people don’t fully understand the need for no cross-contamination. I’m impatient when on a driving trip, don’t want to take a lot of time to stop. I have too many times felt ill when trying to eat at a fast food place; it is easier to bring my food, and I get tired of this. As Denise commented in the previous post, I have mostly given up visiting other people’s homes. I have too often ended up ill when coming home, and it takes days to recover.

  • How can I help my family member/friend who has just been diagnosed.

My friend Nola posted about cooking for her celiac cousins. This display of love made me teary. While I have experienced too much ‘food trauma’ to feel comfortable for people to cook for me, I am always greatly appreciative for people to understand and want to accommodate me. Quick story: I did a phone in order to an Outback Steakhouse, which has a gluten-free menu.  A few minutes later, a staff member called me back, saying with true concern, “We are uncertain of this? Can you have this? We don’t want you to get sick.” I cried, yes, I did.

The greatest thing any of us can have is acceptance, support and to be welcomed. Let’s pass it on.



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