Thursday, April 22, 2010

Becoming Gluten Free- The Diagnosis

I was thinking, it might be time to tell my story from the beginning.  I think that there are a lot of people out there, who have been newly diagnosed with gluten intolerance or Celiac's Disease who might need to hear another person's story.  I remember first reading Shauna James' story in the first chapters of Gluten Free Girl, and being flooded with such intense emotion, having just gone through such similar experiences myself.

So, here I am to share a little more of my story with you.  Although I was diagnosed 4 years ago with gluten intolerance, I probably started to feel ill, and started to feel symptoms of my illness about 5 1/2 to 6 years ago.  At the time, I was doing my undergrad, studying Architecture, which is an intense study (if any of you ever knew an "archi" in college, you'll know what I'm talking about).  It wasn't uncommon to pull all-nighters in the architecture studio several times a month in order to meet project deadlines... which lead to a very unhealthy lifestyle for most of us students.  Particularly, I felt that there wasn't enough time to eat real meals during "crunch time"  (which was pretty much ALL the time), so I ate COOKIES and drank COPIOUS amounts of COFFEE, in order to avoid going back to my apartment and "wasting time" to cook a meal.  I would eat 2-3 cookies, the size of my FACE from the cafe at the architecture school, and drank 2 cups of coffee in lieu of a meal during these periods of pulling all-nighters at school.

I was a walking zombie, delirious by day and insomniac by night.  I was constantly nauseated and bloated, but chocked it up to my lack of sleep.  Then one day, I grew tired of being tired.  I realized that there must be something wrong.  I started going to the student health center to get bloodwork done, only to find that I was "borderline" anemic, "borderline" hyperthyroid and borderline a million other things I can't even pronounce.  So, I was told to see an endocrinologist, who wouldn't prescribe me anything, because I was not sick enough, basically.  So, I went to see a General Practictioner, and then another endocrinologist, an acupuncturist, a GI, a chinese herbal doctor (or 6)... and finally... a natural hormone replacement therapy doctor!  This brilliant man sat and listened carefully to my symptoms (mind you, he is trained as a gynecologist, NOT a GI), and he said simply,  "I think I know what to do.  Go to my nurse, and she will take your blood"... A few days later, I was back in his office, waiting, with bated breath, anticipating disappointment, anticipating that he would tell me that I was in "perfectly good health" as 10 other doctors had told me before.

But he shocked me even more, by saying "You're gluten intolerant, you can not eat wheat".  I was flabbergasted.  "So, what am I supposed to eat?  Can I eat it sometimes?  Everything I eat has wheat!!!" (I had already told him about my cookies and beer diet, so he understood)  He nodded and responded "ALL YOU HAVE TO DO is eat things in their natural form, nothing processed".  Did I not mention to this man that I don't cook?  Everything I ate was processed.  AHHHHHH.  I left with the answer I had been seeking, but I was left seeking more answers than ever before. 

I think I went to him one more time about a month later, reporting to him that I had "cut down" on my cookie intake, and felt a little better.  I clearly was not taking this diagnosis very seriously.  I seriously wanted him to REVERSE the diagnosis.  This man was ruining my life.  How could he tell me not to eat wheat?  He did not in fact reverse the diagnosis.  He gave me an assignment, and told me to record what I ate each day, and to record at the end of the day how I felt.  He encouraged me to do full weeks without gluten in my diet... "eating foods in their natural form"... and he guaranteed that this "SIMPLE" step would improve my health tremendously, and that I would WANT to change my diet.

Around the same time in my life, I met my boyfriend, a man of the kitchen (he had been cooking his whole life).  He cooked me a meal on our second date, a shrimp pasta dish!  IMPRESSIVE.  We started making conversation, and as I reached across the table for the pepper, my hand trembled (my hands were always shaking... maybe it was all that coffee I was drinking to stay awake?).  He asked me what was wrong, and I told him that I didn't know, and that I was seeing doctors to find out.  He prodded further, and I admitted, that I had found out a few weeks earlier that I was allergic to wheat.  And there I was, eating a pasta dish with him.  Lovely.  He told me he was concerned, and that I should really heed my doctors advice, that this was not something to be taken lightly.  Over the coming weeks and months, he became a major force in my move toward a gluten-free diet.

Slowly but surely, I came around.  I started taking note of what I had eaten during the day, and figuring out what my body felt throughout the course of each day.  I started doing yoga more to get in tune with my body.  I started cooking with my boyfriend, and observing in the kitchen so that I could cook for myself (and wean myself off my cookies).  And sure enough, one day I woke up, feeling like ME again.  Not feeling like a zombie, or apparition of myself.  And here I am, still learning, one day at a time what it means to be gluten free and healthy.

There wasn't anything magical or simple about it.  It was a lot of hard work and patience in order to figure out what was on the "can" and "can not" eat list.  I have the support of my family and friends to thank for it, and I am so much better off without wheat.  I feel like I've been re-awakened because I opened up to EMBRACING the change.  It's been a long, hard road, but I am SO happy now.  I am healthier and more in tune with my body.

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting read! It's nice to that someone who started out not taking the diagnosis so seriously has moved into embracing it. :)


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