Yesterday was my three month anniversary of regaining my health and living gluten free. I prefer to say that I am gluten free rather than gluten intolerant (my official medical diagnosis) because it puts a positive spin on my relationship with gluten – I am free from the pain that it caused and the damage it was doing on my body.
I had my colonoscopy and upper endoscopy on June 3. Once I woke up from the procedure, the doctor mentioned that my colon was normal but my stomach was red. She collected samples to biopsy me for Celiac Disease. My mom was with me and we were both hoping that her suggestion was not the answer, because another food allergy would make my life extra challenging. I went home not knowing if gluten was the culprit, so just in case, I resumed my normal diet and had two pieces of whole wheat bread as my first food in two days. I went through my cabinets and pulled out everything with wheat and started eating through gluten. After all, I was still really sick and another week of gluten could not do much more damage.
A week later, my doctor’s office called with the great news – I did not have Celiac Disease! I was actually disappointed, that meant that this was not a black and white diagnosis. I was just as sick as I was before the tests, even with the doctor prescribed antibiotic and probiotics. I did additional research on Celiac Disease and came across research about the lesser known gluten intolerance. I decided I had nothing else to lose and I was two and a half weeks away from my follow up appointment with the gastroenterologist: I was going to do an elimination and an addition diet. One week will be gluten free and the next week will be a normal amount of gluten and then I will see the doctor. I was putting off this experiment, but ultimately, the day after a large family party, I needed to call it quits. Parties are always anxiety-filled situations for me – I need to ask everyone what they added. No assumptions can be made – we are an American family who loves our butter. My mom and I made a lactose-free pasta salad and I made my always popular Crisco crinkle cookies, so I would at least have one option while everyone else had a handful. My uncle is famous for making large amounts of delicious meat and I helped myself to some amazing selection of meat on extra large rolls.
After being unbelievably sick and barely able to move the next day, I decided enough was enough: I was going to try this gluten free thing starting with dinner. By Friday I was on top of the world. I had my strength back, I was hungry, I was happy, I was full of life! These were all feelings I was missing for most of the year. I was terrified to return to the eating-gluten part of my experiment since I did not want to knowingly harm myself. To bribe myself, I went to Whole Foods and bought a package of their one ravioli that is dairy-free (I believe it was the Mediterranean herbs) – at around $5.00 it was a splurge for me. On the dreaded back to gluten day, I crashed after I ate my lunch. I did not want to go back to eating gluten if only a little amount ruined all of the progress I made that week. I ate my ravioli and had a soy-ice cream sandwich and said goodbye to gluten. That night, I had a hard time sleeping since my chest pains returned and breathing was painful. My stomach ached and I was an emotional mess. For the last time.
When I had my follow-up appointment with my doctor, there was a noticeable change in me. I was filled with questions and also bursting with excitement over the results of my experiment. My doctor agreed with my self-diagnosis and wrote in my chart “gluten intolerant” and circled it. Simple.
I am grateful to be gluten free. Food can either destroy or save me. And it has been doing a wonderful job at saving me these past few months.