Tuesday, June 14, 2011

1 Year Later

A year and a day ago, I went to a family party and ate loads of pasta salad, beer brats, meat and tons of buns. The next day, I felt awful and need a change - right away. Two weeks earlier, I had a colonscopy and upper endoscopy and learned that I was negative for Celiac Disease. I had two weeks before my follow up appointment with my gastro and the probiotics and antibiotics were not changing a thing. In my panicked research to figure out what Celiac Disease was, I came across a few articles about people testing negative for Celiac but still responded badly when eating gluten. I had nothing to lose. The day after the party, I started a gluten free one week trial. The goal was to do one week off gluten and one week on gluten and then see the doctor. My experimental diet started on a Monday evening. By Friday evening, all my symptoms that were plaguing me since I had my appendectomy in October 2008 (and greatly worsened around the holiday season in 2009) disappeared. I felt so wonderful being off gluten. For the sake of research, I needed to go back on wheat. I barely made it one meal before becoming so sick.

At my follow up appointment, there was a different Michelle in the room. A well-informed patient with a list of questions, comparisons between life on and off gluten, as well as a game plan for continuing to go gluten free.

Originally, I was embarrassed because I did not have Celiac disease. Was this all in my head? I didn't have a signle test show any intolerance to gluten (skin test, blood work, stool samples, and biopsy). I thankfully had a few symptoms that resulted with physical changes in my body (besides "not feeling well", brain fog, low energy, no appetite, headaches) and every time I slipped up or didn't pay attention to cross-contamination, the symptoms returned in a rush.

Over the past year, I learned a lot more about NCGI (non-Celiac gluten intolerance). It's real and studies suggest that about 1% of the population has Celiac disease and up to 10% are gluten intolerant. CNN recently ran a story on it and NBC Chicago had a segment on their health watch (including my story!)

For me, life after gluten is wonderful. Just over a year ago, I signed power of attorney and living will documents since my health was dramatically declining by the week. Only days off gluten, my health did a total 180. I feel better, have energy to keep up with myself, and enjoy food like never before. Ironically, following a gluten free diet has exposed me to many more foods. The range of food I'm eating has increased at least twenty times over. Yes, I still can cave in for an ice cream sandwich, but now the ice cream is rice based and my straight-from-the-oven chocolate chip cookies are made with a gf flour mix and dark chocolate chips. I'm eating my veggies, baking bread, and throwing together some pretty impressive dinners and hostessing dinner parties. I started this blog mainly to prove to my mom that I was still eating. My first few entries are embarrassingly simple, although it is comical and rewarding to see the growth in my cooking skills over the course of only one year. I'm at over 135 posts, have strangers following my blog, hits from around the world, and even business cards with my blog address.

Life is good.

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