Celiac & Me

After many years of intermittent stomach aches, heartburn and diarrhea, I realized about five years ago (this post updated in April 2015) that I seemed to have a gluten problem. While the stomach symptoms were on and off most of the time, I was in the midst of several weeks in which I got sick every time I ate (this had happened to me twice before, but I had assumed it to be an intestinal bug of some sort). This time, for some reason, I thought there might be some other explanation for it and was determined to find an answer (even though I knew full well that if I left things as they were, I would be losing some weight, which wouldn't have made me unhappy at all).

Anyway, while considering the various possibilities, it occurred to me that my stomach felt better after I ate a corn-tortilla quesadilla than it did after I ate a flour-tortilla quesadilla. That was pretty much it. I thought I'd drop wheat and see if it helped. The change was drastic and very welcome. All the stomach aches and most of the heartburn were gone in two days. I pretty much haven't looked back.

For awhile, I pretty much survived on corn tortilla quaesadillas with black refried beans and gluten free cereal, like Corn Chex. But I really needed to work out the details. It never occurred to me to see the doctor to get tested. By the time I mentioned it to the doctor a month or so later, he said to not bother getting tested as it would require me to go back on the gluten.

Wrangling out what was safe and not safe to eat took me a long time. I kept being surprised by things like gluten-containing teas, canned soups, condiments and chocolate bars (containing barley malt). Careful label reading is essential!

Also, I flitted around to different websites to try to make sense out of what was safe to eat. It was only a few months ago that I finally purchased a few books on celiac disease. I think I hadn't bothered earlier because I wasn't sure if it was merely a gluten sensitivity or the full-blown thing. Though still untested, I'm pretty certain it's celiac and I really wish I had bought these books a few years ago:

Celiac Disease: A Hidden Epidemic by Peter H.R. Green and Rory Jones

Celiac Disease for Dummies by Ian Blumer and Sheila Crowe

I found both of these books hugely helpful (both are written by doctors who a great deal of clinical experience with celiac patients) and would highly recommend them for anyone trying to work through a celiac diagnosis.

Here are a few critical things I learned from these books:

  • Celiac disease affects 1 in every 100 people and is massively under-diagnosed.
  • Celiac is an auto-immune disorder (not an allergy) and is known to be a life-long condition.  It is associated with a number of secondary symptoms, including depression, fatigue, infertility, hair loss and higher rates of some cancers, but these risks tend to diminish to almost nothing when a strict gluten-free diet is followed.
  • Celiacs also tend to have health problems because of nutritional deficiencies - initially because of malabsorption of nutrients in the small intestine due to inflammation, and even after the small intestine is healed because of deficiencies in the average gluten-free diet.
There are lots and lots of cookbooks on gluten-free cooking available out there. Most don't strike me as that interesting or unique, since you can just use any cookbook and make substitutions. I have found one exception:

It was given to me by a friend a few weeks ago (thanks Beth!) and looks amazing and quite unique so far. The authors/test kitchen try out different products and mixes to find optimal options and solutions for cooking favorites foods in a gluten-free situation. Love it so far!
    Here are some links and articles that I've found to be helpful:

    Catholic Celiac Society Here celiacs can find information for receiving Holy Communion in the Catholic Church in a way that is safe for their celiac needs. One of the most critical things to know is that a gluten-free host cannot be validly consecrated in the Catholic Church. There is a single source that produces low-gluten hosts that are valid for consecration: Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration.

    Celiac Disease (Wikipedia)

    Gluten-Free Diet (Wikipedia)

    Gluten Freedom (our gluten-free recipes and links on Pinterest)

    Gluten-Free Diets and Anxiety (Psychology Today)

     Is Gluten Making You Depressed (Psychology Today)

    Penzey's Spices (as far as I understand it, everything they sell except their bouillon is gluten-free!)

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