Discovering that I had Celiac Disease was the climax of a long and confusing struggle with my health and wellness.
As far back as I can remember I have always had a plethora of unexplained oddities that I just learn to live with. I grew up feeling defeated, accepting the fact I was just sickly… and it was something I just had learn to live with. I could still perform well and play sports. I looked healthy enough and to all accounts lived a normal life. But I felt absolutely terrible. All the time, every single day, something was physically wrong with me. I was constantly uncomfortable. Going gluten free completely changed my life.
In retrospect I can see how all of my physical symptoms caused by Celiac Disease were completely overlooked by myself and healthcare professionals. No one instinctively assumes that the food they eat is what makes them sick, especially when you are a fitness fanatic and eat a healthy diet. Unfortunately, when you have an allergy to something that is in almost every meal you eat, no matter how healthy it is to the normal person, it only harms you. In my own struggles I have mistakenly been diagnosed with many other conditions in an attempt to explain to my symptoms. Erratic bouts of constipation and diarrhea were thought to be Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Chronic stomach pains were brushed off as an ulcer. Rashes were thought to be caused by sensitivity to fragrances, detergents, and fabrics. Nausea was a hormonal problem or motion sickness. Bloating and gas was Lactose Intolerance. Chronic fatigue and body aches was from stress and too much exercise. High risk of infection and illness was just because I didn’t “take enough care” of myself. When I stopped eating gluten ALL of these problems went away.
I stumbled on my diagnose by chance. While preparing for one of many bikini compositions I started following a very rigid diet. All the food I ate was prepared at home from whole ingredients that coincidentally did not include any gluten. This was the first time I actually took my diet seriously and didn’t eat out at restaurants, buy prepared bar and snacks, or cover things in crazy condiments. Without knowing, I had put myself on an exclusion diet, and by doing so removed the source of my sickness from my body. I started to feel better. I started to feel energized and healthy. I stopped having all the awkward gastrointestinal problems I had suffered with my whole life. All my swelling, bloating, cramping, nausea and rashes went away. It also became very apparent that anytime I did stray from my diet the problems would return. With a little attention to what food were and weren’t making me ill, it was easy to see that the problematic foods always included gluten. After presenting my own findings to my doctors they confirmed my diagnoses.
Years later I am still in the learning process. Dealing with Celiac Disease can be challenging, but each day it gets better. My dietary mistakes are less frequent. More restaurants and brands are accommodating this condition. My loved ones are supportive and considerate of my special needs. I am getting better at making safe choices and being stubborn enough to say no if I’m not 100% certain. Although having Celiac Disease can seem limiting and socially isolating in all the fun celebrations and situations that revolve around food, I genuinely feel empowered by my diagnose. Now that I know what was making me sick I am no longer a helpless victim. Now I am in control of it, and I feel better than ever!