A few years ago I fell ill, I was getting agonising stomach pains, nausea and generally feeling unwell. I went to the doctor and they thought I had appendicitis, so I was taken to hospital but scans showed it wasn’t that so I was discharged. Forward 3 months and I’m still in agony, off work because I couldn’t sit for more than a few minutes, all tests were coming back negative. Another 3 months and I was still in agony but went to see a consultant at the hospital who decided to test for coeliac, which should have been done months before. The nurse with him said to give gluten free a go once my bloods were done that day and I did. I haven’t eaten gluten since that day, just days later the pain was less, nausea had gone and I was feeling better. Three years on I haven’t eaten any gluten intensively and when I’ve been a victim of cross contamination I know almost instantly as the pain reappears. Going gluten free was the best thing I ever did.
This is an excerpt from this blog post by Gluten Free and Glittery, used with kind permission from the writer.
Beginning my freshman year of college, I was sick after every meal. It started out as just stomach pains and cramping, but progressively got worse. Sure, I was eating a ton of junk food so I blamed it on this. But every couple of months I would end up with “food poisoning”—so bad that I would end up in the ER. How weird, right? How could I keep getting food poisoning especially when I was eating pizza or pasta? Bad luck, right? Well, between the ER visits, I started having chronic diarrhea and cramps after each meal starting at the beginning of my sophomore year. The pains were excruciating and I was constantly bloated. Fall 2011 was filled with constant migraines and extreme fatigue. My neurologist blamed my spike in migraines on being stressed in college and prescribed a higher dose beta blocker.
Fast forward to Christmas 2011, I spent the evening laying by the toilet, dumbfounded by how I could be so sick. I vowed to see a doctor and I did so shortly afterwards. Doctors have to take family history and I understand that—but as soon as I said my family has a history of stomach ulcers and that I went to a high pressure ivy league, the doctor automatically diagnosed me with stomach ulcers. He instructed me to only eat bagels to “soak up the acid” and add some peanut butter to get more protein. I was sent on my way with proton inhibitors and zofran to prevent vomiting/diarrhea. I tried to stick with this “tummy friendly” diet and spent Spring 2012 as sick as can be. The fatigue and headaches increased as well as major mood swings and a significant drop in weight. My hair was falling out and my teeth were developing black spots, which my dentist blamed on sodas and coffees—neither of which I drank at the time. The amount of time spent in the bathroom far exceeded the amount of time spent eating. My canker sores were blamed on stress. Everything was blamed on stress. Pre-med overachiever? Yup, has to be the stress, right?
Finally, I realized that all I was eating was bread…what does bread contain? Gluten. My friend in college had celiac disease so the notion of celiac disease popped in my mind.
When I woke up from the colonoscopy, the doctor informed me that the villi in my intestines were completely flattened and she could tell just by looking that I had celiac disease. Yes, my intestines were so damaged that they could be seen by the naked eye.
Thank you to everyone who gave their stories for this blog post! If you want to give your story it’s not too late – you can send it via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org to have it included. Let’s help the world understand that there’s more to being Coeliac than just being gluten free.