A few years ago, during a routine physical, my blood tests revealed abnormally low iron. My doctor prescribed iron tablets, which I took religiously. My next blood tests revealed that my iron had dropped considerably lower. My doctor upped my iron intake, and I changed my diet to ensure I ate as much iron as humanly possible, and that I did everything in my power to make sure my body absorbed it. Milk, fiber and caffeine can block iron absorption, whereas vitamin c can increase it. I worked so hard, and was so proud of myself only to find my levels had dropped even further. Also with the change in diet, and the massive amount of iron I was taking, my body had revolted and given me in exchange massive heartburn.
I got a bit mad. I had changed my diet, and was killing myself eating enough iron to start my own mine, and yet my body was having no part of it.
Other than the heartburn, I was feeling fine. I carried on like this for almost two years until things changed.
My energy levels started dwindling. I went in again for another physical, and my iron was at 1. Yes as in almost zero. My B12 was also incredibly low, my red blood cell count was low, and my red blood cells were small and deformed. My family doctor had run so many blood tests testing for everything under the sun, and could find nothing. She decided to forward me on to a GI specialist, so they could see if it was an absorption issue or an internal blood loss issue.
My GI specialist ran a slew of more tests and a battery of blood tests and couldn’t find the cause. At this time I was rapidly getting worse. Lack of energy had turned into extreme exhaustion, and I was so tired I gave up our nightly 5k dog walks, and I was getting winded just trying to walk up the stairs.
On my doctor’s gut instinct she scheduled me for an upper GI endoscopy to take a look and get a tissue biopsy of my small intestine (where the stomach meets the intestine, and where you absorb nutrients from your food). They put a camera down my throat, and low and behold when they got a glimpse of my small intestine there was massive damage. My body simply wasn’t absorbing any nutrients from food because my intestine was badly damaged. How did it get so badly damaged?
Turns out I have Silent Celiac Disease, which is an autoimmune disease wherein your body attacks gluten (and in turn destroys your body’s ability to absorb nutrients.) My version of it is “silent” because I do not have any symptoms other than my nutrient deficiencies.
What is the cure?
There isn’t one.
I will have to abstain from eating any and all gluten for the rest of my life, and hopefully my body will heal, and will start reabsorbing nutrients again. In the interim I am scheduled to have IV infusions of the nutrients I am missing, and a bone density scan to make sure that my bones are okay from having been deprived calcium for over two years. I bet you’re also asking how they didn’t think of this before? They did. They tested my blood twice for Celiac, and it came back negative. Luckily my Doctor persisted and did the scope.
How am I feeling about this whole thing?
On one side I am happy to have a diagnosis and an assurance that I will feel better eventually, and it could have been a lot worse. On the other hand I am mad and feeling sorry for myself. I am mad because I LOVE food, and I love fresh baked french bread, croissants, and my Danish heritage has ensured that I adore pastries.
I am mad that a lot of the things that I love to eat will be eliminated from my diet. My friends and family keep assuring me that there are gluten free breads and alternatives, but from my viewpoint, why would I want to eat a piece of gluten free bread when it doesn’t taste very good? I would rather give up bread entirely, and instead eat something else. Know what I mean? I would rather have an egg omelet than toast that tastes like cardboard. I am also mad at how expensive anything with the label “gluten free” is.
Oh, and why do companies need to put gluten in stuff that otherwise doesn’t need to contain wheat? Like corn flakes. They are made of CORN. Why add malt to their coating? Speaking of malt, that sneaky little ingredient is ruining chocolate, potato chips and frozen french fries as well.
At least gluten free is becoming a more common occurrence. I also make most meals at home from scratch, and thus removing gluten from them isn’t that hard. Breakfast seems to be my hardest hurtle, as I usually have a bagel, muffin or cereal at the office. I will find my new stride, and get even better at checking ingredients labels. Luckily my incredibly supportive, thoughtful husband has volunteered to eat gluten free with me at home, and eat his fill of gluten when I am not around (i.e. when he’s at the office and when we go out to eat). Obviously I am not going to stop him from eating gluten, but its nice not to have to make two versions of every meal, and worry about cross contamination. As this new lifestyle change will greatly affect my life, you may hear about it here and there, but I promise this will not turn into a gluten free blog by any means. Thanks everyone for your support and patience with me, hopefully I will be back to normal soon.
P.S. The first pic is from a lovely spa day with my mother in law and El Granto’s brother’s better half. The spa went out of their way to ensure my entire lunch was gluten free, including the breads to go with this lovely cheese.
One last thing.. Thank god wine is gluten free or I’d be screwed…