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Going Without Saved Me

It is tough being sick when you look fine on the outside.

For years, I ached in my joints, experienced fatigue, GI problems, skin rashes, migraine headaches that lasted for weeks, depression, and weight gain. I went through blood tests, MRI tests, neurologists, rheumotologists, and even a psychiatrist. I was told I had possible connective tissue disease, lupus, basilar migraines, autoimmune thyroid problems, irritable bowel syndrome, and depression. I was put on multiple medications that made me sicker.

Doctors are taught to deal with acute problems, infections, things that show up neatly on blood work and I didn't have any of those things. I bought a functional medicine textbook and started reading. About midway through the text, I first became introduced to something called celiac disease, an autoimmune disease in which the body can not tolerate gluten. The symptoms matched. Doctors refused to test me because they felt I didn't have celiac—that I would be losing weight, not gaining. I enlisted the help of a nurse practitioner who was willing to draw blood and request the specific antibody testing. It came back positive and I immediately started a gluten free diet.

For anyone who has ever done a gluten-free diet, it is not an easy way of life. Gluten is in so many things—from soy sauce to cereals to salad dressings, etc. It is a new way of cooking, of meal planning, and going out to eat is a brand new challenge. Within a week of going without gluten, I was feeling better; the joint pain was gone, my stomach stopped hurting, my headaches went away, and I had energy. Going without gluten has been the best choice for me to get my life back.

It is estimated that 1 in 133 average healthy people has celiac disease. The University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center put out a fact sheet stating it takes adults an average of four years to be diagnosed with celiac disease and that during that wait time when it is untreated celiac disease can increase the risk of developing other autoimmune disease, some cancers, neurological disorders, and osteoporosis. There is no medicine for celiac disease; it is treated only with a gluten free diet.

Today I am healthy and can enjoy my life. Going without gluten saved me.