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Understanding Celiac Disease: Diagnosis, Symptoms & Solutions

Posted Apr 16 2012 3:13am
Written by Rachelle Fordyce on April 16, 2012 – -

- by Christy Mills

You never really know how rotten you feel until you are healthy.

This was my experience in the fall of 2007, when I started to become very ill. There were so many changes happening in my life at that time. Our family had decided to move from the city to an acreage. It was a huge step as neither my husband or I had ever been “country” people. My grandfather died. My oldest had just started his second year of playschool. It was a time of transition, which creates stress on the body.

It all started with a cold that never really went away…

Allergies vs. Celiac Disease… so I finally set up an appointment with my family physician. The Doctor thought maybe I had allergies. I began to take allergy medication, as she thought moving to an older home with a lot of carpet may be a source of my problems. As well, we live right across a canola field that was being harvested at the time, so thought that may be a source as well.

If there is one thing that I know about myself, I hate taking any kind of medication, supplements, etc. The thought of taking something just makes my insides cringe!! But, I was anxious to find a ‘cure’ so I decided to give it one month to see if that helped.

My symptoms were still not going away, so we thought maybe our one of our bathrooms might possibly have mold behind the tiled walls. We spent over $ 6,000 renovating a bathroom that didn’t need it. It was a very frustrating time in my life.

Symptoms of Celiac DiseaseThen, the headaches started. So I went on medication for that… which made my hands and feet tingle. The day that my tongue started to go numb, I stopped taking the medication.

Soon my symptoms progressed into nausea and a constant feeling of being weak with “brain fog”.

I don’t remember ever taking a “sick” day in my life, and here I was calling my husband home from work to look after the kids so I could just lay down!

It was about 6 weeks later and the tummy troubles began. It seemed like I had stomach cramps all the time that was accompanied with bouts of constipation and then diarrhea.

Throughout this time I was seeing my Doctor, still taking the allergy medication when she decided to send me for an extensive list of blood work. At this time I had lost 12 pounds. Weighing 114 pounds when you are 5’7” is not pretty. 11 weeks after visiting various doctors and trying to figure out what was wrong, I was finally diagnosed with Celiac Disease.

What Is Celiac Disease?According to the Canadian Celiac Association website, they list the definition of Celiac Disease as follows:

Celiac disease is a medical condition in which the absorptive surface of the small intestine is damaged by a substance called gluten. This results in an inability of the body to absorb nutrients: protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals, which are necessary for good health.

Although statistics are not readily available, it is estimated that 1 in 133 persons in Canada are affected by celiac disease.

A wide range of symptoms may be present. Symptoms may appear together or singularly in children or adults. In general, the symptoms of untreated celiac disease indicate the presence of malabsorption due to the damaged small intestine.

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, triticale, barley. In the case of wheat, gliadin has been isolated as the toxic fraction. It is the gluten in the flour that helps bread and other baked goods bind and prevents crumbling. This feature has made gluten widely used in the production of many processed and packaged foods.

At present there is no cure, but celiac disease is readily treated by following the gluten-free diet.

I mentioned many of my symptoms above, but there are certainly more side effects of eating gluten.

The website listed the following:

Signs and Symptoms of Malabsorption, Malnutrition, vitamin and/or mineral Deficiencies Associated with Celiac Disease:

  • Abdominal cramps, gas and bloating
  • Anemia
  • Borborygmi (stomach rumbling)
  • Coetaneous bleeding
  • Diarrhea
  • Easy bruising
  • Epistaxis (nose bleeding)
  • Failure to thrive
  • Fatigue or general weakness
  • Flatulence
  • Fluid retention
  • Foul-smelling or grayish stools that are often fatty or oily
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms
  • Gastrointestinal hemorrhage
  • Hematuria (red urine)
  • Hypocalcaemia/ hypomagnesaemia
  • Infertility
  • Iron deficiency anemia
  • lymphocytic gastritis
  • Muscle weakness
  • Muscle wasting
  • Nausea
  • No obvious physical symptoms (just fatigue, overall not feeling well)
  • Osteoporosis
  • Pallor (unhealthy pale appearance)
  • Panic Attacks
  • Peripheral neuropathy (nerve damage)
  • Stunted growth in children
  • Vertigo
  • Vitamin B12 deficiency
  • Vitamin D deficiency
  • Vitamin K deficiency
  • Vomiting
  • Voracious appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Obesity
* If you feel like you have any of these symptoms, please ask your Doctor to be tested. It is a simply blood test, but keep in mind that you do have to be ‘on’ gluten at the time of testing.

I remember sitting there thinking, “Okay, cool. At least now I know what is wrong with me.” …which then turned into, “Oh, no! Now I have to take medication!”

Thankfully, after a very brief rundown of what Celiac Disease is from my Doctor, I found out that I only had to eliminate gluten from my diet.  “Only”, right? Easier said than done! Gluten is in EVERYTHING! Bread, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, soup bases, salad dressings, beer, pasta, pastries, cake, mostly anything processed… Can you see a pattern here? These are all foods that we should not be eating anyway!

Quinoa: A Gluten-Free GrainI was sent to a dietician that offered me a diabetic diet with a few modifications. This was the only help that I received! Talk about a huge learning curve. At that time I started to research what this all meant for me. My diet focused mainly on fruits, vegetables, meat and rice cakes!?! I hadn’t even heard of the grains that they were suggesting to eat. Quinoa? WHAT is that? (It took me 3 years to even buy it let alone make it!) My diet was pretty simple, very repetitive and without much creativity. I am not a huge fan of the kitchen and preparing one meal for myself and one for my family was exhausting.

Approximately one week after changing my diet, I began to feel better! One month later and I was back to feeling like my normal self. I remember laying in bed one night and saying to my husband…”You know, you never really know how bad you are feeling until you feel healthy again.” It was such an amazing feeling (and so freeing).

I am a huge information gatherer, and approximately one year ago, I found a gluten free eating and exercise plan that I bought and began to follow. It was a huge life changer for me. Easy, simple recipes that were quick to make became the answer. Along with a routine exercise plan, I began to see some significant transformations in my body. Along with those transformations was the beginning of my quest to find my inner truth for my body and mind.

Learning to listen to your body can be a challenge.Learning to listen to your body can be a challenge, but in order to make changes in how you feel, you must be open and receptive to what your gut or intuition tells you. I am definitely learning new things every day and it’s hard. Realizing that everything in your life is a process allows us to keep things in perspective.

One of the things that I am learning is to enjoy being in the kitchen. Being thankful that I have healthy food to prepare for my family certainly helps, but what changed it for me was to look at it as an opportunity for change instead of a chore that just needs to get over with!!

Do you have celiac disease? How does eating gluten affect your diet and what challenges do you face? I know my biggest one is eating in a restaurant!

Do you find gluten addicting? Do you think it would be impossible to remove it from your diet? Do you think it’s a misconception that eating gluten free is healthier for the body?

BE Beauty: A 30-Day Natural Beauty MakeoverOur BE Beauty Natural Beauty Makeover program is a gluten-free program with an emphasis on probiotics and recolonization of the gut, essential for healing and restoring radiant beauty and health!

If you would like to share your own story celiace disease diagnosis, gluten-free living, or journey to health and healing with us, please share with us below!

Any comments would be appreciated!

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  1. By Laura on Apr 20, 2012

    I just posted in another blog my own experience. I was very sick as well, but after many tests (none relate it to celiac disease) I decided to be my “own” doctor and do a research. I found that all my symptoms match the celiac disease so I decided to stop eating gluten(I stopped eating dairy first, but I kept feeling sick).Eureka!!! that was the solution, but still my doctor doesn’t relate my symptoms with celiac disease though I am not going back to eating gluten. I’ve been drinking my green smoothies for about a year and unfortunately my stomach is full of gases and bloating at the end of the day that I stopped drinking them. I did some research last week and I found out that malabsorption of fructose could be relate it to celiac disease as well, so I started my green smoothies again, but with certain type of fruits and I am feeling better …Thanks for your story, it makes me feel I am not alone :)


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