My celiac story is fairly new. I was diagnosed in a very roundabout way a little over 2 years ago. I should’ve been diagnosed years ago since my brother has celiac disease also but no one in my family was told it was hereditary! My primary symptom was low iron. That was always dismissed by my primary care Dr, my OBGYN and all the times I tried to give blood or plasma. I was even told that I was getting enough iron, it just wasn’t able to absorb. No one thought to figure out the next step. It was through an eye exam in which the optometrist happened to mention having celiac and low iron that my brain connected the two and my gut (which never had any issues!) told me follow up. My family doctor at this point still told me I didn’t have celiac. The blood work made it clear that he was wrong. The endoscopy gave us visual evidence and that was enough for me to cut out gluten cold turkey when I saw how much damage had been done. I also had bone scans showing osteopenia, so I also wasn’t absorbing enough calcium.
Since then, people ask me at least weekly if I’m feeling better without gluten. The answer till recently is that I feel the same. Unfortunately, the healing that has taken place has changed my iron and calcium levels. Do I feel like a million bucks all of the sudden? No. Do I know I’m doing the hard work for taking care of my body? Yes. Right around the two-year mark, I did start getting sick to my stomach for days if I accidentally ate gluten. So now I’m so much more cautious because that’s miserable. I really feel for people who have struggled with GI problems all along. I am also more sensitive to other foods, especially onions and garlic.
What I think is important to my story is the mental and emotional component. I happened to have a sister-in-law who had three kids diagnosed with celiac about 6 months before I did. I love my nephews and niece and vowed to do whatever I could to help them and very quickly started learning how to make their favorite meals and treats GF. Luckily that worked out nicely for me when I had to change my diet! Also, it worked out well for her and many friends who I’ve encountered because I love to cook and bake and am determined to produce amazing food that is GF and homemade. It’s such a perfect challenge for me and made me so aware of other people’s needs.
I’ve been able to help with school functions, church activities, camps and countless large family gatherings as I’ve learned to accommodate to people who are GF, DF, vegan, dye free, you name it! I want to be able to show up with that amazing gluten free dinner roll or Carmelita and bring a little sunshine to someone’s face because I know what it’s like to be the odd man out. To be the person forgotten at the luncheon. To be the crazy lady asking all the questions when you go out to a restaurant. There is some isolation behind not being able to eat what other people are eating. All cultures enjoy meals and food as a part of their rituals, celebrations and daily lives and the struggle to not eat and enjoy the way everyone else is a REAL STRUGGLE!!! I am so grateful for so many people who create recipes, products, blogs, videos, specialty shops who can meet the needs of this community and help people who have special dietary needs not feel like they have to give up all that they love or feel like the odd man out. So many good lessons learned these past two years. So much progress towards health. And such a better perspective than I had when I was diagnosed.