The Last Word: Is Wheat Your Enemy?
I’m Italian, how can I be allergic to bread? Yes, it’s quite the conundrum. As a child I was diagnosed with tons of things: lactose intolerance, nervous stomach, acid reflux, hypoglycemia…you get the picture. You name it, I might have had. I’ve been dieting since I’m 14 for many reasons and began seriously working out at 17, which ultimately made me feel better. I reduced the amount of cheese and milk I ate and was always cautious about acidic fruits and other items that might upset my stomach. I never thought anything of these symptoms because my family had a history of them as well; my grandmother is hypoglycemic, my brother has “nervous stomach” and both sides have acid reflux. So it was “NBD” right? WRONG!
As all you lovely ladies know, I’m graduating in May and I’m entering a dying (sorry!) industry. Stressful? A bit. I hate the unknown; the where will I be living in July/where will I working come May 10, 2010. I’m going to be a real person, no more pencils, no more books, I’m striking out on my own. And since that’s a scary stress, my symptoms became worse and began to include little anxiety/panic attacks. I was constantly tired and didn’t really sleep well, despite my wonderfully fluffy queen size mattress. I began to wonder what else it could be, and thought I might be depressed, which didn’t really jive with all the great things I was doing.
Enter my mom’s diagnosis. My mother has been sick, on and off, her whole life. Different symptoms at different times, but sick nonetheless. She finally decided to get tested for a plethora of things, and lo and behold guess who has celiac disease? THAT’S RIGHT, MY MOM!! My grandmother went to get tested and SHE too has a “gluten insensitivity.”
Okay so now you’re probably wondering what the heck this crazy sounding disease is. Well celiac disease is defined as an allergy to wheat, oats, barley and tons of other foods that have hidden components of each of those. It can lead to arthritsis, chronic fatigue, inferitlity and cancer rates for people with undiagnosed and untreated celiac disease are astronomical. This is a life-threatening disease that affects 3 million Americans, and yet only a quarter of that population is ever diagnosed and half of those diagnosed are living the G-Free lifestyle.
I’m not officially diagnosed yet, but am in the process of being tested. I took my mom to a wonderful Celiac-friendly resturant in my hometown–Tuttoriso Restaurant and Cafe– and spoke with the owner for a journalism class profile assignment. She opened my eyes to all the symptoms that sometimes spell Celiac clearer than any test ever could. And guess what? I have, of the 12 she described, at least 10. To me, that’s evidence enough that I need to go on a G-Free diet and you know what, three days in, I feel better already. I’m not sick to my stomach, my sleeping in slightly improved and I’m not sad. I feel almost like myself again.
After speaking with Helen, the owner of Tuttoriso, I went home and bought Elisabeth Hasselbeck’s book “The G-Free Diet: A Gluten Free Survival Guide.” This book made me say “OMG” more times than you can count on two hands and two feet! I couldn’t believe that there was finally something that clicked; something that made sense out of all my symptoms that I thought were merely genetic “curses.” They are genetic, it’s just that the true underlying genetic symptom is Celiac disease.
That led me to celiac.com, a Web site and forum for those afflicted with the disease. I’m 100% committed to being G-Free for the rest of my life. It’s a weight management program and it’s a health management program. Think about, if 3 million people in America are allergic to this mysterious gluten, perhaps it’s bad for all of us.
Read up on these Web sites and see if your belly-aches aren’t just a result of too much good food; maybe you too share my enemy–Wheat.
And remember to always have your opinion heard, whether it’s the last word or not.
Your new Gluten-Free Girl,
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