I really, really wanted to call this blog post Running for Washrooms, but decided to not be so crass. As I’m writing this, I have no idea how long it’ll be, so hopefully you’ll read to the end even if it ends up being super long. Also, things started a long time ago so the minute details are a bit fuzzy, but the story is the same!
My first symptom appeared in 2005 at the age of 19. I was in my first semester of college, stressed but managing it, which is why when I lost 35lbs, was losing my hair, feeling exhausted even though I slept 10 hours a day, and the last symptom which finally prompted me to go to emergency rooms was an unexplained tightness in my throat like I was constantly choking, but especially when eating. During this time unfortunately my regular GP was on vacation, so what should have been an easy diagnosis with a blood test, wasn’t. I kept insisting I had a thyroid problem(thanks to Dr. Google) but the ER doctors kept insisting it was dehydration, an allergy, all in my head(that was really nice), or that I was anorexic but was trying to cover it up and they all insisted on not taking my blood until the very last doctor.
3 weeks later, when I was about to go back to school for my second semester of school, I had an appointment with my GP, and sure enough I had hyperthyroidism.
For the next 5 years of school, I ate anything and everything. No food was off-limits, but I was always nauseous(not to the point that I thought I was going to throw up, just more of an uneasiness in my stomach), was losing my hair at an alarming rate and I always took Pepto-Bismol shots before and after I ate at restaurants.
Then in the fall of 2010, The Mister and I moved in together. We started trying to eat better, but we thought that meant eat less meat, and more fruit and vegetables, which sounds good but we replaced it with whole grains. I think you know where this is going don’t you? Yup, my stomach pretty much exploded. I was bloated always, my stomach HURT and made the most embarrassing noises after I ate, and I couldn’t leave the house without being hopped up on Pepto-Bismol, Immodium and Gravol. During this time, of heavy gluten consumption I started getting a horrible pins and needles feeling in my hands and feet but I chalked that up to poor posture or too much time on the computer.
In November 2012, I had enough, I had to figure out what was wrong with me, so I went to a walk-in clinic since I didn’t have a GP in Toronto. The doctor was very nice there, but probably misinformed, he asked me a ton of questions and he scheduled me to have a colonoscopy and endoscopy for the middle of December, and basically said to me it’s probably Crohn’s, colitis or Celiac Disease. You should stay away from gluten and dairy until your colonoscopy, because that can irritate the gut.
Finally, I had my colonoscopy and endoscopy and they found nothing. That doctor’s recommendation was to take some Metamucil and probiotics since it’s probably that your body has too much bad bacteria in it. So, I went home and started taking probiotics and Metamucil, just like the doctor said I should, but I wasn’t getting any better.
I wish I could say I kept pestering the doctor to give me an accurate answer since I was still having symptoms but I never did. I just kept chugging Pepto-Bismol and Immodium and went on with my life, just assuming I have a sensitive stomach. Oh! And I read everything there was about putting good bacteria into your gut, since I was convinced that was my issue. Sauerkraut, kefir, and Activia yogurt become staples in my diet, but it wasn’t preventing my stomach pain.
September 2013, I finally got a GP in Toronto. She asked me all about my medical history, but instead of telling her of my stomach problems, I kept them to myself because I didn’t want to scare her off from accepting me as a patient. The initial visit with her included blood work for vitamin deficiencies which showed I was low in B12. She told me to take a vitamin and that was the end of it.
During the summer of 2013, The Mister proposed. I was over the moon! Then my world seemed to crumble. How was I going to go all day without Pepto-Bismol? Could I go all day without eating? Since that seemed to be my only option. Planning for our wedding was in full swing so my stomach issues were put on the back-burner, again.
January 2014 rolls around and it’s time to pick my wedding dress, but then I’m confronted again with, how I’m going to actually eat and enjoy my wedding day with my stomach problems. I decide that I’m going to keep a food journal for a month and then go to the doctor and see if she can pinpoint something I’m eating. I kept a food journal and after looking at it, I’m convinced it’s a lactose intolerance problem. I thrust the food journal at her and proudly say, “I think I have lactose intolerance” and she takes a couple of minutes to read over the food journal and says, “Yup, it could be or it could be Celiac Disease.” By this time, I’ve heard of Celiac Disease, but I was fully unaware what going gluten-free truly means, so I was very naïve. She schedules an endoscopy for two days from then, and I go and get my blood drawn right after seeing her.
The next day the doctor’s office called and told me my blood test was positive for Celiac Disease. Then, the day after that I went in for my endoscopy and was told once I woke up that I positively have Celiac Disease.
Most people still feel crappy after going gluten-free because their gut needs to heal but it seemed like a couple of weeks later and I no longer needed to take my drug cocktail. It was so freeing!
Even a year later, I say it’s the best thing that ever happened to me. Why am I so positive when my entire way I eat and live had to change? Simple. I eat better, I feel better and most importantly, I got my life back.