Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A Diagnosis



I've been having some major digestion/GI issues over the last several months. So much so, that I finally broke down and visited the doctor. And I hate the doctor. Mostly because it feels like I spent years of my life laying on stupid sea foam green crunchy white paper-covered tables, being asked a litany of blush-inducing intimate questions and having wands and instruments shoved up my lady parts.

You can see how this might breed a sense of hatred, no?

But my issues--oh, my issues. I won't go into details. (You're welcome.) But something was clearly wrong with my body and I've been losing weight (that I did not have to lose in the first place) and my appetite. I also have very itchy patches of Eczema all over my hands and have just been generally exhausted. Going through all those stupid doctor visits to find out what was wrong with the baby making portions of my body actually made me more aware of how my body works. Or doesn't work, in that particular case.

It felt like I would consume things like bread, cookies, pretzels, chips and beer and then "pay for it" a few days later with the currency known as personal misery. The conversion rate is way off, in case you were wondering. I think it has something to do with the strength of the Yen. I can't be sure.

After some discussions, inspections, and questions I was told what I already expected: I have a gluten intolerance. Well, saying it's an allergy seems easier to explain why I'm saying no to that doughnut. And that coffee cake. And those cookies. And that beer. My God, the beer!

It's a bit confusing, because there are some twists to a gluten intolerance diagnosis. There's Celiac Disease, which is a (typically hereditary) autoimmune disease that causes damage to the body and can result in malnutrition and serious damage due to the body's inability to absorb nutrients.

Then, there's just plain old gluten intolerance, which it seems is my particular issue. The symptoms are the same, but it's more similar to an allergy than anything else. The body is unable to digest and process gluten, but it does not have the autoimmune issues attached. This article does a good job of explaining the difference.

It makes sense, but it feels a bit overwhelming: have you ever searched online for a list of foods containing gluten? Beer. Bread. Salad dressing. Cereal. Croutons. Soy sauce. Licorice. (huh?) Pasta. Pizza crust. Pretzels. Stuffing. Baked Goods.

In simple terms, it's the entire bottom portion of the food pyramid. You know, the big part that holds up the rest of the pyramid and keeps it from falling into a jumbled mess?

In all honesty, there are more options than ever for people who cannot have gluten. There are products on the market like bread, pretzels and even beer that do not contain gluten. It's just a matter of reading labels, being careful and spending a bit more money on what is often considered a specialty product.

For now, it's frustrating and a bit confusing. Also, it feels inconvenient. So much so, that I had a few beers over the weekend out of frustration. And today I am a hot mess.

But you can eat lean meats, vegetables, and fruits, the doctor remarked.

Yes, there is that.

Then, as the nurse was drawing my blood she asked what every nurse asks:

"Are you OK with needles and blood?"

I am, actually. Mostly because it simply doesn't bother me and also because I'm fairly certain I've been through enough blood draws to give the entire state of Ohio a transfusion. I'm only slightly exaggerating: I was on Accutane about five years ago, which required monthly blood work. Then, there was the litany of tests to regulate my hormones (ha!) that required weekly draws for months on end.

So, it's not a big deal.

Then the conversation turned to Accutane. And how it has been documented to cause GI problems. But I don't have acne any longer, so there's that. Good job, Accutane!

Even if I don't like the diagnosis, I'm just happy to finally have one. As I sipped my hot coffee and drove in to work this morning as the sun rose, all I could think about was how much I'm going to miss beer.

Because let's be honest: I will miss it dearly.

1 comment:

Erin said...

I have been here and done this. Wheat-free life can be hard, but it is definitely do-able. Especially when you start to feel better.

There is a wheat-free bear on the market. It's called Red Bridge, I think. Beer tastes pretty gross to me, so I wasn't terribly torn up about going without, but I would suggest you try the Red Brige. I've heard it's pretty good.

While you are working on getting your brain around life without wheat, I would suggest you find several things you are OK eating repeatedly for a couple of weeks. Then you can start to branch out. Think about things you like to eat that have wheat in them, and then figure out a viable alternative. Udi's bread is the best wheat-free bread I've really ever had. I could eat it untoasted, which is notable. Most gluten-free breads are pretty gross if they aren't toasted in some fashion.

Good luck!

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