No, this isn’t Irritable Bowel Syndrome – Monica’s Journey to Gluten-Freedom

MOnicaGF“Before I went gluten-free, I was sick. Very sick.
I had been told that I had Irritable Bowel Syndrome since high school with “nothing we can do about it” response for a remedy. For the most part, it was merely annoying until about 1996.
In 1996, the frequency of trips to the bathroom started to increase from a few times a day to around 12-15 times a day in 1998. In the meantime, I developed a rash on my legs and arms. It started on my shins, and I thought it was poison ivy. However, it didn’t go away. It spread.  I thought I had ringworm or some other type of fungus.

Dermatitis herpetiformis is linked to celiac disease. Symptoms of dermatitis herpetiformis tend to come and go. Symptoms include:

  • Extremely itchy bumps or blisters, most often on the elbows, knees, back, and buttocks
  • The rash is usually the same size and shape on both sides
  • The rash can look like eczema
  • Some patients may have scratch marks instead of blisters
“I also developed a proclivity for sinus and ear infections that would go on for months. They were of the degree that I couldn’t hear sometimes. I took a lot of antibiotics and steroids during this period. I made many visits to the doctors and dermatologists. I lost over 25 pounds. I had chronic fatigue and would fall asleep at work regularly in my late 20’s. I had heart palpitations just walking. I had a lump removed from my breast (luckily not cancer, but I felt so terrible it could have been). I could go on, but I’ll spare you. The bottom line was I thought I was going to die (seriously) and didn’t think I could take care of myself anymore.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of celiac disease include:

“After exhausting traditional medical routes, a friend of mine recommended that I see an eastern medicine doctor. His first response to me was that he thought I had a wheat intolerance. I didn’t buy into it right away, but once I stopped eating wheat, I felt enormously better. When I ate something with barley or oats (non gluten-free oats), I started itching like mad. Eventually, I just stopped eating all gluten and never looked back.
In recent years the medical community has recognized the celiac disease are not as rare as once thought. While roughly one in a hundred individuals have celiac disease, but the vast majority go undiagnosed. For most people with celiac it takes more than four years to be diagnosed(1). Currently, the only definative way to know whether you have celiac disease or not is to keep on eating gluten is to have an endoscopy. The endoscopy will allow the physician to view your small intestine and to take a small tissue sample (biopsy) to analyze for damage to the villi.
“It was much more of a challenge in 1999 than it is in 2013. In 1999 I walked into a Wild Oats looking for Garflava flour and nobody had ever heard of it. Wheat-free meant that oats and barley flour were substituted in place of wheat flour. Because I started gluten-free so long ago and have been careful about where I eat out, I have not kept up with all the opportunities where most restaurants now have gluten-free menus. There is a much greater awareness of what gluten is especially in restaurants. I have noticed though that many people now are gluten-free, but sometimes eat gluten, which complicates eating out for those of us who are very cautious of even small amounts of contamination.
Today there is a broader awareness of the impact of celiac and related gluten intolerance issues within our population than when Monica first started her journey. Part of the focus of the recent Gluten-Free Awareness Expo hosted at Tucson Medical Center was to share information to the medical community as well as our larger Tucson community to help medical professionals recognize the somewhat nebulous symptoms of celiac disease and help patients. Medical professionals were able to obtain continuing education credits through participation in the special sessions.

Monica’s Favorite Gluten Free Simple and Easy Dish:

Salmon, Dill, Lemon & Capers

“All meals I prepare are gluten-free and as simple as any cooking. I eat a lot of greens, veggies and meat, which are all naturally gluten-free and agree heartily with my body and well-being.”

Fresh salmon
A bunch of fresh dill (dried will do, but fresh is better)
A couple of lemons
Small jar of capers (be sure that they are gluten-free. Some capers are packed in vinegar which, dependent on the type of vinegar, may contain gluten.)

  1.  Place salmon on foil, skin down. Foil should be sufficient that it can wrap the salmon completely.
  2. Soak the fish with the juice of one lemon for 20 minutes of so. Turn the grill on to a medium-high heat.
  3. After the lemon has had chance to soak in, slather the fish with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and dump the jar of capers over the fish including a little of the caper juice.
  4. Chop dill into fine pieces and slather over fish.
  5. Wrap foil around the fish and place on the grill. Grilling time will depend on the thickness of the fish. For every inch estimate 10 minutes at a medium-hot grill setting. We start testing for flakiness of the fish at about 8 minutes with a fish an inch in thickness.
Serve with roast potatoes or rice, and grilled vegetables. We’re partial to grilled asparagus with lemon juice.

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