I know people who have Celiac Disease and cannot eat gluten. I know other people who have a gluten intolerance. I know other people who've decided to eat gluten free diets just to see if they feel better (and they have). I'm currently contemplating eating a gluten free diet. I'm going to explain why, but before I do, this post may contain "graphic" (okay just icky, bowel related) material. If you don't care to hear about so-called tummy troubles, then please stop reading.
That being said... I can't believe I'm about to write about such things, for the world to see. Ah well... That's kind of the point of blogging and if it's something that has to do with my health/wellness I guess it's not so bad to include. Besides, everyone has some kind of tummy troubles at some point or another.
What made me start thinking about this is today, right after lunch, I experienced a sharp stabbing type pain in my stomach. Not a cramp, not down in the bowel, but actually in my stomach area. I thought maybe I had some indigestion. I didn't feel it in my throat or chest (heart burn) like I normally would though. I've experienced this before but just passed it off as having eaten too fast, having a stomach flu, or some other thing. For some reason it was on my mind this afternoon.
When I got home I decided to spend some time on the Internet, googling what this might be. The top things that came up were Irritable Bowel Syndrome, ulcers, gallbladder problems, lactose intolerance, Celiacs, and reflux.
Several years ago I was diagnosed with IBS, based on symptoms (no tests to rule out anything else). I have not had the same issues since changing my dietary habits and losing weight. Basically, back then I had a lot of loose stools (diarrhea) after eating, which I think was related to an unhealthy diet. That's resolved. If anything I am now more prone to constipation than diarrhea, but I am mostly regular. Constipation can also be related to IBS. Often people who have it go between the two.
I found that having a diagnosis of IBS is on questionnaires for Celiac Disease. The two share many of the same symptoms/ailments. I also read that Celiac is under diagnosed and that many times people who have it have been told that they have IBS. The common symptoms that I have at times? Abdominal pain/cramping, bloating, gas, constipation, and diarrhea.
Other symptoms that are listed on Celiac questionnaires that I've dealt with are: bruising easily, fatigue, muscle cramps, missed periods, mouth ulcers (canker sores), depression, skin issues (blotchy, eczema, rashes, itching), tingling or numbness in hands/feet (I sometimes feel like my second to last and/or middle toes aren't there...I guess that's numbness; also odd and bothersome). I also read that in people with Celiac, their liver enzymes can be elevated. I remember one of my lab reports showed this, but I thought it was because I'd drank within 48 hours of the test.
Anemia also has a relationship to Celiac Disease. Last year I had frequent blood draws because my levels were low, showing anemia (likely iron-deficient, which is the type that goes along with Celiac). With the use of vitamins (hello, iron) I was able to raise the level a little, but it was still low. It had been running in the 10s and should've been 12-16. My hematocrit (percentage of red blood cells) was also low at that time. The two go hand-in-hand. When a gulten free diet is not followed, Celiac's causes malabsportion of iron.... Anemia.
Oh and fluid retention. I always blame it on too much sodium... Maybe that's not it?
I'm not saying I have Celiac Disease. I am not a physician nor have I spoken to mine or been diagnosed with it. The symptoms of Celaic can vary among people, some have some symptoms but not others. Symptoms may vary in terms of severity. Some people get really ill and others have very mild symptoms (explaining why so many people who have it are not diagnosed). I don't eat a lot of breads, pastas and such but if I increase my intake I have noticed an increase in the abdominal issues. When it is TOM, I tend to crave things like breads (seriously, I think I ate an entire loaf over the course of a week; VERY rare for me!). I just attributed bloating and other symptoms to my period, or lack of and increase in PMDD symptoms. Generally if I skip one, my PMDD symptoms are worse (like WAY out of control). I also had more issues with gas (trapped and causing cramping/pain during my runs) last week.
There are other things too... When I drink beer I experience bloating the next day. I figured this was just because alcohol causes bloating. Other times when I've experienced stomach pain, I've also experienced other symptoms like fatigue... I assumed I just had "a touch" of a stomach bug. Because there is usually something going around at work, it was easy to think that my stomach was simply inflamed. Or maybe something was "too spicy" for me. I had a gall bladder ultrasound several years ago, but everything looked normal.
I'm curious as to whether or not a diet lower in gluten (or gluten free) would cause a change in these symptoms. I don't recall having any issues when I stopped eating so many gluten laden foods. I had switched from white flour to whole grains or whole wheats (still gluten), but I ate them much less frequently than I do now. I've allowed more pasta into my diet recently. I'm wondering if the increase of my gluten intake is some of what has lead to me having more stomach issues. They've been going on for a while, but there's always been something else to blame them on. Now I'm starting to wonder if I should be watching my gluten intake more closely. Again, I'm not saying I do have Celiac but I think that I could, at least, have a sensitivity to gluten.
Everything I read says that if a person suspects they have a gluten sensitivity, to make an appointment with their doc and continue to eat as they have. If the person lowers their gluten intake then the blood test may not show a problem. I don't mind going to my doc. I'm not particularly excited to go because of the little weight gain since I was last there. Often weight loss is a sign of a sensitivity but I'm wondering if my increased intake could cause a slight gain or prevent weight loss. Why? Because if that is what is going on with me, I tend to go more toward constipation rather than diarrhea. I'm not eliminating in a way that someone else would. Some people have larger, and more frequent, stools than others (this would be me... some days oh my...never mind...that's graphic). And bloating. In one article I read, some people with Celiac may experience a gain rather than a loss (typically those who experience constipation). That would be my luck.... I'd get the part that makes you gain instead of lose. Lucky me! Ha! I am honestly not sure which would be worse. I'd prefer neither.
While I'd like to just try a gluten free diet and see what happens, I know that's probably not the thing to do. I should probably be picking up the phone and calling my physician to see if it's time for some lab work again (usually fatigue and a general feeling of malaise is enough to merit that, which I do experience). I don't want to though because I'm afraid of the reaction to my weight gain. I don't know why. Both my doc and his PA-C are great and even at my largest, they didn't really get after me about it. They'd mention it, but not in an insensitive way that would make me want to go home and eat a gallon of ice cream, a bag of chips, an a large fast food meal because I felt so bad about myself. I usually see the PA-C more often, but both of them are wonderful.
Maybe I'll mention it to my Mom just to see what she thinks... I'm sure she'll say to call and get some lab work done. What's it going to hurt? Nothing (well except that needle stick into my uncooperative veins). At worst it may show that my levels are off. At best, I'll be "normal" and it might just be a combo of other factors.
I think that when it comes to health, it's worth checking into things... Most docs do various tests as a way to "rule out" things. If they can say it's not something, then they can check for other things. Yes, they're trying to find what's wrong, but ruling out seems to be a common way to go about this. I think a lot of us think they're testing to find something that's wrong. In the end, wouldn't you rather know it's nothing and you may just need to adjust your diet (say you're eating too much fat, for example)? I know I would.
Remember to listen to your bodies and if you feel like you should get something checked out, then do it. You know if something isn't right. I know a lot of us (this would be me) only visit the doc when absolutely necessary. I'm very quick to say "oh it's nothing" and blow it off, hoping that it gets better. This time though, I don't think it'd be a bad idea to stop in and have some blood drawn. Especially if it's going to make me feel better!!