Friday, January 4, 2013

Why my Stomach Hates Me

I had another blood test, this time for gluten intolerance.  It came back positive.  I have celiac disease, which means that anytime I eat food with even a tiny bit of gluten in it, my immune system detects it as some sort of invader and attacks my small intestine.  So the reason that I have been so sick is that my body has been attacking itself.  It really doesn't help that the doctor had me on a diet of bland food and every single thing I was eating, other than the white rice, had gluten in it.  I have to never eat gluten again and after some amount of time, my small intestine will repair itself and I'll be able to eat more and more foods again.  At the moment I can handle hardly any dairy, no chocolate, no spicy foods, and the only fruit I can eat is bananas because they aren't at all acidic.

The small intestine normally has little fibery things in it called villi.  The best analogy I can find for it online is that a normal small intestine is kind of like a carpet inside.  The villi are what help you absorb the nutrients in food during digestion.  In a person with celiac disease, the inside of the small intestine are more like a tile floor, and all (or most) of the nutrients in food just slide through instead of being caught and absorbed.

Being gluten-free is tricky because there is gluten in almost everything.  Anything with breading or bread or most thickened sauces including gravy contain gluten.  I can no longer enjoy crepes, cream puffs, onion rings, chicken nuggets, or French toast, unless gluten free.  Despite G and I being broken up, we are still great friends and he is super supportive.  He doesn't grasp the fact that gluten is automatically in anything that contains flour and he's been all upset thinking that manufacturers just add this thing called gluten to food that doesn't need it.  I tried to explain but for some reason he doesn't get it.  It's weird because he's extremely intelligent.  He was all upset because last quarter he got a 3.99 GPA in his college classes instead of a 4.0.  Anyway he took me on my first gluten-free shopping trip and tried to help me find things I could eat.  He even searched the entire frozen food aisle for this one brand of gluten-free frozen dinners that I had found online called Glutino's.  They didn't end up having it.  He also found a little tiny section of the store that was all gluten-free food.  I found gluten free crackers, gluten free oatmeal (oats themselves are gluten free but one of the foods that is very likely to get cross-contaminated by being processed on the same equipment as wheat), gluten free rice cakes, and some gluten free Thaifood that I can't eat yet because it's too flavorful and delicious for my intestine to handle.  I actually ended up finding quite a bit of food that I can eat, and there will be way more once I can handle dairy and flavor and spice again.  The shopping trip took so long because I had to read through the ingredients on every single product and if there was wheat flour or maltodextrin that didn't specify what it was made from (not sure what it is but it can be made from wheat or corn or other things) or a single ingredient that I didn't recognize, I couldn't buy it.  Safeway brand products are really good about writing exactly which allergen causing ingredients are in them after the ingredients list, but most brands don't do that, so it's very time-consuming.

It's going to be a very long process.  Even some things that don't contain gluten or dairy or spiciness still make me sick, because my small intestine is messed up.  It's definitely been a learning experience and it's a real relief to finally know what is wrong and also not to have to have expensive tests that I can't afford.  My birthday is in 24 days, the big 21.  I won't be able to drink because alcohol is pretty harsh on even a normal body.  I won't be able to have cake (because gluten-free cakes are expensive) or ice cream (because dairy doesn't like me), but I am probably going to go home to spend at least my birthday weekend with my parents.  It will probably only be the weekend because otherwise I'd have to go on another gluten-free shopping trip and since they live in a very small town, I don't think that the grocery store, which is the next town over, would have many gluten-free foods.  It's a very small grocery store.  And also I want to be able to have a good time and not get all frustrated because they have hardly anything that I can eat.

So that's where I'm at now.  I'm still very very tired, sleeping as much as 12 hours a night.  I'm still having fevers, which I found out is caused by my immune system fighting all the time.  They should go away after a while.  I still haven't been able to go back to work and my Etsy shop has become stagnant.  I haven't made any sales lately, other than one sale before Christmas.  But at least now I know what I'm dealing with and that's most of the battle.  Oh yeah, there isn't any cure for celiac disease.  It's a lifelong condition.  Most adults who have it don't throw up when they eat gluten, but I do, so mine is pretty bad.  There are different levels of celiac disease too.  There aren't any medicines for celiac disease itself, but I am taking a medicine for the acid reflux that it causes me.  To make matters worse, gluten can also be in makeup and medicine, so I have to research every single food, medicine, and makeup before using it.  Also some food companies put gluten in things that it doesn't even need to be in.  For example, candy canes themselves are gluten free, but some manufacturers roll them in flour before packaging them.  This is what I'm dealing with, people.  It is not fun but thankfully there is a huge community of people who have been dealing with it for years and quite a few of my Twitter followers are gluten-free, so at least there are plenty of people I can ask for advice.


  1. It does get to be easier I promise. There are also some very delicious gluten free (vegan) cake recipes out there! So don't lose hope. We had one at my wedding that everyone claimed was the most delicious thing ever.

  2. At least you know. This will be tough, but you can do it! There are some really good gluten-free blogs out there. I'm sending you lots of good thoughts.

  3. I'm sorry you are having to deal with this, but happy to hear that at least now you know what's going wrong & how to correct it. It seems as though gluten intolerance is growing (or at least awareness of it) and I've noticed a lot of gluten free recipes/products, so hopefully things will get easier for you.

  4. I'm glad you finally have the answer to your stomach problems now, even if it is something incurable. If this helps in any way, I know Pinterest is a great source of recipes of all kinds. I'm sure you would be able to find some gluten-free ideas. :)


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