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Thursday, July 3, 2008

Celiac Disease

Today marks 2 weeks since my doctor called and told me that I have Celiac disease.

I was pretty sure that he was going to say the tests were positive, but in the back of my mind I kept thinking that he was going to be like the rest of the doctors and tell me that there really wasn't anything wrong with me. That the tests were negative. That I should get some exercise, drink more water. That it, once again, was all in my head, and didn't I want to go talk to go talk to my psychiatrist?

But he didn't. He said that both antibodies tested positive, and that I'd best come see him to make some diet changes. Fortunately, I'd been reading up on celiac disease and was ready(ish) to do so.

So these two weeks have been quite the learning experience. I've thrown a few tantrums. I've made myself sick a couple times. I've even tried some really horrible gluten-free products. (There have been some really good ones, too, though!) I've spent a lot of time online finding a celiac listserv, facebook groups, recipe and product websites, and I've been checking out books from the library, too.

I'm being careful and getting the hang of the new dietary restrictions. I even went to a "fresh-squeezed lemonade" stand at King's Dominion yesterday and asked if it was really fresh or not. (It's not. It's Minute Maid with a half a lemon dropped in.) And at dinner, I remembered to ask about ingredients in the marinade on the chicken in my salad.

In the books and blogs and things that I've been reading, it seems like dealing with celiac and going gluten-free is the hardest thing in the world. So many people seem so angry and negative! I have found others who are positive, but because of the sheer volume of negativity, it feels like I must be doing something wrong by not being more upset or having a harder time with the gf issues.

I'm not trying to say that it's been a breeze finding gf foods, but it hasn't been impossible. And there are a lot of things I can't eat now. Jimmy (my son) keeps offering me food, and then saying, "oh, wait... Does it have wheat in it?" He seems so sad for me. But, honestly, I'm doing Ok. I have found new foods to eat and new ways to eat old foods, and the rest... I guess I just don't mind not eating them.

When I look at the stuff that I've always really, really craved and enjoyed (like bread or funnel cakes or pasta) it just doesn't have the same appeal to me now. Yes, I want to eat them still, yes, I've been tempted to take just one bite, but I know what it'll do to me later. It's the whole beautiful-but-deadly syndrome. Even just one bite of poison is still poisonous, right? So why do something that will be harmful? If there's something that I want that badly, I'll find a way to have it safely. If there's no way to do that, then I just skip it. There's no point in getting all hang-dog about it.

I guess what it comes down to is that there are so many things that I CAN eat. There's no reason to focus on the "can'ts". I've decided to have a positive attitude; I've always enjoyed trying new foods. I like to bake, so I'm making my own breads as I want them. My family is very supportive, too.

There really are a lot of gf foods out there, once you start looking. I felt at the beginning of these two weeks like gluten was the boogey-man, lurking where I least expected, ready to cause injury when I wasn't paying attention. What I'm finding instead is that there are oodles of foods, dressings, and sauces that I can have.

I guess that the food industries have caught on to the needs of us celiacs, because some of the books I have constantly talk about how difficult it is to deal with corporations and restaurants. I haven't really had those troubles, though. Hopefully, when we go on our trip later this month, that will continue. I think that the trip will be the true test of how accessible food is. I haven't been eating out much yet.

This disease has actually brought a lot of benefits with it. It has forced me to make a lot of healthy changes. Yes, there are still many junk foods and cookies that I can have, but it's easy to say no, especially when gf foods cost at least twice what regular does or when I'm just not sure yet what's gf and what's not.

As a result of all this, I'm eating better, I'm losing weight, and my family is eating better, too. I have more energy, and I'm not sick. I didn't even realize that I felt so sick. The symptoms had gradually built up over time, and I was just attributing them to aging, I guess. I eventually felt that something must be wrong; that's what sent me to another new doctor. I just didn't expect such dramatic changes to happen.

The physical changes that I have felt in the last month and a half, first simply going without wheat, dairy, and corn; then just without wheat; then totally gluten free are astounding. I just can't get over how amazing I feel in comparison to what I had taken for normalcy.

Here's to many more positive, healthy weeks!

Here are a few resource links for you other new celiacs out there (more to follow in the weeks to come):
A US pizza restaurant chain that offers gf foods
To satisfy your sweet tooth
Information and resources

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