*This is going to be long, but its necessary to tell the whole thing. I relied heavily on stories people told online to pinpoint my symptoms and eventually come up with a cure, so here is my story. I hope it helps someone out there.
I wake up at 6 am, still exhausted from the relatively sleepless night before. The sky is dark, with the slightest hint that a brilliant light is hidden behind the eastern horizon. I sit up, stretch and head to the bathroom. The bathroom, a place I dread every morning. The bathroom is where I usually spend the first hour or three of my mornings. Either on the toilet or trying not to throw up the bitter bile that inevitably will haunt me throughout the day. After a couple hours, and a few forced bites of saltine crackers I pull my head up off the bathroom counter look in the mirror. My skin is red and blotchy. Dark circles rim my eyes. I make a half-hearted attempt to cover up the nickel sized cystic acne on my chin and nose. Weren’t these monster zits supposed to be gone by the time I left greasy face teenagerhood? I guess not.
I skip breakfast, the nausea is still too strong as I start getting ready for work. Thankfully I work the late shift today giving me plenty of time to recover enough to face people. I’ve mastered the art of looking normal, even happy, on the outside all the while feeling close to vomiting all over my bosses new shoes. By 1pm I am forced to eat something. The battle raging in my stomach between my nausea and my hunger has reached a tipping point. Eat now or the nausea will turn into vertigo. As usual, I turn to the easiest thing to get down, sugary breads and chocolate. By evening nausea has been replaced by a roaring sinus headache. It spreads across my forehead and behind my eyes. I eat a healthy dinner, put my children to bed, pop two extra strength Ibuprofen and attempt to fight the ever-present insomnia that haunts my nights.
Pretty awful isn’t it? I can’t believe I lived that way for over 20 years! I was 9 years old the first time I remember telling the doctor I was always nauseous. Over the years doctors have told me that I must be pregnant, I am too stressed, I have GERD, I have acid-reflux, I have IBS, its anxiety, and on an on. They all have a pill for me to take. None of them ever worked. Some of the pills even made my symptoms worse. Eventually I gave up. I decided that I was probably going to have to live with this forever.
Then a few years ago when my son was born I was nursing exclusively. I ended up going on the elimination diet because he had a ton of food allergies that were causing severe excema. He couldn’t sleep, he had colic, he was fussy. I wrote a post or two about this at the time. Anyway, so many of my own symptoms improved when I was on that diet that I decided it must be the dairy. I completely eliminated dairy from my diet. Suddenly my migraines were gone, my acne was vastly improved, my vomiting was considerable less and I lost 10 pounds without even trying. But, I still had many of my symptoms and it would take another 3 years before I found out the cause.
Almost a month ago, I finally decided enough was enough. I was sick of being sick. I finally had great health insurance and I was going to figure this out once and for all. I decided that instead of going on the elimination diet again I would just eliminate the most scientifically problematic foods. Dairy and gluten were at the top of that list. So, gluten was the first to go.
I do want to mention that I did head to my doctor, who promptly refused to get a food allergy test done and instead diagnosed me with anxiety and gave me another pill. Hmmm….
I woke up on the 3rd day of going gluten free and realized that for the first time in over 20 years I did not feel nauseous! Not one bit! Not even a whisper. I was so shocked and overjoyed I literally leaped out of bed and did a dance around my bedroom. The entire day I was overcome by the fact that didn’t feel sick. I actually wanted to eat breakfast. I was able to eat a healthy lunch. I didn’t need to start every meal with something sugary. After the first week my skin was clearer, my nausea and other tummy troubles were gone, my bad breath was better, I hadn’t had a headache at all that week and I was sleeping like a rock.
Its been a month now and I will never go back to gluten. I don’t even mind. I am so thrilled to not be sick every day that giving up gluten is a walk in the park. I have found lots of great alternatives to wheat products and on top of that, I have lost another 10 pounds and 2 dress sizes! I even decreased the amount of exercise I did that month! I feel amazing. My anxiety is better, my sleep is better, my skin is beautiful (no breakouts since going GF), no nausea, no vomiting, its amazing that a food caused all that illness.
I have had some rude comments by others however when I have to refuse an offer of food or I tell someone about going gluten-free. Some people have called me a hippie or said I am just following a trend. Some say that the only people who have to eliminate gluten are those with Celiacs. I even heard one of my favorite morning radio shows poking fun at people who eat gluten-free. They say they are ridiculous. Making it up. Looking for attention. I just look those people in the eye and say, “I was sick every day for 20 years. 3 days after I stopped eating gluten my symptoms disappeared. When you can explain that to me then you are welcome to call me whatever you want.”
I hope my story has inspired others to take their health into their own hands. Don’t let doctors tell you nothing is wrong or that they don’t know what to do. Keep searching for answers, keep investigating. Pay attention to your body and how it reacts to food. I have done hours upon hours of research over years and years to solve this problem. The only reason I figured it out is because of the media and internet interest in gluten issues. I promise that if you don’t give up you will eventually find answers.