Monday, May 28, 2012

How I Cured the Common Cold...and why I'm going against the grain

Just when I mastered the art of breadmaking, I have discovered that I am gluten intolerant, aka I have "silent Celiac" disease, and I can no longer consume anything containing wheat, rye, or barley.  It's not a total shock, as my new Endocrinologist first suggested it last fall as an explanation for why I require so much thyroid replacement hormone (I had my thyroid removed, due to thyroid cancer, many years ago, and he felt that the high doses were due to a medication absorption issue).  A subsequent blood test looked okay, but Google said otherwise:  the test, it would seem, is not very accurate, and - worse - I had a multitude of symptoms, including anemia, lactose intolerance, frequent colds and sinus infections, migraines, a history of depression, etc. etc.  I went back to the doctor.  Still, I didn't want to give up bread and cake and normal eating!  I was HAPPY to accept my GP's declaration of a clear blood test. 

And then I went back to the Endocrinologist.  (Apparently, there is also a very strong correlation between thyroid disease and Celiac, so he sees it quite often).  He basically told me that he was still quite sure I had a Celiac issue, so I should forget the blood test which has a lot of false negatives, and take myself off of gluten.

So I did.

Mostly to prove him wrong.

The thing is, instead of seeing no change, as the blood test might have suggested, I had a lot more energy.  And I began waking up in the mornings.  (No, really - waking up!  It's a little thing, but I haven't done it properly in years, and I blamed my lack of a thyroid!).  My skin got better.  The circles under my eyes disappeared.  And, most miraculously of all, I did not get one single cold between October and May.  I work in a school.  With children.  And adults who come in sick because we all believe we are too good to let a supply teacher fill in for us.  I have never, ever, ever, EVER gone through a winter without being sick.  It was completely unprecedented.

Now, I wasn't completely gluten free during this time, as I did revert to "the old ways" during Christmas holidays, Family Day weekend in Quebec City (crepes and cheese fondue!  I'm going to miss you!), but each time I "went back" I found myself reacting more strongly to glutenous foods.  It became pretty clear that gluten is not something that should be a staple in my diet, but I still wanted to know whether I could get away with "gluten light" (as in, no toast for me, but I'll have some of that lasagna you made since I'm at your house and it's just one meal...) or whether I needed to go "not a crumb" (as required if I wasn't just gluten sensitive, but in fact was having a Celiac, auto-immune response).  Enter Enterolab, who offers testing for just such situations, without you having to go back to eating gluten.  They're still kind of controversial, but they seemed like the most logical next step for me.

And the results are in:  I am definitely gluten sensitive, and it appears to be autoimmune (silent Celiac because I am not wasting away with obvious intestinal damage). 

Part of me is mourning the loss of my favourite carrot cake.  But part of me is feeling GREAT!

I've learned that in North America, between 5 - 10% of people probably have major gluten issues, but only 1% are ever diagnosed.  So maybe I'm actually lucky.

The real irony here is that several years ago, I suggested to a friend that maybe HE had Celiac.  His doctor pooh-poohed the idea (no pun intended) becaue he didn't have that classic, wasting-away appearance.  Now that I know more, I think I might have actually been right.

Celiac blood test:  $100.  Enterolab testing:  a lot more.  Not being sick all the time?  Priceless.

At least steak and chocolate are gluten free.