For close to a year, I’d sometimes had stomach pain that lasted a day or two and it seemed to tie into times when I ate baked goods. I decided sugar must be the cause. Finally, in February of 2011, I went to the doctor and she ran tests on my blood sugar and for celiac. Both came out normal. During the appointment, she’d mentioned some patients did well on a gluten-free diet. Even when the test was negative, she thought it was worth a try. (I’m very grateful to her for this.)
I dabbled in the diet by eliminating wheat and buying some gluten-free baked goods but didn’t like most of them and, not giving it the attention it needed, figured it hadn’t made any difference. One night a childhood favorite snack sounded appealing so I had a tortilla with butter and brown sugar. I ended up in such pain that I stayed in bed most of the next day, missing church – something I rarely do.
I went back to the doctor the next day. I’d searched the internet and was sure I had an ulcer so they did a blood test for that and some other tests for possible causes. All came back normal. The only suggestion was to go to a gastroenterologist for tests so I agreed. I had an endoscopy and colonoscopy the next week and requested the biopsy for celiac. Other than a small hiatal hernia which wouldn’t cause the pain, all was normal. No ulcer. No damage to villi.
About the same time, my husband was dealing with sleep issues that began in the middle of the previous year. I noticed that it seemed to be connected to eating sugar (really, sugar isn’t an obsession of mine) so he went to an endocrinologist. His tests put him in a prediabetic category and his other tests came back normal. I read up on it and started to see myself in the symptoms so I also went to her. Testing myself with the kit she gave me, I discovered that my blood sugar was higher than normal after eating carbs and that I felt worse when it dropped back down. We both went on a low carb diet.
The spikes in my blood sugar stopped and I felt somewhat better but the gradual weight loss I’d been experiencing for a couple of years speeded up. I discovered low carb was a great weight loss tool – that I didn’t need. I still dabbled with gluten-free but ate out and only guessed what was in something and experienced mixed results. I had odd symptoms after eating at Red Lobster. (Who would guess a lemon butter sauce would have gluten?)
I’m a writer so I’m a researcher both by nature and by trade. I dug deeper this time. I discovered that being gluten intolerant could be causing not only the pain but other symptoms that I hadn’t considered – eczema that had sent me to a dermatologist the year before, anemia and B12 deficiency, the unexplained weight loss, and more.
I ate a gluten-free diet more faithfully (but still not 100%.) I also discovered Enterolab and wanted to take the test to see if it showed anything. If my doctor requested the test, insurance would cover it but she refused. I ordered the test myself – testing for gluten, casein, soy, and eggs plus the gene test. All but eggs came back positive. On top of that, I had two copies of the gene for gluten intolerance. The results said, “Two copies also means there is an even stronger predisposition to gluten sensitivity than having one gene and the resultant immunologic gluten sensitivity may be more severe.”
This time I went hard core gluten-free and saw results. I cut out most of the soy and a few weeks later, I also went casein/cow’s milk free and felt much better. When I thought back, so many things became clear. Those times as a kid when I didn’t feel good at bedtime – the standard bedtime snack was cold cereal. Times of stress had also brought this out. In my late 20s, there was a year of stress that led to me pretty much missing my 30s. Then I healed in my early 40s. I had huge stress a few years ago when my first husband died and the symptoms started again.
After going gluten-free, I had a pity party but the book Gluten-free Girl showed me to ignore what I couldn’t eat and embrace the many foods I could. (Thank you Shauna!) One wow benefit of being gluten-free is that after being on the diet for awhile, my blood sugar stabilized so now I can eat a moderate amount of sweets without the spike.
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