Happy Diagnosis Day!
Today, I am celebrating my Diagnosis Day. Two years ago today, I underwent a colonoscopy and an endoscopy procedure, the results of which determined that I have Esophagitis and Celiac Disease. The procedures were part of an ongoing “What is wrong with me?” health investigation that started with my primary care doctor sending me for an abdominal CT scan which showed that part of my intestine was distended. From there, I met with my GI doctor who ordered a full work-up to get to the bottom of the severe, daily pains I was experiencing. A lot of blood work, another CT scan, an ultrasound, and lastly the colonoscopy and endoscopy later, and it was finally revealed what had not only been causing my recent pain, but the symptoms I had been living with over the years.
With Esophagitis, I have to avoid/limit foods and drinks which will lead to acid reflux. Spicy foods, salsas, alcohol, fried foods, rich foods…those I tend to avoid. If I do consume any of those, I have to take precautions or I will be waking up during the wee hours of the morning with intense nausea and stomach pain.
As much as Esophagitis is a concern, the larger focus is Celiac Disease. The gluten-free diet has been in the news and media lately as more people are limiting, or eliminating, gluten from their diets. Some have referred to the gluten-free diet as a “fad diet” and question the legitimacy of a gluten-free diet. I think a person’s health is their business and their doctor’s business; not open for others to judge or to say what works. While I appreciate the increased awareness of the gluten-free diet, Celiac Disease, gluten intolerance, and gluten sensitivity – conditions that require a gluten-free diet – are often not emphasized when people talk about the gluten-free diet.
Jimmy Kimmel recently did a segment where he poked fun at the gluten-free diet, filming people’s reactions when they were asked “What is gluten?” Charlize Theron went on a rant about gluten-free baked goods on Chelsea Lately. Basically, individuals feel that gluten-free is fair game for fodder.
It’s not funny. It’s not entertaining. It shows a lack of information and understanding.
What is gluten? Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, malt, and triticale (a cross between wheat and rye). Individuals with Celiac Disease, gluten intolerance, or gluten sensitivity follow a gluten-free diet out of medical necessity. Celiac Disease is a condition where, if gluten is ingested, the body’s immune system will attack the villi – small, finger-like projections in the small intestine that are responsible for absorbing nutrients from food – and damage the villi. Symptoms of Celiac Disease are varied and are often misdiagnosed. While a blood test exists to test for Celiac Disease, that blood test can produce a false negative, as it did with me. The sure way to detect Celiac Disease is an endoscopy which looks for flattening of the villi. Individuals with a gluten intolerance or a gluten sensitivity experience symptoms of Celiac Disease if they ingest gluten, but they do not damage the villi in their intestine.
Celiac Disease is also considered a disability as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Although Celiac Disease does fall under the ADA, the ADA does not require public places that serve food, such as restaurants, to provide gluten-free food (http://www.ada.gov/q&a_lesley_university.htm).
I choose to celebrate my diagnosis today. Since being diagnosed and going gluten-free, my life has drastically changed. For years, I didn’t know what healthy felt like. Looking back, my symptoms began when I was in high school. I now have a closer understanding of my health and my body, and I now know what healthy feels like.