I didn't get diagnosed with Celiac disease overnight. It was a slow gradual process.
I used to relish the fact that I had no food allergies or sensitivities, let alone an autoimmune condition. What is that? Gluten was a regular staple in my diet and I loved it! In my hometown, I used to park behind a bakery and every morning I smelled fresh baked bread and donuts. I would literally pause after getting out of my car, and breathe it all in. It was food heaven! That summer, I also worked across the street from my favourite Italian restaurant and often “forgot” my lunch.
Life was good.
I've been fortunate to travel around the world which, as a foodie, means I ate my way around the world. I researched where to eat as much as what to see. I often ate street food when I could, from empanadas in Buenos Aires to baklava in Istanbul.
A foodie’s heaven right?
I never worried about what I was eating. I didn’t have to ask about allergens. I certainly never thought about gluten. It was my friend.
B.C. (BEFORE CELIAC)
A few years ago I began to get mysterious stomach pains after meals. It happened only once in awhile. But as it progressed and happened more often, the pain would be more intense. It would start to linger longer. At first it was a few hours. Then it was a few days. There were other symptoms as well. When it was really bad, it was coming out all ends. I sometimes took a nap in the bathroom. It seemed easier.
But pain was my main symptom. I had convinced myself from the location of my pain that it was my gallbladder. It usually happened after I ate pizza or pasta. Even my family doctor thought it was my gallbladder. So did Dr. Google. I went for a battery of tests: X-rays, CT scans; even a HIDA scan to check out my liver, bile ducts and gallbladder.
Every test came back negative. I went to see my doctor again and again as the pain got worse. I felt like the girl who cried wolf. I even started to doubt myself. Then my my doctor had an idea: Why don't we screen for Celiac disease? She said her mom had symptoms similar to mine and had recently been diagnosed.
And when those blood tests hinted that I might have Celiac disease I was in complete denial. My doctor said that I looked like a deer caught in headlights. I really did. I couldn’t have Celiac disease. I loved gluten and I thought it loved me.
THE GLUTEN BUCKET LIST
An endoscopy is the gold standard for confirming a Celiac diagnosis in Canada. For the endoscopy, I was instructed to eat a certain amount of gluten daily to avoid a false negative test result. I decided to use the time to create a gluten bucket list: a list of all my favourite glutenous foods that I would miss if I turned out to be a Celiac. My swan song so to speak.
As I crossed food off my list, one by one, I realized that I was spending more and more time in the bathroom and suffering from far more pain than usual. But I had to finish the list. I didn’t want to have regrets.
A.D. (AFTER DIAGNOSIS)
Finally, the results came back. I had Celiac disease.
As I cried, I felt a mixture of relief but also a surprising amount of anger. Relief because I had an answer, and the knowledge of what to do from being a dietitian. I had done so many gluten-free teaches in my career that this should be no problem.
But the anger? How long it lasted actually surprised me. My entire life was about to be turned upside down. I knew it but I wasn’t mentally prepared for it. I was a foodie. I lived for eating out at nice restaurants.
Like other Celiacs, I have my "gluten" stories to tell. The good, the bad, and the ugly.
These stories will become the Gluten Diaries.
P.S. I still miss you chocolate lava cake.