Entire grocery aisles are devoted to it, restaurants have separate menus for it, and the media is abuzz about it these days. Being gluten-free is no longer an unheard of concept, and is becoming a way of living for many, gaining more mainstream ground every day. Once we learn that gluten, a protein found in certain grains (like wheat, barley, and rye), is to blame for our maladies, some of us forget that even though we have discovered our answer, not everyone has. So, for all of those who are still searching for answers and seeking relief for health issues stemming from an unknown cause, I want to share my personal experience with you. It was someone else's story that led me to the answers I needed to realize my path toward optimal health. I hope my story will help you.
I became "free" in 2008, and up until that time had lived with chronic pain and other untraceable symptoms for nearly 30 years. To put this in perspective for you, I celebrated my fabulous 40th birthday last September. That's correct; by the age of ten I had manifest symptoms of gluten-intolerance and sensitivity. So why didn't my parents rush their hurting child to the doctor for answers? The fact is that they did, many times, and the answers were at best guesses to placate my parents; a few blood tests and x-rays were peppered in for good measure to assure them that I did not have leukemia (I bruised easily) or some other life-threatening illness.
I remember lying in bed at night, approximately age 12, crying because the joints in my arms and legs hurt so badly. My mother (who has lived with a diagnosis of IBD for all of her adult life) would fret over what could be wrong, administer pain relievers and a heating pad, and vow to find out why my pale legs, dotted with purple and blue marks, would not stop hurting. The feeble diagnosis was "growing pains".
Of course, if that weak explanation had been accurate for the pervasive joint pain, it would not suffice as an explanation for the sensitive skin, weak and discolored tooth enamel, and severe abdominal pain (diagnosed as peptic ulcers at age 15) of my adolescence. These curious and unexplained symptoms were suppressed by such accommodations as special non-irritating detergents and soaps and avoiding certain foods (like pasta and dairy). Unfortunately, the weakened tooth enamel meant a copious amount of amalgam in my mouth by the time I graduated from high school.
By the time I was in my twenties, I had been diagnosed with chronic anemia and fibromyalgia, an anomaly of which (at the time) few medical practitioners were aware. Sadly, many physicians attributed the debilitating pain and fatigue of fibromyalgia to a state of mind, as opposed to a legitimate physiological state. My refusal to accept judgmental glares and pain killers as treatment; therefore, meant that I must continue to live with the pain. When the condition gained widespread legitimacy in the medical community, I was sent to several rheumatologists, none of whom could offer much more than their sympathy and suggestions of alternating heat/ice treatments coupled with pain killers and tricyclic antidepressants. I appreciated the sympathy, tried the alternating heat/ice treatment, and tossed my prescriptions in the rubbish bin on my way out of the doctor's office. I continued to live with the pain that became progressively more debilitating with each passing year.