Could It Be . . . Gluten?

The final stop in 2002, gastroenterologist, came courtesy of a specialist in diabetes. Diabetes was ruled out, but it was very clear something wasn’t right, so the doctor pronounced me gluten intolerant.

Celiac disease.

I will never forget driving home from that doctor’s appointment, bombing down I-10 doing about 80, talking on the cell phone (I know, I know), thrilled, relieved, and stunned that someone had an answer.

Not thrilled, however, that the answer was to stop eating bread. Bread, cake, pasta, cookies…if you inhabit the gluten-free world, or know someone who does, you know the overwhelming nature of the realization that you’ll never eat those foods again.

Yes, you then find all of the alternatives to gluten-based products, but at first, you have to mourn the passing of the time in your life when you can eat without interrogating your food.

I immediately binged on seafood, fresh veggies, and fruit. Gluten free does leave you options. I hit the internet, of course, to find out whether any comfort foods from my past were safe. McDonald’s french fries and Hershey bars didn’t fit in with the whole health food binge, but I couldn’t resist. Plus, all the salt on those fries!

I lost weight, but in a good way. I was no longer bloated, and the final stages of the digestive process ceased to be nearly as violent, which I hope is a delicate enough way of referring to that whole business.

This lasted about 6 weeks. Then, of course, the gastroenterologist who was going to test me for celiac with a scope down my gullet told me I had to go back to eating gluten in order to get an accurate test.

I tackled that assignment with gusto. If it was for science, well, I would eat cake. And toast. And and and and … and boy, is it tough going back on all of that stuff once you’ve been off!

No damage to the villi, the scope showed, and so the doctor said no celiac.

That was 2002.

Since that time, and even at that time, darling husband observed that many of the doctors I saw seemed more focused on disproving what the doctor before had diagnosed than coming up with an actual answer.

I was more fascinating to them the longer I stayed a medical mystery, a marvel of modern science. Even now, I get antsy when I watch House, because I know how badly real people want pat answers and quick cures from doctors.

While I had many of the inward symptoms of gluten intolerance, I wasn’t exactly wasting away. I have a feeling that my weight made it hard for the doctor to see celiac disease as even a possibility. So, even in the face of strong anecdotal evidence that a gluten-free diet was the right diet for me, I accepted the doctor’s diagnosis and went back to eating regularly.

We are, most of the time, our own worst enemies.

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