Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Gluten-free me

Eight years ago, I brought home from the hospital an 8 lb. bundle of joy and a bad cough. I had all the symptoms of a typical sinus infection, so I took an antibiotic and was soon all clear—except for the cough. It stayed for 2 ½ years.

It wasn’t just a little “ahem” either, mind you. It was a terrible hacking cough that wouldn’t stop. I would soon learn that there are two kinds of people in the world: those who offer you peppermints, cough drops and ask if you are okay, and those who move to the other side of the room and look at you as if you have the plague, or in these days, the swine flu.

I once coughed so hard in a local store that I doubled over and had to lean against the counter. I recall telling the group of horrified-looking patrons, “I promise I’m not contagious!”

I’m just glad they didn’t ask what WAS wrong with me because I would have had to say, “I don’t know.”

Neither did the doctors. I coughed my way to allergists, general practitioners, ENT’s, gastroentronologists, internists, and even a dermatologist. I was no longer a healthy young woman. At one point, I was taking Advair, an inhaler every 2-4 hrs., full strength Nexium twice a day, reglen (a nasty drug) 4-6 times a day, antibiotics (for a full year and half), Zyrtec, allergy shots, nasal sprays, cough medicines of every assortment, cough drops of every variety, over-the-counter Gaviscon and Tums like candy, and some other misc. items to round it out. In short, I was sick.

Frustrated, I asked my allergist if she thought it could be something I was eating. Amazingly, she responded, no, that didn’t have a thing to do with it.

“Then what could it be?” I asked desperately.

She looked me dead in the eye and said, “Bad luck.”

Turns out she was wrong on both accounts. However, she did me a favor in that her remark made me more determined than ever to find out what was going on. I researched and tried several diets, talked to people who had kids with food allergies and then began keeping a food diary. I tried eliminating yeast, milk, eggs, cheese and peanut butter. Basically, I ate sweet potatoes and little else, and, guess what? My coughed improved.

I began slowly adding foods back and then judging my reaction, sometimes immediate, sometimes delayed. Eventually, a mom on the playground told me her doctor recommended that her son give up wheat. I did some research and found out wheat is hidden in practically everything. I gave it up and slowly weaned myself off all the medicine. Within two weeks, my cough stopped as suddenly as it began. I would later find out celiac disease (wheat/gluten allergy or intolerance) can be triggered in adults by an illness or childbirth, although looking back, I probably always had it to some extent.

To celebrate, I took my daughter shopping.

“Mom, you couldn’t have done this two weeks ago.”

It was indeed the miracle I had been praying for. I soon found out there were other people like me, even one who lived in the same town and was kind enough to stop by Christmas Eve with a plate full of homemade gluten-free goodies.

While my son sometimes feels sorry for me because I can’t eat wheat, I feel so blessed that I have something that can be controlled by diet. My ending is happy, and I tell this story not to complain, but in hopes that it will help someone else who needs it. So, despite what my doctor said, I consider myself lucky.

For more information on celiac disease, click here

1 comment:

My ADHD Me said...

What a remarkable story.

i have been through similar visits with doctors...not for the same problem, but with the same results.

i have tons of respect for the doctors that say, "I'm sorry, I just don't know. Let me try to find you a doctor that DOES know.