Today marks an important anniversary in our house. It was a day three years ago that I can’t forget. Both my husband and I on the exact same day each began a journey that has had a major impact on how we live our lives.
It was May 22, 2016. I hadn’t been feeling well all day. My digestive system was a mess, and I thought maybe I was getting a stomach bug. I went to bed that night, complaining about how bad I felt. My husband also seemed to be getting sick. He had an intense headache, and his vision was blurry.
Less than 24 hours later, my husband would be in the ER. He was seeing double. His headache was at a severe level. Doctors were calling for tests in a way that seemed really scary and urgent.
My digestive issues were only getting worse. But for the next week, I assumed it must just be stress from trying to figure out what was wrong with my husband. We visited several doctors and specialists before we could narrow down his problem. It wasn’t his brain or his head. It was his eye.
His retina was bleeding. He was diagnosed with a rare condition that was made even more unlikely by his age and health. His eye doctor said he typically only saw this type of condition in patients in their 80s or 90s who had a history of diabetes and poor health. My husband was 47 and has never had any health issues that we know of.
At this point, my digestive system was such a mess that I could barely eat. I had diarrhea constantly and every time I ate, it made me sick within about 30 minutes. I was exhausted and lethargic. I got to the point I would work or do what I needed to do for my kids, then lay on the couch the entire evening. Summer was starting, but I was barely going outside.
By the end of that month, after visits to several doctors and specialists, we finally found out I had Celiac Disease. According to my doctor, my results were “off the charts.” We’ve learned over the last few years that I’m so sensitive to gluten I have to avoid even touching or smelling it.
So, here we are three years later.
My husband had to go in monthly for a shot directly in his eye for the first six months. He has scarring on the center of his eye that permanently impairs his vision. It’s not something that can be corrected with glasses.
The last three years have been a roller coaster for me. I’ve had some really bad days and weeks and months.
I’m the most healthy I’ve been in the last three years. I definitely still have my days when I don’t feel well. But they are less frequent, and when I get sick I seem to bounce back more quickly. I’ve made it more than a year without getting violently ill. At this time one year ago, I was getting an MRI of all of the organs in my abdomen to rule out another issue that might be causing me to have episodes of intense vomiting and diarrhea.
Here are a few things that I believe have helped me regain my health.
Prayer. Thank you to everyone who has prayed for me during the last three years!
Diet. Without a doubt, the radical changes I have made in my diet have helped my body heal from all of the damage that had been done from Celiac Disease. The disease is an autoimmune disease in which my immune system destroys my small intestines. Apparently, I have had the disease for a long time because my intestines were seriously damaged by the time I was diagnosed. Because of the damage, my body struggled to absorb nutrition from my food. According to my doctor, I was incredibly malnourished.
At first, I thought I could just stop eating gluten and everything would be fine. After six months of doing that, I still felt terrible everyday. That led me to the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol diet, which is an elimination diet that takes out all inflammatory foods.
For most of 2017, I eliminated a huge list of foods, including all grains, dairy, sugar, coffee, chocolate, soy, legumes, eggs, nuts, seeds and nightshades (white potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, egg plant, chili powder and paprika). During 2018, I began reintroducing foods, which also was a difficult journey that came with a lot of fear of food.
This year, I’ve learned what I can eat and how I can create healthy versions of foods I love. I still avoid a lot of foods, including grains, dairy, soy and nightshades. But happily, I can now eat eggs, nuts, peanut butter, coffee and chocolate! You really learn to appreciate the little things.
Sleep and stress. Managing these two factors is hugely important to my health. I have learned that if I can keep at least two of the Big Three (food, sleep and stress) under control, I can handle the third a little better. For example, if I’m under a lot of stress, then I need to make sure I get plenty of sleep and eat as clean as possible. If I’m going to be out of town and I know I won’t have access to good food, then I have to make sure I get extra sleep.
The month of May is Celiac Disease awareness month, so I thought it would be good to create a record of how I’m doing on this three-year anniversary. It’s always easy for me to remember since it’s also the month my journey began.
Thank you to everyone who has been an encouragement to me during the past three years!
If you know someone who is just starting down this path, here are some links to the posts I’ve written in the past:
Part One: A new view of food
Part Two: The start of my journey
Part Three: Malnourished in America
Part Four: Solving the gluten free puzzle
Part Five: The Isolation of autoimmune disease
Part Six: From Whole 30 to Paleo AIP
Part Seven: What do we eat?
Part Eight: A year later