Tuesday, March 15, 2011

My Experience

Throughout my late teens and 20’s I was plagued with terrible acne and rashes.  I tried every over the counter acne medication, dermabrasion, monthly facials, followed by alternative and herbal medicines to clear my skin.  By my mid 20’s rashes and cysts covered my arms.  I wore makeup caked on my face and sometimes on my arms and wore sleeves as much as I could throughout the year including the warmer months.  With a good job and a solid health insurance plan, I made an appointment with a dermatologist to begin what I thought would be a rigorous skin treatment requiring prescription medication.  Within 5 minutes of talking to the doctor, explaining my symptoms and showing my scars, the doctor had one request that surprised me.  “Let me see your elbows.”  I turned over my elbows which had rings of rash and scars of old rashes.   He said a blood test would confirm it but he was tempted to diagnosed me on the spot with dermatitis herpetiformis(DH); a skin condition caused by a wheat allergy also known as gluten intolerance or Celiac’s Disease.  Celiac’s disease or gluten insensitivity in the DH form, often shows the unique symptom of a ring of bumps around the elbows.  The dermatologist prescribed a blood test and called back the following week with my results.  While most people have a level of 0-10 of each of these levels in their blood, my results came back at IgA 116, IgG 168 and tTG of over 100.  In order to determine if I had gluten sensitivity or Celiac’s Disease, I would need to get an endoscopy of my intestinal tract.  After the endoscopy it was determined by another doctor that I have Celiac’s Disease and that I am extremely sensitive to gluten.   The doctor described my small intestinal tract as smooth and bright red with irritation.  The prescription:  to avoid wheat and gluten at all costs.
It took about a month of being gluten free for me to feel the results of my changed diet.  To my amazement my skin cleared and I finally felt comfortable venturing out of the house without makeup.   After a particularly bad breakout before my GF diet, I got bangs cut across my forehead and had my hair styled in a way that it framed my face.  If I could have grown my bangs long enough to cover my face like those Muppets cartoons I watched as a child I would have!  After two months of being gluten free I joined the rest of the women in the beauty parlor with side swept bangs and a layered haircut.  I felt great.   One of the most interesting rewards of being on a gluten free diet is that my energy increased and my stomach felt more settled.  I never realized that the stomach bloating and fatigue that I felt after eating a meal and in general throughout the day wasn’t normal.  I participated in club sports in college and my most often snack while studying was whole wheat sandwiches and Frosted Mini Wheat’s.  I often wonder how much of a better athlete and teammate I would have been had I been on a gluten free diet earlier and felt all of this energy I was now enjoying.   The first few months of being gluten free were really hard.  When out in public at restaurants and grocery stores I would feel tears sting my eyes as I saw the vast majority of food choices I couldn’t eat.  There were times I would leave with nothing from the grocery store or order a small salad with no dressing at a restaurant for lack of choices and my fear of being ‘dosed’.   I remember having dinner with a friend and them pushing me to try just a little taste of a dressing that I knew had soy sauce in it.  I thought “it’s just a few bumps on my arm – I’ll be ok.”  My body reverted back a few months and I was miserable.  My skin broke out, my stomach felt sick, and I felt jet lagged.  I decided then and there that there was no small amount or deliciously tempting morsel of food that would make me take a chance at not feeling the 100% that I knew I could feel on a GF diet.  I have never looked back.  Gluten free since October 2010.

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