Skinny, skinny, skinny. A definite symptom! (although not everyone with celiac is thin. Some can't lose weight, some don't have weight issues. There are over 300 different symptoms people can have.) I remember being put on diets to gain weight. My mom tried all kinds of things. My brothers would always call me “spider arms” or “monkey arms” – lovingly and in good humor, of course, but, none-the-less, it impacted me. No one wants to be different or teased.
My stomach. (A definite symptom!) I could push it out (on my skinny frame) far! I’d make people laugh at how far my stomach could go.
Chronic constipation through childhood (A definite symptom!). My mom was always trying new foods to relieve this issue. I remember one effort included sprinkling wheat germ on food. eek!
Pain in my side. (A very probable symptom). I clearly remember having a pain in my side and I remember having times when my side would itch (as though it was coming from the inside out.) I recall a constant round scabbed area on my right side from scratching.
SHY! I was a VERY shy child ('look at me the wrong way and I'd cry' kind of shy) - and then, as a mom, crabby, crabby. Brain fog. Of course, I didn't realize I had brain fog until it cleared. Once gluten free I felt that gray cloud just float away. Occasional errors with gluten contamination remind me of how gluten has impacted my mood----in a very big way! This is the symptom that I am the saddest about, because it is one that impacted others. Not that my physical health didn't impact others. My poor mom was always seeking answers to my not-so-great health and had to worry about me a LOT! (My parents almost lost me once from such a severe asthma attack). My health had a huge impact on my family, (and that makes me sad).
But a crabby, bitchy person can leave a mark of its own kind.
Anemia, easy bruising (very easy), low cholesterol, fatigue, leg cramps - all due to lack of absorbing various nutrients. (Did you know chronic ice chewing is a symptom of anemia and leg cramps can mean you are deficient in calcium and/or magnesium?) So many are being starved and they don't know it! Starved of nutrients vital to organ and brain health. This is a BIG deal! And for a woman growing babies, it wasn't only me affected. I did not look well during my third (and last) pregnancy. Of course, babies take what they need from mom. I was zapped. He was born with a congenital condition that left him legally blind in one eye (which I shared here). I have often wondered if it was due to the vitamins and minerals I wasn't absorbing.
Hypothyroidism. I discovered this was impacting my health about fifteen years before discovering that I had celiac. The longer a person suffers from undiagnosed celiac, the more likely they are to develop other autoimmune diseases.
As a young adult, and then for several years, “IBS.” Doctor after doctor, meds and more meds, being told I was too stressed (yes! because I was sick!). I remember struggling to hold onto weight.
Sicker and sicker – the symptoms of malabsorbtion take its toll, for sure! But oddly - I didn't look at myself as "sick." I just "was." Finally, in my early thirties, it was a struggle to get to 120 pounds. I remember standing on the scale and reading "114," my lowest point. Not good when you are 5'10" (at the time. Osteoporosis and scoliosis have shrunk me a couple inches.)
Doctors always said, "nothing's wrong."
And then I was diagnosed with osteoporosis, which is how I finally got tested for and diagnosed with celiac – at age 40!! – after a lifetime of issues.
While it took a lifetime, I wouldn't call it a "waste of years." Would I be who I am had I been healthy? No! This passion, this drive to help others avoid what I went through, is an absolute blessing. And if I make a difference in the life of one person, its worth it. Yes, it is worth it to hear and to see the difference made in another person, in their family.
Gluten free struggles or the gift of life. It is truly a gift of life; one that just keeps on giving.
Know someone with symptoms?----go plant some seeds. Don't expect them to grow right away, but there are many, many, many suffering needlessly when diet change is all they need.