NB To get a diagnosis you have to at least have a blood test and then potentially a biopsy via endoscopy (eek). In medical terms it appears that you either have it or you don’t. There’s no diagnosis for gluten sensitivity. Not yet anyway but I hear it’s being worked on.
I’ve had a lot of the symptoms associated with Coeliac Disease. However, what made me decide to give up gluten was my period. I was suffering horrendously with pain and discomfort. Every month was the same and I’d be so worried a few days before. I knew what was coming. Severe pain where I couldn’t even stand upright, never mind walk normally. I was so bloated I looked like I was pregnant. I couldn’t go to the toilet without feeling like my insides were being teared apart. I was exhausted and frazzled. I always thought that the pain felt more in my bowels than where you’re suppose to get period pain. I had brain fog, anxiety and felt very low during them. I had cystitis every time. After researching, I was convinced I probably had endometriosis and went to the doctors. Many times I was told to go on the pill. I didn’t want to. I had bad side effects in the past that lasted all month and I hated the idea of putting synthetic hormones in my body to mask the fact that my body was suffering and was telling me to heal. However, the pain got worse each month and I had to do something. I even started to feel some of the symptoms throughout the month. I very reluctantly took the pill and oh did it cause havoc. They gave me a progesterone only pill because it was suppose to cause less side effects. So not only was I getting headaches and anxiety from it, I was constantly in a really bad mood. I felt detached and worthless, to say the least. The doctor told me to give it time so I did.
The first month was just as bad, if not worse, than my period normally was. It was my birthday and I was in agony. I had took some pills and decided that I wanted to go out for my birthday. I spent two hours in the passenger seat of the car, doubled over, dreading every bump in the road. I raced round Ikea the quickest I ever had, hunched over and then headed home. I spent the rest of the day in the bath and in bed and the next day my stomach was so sore. The night before I had been out for a birthday meal and I had eaten a pizza. I was convinced it had something to do with what I was eating. I looked up to see if there was a correlation between dairy, gluten and endometriosis and there was. I don’t think there were studies but real people online in forums saying that giving these things up helped.
My period the next month was a breeze. Barely any pain and I almost felt like I had finally found a cure. I knew deep down that I was masking it but for a while it was worth the side effects. Then I read a book called Sweetening The Pill. This confirmed that I needed to stop taking it. I had already been vegan for a few months and my digestion has improved so I thought that perhaps I would be OK or I could at least tolerate it. When I came off I was faced with pain again. I felt like I had no choice but to go back on it. I begun researching some more about a gluten free diet. It didn’t make sense that it would work – how does gluten affect the menstrual cycle? I’m not going to get scientific but many have reason to believe it does. I had nothing to lose so I gave it a go. I had very little pain on my next period and I was so happy. The one after that was completely pain free. It had worked. My life improved greatly after that. I also began to feel better in other ways too. My headaches and migraines decreased, my cystitis was hardly an issue anymore, I had less acid reflux and nausea, my cycle regulated and I felt like I had more energy.
It’s hard for people to understand that you have a gluten sensitivity. There’s this stigma around it that if you haven’t been diagnosed, you don’t have an issue. I can feel it though, but I don’t want to tell people I don’t eat gluten because it makes my periods really bad. I didn’t tell many people and I still ate gluten occasionally when people gave me cake and biscuits. This past month I ate a lot more than usual. I had bread with a vegan burger, bread rolls to absorb acid when I was out and felt bad, churros at a vegan festival, several cakes as people at work had made them especially so I would have felt bad not to eat them (plus they were tasty) and I had some falafel. I decided to use it beneficially as an experiment.
So the results are almost all in. My stomach hasn’t been feeling good. I’ve had more nausea and acid reflux. I had daily headaches for over a week (I used to get chronic headaches as a teenager). My period is days late (so it’s already becoming irregular) but I can tell it is coming because I have a little cystitis and I can feel a little pain. I had a week and a half of PMS. It hurt to go to the toilet this morning. Lastly, my mood has been very low. I think that’s all of it.
Coeliac Disease can be very detrimental to your health, which is why I have realised that it is very important to know if I have it or not. In order to get tested, and if the doctor will actually allow me to, I will need to eat gluten everyday for several weeks. This is the bit I am not looking forward to. I probably won’t go through with the endoscopy unless I can get a lot more sedation than last time. I had too much adrenaline and as soon as they were putting the pipe in I was pulling it out and couldn’t calm down. It was terrifying! I will book an appointment shortly.