Tuesday, March 5, 2013

SpouseAbroad/CeliacAbroad: My New Split Personality

So, this is an interesting development in my already cram-packed adventurous life.  My recent diagnosis of celiacs is rocking my world.  It's a bit overwhelming and hard to believe.

You see, I'm one of those folks who resists diet trends.  I'm a true believer in moderation, with an emphasis on unprocessed foods.  I'm also a skeptic.   Remember when eggs were bad for you?  Remember the cabbage soup diet?  The grapefruit diet? The juice diet?  Then the high carbs diet of the 80's?  But, wait, Atkins and South Beach turned that around in the 90s.   In the 30s and 40s, smoking was the diet trend of the times.  Need I say more?  Along with my skepticism is an inkling that diet trends are mere marketing trends, good ole entrepreneurship at work.  Remember when McDonalds had an Atkins Salad on the menu?

Today, a gluten-free diet is topping the diet fads of 2013, "about 1.6 million people in the U.S. are on a gluten-free diet even though they haven't been diagnosed with celiac disease," www.cbsnews.com.  And celiac disease is a serious matter.  For about a year now, I've been sick with the usual overseas stuff that usually lasts a week or two, not 52 weeks.  My weight plummeted, along with my energy.  I was back to having that all-day "morning sickness" nausea that I had when I was pregnant.  There was pretty much absolutely no-way I was pregnant.  We made sure of that.  Doctors thought is was stress.  Okay, but for  a year?  As you all know, living abroad is stressful, but I wasn't moving that year, we aren't bidding, and life has been relatively calm for the last, at least, 6 months.  In May of last year, I had blood tests done just to make sure it wasn't anything more than stress.  Everything came back fine.  No antibodies for Celiacs; my cholesterol was REALLY low and my calcium levels, too, but nothing alarming.  When things hadn't gotten better by the one anniversary of my Montezuma's revenge, I made an appointment with a gastro-intestinal specialist here.  I mean, really.  Enough is enough.

More blood tests showed that my cholesterol and calcium levels were even lower which indicated nutritional deficiencies, malabsorption (um, ya think?).  I had an endoscopy with biopsies done (no sedative, by the way- NOT recommended, unless you like having a banana stuck in your throat).  Lo and behold, I am one of the very few people who do not produce antibodies for celiac disease, "an auto immune disorder of the small intestine that occurs in genetically predisposed people of all ages." The biopsies were done of my small intestine which, from the way I understand it, has these minute fingers called villi which absorb the nutrients in your food and distributes them to the rest of your body.  In celiacs, gluten (this gets a bit complicated for me) somehow makes your body attack the villi that eventually become little nubbies that can't grab the food.  Well, my little villi were itsy, bitsy nubbies.  It's pretty much, hands down, celiacs.  Period.

There are two great things about this diagnosis (yes, I'm digging for the pony).  First, it can be treated without meds; I just have to eat a gluten-free diet for life.  Second, I won't be in the bathroom so much. That's a plus.

Now the downside.  In addition to being trendy, gluten-free eating is a pain in the butt (no pun intended).  And here's the kicker.  The following facts are the most annoying, bothersome, angst-ridden craziness of this whole celiacs thing.  

Studies say that celiacs can tolerate 10 mg of gluten a day.   

Okay, fine.  
But just, wait:

There are about 24-30 mg of gluten in a crumb of bread.



Cross-contamination just took on a whole new meaning in my life.

My gluten-free life is no fad.  No trend is cool enough to make me wear surgical gloves while I prepare toast and pancakes for my kids.  Nothing is so fashionable that it would make me say, "So, I guess I've eaten my last chocolate chip cookie. Ever."

Constant diarrhea.  Now that's enough to make me dump that fresh, out of the oven, springy, soft, buttery bread in the trash. Not without tears, though.

Good-bye gluten.  Sniff.

I'm breaking out of the bathroom.

It's time to start my new, healthy life.  


  1. I am so sorry for you, Stephanie. We are also happy, though. Happy that you have a name for the craziness you have been going through. You have never taken "the easy way" so we know you'll handle this with all of the gusto that you have approached all of the difficult things in life. You will learn how to deal with this and probably end up writing a wonderful book about your gluten-free world and make a $$$$$ on it. So see, everything really does turn out for the best in the end!
    With so much love (and sympathy) coming your way. Love, DeeDee

  2. Thank you, DeeDee! It will surely be a wild ride! Unlike the rest of our overseas "posts," this one is for life!


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