Welcome to It’s Just Not Dinner Without Cat Hair, a place where I post recipes, babble about my animals, poke fun at myself, and generally just act like a dork.
My wellness journey started with a fierce bout of food poisoning early in 1996. After the food poisoning had run its course, I was still experiencing abdominal pain, was nauseated all the time and alternated between diarrhea and severe constipation. About three weeks after the food poisoning occurred, I finally went to the doctor because I knew I was dehydrated and wanted to make the symptoms stop. My first diagnosis in a long line of doctors’ visits – gastroenteritis. I was given suppositories to combat the nausea and sent on my way. Naturally, they didn’t work. I slowly got used to feeling miserable every time I put food in my mouth and went on with life. I dropped down to almost 100 pounds as food became my enemy. During this time, one doctor told me I just had a sensitive stomach and to eat small amounts several times a day rather than three big meals. Another diagnosed a hiatal hernia.
I moved to Illinois in May 1998, got married in September 1999, and still felt no better. I was skin and bones. My teeth were starting to break apart. My joints hurt all the time. I had to take a multitude of pregnancy tests over the next several years because I would get desperate enough for relief that I would see yet another doctor; who said I was nauseous due to morning sickness – of course, each test was negative.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome or Colitis was the next answer. By this time, it was 2005 and I’d had enough. No more doctors, no more tests, no more drugs. I had quit drinking alcohol back in 2000 because it made some symptoms worse. My fine hair had become extremely thin. I needed a nap and a bathroom every time I ate, alternating between raging diarrhea and excruciatingly painful constipation. Most of my teeth, except for in the front, were broken off; every repair made would last a few weeks, if I was lucky. Other than work, I rarely left the house because I couldn’t handle eating in public. My blood pressure, usually about 110/70, would drop down to as low as 94/60. I had migraines several times a week. I suffered brain fog and couldn’t concentrate.
In January 2006, I got very hot, my ears started to ring and the world took a slow spin – I woke up on the kitchen floor. From that moment forward, I had tinnitus and vertigo twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. I was given a prescription for a decongestant, advised to use a nasal spray with caution, and sent on my way. Every two weeks without fail, I was back in the doctor’s office asking for help because I was still dizzy and had a high-pitched squeal in my ears. This went on until April, when I was referred to an ENT. I was told I had eustachian tube dysfunction and peripheral neuropathy and was referred to a physical therapist to learn new behaviors to minimize the vertigo.
I started researching my symptoms on the internet, hoping to find a miracle cure for the spinning, ringing, nausea, the rash I’d developed on my face and stomach that wouldn’t go away. I asked my ENT for environmental allergy testing; of the 40 allergens in the test, I tested positive for 28 of them. I went on allergy meds and the vertigo and tinnitus reduced within 48 hours, becoming tolerable but not completely gone.
That still left the nausea and host of other issues that went along with it. I took a very careful look at my allergy list and found something interesting….wheat pollen. I began to research wheat allergies and found some articles on gluten intolerance. Those symptoms were astonishingly familiar. I kept reading and took notes.
Then in June of 2006, I was at work when I learned that I had advanced osteoporosis with high risk for fracture in my lumbar spine, right hip and right femur. I put my head down on my desk and cried. I was only 34.
Fate has a way of sending you in the right direction. One Saturday afternoon in August 2006, I was watching Food Network and one of their “The Power of Food” commercials came on. This particular commercial was by Shauna Ahern, a blogger with Celiac Disease, talking about how whole foods are gluten free and safe for her to eat. I felt like I’d been smacked on the head by a hammer. I knew this was the answer. I was gluten-free from that moment forward.
I felt so much better after only a few days. The vertigo and tinnitus were gone. The aches and pains were fading. I didn’t feel as nauseous. And it only got better. I had my own tests done, which came back positive. After a nightmarish 10 years, I was finally coming out the other side.
While I still have problems occasionally with abdominal pain, diarrhea and constipation (the colitis diagnosis appears to be the one doctor who got some of it right), for the most part those symptoms are gone, as well as the rash, unless I accidentally ingest gluten. The arthritic pain comes and goes. So many years of not absorbing the nutrients in my food have taken their toll; I need to have what’s left of my teeth pulled and implants done. I have reversed my osteoporsis with healthy food and weight-bearing exercise only (except a three-month stint with the injection Forteo) and now only have osteopenia in my right hip and femur. I eat well, feel well, and have energy again. Instead of merely existing as I did for so long, I’m living my life my way.