I'm feeling the need to post this for a number of reasons. Firstly because when I'm old and don't remember things I'll come back here and read these words and wonder why the things which preoccupied me in 2013 were so important at the time. And because someone, somewhere might have something interesting to say on the matter. So here goes.
When I was growing up being a 'fussy eater' was one of the worst criticisms that I could imagine. I prided myself on 'eating anything'. Eating a broad range of foods and being somewhat adventurous in my choices were all part of what made me, me. Food is an important part of our life as a family and helping my kids to develop an excitement and a great relationship with what they eat is important to me.
So it came as a kind of gut wrenching (literally) suprise to discover I could no longer tolerate wheat.
The irony being my hitherto complete lack of sympathy for anyone professing any sort of intolerance. Let me explain.
Greig's mum has an allergy to dairy and a severe intolerance of wheat. Even the tiniest amount of either of those finding their way into her digestive system has serious and unpleasant consequences for her. So it really used to wind me up when people literally jumped on the intolerance bandwagon when really the consequences for them were much less serious or gasp completely imagined and not at all real. For every person with a fake intolerance they make life harder for people with actual problems with these things. When every second person is professing to needing special dietary requirements the whole thing becomes a bit more muddied and less serious.
But now I find myself joining the ranks of the gluten free brigade. You have no idea how much it kills me to type that. I imagine it might take me several years to say it out loud.
I made this discovery entirely by accident. I inadvertently gave up wheat for a week. Eschewing carbs for fruit and veg in an attempt to drop a couple of pounds in the lead up to Christmas. But that all went wrong when I was offered a bacon sandwich which I was powerless to refuse. Come on, don't judge me it was a bacon sandwich for goodness sake.
And then my stomach blew up like a comedy blimp almost instantly. I would share the photos I took but there's enough weirdness on the internet already. I was simultaneously fascinated and appalled. So bizarre.
Then I didn't feel so good. In fact I felt absolutely awful. Could it really be the bread? I had to test this theory several times over that weekend. Everytime I ate something wheaty I felt terrible. Rough as.
So I did what we all do. I googled it, and in the process scared myself a bit.
Looking back over the last few months (years) I've frequently felt exhausted (who hasn't?), had painful mouth ulcers, frighteningly frequent headaches, had blistered dry skin on my hands (art teacher hazard) and had the kind of low level digestive issues I imagine we all experience from time to time.
I came across home testing kits for Coeliac Disease. (CD) I got one, I tested positive for coeliac using the at home blood testing kit.
I stopped eating all wheat products and made an appointment with my GP to find out more. Sometime in the week before my appointment I read that it's essential not to give up wheat before having a confirmed diagnosis for CD. I tried to eat some wheat and vomited. And spent a lot of time in the smallest room in the house. So the wheat eating had to stop.
My GP was less than helpful to be honest. He agreed to take blood on the basis of my home testing kit adventure but seemed to think it was unlikely I had CD and suggested if I felt better I should give up wheat. This is in complete disagreement with the NICE guidelines for diagnosing CD. He also mentioned bowel scopes - which would be odd as with CD it's the villi of the small intestine which is damaged - but I'm not the one with the medical degree and I was happy to stop eating stuff which made me sick so we went with that.
It turns out the blood test run by my GP was negative, probably because I'd eaten so little wheat in the 2 and a half weeks leading to the test. From the information I can find a false positive from my at home test is unlikely. So do I have CD? Is it important to know?
In the weeks since then avoiding gluten has completely relieved my symptoms. On the couple of occasions I've eaten gluten or been contaminated (I feel ridiculous using that word) food it's been, um, messy.
I'm now conflicted. Do I have an auto immune disease or just an inconvient intolerance? The only way to know for sure is to 'gluten challenge' for at least 6 weeks before being tested again. Then if blood tests are positive continued gluten eating for however long it takes to undergo biopsy. Or should I just get on with being gluten free, settling myself onto this bandwagon reserved for the carb free freaks? What say you internet?