My Search for Answers: An Update on my Health

Me and my buddy Coach

Me and my buddy Coach

My Search for Answers: An Update on my Health

It’s been a while since I wrote a post about my health status and primarily it’s been because I feel in limbo. You might remember that I attended the International Celiac Disease Symposium in September hosted by the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center. During some of the sessions, I realized my diagnosis of celiac disease wasn’t as conclusive as the doctors were suggesting nor did I have the correct tests done when I was diagnosed in January 2012. I left there on a mission. What is really going on with me?

I sought a second opinion from a gastrointestinal doctor recommended by other celiac disease folks in Columbus, Ohio. I knew time was of the essence because we were scheduled to move out-of-state mid-October. Dr. Salt reviewed all of my previous tests and said he wasn’t sure I had celiac disease. My tests were out dated and inconclusive. He believed I may have Chron’s disease. He also felt my thyroid and felt lots of nodules and said I needed to follow-up with an endocrinologist once I got to Virginia.

My upper and lower scopes were scheduled and the doctor performing the tests had some choice words for the doctor that previously diagnosed me. It wasn’t encouraging. On a wonderful and positive note, my intestines looked great! But, I’ve been strict about living gluten-free for 2 years now, so likely any damage would have healed during this time. It made me feel better though knowing my innards are looking healthy.

Dr. Salt ordered a small intestinal bacterial overgrowth hydrogen test, which was a piece of cake. The most difficult thing about the test is fasting and the cost. Insurance didn’t cover it. His office called me 2 days before we moved out-of-state to say I did test positive for SIBO. I needed to follow-up with a gastrointestinal doctor in Virginia. I took it upon myself to go on a gluten challenge. There was no way to get an accurate diagnosis and testing if I was gluten-free. Which leaves me to a reminder to all of you reading this, please don’t stop eating gluten until you’ve had all of your testing completed! I’ve been eating gluten once a day for the last 8 weeks to confirm my celiac diagnosis. Doubling down on probiotics has helped with the stomach aches but I can tell you my joints hate me, my pants don’t fit anymore, my migraines are occurring more frequently, my joints are tingly and almost feel numb, I’m sleeping all the time and I’m feeling more sad/moody/anxious than usual (some would call this “brain fog”). I wouldn’t recommend doing this on your own but I’m stubborn and on a laser focused mission to find answers. I do know at least that gluten affects me regardless if I am confirmed with celiac disease or they tell me I have non-celiac gluten sensitivity. I don’t care, I know how I feel now with and without it. Without gluten is the answer.

Once we moved to Virginia, we transitioned to new health insurance which took about 2 weeks to finally get that situated and then I’ve been trying to get doctor’s appointments here. I did get my thyroid ultra sound which is positive for Hashimoto’s but they also found a small lump/cyst which I will now need to follow-up with a surgeon for a biopsy.

I’ve been to a OBGYN here to get established as a patient to help me with my endometriosis. I’ve been to a general practitioner to help me get whatever is going on with my body figured out and to follow me through all my treatments. I’ve been to an endocrinologist who I was very unhappy with when he told me to investigate bariatric methods for weight loss and suggested I go on a 500-600 calorie diet all while explaining he has at least 3 patients a day with the exact same symptoms as I do but he has no answers!! What the hell? Very encouraging. (sarcasm noted)

My new primary care physician was great. I went in there will all my medical records, test results and my own written bullet point summary of my health situation. She confirmed that I do have both of the celiac genes, we discussed me feeling better on a gluten-free diet and now that I’ve been eating gluten she ordered the correct and most updated celiac blood tests. She also ordered tests for arthritis, thyroid problems and some deficiencies.

During the celiac disease symposium, I learned the following things about properly diagnosis celiac disease:

The 4 out of 5 Signs Rule for having celiac disease – you should have 4 of 5 of these done in order to diagnosed celiac disease:

1. Presence of signs and/or symptoms compatible with celiac disease
2. Positive serology testing (TTG +/- EMA)
3. Compatible HLA genes (DQ2 e/0 DQ8 positive)
4. Positive internal biopsy with enteropathy (damage) typical of celiac disease
5. Resolution of symptoms with a strict compliance with a gluten-free diet

Well, now I know I have #1, #3 and #5 but #4 was normal and #2 came back normal after eating gluten again. She also did extensive testing for the thyroid problems (only after I did all my research online to make sure I got the exact tests needed for proper diagnosis). Those results haven’t come back yet.

So what does this mean?

  • I still need to follow-up with a gastrointestinal doctor here in Virginia and have another colonoscopy to see if I have any damage to my intestines.
  • I need to follow-up with a new endocrinologist about my thyroid and the biopsy.
  • I might have non-celiac gluten sensitivity and that’s okay. After this trial period I know living gluten-free for the rest of my life is the only option for my health.
  • I’m dedicated to living a gluten-free lifestyle and supporting and advocating for all of us (regardless of your reason for living a gluten-free life!)
  • I’m going to continue to search for medical answers and share my story with all of you to help you too!
  • I’ve learned that nothing is ever cut and dry with auto-immune diseases.
  • And finally, but maybe most important, I feel completely betrayed by my other doctor. I trusted him. I thought he knew what he was doing and finally found my answers. I am angry all over again.

The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness has an entire section on their website covering non-celiac gluten sensitivity. In reading it for research on this blog post, I know notice that I have every single one of those symptoms for NCGS. Look at what they say directly from their website:

What are the symptoms of non-celiac gluten sensitivity?

Non-celiac gluten sensitivity shares many symptoms with celiac disease. However, according to acollaborative report published by Sapone et al. (2012),  individuals with non-celiac gluten sensitivity have a prevalence of extraintestinal or non-GI symptoms, such as headache, “foggy mind,” joint pain, and numbness in the legs, arms or fingers. Symptoms typically appear hours or days after gluten has been ingested, a response typical for innate immune conditions like non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

If the symptoms are so similar, how is it different from celiac disease?

Non-celiac gluten sensitivity has been clinically recognized as less severe than celiac disease. It is not accompanied by “the enteropathy, elevations in tissue-transglutaminase, endomysium or deamidated gliadin antibodies, and increased mucosal permeability that are characteristic of celiac disease” (Ludvigsson et al, 2012). In other words, individuals with non-celiac gluten sensitivity would not test positive for celiac disease based on blood testing, nor do they have the same type of intestinal damage found in individuals with celiac disease. Some individuals may experience minimal intestinal damage, and this goes away with a gluten-free diet.

Research has also shown that non-celiac gluten sensitivity does not result in the increased intestinal permeability that is characteristic of celiac disease. Increased intestinal permeability permits toxins, bacteria and undigested food proteins to seep through the GI barrier and into the bloodstream, and research suggests that it is an early biological change that comes before  the onset of several autoimmune diseases.

What I really want you to take away from this blog post and the reason I share the detailed account of my journey with this is you know are armed with extra information on your mission for answers. Hopefully, some of you reading my blog will realize you have similar symptoms as me or you have more information than before to get accurate testing and become and advocate for your own health. No one knows your body like you and it’s essential to put that information together with the medical world in order to get correct diagnoses!

Of course, I will keep posting about my journey and I would love to hear any of your stories. Any of you going through the same thing? Have you been through the same thing? 

Many of my readers not only learn from me but from your comments as well, please feel free to share your information in the comments section below. 

Your TMI celiac and gluten-free advocate,

Rebecca

I"m okay with being gluten-free forever - I live near Sprinkles cupcakes now and their GFree Red Velvet is to die for.

I”m okay with being gluten-free forever – I live near Sprinkles cupcakes now and their GFree Red Velvet is to die for.

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Comments

  1. Amanda Yoder says:

    Wow you amaze me (and inspire me somewhat) to spend the time and money to keep trying to figure this out! I know I’ve been helped by going strict gluten free and have a reaction to even the tiniest bit, but no Dr. has helped me–the primary care just said well if you feel better, keep doing that and a gastro I went to see just wanted to do the scope, which I’m uncomfortable with as a first step–I like to leave my insides alone from machinery if possible. I worry about down the road because I don’t have the documented illness and I had already unknowingly done the elimination diet before going to the Dr. the first and when I tried to re-start gluten (just one slice of pizza), I had constant stomach pain to the nth degree and constant diarrhea!

    • Rebecca Black says:

      HI Amanda! Thanks for your comment. I guess I promised myself that I would chronicle my entire journey and it’s my mission now to makes sure my own health is under control. I am fortunate we have health insurance and can afford the medical procedures. If anything, my experiences can help all of you in finding your own answers in this crazy journey! Thanks for your comment :)
      Rebecca

  2. Wow you are beautiful and glowing!! You can see when someone has been living gluten free, they are so much more attractive. I’m finally going for all my tests and colonoscopy next week Friday whoop whoop!!

    My gastrointestinal doc said that if you need to be on the gluten challenge for at least 3 months if you have been off so long, or else you will get a sure fire false negative.

    With regards to your thyroid, I hope you are avoiding all forms of soy! (Please investigate further on the link of soy and thyroid issues.) Going off gluten, I upped my intake of soy which had disastrous effects on my thyroid.

    Good luck beautiful lady, I love your posts! xxx

    • Rebecca Black says:

      Susan – Soy is definitely on it’s way out of my diet. I never really paid attention to it because dairy made me so sick. Especially when I bought fancy coffee drinks, they only offer soy or regular milk/cream. Hopefully, my new gastro doctor here in Virginia will really be able to put me on the right track.

  3. Allison Love says:

    I got diagnosed two years ago with Celiac. I only had lab work done because I have a congenital heart defect and putting me under sedation is more dangerous to me.The gastroenterologist I saw at my local hospital wanted to do a scope even though he knew that I had a congenital heart defect. I had a lot of questions for him which he didn’t answer. I am now switching my care to a new gastroenterologist at the hospital that I go to for my cardiac care. I am nervous but excited to see what the new gastroenterology team has to say. I am looking forward to getting the answers to my questions especially because I am getting ready to leave my community college for my local university if I get in. Anytime I get a little bit of gluten by accident my gi symptoms come back worse each time. I am down for at least a week or two. I know that I am lucky to have my state medicaid which will cover appointments and tests with specialists.

    • Rebecca Black says:

      Allison- Bravo to you for taking control of your own health and getting a second opinion. I commend you for that because I know it can be tough. Thanks for sharing and good luck on your journey! Rebecca

  4. I’m sorry to hear you are going through all of this. I know how frustrating it is to think that you have all your health problems figured out, only to feel that there is still something not right. I was diagnosed with NCGS after a rule out of celiac. I felt 90% better after going GF, but three years after I was diagnosed I started having symptoms again. This past April I found out I have other food allergies and after removing those foods from my diet, I’m finally feeling better. As the wise Ben Franklin said, “energy and persistence conquers all.”If there is one thing I have learned from my experience, it’s that I am my own body’s expert, and will keep advocating for myself, and my health. Good luck in your continued search.
    Candice recently posted…AllerEnergy: Soft Pretzels!My Profile

    • Rebecca Black says:

      Candice- Thanks for sharing and now I know that this is a pretty common phenomena. It’s very frustrating when you think you found the answer only to find yourself looking at Pinterest in a doctor’s office again. I’m finally started to get some better answers and working on adjusting my diet as well to maximize healing for my body. Love the Ben Franklin quote – that’s my mindset right now!
      Rebecca

  5. Hi PLC
    I have been following your blog since last year when my 12 year old daughter started having skin issues, and GI issues. She was scoped, blood work etc. All neg for celiacs. They told us she has IBS. When we removed gluten from her diet she stablized and has been gluten free for a year now, yet still has ongoing boils. She has been diagnosed w/ a skin disease, she gets boils. It is classified as an autoimmune disease. You have many autoimmune diseases too. I believe all celiacs, as well as all autoimmune issues stem from “leaky gut”, which your Doctor will not acknowledge. I had a stool test done on my daughter by Enterolabs, which analyzes what foods you are reactive too. She is reactive to gluten, egg, soy and dairy. We are working with a naturopath to try to heal her gut. This is all new to me, I am not a new age hippie type person, but have learned so much about medicine, etc. Per what i have read, immunecells in our gut have become sensitive to proteins from certain foods or bacteria. These immune cells launch an attack (autoimmune response) whenever these proteins (our triggers) are present. Hashimotos or Graves disaces is when autoimmunity attacks the Thryoid gland. We all have to be our own advocates out there (in this case I am my duaghter’s!). good luck in your search, i hope you consider researching my theory!

    • Rebecca Black says:

      Thanks for sharing your experience with me and my readers! It’s times like these that eventually help others the most. The more we can talk about the issues like this in our lives, in a community that understands, the easier it is to be an advocate for your own health. You are correct about auto-immune diseases. They love to hang out with each other in our bodies. I’ve always found that fascinating. I’m glad you finally found answers and are on the road to recovery with your daughter.
      Rebecca

  6. There are other testing options that can tell you about celiac and food allergies so that you dont have to eat gluten. Its through DNA. A good site for information in general. I recommend Gluten Free Society. If I hadnt found this site and doctor. I would be getting sicker so I offer this as support to you so that you will get better and get the correct diagnosis. Good luck.

    • I stopped reading your blog as I knew you were on the wrong path and leading people to hell that need help.

      BUT: I am proud of you now and hope you have reached all the people you miss lead on your blog. I can tell you I did read it but stopped when I could tell you were not leading people down the correct path.

      My story is almost like yours but I had gut problems that had to be address before I got to the point that I could say. I have my health back with damage, because I couldn’t find help. I had a blood count of 7, I hadn’t eaten wheat and dairy for a year my DR said I had to eat gluten and thru it up in the hospital…She then said you have Celiac Disease, but the 27 biopsy’s showed nothing. BUT did make me want to look it up on the internet to get help that lead me to the correct testing to prove my feelings. Glad that you found the correct path for your health and now can help people.

      I am so glad that you got help and now will help everyone that need it when they find your website. I will not delete your emails. Thank you for tell us. (I don’t know why I even opened this email, but do now)

    • Rebecca Black says:

      Thanks for the comment Connie! I’m glad you are feeling better and I appreciate your comment :) Rebecca

  7. Your story sounds so familiar to mine. I am now trying to find some new Dr.’s since as of the new year I am no longer HMO. I think I needed to get all these tests done too. I asked my last Dr. and she said no, just continue eating GF. You have an intolerance. They never tested me for Celiac’s until I was GF for 3 years. They then wanted me to go back to eating Gluten for 3 months. I just did this, but gained 30 pounds. I feel like a fat, gross cow. They then tell me that I needed to lose weight cause now I am overweight. Thanks so much for this blog. I know that I am not alone.

    • Rebecca Black says:

      Thank you Sharon for leaving a comment. I appreciate it! You are not alone and we can get though this with the support of each other and sharing our experiences with others. That’s why I started PLC. :) Rebecca

  8. Hi Rebecca,

    First off I would like to say that I have Crohn’s Disease, which is why I follow you! I eat a diet free of gluten, most dairy, corn, soy, peanut, tomato, flax, lentils, peas, pineapple, grapefruit and more because those things irritate me. I am 19 and have had it since I was 12. If you need anything, feel free to email or Facebook me. You’re posts have helped me through some tough times and gave me hope about feeling good and having lots of food options. Keep doing what you’re doing, you are close to answers!

    XO,

    Alexa

    • Rebecca Black says:

      HI Alexa! Thank you for your message. I love that I’m able to help you even though we have different health problems. I must say being ages 12-19 and going through this, you will be able to conquer the world! Rebecca

  9. Shannon Martin says:

    Hello,
    Your story sound so familiar too me. I was diagnosed with Endometriosis two years ago. One year ago I had surgery to remove as much of the Endometriosis as possible. During the surgery the doctor found out I did not have it at all but had an abundance of Scare Tissue growth throughout my abdomen, from a previous surgery. The mis-diagnosis of the Endometriosis is very common for Abdominal Scar Tissue overgrowth. I never truly felt any better after the surgery a year ago and came down with some sever symptoms that were extremely difficult to diagnosis. Every test I took came out beautiful. All I wanted to hear from the doctors was that they had a bad test result and that they knew what was wrong with me. My doctor suggest that I try to go Gluten, Corn and Soy free about 5 months ago. Slowly most of the problems slowed down but still have not gone completely away, I have found Soy to be just as bad as Gluten for me. Then 2 months ago I was diagnosed with SIBO. I have found that going off of all flower (of any kind), yeast and especially sugar products makes a massive difference. Even Gluten-Free cupcakes and cookie make the SIBO worse. I have recently gone on a Candida diet plan with minimizes yeast, gluten and sugars into your system and have found it to be the best thing I could do for myself.

    • Rebecca Black says:

      Thank you Shannon for sharing your story. I realize this is such an ongoing journey but it is completely frustrating at times. I’m working on changing my diet all over again and re-evaluating what foods my body responds to! Again, Thanks for the comment. Rebecca

  10. I’m glad I read this. At first I wasn’t because I felt like this story would hit closer to home for me. Well sounds alot like it would. Thanks so much for this post. I look forward to hearing more about your diagnosis.

    Ronnie

  11. Hi Rebecca, i too have done loads of research on all of this. This is the first time i hear about the part about non celiacs wont test positive on blood tests. Could you verify what you mean by this. Do you mean the genetic testing or the TTG test. Knowing this part helps me answer alot of questions. Thank you for all your hard work. I am a huge advocate for celiac and getting the proper diagnosis before going gluten free. Once you make the switch it is very difficult to get all the aswers. I am always advising for people to do all the testing before going gluten free.

  12. I have 5 out of 5 of the indicators listed above. :) My biopsy results were negative but gastro says the visual scan done when they were taking tissue samples of my badly damaged intestines was enough to make the diagnosis. I had also been told by a rheumatologist (who was the one who finally did the blood work for Celiac and made the initial diagnosis) to go ahead and start the gluten free diet immediately. So I had been GF for 2 weeks when I had the endoscopy.
    It’s been 5 years since going GF and I feel much better, but am not symptom free because of other health issues.
    In the 5 year journey, I have been diagnosed with interstitial cystitis (a bladder condition thought to be autoimmune), hiatal hernia, GERD, colitis, and endometriosis. Prior to being extremely ill 6 years ago, I was pretty normal. I was a little overweight, tired a lot, migraines, seemed to get a few viruses (cold, flu, sinus infections) a year. Then my immune system just crashed under severe stress. Good news is, I rarely get sick anymore and I am at a healthy weight. I just have a lot of bowel/bladder issues. A follow up endoscopy last year revealed that my intestines were completely healed, but also that I had the hiatal hernia and GERD. Then a colonoscopy revealed the colitis. I have good days, I have bad days, but I am convinced that gluten is evil. :) When my middle daughter started getting migraines at 9 years old, was tired all the time and got severe stomach pain, we had her tested. She didn’t need the gene test because obviously she would have had it (because of me), but the endoscopy and blood work were positive. The specialist she saw said it was the highest indicators she had ever seen. She hasn’t had a migraine or stomach ache since going gluten free. She enjoys soccer and softball and is exceling in school! OMG, I went on and on! :) Good luck to all of you trying to find the answers, but in my opinion going gluten free can only help regardless of who you are!

  13. Hi, I have celiac. I deal with joint aches, headaches, other daily side effects. In September, I started reading Kimberly Snyder’s Beauty Detox book. I lost weight & never felt better. I had a lot of energy. The only negative( for me) was the Food item she suggests to eat in moderation is corn. Corn is a big no-no for me. It’s on the highest side effecting the list of food intolerances. Other than that, I loved her advice. Her recipes. Her science to back up her reasoning, helps wrap your mind around why, what you’ve done in the past doesn’t work. After a week of following her plan, every terrible side effect deminished. I loved how I felt.
    Then at thanksgiving until now, I started eating all the staples (GF of course) and stopped following her advice on when to eat (which is not painful like the detox diets I’ve tried in the past. ) . I’ve had very low energy, body aches and pains, drinking more coffee and alcohol, feeling super dehydrated even though I’m drinking water. now coming down with a bad cold and over all feeling slumpy. When i was taking her advice and sticking to her plan, I felt I was able to fight off colds, and I did.
    After reading many diet books, trying weight loss supplements, teas, seeing a neutritionist, chiropractor for weight loss, Kimberly’s book is the best fit for me. It’s about life changes & I want to feel great again, so I’m re-reading her book. :) if you don’t want to buy her book, her website & almost daily emails gives great tips. Google her. :)
    kunzfamily recently posted…Here comes the Funky smile…My Profile

  14. Would you recommend Dr. Salt. I live an hour and a half from Columbus. I really need a Dr. that understands Celiac.

    • Rebecca Black says:

      I loved Dr. Salt! Yes, I would recommend him.

      • Thank thank you thank you. Dr. Salt was wonderful. Many miles to go in this journey but he was/ is so good at listening to what I described as pain and needs. He was the first ever to hear what I said…….I am starting to be hopeful.

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