Friday, August 23, 2013

GF Diaries | Gluten Intolerance Symptoms

Photo Credit: QSR Magazine
This is going to be a long one...

I am going to start a new series on gluten intolerance and gluten-free eating. Long story short, I've had chronic migraines, tension headaches, and muscular tension in my neck and shoulders since I was a teenager. I started experiencing severe numbness in my left arm six years ago (though it has improved significantly with treatment). About four weeks ago, I started feeling mild numbness in my torso and I am now starting to feel a little bit in my left leg as well.

I've explored many tests and treatments over the years from acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, chiropractic care, MRI of brain and cervical spine, sound echo of brain, EMG of left arm, physical therapy, various prescription drugs, night guard (for teeth grinding), trigger point injections, facet joint injections in the cervical spine, and plasma rich platelet injections in cervical spine - to name a few [sarcastic]. 

Suffice to say, nothing has "cured" me. And, I am still planning on seeing a TMJ specialist and proceeding with Botox treatment with my new neurologist (medical, not cosmetic).


A couple weeks ago, I was casually text messaging my friend and colleague, Anha. The topic of gluten intolerance came up (as she is now gluten-free to manage chronic pain she had for two years straight). She suggested that I get tested.

After some initial research, I was shocked at how many of my existing symptoms, and additional ones, are associated with gluten intolerance. My chiropractor (who also practices functional, holistic medicine) had mentioned nutrition on a few occasions since I have been receiving nerve and spinal treatment from him for the last four years.

So, with the very recent encouragement of Anha and my doctor, I decided to proceed with the blood test (which is not cheap, by the way).

Two days ago, I got the results. I tested positive. So, I am officially gluten intolerant.

What is gluten intolerance or sensitivity?

Gluten-sensitive enteropathy*, or non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS), is a disease in which the small intestines are damaged after eating gluten-containing foods. *Enteropathy is disease of intestines, especially the small intestines. 
Note: Gluten Intolerance is not the same as Celiac Disease or Wheat Allergy.

Symptoms

Below are symptoms of gluten sensitivity. Symptoms typically appear hours or days after gluten has been ingested. They can range from digestive, neurologic, skeletal, hormonal & immunal.

I crossed out those that didn't apply to me.

1. Digestive issues such as gas, bloating, diarrhea and even constipation. 
My doctor says 30% of gluten-intolerant patients don't experience digestive issues. 
2. Keratosis Pilaris (AKA "chicken skin") 
I've had this for as long as I can remember. I asked my previous dermtaologist about this condition and she said its so prevalent that its considered a variation of normal skin. 
In addition to a few red bumps on my arms and legs, I tend to experience a dry, itchy scalp - especially when I don't wash my hair for a day or two.
(Side Note: AmLactin is a great lotion for uneven skin texture. You can buy it over the counter at your local pharmacy or Costco.) 

3. Fatigue, brain fog or feeling tired after eating a meal that contains gluten. 
I am almost always tired (not necessarily sleepy). When I wake up in the mornings, I feel like I didn't sleep. I can get food coma after lunch, even when I don't eat sugars/carbs or overeat. And, because my head hurts all the time, I feel like my head isn't clear. I feel like I'm carrying a weight on my head/brain.
4. Diagnosis of an autoimmune disease such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Rheumatoid arthritis, Ulcerative colitis, Lupus, Psoriasis, Scleroderma or Multiple sclerosis.
My doctor wants me to take an auto-immune test to see if gluten "poisoning" (my words) has damaged any tissue. I'm pretty sure it has affected my nerves and muscles.
5. Neurologic symptoms such as dizziness or feeling of being off balance. 

6. Hormone imbalances such as PMS, PCOS or unexplained infertility. 
I get PMS major time. Hello, anger for 2-3 weeks :/ 
7. Migraine headaches 
I have had them for almost 15 years. (This is another blog in of itself.)
8. Diagnosis of chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia. These diagnoses simply indicate your conventional doctor cannot pin point the cause of your fatigue or pain.

9. Inflammation, swelling or pain in your joints such as fingers, knees or hips. 
I may have internal inflammation, but not external swelling.
10. Mood issues such as anxiety, depression, mood swings and ADD. 
I started experiencing depression since elementary (or junior high?) and it persisted in high school, college, and my early 20's. In my mid-twenties, I become more emotionally stable, which also coincided with relational and financial stability. I still experience anxiety attacks from time to time. I won't admit to mood swings, but I am very irritable and lack patience. 
11. Numbness & tingling numbness in the legs, arms or fingers. 
Read intro paragraph above.
12. Sleep irregularity
I've been a trouble sleeper since elementary school. I experienced chronic insomnia in high school, college, and my early 20's. I've been able to fall asleep OK for the last few years. But, my quality of sleep is not great. 
13. Acne
I've had acne since my early teen's, and reached rock bottom in my latter college years into my early 20's. I still have acne now. I've accepted the fact that I don't have perfect skin. Stressing less about it, having a more balanced skincare regimen, and getting older (?) has helped. I still break out every month, and I blame that on hormones. 
13. Diminished sex drive *new
This is based on this blog article from Pretty Little Celiac
That covers the most of the primary and secondary symptoms. I did not include commonly associated auto-immune diseases. 

Diagnosis

Biopsy 
I think this is extreme and should be done in cases of suspected Celiac Disease. 
Blood Test
It may be covered by your insurance (though mine was not). You can go through your physician, nutritionist, holistic doctor, etc.  
Diet

You can try to eliminate gluten out of your diet and see how you feel after 2-4 or 6-8 weeks. You can reintroduce gluten back to your diet to see if you have a negative reaction. Gluten stays in your system for 6+ months. So, the longer you can test, the better. 

Test Results

These are the results from my blood serum test by Cyrex Labs through my doctor. I read positive in 10 of 17 or so categories. Most common blood tests will check against only four types of gluten, or Celiac Disease (which, by the way, I would be considered negative).

Treatment

A completely gluten-free diet. Treatment with a gluten-free diet is lifelong. (I'll write another post on this soon.)

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If you are experiencing a lot of these symptoms, you may want to consider getting checked out. Please be advised this is based on my personal experience, so you should consult a health professional to seek any formal medical attention.

Special thanks to Anha for being a good friend and doing a differential diagnostic with me (all over text)! It's because of you that I took the gluten test.

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Sources: American Journal of MedicineMind Body GreenCeliac CentralDerm HarmonyMayo ClinicDr. Oz
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1 comment:

Ambee Jacoby said...

Better consult a specialist if it is appropriate for you to go gluten-free diet. I suggest you to visit http://glutenfreefamily.net because all that you need to know about gluten-free diet we're there.