Dealing With Celiac Disease

Sammie, my wife has had a plethora of health issues in the last few years, ranging from various tumors, both benign and otherwise to sinus infections and many other maladies. She has had trouble maintaining her weight (in both directions), absorbing vitamins and food nutrients and lately she has had no energy at all. During a recent physical, the doctor discovered that she was extremely, dangerously anemic, and must undergo intravenous iron therapy treatments to restore her extremely low level of red blood cells. The causes of her anemia were either massive blood loss, which there may be some of, or the inability of her intestines to absorb the vitamin and mineral supplements she takes, more precisely the iron tabs. She has tried to eat right, but her body craves other things.

Her chief complaint was loss of energy, rapid heartbeat and she becomes easily tired. In her words she says: “everything that I do, my body seems like it is rejecting me. It is being rebellious to my efforts to help it and is making me feel miserable until I give it what it wants.” The first thought that came to my mind after that statement was “I know. That’s because your body is female. I have been experiencing that for the last thirty years.”

But seriously, after a lot of research into the symptoms and problems she was having, Celiac Disease, or the body’s inability to absorb nutrients through the intestines, is the reason why she has been feeling so ill. The problem didn’t just pop up, she has had a certain degree of this malady most of her life, and it seems that certain people are predisposed genetically to have it. Iron and vitamin B-12 specifically have the worst absorption rate with this disease, which directly causes the anemia, and the malabsorption of vitamin D led to her hypothyroidism.

Now, I am not sure that the Celiac Disease led to the tumors on her parathyroid and thyroid, but somehow it all seems to be linked. Her severe anemia can also be attributed to her heavy menstrual flow, which has occurred as often as twice a month, with heavy clotting caused by fibroid tumors in her uterus. Many doctors as well as myself have urged her to get a hysterectomy to save her from this monthly discomfort, but her response to me is: “only if you get your nuts cut off at the same time.”

I can see her point. You’ve got to hold on to the family jewels at all costs.

Celiac disease can be life threatening if it is left unchecked and you can slowly die a miserable death from a form of malnutrition and anemia. I don’t know what scale they used to measure Sammie’s red blood cell count, but “normal” was around 38-42. Sammie’s was 4. That is pretty dangerously low. No wonder she gets winded so easily and has to rest a lot.

Treatment is easy. First we have to stop the anemia, which is what the Hematologist is doing with weekly intravenous iron infusions (at $1,300 a pop). It should only take 2 or 3 treatments he says. Then there is the dietary lifestyle change. No more dairy, no more wheat or gluten. All dairy products have to be imitation (yum), and all breads and other wheat items now have to be made from rice, quinoa, or some other grain. You have to be careful of oats, because frequently, as we have discovered, oats can be mixed with a small amount of wheat in the milling process. Only packages marked “Pure Oats” from the health food store or the organics section of your market are suitable. They are also expensive. A loaf of rice bread costs about $6.00 at our local Kroger. It is even more expensive at other stores like Publix or Whole Foods Markets. But even before the blood therapy has really gotten underway Sammie has begun her dietary changes, and is starting to feel a little better, with little being the key word here.

Much to my personal horror, I have discovered that since it is just the two of us here now, I have been notified that I will be on this diet as well. “I have no trouble with celiac disease” I told her. Many men out there that have been married for a good number of years all know that look that we get from our spouses that tells us without words things like “It’s time to shut up” or “you are about to lose this argument, so you might as well give it up now.” Sammie gave me that look, and it strongly emulated the latter of the two that I just described. The visage of that deep furrow between her brows and the tapping of her finger on the kitchen table spoke volumes. “Yes, Dear.” I replied, already making plans to keep loaves of bread, ice cream sandwiches and cookies in the refrigerator out in the garage.

“And no more beer!” she added. “Beer has wheat in it!”

Okay, enough is enough. I’ll have to get a second refrigerator and keep it in the chicken house.

Behind the tool cabinet.

With a tarp over it.

In the dark.

So, I guess our days of fast food dining-on-a-whim are over, unless I am by myself, where I will most certainly be stopping by Fahy’s Pub for a cheeseburger and fries with a cold beer. Or even two. I might even start buying some wheat beer to keep out in the chicken house.

Oh I shudder to think of what my life would be like if she finds my stash.

Well, that’s it for now, my friends. Thanks again for stopping by, and as always, give thanks to the Lord for everything, do a good deed for a stranger, and stay well.

I bid you peace.

©2011 by Del Banks

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