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My Battle with Gluten Intolerance

It all started the winter of my senior year. I turned in all of my school and scholarship applications and soccer preseason came in full speed. With a big chapter in my life coming to an end, I thought I had properly prepared myself for all the changes that were to come. Little did I know, these changes included a battle much different than most seniors had to face.

Around the time of winter finals, I began to notice a significant decline in my health.  Every meal I ate seemed rejected by my body. I couldn’t keep food down. If the meals I ate didn’t come back up, my stomach would swell like a weighted hot air balloon. During runs, I would get pains in my abdomen that felt like knives repeatedly jabbing into my intestines. Something was obviously wrong.

Naturally, I blamed these negative symptoms on stress. However, unlike most issues I willingly choose to ignore, this one did not go away. After a few weeks of biting the bullet, I decided to accept defeat and ask my mom what to do. She suggested that I keep a food diary of everything I consumed with each symptom that followed.  After about three weeks of logging, we would take the notes straight to the doctor. It seemed easy enough.

Well, as you probably guessed, it was not easy at all.  I logged for about two months and we weren’t able to trace any connections between food and pain. Frustrated and too lazy to deal with it, I once again chose to stifle my pain and carry on with my life.

At first I just casually eliminated lactose from my diet.  I only drank lactose free milk and I took lactaid pills with every meal. This relieved some of the pain, so I assumed my struggles were finally over.  I continued on with my life.  

Soon enough it was May.  Countless senior nights, graduation parties and soccer regional playoffs cluttered my schedule and created a hefty load of stress.  My stomach issues reached an unbearable peak.

I couldn’t eat.

I couldn’t sleep.

I couldn’t run.

I needed medical attention.

I got my blood drawn in late June. Two weeks later, I was diagnosed with non-celiac gluten intolerance. To be completely honest, I was blindsided. Before my diagnosis, my diet revolved around every variation of bread and pasta. Evidently, my favorite foods were giving me my biggest problems.  

Eliminating gluten from my diet has been the most difficult, yet worthwhile struggle I have ever faced. The first week of my gluten-free diet was the first time I had not experienced any food related pain in several months. I won’t lie and say that it has become any easier for me to turn down a giant buttery bowl of pasta, or even a cheesy slice of Benny’s.  However, four months after my diagnosis I am healthier and happier than I have been in a long while.

Non-celiac gluten intolerance is a real life issue that some choose to overlook. It is caused by a gradual wearing of the intestinal lining that helps in food processing. This gastrointestinal damage can also create sensitivity to lactose. So basically, every enjoyable food substance. Just because someone may not be diagnosed as celiac does not mean that their pain should be taken lightly. I will never forget the endless nights I spent hunched over the toilet bowl with nothing left to give.  The months I spent dealing with my unknown illness were both mentally and physically exhausting. Dealing with my stomach complications has made me substantially aware of my physical health and overtly cautious about the foods I choose to eat.

Trust me ladies, if I can give up eating warm cookies and sweet rolls, you can get through this week.  

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