So, I have three autoimmune disorders; a skin condition, Endometriosis, & Celiac Disease. At this time last year (Fall 2011) I was very ill. I could list all my symptoms again, but to keep it simple let me just say that I was so ill that I had decided if the medical community could not find an answer for me soon, I was going to admit myself to a psychiatric hospital. That's right. I was so sick I thought I might be losing my mind.
There's good reason that I thought that . . . Celiac Disease is in many ways a disease of malnutrition. The antibodies I had formed against gluten were destroying the villi in my small intestine. The villi are these little finger-like projections lining our intestines that absorb the nutrients from our foods. They help us get the vitamin C out of oranges and the amino acids out of big ol' T-bone steaks. My villi were very damaged & I was barely absorbing any of those important nutrients. By the time I was diagnosed I was critically low on many vitamins & minerals.
For instance, many of the B vitamins are incredibly important to the function of our nervous systems. Remember the numbness I had in my legs & eventually even my hands & face . . . that was a serious B-12 deficiency. All the B vitamins are water-soluable & need to be replaced each day, but uniquely B-12 is stored by our bodies. When it is deficient it means you have been sick for a looong time.
Remember the terrible bone pain I mentioned . . . that was at least in part due to a major vitamin D deficiency. The "normal lab range" for vitamin D should be at least 35. The optimal level is somewhere around 80. In April my level was 12. We actually have a virtual epedemic of D deficiency in the U.S., because so many of us work in offices all day long & do not spend enough time in the sun. Vitamin D is produced by an interaction of cholestorol in our skin & UVB rays from sunlight. If you don't get enough sun (office worker) or if you have fat malabsorption (Celiac) or both (me), you have a D definicency. The Bs & D are also both super important for regulating anxiety & depression. Hence, my distinct feeling that I was losing my mind in a quagmire of anxiety & depression.
This was just the start though. Lots more stuff was out of balance. Our bodies are beautiful, complex chemistry experiements. If you ever took a chemistry class in high school you know that if one thing is off in your experiement, the whole reaction will fail. The body operates in the same way. I got sicker as the necessary ingredients for my body chemistry were depeleted. I needed to heal that & unfortunately our mainstream health care system is not that great at aiding healing once a problem is identified. They wanted to A) convince me I did not really feel that ill, B) get me to accept my ill health, or C) get me to take a pill to numb my response to my ill health. I was given prescriptions for everything from Xanax to Paxil to Ativan.
It took alot of time, alot of research, & a few happy accident connections, but I finally sorted it out. I needed to heal using food as my medicine. I had to identify the problem. Celiac Disease. Check. I had to assess the damage. This involved multiple doctors & doctor visits over many months (years really). And numerous blood draws (I have had well over 50 blood draws in the past year. To be honest, I lost count somewhere around 46.) Check. Then I had to educate myself about the nutrition/disease connection & be willing to go off the beaten path. Check. That is when I finally figured out how to at least start the repair process . . . Paleolithic Nutrition. Turns out, our ancestors were better chemists. More on that next time.