Journey from Diagnosis to Gluten-Free Juggernaut

Celiac Scene Photo 2Introducing our first Celiac Awareness Month blogger, Ellen Bayens!

Ellen is the Founder and President of The Celiac Scene™, the go-to gluten-free resource for Victoria, Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands.  Referred to as a ‘Remarkable Celiac’ by the Canadian Celiac Association (CCA) , Ellen speaks first hand and with infectious humour about the challenges of the diet and how they can become the gateway to good health. As Past Vice-President of the Victoria Chapter (CCA) and ‘British Columbia’s Gluten-Free Ambassador,’ she has been featured in Gluten Free Living, Allergic Living and Delight Gluten Free magazines. Ellen is a frequent commentator on TV, radio and print as she shares her enthusiasm for gluten-free living with restaurants, retailers and industry experts keen to ‘Get Gluten Free Right.’ Here is Ellen’s “Journey from Diagnosis to Gluten-Free Juggernaut!”

The story begins with the Japanese occupation of Indonesia from 1942-45 when, as a Dutch citizen born in Java, my mother was interned for four years in a prisoner-of-war camp along with my grandmother and uncle. As a POW, she subsisted on meagre diet of rice and few vegetables before repatriating to the Netherlands and adopting a largely wheat-based diet. Instead of regaining weight, she began to lose even more.  Her diagnosis with Hashimoto’s disease offered an explanation, as did her subsequent diagnosis of Diabetes Mellitus Type I and the complications thereof. Unfortunately, it would 40 more years before the disorder that likely plagued her since her teens – Celiac disease – would be identified. Like many who struggle for an explanation for and respite from symptoms, my mother paid a price for consuming gluten for 40 years, developing a form of Parkinsonism that robbed her of her mobility and ultimately, the digestive cancer that took her life.

Fast forward to my own diagnosis at the age of 45. Even with a history of Celiac disease in my family, I was unaware that I was pre-disposed to developing it myself. I was a healthy, physically fit and the happy mom to two fabulous children. A switch to a new GP and a complete physical revealed that my liver enzymes were alarmingly elevated. The doctor began to ask questions-How much alcohol did I drink? Was I a covert intravenous drug user?  Could the protein shakes I consumed daily contain steroids? After two years of aspersions on my lifestyle and still in otherwise excellent health, I finally agreed to a liver biopsy to appease my concerned physician. During the procedure, and despite being guided by ultra-sound technology, the specialist inadvertently perforated my liver and retrieved cells from my small intestine that revealed the classic presentation of Celiac disease. Subsequent blood testing confirmed that I had the antibodies associated with this chronic auto-immune condition.

I could not turn the page fast enough!  Not only did I have a diagnosis, I knew from my caring for my mother exactly how to effect a complete and permanent recovery. The gluten-free diet!  My children and siblings undertook – and passed – pre-screening blood test recommended to family members of diagnosed celiacs.  They are in great health today but are well aware that should they  develop any of the more than 200 symptoms of associated with celiac disease or one or more of the autoimmunCeliac Scene Photo 1e
disorders that are known to co-occur with it, they need only mention their family’s medical history to enjoy their own expedited diagnosis.

In the ensuing 13 years since I turned that page, I have parlayed my passion for assisting others fortunate enough to be diagnosed – and the 97% of celiacs who never are. I am dedicated to empowering anyone and everyone who wants or needs it, with the information that exists within our community.  Instead of looking back, I encourage others to look forward to renewed health, and a second chance to enjoy a great life – the gluten-free way!
For the very best information on Celiac Disease, Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity and the sister disease, ’ Dermatitis herpetiformis, I highly recommend https://www.glutenfreediet.ca by Shelley Case RD, ‘North America’s Gluten-Free Nutrition Expert’ as well as the excellent information made available at https://www.gluten.org/resources/getting-started.

Ellen Bayens

www.TheCeliacScene.com
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Gluten intolerance in today’s world

Gluten exists in the grass-like grains such as barley, wheat, rye, kamut and spelt. It provides an elasticity and glue-like function to hold its flour products together, thus providing them with a chewy texture. Other grains such as rice, corn, quinoa, buckwheat and up to some degree oats are generally considered safe as their protein profiles do not match the profiles of the troublesome grains. Oats, however, often need to be avoided as they are harvested and processed alongside wheat and thus may be cross-contaminated and trigger cross-reactivity in celiac patients.

Western civilization today has become quite reliant on gluten not only as an important nutritional protein but also as a utility for obtaining a desired texture and elasticity in foods. However, numerous studies and researches have suggested that our bodies may not tolerate and digest this unique protein composite as well as everyone has always assumed in the past. Some studies even suggest that this applies to most people and not just the ones suffering from some degree of sensitivity.

One important point to consider is that gluten is in more products and foods than you may realize. In many cases just removing gluten from your diet is not enough as it is used in sauces, flavorings, flavor enhancers, and even as a binder in vitamins and supplements. Adapting a true gluten-free diet requires more than just removing wheat products from your life style. Nonetheless, it is a great way to start placing yourself on the right track.

Today there are three main categories of the gluten intolerance:

  1. Celiac disease – occurs when the proteins in gluten trigger your immune system to overreact with strong antibodies. Overtime it becomes less and less possible to process any nutrition from your food due to destruction of micro-villi which line your small intestine. Blood test or intestinal biopsy can confirm you having a celiac disease, thus enabling you to completely change your diet and lifestyle.
  2. Wheat allergy – a histamine response to wheat, much like a peanut allergy or hay fever. Some people experience stomach pain and discomfort while others experience hives and headaches. This condition is often misrepresented as gluten intolerance.
  3. Non – celiac gluten sensitivity: is currently much more difficult to pinpoint. In general, these people suffer similarly to people with celiac disease, but the blood tests and biopsy is negative. The only proper way to diagnose is through food and product deduction and gluten challenge.

Gluten intolerance and long term untreated or unchallenged celiac disease may lead to numerous health concerns and pathologies such as:

  1. Abdominal distention, pain, and cramping
  2. Bouts of constipation and diarrhea
  3. Anemia and arthritis
  4. Attention deficit disorder
  5. Gas and bloating
  6. Bone density loss
  7. Brittle nails, dry hair
  8. Diabetes, depression, anxiety, fatigue
  9. Stunned growth and failure to thrive
  10. Gluten ataxia
  11. Hair loss, headaches
  12. Hypoglycemia, infertility
  13. Joint pain
  14. Lactose intolerance
  15. Nausea
  16. Osteoporosis
  17. Peripheral neuropathy
  18. Sjogren’s disease
  19. Tooth and gingival problems
  20. Mineral and vitamin deficiency
  21. Weight loss
  22. Vomiting, skin problems

Today clinical researchers and pathologists find more and more conditions which may be either directly or indirectly relate to long term gluten intolerance. Therefore, the best way to do it is to get properly diagnosed with the help of a qualified professional specializing in the three main categories of gluten intolerance. Many and almost all symptoms may be either reduced or helped by the implementation of proper diet and lifestyle. Adoption of natural treatment techniques such as homeopathy and use of herbal remedies may greatly improve your success when used in combination with the needed dietary changes.

In Dinas Homeopathic and Acupuncture clinic we always research and improve on the issues and symptoms associated with gluten, caffeine, dairy, and sugar sensitivities. All symptoms may resemble themselves similarly to gluten sensitivities, however, often they are related to dairy or sugar. Many patients are not aware of the facts that they may not tolerate or may be extremely sensitive to certain products, they blame it on specific pathology which is completely unrelated to the current issues. Often, with the correct dietary and lifestyle changes, as well as proper homeopathic treatment, patient can be freed from most unwanted reactions. In our practice we try to find an individual remedy and approach to each specific case to solve the puzzle. In many cases when the specific food or product is eliminated, it will help to relieve the patient from undesired reaction, nonetheless, it does not cure the problem long term. This is where a correct homeopathic remedy comes in, and with a proper application may relieve the patient from such reactions for good. In many cases, even when the troublesome food was re-introduced, the reactions were either significantly milder or altogether non existant.

– Dr. V Shmitsman

Dr. Vladamir Shmitsman has been practicing Alernative Medicine such as Homeopathy, Acupuncture and Reflexology for almost two decades. Today Dr. Vladimir cures and teaches in Canada and the United States. His full biography can be found here.