I keep telling you I was asymptomatic when I was diagnosed with Celiac – really it’s more complicated than that. I thought I was asymptomatic.
In the months before my diagnosis, I had a number of ailments that I wrote off – stress, too little sleep, maybe a mild case of the swine flu. Looking back, I’d guess they were all related to Celiac.
First was indigestion. It was on and off, with no noticeable pattern, and one night in particular stands out in my memory. I was hanging out with a couple of college friends, and we made a gluten-heavy meal: salad with croutons, spaghetti, garlic bread. We were watching reruns of The Office, and I was in so much pain that I left in the middle of an episode. I thought that particular case of indigestion was caused by the acidic tomato sauce.
The most obvious of my ails was the fatigue. There was a period of a couple weeks when I slept approximately 12 hours a night. My mother put me on a multivitamin with a superdose of iron and vitamin D. It helped.
But the worst symptom was the hidden one – the anemia (which was probably the cause of the fatigue). Celiac is really a disease of malnutrition, as the part of the small intestine the body acts upon when gluten is eaten is the same part of the intestine where nutrients are absorbed. Inexplicable anemia is common among undiagnosed Celiacs – I just didn’t think mine was inexplicable. I thought it was because I was a vegetarian.
So when I stopped eating gluten, I was surprised at how my body changed. I had more energy and needed a lot less sleep. I won’t regale you with tales of my bathroom functions, but I will tell you they normalized. The menstrual cramps that I’ve had since I was 13 years old lessened (they didn’t go away entirely, but I was no longer reliant on ibuprofen).
And yes, my anemia is gone. After I’d gone GF (but was still vegetarian) I was merely iron-deficient, but not fully anemic. And now that I eat red meat again, my iron levels are normal!