I recently read an article that new research has shown that certain autoimmune diseases, including celiac disease, may be triggered by the Epstein-Barr Virus, often called Mono Virus or The Kissing Disease. As I read the article I started counting backwards, trying to remember the summer that I got Mono and when I got diagnosed with Celiac Disease. The more I thought about it the more that what I had just read made complete sense.
As I mentioned, Celiac Disease is a genetic autoimmune disease, meaning that there is a gene that carries the disease and if you have it, you most likely have celiac disease. The interesting thing about this gene is that it doesn’t automatically cause the person to suffer from the symptoms and often times the gene needs to be “turned-on,” per say, for symptoms to happen. This is why many people don’t experience symptoms until they are older.
I, myself, was 21 when I got diagnosed, and prior to that I had never really had any problem with the foods that I ate. This new research that I read about has really made me think about what may have turned-on my celiac gene. I had always thought that it was the fact that I lived in Italy for 6 weeks and spent the whole time eating pasta, bread, and drinking beers. I just assumed my massive amount of gluten intake was overload for my body and it finally said screw you I’m done. But now thinking about the time leading up to my celiac diagnosis I realize that my symptoms started prior to my time in Italy, they just came on slowly and periodically and after Italy was when it went full blown. This is when I tried to remember when exactly I had gotten Mono and it was about 1 year before I got my diagnosis. I started having the horrible bloating, pain, and all around intestinal discomfort off and on just after having mono. I even ate gluten free for about a week to see if it made a difference but I gave up, fairly quickly, and figured it was dumb of me to try. Plus at the time gluten free stuff was still cardboard like and very un-appetizing.
Just after I had mono I got some blood tests done, mostly because my doctor wanted to test to make sure I did indeed have mono since my throat cultures I had gotten a few weeks before came back inconclusive. At the time my antibody levels were raised, but nothing alarming. This is one of the first indicators of celiac disease. Because celiac disease is an autoimmune disease this means that it triggers your body to release antibodies to fight off what it thinks are intruders in the body. When the first round of enforcements (antibody release) don’t work your body sends out more and more in hopes to eventually fight off. Your body does a similar thing when you have a cold or the flu. There are different types of antibodies for different diseases and because of this doctors can usually test for celiac this way, but only if you have gluten in your system, meaning that you have to be eating gluten for it to work.
Over the next 6-9 months I went to the doctor periodically because I never fully felt 100% after having mono but they never had an answer for me. I remember going in for blood tests one time and my antibody levels were actually flagged by the lab because they were well over the upper limit and my doctor just brushed it off like it was nothing and there was no convincing her otherwise.
The big deciding factor for me as to what could potentially be wrong came in September of 2010. I went out to dinner with my parents one night to a greek restaurant and had a huge pita sandwich, and prior to that dinner had had a bowl of raisin bran as a snack at a friends place. We were walking around some stores after dinner and I remember being horribly uncomfortable. At one point my mom looked over at me and actually asked me what was wrong because my stomach was so distended I looked 5 months pregnant. I was absolutely miserable. After this incident I took things into my own hands, buckled down, and tried the gluten free diet again. I read a lot about what the high antibody levels and other symptoms could mean and of course there were many disease options but I figured going gluten free was the most simple solution to try and then if it didn’t work then I would go from there.
Within a week of going gluten free I was a completely different person. I felt a million times better then I had prior to being gluten free so I just continued being gluten free and never turned back. Then in December of 2010 I started having severe back pain and I had to go in to the doctor for tests again. I happened to see a different doctor in the office this time because my normal one was out of town. He sent me for blood tests and x-rays. I remember them calling and asking me to come in to review the results and being highly confused. I went in and the doctor just looked at me kind of shook his head and said, well we have two things going on here. I had severe anemia and a rare back problem called Spondylolisthesis, which was completely unrelated to the blood problems. It was pure luck that he had sent me for blood tests and had found the anemia. He looked at my previous blood tests with the high antibodies, which were now significantly lower, heard my story about going gluten free, and immediately sent me to a gastroenterologist. The gastro doctor confirmed my general docs suspicions and diagnosed me with celiac disease on the spot.
Now, the reason those with celiac disease have to avoid gluten is because the gluten damages the villi on the intestine that allow the body to digest vitamins and nutrients. This is why I had anemia, which is a very common problem in those with celiac disease. My doctor was concerned that the celiac disease had messed up my intestines so much that it was causing bleeding from my intestines and making the anemia as bad as it was so he decided to do a colonoscopy and endoscopy to be safe. Luckily everything came back normal and I just took some iron for a few months and I have never had a problem since.
It’s funny to sit here now, nearly 8 years later, and think about what I went through to get a diagnosis. And honestly I am one of the lucky ones. My rare back problem is really the sole reason I ever even got diagnosed, otherwise I may never have known about the anemia and since I was gluten free at that point it may have eventually fixed itself on it’s own. But there are countless people out there who go through what I went through and suffer for years before they get that doctor who recognizes what is really right in front of them. And then to know that there is a simple genetic test (which is NOT covered by insurance mind you) that could get the answer without the struggle, and before anyone has to have something like Mono trigger the Celiac Disease gene into action, it really irks me, to say the least. But I guess that is the world we live in and all we can do is make efforts to bring more attention to Celiac Disease and remind people that it is about more than just being gluten free. It is a true autoimmune disease that is life threatening if it goes undiagnosed. My hope with this post is to show people this is the case and remind the world that being gluten free isn’t just a fad diet but is a life saving lifestyle that IS NOT a choice.
One year ago today I got the best present I could have asked for, a little pink line a stick. It still brings tears to my eyes to think about the feelings that overwhelmed me when I saw that line appear. I had been waiting to see that for over a year and I think I was in disbelief when it happened. We had been trying to get pregnant for so long that I was at the point that I just wasn’t sure it was going to happen for us. But before I get too in to that let me start from the beginning.
For those of you that don’t know or haven’t read that blog post, I had a pretty tough miscarriage in the beginning of 2015 that took a toll on me not just mentally but physically too. Though we didn't know about the full extent of the physical repercussions until almost a year later. After the miscarriage we waited a bit to let my body heal from the trauma it had been through and honestly I needed to mentally wrap my head around what we had been through. For anyone who's had a miscarriage you all know that it's hard to comprehend that you were pregnant and then you weren't, that there was a baby there and now it's gone, and there really is no solid reason why. After I had time to at least mostly recover we started trying again to have a baby. I kind of figured it would be easy for us considering the first time around I had been on birth control when we got pregnant. Looking back at it all now that was definitely wishful thinking.
The first few months of trying I just kept telling myself it was normal for it to take a while to get pregnant, even if you are tracking. The weird thing for me was that my cycles were super irregular. Years ago when I wasn’t on birth control I had the most regular cycle that I could tell you down to the hour when my period was going to start. Yet all of a sudden this wasn’t the case. Again, I just kept telling myself that it was normal, that it most likely had something to do with the miscarriage and that things would eventually go back to normal. But every month things were the same or worse. I finally turned to Dr. Google and decided to search a little on what could cause what I was going through and I had every symptom of having scar tissue. I knew that it was probably a long shot but asked my Obgyn what he thought and he agreed that it was worth checking out so he ordered an HSG.
I really had no idea what an HSG was when it was ordered and I went in not really knowing what to expect. In short detail, they insert dye into the uterus and watch whether it flows through the fallopian tubes without getting blocked. I remember laying there watching the dye flow on the screen that the radiologist was watching and seeing the dye stop immediately on my right side. And then when the radiologist confirmed what I saw I was speechless. I am pretty sure I just said thank you to the guy and walked out to my car. I just sat there in my car thinking “you've got to be fucking kidding me.” Later that day my Dr called and told me what the radiologist had already told me and then said that because they couldn't confirm that the scar tissue blockage was definitely due to my miscarriage insurance would just classify this as infertility and wouldn't cover any surgery to remove it. I was devastated. There are no other words to describe how you feel when your doctor tells you your “sub-fertile”. After getting pregnant on accident, now I was on the other end of the spectrum.
Fertility treatments and surgery weren’t an option for us, mostly for monetary reasons. We resolved to just keep trying the “normal” way and maybe someday it would happen for us. At this point I was still tracking but I was quickly starting to feel that it was pointless. There was no way to know which side I was ovulating from so for all I knew it wouldn’t even matter that month. By the time we were nearly at a year of trying I decided to back off on the tracking but to also start acupuncture. I figured at the very least it would help to relax me. I went to one of the best fertility acupuncturists around, Dr. Ray Rubio, and everything that he did for me was above and beyond what I had expected. In my first appointment with him he straight forward told me to stop calling myself infertile or even sub-fertile because it would get me no where. If I kept that mindset that alone would work against me and I needed to remind myself that I have been pregnant once before. He told me that he felt that my body had just been through a lot of trauma and it needed time to heal. I know it may sound corny but it was one of the things that I needed to hear the most after a year of feeling so down on myself. The idea that my body had done it once before so why couldn’t it do it again. That, to some extent, became my mantra and I would remind myself of that every time I started to get down.
Now mind you, my “mantra” definitely wasn’t fool proof and some time in June 2016 I remember having a major breakdown. By major I truly mean major. I started a stupid fight with my husband over something trivial because I had so much pent up stress about “my stupid body” and by the end of the fight I was sitting on the ground sobbing in my husband’s arms. We agreed that if by August we still weren’t pregnant we would look in to next potential steps. That month I just “gave” up. My husband was supposed to be gone most the month because of bike races and I was 100% sure that there was no way it would happen so I just made every attempt to forget about it. Towards the end of the month I started feeling what I assumed were PMS symptoms but, as is always the case when you are trying to get pregnant, a little part of me hoped that they were pregnancy symptoms. I remember at one point I was at a friends house hanging out by her pool and her little boy wanted me to pick him up. I bent down to pick him up and he slammed straight in to my upper body and breasts and it was painful. And a different kind of painful then typical PMS pain but I didn’t want to think about it and I attempted to just ignore it.
July 4th rolled around and it was supposed to be the first day of my period but with the irregular cycles that I have I knew that it was a maybe and a good chance it would be the wrong day. One of our best friends had invited us to a BBQ and we were planning on going. I felt absolutely ridiculous taking the test but I figured what could it hurt. If it was negative it would be like every other month so whatever and I could go to the party and have a margarita and try to forget about it. I remember taking the test and setting it on our bathroom floor and walking away. I wasn’t about to sit there and watch it not show me that elusive pink line. I started doing things around our bedroom and actually had forgotten that it was sitting there. It was when I happened to walk back in to the bathroom that I looked down and saw it sitting there. At first glance I just thought “oh yeah, I should throw that out” but then as I took a step closer I felt my whole body go numb. It was like I was moving in slow motion as I bent down to pick up that test, I probably stared at it for a good minute or two, in disbelief. I then promptly dropped it and went running downstairs to tell my husband. I believe my exact words were “it worked, it finally worked, were having a baby!” No cutesy tell your husband announcements for us, when you’ve waited as long as we did I couldn’t have waited longer then the 2 minutes I did to tell him.
That moment makes it in to the top 10 best moments of my life. For anyone who is struggling to get pregnant that long awaited pink line is something you have dreamt about every single day. You think of how you will react, how you will tell your husband, etc. But when it does finally happen it does not go the way you expect it to, and if anything it is a million times better. On days when, like today, my son seems like he is on one and determined to press every single one of my buttons I will sit back and remember everything I went through to have him in my arms and it is like all my anger melts away. Tonight as he fell asleep in my arms I held him a little closer and smelled his sweet little head and I knew that everything happened the way it was supposed to.
For those of you out there struggling to get pregnant I’m not going to tell you any of those stupid tips like relax, stop trying so hard, or your not trying hard enough. That isn’t my place and honestly anytime someone said those things to me I wanted to strangle them. I will say this though, don’t give up on yourself or your body. As I said before, it may seem corny, but make a mantra for yourself, to tell yourself on those days when you feel like it’s all pointless. And last but not least remember the one thing that my mother has told me for as long as I can remember “Everything happens the way it’s supposed to.” I have a love/hate relationship with this quote but as I get older the love for it gets stronger and honestly no one can deny the truth of it.
As a nutrition and health coach I post a lot about food, exercise, and loving your body. All of these things are great and essential to living a happy and DELICIOUS life but there are many other aspects of our lives that lend to being able to live deliciously.
I have highly disliked flying for a few years now after a few overly turbulent flights. It was so bad at one point that I ended up getting anti anxiety medication just so I could get on the plane without having a panic attack. The medicine would essentially knock me out so I had to time my taking it very precisely so I wouldn’t fall asleep before getting on the plane. Not gonna lie, it was pretty nice to get on the plane, fall asleep for the whole flight and wake up right as we landed. When I got pregnant being able to take that medication went out the door. I had to fly when I was 7 weeks pregnant and I was a nervous wreck. Not just for the flight but also because I was so scared flying would cause me to miscarry. I was a mess but luckily I was flying with my husband so he was there to hold my hand. We did one leg from LA to San Francisco and I just blared music, closed the window and tried to forget where I was. The second leg though my husband convinced me to open the window and I’m glad I did because I got to see the Golden Gate Bridge for the first time in my life. It was from the air but it was still a pretty amazing sight to see with my own eyes.
This past week I flew to and from LA/Colorado with my now 3-month-old son to visit family. I was so nervous the day before our flight to Colorado. Not just for the flight itself but because I had no idea how he would handle flying, I didn’t want him to be THAT screaming baby. I was also so concerned that he would be able feel my nervousness and I don’t want him to have a fear of flying like I have had. I know that kids pick things up from their parents, especially babies, when it comes to how we feel about things. For example, a lot of kids develop their fears of needles because their parents exhibit fear when the kids get their shots and the kids see that reaction and then themselves react that way. It was like this nervousness for him to see me nervous and scared of flying made me more nervous and scared. It was a vicious cycle.
The day we flew to Colorado I did everything I could to stay calm, without taking medication. That wasn’t even an option, not just because I needed to be aware during the flight but also because it doesn’t mix with breastfeeding. I got on the plane and M was very unhappy with me. He was crying and I knew it was just because he was tired but he wouldn’t fall asleep. Then just as we were about to take off he passed out. Just the movement of the plane put him to sleep, much like the car or his stroller does. I was so happy! He slept pretty much the whole flight too! Now if anyone has every landed at DIA they will know that it is rare to have a smooth landing there. It is almost always turbulent because of the mountains and this particular day it was pretty bad because of thunderstorms all across the Front Range. Our descent was probably one of the more intense ones that I have had, so much so that my ears were popping and hurting. At this point M was awake and I was doing everything to keep his bottle in his mouth but he was more concerned about smiling and laughing at me. Apparently the kid likes turbulence and fast descents because he was happy as a clam while I was doing everything to not freak out. But sitting there with him in my arms laughing and giggling at me was a very eye opening moment. It was that reminder that my fear was silly, despite the turbulence. My 3 month old reminded me that flying is exhilarating and sometimes not always a smooth ride but it is actually quite safe. To him it was just like riding in his stroller while I push him along a bumpy trail and that thought is what kept me calm as we landed.
On our flight home I was much more calm, despite the pilot informing us that the take off was going to be very bumpy (which it was). But for the first time in a very long time, as M slept peacefully in my arms, I was able to look out the window and see the views. Flying over the Rocky Mountains is a pretty amazing sight and I actually took pictures. Then later in the flight we went over the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River and I can honestly say that is the FIRST time I have ever seen it from a plane, and I have done that flight more times then I can count. It was so amazing to see the beauty of the planet that we live on from the air. It only took me exactly 28 years (it was my birthday) and having a baby to learn how to appreciate this beauty. I have always been one to “stop and smell the flowers” but sitting on that plane was eye opening for me. It reminded me how much I need to do that more and appreciate the bigger picture.
I can honestly say that I have a newfound view on flying that I never had before. I can’t say that my fear is completely gone but I can definitely get on a plane and not have a panic attack. But I do think that there is something that anyone can take from this story. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in the little things, like our silly little fears, that they don’t allow us to see the bigger picture. I also think that everyone can take a page out of my 3-month-olds book and learn to enjoy the ride, whatever that ride may be. And maybe sometimes taking the view of small child will allow us to see things differently then we do as adults. I know many people who will say, “Sometimes I wish I was a kid again so I can forget about adult things” but who says we can’t be? Maybe we should stop and think about things the way a kid would and it might allow us to realize how un-important some things in life are compared to others. How many kids do you know that worry about their weight while eating a cookie, they don’t. They savor every bite of that cookie and that’s what we should all be doing! By doing this we can learn to live our lives to their fullest and as “deliciously” as possible.
Over the years my own views of wellness have changed so significantly that looking back 5 years ago I feel like I was almost a completely different person than I am today. I have found that a persons perception of what it means to be "well" makes a huge difference in their ability to loss weight, get healthy, and live deliciously. I've put together a few words that, to me, all add up to meaning wellness in this "word cloud." These are all words that I have not only learned on my own but I have also learned from my clients that I have worked with in the past and present. What does it mean to you to be well? Put together your own word cloud and use it as your own motivation to reach your own wellness goals. Hang it on your wall, add it to your Pintrest health page, make it your computer background. Put it somewhere that you can see it everyday and it will remind what you need to do to LIVE DELICIOUSLY!
The Calorie Myth: All Calories Are Created Equal
First and foremost: All calories are not created equal. If you were to eat 500 calories worth of snickers bars it would have a completely different affect on the body then if you were to eat 500 calories worth of veggies. When food calories are measured in a lab they are measured solely in terms of energy released but when it is put in your body there are other factors involved other then just calories/energy created. Food contains information that is read by the body and informs the body what to do as far as metabolism and hormone levels goes. These instructions include: Lose or gain weight, speed up or slow down aging process, increase or decrease cholesterol, and increase or decrease appetite. For example food that goes quickly in to the bloodstream, like refined carbohydrates, promotes weight gain, while food that enters the blood stream slowly, like whole grains, promote weight loss. What does this mean to you? This means that when you choose your food for dinner tonight choose foods that are going to promote good reactions within your body. Rather than fried chicken, go for baked or grilled, rather than white pasta with a heavy cream sauce, go for whole grain pasta with light sauce. These are all easy switches that will promote good breakdown and healthy reactions in your body rather than bad.
The Starvation Myth: Eat Less + Exercise More = weight loss
When people approach weight loss the first thing they do is cut back on calories. The problem is that sometimes it is over done and they cut back too much. There is such a thing as a happy medium when it comes to getting too much and too little calories. The body needs a minimum amount of calories just to run everyday. This number is the number necessary to provide the body with the energy it would need if the person were to just sit around and do nothing all day, this is the number you often see labeled BMR, or Basal Metabolic Rate. Most people burn more then this number everyday because most people don’t just sit around all day. When you add in exercising people end up burning more on top of their base “sitting” number. This all means that every person has a minimum number of calories that they should be eating everyday. If less then this is eaten on a regular basis the body goes in to starvation mode. This means that the body will do what it can to store as much food as possible from what it is given. It does this by slowing the metabolism down to accommodate for the low calorie intake. The best way to stop this from happening is to eat at least what the body needs to break even on it’s resting calorie rate. Then if one is exercising as well they need to add more calories to make up for the ones burned while exercising. This means finding what your BMR (that "sitting" number), there are many calculators out there that will do this for you. Once you find that number you should be trying to hit AT LEAST that much calorie intake each day. But remember that not all calories are created equal (I'll explain more about that in a later post) so this doesn't mean eating 1400 calories worth of chocolate and cookies, but eating healthy full meals with fiber filled grains, fruits, veggies, protein of your choice and A COOKIE.