Monday, March 17, 2014

In the World of Wellness: M.S. and Celiac Disease

Wellness is a term widely used that has multiple meanings around health and positive life style changes leading to well-being. Here we will use the term "wellness" as a means of defining a life free from disease as well as a way to explore alternative medicines, what they offer, and what this could mean for you.

Every month I'll do a post on a health and wellness related topic. This will give you a chance to explore other options, become informed, and make the best overall decision for your own well-being.

In the World of Wellness: Allergy testing saves lives. I might just be proof of that.
For more on M.S. click here
Two weeks of wellness? Well, yes. Because I read an article that hit home pretty hard and I wanted to share it with all of you. Wellness is important, after all.

A couple of weeks ago I read this article - Gluten Brain: Wheat Cuts Off Blood Flow to Frontal Cortex - and immediately started thinking of how that implied to me. All the ways I felt, all the things I thought, when I was eating gluten yet not aware of my allergy. Or even when I was aware but in a huge state of denial and still eating gluten. Fool, I know. Anyway, this article talks about research being done to show how the effects of gluten on the brain…are you ready for this…lead to schizophrenia. Or, by avoiding it, help overcome the disease.

Wow, right?

Gluten. One tiny thing that can do so many wrong things to me, you, everyone affected.

Then I read an article in my favorite gluten free magazine, Delight, the March-April edition, on the ties to celiac disease (a much more severe reaction to gluten) and Multiple Sclerosis (M.S.), the disease my dad died from, and I had a panic attack. Of course, I had to Google my little heart out and found that there is a ton of research linking these two diseases together, yet I had never heard this before. Never. This shocks me based on the fact that this information could actually save my life. And yours. And the lives of people you love.

At some point in my very young life, after my father had passed away, my mom took me to our family doctor in an attempt to get answers that didn't exist at that time. It wasn't hard to notice the panic in her voice as she attempted to calmly ask our doctor if there was any chance I could get M.S. If there was any possibility it could be passed down to me genetically. If I was in danger of dying from it.

I remember everything the doctor said because I also understood what all of that could mean for me. What it could do to me. How limited my life could be if I had anything as severe as my dad did.

It's funny how that feels equally like a lifetime ago and yet just as clear as if it had happened today. I guess this is how everyone feels when they get news of this nature.

Our longtime family doctor said no. While they didn't know what caused it, they were pretty sure it was not a genetic thing. Even though I thought it was odd that they were so certain I was somehow safe, I did feel a great sense of relief, no matter how misguided. Now it's the opposite. Now they say I have a much better chance of having it because I am a first generation family member, regardless of the gluten.

However, I think it's important to note that to have celiac disease, in particular, you must carry one of two specific genes. This doesn't mean you will get it, it just means that, genetically, you have the potential to. This is just me pondering, but it does raise the question that if by carrying one of those genes for celiac does it somehow increase your chances of having M.S. because, as they now think, it can be passed genetically? (Note: While I think a tie to celiac/gluten and M.S. makes sense, based on on-going studies of the disease there are still other possibilities as to why people get M.S.) All of that being said, I am beyond glad I was tested for the gluten allergy and able to combat it sooner rather than later. Who knows what later would have held for me if my body had continued declining in health.

M.S. is a very, very, very difficult disease to have, to live with, to help someone with who suffers from it. Regardless of the gluten ties, there is still a lot of research to be done and many unknowns still exists, but knowing how horrible I feel when I eat gluten and how wonderful I feel when I don't, I can't help but wonder how close those ties really are.

The immune system is a powerful yet fragile thing. When you have an allergy like gluten and are unaware, you continue consuming the foods that contain it and you cause inflammation internally. After doing this for too long, your immune system can begin to attack your own body. With M.S. your immune system responds abnormally and also attacks you. See the similarities in just that alone?

That's a hard thing to realize. It's a hard thing to sit here and think my dad's life could have possibly been saved if more information had been known about celiac disease and that by avoiding certain foods he could still be here today.

Maybe that's why I'm so passionate about wellness. Maybe that's why I'm always talking about how food affects you and how important it is to understand what the foods you're eating are doing to your body. This is one very good example of why. Of why you need to understand that what you eat can and will harm you. That it is up to you to do research on yourself if you feel like something is wrong and to ask for tests, to demand results, to never give up until you know what exactly is causing your illness. And how, in more cases that we want to admit, most of our problems begin with, and can therefore end with, food.

Before I was diagnosed with a gluten allergy, I was only vaguely aware of what it was. All I knew was that my hair was falling out (eyebrows and eyelashes included) and my hands would ache like I had arthritis or feel swollen for no reason at all. Not to mention all the tummy troubles I'd had my entire life. After I was diagnosed, I didn't really know what to think. Only 5 small years ago it was hard to be gluten free. For myself and everyone else out there who suffers from a gluten allergy or the more severe celiac disease, I think I speak for us all when I say how thankful we are that being "gluten free" has become mainstream. Let's keep it that way. Please.

For us, and for more and more people with more and more diseases being linked to it, being "gluten free" is not a trend. It is not a cool thing to do. It is how we have to live just so we don't hurt, so we don't die.

It's not a choice. It's our only option.

So what the heck am I trying to say from all of this? Get tested for gluten intolerance.

There are so many different ways your body could be demonstrating an allergy to this (hair loss, intestinal issues, fatigue, migraines, depression…the list goes on) and by having one little test done you could fix everything. One little test.

Plus, it's no longer hard to go gluten free. It's a piece of (gluten free) cake!

Go get yourself tested. It could change your life.

P.S. I want to apologize to everyone who is having issues with my site because it keeps taking you to some crazy-ass phishing scam page. I've contacted Blogger 3x and will continue to until they get this doggone thing off of here. DO NOT click on anything it takes you to. Hit the back button until the page stops reloading. Seriously, I want to punch whoever put this thing on here. 

P.P.S Sadly, no one played along with my Pay It Forward initiative (except my work husband and he was just being supportive) so I have no winners to announce. I  might be tearing up, y'all. Alas, I hope everyone is paying it forward in their own way. Go out there and do good deeds!


Update: In the World of Wellness: M.S. and Celiac Disease
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about my thoughts on allergy testing, specifically for gluten, and how that can help with other diseases such as M.S.  I met with my ND (Naturopathic doctor) who's a genius, by the way, and talked all of this over with her. She gave me a couple helpful things I wanted to share with you. 

First, it is very beneficial to get tested for food allergies for a wide range of reasons, all of which tie back to immune system health. In this case, with M.S., it is imperative to know what food allergies you have so that you can avoid those foods and give your immune system a good, solid chance at fighting off the illness. A weakened immune system is one of the key signs in M.S. 

Also, take your vitamins - vitamin D, specifically. She said that a deficiency in vitamin D is one of the leading thoughts of cause of M.S. This too, my friends, is something you can and should get tested for (on an annual basis). Why? Well, get this. Two years ago my vitamin D levels were 80 out of 100. That is amazingly good, for the record. I skipped testing my levels last year and this year, guess what. My vitamin D level is 20...20 out of 100. I don't even know why, because I still take the supplements and I live in the sunniest state ever, but it dropped. She suggested D-Mulsion 1000 (Seroyal Genestra) liquid vitamin D3. The liquid is twice as effective as the capsules. Also, if you want to do your own vitamin D testing it's very easy. Check out Grassroots Health and follow the steps to order a test. I've used them several times and can personally recommend them. 

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