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One Won't Hurt? Yes it Will!

By Kate

For many of us, treats such as cakes, cookies and pizza are a wicked indulgence. Often we console ourselves with the usual: 'One won't hurt, will it?’ But for those of us who suffer with celiac disease, just one could cause a lot of discomfort indeed.

Celiac disease is a condition where sufferers have adverse reactions to eating gluten which is in wheat, barley and rye. Symptoms can include intense lethargy, sickness, diarrhea and dizziness, and can even lead to anemia and osteoporosis.

The symptoms – if left undiagnosed – can also dramatically affect the quality of life, often holding the sufferer back. This is a fact which I have personally found to be true.

I had always struggled for energy throughout my childhood but I just put it down to the fact that I simply wasn't very active. Later, university proved to be too much of a physical and mental effort and I had to leave after three months. I tried to get on with life, still suffering from exhaustion.

It wasn't until I took a camping trip that I suddenly became very ill. I was attempting to walk up a steep hill and had to turn back as suddenly the dizziness made me almost pass out. My doctor later gave me a telling off for even attempting this. It turned out I was severely anemic and in no state for mountain climbing!

On returning home, I began suffering agonizing symptoms of diarrhea, gas, stomach cramps and tiredness. My GP conducted tests and I briefly stayed in hospital although nothing conclusive was found. I returned to the doctor several more times, and still nothing was found.

It was only through a friend that I came to hear of celiac disease. She described the symptoms to me and they all seemed to fit. My GP conducted a blood test which was then confirmed by an endoscopy – I did have celiac disease.

I am now eating a gluten-free diet for life, which is more difficult than it first appears; wheat, barley and rye seem to be hidden in many processed foods these days! Eating out and traveling can be a challenge too, but I have learned to manage the diet well enough to know what to avoid.

Some people who do not understand celiac disease think that I am just a 'fussy eater' but the truth is that eating gluten-free has given me my life back again.

Celiac disease is not just an intolerance to gluten; it is a serious and often debilitating illness if left undiagnosed. It led to me dropping out of university, finding it hard to sustain employment and eventually led to periods of unemployment.

I am only thankful that I was diagnosed in my twenties so I can now work hard to get my life back on track and make a success of things in the future.

This story first appeared on www.bbc.co.uk. Reprinted with the permission of the author, Kate Anderson.

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