What was I just in the middle of?” Claire Baker asked herself as she stood dumbfounded in the middle of her kitchen. “My episodes of brain fog and confusion had become so frequent, I worried I was suffering from early onset dementia or Alzheimer’s disease,”Claire recalls. “‘I have to get to the bottom of this,’ I promised myself, also worried about my inexplicable low energy.
Barely Getting By
“For 25 years, I had attributed the fatigue and constant run-down feeling I thought was my ‘normal’ to a diagnosis of chronic anemia I received in my early 20s. That led to me popping numerous supplements aimed at boosting my iron levels. I also took vitamin B-12 supplements for the brain fog because I had read data that a deficiency can cause cognitive lapses.
“But in my mid-40s, I started battling excessive brain fog and over the course of a year, my memory issues and loss of clarity had increased and became more troublesome, despite my taking supplements. I could no longer excuse away my fatigue, and I decided to seek clear answers to my nagging question, ‘What’s wrong with me?’
“So I changed primary care physicians and had routine blood tests that, once again, confirmed I was anemic.
No surprise, I thought. But instead of taking the blasé approach to my health that previous doctors had, my new physician was alarmed and determined to get to the bottom of my health issues. She sent me to a hematologist to discuss possible treatments for the anemia, but to my surprise, the specialist began asking questions that didn’t seem relevant to my blood.
A Surprising Answer
“The doctor pressed me about any symptoms of gas and bloating, which I had, but assumed were normal aspects of everyone’s life. I also explained I had random bouts of diarrhea that I treated with over-the-counter remedies. In less than five minutes, the hematologist proclaimed, ‘I think you have celiac disease, and I want to perform a blood test for celiac disease antibodies.’
I looked at the doctor like he had three heads because I never had what I thought were the typical symptoms of a digestive health issue: I didn’t have to run to the bathroom or spend days constipated as I’d heard others with these kinds of issues did. Sure, I’d have episodes of gas or diarrhea, but I assumed these were issues everyone has from time to time.
“No previous doctor had ever suggested — or tested — for celiac disease, but one simple blood test and a followup endoscopy and biopsy finally gave me a diagnosis that fit the pieces of my health together.
“I admit, I was skeptical about celiac, and at first I had many preconceived questions like ‘Is this a real diagnosis?’ All I could think of was how hard the diet is to follow. I don’t want to do this, I thought as my doctor said I had to give up foods containing wheat, rye and barley.
“The decision to immediately eliminate all gluten following my diagnosis came with a learning curve. My family and I could no longer be spontaneous or adventurous when dining out because I had to worry about cross-contamination or the restaurant not adhering to a glutenfree recipe. I was surprised to find that chain restaurants, which I typically never ate at, offered consistency in their menus from location to location, and they post nutrition information online, making it possible to know what foods I can enjoy.
“I also experimented with a lot of breads, cookies and pizza, and I had to try several before I found brands that satisfied taste cravings. Thankfully, gluten-free food options have greatly increased! I’m still learning and experimenting and even learned how to make a gluten-free sourdough starter at the beginning of the pandemic.
“Within a week of starting the diet, my brain fog began to clear and the bloating had subsided.
With every week that passed, I felt a little more energized, and although finding a place to eat might be a bit more challenging, I was thrilled to actually have the energy and clarity to enjoy a meal out with friends or family!
“After a year of learning a new normal, I got used to a gluten-free lifestyle. Once again, I was able to concentrate and enjoy reading or watching a movie with my family. My energy rebounded, I’m no longer anemic and that awful sick and drained feeling is in my rearview mirror. Now, at 57, my memory and clarity are better than ever!”
This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.