The Fragility of our Circumstance

From the very day we begin to dream, we start formulating our plan for what we shall become. We wholly embrace the long, arduous process in the belief that at the end of the road we shall prevail and become what we always knew we could be. However, here is a thought; what if one day the rules were rewritten?

What would you do if one day your body no longer followed the biological rules, and your mind no longer flowed in long, logical streams of consciousness? What if your body was no longer your own? Most of us dread the idea of waking up with a sudden breakout–vanity is a powerful beast, a beast that may control a good part of our psyche. Tell me, what if your life became a Russian roulette of days; at any time all your precious building could crumble and you were left to start from the bottom and rebuild. Not just today, but again and again for an unknown number of times into your future. Would you give up. Would you have that choice?

Many people are not aware that such a scenario exists as the effects of a harmless-sounding medical condition: Celiac disease. Called the great mimic by doctors and, perhaps, a dictator by sufferers. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease triggered by the attack of gluten in the small intestine. Gluten? Yes, the little “poison” that is all around you, hiding everywhere. Gluten is the protein that is found in wheat, barley, and rye and that contaminates oats. It is added as a binder to many of our foods and spices, and is a sticky little sucker that stays on everything it touches, takes up permanent residence in the pores of wood or Teflonâ?¢ and cannot be destroyed by heat. One little molecule of gluten is enough to hurt a celiac sufferer.

So, at this point you might be thinking that this goes along the lines of a food allergy. Sadly, no. Sure, with a food allergy your immune system responds, but with celiac disease, it begins attacking your body.

Imagine this: you know you have to avoid gluten, and everyone respects this (which is rarely the case.) They prepare you a salad and fresh fruit, but they cut it on a thoroughly scrubbed wooden cutting board that in a time far, far away was used for bread. Now every reaction for every person is different, but this time you get nauseous, sweaty, light-headed and you feel that diarrhea-like stomach pain. Now here come the worst part: you get dizzy, your eyesight blurs and you become so tired and so hungry. Your stomach bloats inhumanly, gas and the works come to greet you. You sleep for 12 hours, wake up drenched, your muscles hurt so much you can barely put on your clothes, but you’re still so hungry. You eat and you’re nauseous, the bathroom becomes your office and Pepto your friend. This goes on for a week…or two. You can barely sleep, but you’re still tired. Your face and legs are swollen and your skin is a volcano. There is also a curious little rash all over your body, your hands tingle, your bones ache and the migraines are non-stop. Your intestines feel like shredded paper and you like you’ve been hit by a truck. Guess what?! You have to go to school/ to work/ to a meeting/ on a date/ to an audition. Who will understand you? You studied hard and may have to drop school. You worked hard and may have to quit. You worked out and ate right and your body goes into disarray within a few days. You fall continually and continually you must rebuild.

This disease is currently very under-diagnosed in North America and 1 in 150 people have it (more than Crohn’s or Thyroid disease). Those that are undiagnosed have a very high risk for lymphoma, diabetes, anemia, osteoporosis, infertility and many other serious autoimmune conditions (many due to malabsorption or malnutrition.) The sad thing is many doctors still know little about it and many who have it know nothing at all. The best thing to do is to be aware of the symptoms; diarrhea/constipation, abdominal pain and bloating, swelling of your body etc. There are many symptoms; some people experience only a few, some none at all, while others feel like they are dying. The important thing is to know it is out there.

If you do not have any experience with this disease, be aware that many around you do and that psychologically and physically the condition is very demanding. It strikes at any age, any target and requires a long battle for diagnosis. A Celiac patient must maintain a life-long gluten-free diet and an inhuman strength for rebuilding their life. If you have Celiac disease, I commend you. If you do not, I am explicitly glad for you. However, the blessing and the bane of this disease is that we are faced with one very important revelation in our lives… how fragile we are.