M. is a 54 year old woman who initially came to see us about a year and a half ago. Her pain started in 2003. She had been under a lot of stress after sustaining a work injury in 1999 but otherwise couldn’t attribute the change in her health to anything specific.
In December 2007 when she arrived into HealthNOW she was walking with a cane, barely. She had pain throughout her body to the degree that she couldn’t even lift a remote.
She had lost sensitivity in her hands and was so light sensitive that she “lived like a bat”. She remained in a dark room much of the day. Sound was also very disturbing to her.
For 4 years she had followed all of the doctors’ advice and was on a myriad of pain pills. Unfortunately she started to react to many of the drugs with side effects that made her question why she was taking them, especially since her pain was little improved.
Despite her misery, all her tests for the most part came back negative. She had a cyst on one ovary and some gall stones, but no one considered that either of those conditions explained her symptoms in total.
Mentally things were extremely challenging. She literally couldn’t remember anything and had post-it notes around her home to help remind her of things. She had always been an avid reader but couldn’t read at all. Concentration too had become impossible. She claimed that she grew up reciting the Lord’s prayer but could no longer remember it.
Her doctors thought she was mentally unstable and recommended antidepressants. She refused these as she had never tended towards depression. Similarly they called her light sensitivity migraines, even though she had never had trouble with headaches.
M. took matters into her own hands and joined a water aerobics class to try to get some exercise despite the constant pain. There she met one of our patients and it was upon that recommendation that she began care at the clinic.
M’s progress was slowed by her inability to get to the clinic and her memory challenges. We wrote down what we wanted her to do, but she still often forgot.
Despite these obstacles, within a month she felt strong enough to start walking. She was forcing herself, but she was doing it nonetheless.
When her gluten sensitivity test came back positive she brought the results to her doctor. Her doctor “rolled her eyes in her head” and told her it was ridiculous and had nothing to do with how she was feeling.
By March she was much improved. She started cooking again (always a great passion of hers) and her brain function was returning. She was stronger, in less pain and she could once again concentrate.
She made a decision to walk a half marathon and achieved that goal within her desired time of under 4 hours. That was accomplished in October, a mere 9 months after becoming gluten-free.
Since then M has continued to improve and has climbed a mountain of a 2500 foot elevation twice!
This past winter she went skiing for the first time in 25 years. Her instructor told her that she was too good for the beginner class and moved her up to an intermediate class.
M has her life back and has become such a good gluten-free cook that she is planning to write a cookbook.
Did she have a mental illness? Were her problems psychosomatic? No. She was simply one of millions suffering from gluten sensitivity and in her case specifically, was suffering from gluten-induced fibromyalgia and gluten-inducted nervous system inflammation.
And by the way, as we so often find, she wasn’t particularly suffering from any digestive complaints.
Please pass the data along to your friends and loved ones. At this point a grass roots movement is all we have available. There is no drug to “cure” gluten sensitivity so the pharmaceutical industry is not interested in increasing awareness. It involves a strict dietary change so not many traditional doctors like to implement such things with their patients – not unless they can demonstrate a positive intestinal biopsy associated with celiac disease.
So help me “shout it from the rooftops” and we can continue to help more people like M!
To your good health,
Dr Vikki Petersen
Author of The Gluten EffectHealthNOW Medical Center