Celiac Disease is an autoimmune disorder in which gluten ingestion can cause damage to the small intestine and other long-term health issues.
Theresa Lanno is a hairstylist and my business partner at Bombshells Barbershop & Glam Lounge in Rockledge, Florida. We busted our asses to open our salon. Stress can do a lot of things to our bodies. Theresa was rapidly losing weight without trying. She was coughing up blood and having stomach issues. The first doctor she saw gave her ulcer medication and chalked it up to stress. Can you imagine if she just took those pills and did not push for further tests? She would be damaging her body for many years to come and suffer from more health issues. Many autoimmune diseases are a dominos effect on your health.
Long Term Health Effects
Celiac disease can develop at any age after people start eating foods or medicines that contain gluten. Left untreated, celiac disease can lead to additional serious health problems. These include the development of other autoimmune disorders like Type I diabetes and multiple sclerosis (MS), dermatitis herpetiformis (an itchy skin rash), anemia, osteoporosis, infertility and miscarriage, neurological conditions like epilepsy and migraines, short stature, and intestinal cancers.
*Read more here.
Theresa also had a vitamin D deficiency, which can cause brain fog, bone pain, fatigue, depression and muscle weakness. Deficiencies are common with celiac disease. Gluten is a protein found in wheat and 1 in 100 people overreact to this particular protein, which damages the villi in their small intestines and causes poor absorption of food. Malnourishment can eventually lead to infertility, miscarriage, bone density loss, neurological diseases and certain types of cancer.
Fortunately, the cure for celiac disease is to completely cut gluten out of your diet. My goal in unveiling invisible illnesses is to push others to be their own advocate and to get answers and not just accept the first guess a doctor quickly throws at you before their next patient. We want answers and and test as well asnproper treatments and not bandages or pills to mask our symptoms.
Even if you are not Celiac, gluten sensitivities can cause similar issues minus the intestinal damage. Gluten has been know as an inflammatory food. You can read more here about research and references.
*Photos by Misti Blu
At what age did you discover symptoms and how long did it take to get an official diagnosis?
Theresa: I found out I have Celiac disease in April. I’ve always had stomach aches and low energy. I never thought anything of it until the past two years when my life got miserable. I couldn’t eat or drink with out feeling sick. I would get migraines, nausea, dizziness, heartburn, brain fog and joint pain, which ruled my life.
How do you feel about the healthcare system?
Theresa: The healthcare system is very flawed. I went through tests for 2 years before getting a diagnosis. Every doctor said I was young and healthy with low vitamin levels & stress. I lost 20 pounds in 2 months. I knew it was something else and not just stress. Thankfully, after many different doctors, I went to a walk in clinic begging for answers. They finally sent me to a gastroenterologist. Even after going through all my tests it took over a month to get a diagnosis. Celiac disease isn’t very common and many doctors still don’t have knowledge about this disease, which is so frustrating.
Do people have a hard time understanding your illness?
Theresa: Yes! The worst thing about this disease is that the only way to feel better is by sticking to a strict gluten free diet. Cross contamination is a nightmare, which makes eating out almost impossible. Also, people use gluten free as a fad diet which makes restaurants not take it seriously. I get asked if my body’s intolerance to gluten is “a choice or an allergy.” Why anyone would make this choice for no reason is beyond me. Gluten free is not a fad, actually gluten free breads and sweets usually have more sugar and calories than “regular” things do!
Do you have a message for people in your shoes who are struggling with this illness?
Theresa: It gets easier! The cravings are part of the disease. Be strong and don’t give into cravings. Celiac disease is strongly linked to cancer, MS, neuropathy, and diabetes. It’s no joke and there are so many people out there who feel the same!
What do you miss the most from before your diagnosis?
Theresa: I miss having a normal dinner with my friends and family. I was such a foodie! I still am but it’s just harder now. I don’t want to be the person who asks the waitress a million questions or has to fear getting sick from a chef’s negligence or server error. But, most of all I miss real New Haven style PIZZA!
What is your new favorite (gluten free) dish?
Theresa: I have learned to make almost everything I loved before in a gluten free way. My favorite thing has been chicken parmesan! Barrilla makes the best GF pasta! I love Boars Heads deli meats for lunch and Goodie Girl Cookies are the shit for snacks! Sweets are my weak spot, and the Melting Pot has the best GF spread you will ever see!
How have you changed or felt since your diet change?
Theresa: All in all, the sucky diet is so worth the change. I feel so much better. I am down 20 lbs all together. I still have days where my energy sucks and everything hurts but that is part of the autoimmune thing. No more crippling migraines or joint pain. It sucks sometimes but it could always be worse!