Posted by: pursuingsub17 | April 25, 2016

Riding the lonely highway – fitting Celiac Disease into my life at 48


So a month ago I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease. I accepted it. It certainly explains a lot and to be honest it was a relief to know what was going on with me. I had been suffering for years but in the last two, it’s been really bad. That led to a test for colon cancer of all things last year and then “no cancer so we’re not sure what it is – probably IBS”. That was a previous doctor. Thankfully I had one that asked the right questions in February to find out what’s really wrong with me.

To give a quick explanation of the difference between Celiac and Gluten Allergies, Celiac an
autoimmune disease triggered by the allergic response to gluten (protein found in wheat, rye and barley). Where the body attacks and damages the small intestine. The villi (imagine grass) in the intestine is destroyed, putting the individual at risk of lacking nutrient absorption (imagine a flat, desolate dessert on Mars without plant life, unable to absorb nutrients). There is no cure or pill I can take – I simply can’t have anything with gluten for the rest of my life.

At first I thought – well, no more beer (Dear Heineken, please produce a gluten free beer that tastes just as yummy as your regular stuff!). I can handle gluten free food (really, the products now are much better than in the past – except bread. Still trying to find a good one). So I thought – business as usual. Just need to change my diet. So I didn’t think it would affect me much. However, after a month, I’m starting to see how much this is eating up a lot of time and there are other effects of going gluten free (supplements for fiber, vitamin B…list goes on and on).

Since my doc ordered me off gluten, grocery shopping, throwing out food items in my condo that have gluten (and that Marc doesn’t like eating anyway) and fervently checking ingredients in anything that goes into my mouth has become all consuming. I’ll be seeing a dietitian recommended by the gastroenterologist (sp??) but I haven’t heard from the clinic yet. So for now, I have to educate myself through research in addition to all this grocery shopping and food preparation for lunch and dinner; I clean constantly to watch out for cross contamination.

Anyway, my emotions are all over the board with this one. It’s life changing. One minute I’m joking – then I’m cranky, the next minute I’m overwhelmed and half the time I can’t think straight. I have “gluten ADD” because I stop whatever I’m doing to look up if a food I’m planning on eating or a vitamin I’m taking might have gluten. Then I forgot the task that I was doing before my thoughts were interrupted with “I wonder if (said item) is safe for me to eat?”.  Next thing I know, 2 hours have gone by while I search the internet because it keeps providing me links to other related topics.

What does this mean for training? This was a question one of my Twitter pals posted. To be honest, I thought this is the least bit problematic. I had to get rid of some of my Cliff bars (well, gave them to Marc) but most of the stuff I eat for training is pretty much gluten free. And I seem to have gravitated toward gluten free pre race meals anyway just through trial and error (ie – choosing rice over pasta made me feel less “bulky” race morning). I just realized through experimentation what worked for me and made me less uncomfortable on a long run or bike ride. All the more reason to make those yummy SkratchLabs’ gluten free rice cakes! And especially drinking their all natural sports drink mix.

What I hadn’t realized until lately is how little time I have for anything and I’m really wondering if I have TIME for training. It isn’t the diet. It’s the time consumed. Between a full time job, house chores, grocery shopping, meal planning, prepping and preparing and trying to fit in some social time, training for a big race might be out of the question. At least for this year until I get a handle on this…if ever.

And the diet isn’t cheap. You slap the words “gluten free” on anything and it justifies doubling the price. On the upside, I don’t eat a lot of crap anymore (most instant foods have gluten in them). On the downside, it’s expensive and time consuming. At the end of the day, after buying my own cutting boards, cleaning cloths and utensils as well as the over priced gluten free food, there isn’t a lot left over for new gear or race fees.

I think what I need to do is find other Celiac athletes. Because right now I feel alone and I know others can make it work so I should be able to as well – just need to find out how they make the adjustments. I guess if I look on the bright side, running and triathlon has kept me relatively healthy and sane – I may just have to tone it down a little to fit it all in.

I won’t harp on this issue – it won’t become all-consuming in this blog because that isn’t what my blog is about. If I mention it, it’s because I’m learning how to adjust my life at 48 for this big change and hopefully any information I come across might help other up and coming triathletes make the adjustment as well if they suddenly discover they have Celiac or gluten allergies as well.

And in that…hopefully I won’t feel alone anymore if I can help fellow athletes just diagnosed with the same disease on their journey. Because, kids, that’s what this is all about!

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