It's a Family Affair
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My Blog

It's a Family Affair

This month has a lot of things claiming it as National ___________Month.  In  this post, I want to highlight National Celiac Awareness Month, but also introduce you to National Fibromyalgia Awareness Day on May 12.  Both of these are affect my family. I have both of these illnesses as does my older daughter. We also both have numerous allergies. My youngest daughter doesn't have either one, but has type 1 Diabetes which commonly appears in families with celiac disease. My son also does not have these as far as I know. It's a family affair. These conditions show their symptoms in other members of my family as well. It is also not unusual for celiac disease and fibromyalgia to appear in the same person and in the same family.

Note: this information is not intended to be used for the diagnosis or treatment of celiac disease, gluten sensitivity or fibromyalgia. Please see a doctor if you suspect you have these.

What happened?

For starters, I am not a Celiac. I am Charlaine, but I happen to have celiac disease. I am also not Fibromyalgia. My identity is not wrapped up in these illnesses.  A lot of people with them make this ID mistake. It can be overwhelming and consume a lot of time, energy and funds to manage.

In 20o2, while I was a lifeguard, water exercise and swim instructor, my world came to a screeching halt. I woke up one morning in so much pain, I was barely able to get out of bed to call off sick to work.  Essentially my body was so overloaded with allergens that it made life for me to come to a screeching halt. The trigger was an antibiotic used to treat an infected lymph node which caused an allergic reaction. The theories from doctors have evolved over time. I was able to regain most of my physical abilities, but it was a struggle. In 2009, at the suggestion of my older daughter after she found what was making her so sick, I was diagnosed with celiac disease. My stomach hurt all the time, I was bloated and tender in my abdomen, my nail beds were bluish, my hair had grayed early, I lost names and nouns often, my skin had cystic acne, and there were odd physical issues that are hard to describe. Going gluten-free caused most of my symptoms to disappear within six months. I lost 10 pounds within weeks of my diet change.  Since that time, I have also discovered a host of allergies and sensitivities to foods, environmental factors, and chemicals. Although fibromyalgia still exists, any time I have issues from gluten or allergies, fibro is aggravated. It is a nasty cyclical pattern. I manage both with medication, exercise, and diet. I normally do well with them.

What is celiac?
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease that causes the body's immune system to attack the small intestine when gluten, a protein from wheat, barley, or rye, are detected.  The symptoms are in the chart to the right from the Gluten Free Resource Directory. It can eventually lead to infertility, loss of bone mass, muscle mass, and death. The only way to treat celiac is to avoid all foods and personal care products that contain gluten, which is no small feat.  Gluten appears in baked goods, pastas, sauces, drinks, maltodextrin, anti-caking agents, lip gloss and lipstick, make-up, and personal care products. It adheres to pans when something with gluten has been cooked in it. Food prep surfaces must be thoroughly cleaned after gluten has been on it before the surface can be used for someone with celiac. Cross contamination is a big hazard. The motto for someone with celiac is: If in doubt, leave it out!

What is fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a neurological condition characterized by chronic fatigue and pain in all four quadrants of the body.The seretonin levels are low and other biochemicals are not balanced. Sleep patterns rarely include deep REM sleep in people with fibro.  It can be a simple nuisance or a debilitating condition causing the sufferer to not be able to work or carry on day-to-day functions. No known cause or cure exists to date, although there are theories of it's origin. On the left is  a chart of associated conditions that can exist with fibromyalgia from the National Fibromyalgia Association. Treatments include medications, massage, homeopathic remedies, exercise, and good nutrition.

How do diet and exercise help these conditions?
Diet for someone with celiac disease is the only treatment. Gluten must be eliminated in all forms. It is not unusual for people with celiac to also have food allergies and/or intolerances. When this is the case, those foods in all their forms must also be eliminated from the diet. The most common allergies are dairy and soy. Exercise is always good, but isn't considered a treatment of celiac.

People with fibromyalgia will find foods that aggravate their condition such as highly processed foods like ham and some lunch meats, preservatives, nightshades, coffee, chocolate and any other food that will cause someone with arthritis to have inflammation.  Foods high in antioxidants and Omega-3s are very helpful in it's manaegment.  Exercise is also an essential treatment. Usually low impact cardio or endurance exercise, light weight training, range of motion exercises, and flexibility work are crucial to good function and symptom management. It takes several weeks of determination by the fibro sufferer before the benefits of exercise begin to show.

If you don't have these conditions, knowing about them will help you help someone else. People with celiac may seem like picky eaters and people with fibro may seem whiny, but they need friends and family to accept their conditions and needs. If you aren't sure how to help a friend or family member, the resources below will be helpful for you.

What resources are available?
There are several websites that are helpful for these conditions:

Celiac Disease:


Since it is Dblog Week for Diabetes:


May God bless you!

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