How a Kidney Stone Saved my Life

18 months (and counting) with Coeliac disease

How I found out

Unlike most people with Coeliac, I have no obvious symptoms. I don’t have an upset stomach when I eat pasta or bread, no discomfort, nothing. Given that, I’ll forever be grateful to the 8mm kidney stone that I found out about at 5 o’clock in the morning on November 12, 2013.

What exactly is Coeliac?

I only knew the term “gluten-free” as a fad diet of some sort. Something that rich people have taken up to lose weight and stay healthy. It wasn’t until I started talking to my nutritionist, Dr. Steck, that I found out that my assumptions were only partially true. It’s true that you can potentially be healthier on a gluten-free diet but it’s definitely not a given. A gluten-free diet can be just as healthy or unhealthy as a regular diet, depending on what you eat. Most potato chips, chocolates and ice cream are gluten-free (phew!).

  1. A technical explanation. Gluten is a protein composite found in wheat and other grains like Barley and Rye. It gives elasticity to dough, helping it rise and keep its shape. It’s what helps hold things together (in Latin ‘gluten’ means glue). On the outer lining of the small intestine, there are small, finger-like projections that protrude out called villi. Villi is what helps absorb nutrients to then distribute to the rest of your body as needed. When Coeliac patients intake gluten, their villi become blunt and flat instead of protruding outwards. This makes it extremely difficult or impossible for the small intestine to absorb nutrients.
  2. How gluten affects my body. I found out through one of the endoscopies that my villi were completely flat. This meant that my small intestine wasn’t absorbing any nutrients. As a result, my body wasn’t getting any nutrition. Which is a terrifying situation to be in. No matter how well I ate, very little of it was actually being absorbed in my body. This explained some of the problems that I was noticing with my energy levels, skin and hair. It was scary to think that whatever little nutrition I was getting was going towards just keeping me alive instead of promoting better health overall.

So, how bad is it?

Not bad at all. Especially in the Bay Area. I live in San Francisco and it’s definitely one of the best cities to be in for Coeliac folks. There’s a lot of awareness here. A great deal of restaurants are now starting to label gluten-free items on their menu. Some of them even have a separate gluten-free menu with plenty of yummy options. Safeway, Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s all have aisles full of gluten-free goodies.

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Designer of many things. Currently, Head of Design at Unmind. Creating a community for dog lovers — Dear Genie.

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Aaina

Designer of many things. Currently, Head of Design at Unmind. Creating a community for dog lovers — Dear Genie.