This is Part 1 of my Conquering Celiac Disease series which outlines my personal experience with Celiac Disease. The other posts in this series include:
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor and the information provided in this post is not to be used as medical advice or to treat/diagnose any disease.
I can only begin a post like this so many times (see this post), but until it’s not funny anymore, I will continue to use it…
I pooped my pants.
More times than a budding boy should, especially when it carries into ADULTHOOD!
WARNING: I will use the word poop and describe (not in heavy detail) some rather embarrassing moments involving the end of my digestive system in this post. Not trying to be gross… just trying to be real. Celiac Disease is not fun and these are the symptoms many people don’t hear about.
But before we get into that, I want to tell you the surprisingly long tale of how I received my diagnosis of…
It all started when I was 2.
Little baby Frank – VERY cute, of course, was covered with eczema shortly after learning to walk. In its worst form, during the winter months, the eczema would flare and cause my skin to form scales and break off.
I hope that sounds gross, because it was. I was forced to apply gallons of Aveeno and steroid creams to my legs (the worst of my appendages).
Other than my freaky reptile legs, I was a very happy child!
As time went on, my condition morphed. This time:
I was diagnosed with “environmental asthma” at 4 years old.
My diagnosis came after I was hospitalized because of immense inflammation in my airway. Being so young, I was forced to use a nebulizer to deliver my asthma medication.
Paired with my asthma, I developed allergies. Once again, they were termed “environmental.”
And man, did I have some ALLERGIES!
- Every animal with fur – the fur, dander, and saliva
- Pollen, ragweed, etc.
- Fresh cut grass
- Cigarette smoke
- ONE MILLION OTHER THINGS (roughly)
The list was LONG, and my parents were shocked. I had special sheets, mattress covers, diffusers, humidifiers, dehumidifiers, creams, OTC drug prescriptions, and my dad had to quit smoking!
And the interesting thing is that I had all of these allergies, but not ONE food allergy…
Anyway! Headaches followed shortly after the allergies, but weren’t as problematic a symptom until later on when they became a tell-tale that I had gluten exposure.
Although, a more problematic symptom triggered shortly after my parent’s divorce:
I was never officially diagnosed, but I would still suffer today if I didn’t have the power of all the interventions I now use. You can read more about how I battle my depression naturally (without drugs) here.
Finally, I entered puberty. Most young men revel the day they enter this phase. You get hair in new areas (think face people), you require deodorant, you get taller (hopefully), and of course… your voice gets deeper!
Or… you become thoroughly constipated.
I just thought it was normal! Sometimes I’d be locked in the bathroom for 30 minutes to an hour.
The whole process just didn’t work.
Fortunately though, 3 years later, when I was 16, I no longer had to fear the constipation. Instead, I had to fear the opposite… if you know what I’m saying…
I was walking with some friends to a Detroit Lions game after tailgating with our parents. Everything was going so well that day and then I stopped dead in my tracks as a cold sweat started running from head to toe.
I shook it off and kept walking, but next thing I remember, I was in a dead sprint racing to the stadium hoping to make it to the bathroom.
And then it happened. The first time since, probably some childhood accident when I was 3, I pooped my pants.
Totally panic stricken I tried to find an escape. Luckily, I spotted my haven right across the street. A portable bathroom was located less than 20 yards from where I was rooted.
CAREFULLY, I made my way over to the tall plastic box, and politely asked the first gentleman in a longgg line of people, if I could cut. He did not oblige, but the next man did.
I will never forget the events that happened, both in the box and outside the port-a-potty – if I ever get the chance to see the guy that let me cut in line, I would apologize, and then give him a hug for having to witness the things he saw.
OK, I hope you are laughing and not totally grossed out. I had one other run-in with my pants several years later which led to my official diagnosis.
Prior to receiving my diagnosis, I had several other symptoms that finally made sense once I found out I had Celiac.
First was the exhaustion. EXTREME-ULTRA-MEGA-EXHAUSTION.
I worked at a car dealership as a porter when I was young. My manager at the time hated me and every time I asked why, he just blew me off.
Years later he told me it was because I was lazy. I was shocked! I always thought I worked hard and did a nice job washing the cars and cleaning up around the shop.
Shortly after I left that job for another, I noticed that my voicemail box was full on my phone. Turns out, my previous manager called me so many times that he filled the inbox faster than I could listen to them.
So I decided to listen to them… What I heard was horrifying.
“Hey Frank, we have a car in the back. Can you get to it? Where are you anyway?”
This was a common voicemail. And my excuse is both hilarious and disturbing.
During work hours, mainly at slow periods, I would eat a small bag of cheez-its (i.e. gluten and dairy), a bagel (gluten), and whatever other processed (gluten-filled) food I could scrounge up.
Next, I would proceed to the bathroom for my battle royale with constipation.
While sitting there though, the exhaustion would set in (gluten…). I kid you not, I got so tired that if I didn’t LITERALLY pass out on the toilet, I would lay a jacket on the ground and go to sleep on the floor.
This turned into common practice. And thus, the voicemails just piled up.
As if this wasn’t embarrassing enough, some of these events did not end up with me asleep. No. Later, (closer to my diagnosis) I stayed locked in my bathroom-dungeon due to what I call…
A poop marathon is when you enter the domain with a single objective, expecting things to go normal and not take more than 30 minutes (in case constipation sets in), but things end up taking much longer.
How about 2 hours! Are you kidding me with this stuff? I could get up and leave, but would be right back at it minutes later. Why even try? So I would just stay put for the full duration.
And it wasn’t even that rare! To this day I claim that Anna is a saint for staying with me. She stayed for one of two reasons: pity, or because she just had to see what happened next.
Either way, the last two symptoms ended up being related to my intestinal issues. I developed a dairy sensitivity (not sure I would label as an allergy), and leaky gut (although this was probably around from my childhood).
Other problems possibly related to the Celiac Disease were a corn sensitivity that resulted in hives and itching located at my joints, and the eventual development of EPI (Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency).
All my symptoms were not a direct manifestation of Celiac Disease, but it was my body’s obvious cry for help, being planted firmly in the midst of autoimmunity. Sadly, the information I have today was not available back then.
But, overall life has been good. An adventure, if you will. Although, I cannot stress enough that the effects from the changes that I made after my diagnosis have been nothing short of a miracle.
It wasn’t a quick fix, though. Read Part 2 to find out why a gluten-free diet didn’t fix me.
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Hey there! I’m Frank, co-founder of Healthy Habits Reset. My wife, Anna, and I have battled our respective autoimmune diseases for over a decade. We have fumbled through and eventually learned that REAL mental and physical healing requires you to be your own advocate, to think for yourself, and to determine what information works for YOU.
We created this blog to teach everyone how to use the resources and tools available to make the best personal decision surrounding any health, faith, and lifestyle choice.