I’m back from the Mississauga and Toronto areas of Ontario after speaking at the Canadian Celiac Association conference on Saturday. What a terrific experience that event was! The Halton Peel chapter of the CCA hosted the event. President Marilyn Mahnke, her organization, and all who made the conference happen really did an outstanding job! I will talk more in depth about this event later, but I wanted to share one personal story—a success story that Dr. Stefano Guandalini, the event’s keynote speaker, shared during his opening presentation.
First, if you’re not familiar with Dr. Guandalini, let me tell you a little bit about him. He is the founder and medical director of the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center. He is also the Pediatric Gastroenterology Section Chief there and the president of the North American Society for the Study of Celiac Disease. Dr. Guandalini shared a story about one of his patients as an example of individuals with celiac disease presenting with atypical symptoms, namely extraintestinal symptoms. (If you are not familiar with that term, extraintestinal simply means occurring outside the intestines.) Dr.Guandalini had shared in his presentation that the majority of those diagnosed with celiac disease today present with extraintestinal symptoms, not the gastrointestinal issues that have been expected of one with celiac disease. Then he gave us a real life example, the story of one of the center’s patients.
Anxiety and Celiac Disease
photo credit: Flickr hales19
A 17-year old girl had been experiencing major anxiety. For about 9 months she had been on Prozac, but had still been having major issues. Her aunt had been diagnosed with celiac a few years earlier. She urged her family to get her niece tested for celiac. Her niece was tested and did, in fact, have celiac disease. After 2 months of living gluten free, she was also free of anxiety and medications and thriving!
Wow, huh? This story is obviously a powerful, powerful example of the effect of gluten as well as a demonstration of how removing gluten from one’s diet can—in many cases—totally reverse the symptoms. I have to tell you that it’s personal stories like these that motivate me to keep educating folks on celiac disease and non-celiac gluten issues. These stories must be shared.
Anxiety was actually one of the symptoms that I experienced the last year or so before I went gluten free. It was not major anxiety in my case, but it was still very disturbing to experience it and have no control over it. I think that many who have gluten issues experience anxiety, but don’t tie it to gluten.
One point I’d also like to make here is that while anxiety is considered to be an extraintestinal symptom, there is actually a huge brain-gut connection. Symptoms manifested outside the gut can indeed be caused by problems in the gut. Here’s an article from Scientific American on The Neuroscience of the Gut that addresses the issue. My dear friend Melissa (of Gluten Free For Good and co-author of The Gluten-Free Edge) talks about gluten’s role as a neuro-toxin–or as she calls it a “neuro-cootie”—briefly here. I’ll talk more on Dr. Guandilini’s presentation in this area in a follow-up post. In the meantime, please share this personal story with others to enlighten them that celiac disease can absolutely present with neurological/psychological symptoms only. There are so many, many folks who are still suffering needlessly.
Emotions in Motion ~ Psychosocial Challenges of Gluten Issues
That was the title of the presentation that I gave at the conference. As far as anxiety, I definitely felt some before taking the stage, but I’ve found that the secret to conquering anxiety—and general fear of public speaking—is talking about a subject that you not only know, but are also very passionate about. That passion will get you past the fear and your knowledge will carry you the rest of the way. I won’t say that I am a totally polished and professional speaker by any means, but those two factors always help me tremendously.
Those of us who are gluten free all know this topic of the psychological and social challenges of living gluten free very well. I am so pleased to share that my presentation was very well received! Many came up to speak to me after my presentation and others contacted me online to say how much my presentation resonated with them. One very kind conference attendee, ElseB, left this comment on my blog: “I heard you speak today at the Canadian Celiac Association’s Annual Conference on this topic and the 5+ stages of grief, and it was the best presentation I’ve probably ever heard during my 5+ years as a Celiac. You managed to articulate so well what so many of us experience daily! Thank you!”
That kind of feedback fuels one for days and days! I am so appreciative of ElseB’s words and those from other kind conference attendees. They make me emotional in many ways. I am truly so happy to be a part of the gluten-free community.
I used previous posts here on gfe as the foundation of my presentation. If you are struggling with your challenges and/or missed these discussions earlier, I suggest that you check them out via the links below. Please also read all the comments on these posts. They are just as valuable as the discussions in the posts.
photo credit: flickr canonsnapper
photo credit: Flickr :mrMark:
My presentation and all the others from the CCA conference will be available in PDF form on the CCA’s website soon. Many, many thanks to the folks of the CCA for being willing to share the presentations with those who could not attend and for allowing me to be part of their excellent conference, and again thank you to the wonderful attendees I met as well. The conference was truly an outstanding experience!
A Cooling and Tasty Concoction for Summer
Recently I had the honor of guest posting over at my good friend Linda’s Gluten-Free Homemaker blog. She’s having a number of guest bloggers sharing summertime recipes. I had the pleasure of kicking off her series with my Homemade V-8 Tropical Splash Blend recipe! This beverage that’s between a juice and a smoothie in thickness is so good and so easy that I think I’ll make one right now, before I head out the door to catch up on a bunch of errands. Get the recipe here!
Have a good week, all! Keep spreading the word on the effects of gluten and how to live gluten free easily!