I am an Indian (28) living in Dubai and had been suffering from bloating, flatulence, headaches, and constipation for as long as I know. I was always told bloating and gas are normal.
Happens to everyone, it’s no big deal. One day at the age of 23 I had to go through my first surgery for Haemorrhoids as I was suffering from pain and bleeding. I thought after the surgery I will be completely fine, but soon I had repeated issues and 2.5 years later a second surgery. Later that year in 2019 I went on a trip to New Delhi where my sister and I got food poisoning. She recovered within a week after taking the antibiotics, but my stomach issues persisted for 4 months. It was then that I lost around 8kgs of weight. A blood test for gluten intolerance was done for which I tested negative.
Then a couple of months later my constipation issues and fissures started getting the worst of me again and I was just asking myself “Why am I not healing?”
In October 2020 I got sores in my mouth which were invisible to the naked eye but I was just not able to tolerate anything hot, spicy, or crunchy. I was not able to open my mouth more than the bare minimum and everything hurt. The local GP just gave me an Anti-Fungal cream and said that she doesn’t feel anything is wrong. Then my friend’s dad who is a doctor said that my symptoms look like IBD and to visit a Gastroenterologist. He again referred a panel of Gluten Allergy Tests which all came negative and then an Endoscopy which confirmed my Celiac Disease.
I have been living my gluten-free life since Jan 2021 and I must say it takes a lot of getting used to. My mother was the first one to understand the gravity of the situation and my sister has been my rock and has adopted making and eating gluten-free at home with me. My headaches have drastically reduced and my stomach feels a lot better.
My major struggle is finding gluten-free food that is safe for Celiacs and explaining the severity of cross-contamination.
In Dubai, there are places where I can buy GF groceries, bread, and pasta and there are some restaurants that cater to my gluten requirements. In India, this is a very big challenge. Once when I asked about gluten-free food the waiter responds, “Ma’am we are not going to put cheese in your dish.”
Another case where it was expected that I knowingly consume gluten was during prayer/pooja. I do not mean to hurt anyone’s religious sentiment but this has happened more than once during the pooja I was offered the prasad which was made out of wheat/suji.
Though I refused, the Pandit Ji and a few others kept forcing me to have it as I was “Refusing God’s Blessing” and “A little bit won’t hurt”.
That day I realized that people in India are still not aware of the consequences gluten can cause and how badly it can harm someone.
You need to be your own advocate. It is very hard to go through it alone and I am lucky to have a supportive husband and family. I hope that in the times to come people get more aware of Gluten Related Allergies and Celiac Disease so that they can identify the symptoms and take the step toward a healthier life.