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Physical Awareness

I have, and have had, great physicians throughout my life. I seek physicians who are thorough and willing to investigate further to notice issues I may not; but I am learning more and more that it is our responsibility to notice when our health is not up to par and seek help from a physician when we presume it is needed. We cannot expect our physicians to keep radars on us that signal an alert when we start having weird, abnormal symptoms that could indicate something worth checking out. We have to detect those ourselves and seek further medical analysis of the issue(s). I hear several people bash "Dr. Google" and WebMD hypochondria, and in some cases, people do misdiagnose themselves, develop anxiety via their own research and research incorrectly with bad sources. However, there is a correct way to research and hypothesize what may be going on when our bodies seem unhealthy, so that we can provide our physicians more details and hints to diagnose the cause of our symptoms. Every body is different and medical research has to take commonalities among us to formulate effective medicine, but that is not to say their are not odd balls in these research studies. You could be that odd ball. What worked for that past fifty patients may not work for you; and physicians know this, but unless you give them feedback from self-awareness, treating your symptoms like everyone else who had those symptoms, is the best they can do.

So, I challenge everyone to be self aware physically, emotionally, mentally and socially (how you interact with others and how they interact with you); but today, I'm emphasizing physical awareness, which does impact our overall well-being. When you feel 'off,' ask yourself, "Have I had enough water today (Is my pee almost clear?)?," "Did I get enough sleep the past few nights?," "Are my hormones potentially out of whack," "Have I been consuming too much caffeine?," "Am I stressed out?" and "Have I not gotten my heart rate up often enough to exercise my body and heart?" If you can rule these out and still feel 'off,' note your symptoms and do some research, but don't rely on WebMD, which gives you a list of 20 plus diagnoses that could be related to your symptoms. Compare your presumptions to reputable resources, meaning they are backed by several legit sources (like university medical studies) and make sure they are up to date (not published back in 2000...we've already discovered a lot more since then!). Then, do not freak out if your symptoms correlate with a horrible diagnosis! Sure heart burn and indigestion could be symptoms of cancer, but there a several other, less severe correlations.

Personally, I like to go to doctor appointments with a hypothesis or several guesses that could be causing my symptoms. Assuming these issues based on my symptoms, is the reason I typically go to the doctor in the first place. For example, I ate healthy, ran a lot and experienced amenorrhea in college, so I had the doctor check my bone density, assuming I may have osteopenia (The Female Athlete Triad). They performed a DEXA Scan and it indicated that I had osteopenia. It was then my responsibility to build my muscle and bone density and get it checked again years later to ensure my treatment was effective. I had another case similar to this one recently.

Ironically, it was just a few months ago that I posted an article about avoiding gluten (Why Gluten Free?), but at the time, I did not know I would be tested for Celiac Disease a few months later. I figured my symptoms were associated to something common, like Irritable Bowel Syndrome or lactose intolerance; so I experimented a bit, trying to figure out which foods irritated me and which ones did not. It was very difficult to narrow down one type of food. I think my mom and Troy had heard enough of my complaining throughout the year, told me my stomach was irritated more than normal and

encouraged me to see a GI specialist. After having been to the doctor a lot already last year, for some non-stomach symptoms, I figured the stomach discomfort wasn't that bad, probably normal because I eat a lot, and not as important as this other stuff I was going to the doctor for. But, I took their advice and figured I'd keep the ball rolling and go ahead and see 'another' doctor. I went in with several assumptions that could be linked with my stomach woes, including irritable bowel syndrome and Celiac Disease, knowing it was an autoimmune disease and typically genetic, like Type One Diabetes, which my grandmother had. Because having one autoimmune disease places one at risk to develop others, especially if untreated, Celiac Disease was one I definitely wanted to get checked for. I had reason to assume both Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Celiac Disease as potential causes, and it was my job to let my GI specialist know I had a family history of autoimmune disease. This paid off, because two tests did indicate I could potentially have the disease. Unfortunately, Celiac Disease is not typically an easy diagnosis, because their are several non-Celiac causes for positive results in the tests they use to diagnosis it. So, it's been about a month later, and I am still awaiting results for Celiac testing.

It is recommended to continue consuming gluten while being tested for Celiac so that the tests are most likely to yield valid results. I definitely had my share of good, gluten-laden Papa John's pizzas, as well as some non-gluten free craft beer, anticipating I could be diagnosed and need to eliminate gluten for the rest of my life. Having just completed the last of three tests and awaiting results, I presume there are not anymore tests I could do besides a gluten challenge (eliminating gluten to find out if it alleviates symptoms). Considering two of the tests were positive for potential Celiac Disease, it is probably best, whether officially Celiac or not, to eliminate gluten. I say this because the damage I could cause by eating gluten, if I am Celiac, far outweighs the inconveniences of not eating it. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder, as I mentioned, in which the body overreacts to gluten (one, of many, proteins in wheat) causing damage to the villi in the small intestine. These villi cannot properly absorb nutrients if damage, so by eating gluten, those with Celiac disease increase their risk for malnourishment, low bone density, neurological issues, certain cancers and more. So, unlike those with gluten intolerance, people with Celiac Disease must avoid gluten, otherwise they place their bodies in substantial risk for serious issues. All I know now is that I 'may' have Celiac Disease, so it seems smart to say it is within my best interested to avoid gluten, and why wait until the doctor gives me a final diagnosis, if it could alleviate my symptoms sooner?

I wrote this monstrosity of a blog to encourage everyone to take care of your body, relate to others who have had similar symptoms or are dealing with the process of Celiac testing and to hold myself accountable in eliminating gluten, starting yesterday. Do not hesitate to contact Troy and I for support/information on this topic, being more aware and proactive about your health and wellness. That is what we created this blog for and we hope it helps :)

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