Kristen Advocates through TGF to End Suffering

TGF Member Kristin Powers Adao

We asked Kristin Adao to share her story with the Celiac Disease Foundation and we were moved by her honesty and her willingness to get out there and raise awareness. Does her story sound familiar? We encourage you to share your story with us. Just email tgf@celiac.org and join our Team Gluten-Free Challenge today!

 

Kristin and her Team Gluten-Free cheer squad!

Kristin and her Team Gluten-Free cheer squad!

Describe what you were feeling before you were diagnosed?

Ever since I was a child, I had stomach issues that would come and go. It had just become my “normal” to have an upset stomach about half of the day every day. I would almost always feel bloated and a bit nauseous after eating, and would have intermittent bouts of feeling so crummy that I would forgo events & get-togethers in order to stay home in bed (severe bloating & abdominal pain occurred about once a week, lasting several hours). I was constantly tired – and when I say tired, I mean absolutely exhausted… barely able to get off the couch on the weekends to do anything at all with my family. For years, I wrote this off to being a working mom of twins (who wouldn’t be exhausted by parenthood, squared?!). Because, after multiple adventures with specialists over the years during childhood, adolescence, and my early 20’s – I never got any real answers. These people were medical experts, right? So there couldn’t possibly be anything wrong with me…

 

Had you ever heard of Celiac Disease before you were diagnosed?

I had just started to hear about Celiac Disease about 6 months prior to my diagnosis. I hadn’t seen a specialist for my stomach issues for about 12+ years, when gluten intolerances were much less mainstream – and all of my “routine” blood tests over the years had not offered any clues. Last fall, upon the recommendation of a childhood friend (Dr. Michelle Coleman, DC) – I decided to do a “test” by removing gluten from my diet for 3 months. I felt pretty well – but nothing so dramatic that it was an “ah hah” moment for me. As Christmas rolled around, along with the temptation of cookie parties and mountains of baked treats, I decided to go back to my old diet. It wasn’t until reading The Grain Brain (by Dr. David Perlmutter, MD) earlier this year that I learned more about Celiac Disease, and something clicked. Dr. Perlmutter’s description of the symptoms sounded just like me. It was as though the pieces of the puzzle were finally starting to come together. Even at that point, however, I never dreamed I actually had Celiac Disease. At most, I thought that I might have a gluten intolerance. However, I decided to give the gluten-free lifestyle another chance – and this time, I did things right. I eliminated foods with preservatives and high levels of carbohydrates – and loaded up on healthy fats. Real, whole food eating. But best of all: the day before I planned to start my new diet, I asked my primary physician to run a full gamut of blood tests – the works!… including a Celiac Disease panel.

What was your experience on the road to diagnosis?

I was downright shocked when I got the call from my doctor’s office, indicating that my Celiac test had come back positive. I asked them to send the results to me – and was stunned when I saw that some of the results were completely off the charts. And I was actually comforted by this! At last, something definitive. (Go big or go home!) A subsequent visit with a GI specialist, and a quick endoscopy/biopsy – was the nail in the coffin. Even though I had already been off gluten for over 2 weeks at the time of my biopsy, the results were quite clear. I officially had Celiac Disease.

Now that you are gluten-free, how has your life changed?

I sound like a raving lunatic when I share my results with people. It still sounds nuts to me, and if I hadn’t experienced it for myself, I would never truly believe it. Just one week after I started eating “clean,” I had a profound shift in my energy levels. One weekend, I was glued to the couch, moody and lethargic – and the next weekend, I was literally spring cleaning for 2 days straight… happily! (That’s right – I actually said happily! And trust me – I am NO domestic goddess). My husband was dumbfounded. For days… weeks… I kept waiting to see when this strange “high” was going to wear off. It still hasn’t.  It took the better part of 6-8 weeks before my GI symptoms abated, but those eventually resolved as well. I finally know what it’s like to feel amazing – from the inside out. I did this… I figured this out… and it’s the most empowering adventure I’ve ever been on!

Does your family eat gluten-free as well?

I waited a few weeks before deciding to transition my family to a gluten-free lifestyle along with me (after having Celiac blood panels run on my kids as well – with good results). It’s hard not to feel so strongly about something, when you’ve experienced such a profound change. This journey has changed my life, my outlook on health, and my entire way of shopping, cooking, and eating. My family is extremely supportive, and has embraced our new way of eating. Okay, full disclosure – “embrace” might be a bit of an exaggeration for our 6-year olds, but, we’re finding what works for us – and I’m so proud of what we’ve accomplished! We’ve settled into a bit of a compromise – everyone eats gluten-free at home, but at friends’ houses/parties, anything goes (except fast food!). And the words “this is the BEST [insert gluten-rich food item here] I’ve EVER had, Mom!” through chipmunk-stuffed cheeks, are not uncommon. Sad but true. Perhaps one day they will grow to blissfully turn down those gluten-rich foods, of their own free will.

 

Why did you join Team Gluten-Free? What are your fundraising plans? If there anything you need help with in terms of raising funds and awareness for Celiac Disease?

​After struggling with symptoms for decades and finally being diagnosed at the age of 35, getting the word out to others is extremely important to me. If my friends hadn’t shared their knowledge and insights with me, I might still be suffering blindly, and unnecessarily. This month, to help spread awareness of Celiac Disease – I’ve been sharing my story with anyone who will listen. My friends, colleagues, family members, parents of my kids’ classmates, the Facebook world… and you.  Really, anyone who will listen to my ranting! I consider someone taking the time to listen, and share with their friends, to be a huge success. Donations through my Team Gluten-Free fundraising page are icing on the cake, for those who are motivated to take the next step in helping this cause.