Feeling at peace in our bodies is definitely the first step to feeling mental and spiritual health. So, with that in mind, today I’d like to share a personal story of dealing with a health problem and the amazing gift it has been to my life and emotional balance coming out the other side.
This is story is not exciting or meant for anyone who is not having crazy, unexplainable BLADDER PROBS. However, I’ve decided to share this story in case anyone else out there is having similar symptoms and I could spare them years of doctors, anxiety, bladder probing. If you feel like you have to pee all the time & you can’t figure out why, this blog is for you.
When I was 27 I woke up one Chicago morning and went to empty my bladder— as usual (I always pee in the morning). After I emptied I still felt like I had to pee. Hmmm…. didn’t make sense (no recent (toxic) bubble baths & I wasn’t in a relationship at the time, no sex) but maybe a bladder infection? I have been known to be sensitive to that sort of thing. Went to the doctor, no infection.
Bladder. STD. Whole deal. Nothing. I wasn’t too surprised. Usually a bladder infection accompanies excruciating pain as you pee… not this. It was just URGENT URGENCY. A “frequency” feeling. The annoying thought: “I have to pee soooo bad” all damn day.
All damn week.
This feeling of urgency never left. I could barely make it 10 min before my bladder was spasming and screaming at me. It could barely hold any liquid (and if I’m being transparent I even peed my pants riding on the train one day) of course it wasn’t much pee to begin with, I had nearly stopped drinking.
To make matters worse this new problem was giving me enormous anxiety. I could barely sit through my school classes without wanting to run out, pee, & cry. I thought I was going to have to wear diapers before age 30. No one would ever fall in love with me. I blockaded myself into my apartment high in the sky and cried. I had completely lost my mind time traveling into the future of this new health problem.
Back home (in Utah), we have a close family friend who happens to be an incredible urologist. Plane ticket booked. I was headed home to figure this out. After my Dr.’s appointment and a full evaluation and testing of my bladder, there was still no “reason.” My bladder was good sized, the tissue was healthy, I didn’t have interstitial cystitis, no cancerous lesions. All good. Maybe I’m just stressed and it’s all “in my mind.” This pissed me off…lol. This was not in my head it was in my bladder.
Fast forward 3 mo.— Still happening. Many physicians later.
Fast forward 6 mo.—Still happening. I’m learning to live with it, finding ways to make sure I always have a restroom nearby, not doing things I normally do (if there wouldn’t be easy access). Afraid of all forms of mass transit, planes & trains. Afraid to go on dates. Crying a lot. Wearing black pants a lot. YET, trying to meditate, exercise, and make this new condition work in my day-to-day.
This keeps going…. fast forward 1 year. I’m now moving to Denver to start my PhD program.
In Denver I notice new symptoms. My anxiety purrs like a constant hum, but now I’m truly exhausted. I can barely find the energy to complete each day. I go to bed at 8 pm too tired to make myself dinner when I get home from campus. One day I fell asleep wearing snow boots and a giant parka, too tired to change I guess? My sis came to visit and returned home with news that, “something is definitely wrong with Emily I think she’s depressed.” Truthfully, I was a little depressed, but too exhausted to think much about it. School. Pee. Sleep. School. Pee. Sleep. On and on. I was doing all I could to make it through the rigorous battle of the doctorate, if you have a doctorate or know someone who has gone through the process, you know the overwhelm it horrors down upon you. I just thought I was exhausted because of the workload.
IMPORTANT other symptoms: my skin begins to show something isn’t right. I have melasma (dark patches) all over my forehead & acne breakouts through my jawline (never had a day of zits, not even in high school). My once gorgeous skin, now a thing of the past. Hyperbole, but that’s definitely how it felt.
Fast-forward summer break (I’m home in Utah).
One night I’m at a family party (my Dad’s side) and everyone is talking about very unusual health problems caused by celiac disease. It sounded like an AA meeting for gluten eaters. Hi, my name is Emily and I have gluten allergy. One of my aunts first realized she had celiac when she was having numbness in her limbs, blindness in her left eye, and paralyzing anxiety. My other aunt had experienced infertility, chronic cold sores and skin rashes. My cousin was always sick to her stomach and could barely eat without gas, bloating, intestinal pain and diarrhea (classic celiac symptoms). My sister has neuropathy (nerve burning & tingling) & anxiety as her main symptoms. My grandma had been diagnosed late in her life and now has many lung, autoimmune, anemia & thyroid problems as a result of poor nutrition caused by damage to her cilia. My cousins have reported muscle weakness, paranoia, & depression ALL CAUSED FROM GLUTEN even cousins who didn’t have “celiac disease.” Now, I knew my paternal genetics had major celiac weakness, but I also never had a day of intestinal trouble. Everything was working out just fine in that area of my life. Still, I had been tested for celiac with a NEGATIVE diagnosis. No celiac for me. However, after hearing everyone’s story of unusual gluten symptoms they convinced me to try going gluten free for a while.
I was fairly desperate, this seemed doable.
For the first time I cut gluten out like I truly meant it (nixed the sneaky stuff). No soy sauce. No Advil liquid gels. No blue cheese. I was careful about salad dressings, gravy, and even watched my whiskey. No cross-contamination in the fryer. I truly stopped eating anything that could contain a bit of gluten and to my surprise after just 5 days my bladder was starting to hold pee again! Two weeks later, I wasn’t so sleepy. My anxiety was soothing itself, my heart was feeling happy. AND THE CHRONIC NAUSEA I HAD EXPERIENCED SINCE I WAS IN KINDERGARTEN 100% DISAPPEARED. Oh yeah, I didn’t mention the nauseous feeling earlier. Here’s why:
I had lived with the fear of throwing up in public for so long that I had adapted to the sensation. As a little girl growing up I felt like I was going to throw up every single day of my life. My mom had tried to help me with this. My mother was not neglectful, she would make me chamomile tea and toast to help soothe my belly (we laugh about this now). She would take me to all the Doctors. She let me keep a bowl under my bed until I was 14 because I always felt on the verge of puking. It had been decided that I had a “nervous stomach” and suddenly this perpetual, nauseous “nervous stomach” 100% VANISHED. I can barely explain how this alone revolutionized my life.
From my earliest memories until age 29 I felt sick to my stomach. I didn’t know what it would even be like to exist free from that feeling of “I’m about to puke.” However, I never puked, so I believed it was a psychosis I had… now I know that it was just a protein in a wheat grain that was making me feel like I wanted to vomit (all the time). Again… I did not recognize this nausea as a “symptom” I was having, I was used to it.
So the story keeps going… Other things disappeared from my life. Things that felt like personality appendages. I thought I was an anxious, irritable, slightly sad person. I thought this feeling was my personality. When I cut the gluten out of my life, to my surprise I excised the harsh parts of my personality too. I’ll soon be 33 now. Since cutting the gluten, I have felt so much happiness & carefree joy in the past 4 years it is incredible. I manage my emotions with such ease and I rarely feel sad or cry (I used to cry a lot and feel sad every day). Now I feel true peace in my life. Relaxation and love of being.
Look, I know “going gluten free” is a trend & I know people don’t believe in gluten allergy and they think you can cheat and eat gluten. When I go to restaurants I tell the server I have celiac to avoid scrutiny, cross contamination, & eye rolls. This white lie is simple and pure because GLUTEN FREE MATTERS TO ME. I have been genetically tested 3 times, I DO NOT HAVE CELIAC DISEASE, I cannot pass that gene on to my children, but my dad and sister do have the gene, I don’t know what I have? I just know wheat hates me. However, I owe my happiness, my health, and my joy to my commitment to leave gluten behind. There isn’t a person in the world who could love sourdough baguettes, a dark, chocolatey beer, eclairs and the satisfaction of being a “foodie” eating and trying anything and everything. I miss these tastes and freedoms, but at the end of the day, no baguette is worth my happiness and a feeling of being safe in my body.
Here’s what I want you to know. If you have a combo of severe anxiety & bladder problems, go gluten free (with true commitment) for 8-weeks.
If you have some other unsolvable health problem do a quick google search about [ your problem ] & gluten. See if it might be worth experimenting with…
Cut out the stuff that’s made on machinery with grain. Ladies, watch your lipsticks & lotions. Cut out sushi 🙁 or be very careful when you go to sushi restaurants. Avoid Italian. Don’t drink beer. Give a near perfect try for 8 full weeks. If you do, you will know once and for all the effects gluten is having on you.
I can say, I feel safe in my body and going gluten free has changed what is possible for me this life and dramatically changed my quality of life.
If this story feels like you. I have other important things I’ve learned on my journey to health. It is common for people who have gluten/grain intolerance to have a gene that makes it so they don’t absorb vitamin B (I do have that gene) and the reason my skin was struggling is because it had no vitamin B. Nowadays I take a methylator to help me synthesize B from my diet and my skin has cleared, my B bloodwork #’s are amazing. Also, when you don’t methylate properly you are at risk for anemia (which I also have) and I still have trouble keeping my iron up but this means I supplement a lot of iron, a good thing to know (especially for women who lose a lot of iron each month with their cycle).
Another genetic thing– people who have celiac have higher chances for thyroid issues, I have a thyroid that runs slow and needs a little boost each morning (my dad has had thyroid cancer) and I have a gene that is known to create thyroid nodules from him. I have had genetic testing because health and feeling good is a priority in my life and I would rather be proactive about potential health problems I may face. We are all bio-individual, and we should consider what is best for our specific genes. I am sharing my story to offer info if you’re facing similar-sounding struggles.
Truthfully, putting my perfect health together has been an art & a science. It has taken me awhile to discover the pieces and complete the puzzle. BUT, the biggest piece and key was GLUTEN and it allowed me to find the weak systems in my body (gut & endocrine). I admit freely, being GF is not ideal and there are times I wish to be rid of this, but it’s also not that bad compared to developing thyroid cancer and autoimmune disease. Sure I could continue to peruse the streets looking for pizzas and croissants. It’s a choice I make.
I am more than happy to answer any questions you have if you are struggling with a story very similar to mine. Please write to firstname.lastname@example.org and title your message RE: GLUTEN & BLADDER. I will get back to you, I am truly happy to help you & offer any resources I found on my journey.
I am hopeful this story can save someone else the trouble and fear! Much love to all who are struggling with their health. I was trapped in a nauseous, anxious, sad body and I didn’t even realize it. I had grown used to this state of being. It wasn’t until my bladder reacted that I recognized something was truly going wrong. I am older now but I honestly feel healthier, happier, and better than when I was 17. I have more vitality and chi running in my veins than ever before. Best of all, I just feel healthy, free, and beautiful in my skin.
You can feel good. You can feel better than good.