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Figuring It Out (Part 2)

After a few months of being gluten-free and feeling completely awesome, I noticed something weird was happening. If I ran my other fingers over them, I could feel a small indent going horizontally across the nail bed. This is weird, I thought.

I began googling nail problems, and was relieved (and surprised) to find out that I apparently did not have some kind of nail cancer. Now, I’m no doctor, but sometimes I like to pretend that I am, so I diagnosed myself with Beau’s Nails. You can google it to see pictures. My nails weren’t as bad as the pictures on there, but I noticed it as it was just starting out. On my googling-fest I also realized that my nails also looked quite a bit like Terry’s Nails, which you can also look up, but is basically a dark arc near the end of the year. My nails have had this arc since at least some time in High school, and I’m 23, so it’s been a while. Both these afflictions can be caused by liver disease and lots of other scary things that I’m pretty sure I don’t have, but they can also be caused my malnutrition. Celiac can cause malnutrition, because when the intestinal villi becomes inflamed due to gluten ingestion, it prevents essential nutrients and minerals from because absorbed, thus malabsorption and malnutriton.

Up until now I hadn’t returned to see my doctor concerning possible celiac disease because I had learned that the blood test that is used to test for celiac will come back negative if you are not eating gluten (this is because the test looks for the antibodies created by your immune system when it comes in contact with gluten; no gluten, no antibodies!). So in order for me to have this performed with accurate results, I would have to go back on gluten for a few weeks. However, if I felt sick for days after a single meal of gluten, there was no way I was going to go back and eat gluten for weeks. And besides, even if I went through all that trouble and was officially diagnosed with celiac, what would be the benefit of all that? I would simply go back to my gluten free diet. Which I was already doing anyway. But all that being said, the idea that I was having some kind of malnutriton problem worried me enough to go back and see him. I thought maybe the internet was wrong and there was some kind of other test he could perform to diagnose me.

So I went in for my appointment and explained everything that had been going on and showed him my nails. When I asked to be tested for celiac, he asked, as expected, if I had already cut out gluten. I said yes and he confirmed that the test would come back negative. He also said, similar to my own thoughts, that the fact was, whether or not the test would come back positive or negative, I know I can’t tolerate gluten, so I might as well just stay on this diet since it seems to be working. Truth is, I have no trouble sticking to the diet. There’s a little bit of extra effort when it comes to reading labels and challenges when eating out, but I just feel so much better that it’s so worth it to me.

He informed me that the nail issues I was having were typically due to iron deficiency. He sent me for some blood tests and tested for a few other things that celiacs sometimes have trouble with like B12. My iron did turn out to be too low in the end, despite my diet containing a good amount of spinach, beans and meat, and he actually said that often when people are anemic they will automatically check for celiac. My low iron was probably not helped by the fact that I used to be a regular blood donor. He instructed me to take iron pills and then come back for another blood test after two months. If it comes back fine, then I can stop taking the pills, however if I plan to continue giving blood, I will probably have to stay on them. I should be going in for this blood test sometime this week, so we’ll have to wait and see!