My name is Liana Brittain. This is my web site. I’ve been searching for a vehicle to document the journey I’m making. It’s going to be long and challenging, but exciting and well worth the effort. I thought of writing a diary, a journal or a novella, but that didn’t suit my style. I’m fascinated by modern technology and have a son with the skills and expertise necessary to help me untangle the complexities of my own web site. So here I am: writing online and loving the potential it offers.
I can’t tell you when the journey began. Gluten intolerance is a hereditary condition, so I imagine it really started at birth. Since I had eczema as an infant, it appears that my body has been trying to send a message for a very long time. I suffered with numerous allergies and asthma throughout my childhood and graduated to bleeding stomach ulcers as a young adult. I was an athlete and looked the vibrant picture of health, but something just wasn’t right. So it went throughout my life: looking spunky, but gradually succumbing to yet another illness. The list grew to include IBS, GERD, and PMS. In addition, I seemed to get every cold and flu that was going around. I often struggled with bronchitis and pneumonia. My tonsils came out. I had appendix that ruptured and my reproductive system became a veritable pantheon of problems. Physically, I wasn’t doing so well.
On the other hand, I worked full time as an elementary school teacher, raised a family, survived divorce and being a single mom, did volunteer work in the community, participated in a variety of sports and took the time to do those things I loved: writing, art, cooking, reading, movies, genealogy. The fabric of life was very full and rich, but in the background lurked a constant stream of illnesses. Then disaster struck in the fall of 1997. A downward spiral began and, although I didn’t know it, life would never be the same again.
It had been a very stressful summer. My older son was being formally identified as learning disabled so he could receive admission to college without his high school diploma and my daughter decided to push her wedding date up by almost a year to accommodate a potential career move by her future husband that would take them out of the country. I was getting ready to go back to teaching in the fall and my younger son was struggling with the problems associated with ADHD. In September, I caught a flu virus that was going through the class, as it did every year when we returned from the summer’s vacation and pooled our collective germs. I struggled to get back on my feet in time for my daughter’s wedding in October, but I never really felt one hundred percent. Then, in November, the unthinkable happened. The entire teaching profession in Ontario went out on strike. By week two on the picket line I was home, flat on my back, sick in bed. I never did recover.
It took eighteen months for medical tests and assessments, but eventually, in January 1999, I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. Finally, the overwhelming fatigue, the constant pain, the insomnia, the metal confusion, the intolerance to medications, the acute allergies and memory lapses had a name and identity. I thought that would be the beginning of the return to some type of health. Instead, I continued to get worse. My body was screaming for help and, although I could hear it, I had no idea what it was trying to tell me. So, I continued to decline. Life deteriorated into an abyss controlled by unrelenting pain and total isolation.
Eventually, I documented this story in a novella called “The Other Side of Hell”. I’ll share it with anyone who’s interested. Just email me and I’ll send you a copy. Prior to this, I became a single mom again. I gave up my home and everything I had worked for all my adult life, to move out on my own and start over, yet again. I was 49 years old. Still, my health deteriorated and so it continued for several years. I lived on my own, sharing my apartment with my son alternate weeks. I waged a daily battle to continue teaching. Time was not on my side. I struggled to continue alone, but I had no social life and teaching full time was more than I could manage. Eventually, I was forced to reduce my teaching load to half days over a two year period and ultimately, I took an early retirement. I was mentally exhausted, physically crippled and very isolated by my illness.
Then, I met Paul and my life began to change. I still struggled with my medical problems, but now I had a loving partner to share the challenges. I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism and put on medication, but I was still struggling with deteriorating health. After three years, we eloped and were married privately in a very romantic ceremony. We decided to start a new life together and moved to a new community. My son chose to make the move with us and so, our merry little band, “Peter, Paul and Mom”, headed off down to road to seek new adventures. Life was full of promise and it didn’t let us down!
After settling in our new home, I began the search for medical care to monitor and assess my health needs. My efforts were rewarded when my mother put me in touch with the Health for Life Medical Centre. Headed by the vision of a wonderful, young, woman doctor, this dedicated group of health care professionals provides an integrated approach to wellness. Dr. Kilpatrick and her team began to evaluate every aspect of my health and well being. One of the important processes that I went through was what I’ll call “disassembling my pain”. As a result of bone scans, x-rays, blood work and numerous other tests, the team was able to identify what was causing the pain in different parts of my body. It turned out to be four different issues that could each be dealt with in discrete ways. Dr. Kilpatrick and the team did more than just diagnose and treat my illnesses. They also provided an atmosphere and environment that was positive, attentive, nurturing, supportive and non-judgemental. They gave me the confidence I had needed to move forward and, more importantly, they gave me hope. For the first time in my adult life, I had reason to believe that some day I might take back my life in a meaningful way.
When I began looking for health care in our new community, my goals were to stay out of a wheel chair and to improve my quality of life. I have stayed focused on those goals over the past eighteen months. I have grown to believe that I alone am responsible for my health and well being. Unfortunately, I have lacked the tools and knowledge to do this all on my own. My new medical team has been an invaluable resource on every front imaginable. Through them, I have also met a new group of people that has also become a wonderful resource for me, although it was in a circuitous way.
Originally, the receptionist at the clinic put me in touch with a remarkable woman named Diane Dawber because we share an interest in poetry. Diane quickly introduced me to the work of a wellness reading and study group called Health Pursuits. This amazing group of people share their questions, ideas, research findings and professional resources in an atmosphere of respect and consideration. Each person has unique health needs and each shares their experiences without fear of judgement or criticism. They work together, as a team, to explore treatment options.
It was through Diane and Health Pursuits that I was introduced to the research and work of Dr. Lendon Smith. In his book, “Feed Your Body Right”, Dr. Smith reports that using a pure form of an element, such as B2, you can tell, by smell, if you body requires this nutrient or not. I used the “Health Pursuits Nutrient Test Kit” and discovered that I was in need of a few key elements, even though I was careful to eat a very healthy diet. The one that stood out most and seemed to create the most significant concern was iron. My nose and my body were telling me it was something I needed a lot.
Armed with this new information, I discussed the idea with Dr. Kilpatrick and began to do some research of my own. The conclusion I came to was that my body was trying to tell me I had inherited a medical problem from my father. I began to suspect I was gluten intolerant. The more research I did, the more I became convinced that this was the case.
Then came the crisis that changed my life. It started with pain in my left shoulder, neck and face and chest. In a very short period of time, it became acute and fearing a heart attack, I called Dr. Kilpatrick. An ambulance was called and I was taken to the hospital where I spent a day being assessed for a heart attack. The cardiology team’s final diagnosis was costochondritis: an inflammation of the lining of the chest wall or the cartilage connecting the ribs in the chest wall. For me, this was a clear message from my body. In order to reduce the risk of any more inflammation or illnesses related to inflammation ( of which I had many ), it was time to stop eating gluten.
I had already investigated what I would have to do to stop eating gluten: community resources, food items to avoid, recipes. So, I was faced with a choice. I could wait and have all the tests done to confirm Celiac Disease or I could simply stop eating gluten and see what happened. I decided that I already had a lot of diseases and illnesses and really didn’t need to have one more label. What I really needed was relief from all this pain and suffering. So, I stopped eating gluten. That was in August, 2007.
Since then, I have not knowingly eaten anything that contains gluten. On a rare occasion, when eating out, I do sometimes inadvertently eat some gluten and I pay the price physically. Initially, I kept a daily diary to record what happened when I began eating gluten free. Within five days, the benefits were obvious. Within a few weeks I was a completely new person. Within a few months, people were amazed at the difference in me on many levels: I was in significantly less pain, had more energy, was more mobile, my digestive tract functioned normally, my memory had improved, my thought processes were clearer, I was happier. My quality of life was dramatically improved.
I am now 90% pain free, 90% of the time. Yes, I still have flare ups of my arthritis and fibromyalgia symptoms. They are mostly related to shifts in the weather and feeling so good that I just do too much. For the first time in years, I can vacuum the floors. I can take on more than one task in a day and sometimes, I have energy to burn. I’m even beginning to lose weight and my body shape is changing. All this because I don’t eat gluten.
When I was a younger woman, I lived and worked in Europe and was fluent in English, French and German. With a working knowledge of Latin, which I had studied at school, I was able to pick up these languages quickly. I found that the root of words in Latin frequently gave me the keys necessary to use words in the other languages. When I began eating gluten free, I discovered the keys to the language spoken by my body. I quickly realized that it had been trying to tell me things all my life, I just hadn’t understood what it was saying. The keys to the language spoken by my body were very specific: bloating, gas, reflux, stomach or abdominal pain, diarrhoea, heart palpitations, blocked sinus, headache, rashes and pain. Those keys were readily apparent in the first weeks of eating gluten free. More keys began to emerge, slowly, as time went on and I learned to listen more acutely, to the language of my body. With the help of new friends and numerous tools, I’m learning more every day and am on the road to recovery.
In June of 2008, I began to use a rotation diet to help me further identify and isolate foods that create challenges for my body. Once again, I turned to my friends at Health Pursuits to give me the tools necessary to achieve success. I read their book “A New Spin On The Rotation Diet”. After discussing this with my personal physician, my dietician and a specialist, I took the first steps toward cycling my food intake. I researched the plant families that contain all the fruit, vegetables and herbs. I also consulted other resources such as:
“Eat Right For Your Type” Dr. P, D’Adamo http://www.dadamo.com/pd.htm
“The Inflammation Free Diet Plan” M. Reinagel http://www.inflammationfactor.com/
“Are You Gluten Sensitive” Dr. Ford http://www.doctorgluten.com/cms/
“The World’s Healthiest Foods” George Mateljan http://whfoods.org/
I then created my own version of the rotation diet which is specific for my needs. My progress is being monitored by my doctors and my learning curve has been very steep. The rotation diet has helped to identify other foods that can potentially cause me problems.
I realize that I didn’t get to be in this shape over night. It will take several years for me to recover from a life time of eating gluten. However, I now have the key to my illnesses. I have learned to understand what my body is telling me. As a result, I have been able to eliminate or reduce the intake of other foods in my diet. When I eat something I shouldn’t my body tells me and I listen! I have a lot left to learn, but now I have even more than hope. I know my quality of life will just continue to improve, because I know the difference between how my body feels when it’s well and how it feels when it’s in distress. As soon as I experience distress, I stop and find the source of the problem. I will be well. I believe it.