I diagnosed myself with celiac disease at age 40 and let out a victorious yell. I finally had an answer to my decades long mystery illness that had left multiple doctors baffled. And I had a path to healing that began with diet. My journey began in elementary school where I consistently was the shortest girl in every class. Chronic anemia was just a lab result not important to my pre-adolescent self. I knew something was wrong. I underwent a series of work-ups with endocrinologists and gastroenterologists and many blood draws later there was no answer. In my 30s my liver function tests became elevated and I was repeatedly questioned about my alcohol intake, which was a polite way of asking if I was an alcoholic. I was offered a liver biopsy which I politely refused but did agree to an ultrasound (normal). Finally, at age 40 I developed an itchy, telltale rash on my elbows, dermatitis herpetiformis, As a dermatologist, I was able to biopsy myself and after establishing a diagnosis of celiac disease immediately went on a gluten free diet.
The analogy I make is that although I did not have typical symptoms of celiac disease, once I began shifting my diet my energy level, concentration and overall outlook on life improved dramatically. I felt like a high performance car that had previously only been given a low octane fuel diet. With a “ premium diet” I functioned at full capacity. Food, it turns out, can be the cure or the source of disease.
Food is medicine and diet can radically change your health. But the road back to health through diet was an unmarked road. Nutrition was a two hour lecture in medical school and food was never considered medicine. Challenges can provoke creativity. My training and my lifelong goal was to heal and now I became my own patient. The choices for gluten free food fifteen years ago were rather bleak and most bread and pasta tasted like glue. Cooking became a necessity to ensure gluten free ingredients but it also became a form of self care and brought me profound joy. Cooking also influenced my patient care and I found discussing diet with patients, especially those with inflammatory conditions, elevated our treatment plans which became more holistic. I shared many patients with my good friend and rheumatologist, Dr Jill Weintraub Landis. Together as we discussed patients with chronic autoimmune diseases, diet was as important as the medicines we prescribed. My hope for this blog is to inspire and pave a road to health from food that truly nourishes. Diana Hurwitz, MD