I’ve mentioned a few times that I’m doing a two month trial of a gluten-free diet for my headaches. A couple of people have asked why I am trying this, so I decided to post about it.
Several months ago, I saw some articles about celiac disease and migraines. Celiac disease, also known as gluten enteropathy, is an autoimmune disease in which the body reacts to gluten by creating antibodies to part of the lining of the small intestine. The symptoms are usually gastrointestinal in nature with diarrhea, bloating, and malabsorption. Recent research, though, has shown that people with migraines are more likely to have celiac disease, and that their migraines are likely to respond to a gluten-free diet.
My doctor and I agreed to do the blood test for celiac disease which came up negative. (I wasn’t too surprised since I don’t have any other symptoms of celiac disease, but it was certainly worth the test.) She and I decided, though, to pursue a two month gluten-free diet trial. There is some evidence that some people have gluten sensitivity even with negative blood tests (i.e. the blood tests are not quite sensitive enough to pick up low antibody levels or there is another mechanism at work). So, until June 1, I am completely gluten-free.
Earlier this year, I went back on Topamax for migraines because the headaches had gotten so bad again that I was really functioning quite poorly. I have tried to avoid pursuing every new headache treatment that I hear about because it is so disappointing when yet another treatment fails. In December, I tried oxygen therapy without success.
One of the things I have had to really work through with the chronic pain has been my feelings of guilt about being in pain. It truly doesn’t make much sense. After all, I never thought to blame my patients about their pain. But, as someone who wants to always be in control, I feel like something of a failure when something happens that I can’t control, like chronic headaches and migraines.
One of the risks of trying another diet treatment is that failure of the treatment (which is statistically likely, although I’m praying not) makes it easy for me to go back to feeling guilty about pain. “See, I can’t even get my life under control enough to not have pain. If I could just do everything right, I’m sure I’d feel well again.” This is, of course, crazy. But, we all have our issues and this is mine. Frankly, my control issues served me well working as a physician. After all, don’t you want your doctor to have all the balls in the air? But, the need for extreme control and perfectionism doesn’t work well in real life.
I’m OK with doing this new diet trial, though, because I’m starting (finally!) to get the hang of the fact that I’m really not in control of everything. I’ve worked through all the headache stuff and I’m convinced that my headaches are not my fault. God is in control of my life, not me. I am getting used to being content in that. If the gluten-free diet works, great! I’d love to have fewer (or NO!) headaches. If it doesn’t work, God is still God, He still loves me, He still has a great plan for me, and He still is worthy to be loved and served, and I can still tell everyone with complete confidence that He is absolutely my reason for living.