The Lupus and Gluten Connection
Today I am healthy, vibrant and pain free, but it wasn’t always this way. A few years ago, I became afflicted with intense, severe muscle pain and joint swelling, leading to hospitalization. It wasn’t until I discovered I had a severe gluten intolerance that I was able to turn it all around.
My symptoms began with random traveling joint pain. Then more joints started to ache. My feet were so swollen that my shoes would barely fit. Symptoms quickly worsened: bloody urine, heart palpitations and shortness of breath. Off I went to the emergency room. After being evaluated, I needed to be monitored, but there were no beds available for admission. Next stop, mediflight to another hospital in another state. I was diagnosed with lupus nephritis with multi-organ involvement.
Three hospitals later and on a slew of medications, I retreated with family as my body required 24-hour care. I needed assistance getting out of bed, washing my hair and just walking. I had so much brain fog, depression rapidly set in. What was happening to my body? Thoughts of taking my life came during my worst days as I lay in bed, sobbing alone. Days and weeks passed, and I pondered what had happened to this healthy, organic food eating, juicing, supplement-taking, bottled water-drinking body of mine.
I realized that my joints would scream after most meals. I requested a gene test for celiac disease from my specialist. She said, “Don’t even waste your money!” I found the test online and ordered it. Lo and behold, I had two gluten sensitive genes, one from each parent. It was at that instant that I became gluten free and within days my brain fog started to clear up, and the joint and muscle pain began to resolve. That was my salvation and the birth of a gluten-free fanatic.
As I have come to realize this journey as my gift, my mission is to spread awareness of the link between gluten and lupus or possibly other autoimmune disorders. I strongly acknowledge the potency of nutritional food choices; it literally saved my life. I now share my story with lupus support groups in New York City.
Today as a nurse practitioner and celiac educator, I focus on testing for gluten intolerance and celiac disease, as well as treat and nurture patients with celiac disease from the afflictions gluten can cause, especially multiple vitamin deficiencies. If you have joint or muscle pain, infertility issues, anemia, brain fog, irritable bowel syndrome, thyroid disorder, osteoporosis, gastrointestinal or an autoimmune disorder, get tested (preferably gene tested) for celiac disease. It can ultimately stop the rapid progression of this rising autoimmune epidemic in women.
Today I am a healthy and a vibrant gluten-free cook and foodie working on my first gluten-free cookbook. I empower women, especially those who have suffered a chronic illness, to live beyond their diagnosis and to live a full out and fabulous life!
Margaret A. Romero is a board-certified nurse practitioner specializing in women’s health and integrative medicine. She has a private practice at the Giving Nature Center in Chelsea, New York City.
Photo Credit: Kevin Lallier