abby wiggins: fashionista, stylist, celiac activist.

by Abby Wiggins

It all began back in 2013 when I had my gallbladder taken out.

Skip a few years and I kept having bad abdominal pains on top of new symptoms like extreme fatigue, endometriosis, “brain fog,” and I started getting extremely ill after I ate. Not to mention the emotional stress I was going through on top of everything else. I had gone through countless testing and exploratory surgeries to try and figure out what was going on but every test kept coming back negative for everything the doctors and I thought could be wrong (I felt like I was going crazy) until my brother was diagnosed with MALS in early 2016.

My parents started telling my brother’s doctor who performed his MALS surgery about my symptoms and he told them that I should get tested for MALS as well. So I did and it came back positive. MALS is short for Median Arcuate Ligament Syndrome, it’s a pretty rare condition in which a ligament compresses your celiac artery and blood can’t get where it needs to be. My celiac artery was being compressed greater than 80% which was leading to multiple issues. The MALS was why I was having such extreme fatigue (I would take a nap every 2-4 hours a day), having ghost symptoms of endometriosis, having really bad “brain fog”, and the only reason I was able to keep weight on my body was because of birth control. So in July 2016 I flew to Washington, DC to have surgery to correct the celiac artery. Afterwards so many of my symptoms went away or decreased significantly.

A few weeks later my doctor who performed my MALS surgery told me I needed to go see a GI specialist since I was consistently getting ill after I ate and still showing symptoms of “brain fog.” So I did, and a few weeks ago I had another exploratory surgery done. I got the results last week and I was diagnosed with Celiac disease. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease which is triggered by the consumption of gluten (wheat, barley, and rye) which wrecks havoc on your small intestine and can lead to complications like malnutrition, infertility, and even cancer. So even the tiniest bit of gluten can make me sick for a week straight. I’ve been researching like crazy to ease myself into this gluten free diet and so far I’ve been okay, I definitely have my moments though. Emptying out my kitchen was really rough once I started realizing how much gluten is in food and my first trip into a grocery store since being diagnosed had me driving home in tears but I’m getting better. I deleted all my regular food boards on Pinterest and re-did them to make them all gluten free. I also made my first grocery trip to Whole Foods yesterday and they have so many options that are gluten free which is very relieving. My biggest struggle with it so far is knowing I won’t ever be able to eat certain foods again and that unlike the people who diet GF I won’t be able to have a “cheat day” also stepping into certain grocery stores is still overwhelming. However, I know that at the end of the day this will be worth it and I’m going to feel like a totally different person, I’m just ready for that day to get here soon (I’m super impatient)!! I need to give a huge shoutout to my fellow celiac and gluten free friends who have been helping me and giving me awesome advice, I appreciate it more than I can say.

I’m extremely grateful and praise God daily that all my questions about my body have been answered and I know how to fix everything. The process of adjusting my entire life around has been a lot and it’s only been a week but I’m so thankful for my support team. My family, boyfriend, and friends have really came in strong for me in the last 3 years. I would not be where I’m at today without their love and support. So with that being said, cheers to fall and bringing in a new season (especially one filled with good health).

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