Posted 7/11/2012 12:17 AM (GMT -6)
I'm new here and thought I'd explain my situation to get some ideas/feedback. If nothing else, this is a way for me to mentally organize my problem, so sorry in advance if it gets too detailed.
I'm 24 and male. For the past eight years, since I was 16, I've had problems digesting mainly exhibited in abnormal bowel movements. There wasn't anything remarkable about when it started, other than that it was right after a month-long trip. I remember that within a couple weeks of returning home I could tell that something wasn't right. Eventually I accepted that something had changed, and ever since this has been my new normal.
Though things have fluctuated over the years, essentially it's been the same problem. I go to the bathroom fairly often, rarely only once per day and usually about 3 times. My stool is always on the loose side, sometimes only slightly soft and loose but other times approaching diarrhea. It's common for me to see bits of undigested food, most commonly fruit and vegetables. Even when my bowel movements are on the firmer side it's not uncommon for there to be dirty water or "particulate matter" in the bowl. Color varies, but is light brown or pale in color more often than dark. For the past eight years I don't think I've even once had constipation, or a single bowel movement on the firm side of normal. Though I don't have stomach pain or cramps as a symptom, I probably do experience more abdominal discomfort than normal, and in general my stomach and appetite seem "finicky".
Some months after the problem started, I brought it up to my pediatrician, who referred me to a gastroenterologist. I had a colonoscopy done, as well as a barium test (checking out the lower and upper intestine respectively, I believe), and both came up normal. Her basic conclusion was that if it wasn't affecting my quality of life, don't worry about it. (For her I think this amounted to the fact that I said I didn't experience pain.) While I didn't push the issue at the time, the fact is that my stomach problems were, and continue to be, hurdles for me. My last couple seasons of high school track and cross-country were pretty much cut off because when I was really pushing myself hard aerobically, like in the middle of a tough practice or in a race, I would start to get bad pain in my stomach. Exercise is still a thorny area-- some days I feel fine lifting weights or cycling, but other days after 20 minutes I unexpectedly feel very sick and sometimes even vomit. My appetite is usually bad for a couple hours in the morning, and I'm pretty sure that I don't feel good after many meals-- it's been so long now that I've just gotten used to it, but when I stop to consider, there's something wrong in how often I feel that something's "off" inside, before, during or after a meal. Finally, I should mention that for the last several years I've had some mood and anxiety problems. Though I've always thought it was totally separate from my stomach, in doing research I see that make people draw a link. I could go on listing other small negative effects, but the point is that it all adds up to a noticeable drag on my health and well-being.
The reason that I'm seriously suspecting a gluten intolerance now is my family. A couple years ago my sister switched to a gluten-free diet, after a long period of serious stomach pain that would keep her in bed at different times. And then my dad was recently given a diagnosis of gluten intolerance, although I think his symptoms are more benign. The reason I didn't try cutting out gluten before is that, for my sister, it was always such a painful thing. I never suspected that my relatively minor symptoms could be related. Also, she complained of constipation mostly, whereas for me it's on the other end of the spectrum. Another thing that makes me skeptical is that she would (and does) "feel" it within several hours if she eats gluten. I don't notice any consistent difference from specific foods; on the contrary, I've always loved bread and pie, and often when I don't feel excited about eating anything else I find myself grabbing some bread and butter. Still, now that a second member of the family seems to have gluten issues, it's looking likely that I'm the third.
I'm starting on gluten-free today, so we'll see how it goes. I just wanted to see if anyone recognizes my particular symptoms, or has feelings as to whether a gluten intolerance seems likely. Thanks.