Lemons And Serendipity Comment Count

Ace September 8th, 2014 at 2:06 PM

There is no GIFs post this week, because hell no, so instead I'm taking the opportunity to write about lemons and health and whatnot. If you're looking for the video of Brian finally fulfilling the terms of the Bolden/Morgan lemon bet, click here. Below is me eating a lemon for entirely different reasons.

I have an odd way of stumbling into life-changing events.

My first "real" writing job came when I responded to a thread on The Wolverine's message board announcing they were looking for an intern, despite my only qualification being a couple years of blogging on a site I created on blogspot. They hired me, for some reason, and from that point forward writing about sports went from hobby to potential profession.

I landed my job here eight months after graduation. I'd done nothing to find another job, instead writing on the blog I'd created while at The Wolverine and hoping someone would notice. In the span of a few short weeks, Tim Sullivan got hired by The Wolverine, TomVH got hired by ESPN, and I found myself in the Michigan Stadium press box covering a weather-shortened game against Western Michigan.

In the interim, I'd been diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which appeared to explain many of the myriad health problems I'd experienced since the latter half of high school. Eventually, I'd write about dealing with CFS as I spent the better part of a year working from my bed in my parents' house. I did my best to write about it positively and within the framework of sports, because facing the realities of having a debilitating illness with no proven cause or cure is scary and depressing, as is the prospect of openly discussing it with a rather large audience.

Writing how I actually felt—depressed and scared, mostly, of the reality of my situation and whether it would get better and whether I could keep this job and whether I should date anyone and whether it would ever be safe to have children because the best my CFS specialist could tell me was "use a condom and it should be fine"—was not something I could face head on, and I was genuinely distracted from that pain by Michigan's wonderful basketball team, so I chose to focus on that latter bit.

I began to feel better enough this summer that I once again began the process of moving out of my childhood home, this time to a townhouse in Ypsilanti with my brother and one of his co-workers; my brother does an amazing job of providing support, and I still would be living close enough to home to keep that support system intact and available. At some point, I needed to begin real life, whatever that is, and trying to do that from my parents' house wasn't very easy, as you can probably imagine.

As I prepared for the move, I saw my physician for a routine checkup in July. Outside of my immediate family and closest friends, I trust this physician—who from the outset had been wary of my CFS specialist, who is as much a researcher as a doctor, which has its positives and its considerable negatives—more than anybody I know. Two hours after I'd left the doctor's office, I got a call from him. It was after 6 pm. The office had closed at 5.

He'd been going back through my medical records, and noticed that six years ago something in those records indicated a potential gluten allergy, and in the whirlwind of doctor's visits that led to my CFS diagnosis this had slipped through the cracks. I immediately began to research gluten allergies, and what I found explained so much: symptoms I'd stupidly attributed to "well, I have an illness about which little is known, so this probably just that," rather serious symptoms at that, were listed with eye-opening accuracy to my real-life symptoms on any site or forum I visited.

I cut gluten out of my diet immediately, even before undergoing testing for celiac disease—celiac tests are notoriously unreliable and don't cover the full spectrum of gluten allergies, so the best way to find out if I had a gluten issue was to see if my symptoms improved while going entirely gluten-free. They did. Confirming our suspicions, I began feeling more acute symptoms on the (many) occasions when I'd accidentally "gluten" myself—a strong signal that gluten is, indeed, the problem.

This has been life-changing, to say the least. Instead of dealing with an illness with no known cause or cure and little funding for research to change that, I'm dealing with a food allergy, and while the solution involved cutting more foods out of my diet than I ever could've imagined, there was a solution.

This brings me, in a very roundabout way, back to Brian's lemon bet, and strange coincidences. I'd been trying to figure out a way to write about this for the last month or so, once I was pretty certain that gluten, not CFS, was the real problem for me. When Brian didn't initially eat the damn lemon, one of our dedicated commenters, WolverineDevotee, started a Twitter hashtag: #EatALemon. I clicked on it. I never click on hashtags.

When I scrolled down, I eventually stumbled upon a link to a Facebook post by an organization called FARE—Food Allergy Research & Education—containing this video. It's a nine-year-old boy named Luke, inspired by the Ice Bucket Challenge, eating a lemon to raise awareness for life-threatening food allergies:

As you can see in the video at the top of this post, this in turn inspired me to do the same—how could I not after stumbling upon this? In the last couple months, I've just begun to realize the prevalence and danger of food allergies, and how difficult they are to manage.

The stats are here, and they're frightening: around 15 million Americans—and one of every 13 children—have a food allergy of some sort, and while I'm lucky enough that mine hasn't had more severe consequences, many of them can be outright deadly. The consequences for me eating gluten-contaminated food, at this juncture, are migraines and fatigue that last a day or two. The consequences for people like Luke can be far, far worse.

Perhaps the biggest issue is the one I faced. According to the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, 83% of Americans with celiac disease are either undiagnosed or wrongly diagnosed with another condition, often the type of autoimmune illness with which I was misdiagnosed. The average time to get a correct diagnosis is 6-10 years. I'm about average in that regard, and lucky to be properly diagnosed at all.

So I have this platform, and I'd like to use it for some good. Whether or not you'd like to film yourself eating a lemon and posting it on the internet—it's really not that bad!—I hope you'll consider donating to FARE.

I have an additional request, as well. While I've been lucky enough to have a change in my diagnosis, my father still deals with CFS, a disease for which research is woefully underfunded. I've witnessed my dad act as a guinea pig for experimental treatment for over two decades, and the rollercoaster of symptoms he's had as a result. Simmaron Research is doing what they can to get even the most basic research for CFS funded and underway, and I hope you'll consider giving to them, as well. Any little bit helps.

I'm doing better now, though the early stages of dealing with a previously untreated allergy can be difficult; I'm still doing my best just to not contaminate myself on a daily basis with mixed (though improving) results, even though I've eschewed any attempt at eating out in favor of preparing all my food myself, while making an extraordinary effort to keep my part of the kitchen separate from my roommates'. While my energy and ability to think clearly is improving by the week, I'm still woefully underweight—at 5'10", I've weighed in the 125-to-130-pound range for the last two years—and eating anywhere but in my own home is a major obstacle.

But I know what I must do, and that's an incredible development compared to where I was a few months ago, when my treatment boiled down to get some rest and hope. I'm hoping, by raising whatever awareness I can about my situation and countless others', that more people can make a similar discovery.

Lemons up.*

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*Since I plum forgot to do this in the video: Seth, BiSB, and Bryan Fuller, consider this a formal challenge.

Comments

Marley Nowell

September 8th, 2014 at 2:17 PM ^

Good to hear you are doing better Ace. It takes a while to learn what is safe to eat but eventually you'll learn generally what to avoid so you can eat out or in other people's homes.

Blue and Joe

September 8th, 2014 at 2:17 PM ^

Glad to hear you are doing better, Ace. My mom also has celiacs disease. It's not easy to avoid foods you love, but like you said, at least you now have some control over how you feel.

turd ferguson

September 8th, 2014 at 2:19 PM ^

So happy to hear all of this, Ace.  You're a wonderful contributor here (my favorite Michigan writer, actually), and your use of this platform to help others seems 100% consistent with the character that comes through in your writing.

And don't fret about the weight loss.  With the new rules, you'd be about average size for a major college football longsnapper.

All the best going forward.  Go Blue.

baconbits

September 8th, 2014 at 2:23 PM ^

Great job Ace, happy to read and share your story. It's a hard road to navigate but you'll find what works, what doesn't, what you like and don't like.

If you ever come to NYC I have some excellent gluten free bakeries for you to check out.

JeepinBen

September 8th, 2014 at 2:23 PM ^

When I was a camp counselor I had a few campers with gluten intolerance and celiac. While I'm not a big believe in "fad diets" I do think that the recent "gluten fee" wave will help lots of people who need it. Best of luck moving forward and hopefully you can find some good gluten free restaurants soon, I'm sure there's something in Ann Arbor's restaurant scene

carlos spicywiener

September 8th, 2014 at 2:29 PM ^

Hey Ace, any recommendations for gluten-free diet cookbooks?

I've done some research myself and I've seen gluten blamed for a malfunctioning thyroid and gut, leading to absoportion of less nutrients, a receding hairline, poor health - all kinds of bad health manifestations. I think there's something to it, and I'm considering cutting it out for a couple months.

Ace

September 8th, 2014 at 2:36 PM ^

...but thus far the GF cookbooks I've found have been a little underwhelming—one, in fact, didn't properly identify which ingredients/foods to avoid, and I was able to recognize this despite being very early on in educating myself about the allergy.

The internet has far better resources. I just got directed to this site as a result of posting this, and it looks quite promising.

Also, if those are your symptoms, they're very similar to mine; I obviously am not a doctor, but in my experience it certainly wouldn't hurt to try to go GF for a while and see if matters improve. I hope you can find a solution, and if you have any questions don't hesitate to email me. 

ST3

September 8th, 2014 at 3:29 PM ^

When I first read that, I thought, cool, Ace has a girl friend, but he might want to check out a gluten free cookbook instead of his girl friend's cookbook, and then it clicked for me. I can be a bit dense sometimes...

Bez

September 8th, 2014 at 2:37 PM ^

I've made some recipes from this one and I'd recommend it:

http://www.amazon.com/Complete-Gluten-Free-Whole-Grains-Cookbook/dp/077…

FWIW, My experience has been that most all bread and baked goods that are gluten free aren't very good.  The only ones that are (in my experience) have almond flour in them (which I can't eat).

Good Luck!

Space Coyote

September 8th, 2014 at 3:48 PM ^

And it certainly was a very, very difficult thing for them to deal with until they finally figured out what the issue was and how to help themselves. I don't know if it seems more common now because of awareness or because it actually is more common, or probably both. I know you guys make it tricky planning a plated wedding (and I'm sure a buffet wedding).

But it is very important that there is awareness. It is important that people understand it, because it is out there, and people do suffer from it and it's difficult to understand. And screw it, it's hard to deal with when you don't know, it's hard to deal with it when you finally figure it out (if you put bread in front of me I eat bread, cereal is like the air I breathe if it's available; dealing with that is hard). I'm glad you could find humor in it. I'm glad, like I'm sure is the case for many of us, you could find some enjoyment away those sorts of struggles through sports, particularly Michigan sports. I'm glad you found out what the issue is and you're now feeling better and out of the house, but still near support. And I'm glad you're now comfortable enough to bring it here, in front of many readers, to bring awareness to it.

Well done, Ace.

FWIW, this is the first lemon eating thing that I've cared about, so there's that as well.

winged wolverine

September 8th, 2014 at 2:30 PM ^

That things are going better for you Ace. I have a few friends that are gluten free, so if you're looking for something to take the place of beer, Tito's Vodka is gluten free!

But seriously, I have family and friends with food allergies (one friend's son is allergic to corn, nuts and gluten), so making people aware of this is extremely important. Good luck going forward!

 

winged wolverine

September 8th, 2014 at 2:30 PM ^

That things are going better for you Ace. I have a few friends that are gluten free, so if you're looking for something to take the place of beer, Tito's Vodka is gluten free!

But seriously, I have family and friends with food allergies (one friend's son is allergic to corn, nuts and gluten), so making people aware of this is extremely important. Good luck going forward!

 

Blue Durham

September 8th, 2014 at 2:32 PM ^

Great news Ace. I hope that you continue to improve.

My neighbor discovered she was allergic to eggs - she is around 60 -and suddenly she could breathe clearly for the first time in her life. She takes great pains to make sure that eggs are not in her diet. It can be difficult, but you will be able to do it with gluten too.

Cali Wolverine

September 8th, 2014 at 2:39 PM ^

While I enjoy the social media side of watching people dump ice water on their heads and eat lemons...when it comes to charity it is personally not my thing, but I do enjoy donating and this is a great cause. I have several young cousins with terrible food allergies...it is tough enough for an adult, but a kid that can't eat anything with egg or will go into shock by touching a peanut is frightening. Thanks a lot for this post!

gjking

September 8th, 2014 at 2:42 PM ^

I went gluten-free about 6 years ago and it make a remarkable difference immediately to my overall health and happiness. I was a DI runner in undergrad and had to quit the team after my sophmore year because of strange cramping and other symptoms that were impacting my performance and ability to train at a high level. After seeing a lot of specialists and getting incorrectly diagnosed with IBS, I finally tried the diet switch at age 23 (about 3-4 years after initial symptoms) and it solved everything. I started running again, reviving my career with the UM Club team during grad school, and started sleeping much better with more energy during the day.

Ace, glad to hear about a similar transformation. You have reminded me of the importance of awareness.

 

 

 

 

 

Bez

September 8th, 2014 at 2:44 PM ^

Thanks for sharing your story Ace and info about those causes I didn't know where out there,

It took me about three years and about 10 doctors to figure out that I'm highly intolerant of Almonds and not terribly tolerant of gluten.

I thought I had any or all of the following: Liver disease, heart disease, multiple kinds of cancer, diabetes, etc.

What a hell ride!

 

bronxblue

September 8th, 2014 at 2:44 PM ^

Great post.  As a father of a young child, I'm acutely aware of the possibility for food allergies.  Good to hear you were able to unearth your issue before too long, and thanks for the great article.

lbpeley

September 8th, 2014 at 2:45 PM ^

It's been a few years but she goes out to eat frequently with no trouble. My brother decide to live GF as well, in support. It's a hardly noticeable thing at family gatherings anymore. They make all kinds of good stuff that's GF. Dutch apple pie not being one of them unfortunately. But there are many things they bring over that are quite palatable, even for a gluten glutton like myself.

This is defintely better and more manageable than CFS sounds. 

True Blue Grit

September 8th, 2014 at 2:45 PM ^

the CFS-like symptoms.  My daughter has a gluten allergy too and is constantly complaining about being tired as well.  She hasn't completely eliminated the glutens which may be why the fatigue persists.  But living in Ann Arbor, I know there are a lot of gluten-free food choices in the many grocery stores, as I'm sure you already know.  And more seem to be showing up all the time.  I've found some of the gluten-free foods to be good and others inedible.   Rice bread in particular seems like eating sawdust.  Like most habits, once you get used to the gluten-free diet, it will be easy to keep it up as a permanent diet. 

Ace

September 8th, 2014 at 2:46 PM ^

...for the overwhelmingly positive and extremely helpful response to this piece—my Twitter feed is now stuffed with delicious-looking gluten-free recipes. I'm continually amazed by the strength and generosity of this community. It's always scary to open up like this, but every time I do, I wonder why I hadn't done it far sooner. I can't thank you all enough for that.

Brimley

September 8th, 2014 at 3:04 PM ^

Diagnosed with both blood test and colonoscopy (wheeeeee!) so I get pissed when accused of "fad dieting" (plus I shit my brains out if I eat bread).  Bad news is that Ace and I both got genetically screwed. The good news is that as genetic crap goes, it could be A LOT worse.  I can recommend some whammy GF beers if you wish and there are MANY places that have good GF options available.  I miss a good pizza crust, but can still get pretty much anything I want when eating out (get used to Googling menus ahead of time to be sure).  The worst time is eating at someone's house when there's a large crowd; inevitably pasta and sandwich based.  Oh, and viva Mexico!  Mexican food being corn-based makes it a great alternative (just avoid dishes with flour tortillas).

Last, soy sauce is not soy.  It's wheat.  Found that out when I shit out my Kung Pao chicken an hour after consumption.  Get used to no more restaurant Chinese (can buy GF soy sauce for home).

ca_prophet

September 8th, 2014 at 3:10 PM ^

While living-gluten-free will undoubtedly be hard for a while, figuring out that doing so will make your life better is a huge step for you. Well done, and take it one day at a time. If you have one nearby, once you've stabilized and are ready to trust someone else's cooking, you could try PF Chang's gluten-free menu; my friends who are your fellow-sufferers have all tried and like their stuff.

Good luck with that lifestyle change!

ca_prophet

September 8th, 2014 at 4:27 PM ^

The Lucille Packard Children's Hospital runs a lot of fundraisers and research programs; at least one is co-run with FARE. They do good work if you're looking for help or a charitable outlet closer to home.

(Edited for typo)

vegasmaize

September 8th, 2014 at 3:23 PM ^

Ace thanks for the information. Reading personnel accounts like yours makes me feel lucky, sad, and inspired. Also It sounds like a restaurant that focuses on vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free menu is needed in AA. Let's eat lemons and down it with Gluten Free Beer.

Eskabeaner

September 8th, 2014 at 3:27 PM ^

if you're going to have a gluten allergy Ace, then Ann Arbor is the place to live for sure. You will not find a more celiac aware city on Earth. most restaurants have gluten free menus if you ask, and more importantly, most fully understand the concept and dangers of cross contamination. Original Cottage Inn and Zingermans Road House are just two that come to mind. My Step-Mom has this disease, and she raved about this city when she came to visit.
I wish you luck with your transition!

Yo_Blue

September 8th, 2014 at 3:38 PM ^

It sure pays to get a second opinion when dealing with health problems.  Sounds like you found a doctor who doesn't just go through the motions.

When you do find something you like to eat - EAT AWAY!

k.o.k.Law

September 8th, 2014 at 3:48 PM ^

everyone gets something genetically that we don't want, it is great that you found out.

better late than never.

And, better still, sharing your discovery.

You have our support, and, your post will no doubt increase awareness, and, lessen the suffering of others.

Blue In NC

September 8th, 2014 at 3:52 PM ^

Ace, thanks for posting.  My son (first child) has anaphylaxis to milk and dairy.  As a one year old, he got ahold of another kid's milk.  I got a call at work asking me to rush to the emergency room.  Got there just in time to see my first child being wheeled into the ER with an oxygen mask and getting epinephrine shots.  Thought I was losing him.  Changed my life forever.  Fortunately, he is now in high school and is responsible and smart dealing with his food choices and we have avoided major incidents since then.

Best of luck to you and I am glad you are feeling better these days.

Jevablue

September 8th, 2014 at 3:56 PM ^

A great point that has been mostly overlooked here has to do with that thug hit on Gardner on the last play of the game.  This may indeed be the raving of a lunatic old man with a foggy and selective memory, but I am confident that if that crap had happened at the end of one my pathetic high school football games, that there would have been an ugly brawl.   Where is the anger?  Where is the passion? How the hell did that punk from ND get off the field without somebody's helmet jammed up his arse?  Or another way to look at this is, if M's own guys don't care enough to respond to this hit, WTF should I bother watching them?  When scheisse like that happens, you know your team is not respected and certainly not feared.

ish

September 8th, 2014 at 3:59 PM ^

great news, ace.  and on an unrelated note, i think you should know that your writing has improved immesurably since you started at mgoblog.

SFBlue

September 8th, 2014 at 4:03 PM ^

Here's hoping that you continue to improve.  And I think MGoCharity is a good way to rinse out the bad taste from the ND game, and refocus mental energy on a positive outlet. 

UMfan21

September 8th, 2014 at 4:08 PM ^

Great job Ace!

My grandmother was diagnosed with Celiac back in 94 when most doctors didn't know what it was. She had lost over 50 pounds and it nearly killed her.

I myself have been struggling with chronic fatigue for years. I mentioned the celiac history in my family (my moms cousin in addition to my grandmother), but all tests have come back negative so far. My doctor is convinced I have a food allergy/sensitivity of some sort. I am severely lacking many key vitamins in which I have to supplement.

I feel your journey man, and I hope I can find my answer like you did!

Brimley

September 8th, 2014 at 5:14 PM ^

For YEARS, my only overt symptom was my iron levels bouncing around between just over and just under normal.  Then I went to a doc who had seen one other case that was similar and wondered about Celiac.  Coincidentally, I kept getting bouts of "stomach flu" around the same time, which turned out to be the Celiac advancing.  Switching to GF meant my iron levels went way up (and no more "flu", which is nice).  You might want to try going GF just to see what happens.

woodfeld

September 8th, 2014 at 4:13 PM ^

Ace, glad to hear you're doing better and hope it continues.  If I may ask, do you have any recommendations for a type of doctor you went to for food allergy tests/advice or for CFS?  The reason I ask is that I've suffered through something that I'm not sure what it is.  I was diagnosed with Crohn's disease, but the treatment I've had for it has put it into remission according to my GI doc.  All the while, I'm still suffering all kinds of symptoms of something, GI related symptoms as well as some strange chronic fatigue/light-headedness/lack of focus that comes and goes at random times.  Getting the Crohn's in remission has helped, but only like 20-40% helped.  While I don't necessarily think I'm gluten intolerant (I don't feel worse after eating pasta/bread), I do think it could be a different food allergy issue or CFS even (though again I'm not sure that I have that as my situation isn't as bad as a number of stories I've read on the internet....but I am glad I have an office job because there is no way I could do physical work when I'm suffering through one of my "fatigue bouts").  So in summation, do you have a type of doc you could recommend?  CFS seems to be something that all the docs I've talked to don't have much of a clue about and food allergy seems to be well down their list of possible causes.

Thanks!  And keep spreading the word, chronic illness f'n sucks.

Bez

September 8th, 2014 at 4:59 PM ^

Find a good Naturopathic doctor in your area. That's what I did. I live in MN so I don't have a  good recommendation.

Also, the effects of consuming gluten aren't quite as simple as you eat something and you feel bad 15 minutes later. There is a delayed and cumulative effect but I feel you. I dealt with "Brain fog" and terrible sleep for years.  If you haven't gone through it, it's hard to understand.  I can see why Ace has been hesitant to share.  People thought I was making excuses for my, at times, substandard performance at work or lack of energy to do much of anything.

Testing for intolerances and allergies can get VERY nuanced.  I only did the basic level of testing which was quite a few tests and a lot of money but I learned a lot about what my body can process and what it can't.  There are more expensive tests that will spell out in more detail exactly what your body is reacting to chemically.

My two sense. Good luck!

 

Ace

September 8th, 2014 at 5:10 PM ^

I got extremely lucky—my physician went above and beyond in continuing to question my initial diagnosis and eventually coming across the right one, but in my experience (and hearing those of others) that's far more the exception than the rule. Seeing someone who will test for allergies is my best recommendation, and in this regard a lot of "alternative" medicine practices are ahead of the curve.

mgobmer

September 9th, 2014 at 8:31 AM ^

While some aspects of naturopathy (some herbalism, maybe acupuncture, NOT homeopathy) can be beneficial, the most dangerous path is one that focuses on naturopathy and pushes away western medicine. If your naturopathic clinician has a negative opinion of MDs, all surgery, and all pharmaceutical therapy, they're a hack. If you're seeing them as an adjunct, help with diet and life-counseling can absolutely be beneficial. Truly sick people cannot let evidence-based medicine be replaced by alternative medicine.

93Grad

September 8th, 2014 at 4:18 PM ^

thanks for sharing your story.  I had never heard of CFS and while I've heard of gluten allergies I've never known how debilitating they can be.  I'm glad you seem to have found a cause and cure.  Good luck in your continuing efforts.