My name is Andrea. I started life in Hampshire where I was a fairly happy but sickly child. Chronic tonsillitis meant that once I started school, I was absent more than present and the obligatory child in the bath photo shows a bag of bone held together by skin. In fact, one enduring memory of this period of my life was the thinness of my wrists. Encircling three fingers with one hand now leaves the same size gap as encircling my wrist with middle finger and thumb then.
After my brother and I were involved in a car accident coming home from school, our parents decided to move the family to the north of Scotland. The next few years I remember as being permanently hungry. Dad was unemployed and Mum didn’t go out to work. We took full advantage of free school meals by going back for thirds and fourths. All pocket money was spent on sweets.
I left home before going to university, living in, working in a hotel in the middle of nowhere. Everyday we made sandwiches for sale in the snack bar and bar. Any that were left over, we were allowed to eat so plenty of those came my way.
Student life on a full grant meant less food but more consideration about what I was eating and I embarked on a 28 year period of being mostly vegetarian or vegan. Over this time my weight went up slowly but never dramatically but I did develop a number of “problems” which varied in their impact.
First was bleeding gums which after the initial shock, I largely ignored. Then I developed psoriasis which my doctor explained had no cure but ointments would keep it under control. Then came a kind of chronic fatigue which now that I have cut grain out of my diet, I realise has stayed with me ever since my late teens. Brain fog, the curtains of cotton wool that had to be peered through was a major problem for years. When my husband and I decided it was time to have children, we discovered that I had polycystic ovaries and that children were not going to arrive without medical assistance. A few years later, reaching crisis point, I was diagnosed with depression. Again, with hindsight, depression has been with me for most of my life. Possibly since moving to Scotland. Finally I started having nosebleeds. Not heavy ones but frequent dribbles. Three or four a day was not an uncommon number and they were starting to get heavier.
Initially the doctor prescribed steroids but a couple of years later, still with a leaky tap, I was sent to a specialist who decided that I was causing them myself and dismissed me as an attention seeker.
I decided to live with the nosebleeds, they were inconvenient especially if driving but not so bad that I needed to pursue the problem. I was also living with chronic yeast infections at this by this time something else the medics had been unable to help with.
A chance conversation at work made me realise that there was something else I was living with that was not quite right – diarrhoea. For years I had been putting this down to my high fibre diet and a short transit time is good for you, right?
A lot of research later, I went back to the doctor and voiced my suspicions that I had a grain and dairy intolerance along with other possible intolerances. Gluten free didn’t stop the nosebleeds but grain free did. His response? Complete agreement.
Having stopped eating grains, I feel much better. I have lost weight (not that that was much of a problem), the nosebleeds have stopped, my limbs feel looser, I have loads more energy and I am definitely not depressed.