Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Unrecognized Signs of Gluten Intolerance

My mother's nurse called to say Mom's skin was irritated on her neck, arms and chest, and that she had an extended nose bleed (10 minutes). A several weeks ago she was extremely lethargic, because her sodium levels were too low, and has been an salt tablet ever since.

Nose bleeds, low sodium and dermatitis are all signs of gluten intolerance, according to a medical doctor who specializes in nutrition.

Her attending staff know she is gluten intolerant (so am I, my children, and so was her mother and many of grandma's siblings, her nieces/nephews and great nieces/nephews.) I was told it was genetic, but the doctor corrected me and said it was passed through the mothers. (Well, isn't that genetic?)

With this knowledge, then why is she fed oatmeal, wheat bread, and wheat-based crackers? Why do they bathe her and moisturize her skin with Aveeno (which contains oats) on her? Does the right hand not know what the left is doing?

How does it all work? When someone who is sensitive ingests gluten (the protein in wheat, oat, barley and rye), it affects their intestine. It might affect the upper or the lower intestine, or both. While the body is trying to process gluten, a few signs may be visible. When the body can no longer handle trying to process the gluten a number of signs may show up simultaneously.

In her case, she is unable to absorb much nutrition through her intestines, so her sodium drops. Her system is overwhelmed with gluten, and with it being applied topically, her skin is broken out. Her liquids are restricted to raise her sodium levels, so her mucus membranes have become dry (and we have had a brief Santa Ana wind), and a nose bleed has resulted.

These things are not unique. Every year in Northern Kentucky we could have a number of extended nosebleeds. The air would be dry from the heat, and without knowing about our gluten intolerance, we were ingesting it freely.

Mom was aware she was gluten intolerant a long time ago, but she chose not to make the simple dietary changes. Whenever we were in town, all the food would be gluten free (prepared by yours truly) and she would see wonderful improvements, including her memory (she was having a struggle saying the right word and talking about the past; she chose to be silent to cover her embarrassment).

After a short while of eating correctly her speech would flow and she'd be a chatterbox of historical events! It was amazing to witness. Then we would leave, she would return to eating gluten and the situation would reverse itself.

Frustrating, yes. Yet not as much as her staff bringing this suffering upon her while under their care.

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