Saturday, September 7, 2013

After months of hell, you can only hope that the answer is as easy as giving up beer.

To say that 2013 has been a bad year would be unfair.  I have met a lot of great people and learned so much about being married, living in New York City and producing TV news and I have forgotten half of it.  Instead, I'll call it puzzling.

Looking back at my last few posts, they have all addressed my ongoing health troubles.  They continue.  Every once in a while I'll have a run that doesn't feel terrible, or even a week where I start to feel like myself again, but one step forward almost always is followed by two steps back.  This has been going on for six months.  Through it all, I've had blood tests, brain scans, bone scans, seen an endocrinologist, seen a gastroenterologist, taken breaks from running, drastically reduced running, adopted a consistent work schedule, cut back on sugar, cut back on coffee, increased my iron intake, been medicated, been un-medicated, been re-medicated, and the the list goes on.  All of it with the same result which is no result.  We've ruled out brain tumors, thyroid problems, cancer, etc (all things doctors hypothesized, by the way).  But,  my blood levels are still far from normal.  My bones are still far from strong.  My sleep is still far from adequate.  My running has at the best plateaued, but I think it would be more accurate to say it has suffered greatly, which is of course, the least of my worries.

At my monthly check-in yesterday, I was ending my visit with an acupuncture treatment when the doctor came back into the room in the middle of my relaxation.  She had a lightbulb.  I either have Celiac's disease  or a severe gluten intolerance.  We talked about the signs and symptoms and it all made sense.  It's a hard condition to diagnose because the symptoms themselves are indicative of so many other issues, hence all the other tests.  People often have a lifelong "sensitive stomach."  I do, but I have always just written it off as a minor inconvenience.  The onset of the serious rejection is often marked by increased anxiety (re:insomnia) and as it develops you essentially become malnourished as your body stops absorbing nutrients.  That of course, comes with it's own subset of consequences; fatigue, malaise, fogginess, irritability to name a few of the fun ones.  I eat around the clock.  I would say I eat double the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables every day and I go to great lengths to ensure I get everything my body needs. I take supplements for things like Vitamin B, D and calcium just in case. There is no other way I could be malnourished unless something was wrong internally.

Now for the next test.  Monday, I'll have a blood test to check for antibodies consistent with gluten intolerance.  If the evidence continues to point in that direction, they'll put a tube down my throat which sounds like great fun for someone with a sensitive gag reflex.  But, I hope it's the gluten.  I really do.  I don't love the prospect of giving up breads, beer and cereal (although a quick Google search told me that both Guinness and Fruity Pebbles are OK), but at this point there isn't much I wouldn't give up to end what has been a nightmare.

Beer, no matter how delicious, is probably not in my future
I'll admit, I've been skeptical of the anti-gluten movement.  I've even written it off as a fad at times, but I know too many people who have had drastic transformations by eliminating it from their diet.   In the meantime, I think I am done racing for awhile.  This season just never got off the ground.  Since Boston, I haven't been proud of any workout or any race.  It turns out, it's incredibly difficult to run fast and hard in this state.  I am working way too hard for results that are well below expectations.  I don't see a point in towing the line if I can't run at the level I know I am capable of. The hope is that after a couple of months of recreational running and adjusting to a new way of eating, I'll feel like 1983-2012 Jay again.

Lauren told me the other day that I was a different person than I used to be, and she is right.  Worse than the impact on running, worse than the lack of sleep is that I feel withdrawn and pessimistic and that's not who I am or have ever been.  It's also not fair to the people who have to deal with me every day.  Furthermore, I'm sick of writing blog entries about this crap.  Time to take drastic measures, make sacrifices and hopefully end this year heading in the right direction.


  1. Most smaller breweries are able to brew their beers with either little or no gluten but most are not certified gluten-free. Best of luck being a recreational runner I try it all the time and get lulled into running ”too fast" (I'll use quotes because I'm way slower now than I was at Hockey State)

  2. There is life after Gluten :-) I had to go gluten free for similar reasons. Unfortunately Gluten caused an autoimmune reaction to my thyroid. It is not so hard or bad. There are so many options out there nowadays. There is a book out there called the Gluten Free Athlete that may help. Good luck!!!

  3. Thanks Jamie and Sam. I totally intend on continuing to compete. I'm signed up for Boston 2014. I just need a couple of months of base mileage while I figure it out. Jamie, I'll look into the book. The hardest part so far (mind you, it's day 2) is eating out. I work nights and went to order dinner last night and found myself unsure what was safe and unsafe. Looks like I'll be brown bagging it a lot more often!