About Ellen Fox Emerson

My passions are cooking, entertaining, and gardening. I live in Warrenton, Virginia on the farm where I grew up. My husband Lou and I have two German Shepherds, Zelda and Zoe. My other interests include sculpting and Pilates classes.

In 2009, I learned I had celiac disease. On learning this, my ways of cooking and entertaining changed forever.

My first career was as a meeting planner for an international educational non-profit organization, which hosted as many as 1,500 attendees for national conferences and trade shows.

I then ventured out with her husband and began publishing Fauquier Magazine and then two newspapers, The Fauquier Citizen and The Culpeper Citizen, all local publications. Both newspapers were award-winning weeklies. The Fauquier paper was named Best Large Weekly in the nation twice by the National Newspaper Association and Best Large Weekly in the state of Virginia eight times.

After the sale of their newspapers and a five-year non-compete, in October 2011, my husband and I launched a hyper-local news website, FauquierNow.com.

In addition to managing the local publications I’ve written a regular cooking column.

My Struggles with Celiac

Celiac disease and gluten intolerance are not pretty, but I hope that sharing my story will help others better understand how difficult it is for people who have either ailment.

Insidious illness is defined as “any disease that comes on slowly, without obvious symptoms at first, so that the person is not aware of it developing.” While I have no medical training, in my opinion celiac disease is clearly an insidious illness.

Unbeknownst to me, my problems with gluten started when I was a young girl barely in my teens. Without going into too much detail, I’ve had digestive issues since my childhood. On what seemed like a fairly regular basis, I felt pain in my lower abdomen. My mother generally suspected appendicitis, so o to the doctor we’d go. Once appendicitis was ruled out, the doctor thought it might be ileitis. I underwent upper and lower GI tests more than once, but they were always inconclusive. At some point, as I was going through these tests, the doctor saw that my white blood cell count was elevated. He felt this warranted a referral visit to an oncologist. While this scared the living daylights out of me, once again the tests were inconclusive and we were told to watch and wait.

Over the years, more symptoms occurred—endometriosis, depression, joint pain, brain fog, iron deficiency, rosacea, and thyroid disease. In 2005, while in for my annual physical, I asked my doctor about all of my symptoms. He responded that they were more than likely due to my age (53) and gender (female). Being lethargic (another symptom of celiac disease) and apathetic at the time, I just accepted what he had to say and continued to cope.

One fall day in 2009, while I was talking with my friend Lisa about all of this, she suggested I try giving up gluten. Her younger son was dealing with a lot of the same issues and cut- ting gluten from his diet had really helped him.

I thought it couldn’t hurt, and within a week my skin issues and joint pain started to clear up. At my next physical I learned my white blood cell count was normal and I wasn’t deficient in iron anymore. Although I believe my memory is somewhat damaged by years of eating gluten, the brain fog eventually cleared.

A couple of years later I was hospitalized for either food poisoning or a severe reaction to gluten, and had a follow-up visit to a gastroenterologist. It was on that visit that I was finally diagnosed with celiac disease. Looking back, I find it interesting that my depression, joint pain, and iron deficiency were all treated separately, with different medications, and that no one considered that they might have a single cause.

I often wonder why more doctors don’t look at their patients’ diet and suggest eliminating foods before prescribing medications.

Today if I inadvertently ingest gluten I have flu-like symptoms for several days, but this rarely happens. I am just so thankful that the cure for all of my woes was as simple as cutting out gluten.

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