You may remember this post.
I recently wrote about my painful experience and the connection between gluten intolerance (wheat allergy and sensitivity) and gallbladder pain in the right upper abdominal quadrant.
The interesting thing I’ve found talking to so many people with gallbladder problems is that many of them already know they are gluten intolerant or have had symptoms of gluten sensitivity all of their lives. Colic in infancy, tummy aches in childhood, learning difficulties, and now memory problems, foggy brain and joint pain even as early as in their 30’s.
What you may not know, is that one can have reactions to gluten in their brain or on their skin and not have any digestive symptoms at all. So who would test for celiac or gluten intolerance in that case? No one. These symptoms are frequently gluten related.
And if you have gallbladder disease of one type or another, know that the digestive symptoms of a gluten intolerant person can mimic those of gallbladder with bloating, gas, indigestion, diarrhea, constipation and even severe pain. Gluten has been shown to contribute to gallbladder attacks and discomfort so at least until you are free of gallbladder symptoms, you don’t want to take that chance. Eating any foods you have a sensitivity to can make matters worse.”
If you have a story, please share yours in the comments! Have questions? Want to compare experiences? I’d love to know what others have gone through.
Here’s what happened after my first posts about gallbladders and food allergies interconnected:
That Thursday evening, October 23rd, I tried to reintroduce food to my diet after a good week of fasting on coconut water, aloe very juice, and wheatgrass, along with a lot of water to flush the system.
That Thursday, I nibbled on a bean burrito eating half and very slowly. That evening, I tried a cup of minestrone soup.
The pains crept back in.
On that Friday morning, October 24, I was receiving shocks of pain that almost rendered me immobile. My ears were ringing loudly (Tinnitus) and I nearly fainted with cold sweats upon standing in the morning.
Again the pain was localized only in the upper right quadrant of the abdomen, right under the rib cage, where the gallbladder lives.
I packed a light over night bag and grabbed my phone charger, then waddled slowly to the Lenox Hil Emergency Room a few blocks away here in the West Village, NY. Stating I think I’m having a severe food allergy attack or complications from one, I was admitted. The first thing they did was screen me for Ebola, screening me again once to my ER room.
I was given Morphine, something for nausea and dizziness, a saline IV for dehydration, and an ultrasound and CT were ordered.
WIthin 6 hours of ultrasounds and a CT scan, some bleeding was discovered (ruptured ovarian cysts), the beginnings of a UTI (later discovered misdiagosed), and inflamed ascending colon. I did not have vomiting or diarrhea, so when I was sent home with a diagnosis of Enterocolitis, no pain medicine, and was told I would get better with rest, I figured it must be the truth except it didn’t make sense.
The attending ER doctor said this IS INDEED related to having a gluten allergies and prolonged inflammation of possible cross contamination breaking down the ability of my immune system to fight off infection.
I was told I simply have severe Enterocolitis, and that’s that. I’ll get better with rest.
They were wrong.
The doctors could not see my appendix and had not ruled out appendicitis and said I had sludge in my gallbladder that may go away on its own. I was also informed this is likely due to food allergies cross-contamination.
I didn’t eat anything, but I had a pretty stressful, painful, night, assuming from all the pressing around and testing, but awakened in the morning to alarming pain. it took me half an hour just to sit up in bed.
I could not:
- lift anything from the ground
- bend over
- breathe more than shallow breaths
- speak louder than just above a whisper
- hear outside ringing ears
- balance myself from the dizziness and vertigo
- stop the cold sweats
- reach up or outward
- stand up straight
- walk normally
- drink water
- eat food (anyfood)
- sit down from standing without shocks of pain
- stand up from sitting without shocks of pain
- go to the restroom
- stop thinking I may be DYING.
I’d stayed with my neighbor Laura the night before as she graciously looked after me with as much caution and care as I had been giving myself. I was very lucky.
By this point, my stepfather was on his way to my apartment from Alabama and now about an hour away.
I called my sister- by this point I’ve curled onto my left side on my bed and cannot move. Shocks of electric pain start to surge through my abdomen and with each one, worse than the one before.
I was sure I may die if I couldn’t take action RIGHT NOW.
When I involuntarily shrieked into the phone with my sister 1000 miles away more than once, she put me on hold and called an ambulance.
FIFTY MINUTES LATER, the ambulance finally arrived with full fan fare.
I couldn’t move, and EMTs were banging on the door. No answer.
I COULDN’T answer.
Remember… I could only whisper and couldn’t call for help.
The fire trucks arrive. I still haven’t been able to move from my position. They proceed up the 6 flights of stairs with an axe.
Someone has called from the ambulance service to explain to my sister what’s happening.
Before they charge the door and axe it to pieces, I had to force myself through pain to standing and unlock and open the door. Now i’m frozen in one place. To move one inch meant unbearable pain that brings me to weeping.
The EMTs first screened me for Ebola (naturally). Then, lifted me and placed me (saying, completely relax your muscles and let us do the work) into an upright stretcher seat. I had been pouring sweat with tear streaked face trying not to scream in pain.
Once lifted and placed two strong EMTs carried me down the 6 stories of spiraling stairs. Every bump felt being stabbed by a rusted jagged knife.
Here are the stairs descending from what has since been dubbed Rapunzel’s West Village Tower.
A 6th floor walk up:
My 67 year old freakishly fit stepfather hurdled those flights of stairs like an athlete to find me not dead thankfully, but very alive and in pain, in my apartment being hoisted down the stairs. That I have died was his worst fear when he arrived to find:
5+ police cars
2 fire trucks with ladder and axes
Imagine the thoughts going through his mind knowing I’d been upstairs in debilitating pain an hour ago and not able to teleport himself. I imagine he was pretty happy to see I was still conscious and breathing.
Coming out of my West Village apartment attended by emergency workers, on Perry Street and 4th, the most elegant street in the city, where across from my apartment, tourists by the dozens are snap photos 24/7 of the Carrie Bradshaw Sex in the City stoop.
Now their attention was on me being carried out and put in an ambulance. I hid my face in my palms. No less than 40-50 people had gathered to see who may be coming out of one of these brownstones on a stretcher.
Probably hoping to see a well known movie star in distress to go home with a photo and juicy story.
We were driven to Mt. Sinai Beth Israel. The most painful bumpiest ride of my life to a world class hospital (lucky me that it was the nearest). With my stepdad gripping my hand, and my wonderful EMT giving me oxygen and assuring me it’ll be okay, I felt ever closer to relief.
By the time I was there to be triaged in the ER, I was whisked to a holding station, next to a woman receiving STD treatment.
I was yet again given Morphine, and given the Ebola screening again… for now the 4th time.
Asked the same questions, and then scheduled for new ultrasounds and CT scans. They had to wait 23.5 hours for me to be radiated again by the CT scan, so they reviewed my recent discharge paperwork from the ER and we waited.
My step dad the wonderful parent he is, was so exhausted from travel and stress he was falling asleep sitting straight up in his chair at the hospital. Finally he was able to eat as I was going in for my CT scan.
Upon receiving my new scan I was admitted to the hospital in a regular room for overnight observation and more testing. The doctors were skeptical of the diagnosis I just received. I was not presenting symptoms of Enterocolitis.
Surprisingly, each health care worker who asked what I do for work was ECSTATIC to hear I am a holistic health coach and hyper-personalized how they spoke of my treatment and potential diagnosis. It was as if each time it was mentioned, I was praised for such important work. They seemed excited to speak more in depth about the science of my plight.
Oh, and THIS was my view from bed… unbelievable city views… Nope not kidding:
Back to the subject matter…
They suspected gallstones or appendicitis.
Every hour I was being stuck, and every four hours given pain, nausea, and antibiotic meds.
So far, I DID NOT have a UTI (misdiagnosed), or gallstones, or kidney stones, or Enterocolitis (misdiagnosed). The doctors has a puzzled forlorn look about them. They did notice that my abdominal organs were quite inflamed, but didn’t know exactly why. They did notice that I had ruptured some ovarian cysts. I didn’t even notice this pain as it was being masked by the other pains.
Cancer was on my mind and it seemed on theirs too. i even inquired about the potential of the worst case scenario and they would only reply that they’re trying to get to the bottom of what is exactly wrong and we’ll know soon… but that I shouldn’t worry. It’s probably going to be simple and easy to fix.
By the next day they were sending in teams of doctors who were interviewing me with questions and reviewing my chart with me. Very thorough and I was so pleasantly surprised to learn that my room was where the nurses and nursing students liked to hang out because of the good energy/vibes. I was actually really enjoying my hospital stay, despite being pretty worried about what was happening to me.
By this time I’d also read my scan that i have a couple lesions on my liver. Later my surgeon told me it’s nothing to worry about and that many people have it.
So, now it’s 3AM 10/25/14 and a gastro surgeon is in my room telling me they’re investigating my gall bladder further- that likely I won’t need surgery but it isn’t ruled out.
She explains how my gallbladder didn’t make stones but is filled with a sand like substance called sludge. They’re trying to figure out what to do with it.
Around 8AM, my surgeon Dr. Steele enters the room with his team, wakes me up to introduce himself and team, and points to my abdomen and explains I’ll have four incisions.
“Wait, I’ll have incisions??”
He says “Oh I’m sorry! No one has talked with you about surgery yet?” … “Nooo they haven’t!”
“Well… that’s the plan.”
I’m being scheduled for a laparoscopic cholecystectomy.
A four incision minimally invasive procedure to remove my gallbladder because it has failed to function anymore. It simply produces sludge. Equal to sand, causing me great pain. It’s also infected, and wreaking havoc with my other organs. It has to come out.
Later he tells me it was a difficult process due to “well developed muscle tissue” which will also make healing more painful.
I’m given four rounds of blood thinner so my blood doesn’t clot in surgery.
That day, my step dad buys me a track suit and underwear. He says this is probably not my style, but he hears some people don’t like to wear hospital gowns and it is just nice to have your own stuff. Aww, the feels!
Friends visit, bring the sweetest get well gifts, bust most importantly themselves, and it’s another day of broth and jello for me, until 12 hours pre-op when I can only have ice cubes.
Party in the hospital!
On the day of surgery…
I’m wheeled along side my step dad walking with me to the surgery waiting area. I’ve had a procession of nurses all morning wishing me luck, and coming by to tell me I have a great surgeon not to worry, and in general came by just to hang out before hand. I really loved the staff here.
During my waiting time, the nurses joked around with me and my step dad, and I asked jokingly could I see my gallbladder after.
In the operating room, they explain how they’ll perform the procedure and that they’ll blow me up with air like a puffer fish, to see and be able to work inside my abdomen. I was fascinated and disgusted all at once.
I really meant to ask to see my gallbladder.
Then all the sudden I was out- no recollection of next events. And no telling what I said before I was truly out. I probably asked my very handsome surgeon to marry me or go out with me or something ridiculous like that.
I awakened in the recovery room with again, very cheerful nice nurses and staff. They helped me wake up saying “rise and shine” and explaining how important it is to come back to coherency. I really liked that they were so informative.
The ONE THING I NOTICED AND STILL REMEMBER: I had SO MUCH clarity and physical energy from not being sick anymore…instantly!
Had I not had surgery holding me back, I could have gone for a run. I truly felt a surge of RENEWED WELLNESS, I had not felt in a long long time.
I mentioned it to them. They said “Good! Then the surgery did what it was supposed to do.”
This was the first time I could differentiate the feeling of sickness and wellness. I realized i had been ill for a long time.
I returned to my hospital room. To the crystals I’m borrowing from my friend Nancy for healing (they work). To my step dad waiting, and nurse and staff waiting to welcome me back, offer me juice, jello, broth, and comforting conversation, and to encourage rest and sleep.
I had these nifty leg compressors on to ensure no blood clots. Hours of robotic massage.
Can I please take these home with me?
And, my friends visited and relieved my step dad so he could finally rest.
One night of observation and the possibility of checking out the following day if no complications.
My mom and sister booked their flights to match up with my check out for after care and family support. I’m so grateful and needed them so much!
My step dad needed rest too, so I know he must have been incredibly grateful too!
Friends had come by every night. I was so grateful.
I’ve now made friends with my neighboring patient and even given her and her son a coaching session for free about pain management and liver cleansing.
By check out day, October 28th. I’ve run out of business cards, and given a mini no shampoo session to the nurses helping me clean my hair that morning.
I finally got to eat REAL FOOD! OMG The food here was better than the food at many restaurants.
See for yourself. This is Mock Vegan Crab Cake with peppers, tomato, broccoli, and carrots:
Here’s the “No Poo” Shampoo Free cleaning process that became a mini-workshop
for staff on my last day:
I was so happy with the interaction between healthcare staff and myself as a holistic
professional I could have stayed another week!
I didn’t think I could be any happier with my stay until…
A Reiki practitioner entered my room offering me a session for FREE. Yes, for free!
She exuded good energy, and she was excellent at her work. She told me about how she could stay in my room all day. How she felt such good energy from me and how my room is filled with it. That this explains why everyone likes to be in here and hang out (staff).
Once she left, it was time to go when I felt ready to leave (Never! I’ll stay til the very last seconds allowed … except … my family looked quite ready to go, so off we went). I was genuinely sad and not feeling quite ready!
But the best parting gift was still to come…
I was given information to take advantage of an opportunity to volunteer my coaching services once or twice per week with ability to leave my card with patients!
I left feeling like I’d had the worst pain in my body’s purging of an organ that was poisoning it and in the outcome I would gain the silver lining of acceptance of my own craft in at least this world class hospital but a glimpse of how ALL traditional healthcare has come to accept holistic practices as integrative medicine.
I am not only on the road to healing, but felt for the first time a real gravitational pull of what it is we have to offer the world, as medical professionals not only accepted what I had to share while in the hospital, but asked to learn more!
I realized my friends here are family, and that my family are my life long guardian angels in the flesh:
One cab ride home, and I was nestled in bed, feeling like this hospital stay was a good dream, and now all I need to do is work through the pain of healing and get back onto my path of purpose to help the healing of others.
Since then… I have thought of a lot of questions!
I have come up with a few answers.
It’s been up and down. Some days feel like real progress and strength gained. Then the next I feel many days’ worth of backwards steps where I just lie in bed with the crystals and looking at the beautiful sight of hospital gifts and get well cards. You can read the mystery questions here and share your story, answers, questions in the comments if you’ve gone through something similar. I’d love you forever for contributing insight!! I mean, I love you anyway but you know what I mean.
Ultimately my purpose is renewed.
Friendships and family bonds reinforced. Here are a few family members and friends. Missing in this picture is Nancy who has been consistently there for me during this time. The staff were extra impressed at her french braiding talents:
I even got a new position while going through all of this!
The most important role I’ve ever held, and I achieved it two days post op. After healing, I’ll be strategizing and promoting preventative wellness in the military.
I feel as though my body’s expression of purging was to make room, space, and energy for this next chapter in my life.
So in the end, I ask others going through something similar, to listen to your body, and your surroundings. What is it that you are supposed to do in response? What is your body trying to make space for in your life?
If you listen you will know.