Dear Dr. Gott: I have had stomach and bowel problems for years. I lost an excessive amount of weight, had diarrhea six or seven times a day, every day for months and found that I could not tolerate foods that I was always able to eat in years past even though there was not one food that upset my stomach every time. At one point, I couldn’t even tolerate bottled water. I wanted to die and couldn’t envision myself living the rest of my life chained to the bathroom.
Over the last eight years, I have had numerous expensive medical tests, some two or three times, and all were negative. I am female, 5 feet 8 inches and weight 115 pounds. That is 50 pounds less than what I used to be. When I mentioned to my primary-care physician that I thought this problem may be related to a food allergy, he shrugged it off and continued to set me up for tests. I was labeled with IBS, given prescriptions and shunted to the side. It didn’t matter that I still had stomach problems and the prescriptions were not helping.
After eight years of this, I had had enough and went “out of network” to a doctor. I was asked to keep a food log for five days but kept one for a month. This doctor, after seeing the food log and examining, all in one visit, told me I had a classic case of gluten/wheat sensitivity.
I followed a somewhat strict gluten/wheat-free diet for one week and noticed a difference. After receiving my proper diagnosis, I started doing some of my own research. I found that skin conditions, such as psoriasis and eczema (which I had had for eight years also), may be directly caused by a food allergy, as are excessive diarrhea, unexplained weight loss and IBS.
I knew there was something wrong with me other than IBS, but I couldn’t get my primary-care doctor or the numerous specialists I had seen to acknowledge this. No one ever asked me what my regular diet was. I don’t expect you to print this letter but hope you will because I know it will help others who have been labeled as having IBS but don’t get better on appropriate medication.
Dear Reader: When I received your letter, I was dismayed that you had to suffer for eight years because your physicians simply wouldn’t listen. I was also incredibly pleased to hear that you decided enough was enough and took your care into your own hands. In this way, you not only received an appropriate diagnosis but you also found a caring, attentive physician.
I have said this before, but based on the increasing number of letters I receive from disgruntled patients, I feel it is necessary to say it again: Physicians need patients; they are their livelihoods. It is in the physician’s best interests to treat every patient with kindness and respect. Patients also need to take responsibility for their health and stand up for themselves. Most common ailments, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, arthritis and others can be improved by taking simple steps to modify weight, diet and exercise.
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