HunterThe Voices of Celiac Disease

“If there was ever a time to have to eat gluten-free, this is it. We are so fortunate to have all the options available to us now and it will keep getting better.”

Hunter jumping in the air on a dirt bike.

Describe your life prior to diagnosis:

I have spent my entire life as an athlete, racing BMX since I was 8 and transitioning to the Pro Class in 2017. In late 2019, I slowly phased myself out of racing because my entire body was constantly in pain from inflammation.

Over the next couple of years, I still tried to play recreational football and basketball as often as I could to stay active. I would get winded fast, have no energy and constantly feel lethargic. My physique disappeared as my muscles shrunk and I gained a lot of fat. Whenever I ate, I always felt like I was malnourished and not digesting my food. I spent every day battling ridiculous amounts of brain fog that never seemed to leave. My whole sense of self was thrown off, and the pain and discomfort made daily life very difficult.

How did you come to know (or suspect) that you have celiac disease?

My first level of pain management was an attempt to lower inflammation, eating anti-inflammatory foods and being more mindful of my nutrition. I also read in depth about the gut microbiome and the gut-brain axis. There was improvement, but I still felt far from normal.

If you were diagnosed, who made the diagnosis?

I had never been comfortable with doctors and frequently did anything I could before medical intervention. When I exhausted myself trying to fix each symptom, I finally went in and immediately had a blood test ordered by the doctor, which confirmed celiac disease.

How long did it take for you to get diagnosed since your first symptoms and what (if any) challenges did you face along the way?

Looking back now, I have been battling inflammation issues since my first pro BMX season. The onset of my symptoms was gradual, but progressed to the point where life was drastically different and far from enjoyable. I did nothing but play sports, including racing, football, basketball and golf, while undiagnosed. I honestly thought I just wasn’t good and resigned myself to a life of pain and soreness.

Do you believe anything could have sped up your diagnosis? If so, please explain:

I absolutely could have gone to the doctor when I noticed symptoms and I encourage others to do so. The sooner celiac disease is caught the better.

Describe your experience with living with celiac disease:

Learning to live with celiac disease was a very hard transition; at first, I would fall off the wagon frequently or have accidental exposure. When I finally decided to buckle down and make it non-negotiable with myself that I had to stick to gluten-free everything changed.

It took time for my body to heal, but I eventually reached a point where I was no longer inflamed. I felt a connection to my stomach and body like nothing I could have imagined before. I can feel everything I eat and its effect on me. It is not a bad life, or a sad life; people frequently say “I’m sorry” when they learn that I have to live with these restrictions. In a big way I am very thankful to have been dealt this hand. The opportunity to share my lifestyle with others and hopefully help other people learn about the potential effects of gluten is something I am glad to do. If there was ever a time to have to eat gluten-free, this is it. We are so fortunate to have all the options available to us now and it will keep getting better.

Is there anything else you’d like to add to your story?

I am down 45 pounds and healthier than ever, my first national BMX race in 5 years went incredibly well and I am looking forward to my newfound future in the sport I have always loved!