The Patient Is Gluten-Free; The Doctor Is Brain-Free

, , , , , | Healthy | February 22, 2019

(I’ve been suffering from chronic pain and fatigue for years, and my GP refers me to a rheumatologist following some concerning test results. I’m in my mid-twenties and walking with a limp.)

Doctor: “You were referred to me because of your test results, but this test often shows false positives. You probably have nothing to worry about. I’ll order you a new series of blood tests. Now, you indicated that you’re in pain. Where does it hurt the most?”

Me: “It varies; some days it hurts–”

Doctor: *interrupting* “Where does it hurt the most right now?”

Me: “Um… here.” *point at my leg* “But the pain moves around. Sometimes it hurts my jaw, my neck, my shoulders… As I wrote on the forms, it’s sort of all over. It makes it difficult to exercise, to cook, or even to write.”

Doctor: *looking at my leg* “It’s probably just a pinched nerve.” *glancing down* “You indicated that you have psoriasis. Is that it?”

(She leans forward without warning and pokes at a patch of dry skin on my leg.)

Doctor: “Does that hurt? It looks bad.”

Me: “Um… No. It itches sometimes, but it’s pretty mild.”

Doctor: “It doesn’t look like psoriasis. When were you diagnosed?”

Me: “When I was a kid, maybe ten or so?”

Doctor: “And what did your dermatologist say at the time?”

Me: “Um… I was ten, so… I don’t really…?”

Doctor: “You should see your dermatologist. And a neurologist for your back pain. I see here that you’re trying a gluten-free diet? That should help with the pain, and your weight, too.”

Me: “I’m not… What?” *confused* “I’m not ‘trying’ a gluten-free diet. I’m gluten-intolerant. I’ve been gluten-free for over a year.”

Doctor: “Right, it should help. Your pain should decrease, and you should start losing weight.”

Me: *frustrated* “As I said, I stopped eating gluten a year ago. It did help. A lot of my fatigue and stomach issues went away. But if it was going to help with the pain, I think it would have done it by now.”

Doctor: “Well, I think you’ll start to see the benefits soon. Anyway, go to our lab. I’m sure we’ll find that you have nothing to worry about.”

(I was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis, an autoimmune disease related to psoriasis. I decided to transfer to a different doctor. I requested a copy of my records to send over, and what I read there only strengthened my decision, since her only notes from that appointment said that I was experiencing minor pain and that I should go on a low-carb diet.)

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