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FeaturesFeb/Mar 2011 Issue

Gluten Attack: Ataxia

Slow But Steady

Thanks to her hard work, Bosse has made big gains since going gluten free last year. Her celiac is in check and her ataxia symptoms have improved significantly. Fortunately, she hasn’t experienced any subsequent episodes where she struggles to breathe or swallow. Although she still needs her wheelchair much of the day, it’s often the burning pain caused by peripheral neuropathy, another neurologic complication of celiac disease, that keeps her off her feet. Bosse recently picked up her piccolo and flute again, favorite hobbies of hers, and found a job she can do part-time from home.

But recovery is slow—and part of her healing strategy is to simply slow down.

“I have to be willing to slow down and work with my body, especially on days when I’m having more problems. When my emotions get worked up, the ataxia gets worse. I have to calm down and move more slowly, focusing on everything I’m doing,” she says.

Davison also has to do one thing at a time. There’s no multitasking. After two years on the gluten-free diet, her coordination has improved substantially and she’s able to walk and do gentle yoga exercises. But she has to pace herself.

“My main problem today is fatigue. I’m not working yet but I’ve started volunteering several mornings a week in my field. Those afternoons I spend in bed.” Although it’s sometimes a struggle to stay positive, looking back she can see steady improvement overall.

 

Next: Dietary Vigilance

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