© 2013 jen

Fit-tastic Update – On The Verge Of Vertigo

You know those movies that start at the end and work backwards to reveal a story?

This is how I feel about the healing process of living with Celiac disease. The healthier I get, the more I see how this illness affected me on all levels for most of my life. It’s only as I heal and shed another old feeling, thought, or action that I can fully see where I was and where I am today…but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Working backwards, I’ll tell you the story of the vertigo that I didn’t know I had.

I was recently talking with a friend of mine, Christel, about how I used to feel like gravity was so much heavier than it is now. I used to feel like I was being pulled to the center of the earth – like a force was pulling me to the ground. All I needed was a slight bump or stumble and I would be down for the count.

My friend Christel and I have known each other since we were kids, so she knows all my stories. As I was describing this strange feeling I used to have, she said, “You had low-grade vertigo your whole life.” And I was like, “Holy shit, that’s true and I didn’t know it till just now.”

Vertigo is a common symptom for Celiacs and for people with food allergies. You can have vertigo for many other reasons, but food can very often be the culprit.

You’ve probably heard me say before that I used to be a really clumsy person before I was diagnosed with Celiac disease. I’ve broken bones, sprained wrists and ankles and generally flailed around for most of my life, but since I stopped eating wheat I have found that I’m much more coordinated than I ever knew I was capable of being.

I was the type of person who would often get really dizzy from standing up too quickly after sitting down. I wouldn’t fall over, but I’d see these little black spots in front of my eyes.

There were other signs too, like fainting spells. I’ve had about four fainting spells in my life. Usually it happened after not eating enough food before having my annual pelvic exam. There was something about lying down for the exam and then getting up afterward that would trigger these terrible blackouts. The first two times I didn’t take it all that seriously, but by the third time I was like, oh crap this is a thing that I have to deal with.

 All of that was vertigo, but so mild that I didn’t even identify it for what it was.

Here’s the biggest epiphany that has come to me since I’ve realized that I used to have a form of vertigo: I’ve realized it affected my ability to read.

If you know me well, you know that I’ve never been much of a reader. It’s embarrassing to admit this, because I think that reading is important. The real truth, however, is that up until a few months ago I didn’t enjoy it. It made me feel icky to read. I’ve always read things, but sitting down and reading a book was something I almost never did. I had a hard time concentrating for more than short periods. I had a hard time following the lines of the page. I’d get distracted by the word on the next line, or maybe the word two rows below it.

I made it through college by putting index cards above and below the line I was reading on a page so that there weren’t any other rows of words to distract me. I wasn’t going to let my reading skills (or lack of them) interfere with my education. I knew I was smart enough – I just had to figure out how to focus on reading, and I did. I graduated with a double major in Psychology and Sociology, probably having to work twice as hard as most people for those degrees.

As a little kid I used to read upside down, because for some reason it slowed my brain down enough to concentrate better. That should have been a sign to the people around me that something was wrong, but no one noticed, or if they did they just thought I was eccentric.

I was tested every year by whatever school I was attending for everything under the sun: hearing tests, vision tests, speech tests, learning disabilities. Every time, I passed with flying colors.

When I was tested for learning disabilities they told me I didn’t have one, but that there was something going on that couldn’t be identified. My reading skills were way behind, and they couldn’t figure out why. The consensus was that I was smarter than I was presenting in my performance at school. I was regularly lectured by all adults about learning to apply myself. I was told that I needed to try harder, focus, concentrate and develop better study habits.

I dropped out of high school at 16 years old because I was failing everything and wasn’t going to graduate anywhere close to on time.

My grandmother couldn’t believe that I had dropped out of school.  She begged me to have more extensive testing done for learning disabilities, and I agreed. I was tested on a few different occasions, by a college student at Oregon State University. After all of this testing the results came back and no, I didn’t have a learning disability. The woman who administered the test said I was showing a delay in my reading ability that was inconsistent with my verbal skills and overall intelligence.  I was 16 years old and would have been in the 10th grade. At that time I was reading at a 7th grade level.

I come from generations of teachers.  Highly educated people. Everyone on my mom’s side of the family (which is the side of my family that I know the most about) has at least a bachelor’s degree and many have higher degrees too: law degrees, master’s degrees and so forth. My great-grandmother earned her PhD in English with a minor in Latin, back in the 1940s.

I was read aloud to at night, almost every night, when I was little. Reading and education were essential parts of my family’s core values. My lack of interest and poor performance in school was utterly perplexing to everyone, including me.

I knew there was something going on with my eyes and mind when I was reading – that there was some interference. I knew that my eyes fatigued very easily whenever I sat down to read. Most of the time I’d have to put a book away after about 15 minutes of reading because it would make me feel crappy and bummed out.

The idea of reading for relaxation has never computed for me, until recently. I’m reading all the time now. For the first time in my life. I have books all over the house.

I’m really into nutrition research at the moment. I’ve always loved researching topics that interest me, but I used to feel like I could only concentrate in short little spits and spurts. Now I sink my teeth in and focus all day long. I can read for hours at a stretch and my eyes don’t fatigue like they always did before. I think my comprehension is better too because I can focus on the message more clearly. I don’t have that weird icky feeling that I used to get when reading. I can just read the words and enjoy the message.

Here’s another thing: I used to almost never be able to do any balance poses in yoga. Now I have very little issues balancing on one foot or with balance in general. All of these separate experiences all originating from the same source – very “mild” vertigo.

I was on the verge of vertigo, which was related to the undiagnosed Celiac disease, which interfered with my reading and created the obstacles I had with school. It disrupted my ability to read. It was the reason I fainted occasionally. It was the reason I’d see spots when I stood up too quickly. It was the reason I was so clumsy.

None of these things happen to me anymore. I can still be clumsy on occasion, but now I can catch myself before I fall, or I stumble and that’s all. Since I’ve been diagnosed I haven’t fallen once (knock on wood). In my former life I fell about 2-4 times  a year. I’m at 8 months of being g-free now and I’ve only stumbled a few times. I would say I have an extremely active lifestyle these days, so you’d think I’d stumble more.

I’m writing this post about low-grade vertigo today, because I suspect I’m not the only one who has had this and I’m probably not the only person to be unaware of the problem, because it was “minor” enough that I didn’t really have the spins and maybe you don’t either.

So maybe you’re reading this and thinking, “I see spots when I stand up!”

That could be a sign that something is off. It could be originating from your belly. It could be something else, but it’s something to pay attention to. If your belly isn’t happy and if you’re eating foods that aren’t healthy for you (like if you have an allergy or sensitivity), it can cause vertigo along with a whole host of other problems that can affect your concentration and even your ability to read. It sounds crazy but it’s true.

Eating foods that work with your body is essential to overall health and well being. Each day that I move further away from sickness and toward better health, I’m reminded of this fact.

I feel really fortunate that I get to connect the dots of my life and understand myself so much more clearly, while I feel healthier in mind, body and spirit.



I’m feeling good and strong still. Eating and exercising a lot.

I made a crocheted sweater this week (which I started last week) with no pattern and it reminded me of how meditative knit and crochet are for me. Here’s an animated gif of my sweater. I was going for an old timey look with some modern stylizing. I’m happy with how it turned out.


My weight is up again, 195 lbs, but that’s OK with me. I’m pretty tired of monitoring my weight. I’m rolling with whatever the scale says and not judging it.


Thanks for sticking with me on this journey, friends.

What about you? Have you ever had vertigo? Did you read this post and wonder if you might have it now? Let me know your thoughts and experiences with vertigo.