Explaining Celiac Across a Language Barrier

It’s after my Wednesday evening acupuncture session, and I’m trying to explain to my acupuncturist that, while I’d really like to take the herbs she’s giving me, I need to make sure there isn’t any gluten in the pills.

I kinda figured this would be problematic. Her English is good enough for most things, but there have been times when she’s had to call in the man working the front desk to translate (I’m assuming he’s an acupuncturist in training, because he seems to know his stuff pretty well). In this case, he was at a loss, too.

I said, I have celiac disease.

This prompted a flurry of looking through a translation dictionary. No celiac.

All right. Let’s try sprue. Or gluten sensitive enteropathy. I write both down on a sticky note so he can read them. (Though I’m thinking that latter one is a bigger stretch than celiac).

Aha! They do have sprue in there. Oh, you have diarrhea? he asks.

No, actually. Mine never presented that way. But… Oh. I see. Tropical sprue. Right. I have non-tropical sprue.

You haven’t been to the tropics?

No. Mine is genetic.

More confusion. And then I say, Wait. Here.

I pull out my iPhone. See this? I say, showing him a picture of happy healthy intestinal villi. That’s what intestines are supposed to look like. This, I say, going to the next picture, is what mine look like.

Flat! he said. Oh.

Then there was more flipping through the dictionary. Gluten! he said, and then began to read the description aloud. Ohhh! We have this in children, in China. This is immune problem.

And I said, Yes! Auto-immune. Turns out adults can have it, too.

Huh. And you’ve had a scope in your intestine, to see?

Yes, I say, pointing at my phone. That was my intestine.

That was yours?! I thought it was from a text book. Oh! That was your intestine!

At which point, he began pulling herbs and roots out of drawers and showing them to me, saying: This is what’s in that medicine. Which was actually pretty interesting.

It didn’t fully answer my question – there’s the coating and any filler and also the issue of cross contamination. One of the medications, I have been able to ascertain, is probably gluten free. The other… I’m not sure.

But the conversation itself was actually kind of fun. And you could tell he was tickled to have learned something new. And delighted that it was *my* intestine that I’d showed him.

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  1. #1 by bilt on November 6, 2010 - 7:37 pm

    “Oh, you have diarrhea?”
    Made my day.

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