Karen Powell could never put her finger on what was causing it, but she'd had "tummy trouble" for at least 20 years.
"I'd had weight gain over the years and would often feel sick or even get sick after meals," she says. "But it was often different foods; sometimes it would be ice cream that made me sick, sometimes it would be meat. It got to where I was nervous to eat if I was traveling or out with friends. I just didn't know what was going on."
When the City began offering health risk assessments again in 2012, the 62-year-old receptionist for Workforce Development decided to take advantage of the opportunity to learn more about her health.
"I knew I had thyroid problems, but didn't really expect to find anything else," she says. "The blood work they ran for the HRA indicated I had low vitamin D levels, which can be caused by several different things."
After seeing her primary care physician and a couple of specialists, Karen finally found out what was going on.
She had celiac disease, which is a digestive condition triggered by consuming gluten. Gluten is a protein primarily found in bread, pasta, cookies, pizza crust and many other foods containing wheat, barley or rye.
People with celiac disease who eat foods containing gluten experience an immune reaction in their small intestines, causing damage to the inner surface of the small intestine and an inability to absorb certain nutrients. Eventually, the malabsorption can cause vitamin deficiencies that deprive the brain, peripheral nervous system, bones, liver and other organs of vital nourishment.
"The only vitamin deficiency I had was D, which is somewhat unusual," Karen said. "That's why recognizing or even diagnosing celiac disease can be tricky. One out of every 133 people has celiac disease and most of them don't even know it. I credit the HRA 100 percent for helping me find out what was wrong."
After switching to a gluten-free diet, Karen is virtually symptom-free. She also sees a dietitian regularly and is considering attending a celiac disease support group/cooking class at Hy-Vee.
Karen says she misses Chinese food, and that maintaining a gluten-free diet is about twice as expensive as a regular diet, but it's worth it.
"Aside from the convenience factor of not having to find a bathroom every time I eat, this condition could have affected all of my organs if I hadn't figured out what was wrong," Karen said. "I'm so thankful I got that HRA."
How Do I Sign Up for an HRA?
The HRA's are conducted each spring, and have concluded for the 2013 year.
Why Should I Sign Up?
Besides the fact that an HRA is a great way to learn about your health, check out some of the other reasons to participate:
- The HRA is a FREE benefit to you.
- Once you complete an HRA, you are eligible to receive or continue to receive a 75 percent discount on Parks fitness centers memberships.
- FREE inBalance gear and prize drawings.
- Coffee and snacks afterward.
Questions? Call Emily Hegg at 417-864-2077.