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Help - Sick At Work All The Time

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My work is really lenient.  I work four ten hour days, two of them at home.  Just today I requested a third day and it was granted, so I only have to go in now for one ten hour day a week.  My problem is, every single day I go into work, I get sick.  It always happens about 1-2 hours after lunch and it doesn't matter what I eat. 

 

I admit I do eat out for lunch with a few of my friends.  We checked out places that were careful about gluten and that's where we go.  Every time we go I get sick.  BUT, if I eat at those same restaurants when I am NOT at work, I am fine.  My husband and I eat out frequently and we are very careful about what we order and how we talk to the server, and I've only gotten sick once. 

 

I think there is something in my office.  There has to be.  When I am working from home, or even on the weekends, as long as I am careful about what I eat (even out), I don't get sick.  For the past eight weeks, every time I enter my office, I get some sort of nasty sick shortly after I eat. 

 

Today I brought my own salad to eat, stuff I grew in my own garden, on my own dishes that don't make me sick, with my own dressing.  I brought all my own drinks, too, so that I had zero gluten contamination.  Sure enough, an hour later I was running to the not-very-private ladies room with horrific diarrhea.  The same happened last week.  I took that week before that off, then the week before I puked all over myself.  It goes on and on.

 

I've been gluten free since late April this year.  At first I was fine at work, then slowly this started to happen.  At first intermittent, and now every time.  Is it the soap?  Can air quality do this (I work for government, so not a bakery or something).  I didn't use any lotions, disinfectants, hand creams or anything at all.  I didn't even drink from the water fountain today, yet here I am at home tonight, debating whether I want to even try to eat dinner after the horrible big D I had in the office today.  What is this and why is it happening?  It takes me three days each time to get over one day in the office. 

 

 

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Did you really really clean your mouse, keyboard, and phone, along with all desk surfaces, when you went gluten free? I used to eat at my desk at all the time, so I just bought myself a new keyboard.

 

How about the water cooler. Are you using it?

 

I'm as sensitive as they come, and I manage fine in an office with tons of food being eaten around me all day. The only days I have issues are the days they bring in pizza - it doesn't gluten me, but it does turn my stomach and give me stomach pains for a while afterwards. I don't, however, usually each lunch with others. They're just not careful and do things like wave their hands around while holding bread, or talk with their mouths full while spraying it at me. 

 

It's unlikely to be something airborne, unless you're sharing air vents with a kitchen that bakes (unlikely). Look towards things that you touch, that you may then be transmitting to your mouth. When you go to lunch, do you ride in your own car or others' cars? I swear I've gotten sick from sitting in super crumby cars or touching the car door handles, and then somehow ingesting it.

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At first glance to your post, my troubleshooting would be the eating process.  When I eat at work everything is self-contained, and I even bring my own napkins.  I stay out of the food preparation area all together.  I do not use any refrigerators, utensils, cutting boards, toasters, etc.  I assume from your post that you already have that down.  It is confusing to me that the symptoms present both when you eat home foods and restaurant foods (could restaurant be explained by different personnel/processes/attention to the lunch crowd v dinner crowd?).  In theory it could suggest airborne exposure from the office as a culprit, but that would be one of the later places that I would look.  From a parent troubleshooting school perspective, I would wonder if there was any sort of sabotage happening (both literally in a deliberate fashion, but also inadvertently through mistake/misunderstanding), but that also seems unlikely . . . just another one to check off in your mind I suppose.  Handwashing just before eating is critical, and using utensils for eating (as opposed to eating something by hand like a sandwich) should all help reduce potential, inadvertent cross contamination.  Anything eaten by hand increases the chance that handwashing and soap processes become more critical.

 

Other avenues to consider are *other* changes in your routine that coincide with attending the office.  In my mind that would include hair, makeup, and body products that are not necessarily used when you do not go into the office.  Lipstick in particular would be a place I would check.  Checking the keyboard and desk are also good to do.  With you not always being in the office, is your desk being used by others?  If eating at workstations is common, that may be an introduction for potential, inadvertent cross contamination concerns rendering the handwashing process more critical before eating.

 

The situation you describe is certainly perplexing.  If you can manage to do a trial of going into the office and not eating, I would certainly give it a go myself if I were in a similar situation.  You could do this by attempting partial days or staggering your eating to make it a manageable trial. Good luck sorting this out.  If you feel like all of this has been investigated and sorted as highly unlikely, I am happy to help keep brainstorming potential issues, including airborne.

 

For airborne, first that comes to mind would be if there is any construction occurring around the office.  The airborne issues that we investigate first are construction, wheat/gluten hay/straw and body products used by others (if they are in close proximity to us).  However, all of those sources are generically unlikely to impact a celiac.  We just happen to have the gluten allergy response to alert us to those issues in our environment.  Your post to me indicates more of an ingestion issue than an airborne issue, but it is hard to get a full picture from an internet post.  One last one that comes to mind that may seem far-fetched, but are any of the people that you eat with at work avid bakers?  Do you consistently eat with the same people at work?  Feel free to add more details or ask more questions if you have them.  I understand how frustrating and draining it can be to deal with this stuff, so hopefully there is some comfort in knowing you are not alone in your endeavors to find a safe place to work!

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Oh wow, I used to have this! I know how frustrating that can be...

 

I just started really paying attention to my body and what kinds of things I was reacting to and days that were worse or better.

 

About 8 months into my job, I noticed it was the WATER at my work making me sick. I don't think it's gluten… but I stopped drinking the water at work and began bringing bottled water. No more sickie. The tap water at my home didn't bother me. Beats me why! 

 

Do people eat gluteny things in the space where you are working? Do you touch your face or put on lip balm with your finger tips?

 

Are you eating near people with gluteny items? I didn't figure it out for awhile, but crumbs get brushed off of hands, people gesture wildly while holding a sandwich etc etc… if I eat with gluten free people I don't get sick, with a gluten-full table, I get sick maybe 30-50% of the time. So I just at some point decided the horrible stomach pains and D were not worth it. There have been more things I've had to cut out doing at work and it's been getting better and better for me there. The thing that sucks is that it's somewhat isolating :-(. 

 

Weluvgators gave a pretty thorough response ! I'll just leave you with: I've totally been there :-(

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Do not discount the possibility that you could have developed anxiety issues. Many of us stop going out to eat because over time we subconsciously associated this with getting sick. Some get the same feeling just going to work. Celiac can fuel anxiety and that feeling can lead to many of the Celiac symptoms. It can be difficult to determine if you are having a true Celiac issue or an anxiety one.

 

I work from home as well and over time you can find yourself being home bound. If you do not get out as often as possible this can make it much worse. Someone will invite you over or you need to go to a work function and you get that instant gut twinge of anxiety.

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When I was going through similar issues, I contacted two major air freshener manufacturers that are used in the bathrooms in my work (Lysol NeutraAir and Febreze Air Effects) and both manufacturers confirmed the products were gluten free. If you're unsure about what is being used, maybe you can bring in your own can and replace what's there?

 

Ultimately all the answers came back to my diet and eating lunch in close proximity to others, as Shell noted. Also, along the lines of weluvgator's excellent suggestions, do you eat anything different the days you go into work (a more rushed breakfast, coffee on the way in, extra snack/power bar, drink, etc.?)

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I cannot advise strongly enough to avoid working from home as much as possible. I have worked from home for close to 15 years, due to the nature of the job. You will find that your going out anxiety will increase the longer you work from home. You will also see "regular" anxiety increase as well as you lose social connections. I have known many who ended up becoming agoraphobic over time while working from home. Twice during the 15 years I have worked from the office for an extended amount of time (4 months and then a year and a half) and after a couple week adjustment, the anxiety almost fell away. I was a new man. I thrived. I did have to push in the beginning though. 

 

I do think that we overthink things. While I think it is possible that soaps, perfumes, and errant crumbs could hit a person, I think it is much more likely to be that subconscious anxiety. I can be perfectly fine all week and you mention going out to eat, me coming over, or a possible date and whammo I have a "celiac reaction." I would be a lot of others are like that or were before they were able to wrap their head around things and get 100% compliant for a lengthy amount of time.

 

Right now you are new to the disease. Less than 6 months if my math is right. You are probably still healing and learning what your triggers are. The worst thing I ever did was get into the overthinking it phase which I bet many due at the beginning. Most likely you are discovering other food categories that bother you or maybe you have not narrowed those down yet. When the gut is off, anxiety is up. They will feed off of each other to where you will not know what is the primary cause. You may find relief from a therapist and possibly with medication, although therapy can work wonders fast. 

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I am sorry that I posted and ran. It's been a rough week all around.

 

I've eaten both with others and alone.  No one uses my desk when I am not around, but the guy on the other side of my cube eats gluten all day long.  I've never suspected him of causing my problems, though, and he doesn't come around my way much.

 

I've made it a point to not put my food items in the common refrigerator.  And I don't drink the water - I bring my own.

 

There's something there.  There HAS to be.  While I do think Chad is right in that I get anxious, I do go out with my spouse all the time (not necessarily to eat - just out.  Today we took our motorcycle to Blue Licks State Park and to a few covered bridges across the river in Kentucky).  I didn't get sick.  I shop, I walk my rotties, I go out.  I admit I am somewhat of an introvert so I interact only with the people I am in the habit of interacting with, but I don't get sick.

 

I wish I could figure this out.  I am very careful when I am not at home.  I don't even use the microwave at work (or at home, now that I think about it).  I wash my hands and bring all my own stuff, even napkins.  I just don't get it.  And while I did consider the makeup, which I usually only wear to work, I also wear it if I am going to the doctor, or at times when my husband and I go out on a date to eat or not eat, and I don't get sick. 

 

Maybe it is another source like mold or a cleaner.  How would I narrow that down?

 

Chad, you are correct.  I was diagnosed April 27 and went gluten free a few days later. It took me a few days of research before I fully understood what gluten free meant.  I've not intentionally consumed gluten since then.

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Do you know what your typical reaction is to gluten? Knowing that will narrow down whether this is a gluten problem or not.

 

I also first thought 'anxiety' when reading this. I have a similar situation happen to me during my once a week club visit, but I've been gluten free long enough to differentiate my anxiety symptoms (constant D throughout the day, occasional lightheadedness) from gluten symptoms (migraines, nausea, extreme fatigue, ataxia, confusion, followed by delayed D/C and more).

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