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Olympic swimmer Dana Vollmer took gold in the 100-meter butterfly in world-record time at the 2012 London Games. The 24-year-old first competed in Athens in 2004 as part of the silver-medal winning 4x200 freestyle relay, but a "mystery illness" kept her out of the Beijing Games in 2008.
The symptoms: Stomach aches bad enough to land her in the hospital three times, and increasingly severe yet unexplained fatigue that cut her endurance and training.
The diagnosis: An allergy to eggs and multiple food sensitivities, including one to gluten.
Vollmer told USA Today in May that she had stomach aches growing up in Texas.
"We just figured it was lactic acid," she said. "We took out milk products (from the diet) and that didn't seem to make it better. And I took the cheese off my omelet and wondered why I still had a horrible stomach ache afterwards! Never really made the connection."
Anita Nall-Richesson, the former Olympic breaststroker who is now a holistic nutritionist in Florida, made the diagnosis and helped Vollmer learn to cook without eggs, avoid dairy and tomatoes and walnuts, and launched her on a gluten-free diet. Pizza was definitely off the menu.
"The diet changes have been fantastic," Vollmer said. "It's definitely hard going from an athlete who used to eat a lot of carbs — spaghetti, any form of carbs — to really searching for healthy gluten-free food."
The result: A few months after going gluten-free, Vollmer won the world title in the 100-meter butterfly at the FINA World Championships in Shanghai in 2011 on her way to Olympic gold.
"I felt like I got a lot leaner yet stronger (on the new diet)," Vollmer said. "I feel so much stronger and leaner in the water."
And faster, too.
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