Thursday, October 23, 2014

Want to Be Smarter and Avoid Heart Disease? Try Gluten-Free!

Going gluten free has some powerful benefits! If that sounds a little too good to be true, I promise I'm not exaggerating. We will be looking at the result of two research studies that confirm that those who follow a gluten-free diet do reap some nice rewards.

In the first study published in Digestive Diseases & Sciences entitled “Characteristics of patients who avoid wheat and/or gluten in the absence of celiac disease”, the authors wanted to look at the characteristics of patients with gluten sensitivity in the U.S. They found that patients with gluten sensitivity were similar to patients with celiac disease in regards their BMI (body mass index that measures levels of obesity) and hemoglobin levels. Those with gluten sensitivity had a lower BMI than controls. The group also showed a lower incidence of hypertension and an improved cardiovascular profile similar to those patients with celiac disease when following a gluten free diet.  

Gluten Free = A Healthier Heart

In other words, gluten sensitive patients following a gluten-free diet were less obese and had healthier hearts than their gluten-eating counterparts. The researchers didn’t know whether to cite the diet alone or a combination of eating gluten-free and having a certain genetic profile. We have learned that almost half of those suffering with gluten sensitivity have the same genetic profile as those with celiac disease, so there may be some validity in the gene theory. 

A Gluten Free Diet Made Celiacs Smarter

The next study was published in the Journal of Gastroenterology & Hepatology, Volume 28, 2013. The article title was a mouthful: “Cognitive performance improves in concert with histological and serological improvement over the first 12 months of a gluten-free diet in patients with newly-diagnosed celiac disease”. Basically all it means is that newly diagnosed celiacs got smarter during their first 12 months on a gluten-free diet and that change was associated with blood tests improving and their gut healing.

Eating Gluten Created the Same Deficits Mentally as Being Drunk

As we have spoken of many times, gluten affects more than just the GI tract. There is a well established correlation between the inflammation associated with celiac disease and changes in behavior, mood and cognitive function. This study looked at the cognitive function in patients newly diagnosed with celiac disease and tracked it as they implemented a gluten-free diet over their first year. Cognitive ability in memory, visual/spatial acuity, motor function and attention was all measured.

The results were rather fascinating: A newly diagnosed celiac has such diminished cognitive function that it was comparable to someone with a blood alcohol level above the legal limit. In other words, cognitive ability was equivalent to someone who was drunk.

After a year on a gluten-free diet however, those participants who showed a fully healed intestine (and that’s a point worth repeating—only those who fully healed received this benefit) revealed a normal cognitive function level. The improvement, cognitively speaking, paralleled the improvement in their blood values and gut healing. As you can see, I wasn’t exaggerating with my title for this post. Frankly, the more we learn about gluten the less I like it for almost everyone, regardless of their celiac or gluten sensitive status. But that’s a discussion for another post. 

Do You Want To Go Gluten Free?

If so—contact us for a FREE CONSULTATION.  
Call (408) 733-0400 to schedule. 

If you are not local to us, our DESTINATION CLINIC treats patients from across the country and internationally. We will help you find the underlying root cause!

To your good health,

Dr. Vikki Petersen, DC, CCN
IFM Certified Practitioner

Founder of HealthNOW Medical Center

Co-author of “The Gluten Effect”

Author of the eBook: “Gluten Intolerance – What You Don’t Know May Be Killing You!”

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Link between Gluten and Autoimmune Disease Getting Stronger

I speak often about autoimmune disease. My fascination stems from a few different factors:

1) The increase of autoimmune diseases in our society is on a downright scary trajectory. 

2) Autoimmune disease sufferers are told "there is no cure for their disease".

3) The treatment for autoimmune is, in my opinion, barbaric and exactly the opposite of what treatment should be. 

4) Research is, more and more, supporting what I feel is the truth and most important, this new approach opens the door to diminishing why autoimmune diseases have increased so dramatically.

Gotta Look to the Gut!

If you follow my blogs or videos, you may have heard that newer research strongly correlates the health of the GI tract with susceptibility to autoimmune disease. This is exciting and promising as compared to those who state "it’s all in the genes" and "if you’re destined, there’s nothing you can do about it". I don’t know about you, but I feel better when I can take action. Being told it’s hopeless, especially when it comes to disease, can be downright depressing. 

Research has linked gluten as being a potential culprit in the weakening of the gut and it’s important resident, the human immune system. This new study, just released last month, gives further support to that premise: that gluten can be an absolute link to autoimmune disease.

New Research Points the Finger at Gluten Causing More Than Just Celiac Disease

The journal that published the paper was Hormone Research in Paediatrics The paper was entitled, "Prolactin May Be Increased in Newly Diagnosed Celiac Children and Adolescents and Decreases after 6 Months of Gluten-Free Diet”.

What’s prolactin? It’s a hormone produced predominantly in the brain (the pituitary gland to be exact) but also in the immune cells of the body...something that wasn’t known up until fairly recently and a key aspect underlying the research we’re about to discuss.

Prolactin is traditionally thought of as the hormone necessary for lactation and therefore only produced when a mom is nursing her newborn. However, that is far from its only function. It’s associated with decreased sex hormones in both men and women and has been proven to have, in fact, over 300 separate actions—that’s one busy hormone! And of course, anything that alters its production would affect the body in a vast number of ways.

A Hormone, When Elevated Signals Autoimmune Disease

What is now understood about prolactin is that it is a marker for autoimmune disease, something that wasn’t known in the past. But research now supports that a number of autoimmune conditions are associated with elevated prolactin levels—specifically rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Sjogren’s syndrome, type 1 diabetes, celiac disease, multiple sclerosis and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.

What they set out to prove is that the elevation of prolactin was due to the production of increased inflammatory agents in the blood (called cytokines). These particular agents that can be measured in the blood are seen in celiac patients who are not following a gluten-free diet and are decreased when the patients are following a gluten-free diet.  They therefore set out to test this hypothesis by measuring prolactin levels in newly diagnosed celiac pediatric patients. 67 pediatric patients newly diagnosed with celiac disease were compared to 39 healthy control children. As expected, prolactin levels were statistically higher in the celiac patients than in the controls. After 6 months of a strict gluten-free diet the prolactin levels decreased. The researchers felt that the decrease in the inflammatory substances in the blood due to a gluten-free diet accounted for the decrease in prolactin levels, despite the short amount of time on the gluten-free diet. The broader picture to appreciate is that prolactin, as a marker for autoimmune disease, was decreased when a gluten-free diet was initiated. Why?

It is surmised by the researchers to be due to the gluten-free diet decreasing the inflammatory agents in the blood that overstimulate the immune system and thereby can initiate the autoimmune process. In other words, gluten is seen as a direct cause of increasing the levels of the hormone prolactin and thereby increasing autoimmune tendencies. 

Gluten's Link to Autoimmune Disease Seems Concrete

The writing is on the wall as more and more researchers come to the same conclusion. Gluten is not our friend in so many ways and I think we can safely add autoimmune disease to its list of crimes.

Do You Need Help?

Are you suffering from autoimmune disease? Do you have family members with autoimmune disease and you want to prevent it? Whatever category you’re in, it would be a good idea to rule out a problem with gluten. There is zero harm in not ingesting gluten and for many the benefits are positively life-saving. 

The program we use here at HealthNOW in our medical and clinical nutrition departments is a good one. It has stabilized, slowed and evened reversed cases of autoimmune disease. And despite research only recently coming to the conclusion that gluten and gut health is an integral factor in addressing autoimmune disease, this approach has been the foundation of our treatment for well over a decade. We can help you discover if you have a problem with gluten or have a tendency towards autoimmune disease - yes we have a lab test for both! If you wish to improve your health.

Discover Your Health!

We can help you discover if you have a problem with gluten or have a tendency towards autoimmune disease - yes we have a lab test for both! If you wish to improve your health—contact us for a FREE CONSULTATION.  Call (408) 733-0400 to schedule. 

If you are not local to us, our DESTINATION CLINIC treats patients from across the country and internationally. We will help you find the underlying root cause!

I look forward to hearing from you.

To your good health,

Dr. Vikki Petersen, DC, CCN
IFM Certified Practitioner

Founder of HealthNOW Medical Center

Co-author of “The Gluten Effect”

Author of the eBook: “Gluten Intolerance – What You Don’t Know May Be Killing You!”

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Gluten Intolerance and Seizures

There are many causes of seizures, some understood better than others. I want to discuss the known association between seizures and gluten intolerance. Below is an excerpt from our book, “The Gluten Effect”. 

It is quite amazing how many other parts of your health can be actively affected by gluten without the presence of any digestive symptoms. Of all the organ systems of your body, the nervous system is the one most commonly affected by gluten after the gastrointestinal system. And, because our nervous system handles so many important functions, symptoms related to the nervous system problems are quite varied.

What Symptoms Can Be Caused?
There is an abundance of evidence that inflammatory changes occur in the brain and nerves that cause a variety of symptoms. These can range from:

  • clumsiness
  • headaches
  • numbness
  • mood disorders
  • memory problems 
Neurological Problems Can Precede Digestive Complaints by Months or Years

It has been reported that only 13% of patients with neurologic symptoms from gluten may have digestive symptoms. And often, neurological symptoms in gluten sensitive patients precede digestive symptoms by months to years when they do occur. For this reason, it is important to keep gluten in mind as a root cause when dealing with disorders of the nervous system.

Symptoms are the body's way of getting your attention and directing you toward the site of the problem. If standard tests and exams cannot reveal a cause, then dietary factors, toxins, lifestyle issues and other stresses deserve your attention.This is where gluten should be a strong consideration. Because gluten affects so many people silently, and because most of those symptoms are not related to the digestive tract, it needs to be an early consideration when addressing many health care problems. 

Gluten's Relationship to Seizures

An excellent study was done with 171 patients who suffered seizures and likewise had gluten intolerance and calcifications in the brain. Gluten antibodies were actually found in their spinal fluid (circulates around the brain and spinal cord), and, likewise, most had the gene for having gluten sensitivity. It was notable that some patients responded well to a gluten-free diet.

The Mechanism Explained

The root cause is most likely an immune system attack of the nervous system triggered by gluten in a sensitive individual. The immune system, in addition to attacking gluten, gets confused and attacks normal brain tissue that "looks similar" to gluten's protein structure. This is known as molecular mimicry.

In the brain, once the tissue is inflamed chronically, calcium can deposit and form a hardened scar. Due to the scar, seizures develop and can be difficult to control with normal seizure medications. Seizures are basically short circuits of the brain. Suppose there were an electrical pole knocked down onto the ground. The electrical wires tore and were lying unprotected, sending out sparks from their broken ends. The electrical connection had been severed. Calcium deposits and scars in the brain essentially do the same thing. They send off electrical "sparks" that can develop into seizures if enough brain tissue becomes involved. Medication may help the sparks from spreading, but with gluten-related seizures, medicines work less well. If gluten is truly the root cause, then eliminating it can allow the tissues to heal. 

Case Study: A Lovely Girl Leaves Her Seizures Behind

T.S. is a beautiful, vibrant, nine-year-old girl who had begun having seizures at the age of four. She had undergone standard medical testing without a cause of her seizures being found. We first saw her when she was four years old. Not only did we find that she was sensitive to gluten, but she also had many intestinal infections, a Candida yeast infection and an essential fatty acid imbalance. The infections were greater in number in her than in most adults we treat, and some were very resistant to treatment, requiring two rounds of antibiotics instead of the usual one. She was treated with fatty acids in addition to a gluten-free diet.

T.S. has had absolutely no seizures for over 5 years! She told her mother that she knows that the gluten created the seizures and she is more than happy to keep it out of her diet. It is noteworthy that her mother, also diagnosed by us as gluten sensitive, never ate much gluten until her twenties because as a child, she had sensed that it bothered her. But, recalling when she was in college and consumed a lot of gluten, she remembered suffering from "brain fog" during that time. 

It's Worth Giving Gluten-Free a Try

Evidence of these inflammatory changes can be seen in some gluten sensitive patients via MRI. This was supported in another study examining patients with gluten sensitivity and seizures, which demonstrated deep-tissue inflammation in at least 20% of the children studied who had seizures.

According to the Epilepsy Foundation: 

a) By 75 years of age, 10% of the population will have experienced some type of seizure. 
b) 3% can be expected to have been diagnosed with epilepsy.

So, having seizures is definitely not a rare occurrence in our society.It is therefore critical we recognize that a percentage of those suffering may be having seizures as a manifestation of gluten sensitivity. For these individuals, a gluten-free diet may be the only effective treatment.

If you or someone you know suffers with seizures, it would be well worth your while to consult a clinician who specializes in gluten intolerance. Imagine if such suffering could be allayed with a simple dietary change. We have certainly seen it here in our clinic.

Interested In A Gluten-Free Diet?

Contact us for a FREE CONSULTATION. Call (408) 733-0400 to schedule. 

If you are not local to us, our DESTINATION CLINIC treats patients from across the country and internationally. We will help you find the underlying root cause!

To your good health,

Dr. Vikki Petersen, DC, CCN
IFM Certified Practitioner

Founder of HealthNOW Medical Center

Co-author of “The Gluten Effect”

Author of the eBook: “Gluten Intolerance – What You Don’t Know May Be Killing You!”

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Gluten Sensitivity Can Cause Belly Fat

Where did my flat tummy go?

Below is a case study from our book, “The Gluten Effect”. This patient had some very common complaints, but the common treatment she was receiving was having no effect. Did you used to have a flat stomach but can't seem to “find” it anymore? Gluten intolerance could very well be the underlying cause.

J.W had developed a big belly that she could not get rid of. She felt bloated all the time—and no matter how often she exercised or how closely she watched her caloric intake, her weight remained the same. She felt and looked four months pregnant.

A Successful 30-pound Weight Loss!

We diagnosed her with gluten sensitivity, and after being off gluten for several months, she went from a size 14 to a size 6, with a thirty-pound weight loss. She not only lost the weight, but it came off her problem areas first—her stomach and face.

She now had a flat belly, which she had never enjoyed before. J.W. also noted that her bloating was gone, and that she felt “clean” inside.

Lab tests revealed several infections, which were treated successfully, and that removed other chronic stressors from her system.

In J.W.'s case, the distribution of weight around the mid-region of the body was typical of excessive cortisol (a hormone) production with adrenal (your stress gland) exhaustion, secondary to a food sensitivity. Once gluten was removed, the stress on her body subsided, and a normal weight distribution returned.

Do You Have a “Spare Tire” or “Muffin Top”?

What we've discovered after working with patients for over 20 years is that much of that “tire” can be due to swelling of the small intestine from the inflammation caused by gluten and the adrenal fatigue ensues from malabsorption of nutrients.

You have about 23 feet of small intestine—with the surface area the size of a tennis court.

Look down at your abdomen. That's a lot of track to be laid down in a relatively small space.
Now imagine, that 23 feet is swollen, due to irritation created by a diet that doesn't suit your body, or an infection. Infections in the intestine are very common secondary to gluten intolerance. When it swells it has to go somewhere—welcome spare tire!

What's the Solution?

The solution is to discover the underlying cause of the swelling. Now I'm not against exercise, quite the contrary. But I can promise you that all the crunches in the world will not flatten a tummy that's swollen from a food intolerance or irritation from an untreated parasite or bacteria.

5 Things You Can Do

1. Discover if you're gluten intolerant for starters. There are tests available for this and remember we're talking about finding out if you're sensitive to gluten, not just if you have celiac disease.

2. If you already know that you're sensitive to gluten, then realize that you must be perfect about removing if from your diet. Being good “most of the time” is just not enough.

3. If you have not had a comprehensive stool analysis to check for the presence of infectious organisms, this really is something you should look into. It is rare that a gluten sensitive individual DOESN'T have some type of infection due to years of assault on the immune system from eating gluten.

4. The damage created by gluten in the intestines results in a condition known as a “leaky gut”. This is very common. Removing gluten from the diet is usually not enough to restore the integrity to the intestine. Such treatments as probiotics, herbs and other supplements may be needed to repair the lining of the gut to it's normal healthy state.

5. Get an idea of how your adrenal glands are functioning. Adrenal fatigue or exhaustion is quite common in our society. It is especially associated with malabsorption of nutrients and unstable blood sugar, which is definitely an effect created by gluten sensitivity.

The good news is that with some help from clinical nutrition, including dietary changes and lifestyle management, restoring that nice flat tummy is within reach—no surgery required!

Please let me know how I can assist you. Or call us to schedule a Free Health Analysis: (408) 733-0400.

Here at HealthNOW we are a Destination Clinic and we see patients from across the country as well as internationally. We are here to help!

I look forward to hearing from you.

To your good health,

Dr. Vikki Petersen, DC, CCN
IFM Certified Practitioner

Founder of HealthNOW Medical Center

Co-author of “The Gluten Effect”

Author of the eBook: “Gluten Intolerance – What You Don’t Know May Be Killing You!”

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Celiac Disease vs. Gluten Sensitivity—Are They Different?

70-80% of Medical Research is Funded by Pharmaceutical Companies

We live in a society where medical treatment efficacy is gauged by two major standards:

1) Make a diagnosis, then

2) Find the drug best suited to treat the symptoms associated with that diagnosis

Fully 70-80% of all medical research is funded by pharmaceutical companies. Where does celiac disease fit into this paradigm? Celiac disease is considered to be a rare disorder and there is no drug to treat it. You can imagine where that puts it on the hierarchy of most medical practitioners.

In addition, the “face” of celiac that most doctors are taught, is a patient presented with chronic diarrhea and severe weight loss. Is it any wonder that little emphasis is put on its diagnosis? Once the patient with severe weight loss has been ruled out for cancer and other serious diseases, then their doctor might consider celiac disease.

What’s the Difference Between Celiac Disease and Gluten Sensitivity?

In my opinion, very little. The problem we have encountered is that celiac disease is the only manifestation of gluten sensitivity that medicine has been able to diagnose. And not very well at that—considering it takes the average celiac patient as long as 10 years before they're even given the proper diagnosis.

So what is the problem?

Is it that something considered rare is not often looked for?  Partially.

Is it because there's no drug to treat it, so there's no “easy fix”?  Partially.

Is it the fact that the only treatment for it is a dietary change—and no one really wants to “condemn” a patient to never eating wheat, rye or barley again?  Definitely!

Is Celiac Disease Just a Subset of Gluten Sensitivity?

Celiac disease is just the tip of the iceberg of the greater issue called “gluten sensitivity”. 

In this case, the tip is 1/40 of the whole iceberg—because research has been telling us that while celiac disease affects 1% of the population, gluten sensitivity’s incidence is anywhere from 7% to up to 40%

Estimates vary widely. But even conservative estimates take it right our of the “rare” category with higher estimates putting it squarely in the category of obesity which is considered to be an epidemic!

The Problem with “Diagnosis”

The “gold standard” for diagnosing celiac disease has been a positive intestinal biopsy that reveals severe degradation of the surface of the small intestine. But damage has to occur for many years before such a test is positive, not to mention all the secondary problems that have likely arisen during that time. Yet we wait and wait for that positive test during which time it's considered “perfectly good medicine” to tell a patient to continue eating gluten if their test is negative!

Is It Malpractice?

I have been saying that, within the decade, the current protocols being used to diagnose and treat celiac disease will be looked upon as malpractice. Is that too strong a statement? I don't think so. 

Do we wait for a patient to have a heart attack before we assess risk factors for cardiovascular disease? Of course not!

So why is it acceptable to allow a patient to get to the point of severe atrophy of their intestine with concomitant malabsorption, inflammation, and risk of autoimmune disease before we make a diagnosis? It isn't!

Gluten Intolerance Puts You at Risk for Many Severe Diseases

I've been working with gluten sensitive patients for around 20 years and even co-authored a book on the subject, "The Gluten Effect". What I have come to find out through research and clinical experience has taught me that we have an obligation to our society to change our procedures and strategies.

We are creating many ill patients by missing the diagnosis of gluten sensitivity.

Such things as: obesity, depression, anxiety, fatigue, migraines, IBS, and autoimmune disease (such as arthritis, lupus, diabetes, thyroid disease, and osteoporosis) are all implicated with gluten sensitivity. The list is long and growing as we learn more.

Everyone Should Be Screened

I believe everyone should be screened for gluten intolerance, which includes both celiac disease and gluten sensitivity. It involves a simple lab test which should be evaluated by an experienced clinician. The reasoning behind this is that interpretation of these tests requires some experience and it's often not a simple “yes” or “no” proposition.

Most researchers and clinicians prefer also using a blood test, although the efficacy of saliva testing has been validated. Personally, I use blood and saliva testing both for my patients, with a stool test recommended for those living too far away to come into the office.

What if the test is equivocal? What if it’s in the gray “suspicious but not confirmed” area? The TRUE gold standard test is evaluating a dietary change—it's called elimination and provocation. Eliminate gluten completely from your diet for a minimum of 30 days and see how you feel. If you notice a change, that is considered a positive test.

We are committed to spreading the word about gluten and are here to help you, your family and friends. Patients come to see us from around the country and internationally.  

Our clinic is in Sunnyvale, California. Please let us know if you want to visit. Or call to schedule a FREE CONSULTATION: (408) 733-0400.
I look forward to hearing from you.

To your good health,
Dr. Vikki Petersen, DC, CCN
IFM Certified Practitioner

Founder of HealthNOW Medical Center

Co-author of “The Gluten Effect”

Author of the eBook: “Gluten Intolerance – What You Don’t Know May Be Killing You!”