Thursday, March 12, 2009

Why is Gluten Sensitivity Ignored?

I just co-wrote a book about gluten sensitivity that had over 400 end notes – scientific references supporting the statements made in the book. Scientific research supports the association between gluten sensitivity and the following conditions:
Obesity
Fatigue
Depression
Diabetes
ADD
MS
Lupus
Thyroid disease
Seizures
Liver disease
Osteoporosis
Arthritis
IBS (irritable bowel syndrome)
Short stature
Infertility
Sjogren’s
Fibromyalgia

That’s a pretty long list. Taken as a whole, that list descries the majority of ills affecting most Americans.

So what’s the problem? As a new patient so innocently asked me tonight: “Why doesn’t my medical doctor know this?”

That’s a very good question and I think the answer is two-fold:

1. The medical profession is locked into the concept of gluten problems means the patient has celiac disease which then means there should be a positive intestinal biopsy. And if a patient doesn’t fall within the criteria of a positive intestinal biopsy they feel confident in telling them that gluten is not their problem, despite any evidence to the contrary.

2. There is no drug to treat gluten sensitivity. The medical model in this country is one of finding the drug to “treat” the symptom. What do you do when there is no drug? Or even better, when the only treatment is a dietary one? Ignore it or treat the symptoms which occur secondarily to it with a medication.

How many patients are on medications for irritable bowel syndrome and other GI disturbances that are occurring secondary to gluten sensitivity? How many patients are on anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medications for a neurological and hormonal imbalance occurring secondary to gluten sensitivity? And the list goes on…

Am I being harsh? Actually not. If you lived in my shoes for even a week you’d know my frustration. If you read the emails I received from around the world you’d realize that I am not exaggerating. I just received an email from a mother of a 19 year old who has been suffering from seizures for most of her young life. Her daughter was free of seizures for two years – the same two years she was on a gluten-free diet. What did the neurologists have to say about that? They told her daughter that it was just a coincidence!

A patient came to our office with type I diabetes and celiac disease. When I asked her why she wasn’t following a gluten-free diet she informed that her endocrinologist felt that it might be too stressful and that instead she should focus on getting her diabetes under control! It truly boggles the mind…

Changing a patient’s diet is considered to be all but impossible by the medical profession. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been at a medical conference and been told by a fellow doctor that “patients won’t change their diet” and that you’re setting yourself up for failure if you think you’re going to successfully change a patient’s eating habits beyond a very temporary period of time.

I beg to differ as we’ve been doing it here for decades – very successfully and very long-term.

But you can see where the problem arises for the typical doctor. Even if they believe the correct solution is a dietary one, they’ve been so convinced by their peers that it’s impossible to implement, that it’s no wonder they shy away from it. Right or wrong, they understand drugs and they have been trained to prescribe them. That is there comfort zone.

What can we do?
Keep spreading the word; talk to your friends and family.
Tell others about the book and give it to your doctors.

We all need to know this information if we’re to turn around our health status in this country. The health system of the United States currently ranks 40th (near the bottom) of all industrialized nations. And for the first time it’s estimated that the life span of our children is going to be shorter than ours. Obviously we have to make some major changes.

I believe we can do it if we work together.

To your good health,

Dr Vikki Petersen
Founder of HealthNOW Medical Center
Co-author of The Gluten Effect

1 comment:

AKLAP said...

I know exactly how you feel. I live it every day. I've had the tests for CD [blood and biopsy], they were negative. The doctors had no real answers for me. I was lucky, only 1.5 years of feeling like a zombie and death-warmed-over. The only thing that gave me my life back was going GF. I'm a "medical misfit" - not fitting into the current orderly classification known as celiac disease. There are many, many more like me and we need to keep "spreading the word".

Thanks and keep up the great work!

Al