Friday, June 26, 2009

Gluten–Free Diet – Avoiding “Obvious Gluten”

A reader brought up a very good point the other day. She mentioned that her health problems completely resolved once she removed gluten from her diet 100%.

As so many of us do once our own health improves, she talked about her success to others. She became frustrated when friends commented that when they did a trial of eliminating “obvious gluten” from their diet, they didn’t really see an improvement in their symptoms.

And no wonder! Considering we now know that cheating with a miniscule amount of gluten once per month is enough to increase one’s risk of death by 600% for all causes of mortality, it’s little wonder that those half hearted attempts didn’t result in success.

The bottom line is this: when doing a trial of a gluten-free diet it must be done for a minimum of 1 month and it must be a complete removal of gluten. Feel free to direct friends to my website: where we list not only the gluten containing grains but the common “hidden” sources of gluten as well.

And remember, no one has ever found anything remotely dangerous about trying a gluten-free diet. There are no particular nutrients that one will become deficient in via this route. So giving it a try is only putting your symptoms at risk – the risk of them going away!

To your good health,

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

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Association between Gluten Sensitivity and Hormonal Imbalance

I recently did a radio show about The Gluten Effect and a listener called me and requested that I write a blog post about a comment I made during the show. So as requested, here it is:

When gluten causes damage to the small intestine, the lining, which is supposed to look like shag carpeting begins to resemble indoor/outdoor carpeting instead – it gets flattened. These finger-like projections that get eroded are called villi. The damage that occurs affects ones ability to absorb nutrition from food and especially affects the ability to absorb fat (this would include fat-soluble vitamins).

In the context of the hormonal, mental and emotional symptoms associated with gluten sensitivity this becomes very important. Why? Because hormones are made from fat. Without fat absorption, hormonal balance is all but impossible.

Fat malabsorption is an early change when damage begins, not a later one. The ability to absorb fat is performed by the tips of the villi so early in the erosion process fat malabsorption occurs. While hormonal symptoms may take some time to develop, digestive symptoms such as foul-smelling stools and bowel movements that float are common early changes. Other changes due to the malabsorption of the fat-soluble vitamins (vitamins A, D, E, K) also ensue such as poor night vision, weak immune system, osteoporosis, etc.

If you’re someone that has any of the above symptoms, realize that symptoms of hormonal imbalance are related. Similarly if you notice any of these digestive symptoms in your child, get them checked immediately. It would be wonderful to prevent any further symptoms from developing by addressing their gluten sensitivity early.

To your good health,

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

Monday, June 15, 2009

Is There Really an Asymptomatic Celiac?

Below is a follow-up response from the same reader with celiac disease who was concerned about his family. They didn’t want to find out if they were gluten sensitive or not, despite having a multitude of health issues.

I post it here because it brings up a very good point that I see mentioned in the literature, and that is a person called an “asymptomatic celiac”. I always wondered if they were truly asymptomatic or if they were labeled as such because they didn’t present with the “classic” celiac symptoms of weight loss, diarrhea and digestive complaints. Such a narrow grouping of symptoms is truly outdated by today’s standards but this gentleman was initially diagnosed over a decade ago when much less was known about celiac and gluten sensitivity.

Confirming my suspicions, he makes the following statements:

Even though I was considered asymptomatic, my immune system wasn't strong, and I did have some unexplained stomach issues that now all seem so clear. My 2 most favorite benefits from being healthy is that I no longer get 3-4 ear infections each year, and I'm off my Nexium for GERD. However, I know that my intestinal maladies cost my insurance company money for tests, medications, etc. If we all took a look at preventing some of these diseases before they start, it would be a huge savings over a lifetime. In addition, babies would never know what they were missing if they never tasted a mint Milano or a warm croissant!

Thanks for having a blog that is informative and medically substantiated. I avoid all the "" type websites and blogs for fear of misinformation.”

His low immune system and reflux disease are obviously consistent with gluten sensitivity and are not at all outside the list we consider to be quite common today. Unfortunately too many people have the less commonly understood symptoms of depression, anxiety, weight gain and autoimmune disease. These symptoms do not readily make a clinician suspect gluten. Something I hope to correct by increasing awareness of all the scientific studies that do support the correlation.

He also makes a very good point as regards early diagnosis. In our book “The Gluten Effect” we discuss such conditions as fatigue, IBS, constipation, diarrhea, obesity, diabetes, migraines, ataxia, depression, anxiety, arthritis, ADD, MS, lupus, thyroid disease, liver malfunction and osteoporosis. We show the connection between each one and gluten as a causative agent.

While I think it’s much higher, imagine if just 10% of each one of those problems could be eliminated from our society by early diagnosis of gluten sensitivity. Wouldn’t that be wonderful? Do you realize how much our health status would improve? Can you fathom how much money would be saved in health bills, not to mention improved quality of life?

It’s my dream. Help to make it a reality by sharing this data with those you care about. You will make a difference and believe me, as people feel better they share it with others, and they share with others, and so on and so on!

To your good health,

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

Friday, June 12, 2009

Celiac & Gluten Sensivity – What to do with a family who won’t listen!

This was an email we received today from a reader:

“I'm an a-symptomatic celiac (since 3/2007) who had the biopsy first (during a follow-up endoscopy for GERD [reflux disease]), then the blood test. I am so happy to see a medical practice willing to inform other doctors and I will absolutely look for your book to read and discuss further with my doctors.”

“I would love to see a blog written about how to deal with family members (siblings especially) who won't even consider that their life-long medical problems are related to gluten. They see this as MY problem. They have chronic intestinal issues, autoimmune diseases, multiple surgeries, non-hodgkins lymphoma, etc. I've been told to back off - they don't want to hear it. What else can I do? I guess they have to finally bottom out before they decide to make any changes. I would think 19 surgeries for one brother, and lymphoma for one niece (2 years after having 4 out of 5 of the triggers) would be enough. The more I learn about this disease (symptoms and long term effects) the more I worry about them, but they just think I want them to be miserable like I must be eating gluten free. They don't understand how much better I feel (and I was a-symptomatic!!!) since I've been strict about eating gluten free. The sad part is, one of my siblings is a doctor (62 years old OB-GYN and probably trained in a different era) and she thinks I'm medically ill-informed.”

”On the other hand, I guess I need to stop thinking every symptom could be related to gluten, but after reading your list, it seems related to so many things.”

”Is there anything that can be done by celiac groups & doctors to get medical testing done on cord blood so that we start babies out gluten free right from the start? Think how much that could help minimize the rising cost of health care!”

”Thanks so much for putting a responsible medical face on the web!”



All too often family members of celiacs or those with gluten sensitivity refuse to get themselves checked. It’s frustrating to watch their health decline when you feel you have the answer to their health problems.

My advice is to give them our book The Gluten Effect. One of the many reasons we wrote the book was to educate the families of those suffering from celiac or gluten sensitivity. Reading something in print often has more weight and impact than a family member “nagging” you, despite their good intentions. Think back to your mother telling you to do something! There’s a bit of rebellion that occurs, isn’t there?

Have them look at the back of the book where the endnotes reside to “prove” to them that there is plenty of scientific evidence to back up what we’re saying.

Also their fear of the gluten-free diet might be allayed by reading some of the case studies in the book. Time and time again patients comment that the diet is not difficult and so very worth it considering the improvement gained in their overall health.

And lastly, unfortunately, once you’ve done the above you need to let it go the best you can and move forward knowing that you’ve done all that you can at least for now.

I too have experienced this in my own family. Fortunately some family members have listened and they have been thankful for the benefits. Others haven’t and their health has suffered. Ultimately each of us must choose our own path for our health.

I hope this helps.

Lastly, your question regarding testing infants’ cord blood is a brilliant one. To think how our health status would improve as a nation if we did this! And at the same time we could check for those children who can’t excrete mercury efficiently and thereby reduce much autism as well.

In Italy they screen children for celiac disease in school much the way we screen for scoliosis. They also give celiacs a food allowance due to the added of cost of gluten-free food!

I am convinced that as awareness increases we will see these changes.

To your good health,

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

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Glulten Sensitivity and Celiac Hepatitis

What follows is an excerpt from our book The Gluten Effect:

“A relatively new term, “celiac hepatitis” refers to a number of conditions wherein the liver is affected by gluten sensitivity. Celiac hepatitis does not simply mean that you have celiac disease, as any form of gluten sensitivity places one at risk for liver dysfunction. Liver changes can be mild, with abnormal blood testing and no symptoms, or the changes can be severe, with cirrhosis and liver failure. Predominantly liver dysfunction in gluten sensitivity is felt to be related to auto-immune mechanisms …, intestinal leakage with exposure to foreign proteins and infections, or antibody mimicry attacking the liver.”

“Despite sixteen percent of patients with autoimmune liver disease having gluten sensitivity, routine evaluation for this disorder is not prescribed.”

“Symptoms of celiac hepatitis can be vague at times. Fatigue may be the only symptom. Other symptoms can include lightheadedness, abdominal discomfort, joint pains, skin itchiness, nausea and vomiting. If liver dysfunction is more significant, anemia and a yellowing of the skin, called jaundice, can develop.”

“Several studies have assessed the occurrence of liver dysfunction in gluten sensitivity. Most of the time, symptoms are either mild or absent, and the most common abnormal finding is elevation of liver enzymes during routine blood testing, rather than symptoms.”

In forty percent of people with gluten sensitivity, elevated liver enzymes are found during routine blood testing. In addition, all of these individuals respond to a gluten-free diet with normalization of liver enzymes within weeks to months. These findings have been repeatedly verified. It is therefore strongly recommended that all individuals with elevated liver enzymes be evaluated for gluten sensitivity.”

“Frustratingly, we usually find that patients who have elevated liver enzymes without severe symptoms are almost always told to just wait and see what happens at their next annual physical. The idea of waiting a year or more while gluten reactions continue to irreversibly damage the body is a practice we hope to change by increasing the medical profession’s awareness of gluten intolerance.”

I hope that this data helps you or someone you know.

To your good health,

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

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Gluten Sensitivity and Thyroid Disorders

Below is an excerpt from our book, The Gluten Effect:

“If it is so well-known that gluten sensitivity is associated with autoimmune thyroid diseases, then why isn’t testing for gluten-related problems part of a thyroid medical workup? Numerous studies link the two disorders together, and, likewise, studies support that family members of individuals with autoimmune thyroid disorders should be tested for gluten sensitivity as well. This lack of awareness was one of the reasons why we chose to write this book”…

“From the data listed in this chapter’s overview, we know that about ten percent of the normal population has thyroid disorders. In a study examining fifty-two patients with gluten sensitivity, 19.2 percent were found to have clinical hypothyroidism, and another 21.2 percent were found to have subclinical hypothyroid disease. “Subclinical” means that their blood tests supported low thyroid function even though they had no complaints. This study, therefore found that forty percent of gluten patients have thyroid dysfunction”…

“In another pediatric study, 573 consecutive children were examined in a hospital setting. The gluten-sensitive children were then evaluated with thyroid antibody testing and thyroid blood testing. Out of the gluten-sensitive children, 26.2 percent had thyroid antibodies, but only two-thirds of this group had blood testing showing hypothyroidism. This means that thyroid antibodies circulate in many gluten-sensitive children long before they develop thyroid symptoms.”

…”two things are clear. First, gluten sensitivity is increased in patients with autoimmune thyroid disease, and thyroid disease is increased in patients with gluten sensitivity. Secondly, once both conditions are present, a gluten-free diet will help gluten symptoms and the risk of developing other serious diseases, but it does not eliminate thyroid dysfunction. It may be that in order to prevent thyroid disease in gluten-sensitive patients, avoiding gluten before the onset of thyroid antibodies may be the key”…

“If gluten exposure in gluten-sensitive patients triggers the development of autoimmune thyroid disease, making a diagnosis of gluten sensitivity early is very important”

“If you have thyroid disease, or have a family member who does, you should be evaluated not only for your thyroid gland function but also for gluten sensitivity. And the sooner, the better. Delaying the diagnosis of gluten sensitivity only places your health at greater risk.”

To Your Good Health,

Dr Vikki Petersen
Founder of HealthNOW Medical Center