It is December 31st so a little reflection is in order. 2009 was a big year for us personally as it was the year that the dream of publishing our book reached fruition.
“The Gluten Effect” was a combined labor of love and passionate mission. As clinicians we literally stumbled upon gluten 15 years ago as we analyzed patients for food reactions. As more and more patients were discovered to be sensitive we were literally amazed at the panoply of reactions associated with these supposed “innocent” and “healthy” grains.
We were initially taken aback that no one else seemed to be discussing this. Our gluten sensitive patients, for the most part, were not celiac sufferers. But they were certainly reacting to gluten and it was affecting them from their digestive tract to their nervous system to their hormonal balance to their joints. Were we hallucinating these reactions? Was there some placebo affect occurring?
I still remember so clearly discussing gluten with a mentor of mine about 8 years ago. He is a highly respected individual in the field of functional medicine and positively brilliant. I somewhat shyly proposed that he investigate gluten and gave a brief overview what I and my team were experiencing clinically. Ever the gracious gentleman, he was polite and attentive but I could tell from his reaction that he didn’t consider gluten to be a legitimate health issue.
Yet barely three years after that meeting he spoke for the first time about gluten at a national conference. Not that I needed his blessing, but if felt good to have someone I so respected begin to see what I was seeing.
About 2 ½ years ago while in the throes of writing “The Gluten Effect” with my co-author, we began to feel like renegades as we came to the realization that despite all the scientific research that we had to hand that supported our work, most of our fellow clinicians were completely unaware of it.
We braced ourselves for some disbelief and opposition.
About that same time I spoke to a leader of a national celiac group. This individual is absolutely passionate about educating Americans about celiac disease and decreasing the amount of time that it takes to receive a diagnosis. But when I discussed gluten sensitivity with her, she really had absolutely no information about it.
A mere year later she was completely on board due to some personal experiences she had with people close to her. They were ill, not celiac, but removing gluten from their diet completely resolved their health issues. She was convinced but what ensued was some infighting with traditional MDs who worked within her organization. She even had her grant money threatened for a period of time.
The happy ending is that, fortunately, scientific research caught up with the clinical observations we were witnessing in our patients and gluten sensitivity was validated this year from many previously skeptical experts including Dr Peter Green and Dr Alessio Fasano.
So while that “war” is over there are many battles ahead. We still have a traditional medical community that thinks celiac disease is impossible unless a patient has unrelenting diarrhea and is severely underweight. These clinicians believe that an intestinal biopsy is still the gold standard for diagnosis and that without complete obliteration of the intestinal villi, gluten can’t possibly be a problem for a patient.
On the other hand, research just came out in the British Journal of Nutrition whereupon they analyzed a group of non-gluten sensitive individuals who expressed a much healthier balance of microflora (good bugs) in their intestines after a 30 day gluten-free diet than was present prior to going gluten-free.
Does this mean that gluten isn’t good for anyone? Is there something truly pro-inflammatory in these grains such that they spell ill health for all who consume them?
Or, if a truly healthy small intestine could be achieved would tolerance to gluten rise, as some researchers postulate? And is dairy the underlying culprit that causes the initial irritation thus “allowing” gluten to create its inflammatory effects?
And will all these questions be answered in the New Year?
I for one (and my team) are already diligently working on these issues and if the timing continues to occur as it has been, just about the time we feel confident in stating our findings, there will be ample scientific research to corroborate them.
I am very excited for 2010. I am anticipating meeting more of my readers as many have already come to visit our Destination Clinic from around the world this past year. We are expanding our clinic quite dramatically this year to better educate and treat all who seek better health.
As always, please let me know your thoughts and how I may help you.
To your good health in 2010!
Dr Vikki Petersen
Founder of HealthNOW Medical Center
Co-author of “The Gluten Effect”