Friday, March 27, 2009

Gluten-free Diet is Called "Ridiculous" by a Patient's GI Doctor!

A patient whom we’ve been seeing for a short time related an experience that she had with her gastroenterologist.

Historically she was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease 25 years ago after spending 1 week in the hospital subsequent to getting extremely ill, whereupon she was vomiting every time she ate. After many tests the diagnosis was made: ulcers in her intestines subsequent to a severe lactose intolerance – Crohn’s Disease.

Upon removing the lactose from her diet she improved but she still had chronic digestive problems. These problems had worsened over the past year to include a lot of pain. Whenever she ate her stomach would bulge and get very “hard” and she could literally feel the weight of her intestines – she was extremely uncomfortable. She tried to figure out if there was a specific food triggering the reaction but it didn’t seem to matter what she ate.

A year ago she started seeing a gastroenterologist who prescribed a medication for the symptoms and monitored her through endoscopy and colonoscopy. Her blood results were consistent with Crohn’s disease but the ulcers had visually improved in her intestine and her gastroenterologist had no more suggestions regarding treatment. He told her that things were stable and she was fine.

The only problem was that she still had her symptoms of severe pain, which were worsening, and the medication she was given only made the symptoms worse.

Her daughter started care here at HealthNOW and when we recommended a hypoallergenic diet for her daughter, she decided to accompany her. Within several days she started to feel better and now, a few weeks later, she has had no pain nor discomfort for 2 weeks. All the symptoms that were bothering her are gone and her abdomen has decreased such that she’s lost two pant sizes!

It was time to see her gastroenterologist for a follow-up and she was excited to relate to him the good changes she was experiencing. He initially recommended the same drug that she had experienced such bad side effects with. When she reminded him that the drug hadn’t worked, he suggested another one. At that moment she relayed the positive experience she had been having of no symptoms for the past 2 weeks - it was the first time in 25 years that she had gotten relief.

Her doctor looked at her and said: “That’s ridiculous.” – referring to the concept that what she was eating could have anything to do with how her intestines were functioning. He stated that there was absolutely no reason to change her diet and she should resume her regular diet immediately.

It certainly is ridiculous – the concept that the organ responsible for the digestion of food could not be irritated by food is truly incomprehensible.

I bring up this story not to speak ill of anyone, but rather to point out how far we need to increase our awareness on the importance of diet and lifestyle. We see the effect everyday here at the clinic so of course we’re “convinced”. How long would it take the gastroenterologist to be convinced if he resided here at the clinic? I don’t know. Sometimes people only see what they want to see.

But take heart, the scientific community is confirming more and more the effects of diet on health, even to the degree of altering gene function. The future is truly very exciting.

I’ll keep you updated on how this patient progresses. We’ve only just begun her program, but she’s already well on her way to regaining True Health.

To your good health,

Dr Vikki Petersen
Founder of HealthNOW Medical Center
Author of The Gluten Effect
www.healthnowmedical.com

Monday, March 16, 2009

Gluten Sensitivity & Autoimmune Disease – the 3rd leading cause of death

Scientific American in 2007 stated that if you take all autoimmune disease as a group it would be the 3rd leading cause of illness and death. A dramatic statement only worsened by the fact that the numbers of people that are actually diagnosed with autoimmune disease compared to the numbers that are preclinical (not yet diagnosed) are huge.

Arthritis, MS, lupus, thyroiditis, Sjogren’s, irritable bowel disease and celiac– the list is long. But did anyone ever think there was something in common amongst them?

Traditional medicine tells us they don’t understand the cause of these autoimmune diseases. They state that “for some reason” the body attacks itself. Well, having worked with this amazing machine we call a human body for well over two decades, I’m here to tell you that the body does not attack itself – it attacks its DAMAGED SELF. There is a big difference. It would be rather stupid for your body to attack itself when what it was healthy. It is not stupid to attack something which the body feels is damaging it. And that is what’s happening in autoimmune disease. Now the question is why.

Remember, your immune system has the ability to distinguish “friend from foe”. However, certain “friends” for one body are “foes” for another. Take gluten as an example. If 40% of us are sensitive to gluten, 60% of the population does fine with it. So when a non-gluten sensitive individual consumes wheat, rye or barley their digestive tract breaks it down and there is no negative reaction. But for the gluten sensitive individual that protein called gluten is looked upon as a toxin and the immune system tries to destroy it. This “war” happens on the surface of the small intestine and after several years of “battle”, the integrity of the small intestine becomes compromised.

A leaky gut develops and partially digested food (including gluten) passes though these “holes” and enters the bloodstream. Because these molecules are not properly digested, the immune system may identify them as foreigners and attack them.

The immune reaction to gluten is not just occurring within the intestine but in the bloodstream as well where gluten has migrated via the leaky gut. When the immune system attacks the gluten protein it can confuse other bodily proteins for gluten due to their similar molecular structure. The term used to describe this phenomenon is “cross-reactivity”.

This cross reactivity is the cause of the immune system attacking “self”. It believes it’s attacking a toxin, in this case gluten. In some cases the trigger to attack self can be an infection.

An autoimmune disease called ankylosing spondylitis (arthritis of the spine) has a known infectious trigger; a bacterial organism named Klebsiella. This is a well established mechanism whereby the organism has a similar protein structure to bone tissue and in some predisposed individuals, having this infection results in this severe arthritis condition which eventually fuses the bones of the spine.

What’s exciting is that long before the debilitating effects of autoimmune disease occur, we can turn the body around. Our bodies don’t want to attack themselves, their simply fighting a “war” wherein collateral damage results in the destruction of body tissue. The “true enemy” needs to be isolated and destroyed with the result of a healthy immune system not longer needing to attack “self”.

For years we’ve seen positive changes in patients suffering from autoimmune disease. Frequently gluten sensitivity has been at the forefront. Chronic infections are also common.

Please share this information with those whom you know are suffering. They and their families could benefit.

To your good health,

Dr Vikki Petersen
Founder of HealthNOW Medical Center
Co-Author of The Gluten Effect
www.healthnowmedical.com

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

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Are You Tired? Is That Normal?

We live in a medical age where the priority is to diagnose the disease and then mask the symptoms with a drug … fast! Our doctors are mostly overworked and have just a few minutes per patient where they are expected to make a diagnosis, give a medication and move on to the next patient.

So what happens when a patient complains of fatigue, aches and pains, poor sleep, or some other “innocuous” symptom? They’re usually told to relax, get more sleep or (my personal favorite) that they’re just getting old and that it’s normal to feel the way they do!

Nonsense. If we paid more attention to the “innocuous” symptoms we’d have less serious diseases occur.

If there was a part of the body that was responsible for creating great energy levels, maintaining deal weight, encouraging restful sleep, balancing mood, reducing pain and inflammation, preventing allergy symptoms, keeping the immune system strong, and promoting anti-aging, would it be important to take good care of it? Of course. So let’s discuss the adrenal glands.

The adrenal glands are responsible for all the above functions plus a lot more, but one of the early indicators that they’re not functioning properly is that a person can feel tired. When an individual has a symptom they often feel better when others around them share the same symptom. Perhaps it’s where the: “Misery loves company” expression came from. But a “common” symptom is not a “normal” symptom and it’s not normal to feel tired.

How does adrenal fatigue tie into gluten sensitivity? The adrenal glands are very sensitive to blood sugar levels. Some symptoms associated with unstable blood sugar are fatigue, cravings and brain fog, to name a few. When a person is gluten sensitive they are unable to adequately absorb the nutrients they take in due to the damage created to the small intestine from eating gluten. Remember the surface area of the small intestine is the size of a tennis court, thus even once gluten is removed from the diet it takes some time to fully heal an organ of that size.

Poor absorption of nutrients leads to unstable blood sugar that then leads to stress on the adrenal glands. Depending on the person, the symptoms that develop from adrenal exhaustion run the gamut from fatigue, weight gain, thyroid imbalance, hormonal disturbances, anxiety and depression, allergies, join pain and inflammation. It’s a vast array of symptoms but they all have a common thread – adrenal glands that are fatigued.

I entitled this post “fatigue” because it’s a very common symptom and due to its commonality, it’s often ignored. Normalizing adrenal function is key to regaining health. When the adrenal glands have been malfunctioning for a period of time, they need to be reset through nutritional and lifestyle changes in order for them to regain normal function. Research shows us that simply removing the stressor (e.g. gluten) is often not enough for them to regain their health. But the good news is that drugs and/or surgery are not the prescribed treatment and the best response comes from a natural program.

If you find yourself with any of the above symptoms and removing gluten from your diet has not completely allayed them, consider an adrenal functional test and a program with a clinician who regularly works with restoring adrenal function.

To your good health,

Dr Vikki Petersen