Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Gluten-free and Climbing Mountains!


-->

M. is a 54 year old woman who initially came to see us about a year and a half ago. Her pain started in 2003. She had been under a lot of stress after sustaining a work injury in 1999 but otherwise couldn’t attribute the change in her health to anything specific.

In December 2007 when she arrived into HealthNOW she was walking with a cane, barely. She had pain throughout her body to the degree that she couldn’t even lift a remote.

She had lost sensitivity in her hands and was so light sensitive that she “lived like a bat”. She remained in a dark room much of the day. Sound was also very disturbing to her.

For 4 years she had followed all of the doctors’ advice and was on a myriad of pain pills. Unfortunately she started to react to many of the drugs with side effects that made her question why she was taking them, especially since her pain was little improved.

Despite her misery, all her tests for the most part came back negative. She had a cyst on one ovary and some gall stones, but no one considered that either of those conditions explained her symptoms in total.

Mentally things were extremely challenging. She literally couldn’t remember anything and had post-it notes around her home to help remind her of things. She had always been an avid reader but couldn’t read at all. Concentration too had become impossible. She claimed that she grew up reciting the Lord’s prayer but could no longer remember it.

Her doctors thought she was mentally unstable and recommended antidepressants. She refused these as she had never tended towards depression. Similarly they called her light sensitivity migraines, even though she had never had trouble with headaches.

M. took matters into her own hands and joined a water aerobics class to try to get some exercise despite the constant pain. There she met one of our patients and it was upon that recommendation that she began care at the clinic.

M’s progress was slowed by her inability to get to the clinic and her memory challenges. We wrote down what we wanted her to do, but she still often forgot.

Despite these obstacles, within a month she felt strong enough to start walking. She was forcing herself, but she was doing it nonetheless.

When her gluten sensitivity test came back positive she brought the results to her doctor. Her doctor “rolled her eyes in her head” and told her it was ridiculous and had nothing to do with how she was feeling.

By March she was much improved. She started cooking again (always a great passion of hers) and her brain function was returning. She was stronger, in less pain and she could once again concentrate.

She made a decision to walk a half marathon and achieved that goal within her desired time of under 4 hours. That was accomplished in October, a mere 9 months after becoming gluten-free.

Since then M has continued to improve and has climbed a mountain of a 2500 foot elevation twice!
This past winter she went skiing for the first time in 25 years. Her instructor told her that she was too good for the beginner class and moved her up to an intermediate class.

M has her life back and has become such a good gluten-free cook that she is planning to write a cookbook.

Did she have a mental illness? Were her problems psychosomatic? No. She was simply one of millions suffering from gluten sensitivity and in her case specifically, was suffering from gluten-induced fibromyalgia and gluten-inducted nervous system inflammation.

And by the way, as we so often find, she wasn’t particularly suffering from any digestive complaints.

Please pass the data along to your friends and loved ones. At this point a grass roots movement is all we have available. There is no drug to “cure” gluten sensitivity so the pharmaceutical industry is not interested in increasing awareness. It involves a strict dietary change so not many traditional doctors like to implement such things with their patients – not unless they can demonstrate a positive intestinal biopsy associated with celiac disease.

So help me “shout it from the rooftops” and we can continue to help more people like M!

To your good health,

Dr Vikki Petersen
Founder of HealthNOW Medical Center
Author of The Gluten Effect
HealthNOW Medical Center

Monday, April 20, 2009

Gluten Sensitivity and Your Stress Gland

Following is an excerpt from our new book, The Gluten Effect. Please let me know if this subject is of interest to you.
CASE STUDY
K. is a lovely, intelligent 37 year old attorney who came to us 2 years ago with severe, chronic migraines which were resistant to even the strongest medication. The migraines could last for a week at times. They first started when she was 5 months pregnant with her second child. She had never had any migraines prior to that time.

Asthma and allergies had also developed during her second pregnancy. She had mood swings associated with her migraines, and she states that she has “never been the same” since her second pregnancy. She is completely exhausted, has little energy, and gets sick “all the time.” She complains of numbness, tingling and burning pain of her big toes. She has gained weight in her mid-section which she dislikes though she is very petite and not overweight. Additional symptoms include abdominal bloating, carpal tunnel symptoms of the hands, acid reflux, and severe premenstrual syndrome.

She came to see us in March and had been sick three times during the past 5 months and was suffering from a continuing illness for the past 6 weeks. She has a stressful job as an attorney for a large corporation and admits to poor dietary habits.

She was on Lipitor, birth control pills, and Zyrtec, but none had helped. She had a strong history of genetic heart disease in the family.

She was found to be gluten intolerant by testing which included positive anti-gliadin antibodies in both blood and saliva. She had a parasitic infections found by testing as well. She reacted to dairy products, rice and corn in addition to gluten.

When she was initially put on the hypoallergenic diet, (which we call the Modified Elimination Diet), she noticed a change in her migraines within a week. After being on the diet for one month, she accidentally ate gluten and diary and suffered a migraine that lasted for 8 days. Also after a month on the modified elimination diet, she started to sleep better and have more energy. Two months into the program, we received the results showing the parasitic infections and began treatment for this as well. Shortly after this, she was able to wean off all regular medications for her premenstrual syndrome and migraine conditions, and the intensity of her now rare headaches were much milder.

Four months into program, she no longer needed even occasional medications for her headaches. The frequency of her headaches was down to twice a month, and her energy level was much improved. Her premenstrual symptoms had also improved. After six months, she had less bloating and after eight months, her headaches were essentially resolved totally. She was exercising three times a week, had good energy, and had very rare acid reflux. Eleven months into HealthNOW program, she checked in and was absolutely amazed at the restoration of health that she had received.

Here’s a question: If you had a part of your body that was responsible for creating great energy levels, maintaining your ideal weight, encouraging restful sleep, balancing your mood, reducing pain and inflammation, preventing allergy symptoms, keeping your immune system strong and promoting anti-aging; would you want it to function properly? Of course, and we are in complete agreement with you. So let’s learn something about our adrenal glands.

I hope you enjoyed this excerpt.

To your good health,

Dr Vikki Petersen
Founder of HealthNOW Medical Center
Author of The Gluten Effect
HealthNOW Medical Center

Monday, April 13, 2009

Gluten Sensitivity and Depression

On April 1st an influential government-appointed medical panel urged doctors to routinely screen all American teens for depression — stating that nearly 2 million teens (an estimated 6%) are affected by this debilitating condition.

“Most are undiagnosed and untreated”, said the panel, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, which sets guidelines for doctors on a host of health issues. “Evidence shows that detailed but simple questionnaires can accurately diagnose depression in primary-care settings such as a pediatrician's office.”


Wow. Would you want your teenager, or yourself for that matter, to be diagnosed from a questionnaire? What if your child was in a bad mood that day? Would he or she then be labeled as depressed because of the way a few questions were answered?
Personally I would want an accurate lab test to determine why my body was malfunctioning.

Putting aside life circumstances such as a disruptive home life or loss of a loved one, let’s focus on some physical reasons a person can feel depressed.
Let me state clearly that after 20+ years in practice I do not support the “chemical imbalance” or “genetic – it’s in your family so you’re destined to be that way” theories. It has not proven out to have any validity in my experience nor in many of my peers.

After the digestive tract, gluten sensitivity affects the nervous system more than any other system in the body. The effect occurs from inflammation caused by gluten as well as malabsorption.

The immune system of a gluten sensitive individual reacts negatively to the protein gliadin. Due to the structural similarity between gliadin and other bodily proteins, a cross reaction can occur. In this cross reaction the immune system “confuses” one’s own body’s proteins with those of gliadin. This is called cellular mimicry and the result is inflammation due to the body attacking its own tissues.

When such inflammation occurs in the brain and nervous system, a variety of symptoms can occur, including depression. This condition is sometimes called “the brain on fire”.

In a fascinating study examining blood flow to the brain, 15 patients with untreated celiac disease were compared to 15 celiac patients maintaining a gluten-free diet for one year. The findings were these: in the untreated group, 73% had abnormalities in brain circulation by testing while only 7% in the gluten-free group showed any abnormalities. The patients with the brain circulation problems were frequently suffering from anxiety and depression as well.

Interestingly it’s been noted that patients with symptoms involving the nervous system suffer from digestive problems only 13% of the time. This is significant because mainstream medicine equates gluten sensitivity almost exclusively with celiac disease and digestive complaints. So do you think a depressed teen is going to be evaluated for gluten sensitivity especially when he has no digestive complaints?

Absolutely not. But it’s absolutely wrong that he isn’t screened.

Another component of depression and gluten sensitivity looks at malabsorption of protein due to damage of the small intestine caused by gluten. Specifically the amino acid tryptophan can be deficient. Tryptophan is a protein in the brain responsible for a feeling of well-being and relaxation. A deficiency can be correlated to feelings of depression and anxiety.

There is strong evidence to support the association between gluten and depression. While that may only be addressing 40% of the teens afflicted, it’s definitely a good start.

And for the other 60% I would suggest some lifestyle changes: a clean diet of healthy protein, fruits, vegetables and fat along with a stable sleep schedule and exercise would go a long way to improving hormonal balance. I would wager the typical American diet of soda, burgers, fries, pizza and artificial sweeteners could well be responsible for some of the mood changes we see in teenagers.

Many of the opponents of the mandatory screening for teens noted that a recent law was passed giving parity to mental and physical ailments through insurance. It was suggested that better insurance coverage for mental ailments could well be behind the sudden interest in mandatory screenings. I’ll leave you to your own evaluations in that department.

But do keep in mind that there’s a black box warning on antidepressants for children that the FDA mandated several years ago due to the increased number of suicides seen after children were put on these very dangerous drugs.

If you know anyone on these medications, encourage them to seek answers that address the root cause of the problem rather than just masking the symptoms.

I encourage you to spend a few minutes watching the youtube video on our home page here at glutendoctors.blogspot.com. The video is of a patient who had been depressed since age 16 and arrived into our clinic on 7 different psychotropic drugs after suffering for 30 years. He’s now successfully off all medications and has gotten his zest for life back.

Enjoy the video – it’s quite heartwarming!

Testimonial

To your good health,

Dr Vikki Petersen