Monday, November 30, 2009

It Takes Time to Heal from Gluten Damage

I’ve always been a believer in simplicity. I’ve found that most things that seem overly complicated usually have something inherently wrong with them.

But is “simple” the same as “fast”? No. And the reason I bring this up is that we are currently living in a “one pill” for “one symptom” society. Take a pill and feel better. It’s one of the many reasons so many continue to suffer a multitude of health problems due to gluten – the concept of changing their diet seems unconfrontable to them. They’re waiting for that “pill” that they can swallow which will allow them to continue to eat gluten. Not that I’m adverse to the advancement of science, but what about in the meantime? How many are suffering needlessly because they are swept up in the mentality?

Over the Thanksgiving holiday a friend was speaking to me of her teenage daughter. Her daughter is a very talented young lady who is not in the best of health. She has a skin condition, amongst other issues, that sounded like hives as her mother described it to me. Despite having spent a little time under my care, her mother asked me what her daughter could “take” for the problem.

In my mind this translates as follows: “What chemical can I put into my daughter’s body such that the outward symptomatic manifestation is masked while absolutely nothing is benefited as regards the root cause of the problem?”

I’m not trying to be harsh, nor am I trying to say that there is never a place for a palliative “band-aid”. But at least while you’re applying the band-aid it would be great if you appreciated the temporary nature of it and simultaneously strived to truly unravel why your body was expressing that particular symptom. Because know this, there’s always a reason underlying the body’s symptoms.

Does this make sense?

Is it a surprise to learn that drugs don’t correct, but rather, mask symptoms?

Here are the facts: The human body is an amazing machine capable of an incredible amount of self-healing when given the correct raw materials to do so. When you realize that gene expression can be altered depending on the nutrients present in your body, you should be very impressed with the body’s ability to heal itself.

Is getting to the root cause of a symptom a complicated issue? No, not at all. Is it fast? Sorry but the answer is again “No”. Now when you take a patient who has been suffering for decades and in several months turn their health around, that may very well be considered “fast” in some people’s minds. So that’s not what I’m referring to. What I’m trying to address is the “take a pill” and feel different in a few hours mentality. That, in my opinion, is what’s getting us into trouble and creating the tremendous numbers of degenerative diseases we have in this country.

It has been estimated that we could save 78% of what we pay for health care if we could just start making healthy lifestyle changes. Is it “complex” to change your diet? No. There are some simple rules and you simply need to follow them. Is it “fast”? No again. It’s something you need to embrace as a lifestyle choice and do every day.

We are always amazed here at the clinic at the number of patients who are simply astounded to discover that what they eat can make them feel so much better. And they usually exclaim: “This is so simple. I never would have believed it!”

So whether you are removing gluten and dairy from your diet (a great start!) or simply beginning to eat “real” food like whole grains (start with the gluten-free ones please), fruit, vegetables, and shunning the artificial sweeteners, colors, refined starches and sugar – give it some time. Three weeks is the minimum amount of time required to change you taste buds and the cells lining your intestine.

So be patient and remember – big health changes can come in easy, uncomplicated (but not fast) packages. And if you’re a parent it’s not too soon to start teaching these lessons to your children. Such lifestyle changes can impact our future generation’s health in a very positive way.

Please let met know if I can answer any further questions.

To your good health,

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

Monday, November 23, 2009

Gluten Sensitivity and the Flu

(and why I don’t recommend the use of antibacterial soaps and hand sanitizers)

If you’ve been off gluten for a while, your vitamin D status is optimum (>50) and your small intestine is well healed, you’re probably going to sail through the flu season with no problems. A healthy immune system (and remember 70% of your immune system is housed in your intestines) should stand you in good stead despite the presence of inhospitable viruses.

However if you have been recently diagnosed (less than 1 to 2 years ago) or are just beginning to make changes in your diet due to a suspicion of gluten sensitivity then there are some important steps to take to optimize your immune system as quickly as possible.

First, do get your vitamin D status evaluated and begin supplementing with vitamin D3. As mentioned previously, vitamin D3 is superior to vitamin D2 for normalizing D status so ensure that you use the correct form when supplementing.

Second, begin taking a good probiotic. Probiotics help support the immune system, are best taken with meals and are quite safe. Rarely, patients feel worse on a probiotic and in those cases we perform a stool analysis to evaluate for the presence of pathogenic organisms. A good probiotic will provide billions of organisms per capsule and be a blend of such species as Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium and Saccharomyces boulardii.

Third, I like to recommend that you don’t stock up on antibacterial soaps and hand sanitizers. The major ingredient in such items is a chemical called triclosan which has been accused of creating antibiotic-resistant germs. Not only that but recent research (Environmental Science and Technology 2006) shows it to be responsible for speeding the transition of tadpoles into adult frogs. I understand that you may be thinking, that’s nice but I’m not a frog… Read on please.

Triclosan has the ability to disrupt the balance of hormones in animals as well as humans. In addition is has been found to contaminate mothers’ breast milk.

Some researchers postulate that triclosan causes thyroid hormones to be more potent as it appears that it requires the presence of thyroid hormones to cause its negative actions. Others are stating that it’s acting as a xenoestrogen, a proposed cause of such conditions as thyroid disease, endometriosis, early onset of the menstrual cycle in young girls, breast cancer and infertility to name a few.

While it’s definitely important to wash your hands and keep good hygiene to prevent the spread of disease, antibacterials are likely posing more problems than benefits and I’m very concerned about the increasing numbers of xenoestrogens in our environment.

Lastly, especially with the holiday season upon us, ensure that you get adequate rest, be vigilant on your diet, take a good vitamin C, A and zinc, and stay hydrated.

Please let me know if I can be of any assistance.

To your good health,

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

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Gluten Intolerance and Probiotics

A very exciting new discovery has been made regarding the population of probiotics (also known as the microbiome) in your intestine and how it affects your risk of gluten sensitivity and leaky gut.

Just as an aside, I’ve had a few people ask me if “leaky gut” is a real phenomena. Also known as “increased intestinal permeability”, leaky gut is not only real but a quick internet search will show that such respected journals as the Journal of Hepatology, Gastroenterology, the British Medical Journal, the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, Digestive and Liver Disease and the Journal of Pediatrics, to name a few, have multiple scientific studies focusing on the importance and effects of a leaky gut on health. There are literally hundreds of articles that focus on this issue. Okay, sorry for the digression.

What are probiotics? A major constituent of the intestinal immune system consisting of 100s of trillions of organisms. You have more (at least you should have) of these organisms in your gut than you have cells in your body!

It’s estimated that 70 - 80% of your immune system is housed in your gut. This is why we spend as much time as we do ensuring that our patients’ digestive systems are working optimally. More and more research is supporting the premise that without a healthy digestive tract, good health is all but impossible.

Not only do these good bacteria help defend you against infection but the new research that was just released shows that they have an ability to modify gene expression.

What does this mean? The researcher was evaluating why certain people “turn on” celiac disease and gluten sensitivity at different ages. If it’s genetic, as we know it to be, then why doesn’t that first teething biscuit or gold fish cracker begin the symptoms of gluten sensitivity? It does in some of course but for many the symptoms begin in later decades of life.

Dr Alessio Fasano believes that it’s not enough to have the gene and have the presence of gluten, but there must be a third factor, an initiator, that creates an insult to the gut enough for gluten to then be able to cause its inflammation and subsequent damage.

It’s like the spark that begins the forest fire. You can have a windy day and dry tinder but you need the spark to begin the decimation.

Dr Fasano believes that the “spark” is an unhealthy balance of good and bad probiotics in the gut. The good ones are protectors, but the bad ones are initiators. The make-up of probiotic populations actually have the ability to turn on and off genes at will.

This is terribly exciting and at the very least should have you interested in “who” is being housed in your intestines! There is a simple lab test that provides the data and treatment is similarly easy but very beneficial.

I hope this helps.

p.s. New Discovery - Appendix Provides an Important Function!

Did you think it was unlikely that you possessed a body part that had no function? I know I did. Well after a very long wait the reason why we have an appendix has been discovered.

It turns out that the appendix houses probiotics. Don’t worry if your appendix was removed. You can still restore health to your intestines.

To your good health,

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

Monday, November 02, 2009

Gluten Sensitivity & Vitamin D, an Update on Supplementation

As I’ve said before, if you don’t like change then the field of clinical nutrition will not be a happy place for you. Fortunately I love the evolution that my field goes through and I am happy to share the changes with you.

So here’s the latest update on vitamin D supplementation.

A deficiency of vitamin D is a serious condition that affects not only those with gluten sensitivity but as well the general population. Bone density and increased cancer risk are just two of the dangers posed by a deficiency of this important nutrient.

Due to the damage suffered by the small intestine in those sensitive to gluten, absorption of fat soluble vitamins such as D is inhibited.

The “normal” that we should strive for in the blood has consistently risen as the importance of vitamin D has been revealed. Currently it is thought that a level of 60 ng/mL is optimal. Just several months ago I believe we were citing that a value of 40 was adequate with 50 being the target when there was a prior history of cancer.

The treatment options have similarly been refined with the publishing of an article in a French medical journal specializing in internal medicine. While it was previously thought that severely deficient levels of vitamin D would respond beneficially to high doses of vitamin D2 (50,000 IU) taken once per week for about 3 months, that protocol was dismissed with this research. The scientists revealed that D2 is much less effective than D3 due to its shorter half-life and lowered affinity for the vitamin D receptor, making vitamin D3 the recommended form for supplementation.

Here at the clinic we use a liquid form of D3 that’s more bio-available for enhanced absorption. Typically a dose of 5,000 IU in a deficient patient will improve their profile over the course of several months.

Needless to say adherence to a gluten-free (and likely dairy-free) diet is also needed to ensure absorption occurs.

I heartily recommend a blood test to discover your serum vitamin D levels. It’s simple but extremely important.

Please let me know if I can answer any questions in this area.

To your good health,

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