Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Steps to Deal with a Gluten Intolerance

If you’ve recently been diagnosed with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity you’re probably feeling a bit disoriented and confused. It’s not easy to discover that a mainstay in your diet has been creating major health problems. It’s also not easy to change your diet overnight. I’ve been helping patients in this arena for 20 years and I’ve laid out a stepwise program that I hope will assist you to feel less overwhelmed and start feeling better as quickly as possible.

1. Go through your home and eliminate all gluten-containing foods. If you live with others who are not gluten-free then simply give yourself a generous section of the kitchen’s real estate, both in the pantry and the refrigerator, that all family members understand is a gluten-free zone.

2. If you like to use a toaster either buy yourself one that’s exclusively yours or purchase bags that you can place your gluten-free bread in that are toaster and contamination safe, reusable, and will allow you to utilize the family toaster. I don’t have the exact source but these bags work well – you should be able to find them online. You can also get yourself your own cutting board if sandwich preparation is a frequent activity in your home.

3. Go on-line and acquaint yourself with the list of grains you can consume, sources of “hidden” gluten (much less than it’s ever been due to improved labeling laws) and manufacturers that cater to the gluten-free lifestyle. I have written several blogs on this topic and my website: is also a good resource that is updated often.

4. Realize that your small intestine needs to heal itself and that takes time. Don’t expect your symptoms to resolve overnight. Patience is key.

5. While successfully eliminating all gluten from your diet I would also strongly encourage you to eliminate all dairy products as well. I’ve spoken about why before but suffice to say that dairy is a source of irritation to the intestine and anything creating inflammation will hinder the healing process. (Organic butter is fine to eat – it is virtually free of the problematic milk proteins as it is a fat predominantly.)

6. Ensure that your diet consists of a good number of servings (5 is ideal) of organic vegetables and fruits. These are very healing and anti-inflammatory. Also work at staying well hydrated (8-10 glasses of purified water/day) as it will assist your body in detoxifying.

7. Exercise several times per week at a level of intensity that you can tolerate. What I mean by that is that you should feel energized by the exercise and not “wiped out” the following day. Exercising earlier in the day is also beneficial vs. at night to allow a more regenerative sleep.

8. Try to get a blood test as soon as possible to evaluate some frequently compromised vitamins and minerals associated with the malabsorption secondary to gluten intolerance. Vitamin D, vitamin K, calcium, magnesium, folic acid, zinc, essential fatty acids and iron are nutrients that should be checked. If found to be deficient ensure that you supplement with a high quality product and retest to ensure that your levels are normalizing.

9. Elimination of any inhospitable organisms from your gut is also critical to healing. Performing a stool test that evaluates for the presence of any bacteria, parasites, amoeba, yeast as well as one that looks at the balance of the good bacteria, or probiotics, is essential. Receive treatment for any pathogenic organisms and then recolonize with healthy bacteria. Taking 1 capsule per day of probiotics is likely something you should consider doing for life.

10. Get a hormone balance test that evaluates the sex hormones (estrogen, progesterone and DHEA – testosterone for men) as well as the adrenal hormone cortisol. The adrenal function is best tested through saliva and the hormones are best measured through blood. Menstruating women should take this test approximately 1week before their period for the best accuracy. You will need to find a practitioner excelling in this area but it is important for regaining your energy, metabolism and optimal brain function.

Please let me know if I can be of any assistance in this area of if you have any questions.

To your good health,

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


james said...

Great list. My wife just started a gluten-free diet to eliminate some of her fibromyalgia symptoms. We're still trying to work out cross-contamination issues, as well as figuring out what really contains gluten. She was really disappointed to find out her Purely Decadent Dairy Free Ice Cream may have set her back, since it contains "Organic Brown Rice Syrup" which MAY be fermented with barley, and therefore contain gluten.

Anne said...

James - Not all brown rice syrup has barley.

Purely Decadent products that are gluten free are certified GF to <10ppm through The Gluten Free Certification Organization You can check the product list there or on the Turtle Mountain website.

Anonymous said...

This has been on my mind for some time..... It does lead to other issues...

Amber said...

Eating for Evolution also has a great resource for those of us new to going gluten free. You have to sign up to access the actual course, but you can browse around the site and discussion board. Many have found it helpful!
Here's the site:
And here's a free audio to give you a taste of what they're about: