Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Inside Scoop on Gluten Intolerance

I think it’s good to occasionally step back and focus on the basics of gluten intolerance. [Note: I use ‘gluten intolerance’ as an umbrella term that includes both celiac disease and gluten sensitivity.] Sometimes I get so caught up in writing about the latest research that I forget that every hour of every day a newly diagnosed individual is needing information on  the basics - what gluten intolerance means and how they should begin the process of instituting a gluten-free diet.

This blog, the Gluten Doctors, was my first blog and one that I began after writing my book, “The Gluten Effect”. I wrote the book to embrace a disorder that was being completely ignored by the celiac community – gluten sensitivity. 

Fortunately after only a few months of the publishing date of “The Gluten Effect”, major researchers in the field began to publicly agree that gluten sensitivity was a very real condition and one that warranted the attention of researchers and clinicians alike.

Let’s discuss those basics:

What is Gluten Intolerance?

As mentioned above gluten intolerance is an embracive term that includes both celiac disease and gluten sensitivity.

What is Celiac Disease?

Celiac disease has had many faces since it was first described by a medical doctor Samuel Gee in 1887. Initially it was thought to be purely a digestive problem, akin to indigestion.

It was later realized to be an autoimmune disease and small intestine destruction was considered the hallmark of the disease.

Knowledge further advanced and it was realized that celiac was more a disease of the immune system that affected most every part of the human body. From the heart to the lungs, from the liver to the brain, there is no system of the body that gluten doesn’t touch.

We now realize that celiac disease affects the nervous system more so than the digestive tract and that many so afflicted have absolutely no digestive complaints whatsoever – yet they still have celiac disease.

This last sentence would be a surprise, and in fact would be refuted, by many clinicians in this country today. They would be wrong but that wouldn’t make them any less emphatic about it. I cannot tell you how frustrating it is to hear from people who ‘know’ they are gluten intolerant but are told by their doctor that if they have no digestive complaints they have no need to even be tested for the condition.

Classic celiac disease, as described so many years ago, consists of a profile that many clinicians, including gastroenterologists, embrace as ‘gospel’. This classic picture would present with an underweight patient with chronic diarrhea, abdominal pain and bloating.

Classic celiac disease exists, but it in no way describes the majority of cases – quite the contrary.

Celiac disease affects 1% of the population and it rises to about 4% with increased age.

How do you know if you have celiac disease? Good question. I wish I could tell you there was an absolute fool-proof test. Most recent research has this to say:

A highly positive tTG test with a positive AGA test (both blood tests) are highly correlative with celiac disease.

Do you have to have a positive intestinal biopsy to ‘confirm’ the blood tests? Many clinicians would say ‘yes’ and they would be wrong. Why? You can definitely have celiac disease and have a negative biopsy. To say otherwise is condemning many celiac sufferers to a shortened, unhealthy lifespan.
[I can see the comments coming in already. I know, you’ve been told otherwise. It is incorrect.]

So what does one do if they get a negative test but they are suspicious of being gluten intolerant? I have two suggestions:
1.       Try a gluten-free diet for 30 days and see how you feel. [Feeling better is a valid test in itself.] Do remember that this is a zero tolerance policy so educate yourself first and then begin. There’s no point in a ‘mostly gluten free’ approach – it’s got to be as perfect as possible.

2.       Get a genetic test to see if you carry the genes for celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. Either one makes for a lifelong gluten-free diet in your future, but I think it’s good to know for yourself as well as for other members of the family, which, if either, is positive. I’ve heard researchers state that there are likely more genes that code for gluten intolerance than we know about, but the genetic test available is still a good place to start.

Symptoms Associated with Celiac Disease

There are over 300 symptoms and conditions associated with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity. I will include some of the most common ones below to give you an idea if you or someone you care about potentially falls into this category:

·         Fatigue
·         Infertility
·         Obesity
·         Diabetes
·         Depression
·         Rheumatoid arthritis
·         Anxiety
·         Thyroid disease
·         Gas/bloating
·         Liver disease
·         Diarrhea/constipation
·         Cancer
·         Headaches/migraines
·         ADD/ADHD
·         Acid reflux
·         Autism
·         Brain fog/Poor memory
·         Stunted growth
·         Hormonal imbalance
·         Osteoporasis

What is Gluten Sensitivity? How is it Different from Celiac Disease?

Gluten sensitivity is very similar to celiac disease. They are both genetic conditions, they both are known to affect most systems of the body, and both require a lifelong gluten-free diet.

The estimation of incidence of gluten sensitivity is much higher than celiac disease - 10% of the population. This is new research in an area that is in its infancy. Personally I feel that the incidence is likely much higher, perhaps up to 30% or more of the population. This personal estimate is based on my clinical experience and it is shared by others in the field. But I am not a researcher.

There is some thought that gluten sensitivity is less serious than celiac disease. This is not true. Both conditions can shorten life expectancy and create hundreds of different symptoms and conditions. Celiac disease is, in itself, an autoimmune disease and gluten sensitivity is not. Some extrapolate this to mean that gluten sensitivity cannot be a causative factor in creating autoimmune disease. I have not found this to be the case. In fact we have, here at the clinic, seen amazing improvements and sometimes reversals, of autoimmune diseases in patients who were gluten sensitive but who did not suffer from celiac disease. Once again this is my clinical experience, there is not much if any research in this area.

How do you Test for Gluten Sensitivity?

There are tests that exist for gluten sensitivity, although they are not ‘recognized’ currently. Does that mean they do not work? Not at all. I am quite pleased with the results of the testing I use. I find they correlate quite well with patient symptoms and improvement once a gluten-free diet is instituted.

The opinion that no ‘accepted’ gluten sensitivity test exists is simply a function of how new the field is. As mentioned earlier, it’s only been two years since general acceptance of the existence of gluten sensitivity occurred.

So what should you do if you suspect gluten sensitivity? I am happy to share with you the labs that I use and genetic testing is available as well. Ultimately the 30 day elimination diet is something I always include, regardless of what testing is done because I trust that as a valid test. I typically run the blood test and back it up with the 30 day elimination diet. The lab testing is not perfect, none of them are, but the body will tell you what it thinks of gluten if you eliminate it completely from your diet for 30 days.

If I am Gluten Intolerant How Do I Get Started?

      1.       You must educate yourself. I mentioned this is the first blog I ever created. Since then I have merged my website, blogs and you tube videos to act as a comprehensive resource. My ‘gluten sensitivity and celiac’ blog is at this address: you can also go to this page ( to learn the foods that are safe and unsafe when embarking on a gluten free diet.

      2.       Be patient. It is not easy to change your diet so radically and the change will likely not happen overnight. You will make mistakes, unfortunately. But learn from them and continue to be patient with yourself as you learn more about food in general and gluten in specific. If you hang in there you will be rewarded with greatly improved health.

      3.       Find a clinician to help you. This can be difficult which is why we created a destination clinic wherein we see patients from across the country and internationally. We are not the only ones who know how to take care of you, but the numbers are truly dismally small. We’ll try to help you find someone local to you but if that doesn’t work, we’re happy to help.

      4.       Finally, I wish I could say that eliminating gluten was the only step you had to take to restore optimal health.  Certainly it should be, but alas, there are other steps that need to be taken. Why? Removing gluten is simply not sufficient to restore the health to all the parts of the body that gluten has affected. From healing the small intestine, to regaining the strength of the healthy probiotic population, to balancing hormones and more - all these factors must be assessed and treated as needed. We call these the secondary effects of gluten and they are not difficult to treat.

I hope you found this helpful. Please let me know any questions you have or other topics you’d like to see me address.

I and my team of doctors are here to help. If you’d like to set up a health analysis give us a call at 408-733-0400. The initial consult is free.

To your good health,
Dr Vikki Petersen, DC, CCN
Founder of HealthNOW Medical Center
Co-author of “The Gluten Effect”
Author of “Gluten Intolerance: What you don’t know may be killing you!”

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

New Book on Gluten Intolerance Released!

I am very happy to announce the release of my e-Book entitled: "Gluten Intolerance - What You Don't Know May be Killing You".

Get Your Free Copy

The book is available free of charge to all new members of our HealthNOW website beginning today. Simply go to our home page here and become a member. Then follow the instructions for downloading the e-Book and enjoy!

This 20 page e-Book is easy to read and full of vital information for those who are gluten intolerant or suspect they may be. Some of the sections include:

• Vital facts about gluten intolerance
• A 'Self Test' to help you determine if gluten intolerance is affecting your health
• What you can and can't eat on a gluten free diet (including some little known data)
• What is a leaky gut and how to heal it
• The secondary effects of gluten that can cause continued ill health despite being gluten-free
I Don't Want You To Be a Statistic

I have written this book for you, your friends and family.  The sad facts are that we only diagnose 5 out of every 100 individuals suffering from celiac disease. And those wait an average of 10 years before receiving a diagnosis.

Those suffering with gluten sensitivity have it even worse. The most conservative estimate puts gluten sensitivity incidence at 10 times that of celiac disease. Considering that celiac is the most common life-long disorder in the US and Europe, that makes gluten sensitivity extremely common. But do we diagnose it efficiently?  Far from it. It is likely that 98% of those suffering from gluten sensitivity remain undiagnosed and suffering... needlessly.

If you have friends or family whom you think would enjoy the new book, please refer them to our website ( where they too can become a member and download it. Membership has its privileges and we will continue to provide special benefits that you will be alerted to as they are made available.

Tell Me What You Think

Please give me your feedback and comments once you have read the book. I very much would like to hear back from you.

Here at HealthNOW we are dedicated to improving health by diagnosing and treating the underlying root cause that is creating the symptoms. All too often the diet, and specifically gluten intolerance, has a contributing, though unknown, role in many problems. We are committed to increasing awareness and raising understanding of gluten intolerance and all its many manifestations in the human body - there are over 300!

We created our Destination Clinic for that exact purpose and regularly treat patients and their families from across the country and internationally.  We are truly here to help.

To your good health,

Dr Vikki Petersen, DC, CCN
Founder of HealthNOW Medical Center
Co-author of "The Gluten Effect"

Monday, May 02, 2011

Dr Vikki Petersen's Gluten Blog

It's here!  Our new web site and blog are live!

Here's the link to the new blog: 

Here are some titles of new posts that you can find on the new blog:
On the new site you will also have access to my youtube videos, as well as additional blogs written by other doctors on the HealthNOW team, all in one location.

Please let me know you thoughts and anything you would like to see on future blog posts.

Lastly, please become a member of the site.  It's not only free but you can get updates as they happen as well as engage with other members. Come join our community!

To your good health,

Dr Vikki Petersen
Co-author of "The Gluten Effect"

Monday, March 28, 2011

Dr Vikki Petersen's Gluten Blog

It's here!  Our new web site and blog are live!

Here's the link to the new blog: 

This is the link to the new website:
Please visit and let me know your thoughts. But remember to comment on the new site not this one.

The content of this blog will be moved over to the new site so nothing will be lost. New content will continue, of course, on the new site while I transfer the older posts.

On the new site you will also have access to my youtube videos, as well as other blogs, all in one location.

There is a page on the site entitled: "Am I Gluten Sensitive" that is continuing to be enhanced as we go forward. The purpose and goal of that section is to create a dramatic increase in awareness of not only celiac disease but gluten sensitivity on a nation-wide scale.

So please do let me know you thoughts and anything you would like to see on future blog posts.

Lastly, please become a member of the site.  It's not only free but you can get updates as they happen as well as engage with other members. Come join our community!

To your good health,

Dr Vikki Petersen
Co-author of "The Gluten Effect"

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Where Have all the Blogs Gone?

What I Have Been Doing Recently
Hello dear friends.  You may have noticed that I have been a bit remiss in posting this past month.  I wanted to let you know what I’ve been doing instead of blogging!

I have been up to my ears in developing a brand new website for my clinic that will have this blog as part and parcel of the site.

We Have a Brand New Site… almost!
You will love this new site!  It will have this blog , all my Youtube videos, blogs from other areas of expertise in our clinic, including clinical nutrition, physical therapy, internal medicine and chiropractic and “Doctor Approved Recipes”.

The new site also has a “community” area where we can have a “forum” to chat, exchange ideas, new foods, recipes, etc. There will be a wealth of information that is continually updated and I hope you find it extremely informative.

When it goes live the address will be the same as my current clinic site (, it just will go to the new site instead.

It truly should be just a few more days until it goes live – of course I thought that two weeks ago but … here’s hoping! I will leave this post up here as I methodically move over each and every earlier post to the new site while continuing with new content. The only downside is that the comments will not transfer from this site to our new one.  I apologize for that as you have all asked great questions in the past.

I Can’t Wait to Hear Your Feedback!
I welcome your feedback of the new site and those of you for whom I have an email address, I will send you a personal reminder of the new address.

See you soon!
To your good health!

Dr Vikki Petersen
Co-author of “The Gluten Effect”

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

CNN Poll Ranks Gluten-free Diet First

This data comes from the Celiac Central Quarterly, a newsletter of the NFCA (National Foundation for Celiac Awareness).

2011 is going to be another big year for gluten intolerance (celiac and gluten sensitivity both). I personally have big plans to raise awareness and I was delighted to see the results of a recent lunchtime poll that CNN conducted.

Due to increased public attention and news coverage about gluten, CNN conducted a poll on the gluten-free community utilizing the following question: “Do you or a family member adhere to a diet that’s been prescribed by a health care professional?” They were interested perceptions about a diet and any medical need behind adopting a certain diet.  As you may recall CNN had a recent spot about gluten where they insinuated that it was a “fad” and that people ate gluten-free because they “wanted” to more than they “needed” to. 

More than 12% of the respondents selected a gluten-free diet, placing it first among all the diets included. (Other diet options were free of various ingredients such as sugar, nuts, shellfish and sodium.) If you think the percentage should have been higher, let me lend some perspective.  It wasn’t until I started writing in this area and getting responses from people around the world that I started to appreciate how difficult most people find it to have their doctors do any testing for gluten intolerance.  And I don’t need to remind you the problem of utilizing insensitive tests or tests that only measure severe intestinal damage associated with celiac disease.  We are unfortunately still very much ensconced in a medical community that thinks a gluten problem means celiac disease, that celiac is rare, and that all celiac have severe digestive symptoms.

Yes, that’s the bad news, but the research is proving that gluten problems are anything BUT a fad and I truly believe that the truth will prevail.

To your good health,
Dr Vikki Petersen
Co-author of the bestselling “The Gluten Effect”

Friday, January 14, 2011

Gluten Intolerance Can Develop with Age

I received this email earlier today (the blanks you see are to preserve her anonymity):
“We corresponded a few months back when you were kind enough to answer a question about gluten for my final paper at _______ College.  I have since finished that program and am enrolled at the Institute of _________.  Since the 1st, I have led some friends in a modified cleanse that was simply avoidance of alcohol, sugar, caffeine, dairy, gluten.  I have tried omitting gluten before for a few weeks and never noticed anything, so I went into this experience expecting the same outcome, no reaction to gluten.  Well, I have had bread twice over the course of the two weeks.  The first time I thought my reaction was a fluke, the second time, I cannot deny what happened.  I came home and went right to bed.  I slept for nearly two hours.  Generally, I am not a napper.  Also, I have been eating enough (I am a chef), getting fresh air and exercising, there should be no reason for this unexplained exhaustion.”

“Anyway, I know you probably hear these stories every day.  I am going to introduce gluten into my diet once more (on a day when I have the time to nap) to see if I experience the same result, but I wanted to share my experience with you.”

While I don’t know her exact age, she is a recent college graduate and is now enrolled in a graduate program for nutrition, so we can assume mid- twenties. There are two points I’d like to discuss regarding her experience.

First, is it a “fluke” that she seems to be reacting to gluten when she hadn’t on prior challenges? 
Second, is it odd that her symptom was severe fatigue rather than a digestive complaint?
My answer to both questions is “no” but let’s look at why.

Research from 2010 shows us that celiac disease increases with age almost 4-fold.  I am of the opinion that such an increase is seen with gluten sensitivity as well.  The presence of gluten in the diet along with a genetic predisposition to react to it is seemingly not enough to incite celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.  We require a third component, a sub optimally functioning small intestine.  This malfunction is thought to stem from a poor balance of the 60 trillion healthy bacteria (probiotics) that reside in the small intestine.  This amazing population of bacteria appears to have the ability to turn on and off gene expression.  When they are happy and healthy then can keep a gluten intolerant gene turned off, but when they are no longer functioning optimally, bad genes such as those that cause celiac disease, can be turned on and the individual “suddenly” becomes gluten intolerant.

Is there a continuum of more and more compromised health the longer one is gluten intolerant?  Yes there is.  So while our young lady who wrote the e-mail is astute enough to notice that she becomes exhausted when she challenges gluten, what would next develop symptom-wise if she ignored this response from her body?  Remember that this woman is being trained in the field of nutrition so her awareness is already quite high.  A typical person might very well have made some other excuse for needing a nap and missed the association with gluten.  In fact, that’s one of the major services we provide our nutrition patients – helping them to see the cause and effect relationship between how they feel and what they’ve eaten or done in their life. E.g. more sleep, more exercise, less caffeine, etc.

The takeaway here is that it’s a good idea to be checked for a gluten intolerance, especially if there’s anything non-optimal about your health.  If you’re feeling well now and gluten isn’t a problem, it could be several years from now, especially if your health is less ideal.  This is particularly true if you have any celiac, autoimmune diseases, or cancer in your family tree.

Let’s look at the second point.  Her symptom of exhaustion to the point of needing to sleep for two hours can definitely be attributed to a nervous system reaction to gluten.  The nervous system is often the first system to respond to gluten, even before the digestive system.  While research makes this point clearly, many people are still stuck with the idea that if you are eating something your body doesn’t care for, it will respond through the digestive tract.  It’s a concept that makes intuitive sense; it just so happens that it’s untrue.

Evaluate your symptoms.  Don’t put up with feeling poorly.  If you’ve done lab tests in the past that were negative it doesn’t preclude you from either doing them again or doing a 30 day gluten-free challenge.  I would love it if you would avoid dairy as much as possible too, but I won’t force the point!

We are learning so much about how gluten affects the body and the fact that it can create damage in a body that, when younger, seemed to tolerate it well, is undisputed at this point. I promise you that feeling healthy and energetic beats out the best gluten-containing food you ever ate!  Give it a try and let me know how it goes.

Let me know if I can be of any further assistance. HealthNOW is a destination clinic and we see patients from all over the country as well as internationally. If you want to improve your health, consider calling us for a free health analysis - call 408-733-0400. 

To your good health,

Dr Vikki Petersen
Co-author of the bestselling “The Gluten Effect”

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Gluten Sensitivity and Celiac Forum 2010 DVD

In this second Gluten Sensitivity & Celiac Forum, four experts share their personal expertise in the rapidly evolving field of celiac disease and gluten sensitivity.

If you are new to this area or if you have been gluten-free for years, the data that is presented will be sure to inform and perhaps astound you. From decreasing your risk of autoimmune disease and normalizing hormones, to improving neurological problems and enhancing life expectancy, these experts will enlighten you on the most recent advancements in the field.

Each of the four presentations covers a different aspect of health, lifestyle and testing methods in an easy to understand, entertaining format that includes visuals of all powerpoint slides.

This years speakers included Cynthia Kupper, R.D., founder of the Gluten Intoloerance Group, Dr. Rodney Ford, M.D., F.R.A.C.P., Professor of Pediatrics, Dr. Vikki Petersen, D.C., C.C.N., Co-Author of the book "The Gluten Effect" and Dr. Thomas O'Bryan, D.C., C.C.N., Internationally recognized speaker & workshop leader.

The DVD is 4 hours long so you are getting two DVDs for the price of one. The cost is $19.95.

To order your copy please email us at HealthNOW Medical.

To your good health,
Dr Vikki Petersen, DC, CCN
Co-author of the bestselling “The Gluten Effect”