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”

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Keeping it simple - The truths about gluten sensitivity

Sometimes it’s good to go back to basics.  There are certain “truths” when it comes to gluten that truly cannot be overstated.
  1. We, as humans, cannot properly digest the protein gluten.  Does that mean no one?  Yes.  Does that mean that no one should be eating it? Probably.  Does that mean that every human is gluten intolerant?  I don’t know about that one, but I am suspicious that may very well be the case.  Imagine if in 100 years humans look back at this time period when we “thought” eating wheat was good for us as a time when we were greatly misinformed.  Wouldn’t that be interesting?
  2. For a significant part of the population eating any amount of gluten can be likened to consuming a poison.  The damage may occur more slowly but occur it does.
  3. Gluten seems to be an underlying root cause of autoimmune disease.  While there is much in the research about this, clinically we too see it time after time with our patients and their families.  What is most interesting with autoimmune is that the disease that affects one family member can be different from other members.  Point in fact the patient I just saw is gluten sensitive.  Her daughter has thyroid disease, she has osteoporosis, her sister has an autoimmune nervous system disease and her mother had dementia.  Another gluten sensitive patient has arthritis, diabetes and osteoporosis in her family tree. Autoimmune disease is a definite red flag that should cause an individual to evaluate the possible role that gluten is contributing.
  4. While we now know that celiac disease incidence (and likely gluten sensitive incidence as well) increases with age, many children are being negatively affected by gluten.  If all pediatricians and parents knew the signs of celiac and gluten sensitivity we could prevent a lot of health problems in our next generation.
  5. You know the expression “it takes a village”?  I believe that is highly accurate when it comes to successfully avoiding gluten. I’m constantly giving patients good ideas of how to get through life gluten-free.  After almost 20 years of doing this I should have many good ideas!  But my ideas and helpful hints are not enough.  Individuals need to have support.  Whether it’s a formal support group or a website or helping others whom you know discover that they too are gluten intolerant, working to have people around you who understand why you eat and live the way you do is critical.  Here at my clinic we are launching a support group next month for patients and non-patients alike.  I’m also launching a new website in the near future that will have many more tools to support those leading or needing to lead a gluten-free life.

I’m very, very excited about the New Year.  There are so many exciting new things on the horizon including new lab tests, new educational tools and new research findings.

Please do let me know what I can do to make your journey easier.  I am here to help. 
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, DC, CCN
Co-author of the bestselling “The Gluten Effect”