Friday, May 25, 2012

Negative Test for Celiac? You May Still Develop the Disease

Negative Test for Celiac? You May Still Develop the Disease

I think most of us understand that just because we don’t have heart disease today, it doesn’t mean that we cannot develop it sometime later in life. Ditto for diabetes, cancer and most all degenerative diseases. Why then, once someone has been tested for celiac disease once, do they think they never have to test for it again? Why do I hear from individuals across the country and around the world who think that one negative test confers life-long immunity?

Is it because celiac disease is a genetic condition? Do we assume that it’s impossible to develop later in life?
In defense of how this inappropriate practice likely got started, I’m sure it stemmed from the erroneous idea that a genetic disease was something that you had or you didn’t have and the passage of time was not going to change that. The thought was that if testing was found to be negative, then it was never needed to be retested since genes don’t alter themselves.

While it is perfectly true that genes do not change, it turns out that the EXPRESSION of genes does. This means that you can have the genes for a specific disease but the gene can be either ‘turned off’ or ‘turned on’. If a gene is in the ‘off’ position, the individual will not be expressing the disease, despite having the genes for it. Once the gene is turned ‘on’, the disease is now fully expressed.

This data is not completely new because we know that 35 to 40% of our population carries the genes for celiac disease while only 1 to 5% actually develops the disease. So obviously there is more to having active celiac disease than simply having the genes and eating gluten.

If the aforementioned 5% incidence of celiac disease sounds surprising it is because the research is only about a week old! On May 15th 2012 a study titled: “The Incidence and Risk of Celiac Disease in a Healthy US Adult Population” was published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology. The authors stated that as the population they studied aged (over 35 years old), their incidence of celiac disease increased from 1% to 5%. The group they studied were active American military.

What is that elusive third factor? What determines if your immune system will keep a bad gene turned off or allow it to be turned on?

It turns out that the health of your small intestine and the good bacteria housed therein has everything to do with the expression of your genes and, more specifically, whether you will have active celiac disease or not. The health of that very important small intestine is not static. It can change over time depending on the state of your diet, the quality of the food you eat, whether you take medications or are exposed to toxins. Many factors affect the health of the small intestine and most of them are lifestyle related – meaning that you have control over them.

Imagine if there was a meter of some sort that warned you when you were nearing critical mass for gene expression. What if you received a text message that said: “Your genes are under great stress and are about to allow disease ’X’ to express itself. If you don’t take drastic action to reverse this process you will develop disease ‘X’, a degenerative disorder (think heart disease, cancer, diabetes, celiac disease).

That would be very helpful, wouldn’t it? Unfortunately no such ‘message’ is going to be received. But what you can do is find out if you have a strong or weak small intestine – a leaky gut. You can evaluate the health of the probiotic population that is so critical in gene expression. You can find out if any infections of the small intestine are weakening its health and that of the immune system. You can find out if the immune system is so overwhelmed that it is moving towards autoimmune disease (celiac is one of over 100 autoimmune diseases), our third leading cause of death in the US.

You can do all of the above relatively easily and it may very well prevent a lifetime of chronic disease.
Please share this information with those you know and care about. If you are gluten intolerant you likely know others that you suspect have the problem. Let them know that a single negative test doesn’t mean that they can’t later develop the condition. Also, testing is not perfect. Backing up a negative test with a 30 day gluten elimination diet is a valid test in itself. If you feel better after eliminating gluten you have your answer. Ignoring a gluten intolerance is a bit like playing Russian roulette – it can end your life prematurely.

I am committed to increasing awareness of gluten intolerance and would love your assistance. Share this post and others like it to friends and family. Together we can raise the diagnosis rate of celiac disease from the paltry 3 to 5% that it is to the 95%+ range that it deserves to be. So many lives will be saved from this effort.

Have you experienced being told that a single test is all you would ever need? I’d love to hear back from you.

Our destination clinic treats patients from across the country and internationally. If you would like assistance to improve your health, please call us for a free health analysis. We are here to help! Call 408-733-0400.

To your good health.
Dr Vikki Petersen, DC, CCN
Author of the e-Book: “Gluten Intolerance: What you don’t know may be killing you!”
Nominated Gluten Free Doctor of the Year 2012

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Tummy Ache? You May have an Increased Risk for Celiac Disease

In the last few years there have been two major studies evaluating the incidence of celiac disease in the US military. The first study, 2010, revealed that the incidence actually quadrupled as the population aged. A soldier who was in his or her twenties likely had a 1% incidence of celiac disease but that same soldier’s risk rose to 4% as time passed and he moved into his fourth or fifth decade of life. The most recent study shows that incidence to quintuple – 5X as the soldiers aged.

The study, just released on May 15, 2012 in the American Journal of Gastroenterology is titled “The Incidence and Risk of Celiac Disease in a Healthy US Adult Population”. It puts the blame of the increased incidence on life stressors, including illnesses, surgeries and trauma.
Is this a new concept? Not to me or my team. We’ve been operating on this as the root cause of celiac disease and gluten sensitivity for quite some time. But finding a research study to corroborate our protocols is always a nice acknowledgement.

Now let’s get back to our favorite question: “Why”.

As Dr Alessio Fasano pointed out several years ago, the presence of gluten in the diet of someone at risk genetically for celiac disease is not enough for the disease to develop. The third ‘prong’ of the disease is an unhealthy small intestine.

A healthy small intestine actually has the wherewithal to prevent the gene responsible for celiac disease from expressing itself. How? The vast population of probiotics, or healthy bacteria in the gut, can, when healthy, keep bad genes turned off. It is only when these probiotics decrease in number and strength that their ability to suppress these bad genes becomes ineffective.
What does that mean for you and those you care about?

1.      You must realize that keeping your small intestine healthy is paramount to optimal health.

2.      Eating a very healthy diet is one of the most important steps you can take to ensure #1 above. Obviously it’s a big step to determine what’s most healthy for you, but I can help with that.

3.      Realize that celiac disease and gluten sensitivity can develop at any age and is more likely to occur with each passing decade. So get tested, and if your health is not doing well, continue to get tested because a negative test at age 35 could mean a positive test at age 40.

4.      The stressors that this study described as a cause for weakening the small intestine included such things as infections of the digestive tract, surgeries and trauma.
As an example of an infection, ‘gastroenteritis’ (meaning the ‘stomach flu’ as most people call it), was found to be highly linked to later development of celiac disease. So too were surgeries and trauma.
Does a truly healthy gut immune system get gastroenteritis (stomach flu)? Doubtful. This is perhaps why getting the stomach flu is a harbinger of celiac disease to come – that third prong, the unhealthy small intestine – has been activated. In such an ‘at risk’ individual, celiac disease is not far behind.

What is ‘trauma’? It could be a tough pregnancy, being a soldier at war, a car accident or even ‘mental’ stress such as a messy divorce or intense job stress. Clinically, after working with so many patients, we have been confident in the cause and effect relationship of these three initiators (infection, surgery and trauma) long before this study was released. But once again, it’s great to see it in print as corroboration.

5.      Look around at your family. Are there digestive issues, neurological problems such as migraines, depression, etc? Are autoimmune diseases present in your family? If so, you should get yourself tested as well as those whose health is not what it should be. One thing we DO know is that these diseases are genetic – looking to your family tree can help you and those you love discover if gluten is affecting your health before it has done permanent damage.

The most significant take-away from this study is this: Just because you’ve been tested for celiac disease once in your life doesn’t mean that you can’t develop it later. As a matter a fact your chances increase 5-fold that you will develop celiac with increased age. We don’t know yet how gluten sensitivity increases with age, but it’s my opinion that it also sees a dramatic increase with age and a lessening of overall health.
I believe that one of the biggest mistakes we make is ruling out celiac disease or gluten sensitivity after a single test. Not only are the tests available not as sensitive as they need to be, making false negatives an abundant problem, but a true negative today cannot rule out the potential of a positive test in the future.
Does this ring true for you? Did you develop a gluten problem as you got older or after a major life event involving infection, surgery or trauma?

I’d like to hear from you. Please send me your questions and comments.

If your health is not at the level you desire please contact me for a free health analysis. We are here to help!
Our destination clinic treats patients from across the country and internationally so you do not have to live locally to receive assistance.

To your good health,
Dr Vikki Petersen, DC, CCN
Co-author of “The Gluten Effect”
Author of the eBook: “Gluten Intolerance: What you don’t know may be killing you!”
Nominated for Gluten Free Doctor of the Year 2012

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Gluten Intolerant? Why Overweight Americans are MORE at Risk

Gluten intolerance is a term I use to embrace both celiac disease and gluten sensitivity. Celiac disease was described over 100 years ago and was portrayed as an illness that caused severe weight loss, digestive pain and diarrhea. When I went to school I memorized those facts as strongly indicative of celiac disease. Even though I’ve been out of school for two decades, that ‘picture’ of celiac disease still remains, for most doctors, as what they should anticipate in a celiac patient.

You may be aware that we only diagnose 3 to 5% of all the patients suffering from celiac disease in this country. Of the 3 to 12 million suffering, a scant percentage of them ever find out that their problem is actually an intolerance to gluten.

I have had several patients contact me asking me to help them get tested because their doctor refused. Why? Simply because they were overweight, or at least not underweight, there doctor refused.
It struck me that while we are abysmal at diagnosing those suffering from celiac disease and gluten sensitivity (likely 99% remain undiagnosed), it is those who are overweight who are perhaps most ignored. When you consider that 2/3 of our population is overweight, you start to see a potential reason why we diagnose so few who are suffering.

The facts are that the face of a celiac or gluten intolerant patient can present as almost anything.
  • They can have digestive pain.
  • They can have no digestive complaints.
  • They can be depressed or schizophrenic.
  • They can be underweight.
  • They can be overweight.
  • They can have skin problems.
  • They can have joint pain.
  • Or, they can feel just fine – ‘silent celiac disease’.

The bottom line is that we need our medical community to wake up and realize that the face of celiac disease is as varied as the human body and it can be associated with over 300 conditions and diseases.
A recent research study from 2010 looked at about 200 celiacs diagnosed over the course of 10 years, between 1999 and 2009. The patients ranged broadly in age. It was found that a full 44% of them were overweight at the time of diagnosis and less than 3% were underweight at the time of diagnosis. What does that tell us? The face of celiac disease has changed and we need to know what present day, modern celiac disease looks like.

Our country is drug oriented and there is no medication to treat celiac disease. Does that mean it should be ignored? Does that mean that we should continue to only treat with drugs the diseases that celiac and gluten intolerance causes such as depression, thyroid disease, migraines, cancer, heart disease and the like?
Does it make sense to treat the symptoms when you could isolate and remove the root cause and truly cure the problem? You tell me, does that make sense?

What has been your experience with getting diagnosed? Have you found doctors to be less than receptive when you didn’t have classic celiac symptoms?
I’d love to hear from you!

Remember that I’m here to help and if you need assistance in getting properly diagnosed or fully resolving the negative effects celiac disease has created on your health, don’t hesitate to contact us for a free health analysis. Call 408-733-0400.

To your good health,
Dr Vikki Petersen, DC, CCN
Co-author of “The Gluten Effect”
Author of the e-Book: “Gluten Intolerance – What you don’t know may be killing you!”
Nominated ‘Gluten Free Doctor of the Year 2012’

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Gluten Intolerant? Malt Can Get You in Trouble

There’s nothing easy about following a gluten-free diet. But those of us with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity have learned that improved health is worth the sacrifice of just eating whatever we want to. Speaking as a clinical nutritionist, the attitude of eating anything and everything isn’t going to maintain health anyway; not in this society where junk ‘food’ and ‘Frankenfoods’ (genetically modified and artificial versions of food) are around every corner.

Malt vinegar is a substance that can be good or evil, depending on how it is made. I certainly found that it was uncommon for my patients to be aware of any potential problems with it – it just wasn’t on anyone’s gluten ‘radar’.

All vinegars (excluding the malt variety USUALLY) are safe and gluten-free because they are distilled.  The distillation process removes the gluten protein, regardless of what grains it might be made from.  Malt vinegar is the only exception because while it is fermented it is often NOT distilled, and the barley protein it is made from therefore is still intact – making it a gluten containing product.

Recently a family member brought home a bag of potato chips of the malt vinegar and salt variety.  They were purchased from Whole Foods, a store that we consider safe due to its awareness of gluten. Despite the fact that my household has been gluten-free for over 15 years, the chips were purchased with no concern or question. Fortunately, I saw the bag and enlightened my family member before a potential gluten “accident” could take place.

By the way, I promptly got on-line and wrote the company asking for clarification. Surprisingly I never heard back. Typically I find that such results are given prompt attention.

[Update: I wrote to the company again and this time did get a response, promptly. That's the good news. The bad news is their response: "Our Malt Vinegar & Sea Salt flavor is not gluten free because of the malt vinegar used.  All of our other flavors are gluten free." - Boulder Canyon Foods. While we cannot accuse them of falsely stating a product is gluten-free when it isn't, I would have hoped that a company that offered so many gluten-free varieties would clearly state on the label of ingredients that a particular product DID contain gluten. That is not the case on this label.]

This may very well be one of the few “loopholes” left in the hidden sources of gluten, at least as far as grocery shopping goes. 

It’s always best to be cautious and not purchase a product with malt vinegar unless the product:

1. clarifies that the malt vinegar comes exclusively from corn, some do.
2. states that the malt vinegar is distilled.
3. and, best choice, the product states that it’s gluten-free.

So while plain wine or balsamic vinegar is fine due to distillation, be alert for foods containing malt vinegar if you have gluten intolerance or celiac disease.  All too often when a patient suddenly begins feeling poorly, we discover they’ve unknowingly introduced a new food that contains gluten.  Usually it IS found on the label and they’ve simply missed it due to a long ingredient list.  But in this case, there was no mention of gluten nor a gluten-free status listed as part of the ingredients.

I hope this was helpful. Have you ever experienced a reaction to malt vinegar? Let me know.
If your health needs improving please consider scheduling a free health analysis. Just give us a call at 408-733-0400. HealthNOW is a Destination Clinic and we see patients from across the country as well as internationally. You, your family and friends are welcome!

To your good health,

Dr Vikki Petersen
Founder of
HealthNOW Medical Center
Co-author of
“The Gluten Effect”
Author of the eBook: “Gluten Intolerance – What you don’t know may be killing you!”

Permission is granted to re-post this article in its entirety with credit to Dr Vikki Petersen & HealthNOW Medical Center and a clickable link back to this page. Dr Vikki Petersen, DC, CCN is founder of HealthNOW Medical Center and the author of “The Gluten Effect”.  She has been featured in national magazines, international medical journals and is a frequent headlined speaker.