Monday, June 24, 2013

Mild Gluten Sensitivities – How much Gluten is Safe to eat?

I am frequently asked how ‘careful’ someone has to be if they have gluten sensitivity. Those individuals suffering from celiac disease know, or should, that ANY gluten is too much. Their immune systems are highly sensitive and reactive, and dangerous contamination can literally be in the form of a crumb.

Those with gluten sensitivity are in a better condition. Gluten sensitivity is not considered an autoimmune disease; celiac, of course, is. Those with gluten sensitivity are often not reactive to small amounts of contamination… or are they?

In my opinion, there is no such thing as a ‘mild’ gluten sensitivity. You either are or you are not. And if you are sensitive, gluten in any form can be very deleterious to your health. The slightly insidious thing with gluten sensitivity, and sometimes for celiac sufferers as well, is that the reaction to gluten can be ‘silent’. But just because you can’t feel it, doesn't mean it isn't still having its evil way with you.

Sadly, irritation and inflammation to the nervous system and major organs of the body (yes, there is no organ spared according to research) can be free of obvious symptoms…initially. Once the damage progresses beyond a certain point, however you will then develop symptoms, but at the beginning you can be ignorant and by the time symptoms develop some major damage has occurred – meaning you can be formally diagnosed with a disease.

Obviously no one wants insidious, silent damage to be occurring to their body. That’s why it’s so critical to discover if you are really celiac or gluten sensitive. If you are, then there is no middle ground – you are and that means zero gluten.

What about individuals who aren't suffering from either condition but just notice they ‘feel better’ when they don’t eat gluten? In this case they either do have one of the conditions and it just hasn't been properly diagnosed, or the refined carbohydrate aspect of the grain is bothering them.
Do realize that:
1.       Gluten is a protein that no human properly digests, even if they don’t have celiac or gluten sensitivity. This is complete fact, not my opinion.
2.       The quality of gluten we tend to eat in this country is highly refined, processed and often laden with chemicals. It’s just not good quality food for anyone.

While in a perfect world I would love to have you tested while you are still eating gluten, I would never recommend a reintroduction if you have already stopped and notice that you feel better. My favorite test is a blood test from Cyrex Labs (I have no personal affiliation with this lab) because it is the most comprehensive one on the market.

If you have already stopped eating gluten, EnteroLab (I have no personal affiliation with this lab either) offers an online test that is easy to do and you don’t need to be eating gluten in order to achieve accurate results.
EnteroLab also offers a genetic test so you can find out if you carry the genes associated with celiac or gluten sensitivity.

Testing is my first choice, but if that’s not possible then conduct your own test – it’s free. Avoid gluten completely (100%) for 30 days. Make sure you know all the places gluten can hide such that your 30 day trial contains no slip-ups. Feel free to visit my website where I delineate the most common places gluten can hide.

Once your 30 days is complete, see how you feel. If you’ve noticed no change, then likely you aren’t sensitive. If you have noticed improvement in your symptoms, consider that you likely have one of these conditions. Remember, you can use the tests that don’t require you to eat gluten to be sure your analysis is correct – if that’s affordable for you. When you’re considering a permanent lifestyle change, saving a bit of money for the test that might provide you with the validation you need to continue your gluten-free life, could be worth it.

I hope this helps to answer this very common question. Gluten is just not something to play around with. If you’re sensitive and you eat a small amount even once per month, that’s too much. I’m sorry, but it’s true. Please realize that you aren’t doing yourself any favors being 80 or 90% gluten-free – at least not if you’re sensitive to it.

Honestly, I think it’s easier to completely stay away from it than continuing to torment yourself with occasional cheating.

Let me know if you have any questions. This is an important area to understand and I hope this post clears some things up. Remember that we are here to help. Regardless of where you live, we can offer you assistance. HealthNOW is a destination clinic and we treat patients from across the country and internationally.

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If you felt as if I was describing you above, you are not alone. As I mentioned earlier, adrenal fatigue/exhaustion is almost epidemic. If you would like assistance and don’t have a clinician whom you feel can assist you, consider contacting us for a FREE Health AnalysisWe are a Destination Clinic and treat patients from across the country and internationally. We would be delighted to help you as we have been doing so for over two decades.

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I look forward to hearing from you.

To your good health,
Dr Vikki Petersen, DC, CCN, CFMP

IFM Certified Practitioner

Founder of Root Cause Medical Clinic
Co-author of “The Gluten Effect”

Author of the eBook: “Gluten Intolerance – What You Don’t Know May Be Killing You!”


Verlene said...

This is cool!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for such a clear overview I can pass on to friends who think they can eat gluten sometimes and be ok. My family's experience agrees with what you are saying, and we've spent 5 years solving health problems from autoimmune thyroid to IBS to Parkinson's to bipolar to cancer to multiple food intolerances that are all linked to our gluten insensitivity. It's the tip of the iceberg and has caused a mountain of expensive problems. Total avoidance has been the best way to go, and problems have disappeared asoour intestines finally healed.

Julie T, said...

My doc had me take a blood test. The tTG result was 11. For that test, 1-4 is normal, 5-10 is mildly positive, and over 10 is positive for celiac. The other marker tests for celiac were negative. My doc doesn't think I need to have an endoscopy--just assume I am celiac and stay completely away from gluten.

All my symptoms have been non-gastro until about 3 months ago, and then I felt like I had heartburn anytime I ate something with gluten. So I have been 100% off of it for 6 weeks. The heartburn is gone and another symptom (tingling fingers and toes) have gone away.

So my questions are: should I verify with the endoscopy, or continue to assume? As for genetic testing, no one else in my family has celiac. Does that make any difference for having the test done?


The Doctors of Root Cause Medical Clinic said...

@Julie T - I agree with your doctor especially since your symptoms have improved with the gluten-free diet. An endoscopy would no longer be particularly accurate now that you've been gluten-free for this period of time.

You mentioned genetic testing and I think that's a very good idea. It's a good double check and it doesn't matter if celiac seems to not be present in your family. Remember that the diagnosis rate for celiac is still less than 10%, so it's missed about 90% of the time. EntroLab has one you can get delivered to you or easier yet, have your doctor order it. Let him or her know that's how you'd like to confirm the diagnosis.

If you don't have either the HLA DQ2 or DQ8 genes it's much less likely that you could have celiac disease. Not impossible, since there are some "new genes" that are being identified, but the two above cover a good 98% of all celiacs, so it would be a worthwhile test.

Let me know what you discover and if I can answer any questions in the future, please don't hesitate to contact me (408-733-0400). And as a p.s.: do find a clinician who can ensure that your immune system gets normalized and your gut heals completely, since it does seem that gluten is likely creating a problem for you.

Dr Petersen