Monday, October 27, 2014

Best Blood Test to Diagnose Gluten Sensitivity

New Research Argues There IS a Test for Gluten Sensitivity

Mainstream literature continues to state there is no blood test for gluten sensitivity. While it may not be perfect (but what tests are?) some researchers offer a differing opinion, and I wanted to share their results with you.

While there is no further argument of the existence of gluten sensitivity, having a blood test that everyone can agree on has not yet occurred. In a 2012 study published in Clinical Reviews in Allergy & Immunology entitled “Serological Tests in Gluten Sensitivity”, the authors set out to characterize a potential pattern in blood testing that would be helpful in diagnosing gluten sensitivity as compared with celiac disease. They took 78 patients with gluten sensitivity and 80 patients with celiac disease, and retrospectively tested their blood for four standard tests, three of which are classically used for celiac disease, and one that is more commonly thought to be accurate for gluten sensitivity.

For those of you who like the specifics, the tests used were: 

1) IgG DGP-AGA (deamidated gliadin peptide antibodies)
2) IgA tTGA (tissue transglutaminase antibodies)
3) IgA EmA (endomysial antibodies)
4) IgG/IgA AGA (anti-gliadin antibodies)

And the Winner Is...

Here are the findings: The  IgG AGA test was the winner in detecting gluten sensitive patients—56.4% were positive. The test doesn’t rule out the presence of celiac disease however. 81.2% of celiac patients were also positive. The IgA version of the same AGA test yielded vastly different, although not unexpected, results. The test was elevated in only 7% of gluten sensitive patients while 75% of those with celiac disease were positive. Why is that not a surprise?

IgA is found on the mucous membranes of the body where it is exposed to outside foreign substances: nose, lungs, GI tract, ears, eyes, etc. 

Since celiac disease mostly affects the lining of the GI tract, it isn’t unexpected that the IgA part of the immune system might be most affected. But when you compared the "classic" celiac tests against the gluten sensitive patients, the results were rather definitive—only one gluten sensitive patient was positive for DGP-AGA and zero gluten sensitive patients demonstrated a positivity for tTGA or EmA. But the celiacs showed a positivity rate of 88.7%, 98.7% and 95% respectively for these three tests.

What Do We Know From This?

A couple of things: 1) Ensure that when you are tested you receive a complete panel of tests, including all those mentioned above. Additionally both the IgA and IgG versions should be included, especially for the AGA test. 2) When interpreting the tests, remember that you are doing more than just ruling out celiac disease.

For many doctors that is their goal. Despite international research knowledge to the contrary, many doctors still don’t appreciate the existence of gluten sensitivity. While no single test is perfect, if you’re suspecting celiac and you test positive for the classic celiac panel of tTGA, EmA and DGP-AGA, then you’ve likely identified your condition. If you know that you do poorly with gluten and test positive for AGA, especially the IgG version, and negative for the rest of the celiac panel, you can feel more assured of a gluten sensitive diagnosis.

Some other tell-tale signs of gluten sensitivity, according to the researchers, are a varied clinical picture, meaning many symptoms occurring at the same time. And while many of these symptoms are similar to another disease, IBS, the authors warn against considering gluten sensitivity as a subtype of IBS. The "extraintestinal" symptoms so common with gluten sensitivity are not typically seen in those patients suffering with IBS, making the distinction clear, in these researchers’ opinion.

The common complaints associated with gluten sensitivity include:

• abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, constipation
• foggy mind, tiredness
• eczema/skin rash
• headache
• joint/muscle pain
• numbness of legs/arms
• depression
• anemia
• together with a normal or mildly abnormal lining of the small intestine

In conclusion, when you’re building a case for gluten sensitivity, you need to look at several factors: blood testing, symptoms, and reactions to eating and eliminating gluten.

New Information on Celiac Genes

In the past, the rule of thumb was that "you could never have celiac disease if you didn’t carry the genes for it". That remains true, but these researchers cited findings from 2010 that demonstrated a full 40-50% of gluten sensitive patients possess the same genetic profile as those with celiac disease—HLA DQ2 or DQ8. And with that we watch another stable datum ‘bite the dust’. This opens the door to a new interpretation of genetic testing that doctors should be aware of. Instead of being too quick to tell a patient that while they may have the genes for celiac disease, considering that their blood tests are negative for the disease they’re fine to eat gluten; we now understand that such genes can be present in a case of gluten sensitivity as well. And as we now know, the classic celiac blood tests would be negative in such a case.

I believe we’ll be seeing a wide array of genes responsible for these diseases in the future. But knowing that almost half of those with gluten sensitivity demonstrate the exact same genetic profile as someone with celiac disease is important to know when a patient or their doctor is trying to make an accurate diagnosis. Based on this common gene profile, it is then not surprising to learn that gluten sensitivity can be found in celiac disease family members. In this study almost 13% of the gluten sensitive patients were first degree relatives of celiac patients.

What Might the Future Hold?

As a clinical nutritionist, I have been speaking of celiac disease and claiming the existence of gluten sensitivity for over two decades now. We continue to discover more and more about these conditions. One day there will be a near perfect test and one day we will readily and easily diagnose most all of those suffering. And that my friends, will be a good day! I hope you found this informative.

Find Out Your Gluten Sensitivity Level!

Get diagnosed!—contact us for a FREE CONSULTATION

Visit us at If you have questions or need any help, I’m here for you! Call 408-733-0400.

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!”

Friday, October 24, 2014

Want Good Health? Following a Gluten-Free Diet is Not Enough

When it comes to the area of celiac disease and gluten sensitivity, I’ve had a pet peeve that I’ve had for a long time. And that is the recommendations associated with a celiac disease or gluten sensitivity diagnosis.  What are those recommendations? A gluten free diet and that’s it. 

There is nothing wrong, of course, with the recommendation of a gluten-free diet but when that is all that it recommended that is where I have a problem – a big problem. Why? Solely instituting a gluten-free diet is never (at least 95% of the time) enough to cause a person to completely regain their health. It’s hard enough to eliminate gluten from your diet without at least reaping the benefits of feeling great as a result. After all, the goal is to vastly improve a patient’s health.

The Results of an Ongoing Study Reveals...

It is for this reason we created the term “Secondary Effects of Gluten”. It is what we use, after a diagnosis, to address everything else that needs to be taken care of after one has begun a gluten-free diet. We have seen the value of addressing the secondary effects of gluten for the past two decades. Yet I continue to be surprised at the lack of awareness associated with only implementing a gluten-free diet with this group of individuals. I was therefore happy and vindicated to see the results of an ongoing clinical trial for celiac patients. The study followed 117 adults in the United States with a diagnosis of celiac disease. These individuals were adhering to a gluten-free diet as “best they could”. On average they were individuals who had received their diagnosis over six years prior – meaning they were not new to following a gluten-free diet.

Despite their ‘veteran’ status and efforts at following a gluten-free diet, the researchers discovered that the following:
• 95% or 111 of the 117 participants showed evidence of ongoing inflammation of the lining of their small intestine.

• In 65% of the individuals the inflammation was so extensive that is was consistent with patients whose celiac disease was untreated – meaning it looked as if the person wasn’t following a gluten-free diet at all, even though they were.

• Even in those whose blood tests were negative for antibodies (meaning their blood test for active celiac disease was negative) they still demonstrated significant inflammation of their small intestine similar to the damage seen before adopting a gluten-free diet.

What does this all mean? Exactly what I and my fellow clinicians here at HealthNOW have been stating for almost two decades – instituting a gluten-free diet cannot be the only action that a person diagnosed with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity takes. More must be done and that ‘more’ is the implementation of the secondary effects of gluten.

What are the Secondary Effects of Gluten?

  1. Testing for the presence of infections in the intestinal tract
  2. Isolating if other food sensitivities exist - common are dairy, corn, soy
  3. Testing to see if there are any cross-reactive food reactions occurring
  4. Ensuring that the probiotic population in the small intestine is healthy and robust
  5. Ruling out any enzyme or nutritional deficiencies
  6. Normalizing any adrenal or hormonal imbalance
  7. Ruling out any other sources of toxins such as Lyme’s disease or heavy metal toxicity.
  8. Ensuring that the individual is on a healthy diet, not just a gluten-free diet - and that's saying a lot in our era of gluten-free 'junk food'. You can be gluten-free and still not eat your 9 servings of fruits and veggies every day, as an example.
That’s the list. As you can see it’s not terribly long, nor does it involve the use of any scary drugs or surgery. But if you don’t address the factors that are pertinent to the individual in front of you, you’ll end up like the participants of this study – with an inflamed gut and therefore at an increased risk of lymphoma (cancer), not to mention other serious health complications.

It's Just Not Fair!

Recommending solely a gluten-free diet to these individuals is unacceptable. I realize that the reason for this problem lies squarely in the arena of pharmaceuticals. Doctors in this country really don’t know what to do for a disease that doesn’t have a drug to control it. Because celiac disease has no medication to treat it and is known to respond to a gluten-free diet, that’s what they recommend. And that’s all they recommend. The secondary effects as delineated above are not typical actions in traditional medical environments and I think that’s why we don’t see them occurring. But it is to the detriment of the patient and this research supports my view.

Want To Get To The Root Cause?

If you want more than just a Diet—contact us for a FREE CONSULTATION. And if you are not local to us, our DESTINATION CLINIC treats patients from across the country and internationally. We will help you find the underlying root cause!

Visit us at If you have questions or need any help, I’m here for you! Call 408-733-0400.

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!”

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Want to Be Smarter and Avoid Heart Disease? Try Gluten-Free!

Going gluten free has some powerful benefits! If that sounds a little too good to be true, I promise I'm not exaggerating. We will be looking at the result of two research studies that confirm that those who follow a gluten-free diet do reap some nice rewards.

In the first study published in Digestive Diseases & Sciences entitled “Characteristics of patients who avoid wheat and/or gluten in the absence of celiac disease”, the authors wanted to look at the characteristics of patients with gluten sensitivity in the U.S. They found that patients with gluten sensitivity were similar to patients with celiac disease in regards their BMI (body mass index that measures levels of obesity) and hemoglobin levels. Those with gluten sensitivity had a lower BMI than controls. The group also showed a lower incidence of hypertension and an improved cardiovascular profile similar to those patients with celiac disease when following a gluten free diet.  

Gluten Free = A Healthier Heart

In other words, gluten sensitive patients following a gluten-free diet were less obese and had healthier hearts than their gluten-eating counterparts. The researchers didn’t know whether to cite the diet alone or a combination of eating gluten-free and having a certain genetic profile. We have learned that almost half of those suffering with gluten sensitivity have the same genetic profile as those with celiac disease, so there may be some validity in the gene theory. 

A Gluten Free Diet Made Celiacs Smarter

The next study was published in the Journal of Gastroenterology & Hepatology, Volume 28, 2013. The article title was a mouthful: “Cognitive performance improves in concert with histological and serological improvement over the first 12 months of a gluten-free diet in patients with newly-diagnosed celiac disease”. Basically all it means is that newly diagnosed celiacs got smarter during their first 12 months on a gluten-free diet and that change was associated with blood tests improving and their gut healing.

Eating Gluten Created the Same Deficits Mentally as Being Drunk

As we have spoken of many times, gluten affects more than just the GI tract. There is a well established correlation between the inflammation associated with celiac disease and changes in behavior, mood and cognitive function. This study looked at the cognitive function in patients newly diagnosed with celiac disease and tracked it as they implemented a gluten-free diet over their first year. Cognitive ability in memory, visual/spatial acuity, motor function and attention was all measured.

The results were rather fascinating: A newly diagnosed celiac has such diminished cognitive function that it was comparable to someone with a blood alcohol level above the legal limit. In other words, cognitive ability was equivalent to someone who was drunk.

After a year on a gluten-free diet however, those participants who showed a fully healed intestine (and that’s a point worth repeating—only those who fully healed received this benefit) revealed a normal cognitive function level. The improvement, cognitively speaking, paralleled the improvement in their blood values and gut healing. As you can see, I wasn’t exaggerating with my title for this post. Frankly, the more we learn about gluten the less I like it for almost everyone, regardless of their celiac or gluten sensitive status. But that’s a discussion for another post. 

Do You Want To Go Gluten Free?

If so—contact us for a FREE CONSULTATION.  
Call (408) 733-0400 to schedule. 

If you are not local to us, our DESTINATION CLINIC treats patients from across the country and internationally. We will help you find the underlying root cause!

Visit us at If you have questions or need any help, I’m here for 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!”

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Link between Gluten and Autoimmune Disease Getting Stronger

I speak often about autoimmune disease. My fascination stems from a few different factors:

1) The increase of autoimmune diseases in our society is on a downright scary trajectory. 

2) Autoimmune disease sufferers are told "there is no cure for their disease".

3) The treatment for autoimmune is, in my opinion, barbaric and exactly the opposite of what treatment should be. 

4) Research is, more and more, supporting what I feel is the truth and most important, this new approach opens the door to diminishing why autoimmune diseases have increased so dramatically.

Gotta Look to the Gut!

If you follow my blogs or videos, you may have heard that newer research strongly correlates the health of the GI tract with susceptibility to autoimmune disease. This is exciting and promising as compared to those who state "it’s all in the genes" and "if you’re destined, there’s nothing you can do about it". I don’t know about you, but I feel better when I can take action. Being told it’s hopeless, especially when it comes to disease, can be downright depressing. 

Research has linked gluten as being a potential culprit in the weakening of the gut and it’s important resident, the human immune system. This new study, just released last month, gives further support to that premise: that gluten can be an absolute link to autoimmune disease.

New Research Points the Finger at Gluten Causing More Than Just Celiac Disease

The journal that published the paper was Hormone Research in Paediatrics The paper was entitled, "Prolactin May Be Increased in Newly Diagnosed Celiac Children and Adolescents and Decreases after 6 Months of Gluten-Free Diet”.

What’s prolactin? It’s a hormone produced predominantly in the brain (the pituitary gland to be exact) but also in the immune cells of the body...something that wasn’t known up until fairly recently and a key aspect underlying the research we’re about to discuss.

Prolactin is traditionally thought of as the hormone necessary for lactation and therefore only produced when a mom is nursing her newborn. However, that is far from its only function. It’s associated with decreased sex hormones in both men and women and has been proven to have, in fact, over 300 separate actions—that’s one busy hormone! And of course, anything that alters its production would affect the body in a vast number of ways.

A Hormone, When Elevated Signals Autoimmune Disease

What is now understood about prolactin is that it is a marker for autoimmune disease, something that wasn’t known in the past. But research now supports that a number of autoimmune conditions are associated with elevated prolactin levels—specifically rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Sjogren’s syndrome, type 1 diabetes, celiac disease, multiple sclerosis and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.

What they set out to prove is that the elevation of prolactin was due to the production of increased inflammatory agents in the blood (called cytokines). These particular agents that can be measured in the blood are seen in celiac patients who are not following a gluten-free diet and are decreased when the patients are following a gluten-free diet.  They therefore set out to test this hypothesis by measuring prolactin levels in newly diagnosed celiac pediatric patients. 67 pediatric patients newly diagnosed with celiac disease were compared to 39 healthy control children. As expected, prolactin levels were statistically higher in the celiac patients than in the controls. After 6 months of a strict gluten-free diet the prolactin levels decreased. The researchers felt that the decrease in the inflammatory substances in the blood due to a gluten-free diet accounted for the decrease in prolactin levels, despite the short amount of time on the gluten-free diet. The broader picture to appreciate is that prolactin, as a marker for autoimmune disease, was decreased when a gluten-free diet was initiated. Why?

It is surmised by the researchers to be due to the gluten-free diet decreasing the inflammatory agents in the blood that overstimulate the immune system and thereby can initiate the autoimmune process. In other words, gluten is seen as a direct cause of increasing the levels of the hormone prolactin and thereby increasing autoimmune tendencies. 

Gluten's Link to Autoimmune Disease Seems Concrete

The writing is on the wall as more and more researchers come to the same conclusion. Gluten is not our friend in so many ways and I think we can safely add autoimmune disease to its list of crimes.

Do You Need Help?

Are you suffering from autoimmune disease? Do you have family members with autoimmune disease and you want to prevent it? Whatever category you’re in, it would be a good idea to rule out a problem with gluten. There is zero harm in not ingesting gluten and for many the benefits are positively life-saving. 

The program we use here at HealthNOW in our medical and clinical nutrition departments is a good one. It has stabilized, slowed and evened reversed cases of autoimmune disease. And despite research only recently coming to the conclusion that gluten and gut health is an integral factor in addressing autoimmune disease, this approach has been the foundation of our treatment for well over a decade. We can help you discover if you have a problem with gluten or have a tendency towards autoimmune disease - yes we have a lab test for both! If you wish to improve your health.

Discover Your Health!

We can help you discover if you have a problem with gluten or have a tendency towards autoimmune disease - yes we have a lab test for both! If you wish to improve your health—contact us for a FREE CONSULTATION.  Call (408) 733-0400 to schedule. 

If you are not local to us, our DESTINATION CLINIC treats patients from across the country and internationally. We will help you find the underlying root cause!

Visit us at If you have questions or need any help, I’m here for you! Call 408-733-0400.

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!”

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Gluten Intolerance and Seizures

There are many causes of seizures, some understood better than others. I want to discuss the known association between seizures and gluten intolerance. Below is an excerpt from our book, “The Gluten Effect”. 

It is quite amazing how many other parts of your health can be actively affected by gluten without the presence of any digestive symptoms. Of all the organ systems of your body, the nervous system is the one most commonly affected by gluten after the gastrointestinal system. And, because our nervous system handles so many important functions, symptoms related to the nervous system problems are quite varied.

What Symptoms Can Be Caused?
There is an abundance of evidence that inflammatory changes occur in the brain and nerves that cause a variety of symptoms. These can range from:

  • clumsiness
  • headaches
  • numbness
  • mood disorders
  • memory problems 
Neurological Problems Can Precede Digestive Complaints by Months or Years

It has been reported that only 13% of patients with neurologic symptoms from gluten may have digestive symptoms. And often, neurological symptoms in gluten sensitive patients precede digestive symptoms by months to years when they do occur. For this reason, it is important to keep gluten in mind as a root cause when dealing with disorders of the nervous system.

Symptoms are the body's way of getting your attention and directing you toward the site of the problem. If standard tests and exams cannot reveal a cause, then dietary factors, toxins, lifestyle issues and other stresses deserve your attention.This is where gluten should be a strong consideration. Because gluten affects so many people silently, and because most of those symptoms are not related to the digestive tract, it needs to be an early consideration when addressing many health care problems. 

Gluten's Relationship to Seizures

An excellent study was done with 171 patients who suffered seizures and likewise had gluten intolerance and calcifications in the brain. Gluten antibodies were actually found in their spinal fluid (circulates around the brain and spinal cord), and, likewise, most had the gene for having gluten sensitivity. It was notable that some patients responded well to a gluten-free diet.

The Mechanism Explained

The root cause is most likely an immune system attack of the nervous system triggered by gluten in a sensitive individual. The immune system, in addition to attacking gluten, gets confused and attacks normal brain tissue that "looks similar" to gluten's protein structure. This is known as molecular mimicry.

In the brain, once the tissue is inflamed chronically, calcium can deposit and form a hardened scar. Due to the scar, seizures develop and can be difficult to control with normal seizure medications. Seizures are basically short circuits of the brain. Suppose there were an electrical pole knocked down onto the ground. The electrical wires tore and were lying unprotected, sending out sparks from their broken ends. The electrical connection had been severed. Calcium deposits and scars in the brain essentially do the same thing. They send off electrical "sparks" that can develop into seizures if enough brain tissue becomes involved. Medication may help the sparks from spreading, but with gluten-related seizures, medicines work less well. If gluten is truly the root cause, then eliminating it can allow the tissues to heal. 

Case Study: A Lovely Girl Leaves Her Seizures Behind

T.S. is a beautiful, vibrant, nine-year-old girl who had begun having seizures at the age of four. She had undergone standard medical testing without a cause of her seizures being found. We first saw her when she was four years old. Not only did we find that she was sensitive to gluten, but she also had many intestinal infections, a Candida yeast infection and an essential fatty acid imbalance. The infections were greater in number in her than in most adults we treat, and some were very resistant to treatment, requiring two rounds of antibiotics instead of the usual one. She was treated with fatty acids in addition to a gluten-free diet.

T.S. has had absolutely no seizures for over 5 years! She told her mother that she knows that the gluten created the seizures and she is more than happy to keep it out of her diet. It is noteworthy that her mother, also diagnosed by us as gluten sensitive, never ate much gluten until her twenties because as a child, she had sensed that it bothered her. But, recalling when she was in college and consumed a lot of gluten, she remembered suffering from "brain fog" during that time. 

It's Worth Giving Gluten-Free a Try

Evidence of these inflammatory changes can be seen in some gluten sensitive patients via MRI. This was supported in another study examining patients with gluten sensitivity and seizures, which demonstrated deep-tissue inflammation in at least 20% of the children studied who had seizures.

According to the Epilepsy Foundation: 

a) By 75 years of age, 10% of the population will have experienced some type of seizure. 
b) 3% can be expected to have been diagnosed with epilepsy.

So, having seizures is definitely not a rare occurrence in our society.It is therefore critical we recognize that a percentage of those suffering may be having seizures as a manifestation of gluten sensitivity. For these individuals, a gluten-free diet may be the only effective treatment.

If you or someone you know suffers with seizures, it would be well worth your while to consult a clinician who specializes in gluten intolerance. Imagine if such suffering could be allayed with a simple dietary change. We have certainly seen it here in our clinic.

Interested In A Gluten-Free Diet?

Contact us for a FREE CONSULTATION. Call (408) 733-0400 to schedule. 

If you are not local to us, our DESTINATION CLINIC treats patients from across the country and internationally. We will help you find the underlying root cause!

Visit us at If you have questions or need any help, I’m here for you! Call 408-733-0400.

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!”