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Q & A with Dr. Vikki: Testing for Food Sensitivities Beyond Gluten (and The Modified Elimination Diet)

The timing of today’s question for Dr. Vikki Petersen is absolutely perfect, especially since I just published a rather comprehensive post discussing the test (and our results) that Dr. Vikki speaks of below, Cyrex Labs Array 4: Gluten Associated Cross-Reactive Foods.

Dr. Vikki,

To keep it very brief, I am wondering who you recommend for testing additional foods someone may be reacting to besides gluten.

Thank you,

Jen

Dear Jen,

I will take your question in two parts:

1. In our office we use something called a modified elimination diet to identify foods that people are reacting to.  While gluten and dairy products are the most common, there are certainly others. We prefer this means of testing as blood tests will give many false positives in the presence of a leaky gut and scratch tests are useless for food reactions.

2. We also utilize an excellent test for identifying cross reactive foods.  These are foods that your body reacts to in the same fashion as it reacts to gluten due to mistakenly identifying the protein in the non-glutinous food as that of gluten.  Such foods include dairy products and grains mostly.

I know Heidi has my YouTube video posted on her site (click here) about #2 above as well as some data about the modified elimination diet (see below).  You can also visit my website at: www.healthnowmedical.com.

Both of these areas are very important to identify in order to regain optimal health after discovering a gluten intolerance.

I hope this was helpful. Please do feel free to write back with any further questions or contact the clinic directly for information on our destination clinic.

To your good health,
Dr Vikki Petersen

You can see Dr. Vikki’s video on gluten associated cross-reactive foods in this post.

In the following video, Dr. Vikki discusses why she does not use blood tests for IgG food sensitivities (like the ALCAT):

 

The Modified Elimination Diet

Ahhh, the modified elimination diet (MED for short).  Oh how I loved thee (not).  Actually, hind site being what it is, the MED is really not that bad, especially after having spent the past 5 months off of all the gluten associated cross-reactive foods I tested positive for on Array 4 from Cyrex Labs.  The hardest part of the MED for me was not being able to have vinegar and citrus, which meant condiments were very hard to come by (I did manage to make one though, a creamy garlic sauce that I used in this chicken salad recipe).  Looking back at when we began the MED in January, I have to chuckle recalling how I felt, “Oh. my. gosh. There is NOTHING LEFT TO EAT! 

Can you remember the last time you felt that way?  Was it perhaps when you began the gluten-free diet?

I felt that way too when I was diagnosed with celiac in 2005, I think everyone does to some degree.  There is definitely an adjustment phase (and this can last much longer for some than it does for others) as one has to basically begin looking at life in a completely different way.  Everything you have ever come to know about food (and the emotional attachments that come with it) gets turned upside down.  I had an exceptionally difficult time and I will share more about that component of healing in a future post (it is an extremely important topic that isn’t discussed nearly as much as it should be), but know this: not only did I eventually pull myself out of the depths of despair, I did a complete 180 in the attitude department.

And not only did I embrace the gluten-free lifestyle (I never use the words gluten-free diet in my real life because I am not on a short-term weight loss plan, this is just how I eat), but as I gained more knowledge on health and nutrition, my driven determination to get healthy went into hyper overdrive.  While I have learned a lot of technical medical information over the past 18 months, none of it compares to what I learned about myself on the MED.

As I have mentioned many times over, I have atypical celiac disease.  I do not experience any of the common *noticable* symptoms when I get glutened: no diarrhea, no constipation, no migraines, nada zip.  I think this is because I have what I like to call a passive-aggressive immune system: it sends me indirect mixed messages until it can’t take it anymore and goes absolute postal on me (hmm, I think I suddenly understand why my husband goes into hiding at a certain time of the month). ;-)

I had been living with gluten intolerance for nearly 30 years when *seemingly* all of a sudden, I was diagnosed with 5 autoimmune diseases.  And the last time I intentionally cheated on the gluten-free diet, it took 7 weeks of eating gluten-filled meals 3 times a day before my dermatitis herpetifomis exploded in a rash biblical proportions (gluten didn’t make me feel bad as I was eating it, which is why I continued to cheat for 3 years after my diagnosis).  How could I have a disease, if I didn’t “feel” sick??

What the modified elimination diet did for me was nothing short of miraculous for me (the MED is a good use of the word “diet” because it’s temporary).  About 7 days after removing dairy, eggs, peanuts, soy, shellfish (tree nuts and cold water fish like salmon are allowed on this diet) plus beef, pork, corn (which I had already done upon the discovery of my IgE corn allergy last fall), strawberries, citrus, vinegar, alcoholic beverages, coffee and sugar from my diet, I noticed something really unusual.

I noticed me.

Honestly, I cannot even begin to explain how amazing I felt.  Now, part of that euphoria was probably due to coming off my coffee (I was a 2-pot a day black coffee drinker) and sugar withdrawal (I had a serious Haribo gummy bear addiction, going through nearly a pound a day).  THAT was not easy let me tell you, but I did it and it was worth all the pounding headaches, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde mood swings (though my husband may beg to differ) and the relentless jitters.

I noticed other things changing in my body as well.  My eyes, which had long been puffy and red with an enormous amount of baggage underneath, cleared up and the puffiness began to go away.  I lost 10 pounds of water weight (bloating is a pretty good sign of intestinal inflammation.  I loved Dr. Delise Dickard’s guest post over at Gluten Free Easily, titled The Beer that Saved My Belly, check it out).  I also began sleeping better, heading to bed at 9:30 versus 2 or 3 am (this was when my sugar cravings would hit me the strongest and I now know my cravings were likely a symptom of my adrenal fatigue, as well as a few other issues that Dr. Vikki talks about more extensively in her article How To Cure Sugar Cravings…and by George, if she isn’t right, I haven’t had a craving for sugar in nearly 8 months, WOOT!) and waking up at 6 am, without feeling so hungover that one would think I had partied too hard the night before (nope, it wasn’t vino, it was THE GUMMY BEARS!).

The key point I’m trying to make is that once I removed the foods that are known to cause problems for a lot of people and my immune system had time to take a breather from the constant influx of dietary antigens passing through my intestinal barrier, my body was finally able to start* doing what it was designed to do…the art of healing.

*It is important to note that the modified elimination diet is just one (of many) steps on the journey towards healing the intestine, which (in case you didn’t know), is home for approximately 70 – 80% of the human immune system, but I will save that topic for another day. :-D

 Have you ever done an elimination diet?  If so, please consider sharing your experience in the comment section.

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Comments

  1. Sandi says:

    We are also patients at HealthNow. We are in the process of adding foods back into our diet. I remember first being told about the elimination diet. I had the same feelings as you. My panic was intensified because I have a friend whose 7 year old was allergic to corn. Corn is in 85% of the food supply, if not more! It lines most canned food and is even in simple things like Tylenol. Here are our families observations from the MED:

    1. My 9 year old has had stomach aches and acid reflux for about a year. The Pediatric Gastro doc only wanted to give him Prilosec and didn't care about the cause. We are still waiting for all of his tests to come back in. He has had no difference on the MED. The only medication we found that makes his stomach aches go away is a stomach tablet by Gaia Herbs. The problem is it has barley in it. We met with Dr. Preeti yesterday and she had a couple of really good ideas we are going to try. First, the main ingredient in the Gaia Herb supplement is Marshmallow root. She suggested a tea with this ingredient. Second, we are going to try Sweetish Bitters (also by Gaia Herbs). Jadon had horrible reflux as a baby and was on Prilosec from day 3 to about 16 months of age, when he finally outgrew it. There is a chance this medication altered his development (I hope I am explaining this correctly) and that his stomach has a low acid level. With low stomach acid, when a food is eaten, it can cause stomach pain. If this is the case, the bitters will help his stomach produce more stomach acid. I can keep you posted, we should know by day 4 if this helps.

    2. My 11 year old has been "addicted to dairy and pickles" since she was little. She has sensory integration issues, infant reflux, high sensitivity, etc…This diet was the worst thing to ever happen to her. We had to take away her two comfort foods. She really doesn't like meat very much but she has to eat a few bites when we have it so that I know her proteins are balanced. About 2 days into the MED, she started having giant meltdowns. (And I mean screaming on the floor meltdowns, which were NOT typical for her). Dr. Rick said it was her body having withdrawal symptoms. Her reintroductions to foods has been great so far….until we introduced chocolate. I bought a special bar of dark chocolate for her to try. She had about half after school and then a GF Trader Joe's brownie after dinner. She was emotional and weepy for two days. We are going to have to reintroduce it again (and sugar separately) to see what is going on. I don't know if it is her body saying OMG, I have not had sugar/chocolate for over 2 weeks (except for in fruit), it could also be the fist week of school girl drama, or even preteen drama.

    3. My husband has been GF for a few years now. He definitely feels a big difference being off caffeine. He has more energy and feels great. He travels a lot so the MED has been really difficult for him to follow.

    4. I did not feel any different on the MED. Taking caffeine and sugar away has been really difficult because I don't sleep well. We suspect I have adrenal fatigue. I have had low energy this whole time that even watermelon doesn't seem to help :-) I am waiting on my results but I got an adrenal support supplement to try. I must also add that when I had one of the GF brownies, I did feel a little yucky after it.

    I hope this information helps…we love all of the doctors at HealthNow. They are really informative and thorough.

    • JanaC2 says:

      I appreciate your comments as your 11 yr old sounds strangely similar to my own son.

      Not sure if gluten is a factor, but because I have severe digestive problems (culminating with the removal of 12" of my colon) and joint pain, etc. and my son has many symptoms of gluten sensitivity, I figured a gluten-free lifestyle was worth a try. We are in the trial phase now and I am trying to decide if I should get tested before going gluten-free…

  2. Irene says:

    Hi Dr. Vikki,

    Are you seeing any occurrence of neuropathy in Celiac patients that have been gluten-free for a long time?

    Thanks,

    Irene

  3. Trista says:

    I have not done an elimination diet yet. I had been seeing my regular doctor for stomach pain on a regular basis. After an upper GI, a CAT scan and some lab work (I have no idea now what he was checking.) it was decided that they couldn't find any explaination for the pain and prescribed me pain medication to help me deal with the pain. 8 years later, I was still going to the doctor every few months for stomach pain and when he wanted to put me on a different pain medication I figured it was time to move on. I went to another doctor and she explained to me that I may need to see a Naturepath Doctor. So that's what I did. The Naturepath told me on our first meeting that it was something I was eating that was causing my stomach pain. She checked my blood for allergies and it turned out I didn't have any. This is where I learned that even though I may not be allergic to something I can still have a reaction to it. She put me on the blood type diet which was super overwhelming. I had so many things I had to avoid. So I started with the first thing on the list which was wheat. I noticed a difference pretty much immediately. In less than 3 days I was feeling better. By the time a week had gone by I no longer felt bloated out and tired. She wanted me to do a cleanse, which I hate to say, is where she lost me. I was only going to be able to eat fruits and vegetables and a rice protein shake for a week. I have a job where I'm busy on my feet all day long and I feel like I need to eat for the fuel and that wasn't going to cut it. So no, I have not done an elimation diet like that.

  4. Bridget says:

    Oh my gosh……….this is US! I was so afraid to have the other tested for her IgG 'allergies' that I just couldn't! I saw this post briefly on Fri, had a 6year old well check appt for the girls on Fri. too. Their pediatrician was not terribly happy with our IgG testing and rotation diet. Don't get me wrong, I love her, and she is open to non-traditional medicine. We were headed out of town after that, could not watch/read this post. But yet as we are driving, I couldn't shut my head off…..WHAT DO I DO NOW?????? I just watched this and have a sense of hope, a glimmer. Now to figure out my next steps………Thank you Heidi for ALL that you do and share with us. All we want is for our children and us, to be healthy and pain free and happy. This seems to feel elusive sometimes.

  5. Melissa says:

    just beginning this journey for my 10 year old daughter. Much of what others have commented sounds very familiar. Doctors not having a specific diagnosis and simply treating with prilosec and other otc allergy meds. One question I have pertains to what sorts of liquids can she drink while on the MED? Water… and ?
    Appreciate all the time and effort given to share what you've learned!

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