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Q & A with Dr. Vikki: Genetics and Celiac Disease (and a Giveaway!)

Dr. Vikki Petersen, a Doctor of Chiropractic and Certified Clinical Nutritionist, is founder of the renowned HealthNOW Medical Center in Sunnyvale, California.

She is co-author of  “The Gluten Effect,” a bestselling book that has been celebrated by leading experts as an epic leap forward in gluten sensitivity diagnosis and treatment.

Dr. Vikki herself is acknowledged as a pioneer in the field of gluten sensitivity.  Featured in an exclusive interview on CNN Headline News, Dr Vikki is also endorsed by the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness and The Gluten Intolerance Group of North America for her contributions to gluten awareness in our country.

Q: If the paired genes are present for Celiac disease, what is that saying?  The testing our ten year old had done shows the pairs, but we don’t know if he has Celiac or is just intolerant.  If it’s just an intolerance, is he at risk of becoming Celiac?  We have been gluten-free for seven weeks.  The rest of us have not been tested. (Our pediatrician ran some blood work at our request.  It came back negative, but I understand those test numbers are so low that they miss 50% of those with Celiac).

– Cinda

Hello Cinda,

This is an excellent question. I’m going to give you some facts followed up by my opinion.

The pair of celiac genes present means that you son could develop celiac disease.  It doesn’t say that he’s manifesting it right now, only that he could.  Gluten sensitivity genes are different from celiac genes and it explains why celiacs destroy their own small intestine and those will gluten sensitivity do not – they still have inflammation and many problems, but the specific villous atrophy or intestinal destruction does not occur in those with gluten sensitivity.

Traditionally patients such as your son would be told that since their blood test was negative they should continue to be monitored for celiac disease but it is fine to consume gluten at this point.  20% of the population has these genes but the greatest percentage that research has proposed for celiac incidence is 4% as of 2010 research that showed increasing incidence with age.  So once again, traditional medicine feels that the presence of the gene pair isn’t enough to warrant the institution of a gluten-free diet.

I disagree.  As you correctly pointed out, the celiac tests are not adequately sensitive.  As we develop more sensitive tests, I wouldn’t be surprised if the vast majority of the 20% who carry the gene don’t develop the disease at some point in their life.

If your son was my son, I would remove all gluten from his diet today!  Why?  Because I don’t want to wait until his health is compromised before eliminating the toxin that is creating the ill health.  Autoimmune diseases, as an example, can be “brewing” for well over a decade before the first symptom is seen.  Celiac is not only an autoimmune disease in its own right but it is a culprit in the development of other autoimmune diseases.

I think it’s akin to Russian roulette to have that genetic profile and ignore it.  And I feel confident that research within the next 10 years will bear this out.

Lastly, with your son having a pair of celiac genes, you and your husband are likely to each have one set if not more.  Do get yourself tested and the rest of the family if possible.

I hope this helps and please do write back if you have any more questions.

To your good health,
Dr Vikki Petersen
Founder of HealthNOW Medical Center
Co-author of “The Gluten Effect

Stay up-to-date on all the latest information from Dr. Vikki by:

Reading Dr. Vikki’s blog

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Heidi here, what Dr. Vikki recommended to Cinda about removing gluten from her son’s diet right away is a similar situation that I found myself in with my oldest son 2 1/2 years ago, when he had a positive celiac panel (he was positive for Endomysial Antibodies and Anti-Tissue Transglutaminase antibodies) but a negative biopsy (Latent Celiac Disease).  Sam’s Pediatric GI initially told me to allow him to resume eating gluten until he began exhibiting more symptoms, then we would re-do the intestinal biopsy to check for villous atrophy (which is required in order to get a diagnosis of celiac disease).

Not only did I NOT want to continue subjecting my son to needles and general anesthesia, I definitely did not want him to follow in my footsteps by developing more autoimmune disorders (I have 5 of them).  My greatest fear at the time was that he could develop Juvenile/Type 1 Diabetes, a condition that would never go away once he had it.  By removing gluten from Sam’s diet before the massive destruction of his villi (which is required for an “official” diagnosis of CD), he has an excellent chance of never developing another autoimmune disease.  I recently did a gene test on Sam and it did come back positive for one copy of DQ8, further validation for me that I did the right thing for my son. 😀

Now it’s time to announce the three winners of Ricki Heller’s e-Book, Good Morning: Breakfasts without Gluten, Sugar, Eggs or Dairy and they are:

#9 Jaime

#59 Emma

#43 Niv

Congratulations ladies!  You will each be getting an email from Ricki Heller with a downloadable copy of her wonderful new breakfast e-book, enjoy!

And now it’s time for another…

I have another set of Dr. Vikki’s book The Gluten Effect and the Gluten Sensitivity & Celiac Forum 2010 to giveaway to one of my wonderful readers (thank you Dr. Vikki!).

To enter for a chance to win this giveaway, simply:

Visit Dr. Vikki’s blog and leave a comment on one of her posts (don’t worry, it’s super easy to navigate), then leave a comment here telling me the title of the post you left a comment on.

That’s it!  No jumping through hoops this week with me begging you to like me on Facebook or stalk me on Twitter. 😉  It’s Mothers Day weekend afterall and I want you to take a well-deserved break and just relax and pamper yourself!

I will announce the winner on Monday, May 9, 2011, Good Luck! 😀

Happy Mother’s Day!!!


  1. Carrie Cheney says

    I recently made the decision to go gf after hearing it from a few doctors- my endo and GP. I SO appreciate your blog and meal plans. It really makes an overwhelming task much easier – thank you! Left a post on Dr. Vicki's – Gluten and Thyroid video.

    Happy Mother's Day!

    • Carrie,

      I so happy that by blog has been helpful, I remember how overwhelming it was for me when I began this journey 6 years ago. The great news is that is DOES get much, much easier!

      Wishing you the best of health,

  2. Love your blog and Dr. Vikki's as well- thank you both for all you do. I left a comment on her post about Gluten Intolerance and Vitamin D Deficiency.

  3. hi! I commented on Dr. Vikki's post about Gluten and ADHD. Both of my husband's brothers have ADD/ADHD and several food allergies. My 2 year old son is showing signs of gluten sensitivity (I do as well) as well as some hyperactivity. My family is exploring going gf and the information you present here has been extremely helpful!

  4. I left a comment on Dr. Vikki's website under Clinical Nutrition Report – How to Cure Sugar Cravings

    Loved the Mom Song 🙂

  5. I read & left a comment on:

    You Don’t Need to Have Celiac Disease to Go Gluten-free

    I'm loving all of this info as a newbie to GF!

  6. I left a comment on Dr. Vikki's blog under the How to Cure Sugar Cravings post under the name lewyville.

  7. P.S. I would love to hear more about your visit with Dr. Vikki. I have two Celiac of whom does not seem to be getting better. My husband and I and two other children all tested negative for Celiac's but I was really surprised I didn't have it because I have so many of the symptoms of it and just don't feel well most of the time. I have been trying to eliminate things from my diet (gluten and sugar)to see if it helps but so far no luck. I would honestly love to take my whole family to the HealthNow clinic but need to know what the cost is first. We have a very limited budget and would have to save up for the visit.

  8. Happy Mother's Day Heidi! You are one dedicated mom and you deserve to have the best day ever!



  9. Heidi-girl & Dr. Vikki,

    Great post and I love the addition of medical information on Adventures of a GF Mom. It's nice to mix in genetics and villous atrophy with copy-cat cupcakes! It's all good, although I'm a science nerd, so I'm super thrilled with this post. Yeah, spread the word! The more information (correct information) people have, the better. Maybe we will have a GF planet some day. =)



  10. I left a comment on Dr. Vickie's post titled "Celiacs & Gluten Sensitive Beware – Watch out for Malt".

  11. My mom and I just recently learned about Celiac and gluten intolerance, and we decided to go off gluten to see what would happen. I was kind of at my wits end because the doctors seemed to be ok with pushing pills but not getting to the root of the problem. We can't believe how quickly we started feeling better. As I was trying to find out more information about a gluten-free lifestyle and cooking, I stumbled on your site. It has been wonderful to have such a great resource and Dr. Vikki's site has been very helpful as well. Thanks for all you both do. 🙂

    I posted on "Gluten Intolerant but in Denial?"

  12. jodi lee says

    HI – I'm a new Celiac, and your blog is SO helpful. So is Dr Vicki – I posted on her “Why Do Some with Celiac Disease Never Heal?” article.

    Happy Mother's Day!


  13. I'm glad I stopped by – I didn't know that Dr Vikki had answered my question! I just commented on her blog post: Why Do Some with Celiac Disease Never Heal? Looks like we need to cut back dairy and get our son off the omeprazole and the antispasmodic the doctors have prescribed. I need to go back to her blog and read some more!

    Happy Mother's Day!

  14. Gluten Free For Life says

    I was diagnosed with celiac years ago by Health Now and have been GF ever since but just now discovered their blog. I posted a comment on Tylenol & Gluten Intolerance Linked to Liver Failure. Thanks!

  15. Heather says

    I really enjoyed reading "Gluten Intolerance & PMS" Never thought about putting gluten intolerance and adrenal fatigue together – Thanks for encouraging me to go there 🙂

  16. I commented on the Gluten Intolerance Lab Test Sensitivity.

  17. I commented on the Malt Vinegar post. I have been trying to figure out the sources of vinegars, since I seem to react to some but not others. Thanks for the giveaway!

  18. Just posted on her blog how to beat sugar cravings. Perfect timing as I just started an anti candida diet 5 days ago!

  19. Sorry for the late thank you! I was one of the winners of Ricki's e-book. Thanks so much for hosting the giveaway. I've received the book from Ricki and am so excited to get started on the recipes! Emma

  20. I read Dr Viki's article on how people cheat using digestive enzymes ( I once met a Mom at the school and when she heard that my son was GF she immediately told me about how she uses digestive enzymes for her son's GF issues. SO everytime they are at a party they take this dig.enzyme just before having a regular pizza and cake. I was in shock that this mom was very daring and putting her son at risk. And the sad part is the kid always has red patches/rashes everywhere.

    I am forwarding Dr Vikki's article to this mom hoping that it'll be a wakeup call.

  21. When we first suspected gluten was a problem for our son, we did not get him tested. Putting him back on gluten was not an option since his symptoms were so severe so we decided to get some genetic testing done just to have a clue what we were dealing with. I got both the kids screened. Since they have different biological fathers and were both pretty close to homozygous with different results, it was pretty easy to extrapolate what my genetics are! It's truly fascinating.

    My son did end up showing a risk factor – but not the typical one. He is HLA-DQ7.5 (also known as HLA-DQ2.5trans). (By extension, I have this risk factor, too, and now, a year later, am doing a miserable gluten challenge so I can be tested for celiac.) However, if we had not had the HLA-DQalpha tested in addition to beta, we would not have known that. Before ordering the tests make sure that the lab will both teast and report for all the info you need!

    Here is a post I've written that explains more about genetic testing.


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