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Q & A with Dr. Vikki: Gluten Intolerance and Skin Disorders

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.


Hi Dr. Vikki,

I’m a 24 year old with celiac.  At least that’s what all the doctors tell me.  Maybe you can help me figure out what’s the next step for me?

Ever since I was a child, whenever I got a cut or scab it would take a month plus to heal the wound and the end results were always scarring (this still happens).  I have seen dermatologists and they tell me they can’t do anything.  I’m told I can’t see internal specialists because they can’t help me.  I’ve been told lasers can’t correct the scarring and that the only way to find a solution is to have a skin biopsy done, which I will have done in August.

When I explain to doctors my symptoms, they say they can’t help because they don’t how know to, so I saw an allergist.  He tested me for several things and decided it was celiac disease (he didn’t order any blood tests but I have had them done recently for other things and apparently nothing about them says whether I have it “officially” or not).

At first, we (my family and I) discovered that it was just gluten products that were making me sick but within the last year I have discovered that I have issues with milk and red meats.  Again, I mentioned to my allergist the latest allergy developments and he really couldn’t give me an answer.  He said he doesn’t know what to tell me.  He just gave me more medications.  I hate taking meds.  I was taking Allegra but had a heart arrhythmia, so now I’m just taking my Zyrtec which helps, but makes me drowsy and tired.  The symptoms that bother me are: fatigue, lack of energy, constant itching/scratching, and depending on what I eat, bloating, abdominal pain etc.

I’m not sure what to do or where to go next because the scarring caused by celiac takes a major toll on my life.  You would not believe the amount of people who think I’m either self-destructive or abused.  I’m going out of my mind trying to decide what to do next.  I have made most of the necessary food adjustments including switching to rice milk and I’m now mostly vegetarian (with an exception for chicken and fish) and have cut certain other things out of my life as well.

Any help or advice would be majorly appreciated!

P.S.  I’m not sure if this helps, but I’m also allergic to latex and vinyls (I’m a chef with an Epi Pen, LOL)

Vanessa E.


Hi Vanessa,

As you may know, the skin is your largest organ.  The condition of the skin tends to reflect the health of the GI tract.  With your ‘maybe’ celiac diagnosis, sensitivity to other foods, reactive skin and fatigue, the first thing I would do is to test some facets of your digestive health.

It seems likely that gluten is a problem but if you have removed it completely from your diet and want to be sure that it’s an issue we can get you a genetic test that tests for celiac genes and gluten sensitivity genes (both).  You don’t have to eat gluten for this test to be accurate.

It also seems likely, based on your symptoms, that you have a leaky gut.  Healing this properly depends on detecting and completely eliminating any foods that you are reacting to, discovering the presence of any pathogenic organisms (a lab test is needed), the health of your good bacteria and enzymes (same lab test as previous) plus testing for any nutritional deficiencies and cross-reactive foods.

I think we could give you data about your body that hasn’t yet been revealed to you, though I can’t promise a solution to the scarring.  What I can say is that a good in-depth analysis (something that we’re known for) would improve your digestion, energy level, and overall health.  Hopefully some skin changes will occur as well.

Please do contact us for a free consultation.  We would be delighted to help you.

To your good health,
Dr Vikki Petersen
phone: 408-733-0400
Co-author of “The Gluten Effect
Dr. Vikki’s blog
Dr. Vikki on Twitter
HealthNOW Medical Center on Facebook
Register to become a member on the HealthNOW Community Forum and receive Dr. Vikki’s new e-book, “Gluten Intolerance – What You Don’t Know May Be Killing You,” for FREE!

Heidi here, I’d like to share the following video of Dr. Vikki discussing gluten sensitivity and skin conditions:

Having personally suffered from numerous skin conditions associated with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity (I shared my experience with atopic dermatitis/eczema, dermatitis herpetiformis, psoraisis and canker sores here), I can certainly empathize with the deep emotional impact that the highly visible symptoms of these conditions can have on a person.

Since my diagnosis, I have spent a great deal of time researching gluten intolerance and its related skin conditions, so I thought I would share some of the articles and books that have been helpful for me:

“Certain skin problems, such as angular cheilitis*, recurrent aphthous ulcers (canker sores) or dermatitis herpetiformis should lead the physician to consider celiac disease as an underlying cause.”

*Reading the above blurb about angular cheilitis, made me recall having those painful, deep cracks at the corner of my mouth when I was a kid (see figure 6 in the above mentioned AAFP article, “Detecting Celiac Disease in Your Patients”).

  • Dr. Vikki has an entire chapter dedicated to skin disorders and gluten sensitivity in her book, The Gluten Effect.
  • Dr. Peter H.R. Green, director of the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University and internationally recognized expert on the condition, discusses dermatitis herpetiformis at great length in his book, Celiac Disease: A Hidden Epidemic.  He also talks about the connections with eczema, psoriasis, vitiligo, alopecia (hair loss) and aphthous stomatitis (an autoimmune condition in which people get canker sores in their mouth).

Did You Know?

According to Dr. Green:

Patients with dermatitis herpetiformis have a higher incidence of non-Hodgkin’s lymphomaMy uncle passed away from NHL.

Patients with DH have a higher incidence of other autoimmune diseasesI’ve been diagnosed with 5 of them.

It’s important to know that if you have dermatitis herpetiformis, you always have gluten intolerance.  With DH, the primary lesion is on the skin, whereas with celiac disease the lesions are in the small intestine.  The degree of damage to the small intestine is often less severe or more patchy than those with celiac disease, making the intestinal biopsy much more tricky.  To read more, click here.

And now it’s time to announce the winners of the Green Beaver Gluten Free Personal Care Products Giveaway:

The winner of prize package #1 goes to:

#115, Staci A.

Staci will receive the following products, compliments of Green Beaver: (1) Junior Shampoo, (1) Junior Conditioning Detangler, (1) Junior Bubble Bath, and (1) Zesty Orange Toothpaste

The winner of prize package #2 goes to:

#71, Lisa

Lisa will receive the following products, compliments of Green Beaver: (1) Cranberry Delight Shampoo,  (1) Cranberry Delight Conditioner, (1) Cranberry Delight Body Lotion and (1) Frosty Mint Toothpaste

Congratulations ladies, I will send you an email for your shipping information!

If you have a question that you would like Dr. Vikki Petersen to answer in a future blog post here on Adventures of a Gluten Free Mom, please email your question(s) to me at:

P.S.  How do you like the new look of my blog?


  1. Try eating Paleo style-eliminating all grains, dairy, soy, beans, sugar. Many people who do not improvement on a GF diet see amazing results when they eliminate ALL grains (rice, potato etc) and ALL dairy. These foods cause inflamation in our bodies. Lots of coconut milk and coconut oil. Research it online and see for yourself.

    • Hi Wendy,

      I've been creeping (it was not an "easy" transition for me) towards a paleo style diet ever since I made it through the modified elimination diet (before I went to see Dr. Vikki in February,…and it escalated after I got the results from my Cyrex Labs Array #4 test… to which I was positive for nearly everything on the panel). The most startling (and immediate) improvement I noticed was the elimination of sugar. Holy cow, I really do not well with sugar at all, it truly makes me feel as though I've been drinking alcohol!

      I've since been allowed to start re-introducing most of the foods I eliminated (except for the obvious gluten grains and dairy): GF grains, soy, beans, sugar, potato, coffee, hemp, chocolate and even the "non-grain" grains like buckwheat and quinoa, and I've noticed that for every food (besides quinoa), I've had a some sort of reaction (coffee makes my face twitch, how weird is that?).

      And I do believe in the power of coconut oil, I use it for everything except salad dressings.

      For all the skin problems I've had to deal with in my life, my skin has never looked better than it does today, I don't even get pimples anymore. 🙂

      • Although you are not a "Paleo" blogger, I refer all my new Paleo friends to your blog because your cooking is very Paleo like – from scratch to control what goes in. I use your home made ketchup recipe as my Paleo ketchup. I also like Comfy Belly because she cooks/bakes a lot with coconut flour and almond flour. My biggest change has been no allergy medicine since I started Paleo in May, and usually I am a Claritin D, Nasonex, allergy shot type of person and have been my whole life. I think I have been on Claritin for 20 years! I have taken NOTHING since going Paleo, and that is even during the Springtime in England. I did try goats milk one night and woke up with a terrible sinus headache. I need to test it again to see if it is a real reaction or just a fluke. I have stopped all dairy (except Kerrygold butter), soy, beans, grains and sugar. I still do coffee but with coconut milk. I cook home made breakfast sausage from Karina at Gluten Free Goddess and muffins from Comfy Belly. Funny, I tried the So Delicious Coconut products while home in the US this summer but they did not sit well with me. Only plain coconut milk in the long life carton or the can. Lots of meat and vegs. Working for me. Trying to convince my family. My 10yo son is celiac and feels like he has given up enough already. But he has terrible sinuses so I am trying to get him to cut back on the milk at least. He still eats products with milk in them but doesn't usually drink a big glass anymore. Having CD he is small so my hubby wants him to drink all the milk he wants! Daughter without CD is vegetarian just to add a complication. Husband is GF, soy free, bean free but refuses to go full blown Paleo and he has terrible sinus problems also. Drives me crazy because he eats my Paleo snacks then eats a whole bag of rice cakes! Maybe I can win him over one day.

  2. I'll try to keep this short n sweet! My FIL had a brain tumor removed and has had to come stay with us for a while as he goes through rehabilitation. Well for years he has had a bad case of rosacea. My whole family is GF and he has had no choice but to eat GF as well. His rosacea cleared up!! He had a piece of bread (not GF) and that very night 3 red spots popped up on his face!!

  3. My daughter, who has Celiac (as do I) also has very slow the heal sores and leaky gut, etc. as Vanessa describes. I just want to point out that after months of seeing a wonderful Integrative Doctor, we discovered that our daughter has Lyme Disease and a Bartonella co-infection as well and that is why she is not healing on a simply GF diet, or even with removing the other foods that bother her. Lyme Disease can be difficult to diagnose, we ordered specialized testing from IGeneX in CA, and are seeing a Lyme Specialist (most important part). I hope this helps, and just for the record, we never knew my daughter had been bitten by a tick, and she never had the bulls-eye rash. As I said, Lyme is much more complicated than many doctors know, so- find a good Lyme- Literate Doctor and have them really check you out! Hope this helps!

  4. my daughter has these really weird skin reactions (she isn't 2 yet and we haven't done IGG) but she is soy and dairy intolerant and has been off eggs for six months, just put them back in her diet and she gets occaisional gluten. I'm GF free strict. She eats that way from me. I am wondering if these skin reactions which look like a fluid filled "mini" blister and they pop up in pairs. – I guess I can take out gluten and see:) It is so hard with gluten, dairy, soy! Do you have any thoughts this type of skin reaction. It started two months ago on the foot, and that cleared and then popped up on the arm and then now back.

  5. wow, didn't know it could get that serious, it explains a lot though, thanks for posting this question