Gluten Intolerant? Can You Take Enzymes & “Cheat”?

on May10
by Dr. Vikki Petersen | Print the article |

I received the following question from a reader suffering from gluten intolerance. It brings up a very important issue to address and likely a source of confusion for some.

If You Eat Gluten & Feel Fine, Are You Fine?

Here’s the question:
“I am using something called “an enzyme product”, along with HCL [hydrochloric acid] capsules and experimenting with eating gluten occasionally.  I am getting good results I believe, so far.  Can Dr Vikki comment on any strategies like this that would allow some of us to occasionally consume some gluten?”

When I read this question I get the terrible image of someone playing Russian roulette. Let me explain…

Recently I met with some of the top researchers from both coasts of the US.  Doctors who are spending their entire careers trying to find an enzyme or drug that a person with celiac disease or gluten intolerance can ingest safely to eliminate the dangerous effects gluten has on the human body.

No Drug or Enzyme Yet Exists That Works 100%

The researchers explained that each substance showing promise has approximately a seven year cycle it must go through in order to prove its efficacy and arrive on the market.  Anywhere during that seven year span failure can occur, including at the seven year mark.  It made me wonder, how many such cycles can one do in a career?  Currently the closest substances in the pipeline are at the two to three year mark, according to these researchers – meaning it will be a minimum of four to five more years before they know for sure if they have a winner.  All preceding efforts have failed unfortunately.

While prior failure in no way signals that future success is impossible, the point is that such a substance does not currently exist.  If it did, there would be several studies showing its efficacy.

In the promotional materials for the above mentioned enzyme the manufacturer states that their product: “helps eliminate or significantly reduce symptoms related to Coeliac disease.” The emphasis on the word “symptoms” is my own.

Reducing symptoms is not equivalent to eliminating the negative effects of gluten. Remember that it is estimated that less than one-quarter of the time are the effects of gluten digestive related. Therefore at least three-quarters of the time the symptoms and effects are occurring at a site distant to the digestive tract.

Some Effects of Gluten Cannot Be Felt

The insidiousness of gluten is just that – effects can occur that one cannot “feel”.  But just because one can’t feel them doesn’t mean that they aren’t there.  Such changes as those leading to nervous system inflammation, cancer and autoimmune disease can’t be felt initially.  It is estimated that changes can be occurring for 5 to 15 years in the body before a person “feels” any symptoms.

So when the gentleman above says that he’s “getting good results, so far” what does that mean?  I can tell you what it doesn’t mean.  It doesn’t mean that all possible forms of inflammation and damage that gluten can cause have been evaluated for and none are occurring.

If that was the case, believe me the celiac disease community world-wide would know about this product and all the researchers I was mentioning above would be kicking themselves that they hadn’t created it first!

When and if that day does arrive, not only will there be a lot of happy gluten intolerant people, but the researcher will be ecstatic and a multi-millionaire to boot – a well deserved bonus in my opinion.

Eating Gluten Initiates Cravings

The other dangerous issue here is that gluten creates gluteomorphins that create cravings.  When one starts consuming gluten “occasionally” it isn’t long before cravings set it in and almost without realizing it one is ingesting more and more.  I say this from over two decades of clinical experience with patients.

Believe me when I say that I take no personal joy in restricting people’s diets.  Should the day come when gluten can be properly digested with absolutely no negative side effects, I will be delighted.

However that day is not today.  In the meantime the safest and kindest approach you can take if you have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity is a zero tolerance policy on gluten.  And enjoy the good health that will result!

Please do contact me regarding any questions that you have. We are here to help you, your friends and family. HealthNOW is a destination clinic that treats patients from across the country as well as internationally.

To your good health,

Dr Vikki Petersen, DC, CCN
Founder of HealthNOW Medical Center
Co-author of “The Gluten Effect”

Permission is granted to re-post this article in its entirety with credit to Dr Vikki Petersen & HealthNOW Medical Center and a clickable link back to this page. Dr Vikki Petersen, DC, CCN is founder of HealthNOW Medical Center and the author of “The Gluten Effect”.  She has been featured in national magazines, international medical journals and is a frequent headlined speaker.

The Author

4 Comments, Comment or Ping

  1. Niv


    I have heard about people doing this but never dared to even try. People who do this must be very blindly ignoring some symptoms.

    10 May
  2. 2

    Actually Niv, many symptoms are “silent” which is why I try to share the information that I do. Without certain lab tests to show that damage is occurring, some people would never know until they got some full blown (although preventable) disease. It can be very unfortunate. As an example autoimmune diseases can be silently “brewing” for over a decade before they give their first symptom.

    10 May
  3. Kimberly


    I recently went to NYC with my husband, I thought it would be so much easier to do this trip if I wasn’t having to deal with my gluten allergy (I have been gfree for less than a year) and so I went out and spent about $70.00 for gluten and digest ease enzymes. I popped 2-3 of each enzyme anytime I wasn’t sure something was gluten free or anytime I just wanted to cheat, no immediate/major side effects (or so I thought) after a few days of this, we were only gone six days. The real problems came after I got home from my trip…most of the symptoms I lived with before knowing what was wrong came back and I felt miserable. I’d say the ONLY thing these enzymes did to help was they allowed my body to digest the gluten, in other words without too much info here, I did not get constipated. If I had it to do over again I wouldn’t do it, I would have taken the time and energy to find places that were gluten free friendly. Great article!

    10 May
  4. 4

    Thank you for writing in Kimberly. Your experience is exactly what we tend to see.

    It can really get tricky when symptoms are not only delayed after gluten ingestion but they are neurological such as depression or anxiety. The individual can mistakenly assign cause to the wrong “target” so to speak. i.e. the job, the kids, etc., instead of the gluten they ate.

    I’m glad you won’t be cheating any more!

    10 May

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