Are You Eating Cross Reactive Foods that Mimic Gluten?

on Jun13
by Dr. Vikki Petersen | Print the article |

Is Your Body Not Healing Despite Your Gluten-free Diet?

Research tells us that only eight percent of those adult patients suffering with celiac disease experience complete healing of their gut despite maintaining a strict gluten-free diet. Sixty five percent feel better, but only a fraction (8%) enjoy complete healing.

This is significant because too many patients suffering from celiac disease and gluten sensitivity do not enjoy the good health they deserve. Instead they suffer a variety of symptoms and many develop serious autoimmune diseases.

Such autoimmune diseases could potentially be prevented if the individuals’ gut lesions and leaky gut had been remedied.

How to Find out Why

I want to discuss a tool that we use here at the clinic to help isolate any dietary components that could be ‘confusing’ the immune system of a gluten intolerant patient to react as if gluten was being consumed. I often have patients tell me that they feel ‘glutened’ despite the lack of any gluten consumption. It’s extremely frustrating for them.

Why does this occur?

What is Cross Reactivity?

Cross reactivity is a process whereby the body consumes a protein (e.g. milk) that has similarities to the protein gluten. Due to this similarity (known as molecular mimicry) the body’s immune system reacts to this food as if it were gluten, creating symptoms that the patient attributes to gluten consumption.

Is milk gluten? No. But if cross-reactivity is occurring, it may as well be as far as the patient’s immune system is concerned. In other words, ingestion of these cross-reactive foods can irritate and inflame the immune system in much the same way as if gluten was being ingested.

Therefore in patients who are not feeling optimal despite maintaining a gluten-free diet, or continue to have a leaky gut or autoimmune disease, testing for cross-reactive foods can be a great diagnostic tool.

The test is a blood test offered by Cyrex Labs and includes the following foods:

• Cow’s milk
• Casein
• American cheese
• Milk Chocolate
• Sesame
• Hemp
• Buckwheat
• Sorghum
• Millet
• Amaranth
• Quinoa
• Yeast
• Tapioca
• Oats
• Coffee
• Corn
• Rice
• Potato

Once the test returns it will reveal what, if any, foods are causing a reaction. The protocol is to remove these foods from the diet for three months and then reintroduce them slowly, one at a time, to determine any negative reactions.

How to get Successful Healing to Occur

During the three months ‘off’ from these foods, the body’s immune system will get a chance to repair and, along with other measures we take, will go far towards repairing any leaky gut.

Some patients find that they are able to reintroduce several foods successfully, but there is often something they find that just isn’t their ‘friend’ and permanent avoidance is required. Dairy is extremely common, but there are others too. Oats, coffee and yeast being the most common after dairy products.

I’m not trying to depress anyone regarding further dietary restrictions. Being gluten intolerant myself, I very much understand the discipline that is required. But if a cross-reactive food(s) is the culprit underlying a lack of healing and putting one at risk for other diseases, it certainly is important to find out.

I’d like to hear from you. Have you experienced having a ‘gluten’ reaction when you didn’t eat any?

I hope this information was helpful and please do let me know any questions that you have or if you would like assistance to improve your health. That’s why I’m here! You can call for a free health analysis – 408-733-0400.

Our destination clinic treats patients from across the country and internationally. If you don’t live locally it’s not a problem.

To your good health,

Dr Vikki Petersen, DC, CCN
Founder of HealthNOW Medical Center
Co-author of “The Gluten Effect”
Author of the eBook: “Gluten Intolerance – What you don’t know may be killing you!”

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” and eBook: “Gluten Intolerance – What you don’t know may be killing you”.  She has been featured in national magazines, international medical journals and is a frequent headlined speaker.

The Author

13 Comments, Comment or Ping

  1. Sheri Wagener


    Dr. Vicki,
    I have found that in addition to being gluten intolerant, I am also sensitive to peanuts and chocolate (sigh!). Peanuts and/or peanut oil can cause immediate upset stomach and an itchiness around my mouth and nose, in addition to the intestinal gases. Chocolate mimics glutens and takes several days to get out of my system. Oats are ok, as long as they are gluten free – free of the cross contamination of nearby wheat fields. Quinoa is not ok, unfortunately.
    Interestingly, I have also found that products that swear they are gluten free, can be an issue. For instance, a supplement that I was taking had wheat grass and barley grass as a part of the nutrients. Since I have allergies to grasses, these products really did a number on my body. It took over a month to start feeling better.
    Happily I discovered Cup4Cup, a flour alternative from the French Laundry (Williams Sonoma carries it). It really does work as an excellent substitute for flour.f
    Thanks for your articles. I find them interesting and helpful.


    13 Jun
  2. Danielle


    Dr. Vicki-

    Have there been any studies, or do you have any experience that might lead us to believe that leaky gut is actually what causes the gluten intolerance. I have begun to have this hunch that these cross reactive food intolerances are because of these things crossing the gut, and our bodies react. Could it not be the same for gluten? I for one was on birth control for about 20 years, along with taking NSAIDs fairly often. I recently tested positive for gluten intolerance along with a group of other things in the cross reactivity test. But I wonder if it could be that the leaky gut is causing all of this cross reactivity, and maybe even the first reaction of gluten.

    In any case, what is your suggested protocol for leaky gut?

    13 Jun
  3. Tisha


    Dr Vicki

    I was diagnosed with Celiacs about a year and a half ago. This past January I started to feel bad again. I couldnt get any answers so I went to a Wellness clinic that does food allergy stress testing. I still tested high for Gluten (which I was surprised about) but also tested high for corn and food dyes. Corn is a hard one but I basically cut out High fructose corn syrup, corn starch and corn syrup and food dyes and I am feeling much better. Now if I could only lose the 15 pounds I gained after going Gluten Free. By the way I love your articles, they are very helpful in the fight against food allergies and Celiacs Disease.


    13 Jun
  4. Todd


    Hello Dr Vikki,

    I just stumbled onto your blog and videos when doing some research today. I found this information on cross reactivity very informative, and based on my personal experience quite accurate unfortunately. Thanks for sharing.

    I have been on a gluten free diet now for over 4 years after struggling to find answers to my strange health problems. I’m 25 years old, and now thanks to an amazing naturopath and integrative health physician I am in fairly good health after numerous heart and nervous system disorders. I have several other allergies to things like dairy and eggs. I had a test done by Bio Tek Lab which seems to be really accurate. I’m extremely careful of all of my sensitive foods, and basically only eat whole plant foods, with the indulgence of the occasional plate of rice pasta….

    Anyway. That being said. I feel fairly good most of the time, however I’m curious what kind of things I can do to improve my digestion and potentially help fully heal my gi tract fully after all of this time? Without being overly graphic, I still feel like I have a lot of food that doesn’t fully digest in my system like it should. While I don’t take many supplements I do regularly take things like probiotics and fish oil to help with inflammation and good bacterial colonization of the gut… It sounds like I could have leaky gut maybe. Anything else you can suggest to help with good digestion and gi tract healing for me??? I appreciate any information you can give me, as I’m not able to visit a good doctor at this point in time as I live abroad doing volunteer work.

    13 Jun
  5. Elyssa


    Dear Dr. Vikki:

    My name is Elyssa, and I have two celiac children. Aiven is my oldest, he is 3 1/2, and has a terrible time with gluten. We have a GF home, and I pack and bring most of his meals, and despite all of my efforts, he still shows symptoms more often than I would like to see. (I would prefer never to have to deal with my son in such pain and with such disorderly bowels, but I know it will be like this sometimes) I am wondering, is it possible that cucumbers may mimic the characteristics of gluten? I am finding more frequently that Aiven is having severe bouts of diahrrea, and it seems to be after consumption of cucumbers… crazy? I am at a loss as to what it may be, but I have been searching for answers desperately, and came across this article, and thought maybe you could help us. Thnk you for your time.

    Elyssa and Aiven

    13 Jun
  6. 6

    Hello Elyssa,

    Sorry for the delay in responding. While I have no data that the protein in cucumbers can mimic gluten, is it possible there is wax or some other substance on the cucumbers Aiven is eating? Or, could it be something else entirely? We typically find that once the secondary effects of gluten are addressed, healing occurs. This happens quite readily in little ones.

    If you’d like you can call us for a free health analysis – 408-733-0400. We are here to help!

    Dr Vikki

    13 Jun
  7. Danish


    Hi!! corn makes me puffy, oats have to be bobs mills GF oats abd soaked overnight. I’m replacing coffee with Dandy Blend…. Rice, no problem. Quinoa, well all grains in super moderation. I’ve been GF for 6 years now. I eat only Raw pastured dairy. eat organic, no Gmo and no soy. Soy and corn are highly Gmo Our food supply in the US is contaminated. Thanks Monsanto! Thanks factory farming! Urgh.
    Here’s my protocol-
    Barleans Omega Swirl Fish oil.
    Liquid Chlorophyll ( lots!)
    Nacent Iodine Drops
    Cal Mag
    Bio K probiotic
    Dr Natura Colonix products
    Triphala ( Ayurveda)
    B12 injected.
    Cocnut oil

    I feel amazing!!! Sending love to my GF friends!

    13 Jun
  8. Rose


    Dr Vicki–

    Is it possible to eliminate 1/2 this list, and if i still have problems eliminate the others one at a time–basically instead of “ALL” at once?

    My Gluten reaction was primarily related to nerve pain in my hands and feet, while immensely better, I do have some in my fingers still, it is shooting pain.

    I would like not to give up coffee and brown rice if I can, unless it is the culprit…

    thanks for this awareness!

    Rose Edwards
    Knoxville, TN

    13 Jun
  9. Reece Newton


    I was wondering if you had any thoughts regarding how GMO’s and/or non-organic dairy factor into possibly causing or adding additional irritation to gluten intolerance, and or cross reactivity? We have all become science experiments for the food industry over the last 30 plus years. Is it possible that if we got rid of the GMO’s, the processed food chemicals, the non organic dairy with its antibiotics and steroids and non-gmo feed, that there would be a significantly less percentage of the population that is experiencing gluten intolerance, and or cross reactivity?

    13 Jun
  10. 10

    It’s an interesting question Reece. Much of the reason we have gluten sensitivity, celiac disease and autoimmune diseases, for that matter, is believed to rooted in the poor health of our small intestines. What causes that? Much of the stressors and toxins you mention in your question.

    It is unfortunate that we are the ill effect of an ‘industry’ that instead of nourishing us is actually toxifying us. All we can do is make our best effort to eat organically and avoid as many ‘un-foods’ at possible.

    Let me know if I can be of any assistance to you.

    13 Jun
  11. 11

    Dear Rose,
    The foods that are potentially ‘permanent’ as cross-reactive foods are only four: rice, millet, yeast and corn. The rest seem to be temporary.

    I hope that helps!

    Dr Vikki

    13 Jun
  12. Hev


    I’m coeliac – three years now. Initially I did very well and was feeling great, however last year I had to give up several other things especially coffee and corn. Both gave me ‘glutening’ symptoms. I am now grain free, cow’s milk free, yeast free and soya free. I’m also highly allergic to pineapple.

    13 Jun
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