Health Secret: Apple Cider Vinegar

What Makes Apple Cider Vinegar So Special?

Let’s talk about THE most talked about “natural remedy” – Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV for short). The list goes on and on regarding its uses: from household cleaning supplies to cosmetic purposes to first aid.

A brief history of ACV dates all the way back to ancient Egypt, Rome and Greece. The Roman Army apparently used an ACV tonic to stay strong and healthy. Japanese Samurai warriors used to drink it for strength and power. Also, it is said that Cleopatra used ACV to wash her face. ACV contains antibacterial and anti-fungal properties that balance the skin’s pH. It’s a natural, simple beauty secret that keeps your skin clean and fresh!

Here are just some of the purported benefits:

Eases digestion
Aids in flu prevention
Reduces inflammation
Regulates pH balance
Eases nausea and heartburn
A main ingredient in detox regimens
Helps reduce acne
Smoothes wrinkles
Stops hair loss
Soothes sore throat
Lowers blood pressure
Treats bladder infection, and
Slows the growth of cancer.

Choose Carefully

Before you run to the store and start drinking the first ACV you find, make sure you find the right kind.

Follow these rules when buying ACV:

  1. It must be organic and raw. Raw means that it does not undergo any chemical process or filtration to make it clear. It is unprocessed and unheated. Never confuse clear, sparkling vinegar with ACV – this vinegar doesn’t have any healthy properties like ACV and can actually be dangerous. The uglier it looks, the healthier it is!
  2. Stay away from plastic. As we know, plastic can leak toxins into the liquid it holds. Always opt for the glass bottle.
  3. Buy with the “Mother” in it. The Mother is the brown stuff you see floating around the ACV that collects at the bottom. It looks a little yucky, but it’s SO good for you. It’s the result of fermentation and contains enzymes and live bacteria. This is what makes the apple cider vinegar so healthy.

Why does ACV contain so many healing properties? The secret may lie in its alkalizing effect! Even though ACV is acidic, it creates an alkaline environment in your body which is the exact opposite of what most diseases require to thrive. It is an acidic environment that is associated with most degenerative diseases we are trying to avoid.

How to take your daily dose of ACV


  • 1 Tbs of apple cider vinegar
  • 250mL of water (about 8oz)
  • A couple drops of Natural Stevia

ACV is very acidic, so it’s important to dilute it with water. Drinking ACV straight may damage tooth enamel or cause burning when swallowing. It may taste a bit sour, but the drops of stevia should help – and the benefits are well worth it!

If you need assistance improving your health, we’re here for you. Consider contacting us for a FREE consultation – 408.733.0400.

To your great health,

Dr. Vikki Petersen, DC, CCN
Certified Practitioner Functional Medicine Practitioner
Founder of HealthNOW Medical Center
Author of “The Gluten Effect”

Are Green Veggies Dangerous?

I really feel for Americans who are trying to eat healthy. Let’s take a good friend of mine who recently developed a painful kidney stone, not her first. After a “lovely” trip to the ER where she came home with painkillers and anti-inflammatories (she dislikes taking drugs and typically avoids them at all costs), she tried to get educated about her condition.

As an intelligent woman, she wanted to get to the “root cause” of WHY she was continuing to develop these painful kidney stones. The ER doctor couldn’t answer that question.

She doesn’t smoke, she is not remotely overweight, she drinks almost no alcohol and is, on the face of it, healthy. But is she? Can she be “perfectly” healthy when her body continues to make kidney stones? Obviously the answer is “no” and she realizes it. In the hospital they ran a blood test and found her “healthy”…

What a predicament. Her internet research revealed that kidney stones can come from eating a lot of meat, something she had been doing more so during the past 6 months. Yet the internet also spoke of the dangers of food containing oxalates, something found in spinach and nuts and seeds and green tea – some foods she had recently tried to increase to improve her health!

The dilemma is obvious: What’s a person to do when the meat, vegetables, nuts, seeds, etc ALL can potentially cause the problem she’s so desperate to avoid? Stop eating? She considered, briefly, radically limiting her diet to something that wasn’t at all healthy. But can you blame her? Kidney stones are VERY painful and wishing to avoid such pain could cause you to feel a bit desperate.

Let’s look at some facts about what truly causes kidney stones and whether those spinach smoothies are good or bad.

As long as you don’t suffer from the following diseases, everything I’m about to say is valid. These diseases are: hypercalciuria type II and hyperoxaluria (primary and enteric). If you haven’t been diagnosed with either of them, then read on.

The good news is that there is no evidence that consuming green smoothies with spinach puts you at any increased risk for developing kidney stones. In fact, quite the contrary is the truth. While oxalates can definitely cause kidney stones, the vast majority of oxalates found within the human body (on the order of 80 to 90%) are produced from within the liver as a function of carbohydrate metabolism. In other words it’s not the high-oxalate foods you need to avoid, but rather the foods that CAUSE you to produce oxalates within the liver that prove problematic.

The conditions required to precipitate out oxalates to form calcium-oxalate stones are quite specific and have no correlation to ingestion of spinach, other greens, nuts or seeds.

Steps to Take to Reduce Risk of Forming Kidney Stones:

  1. Dehydration – too many Americans consume insufficient water. My friend admitted to falling into this category; she simply did not consume enough water. Water puts things into solution and insufficient water pulls things out of solution. Hydration is a big part of avoiding kidney stones. Consume ½ your body weight in ounces of clean water each day.
  2. Acidity – the pH of the urine is determined by your diet. When you are too acidic you are more likely to form stones. What creates acidic urine? The consumption of refined carbohydrates and animal protein. What creates alkaline urine? Consumption of vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds that are rich in natural sources of calcium, magnesium and potassium. In fact the one comment made by the hospital of my friend’s blood tests was that she was low in potassium. And no, that doesn’t mean you should just eat a lot of bananas!
  3. Probiotics – I mentioned two conditions earlier and it is worth noting that even with either of those present, taking probiotics for two months reduced the saturation of the urine to such a degree that stone formation was reduced 25%. Therefore in the presence of these conditions, ¼ cup of spinach, or its equivalent is still allowed daily, and adding a probiotic adds a protective buffer.
  4. Listen to the experts… the REAL experts – the British Association of Urological Surgeons published, in concert with the international medical community across all specialties, the following: “Dietary advice to increase the consumption of fiber and reduce the consumption of sugar, refined carbohydrates and animal protein produced a significant reduction in the urinary excretion of calcium, oxalate and uric acid.”
  5. Vitamin D and K – Make sure you are not taking vitamin D without also including vitamin K. This is crucial for anyone at risk of heart disease, kidney stones or any calcium deposition in organs or tissues, such as arthritis, bone spurs and more. Click here to read the blog that explains this important association. [p.s. This is what was actually wrong with this patient. It wasn’t oxalate consumption, but rather self administering vitamin D such that it created an elevated level, while neglecting vitamin K.]


How do you best follow this advice? Simply eat a plant based diet rich in vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds and avoid animal protein, sugar and refined grains.


The best part of this data is that is does more than reduce your risk of kidney stones. It makes sense, doesn’t it, that what’s healthy for one part of your body would be healthy for ALL of your body? It certainly wouldn’t make sense that something that kept your kidneys happy would hurt your heart, your brain or some other organ. Well the good news is that it doesn’t work that way. The advice of avoiding animal protein, added sugar and refined carbohydrates, while staying hydrated and eating plenty of vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds and beans, is advice that will also lessen your risk of cancer, obesity, heart disease, diabetes and autoimmune disease!

If you have questions or need specific help improving a condition that you suffer with, you are always free to contact me to schedule a FREE phone consultation – call 408-733-0400. We specialize in root cause medicine.

I look forward to hearing from you!

Dr Vikki Petersen, DC, CCN, Certified Functional Medicine Practitioner

Founder of HealthNOW Medical Center

Author of “The Gluten Effect”

Dangers of Vitamin D

Hello Summer!

Hopefully you’ve been told the importance of getting adequate vitamin D while simultaneously protecting your skin. Summer may bring longer sunny days to the northern hemisphere, but unless you live fairly close to the equator and have light skin, the sun’s rays are likely insufficient to normalize your D levels.

Getting a blood test is the only accurate way to assess current levels. Fortunately they are fairly affordable and if your result is less than 50 ng/mL, you are in very good company, but not at an ideal, healthy level. In fact, while those of us specializing in root cause medicine and functional medicine like to see our patients’ levels about 50 ng/mL on their blood tests, a level of 20 – 30 is considered “normal” by most labs. Yet approximately 85% of Americans score below even that.

The dangers of low levels of vitamin D are associated with a very long list of symptoms and diseases. From increased risk of heart disease and seventeen different types of cancer, to obesity, decreased bone health and autoimmune disease; the list is truly staggering.

What is Vitamin D & K?

Vitamin D is called a “vitamin” when in fact that’s a misnomer. D is actually a steroid hormone, capable of influencing over 3,000 genes in the human body. When we say “influence”, we mean that vitamin D has power to prevent or worsen a wide variety of diseases through its ability to “turn on and off” genes. No man is an island as the expression goes, and vitamin D, too, needs a little help to perform its job correctly.

Vitamin D, specifically D3, and vitamin K2 play very nicely together. The benefits of vitamin D, of which there are many, are greatly enhanced when proper levels of vitamin K exist in the body. Bone and heart health are chief amongst the organs benefiting, although there are many.

Interestingly, when I was trained as a doctor, vitamin K was associated with blood clotting as its predominant role – a deficiency of K would be associated with an inability to cause one’s blood to clot. When a patient didn’t appear to have such a problem, it was assumed vitamin K levels were sufficient. Recent research refutes that theory.

Insufficient vitamin K2 leads to heart disease, osteoporosis, brain function problems including dementia, prostate, lung, and liver cancer, plus infectious diseases. As research continues, the list grows.

Vitamin K, a fat soluble vitamin, is a teammate to vitamin D that prevents it from having a “dark side”. Some interesting research showed that vitamin D could “cause heart disease”. On the face of it such research made no sense as there was much evidence to the contrary. However, it wasn’t inaccurate and herein lies the story of vitamin K, something we should all know to ensure optimal health of our bones, heart and more.

The potential “dark side” comes from how vitamin D and K interact with a major mineral, calcium. Vitamin D ensures absorption of calcium. This sounds good, right? It’s good for bone health, but is not beneficial when you realize that a cause of heart disease is calcium in the arteries, known as atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries. Is calcium the villain? No, it’s not. Calcium is simply being deposited incorrectly. If the calcium was traveling to the bones it would be fine, it’s a deposition in the arteries, kidneys or joints that create unwanted disease.

The nutrient needed to balance D and calcium, vitamin K2, has a rate of deficiency as bad as vitamin D’s. It’s estimated that 80% of our population is deficient in K. This is a large problem because it is the job of vitamin K to direct calcium to the proper location in the body, and prevent it from depositing where it shouldn’t, such as in the arteries, organs and joints. Calcium deposits are associated with a long list of diseases including: heart disease, obesity, diabetes, colon cancer, breast cancer, Alzheimer’s, hypothyroidism, ovarian cysts, fibrocystic breasts, bone spurs and more.

If you or anyone you know suffers from such conditions, it’s a good bet a deficiency in vitamin K2 exists. According to researchers, “nearly everyone” is deficient in vitamins D3 and K2.

How does vitamin K2 perform its “magic” in directing calcium accurately? It activates a hormone, osteocalcin, which is required to bind calcium into the bone. The same hormone prevents calcium from depositing in places it shouldn’t. Isn’t the human body amazing? It ensures calcium is placed in the correct places, keeping bones strong, while preventing it from being deposited where it shouldn’t. But in order for the body to perform this job flawlessly, it requires an adequate amount of vitamin K2, something most of us just don’t have.

Worrisome is the current attention put on vitamin D deficiency and the need of D3 supplementation, while there is a concurrent lack of awareness of vitamin K’s important role. If an individual takes vitamin D3 due to deficiency but ignores a probably deficiency of vitamin K2, a likely scenario is increased calcium absorption from the effects of D, but inappropriate calcium deposition due to a lack of K2. And yes, this does equate to increasing one’s risk of disease due to taking vitamin D.

It’s sad to think one is doing potential damage through taking such an amazing vitamin as D, but the truth of its relationship to vitamin K is incredibly important to know. Studies confirm vitamin K2 intake is inversely correlated with cardiovascular disease and mortality, meaning getting adequate amounts of K decrease your risk of heart disease and extend your life expectancy.

The safety of vitamin K is high. There have been no adverse effects associated with taking high doses. Our favorite multiple vitamin has a good dose of K and D to prevent deficiency, and if a patient tests low in D despite taking the multiple, our go-to additional formulation has a nice balance of both nutrients to prevent D levels from ever becoming a liability. Foods that contain a significant amount of vitamin K include green tea, turnip greens, broccoli, kale, spinach, cabbage, asparagus, and dark green lettuce. Chlorophyll is the substance in plants that gives them their green color and provides vitamin K. Freezing foods may destroy vitamin K, but heating does not affect it.

Patients who are taking blood thinners should consult with their doctor before taking vitamin K.

Our recommendation:

  1. Get your vitamin D level tested. If it’s below 50 ng/mL, contact us and we can help you with a correct dosage to optimize your level to a healthy one.
  2. There is no accurate lab test for vitamin K as of this writing, therefore ensure you are taking vitamin K with D. Even if you are in the minority and don’t require “extra” D, find a multiple that has a balance of both. We can help you with suggestions.
  3. Get your calcium from plant sources such as dark green leafy vegetables. Dairy products are not a good source of absorbable calcium and the proof lies in the fact that countries with the highest dairy consumption have the highest rate of weakened bones or osteoporosis.
  4. For strong bones, a balance of minerals is crucial. Calcium is only a single constituent of bone. Therefore, don’t take calcium supplements on their own and do get a good balance of all necessary minerals from a good multiple, plus dietary Himalayan sea salt is a great source of all the trace minerals.

Click HERE to visit our vitamin store. Order the Liquid Vitamin D3 with K2 and multi-vitamin you need.

If you need assistance improving your health, we’re here for you. Contact us for a free consultation – 408.733.0400.

To your great health,

Dr. Vikki Petersen, DC, CCN
Certified Practitioner Functional Medicine Practitioner
Founder of HealthNOW Medical Center
Author of “The Gluten Effect”

Warning: 5 Sun Safety Tips

How Much Sun is Safe?

July is UV awareness month so while getting some rays on your skin has some health benefits, sun damage and burning should be avoided at all costs.

The sun helps us produce vitamin D. Vitamin D, (actually a hormone), boosts a long list of diseases it protects against, including cancer. Click here to read more about the dangers of Vitamin D. But too much sun causes cancer. Is there a “sweet spot” where you can safely get sun and enjoy its benefits without increasing your risk of skin cancer?

Here at HealthNOW we promote a strong plant-based diet.

Did you know that if you eat greens or beets and then go out into the sun, you can enjoy a significant drop in blood pressure within 30 minutes of UV sun exposure?

Adequate sunlight throughout the day can ensure better melatonin production, your sleep hormone, at night. Melatonin is a cancer-protecting hormone.

Too much sun ages the skin visibly, accounting for wrinkles, loss of elasticity and thickening. Sun exposure, according to the experts, accounts for up to 90% of visible aging of the skin, making you look more than a decade older. The sun can also increase your risk of cataracts, but a brimmed hat and sunglasses help in that regard.

Of course the biggest concern is the risk of skin cancer, something that affects millions of Americans each year, plus thousands lose their lives. Melanoma, the most frightening cancer of the skin is deadly and its incidence is rising among young women. Tanning beds are blamed for this, and along with excess sun, accounts for about 75% of the melanoma cancers amongst young people. It’s so concerning that laws are being passed to prohibit tanning bed use to minors. Tanning beds emit dangerous UVA rays, cancer-causing but won’t cause vitamin D production.

For more in depth information on vitamin D, visit our recent blog here.

Healthy Skin and Sun Bathing Tips:

1. Apply the right sunscreen. Don’t rely only on the SPF number listed, look for the term “broad spectrum” or the UVA logo plus the word “high”. One of our favorite brands is La Roche-Posay Anthelios.

Go for SPF30 vs. SPF50. “30” filters 97% of UVB rays, while “50” filters 98% – no substantive difference. “50” can be so chalky you may not want to reapply it every two hours as you should. If you have very dark skin, SPF15 is likely sufficient.

2. Moderate your time in the sun. If you’re trying to get a nice glow it’s good to know there is a finite amount of time that cells require to produce maximum melanin, and thereby a tan or sun-kissed glow.

Typically this time frame is two to three hours, but less if you have fair skin. Staying in the sun beyond that time-frame is asking for UV damage.

3. Eat sun-friendly foods and nutrients. The antioxidant lycopene found in tomatoes and other red and orange fruits and veggies, have a benefit of adding increased sun protection to your skin.

The antioxidant polyphenol, found in green tea, plus flavonoids found in dark chocolate (Yay!) are also skin protecting.

4. Avoid tanning beds.

5. Lastly, when in doubt, find some shade and apply some self-tanner. You will thank yourself later.

If you need assistance improving your health, we’re here for you. Contact us for a free consultation – 408.733.0400.

To your great health,

Dr. Vikki Petersen, DC, CCN
Certified Practitioner Functional Medicine Practitioner
Founder of HealthNOW Medical Center
Author of “The Gluten Effect”

Root Cause Medicine: What Causes Inflammation?

Mother Nature is smart; she’s brilliant in fact. How do I know? Having been trained for decades in the constantly evolving area of functional medicine and root cause medicine, it has become very clear that the worsening state of health on our planet, and most especially here in the U.S., stems from rampant, out of control inflammation. Inflammation is the known initiator of all the chronic degenerative diseases so plaguing our citizens, both young and old. What causes inflammation and how do we fix it? At our Bay Area Functional Medicine Clinic, we encourage you to enjoy Mother Nature’s bounties—the natural ones that are free of GMO, chemicals, pesticides, etc.

“No” and “Oh No” – The Story of Two Evil Inflammatory Substances

“NO” actually stands for nitric oxide. “Oh no”, is factually peroxynitrite and is correctly written “ONOO“ but pronounced “oh no” for ease. It also makes it easy to remember they are both BAD for you. Don’t worry about the strange words, remembering them as No and Oh no will serve you just fine. NO forms into ONOO and both are what causes inflammation. ONOO initiates a complex cycle responsible for many chronic inflammatory conditions.

Researcher Martin Pall, PhD is a professor from Washington State University and is well known for his work in this area. He recently made a breakthrough in what causes inflammation when he stumbled across a compound named Nrf2 (pronounced “Nerf 2”. Yes it’s fine to attach the connotation of something that’s fun and safe, like a nerf ball to this substance. It’s definitely a “good guy” as it does keep you safe from illness)!

Nrf2 raises antioxidants in the cells and has highly significant anti-inflammatory effects. It is considered a central regulator where health promoting factors in the body can come together to protect us from, according to Dr. Pall, “essentially all the chronic inflammatory states”. When discussing what causes inflammation one therefore cannot miss including the effects of this superstar, Nrf2.

We know that we would like to avoid the NO/ONOO cycle. It turns out the Nrf2 IS the substance that from an evolutionary standpoint allows us to do just that. Nrf2 allows us to avoid the inflammatory conditions associated with NO and ONOO production. To date, Dr. Pall has published papers on 23 different diseases linked in some way to NO/ONOO.

Dr. Pall was amazed to learn that Nrf2 is an incredibly complex, highly evolved system that suppresses or quiets the NO/ONOO cycle. In his opinion, you only find that type of highly evolved set of responses when nature has decided something is very important.

We know that inflammation kills, so when looking into what causes inflammation, we find NO/ONOO. And it turns out that our very smart Mother Nature has provided Nrf2 to prevent NO/ONOO from creating inflammatory disease. Note that Nrf2 is best at prevention. There is less evidence that it reverses disease, but Dr. Pall is hopeful that it may be useful for treatment in the future.

“Magic” Inflammation Fighting Foods

There are six nutrient types that raise Nrf2 levels and they include the following variety of foods. I would highly recommend that you work to include each type in your diet:

1. Tomatoes, purple sweet potato and leafy green vegetablesCarotenoid (Ker-Aht-En-Oyd) nutrient group

2. Onions and garlic—Allium nutrient group

3. Herbs—such as parsley, rosemary, oregano, thyme, sage, saffron, bay leaves, legumes, eggplant, many leafy green vegetables, Chinese broccoli, purple sweet potato, black rice, olives and olive oil—Phenolic (Fee-No-Lick) antioxidant group

4. Walnuts, coldwater fish, leafy green vegetables that provide fatty acid precursors—Omega-3 fatty acids group

5. Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and daikon radish—Isothiocyanates (I-So-Thigh-O-Si-An-Ates) nutrient group

6. Mediterranean herbs (see list above), olives, peel of fruits and eggplant—Terpenoids nutrient group

What Causes Inflammation?

What causes inflammation is the initiation of the NO/ONOO cycle. What initiates that cycle? Toxins, chemicals, GMOs, fast foods, drugs, artificial flavors, colors, sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup—and sadly, the typical American diet generally speaking.

What stops inflammation? Nrf2. How do we increase production of Nrf2? The foods are listed above. Did you see how often green vegetables were mentioned? I put them in bold so you wouldn’t miss them! It turns out that our friendly dark green leafy vegetables are present in almost every category. You would do yourself and your family a great health benefit that will increase longevity by learning to cook and enjoy organic green vegetables. I promise you that properly prepared, they are delicious!

You are welcome to watch my “Dr. Vikki’s Kitchen” videos on YouTube where I teach you how to quickly create healthy food that your entire family can enjoy.

When helping our patients at our Bay Area Functional Medicine clinic overcome a multitude of problems—from obesity to heart disease, from diabetes to autoimmune disease—lessening inflammation is the core of our approach. There are many causes and all possible sources must be evaluated for success to occur. Food sensitivities must be identified, so too must infections if they are present. Sources of toxins must be isolated. But the lynchpin when identifying what causes inflammation is to “arm” the body with a strong ability to defend itself, and interestingly enough, that comes from food.

Do you need help in identifying what causes inflammation in your body? We at HealthNOW Bay Area Functional Medicine clinic are here for you. Call us to schedule a FREE CONSULTATION: 408-733-0400.

Dr. Vikki Petersen, DC, CCN
IFM Certified Practitioner
Founder of HealthNOW Medical Center
Author of “The Gluten Effect”

Inflammation Causes Disease: How to Reverse It (Part 2)

Learn what to do in your day-to-day life to reduce inflammation, avoid disease and get healthy. Here are some easy steps from a doctor and author.

Inflammation Causes Disease: How to Reverse It (Part 1)

Inflammation creates most degenerative disease including heart disease, cancer, diabetes, depression and autoimmune disease. Simple changes in diet and lifestyle can lessen inflammation and reduce your incidence of the major diseases killing most Americans.

Inflammation: How it Causes Disease

Inflammation is the underlying root cause of most all degenerative disease. Cancer, heart disease, diabetes, obesity and autoimmune disease—inflammation is at the root.
What can you do to decrease your inflammation and thereby disease risk?
Watch and learn from my video.

NO tiredness, LOTS of energy, NO pains!

I complained that I was exhausted all of the time, my gut hurt most of the time and I had chronically inflamed and painful sinuses, AND the medical profession didn’t have a clue what to do with me as I appeared otherwise ‘healthy’ and they could find no CAUSE for the above problem.

Dr. Petersen said, ‘Be patient and work with us and I promise you that we’ll do everything we can to fix you up and get you feeling healthy again.’ Well, it’s been an adventure!

Our first major discovery was that when I eat gluten in any form my body mounts an immune response and I feel horrible all of the time.

3 months after quitting all gluten my gut quit aching, my tendonitis in my arms cleared up, my enlarged tonsils shrunk away to nothing, my sinuses got 100% better (after 25 years of pain!) and I felt much better.

The doctors never gave up on me, even though I live 2 ½ hours away and couldn’t visit often, they continued to check in on me with ‘How are you doing NOW?’

Well, with the most recent discovery that I am very carbohydrate sensitive, I FINALLY feel HEALTHY again. NO tiredness, LOTS of energy, no pains, no stomach aches, no sinus problems … YEAH!!!!

This note is to say ‘Thank You’… my life is happy and wonderful because I actually feel healthy ALL OF THE TIME!

If you need help with your Health, put yourself in their hands… they CAN help, they WANT to help, they LOVE helping and you’ll feel better… just remember, be patient!

— C.K.

Photographer, Sacramento