Wheat Belly: Frequently Asked Questions

If you’re wondering what the heck this whole Wheat Belly thing is all about, here’s a good place to start.

Is wheat really that bad? I thought that whole grains were good for you?
First of all, it ain’t wheat. It’s the product of 40 years of genetics research aimed at increasing yield-per-acre. The result is a genetically-unique plant that stands 2 feet tall, not the 4 1/2-foot tall “amber waves of grain” we all remember. The genetic distance modern wheat has drifted exceeds the difference between chimpanzees and humans. If you caught your son dating a chimpanzee, could you tell the difference? Of course you can! What a difference 1% can make. But that’s more than modern wheat is removed from its ancestors.

Why do you make the claim that removing all wheat from the diet results in weight loss? ?
Because I’ve seen it happen–over and over and over again. It’s lost from the deep visceral fat that resides within the abdomen, what can be represented on the surface as “love handles,” “muffin top,” or a darned good imitation of a near-term baby, what I call a “wheat belly.”

Typically, people who say goodbye to wheat lose a pound a day for the first 10 days. Weight loss then slows to yield 25-30 pounds over the subsequent 3-6 months (differing depending on body size, quality of diet at the start, male vs. female, etc.). When you remove wheat from the diet, you’ve removed a food that leads to fat deposition in the abdomen. Factor in that the gliadin protein unique to wheat that is degraded to a morphine-like compound that stimulates appetite; remove it and appetite shrinks. The average daily calorie intake drops 400 calories per day–with less hunger, less cravings and food is more satisfying. This all occurs without imposing calorie limits, cutting fat grams, or limiting portion size. It all happens just by eliminating this thing called wheat.

When you examine food labels in the grocery store, you see that wheat is in nearly everything. Is it really practical to remove all wheat from the diet??
Yes, it is. It means a return to real food from the produce aisle, fish and meat department, nuts, eggs, olives, and oils.

It raises a crucial question: Just why is wheat such a ubiquitous ingredient in so many foods, from ice cream to French fries? That’s easy: Because it tastes good and it stimulates appetite. You want more wheat, you want more of everything else to the tune of 400 or more calories per day. More calories, more food, more revenue for Big Food. Wheat is not in cucumbers, green peppers, salmon, or walnuts. But it’s in over 90% of the foods on supermarket shelves, all there to stimulate your appetite center to consume more . . . and more and more.

It also means being equipped with recipes that allow you to recreate familiar recipes that you might miss, like cheesecake, cookies, and biscotti–without wheat, with little to no sugar or carbohydrate exposure, yet healthy. That’s what I’ve done in Wheat Belly.

So does it mean going gluten-free??
Yes, but do not eat gluten-free foods! Let me explain.

Wheat raises blood sugar higher than nearly all other foods, including table sugar and many candy bars. The few foods that increase blood sugar higher than even wheat include figs, dates, and other dried fruits, and rice starch, cornstarch, tapioca starch, and potato starch–the most common ingredients used in gluten-free foods. A gluten-free whole grain bread, for instance, is usually made with a combination of brown rice, potato, and tapioca starches. These dried pulverized starches are packed with highly-digestible high-glycemic index carbohydrates and thereby send blood sugar through the roof. This contributes to diabetes, cataracts, arthritis, heart disease and growing belly fat. This is why many celiac patients who forego wheat and resort to gluten-free foods become fat and diabetic. Gluten-free foods as they are currently manufactured are very poor substitutes for wheat flour.

Anyone who consumes gluten-free foods, like gluten-free muffins, should regard them as an occasional indulgence, no different than eating a bag of jelly beans.

What can you eat on the diet you advocate? ?
Eat real, natural foods such as eggs, raw nuts, plenty of vegetables, and fish, fowl, and meats. Use healthy oils like olive, walnut, and coconut liberally. Eat occasional fruit and plenty of avocado, olives, and use herbs and spices freely. Eat raw or least cooked whenever possible and certainly do not frequent fast food, processed snacks, or junk foods. While it may sound restrictive, a return to non-grain foods is incredibly rich and varied. Many people’s eyes have been closed to the great variety of foods available to us minus the wheat.

Recall that people who are wheat-free consume, on average, 400 calories less per day and are not driven by the 90-120 minute cycle of hunger that is common to wheat. It means you eat when you are hungry and you eat less. It means a breakfast of 3 eggs with green peppers and sundried tomatoes, olive oil, and mozzarella cheese for breakfast at 7 am and you’re not hungry until 1 pm. That’s an entirely different experience than the shredded wheat cereal in skim milk at 7 am, hungry for a snack at 9 am, hungry again at 11 am, counting the minutes until lunch. Eat lunch at noon, sleepy by 2 pm, etc. All of this goes away by banning wheat from the diet, provided the lost calories are replaced with real healthy foods.

What exactly is in wheat that makes it so bad??
Gluten is only one of the reasons to fear wheat, since it triggers a host of immune diseases like celiac, rheumatoid arthritis, and gluten encephalopathy (dementia from wheat).

The protein unique to wheat, gliadin, a component of gluten proteins, is odd in that it is degraded in the human gastrointestinal tract to polypeptides (small proteins) that have the ability to cross into the brain and bind to morphine receptors. These polypeptides have been labeled gluteomorphin or exorphins (exogenous morphine-like compounds) by National Institutes of Health researchers. Wheat exorphins cause a subtle euphoria in some people. This may be part of the reason wheat products increase appetite and cause addiction-like behaviors in susceptible people. It also explains why a drug company has made application to the FDA for the drug naltrexone, an oral opiate-blocking drug ordinarily used to keep heroine addicts drug-free, for weight loss. Block the brain morphine receptor and weight loss (about 22 pounds over 6 months) results. But there’s only one food that yields substantial morphine-like compounds: yes, wheat.

The complex carbohydrate unique to wheat, amylopectin A, is another problem source. The branching structure of wheat’s amylopectin A is more digestible than the amylopectins B and C from rice, beans, and other starches (i.e., in their natural states, not the gluten-free dried pulverized starches). This explains why two slices of whole wheat bread increase blood sugar higher than table sugar, higher than a bowl of brown rice, higher than many candy bars. Having high blood sugars repeatedly is not good for health. It leads to accumulated visceral fat–a “wheat belly,” diabetes and pre-diabetes (defined, of course, as having higher blood sugars), not to mention cataracts, arthritis, and heart disease.

As if that wasn’t enough, there are even other components of wheat that are harmful, such as the lectins in wheat. Lectins are glycoproteins that have the curious ability to “unlock” the proteins lining the human intestinal tract that determine what substances can enter the blood or lymphatic system and what substances cannot. The intestinal tract must be selective in what is allowed to enter the human body else all manner of diseases can be triggered, especially autoimmune diseases. Wheat lectins disable these proteins. This is the suspected explanation for why wheat consumption has been linked to rheumatoid arthritis, skin diseases like dermatitis herpetiformis, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, and a variety of other inflammatory diseases.

Beyond gluten, there are over 1000 other proteins in wheat that also have potential for odd or unexpected responses. You might say that wheat is a perfectly crafted Frankengrain that almost appears like it was created to exert maximum health damage in the most desirable, irresistible form possible. I really don’t believe that this monster was created on purpose to hurt people. But the astounding collection of adverse effects, all packed into one food, pushed on us by the U.S. government and other “official” health agencies, explains why this one thing has exerted more harm on us than any foreign terrorist group can inflict on us.

If I go wheat-free, is there any harm in having an occasional bagel or cupcake?
It depends. It depends on your individual susceptibility to the effects of wheat.

If you have celiac disease or any of the long list of inflammatory or autoimmune diseases associated with wheat (rheumatoid arthritis, cerebellar ataxia, peripheral neuropathy, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, dermatitis herpetiformis, etc.), then wheat and gluten avoidance should be complete and meticulous. There’s now way around this and compromises can be disastrous.

If you have an addictive relationship with wheat, e.g. one pretzel makes you want to eat the whole bag, then complete avoidance is also advisable. Because wheat consumption in the 30% of people with this problem cannot stop themselves once it starts, it is best to avoid wheat-containing foods altogether.

Yet another odd observation: Many, though not all, people who have removed wheat from their diet for at least several months have what I call “wheat re-exposure reactions” usually experienced as abdominal cramps, gas, and diarrhea (just like food poisoning); asthma attacks in the susceptible; joint swelling and pain; and emotional effects such as anxiety in women and rage in men. I’ve witnessed many people go wheat-free, feel great, lose 30 pounds, then have an emotional blowup at a birthday party after indulging in just a small piece of birthday cake, then spending the next 24 hours on the toilet with diarrhea.

There are indeed a percentage (20-30%?) of people who can get away with occasional indulgences. Sometimes it’s a matter of running a little test yourself to gauge your reaction. Anyone with a history of autoimmune or inflammatory diseases, or having had celiac markers like an anti-gliadin antibody test positive, however, should not even try this.

If I stop consuming wheat, won’t I develop deficiencies of fiber and B vitamins or other nutrients?

Absolutely not–provided the lost calories are replaced by real, healthy foods. If you replace lost wheat calories with Twinkies, Hohos, and corn chips, then deficiencies can indeed develop. So it’s important to replace lost calories with healthy foods.

If the calories formerly dominated by wheat are replaced with vegetables, raw nuts, cheeses, meats, avocados, healthy oils and other healthy foods, then no deficiency develops. Fiber intake is easily the same or greater than a wheat-containing diet. No deficiency of any nutrient develops: no deficiency of riboflavin, folate, selenium, thiamine, etc. All nutrients are provided in adequate quantities just by returning to real, unprocessed and healthy foods–not a bagel or ciabatta in sight.

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293 Responses to Wheat Belly: Frequently Asked Questions


    HI DOCTOR, I have been diagnosed with Meniers disease, and I have frequent episodes of vertigo. My first bad episode was when I ate a bowl of oatmeal. and I am pre-diabetic. I really don’t know what to eat for breakfast, lunch or dinner. I am afraid to eat anything, because I don’t kow what may trigger vertigo. Can you please help me. I bought your book and was wandering if you think wheat consumption may trigger vertigo and tinnitus. I have had this since 1998, diagnosed in 2007.

    • Dr. Davis says:

      Insufficient data and insufficient experience. HOWEVER, I have witness a couple of people obtain a reduction in attacks.

      There is nothing to lose by following the diet in the book, an approach that is wonderful inflammation-reducing and thereby beneficial across a wide spectrum of inflammatory/autoimmune conditions.

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  3. Tina says:

    Hi Dr Davis,
    I have rheumatoid arthritis and I am in the middle of reading your book however I am wondering if you have a grocery store shopping list and stores that you can get the food from? I am off my meds but my hands are killing me and I do not want to go back on them so please help? I am a person who needs a list of food to choose from since I have small children at home and I need to prepare meals in advance. Please help.
    Thank you

    • Dr. Davis says:

      Here is a basic starting list:

      Beyond the national chains like Trader Joes and Whole Foods, I’m afraid that you are on your own with the stores, as they differ city by city, region by region.

      • Theresa says:

        when a food says whole grain does that mean i shouldn’t eat if i am going wheat free

        • Boundless says:

          > when a food says whole grain does that mean
          > i shouldn’t eat if i am going wheat free

          Correct. Whole grain merely slows digestion of the poisons by a bit. The analogy is usually to filtered vs. unfiltered cigarettes.

          Big Grain(TM) has studies showing that whole grain is 5% less toxic than a processed grain diet. They did not test against a no-grain diet, much less against a low carb or ketogenic diet.

        • Dr. Davis says:

          Whole grain is the trap set for you by the misinformation of nutritional “science,” better called nutritional “fiction” or nutritional “misinformation.”

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  5. Trigger says:

    Dr. Davis, I have two questions #1, I had my gallbladder removed about 18 years ago, after severe pain. However once the surgeons removed it, one of them said the gallbladder wasn’t all that bad and he wouldn’t have taken it out had he known its real condition. (Don’t know why he then proceeded?) Anyway, I would like to try a wheat-free diet but am concerned that I cannot tolerate all the fat you recommend in your diet. I am forced to eat a fairly low-fat diet without my g.b. so are there any modifications you can suggest for me?
    #2 I suffer from an undiagnosed ailment that acts much like MS and I am anxious to see if a wheat-free diet will help with all those symptoms. The Dr’s cannot say what is wrong with me, as all tests seem to come back normal (although I have never been tested for celiac disease or gluten intolerance). I’ve had x-rays, MRI’s, ECG’s ultrasound, many blood and urine tests; and I suffer from recurring gall stones. Could all these possibly have a basis in wheat intolerance? The Dr’s are at a loss!
    I appreciate any insight you may have.

    • Trigger says:

      Oops, not gall stones, I meant kidney stones! And lifelong acne….

    • Dr. Davis says:

      Well, first of all, Trigger, please recognize that this is a blog and I cannot provide individual health information via this route.

      However, it is uncommon to not tolerate the higher intakes of fat that most of us follow. If you do, then there are solutions such as bile acid and pancreatic enzyme supplements that can help.

      I’d be surprised if wheat elimination failed to exert at least partial improvement in your neurological struggles. Note that, unlike issues like acid reflux or wrist pain that respond to wheat elimination within 3-5 days, neurological phenomena require a minimum of 6-12 months to respond, since they repair much more slowly.

  6. SharonP says:

    Dr. Davis,
    All the evils that you are attributing to wheat, does this apply to freshly milled wheat berries? I mill my own flour and make all my own bread products with only natural ingredients, such as olive oil, honey and organic eggs. How is this not healthy?

    • Dr. Davis says:

      Did you read the book, Sharon?

      If not, and you do, I predict that incredulity will give way to “You’ve got to be kidding me! Why was I not told any of this?”

  7. Perry says:

    What do you think of using rice flour or almond flour – either bulk binned or home made – to make your own bread with? I notice in the list you linked in the comments, you list brown rice as a limited item, and raw almonds as an unlimited item, and, well, home made almond flour is just raw ground and sifted almonds.

    • James says:

      Hi Perry,

      I grind my own almonds regularly for baking bread or other things. It is different than wheat flour for sure but easier to deal with somehow. You could to some extent mix it with buckwheat flour but I never tried and ground almonds do not really make a flour, it is more rough than that. To get real flour from almonds, you would need to remove the fat from them. That would be a shame to my mind although you can find such almond flour in some stores. I tried it once and did not really like it. Ground almonds are much better to my mind.


  8. Rozanne says:

    I have stage three kidney disease. How does going wheat free effect the kidneys?

  9. Jamie says:

    I am so excited to read Wheat Belly! I love your site and have been Wheat Free a week..I feel better.I’ve even lost some weight. My Chrohns is so much better. How long does it take to get the wheat out of my system? You rock!!!

    • Dr. Davis says:

      Thanks, Jamie!

      Well, the wheat is long gone, but not the immune and other physiologic consequences, from disruptions of bowel flora and pancreatic exocrine function, to neurological inflammation. This can take many months to fully recede. But it gets better and better!

  10. Ev Barney says:

    Dr Davis,

    I have watched videos in which you say that the best diet is grain free AND low carb. Of course, following your recommendations lowers carb consumption significantly, but do you have a recommended calorie-from-carb % or a number of grams that are a ‘limit’ for weight loss?

    Thank you.

    • Dr. Davis says:

      Most people do well by limiting their per meal carb intake to 15 grams or less “net” (total carbs minus fiber). This is also the threshold for provocation of small LDL formation.

  11. David Belles says:

    Question: Is Spelt Wheat or with spelt made bread/bakery products a good alternative to those made from whole wheat or other wheat derived flour? Or is it just a rose by another name? Thanks.

  12. Tanya says:

    I know this probably isn’t the correct place to ask this but is there an easy way to find your own comments in here? I tried the “My Messages” link below but it only takes me to the TYP thing which you pay for. I posted a question for Dr. Davis several days ago on some page but now I can’t find it. Sorry if this is a silly question.

    • Boundless says:

      Use an external search engine, such as Google. The local search apparently only searches base articles, and not responses.
      Restrict search to this blog, using the Advanced Search, or search string phrase:
      Search on your user name.
      Expect some false positives if your name was visible in “Recent Comments” at left, at the time the search engine indexed the content. Search also on the content, and in that regard, it helps if you keep a copy of the text you posted.
      It takes a day or so for the engines to index new content. Links for older content are often not direct, due to age-off of older content.
      The best way to track your discussions is to bookmark them. Right after you post them, the re-paint of the page is bookmarkable, but it will age off in time, too.
      I expect to eventually see a WB Forum, but until then, archive and bookmark.

  13. Jhangus says:

    Hello Dr.
    I am reading the book right now and I applaud your great work. I am curious if there are any heritage (non-GMO) wheat types that are okay to eat(doesn’t cause the same inflammation w/ your body? In the book you state that “this is not your grandma’s wheat”. Does that mean there is a wheat out there that doesn’t have the glycemic index that the GMO wheat has or is all wheat going to react with your body the same way? Is it the “filtered cigarette” analogy with non-GMO vs. GMO wheat?
    Thank you for opening my eyes to this issue.

    • Dr. Davis says:

      Well, I would regard older strains of wheat as less bad, not necessarily entirely benign.

      While modern semi-dwarf wheat is like an exaggeration of all the bad in wheat, the original still has the potential to make you diabetic, gain weight, etc. but just not as vigorously as modern wheat.

    • Boundless says:

      All wheat, all the way back to einkorn (if a modern harvest really is einkorn) still contains gluten.

      Also, there is no GMO wheat [yet]. The current frankengrains were mutated by means other than explicit gene insertion. See:

  14. S A Hannah says:

    For the last 10 days, I’ve been wheat free.
    Is it normal to fell sick to your stomach?

    • Dr. Davis says:

      Normal? Absolutely not.

      Expected? Yes. It is the withdrawal from the opiate in wheat that lasts around 3-5 days.

  15. Tandi says:

    Would juicing wheat and barley grasses be ok? I am not sure how far reaching the ‘frankengrain’ effects are but we enjoy adding these boosting juices to the family smoothies. I can see reasonably why each way would make sense so you’ll have to be the final word on this one. Thank you for your books and for helping our little family to reach for better health. We already eliminated all things artificial ( colors, flavors and preservatives) for the sake of the children’s hyperactivity. But even so we found no help for the weight that kept keeping up on dad. So far, NO cravings, no huge withdrawals for us, and a pound of weightloss per day! We will keep working but truthfully feel like its less work now since we aren’t slaves to our cravings. Dad has about 75 pounds to lose and I have maybe ten but its been revolutionary for both of us. In a month, I plan to post updated info on our progress as we are battling with his emotional attachment to food and eating.

  16. Jean says:

    Gram Flour
    Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
    Energy 1,619 kJ (387 kcal)
    Carbohydrates 57 g
    - Sugars 10g
    - Dietary fiber 10 g
    Fat 6 g
    Protein 22 g
    Water 10 g
    Vitamin A equiv. 2 μg (0%)
    Niacin (vit. B3) 1 mg (7%)
    Folate (vit. B9) 437 μg (109%)
    Calcium 45 mg (5%)
    Iron 4 mg (31%)
    Magnesium 166 mg (47%)
    Phosphorus 318 mg (45%)
    Potassium 846 mg (18%)
    Sodium 64 mg (4%)
    Zinc 2 mg (21%)
    Percentages are relative to
    US recommendations for adults.
    Source: USDA Nutrient Database

    Here is the analasys of Gram or Besan flour. It is made from the chickpea also ( Chana Dal, an Indian chickpea which looks like a yellow split pea). Since I am having trouble finding garbanzo bean flour would this be an acceptable substitute? Thanks!

    • Dorothy says:

      This is Dorothy in San Diego. We found garbanzo bean flour at Sprouts (formerly Henry’s). It is the Bob’s Red Mill brand in a 22 oz bag.
      Nutritional information:
      1/4 cup dry (30 g)
      Calories 110
      Total fat 2g
      Cholesterol 0 mg
      Sodium 5mg
      Total Carbohydrate 18 m
      Dietary Fiber 5 g
      Sugars 3g
      Protein 6 g
      Hope this helps!

  17. Debbie says:

    Hello, I am currently suffering with Chronic Inflammatory Demylenating Polyneuropathy. During the quest for my diagnosis, I found out the I also have Hypogammaglobuememia. Low IgG & IgA levels. Lookibg back, these levels were low since at least 2009. However I did not have any problems until a pregnancy in late 2010 that terminated itself at 7 weeks. I began to have numb fingers and toes. Fast fwd to summer of 2012, I was started on IVIG tx. It has not help my neuropathy or severve ataxia. I also have sensory issues and my EMG shows conduction block. **I do not eat any meat,fish or egg products. I do however eat cheese,yougrt etc.
    I noticed when I eat a veggie burger, my hands and especially feet are extremely numb and tingle. Of course after watching Dr Oz show I had on DVR I looked at the ingredients. Ingredients:
    Allergen Information:
    I have always chalked the burgers side effects with my CIDP, but now I wonder. I have been allergy tested with the mutliple needlespositive to cats and roaches! Blood test are negative for celiac and ttg test negative as well.
    I am going to have an upper gi and colonoscopy w/ biopsy in a few weeks. I have a feeling Im not as “sick” as my doctors think. *NOTE* I am being treated by 4 top Doctors @ University of Pennsylvania.

    What are your thoughts/ideas on my further investigation??
    Thank you

    • Dr. Davis says:

      Given your collection of symptoms/phenomena, given the ubiquity and variability of wheat’s effects on humans, given the ease of eliminating it from the diet . . . there is nothing to lose, everything to gain, Debbie!

      In your shoes, I would have lost the wheat . . . weeks ago! Note that it may require months for autoimmune phenomena to recede.

  18. Kathy says:

    In part three of the the Dr OZ show on the link below, you mentioned two pasta that does not contain corn stratch,rice starch, tapioca starch, or potato starch. What are they?


    • Dr. Davis says:

      The only current safe pasta substitutes I am aware of are 1) shirataki noodles made from the konjac root, and 2) spaghetti squash.

  19. Lisa says:

    Hello Dr. Davis!!
    I am extremely excited to begin this new chapter in my life. I suffered a stroke last year at age 41, have had migraines since my teens, and continue to have high cholesterol, dizziness, fatigue, blah, blah, blah… (all of the stuff you have written about in “Wheat Belly”!) Everything that I read in your book hit me over the head in a “Duh! Of COURSE that all makes sense” kind of way. Because I want to truly and absolutely commit to this diet as perfectly as I can, I have two questions. One, regarding the list of foods that fall under the “Consume in Limited Quantities” category- can you please be a bit more specific as to what constitutes “limited”? Are we talking once a day, once a week, once a month?? Secondly- I am still slightly confised as to what non-alcoholic beverages besides water are acceptable. I know, as a Cardiologist, you are going to steer me away from caffiene- however I would truly like to know the reality of having 1 can of diet coke per day, and one 20oz. coffee in the morning. Thank You SO much for the response, and I cannot WAIT to post my success story!! :)

  20. Jhenharris says:

    Dr. Davis,
    My husband (age 67) and I (65) started Wheat Belly 5/20/12 and have been thrilled with the results – how we feel, increase in energy, lack of aches/pains, and weight loss, just to name a few. We enjoy eating wheat free and I have thoroughly enjoyed utilizing the new cookbook recipes. However, we had fasting blood tests done yesterday. I just received a call regarding the results and am in shock. Since July my total cholesterol increased from 238 to 260, includes 72 to 82 HDL; 154 to 160 LDL; Triglycerides 62 to 82, with a weight loss of 6.5 pounds. My husband’s numbers increased as well and he has lost 17 pounds! We have a follow up appointment with the doctor next week to ‘discuss’ results. I’m unable to take statins and my husband has taken them with resulting muscle aches and pains.

    I’m writing for your input or assistance in putting it all in perspective. Thank you for all you do!