That’s no earthquake; that’s just my Wheat Belly rumbling

That 5.8-magnitude rumble you feel under your feet is not another earthquake. It’s just the rumbling from your Wheat Belly.

Have shredded wheat cereal at 7 am for breakfast and your stomach will be rumbling by 9. Have a few Wheat Thin crackers, the rolling abdominal reverberations start again and you’re hungry at 11. Glancing at the clock and counting the minutes until lunch, you give in to the aftershocks and have a few pretzels. A sandwich for lunch and the cycle begins anew.

This effect is shared by other carbohydrates, including oats and candy bars. Carbohydrates cause a 90- to 120-minute cycle of high blood sugar and insulin, followed by a precipitous drop. The insulin/sugar drop triggers a powerful hunger signal, the rumbling and desperate search for food.

But wheat products are different. In addition to the 90- to 120-minute cycle of sugar and insulin, there’s the gliadin effect. Gliadin is the protein unique to wheat that stimulates appetite. Gliadin induces a subtle euphoria that triggers a need for more, no different than an opiate like morphine, heroine, or oxycontin. Skeptical? A drug company has already made application to the FDA for the drug naltrexone, an opiate-blocking drug, for weight loss. Does it work? You bet: 22.4 pounds lost first 6 months. NIH researchers have already shown that proteins derived from gliadin bind to opiate receptors in the brain. Skip that mid-morning snack and gliadin withdrawal starts to kick in: shakiness, mental “fog,” anxiety, accompanied by the loud rumbling rolls.

The peristaltic rumbling and shaking you therefore experience are not the shifting of earth’s tectonic plates. It’s just this unnatural disaster called wheat.

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  1. Might-o'chondri-AL

    2 days ago from Yale Program on Integrative Cell Signal and Neurobiology of Metabolism ( a synopsis):

    When lean individuals eat the rise of glucose in the hypothalamus that is being metabolized there subsequently spins off reactive oxygen species (ROS); those ROS then go on to act as natural signaling agents which trigger the release of the satiation influencing molecule pro-opio-melanocortin (POMC). In other words, a little blood glucose rise from eating is normal and will let the satiation mechanism work nicely.

    In non-lean individuals they are having so much after meal blood glucose that cells are spinning off a whole lot of ROS (when cells “burn” glucose there is production of ROS as part of that processing). Since excess ROS are potentially dangerous for a cell to get loaded up with the hypothalamic cell tries to protect itself . According to the studies lead author: ”… in response to continuous overeating, a cellular mechanism kicks in to suppress the generation of these free radicals….While this free radical-suppressing mechanism — promoted by growth of intracellular organelles, called peroxisomes — protects the cells from damage, this same process will decrease the ability to feel full after eating.”

    Over time, when hypothalamus cells are habitually exposed to high glucose (ex: from too many carbs at one time) certain hypothalamus cells eventually go into a self-preservation mode. Then the “standard” ROS signal isn’t operating in a way that gets hypothalamus cell’s ROS to trigger POMC; which let’s the influence from non-satiation molecules (ex: neuro-peptide Y and agouti related peptide) predominate. Doc warns how wheat (among others) raises blood sugar so high, how it is hard to stop eating and yet leaves one craving more food within 2 hours; this new study shows the neurobiological mechanism underlying that problem.

    Quoting from the study ( “Peroxisome proliferation-associated control of reactive oxygen species sets melanocortin tone and feeding in diet induced obesity” …see Nature Medicine, DOI:10.1038/nm.2421) :

    “… suppression of ROS diminishes pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) cell activation and promotes the activity of neuropeptide Y (NPY)- and agouti-related peptide (AgRP)-co-producing (NPY/AgRP) neurons and feeding, whereas ROS-activates POMC neurons and reduces feeding.”
    “… central administration of ROS alone increased c-fos and phosphorylated signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (pStat3) expression in POMC neurons and reduced feeding of DIO mice. These observations unmask a previously unknown hypothalamic cellular process associated with peroxisomes and ROS in the central regulation of energy metabolism in states of leptin resistance ….”

    • Hi, Might–

      Fancy seeing you here!

      Presently unanswerable question (though I believe you and I know the answer): If high blood glucose is being increasingly associated with the phenomena of disease and aging, and the data suggest that not having wide glucose excursions poses health benefit, what is the end-result of NO glucose excursion?

  2. Might-o'chondri-AL

    Zero glucose excursions seems un-natural since our circadian clock imparts a diurnal rhythmic influence on liver genes related to glucose metabolism. Melatonin’s night time peak is not the time our liver glucose production (gluco-neo-genesis) surges ( the long term affect of melatonin supplementation dampening natural melatonin output is not known) . The sympathetic nervous system pre-autonomic neurons for the liver work on liver gluco-neo-genesis (when carbon framework stripped from protein or fat molecules is used to re-make into a glucose molecule); this occurs when changes instigated in the hypothalamic SCN (supra-chiasmatic nuclei) cause GABA-ergic signals to be sent to the hypothalamic PVN (para-ventricular nucleus).

    Sympathetic nervous system tone drives the base line cortico-sterol levels in terms of biological rhythm; the cortico-sterone peak activity spans +/- 6 hours and associates with liver gluco-neo-genesis happening. Yet at the same time cortico-sterol activity works in peripheral tissue cells to stymie peripheral glucose uptake (fortuitously, our ketone body peak of +/- 8 hours occurs during that same spell for peripheral tissues to run on). Our ancestors awoke before daybreak and this corresponds to cortisol levels rising, which rouses one from sleep (age shifts diurnal rhythm and alters cortisol cyclic setting); it is the SCN which modulates base line adreno-corticoid levels.

    Glucose output from our peak liver glycogen storing up spell (liver glyco-neo-genesis peak activity runs +/- 2 hours) comes on with the light of day and follows it’s own cycle. Glucose output from liver glycogen come morning (+/- 9 am) usually has a 100% output potential , while by afternoon (+/- 2pm) output potential is 50%, and by night (+/- 8 pm) liver glucose output potential drops to 15%. All of the preceding suggests that glucose excursions are a proper part of human metabolism.

    With darkness the para-sympathetic nervous system activity is less inhibited (by the cyclic reduction of GABA -ergic input) and so more para-sympathetic signals get to the gastro-intestinal tract. This lets food move faster from stomach into intestine and results in a night time more rapid uptake of any glucose. It is the hexose transporter genes (ie: SGLT1, GLUT 1 & 2) that organize more prompt night time (+/- 9 pm) glucose uptake than the rate of glucose uptake which is seen 12 hours earlier (+/- 9am). Measurements of mRNA for hexose transport genes do not show them at constantly the same levels during a 24 hour time period; and in a similar fashion genes for enzymes Pfk-2 (6-phospho-fructo-kinase 2) , Gpi (glucose-phosphate isomerase) , aldolase 1 & aldolase 3 also peak after the day has shifted into night.

    Dietary intake of high protein and low carbohydrate cause alterations over time in enzyme genes related to glucose metabolism. The gluco-neo-genesis enzyme PECK (phosph-eno-pyruvate carboxyl-kinase will get upregulated to a setting +/- 4 times higher than usual. The glycolysis enzyme genes LPK ( liver pyruvate kinase, which relates to glucose burning in tissue cells ) and GK (glucose-kinase , which relates to degree glucose taken up into tissue cells) will both reset in time to a less active level than “usual”. And meanwhile the glyco-neo-genesis enzyme genes Gs (glycogen synthase, which is rate limiter of how much glycogen made) and GLY (glycogenin) will initially alter their pattern of activity levels, but in time will settle at base line level of expression that one functioned on when eating a “usual” diet.

    • Hi, Might–

      As always, I value your great insights.

      However, I am not aiming so much at zero glucose excursions, but to put a ceiling on the upper limits of excursions to limit the processes of glycation and glucose toxicity (e.g., on pancreatic beta cells). This has indeed proven doable and, judging by improvements in multiple metabolic markers, beneficial.

  3. Sarah

    I have started to try this diet I read about it in Women’s World and all my friends and I are really excited to try it ! After 2 c-sections and 175 pounds at 5’3, enough is enough ! I know I will always have that saggy baggy
    tummy , but at least I can deflate it ! I will also eliminate rice, and potatoes. But I do love fresh fruit, I wonder if the sugars in the fruit will sabotage the wheat -free diet ? Should I also eliminate fruit,and protein shakes with fruit ? Thank-You :0)

    • Yes, Sarah, you will want to keep fruit serving sizes small, e.g., 8 blueberries, 2 strawberries, half an apple at a time, for example. You will obtain the healthy nutrients like flavonoids, anthocyanins, fiber, and vitamin C but limit sugar exposure.

  4. Dr. Davis,

    I heard your interview on Robb Wolf’s podcast and I’m eager to read your book! As a Cardiothoracic Surgeon (in Norway), I’ve put my head on the block by both publicly and on my blog recommending people to take grains out of the diet. Imagine my disappointment when I found that I can’t buy the e-book because I’m situated in Norway! Is there any way I can get around “the ban of Europe”?

    Best regards,


  5. Steven Lavison

    Dr. Davis:
    I want to start your wheat free diet. Does this include all grains. Rye, barley brown rice,, oats etc. And what about sweet potatoes and yams. Could you elaborate please.
    Thank you,

    • Hi, Steven–

      It depends.

      It depends on why you are doing this. Weight loss is one goal, of course, in which case, yes, you should eliminate or minimize exposure to other carbs after wheat. (Wheat is first because it is the BIGGEST problem, the worst of the worst.) If you are doing it for some other reason, e.g., reduction in triglycerides, some carb exposure is okay.

      I will also be treating this question in a post or series of posts on determining individual carbohydrate sensitivity near-future.

      • Steven Lavison

        Dr. Davis:
        I’m doing this wheat diet for two reasons. One, to lose my wheat belly. Two, to lower my blood sugar. Last time it was checked it was 135 mg/dl.
        Thank you for answering my post.

  6. Janice Denningberg

    Hi Dr. Davis:

    I’ve just started the Wheat Belly diet. I want to lose weight and just feel better, I have had in the past pretty bad heartburn, which I haven’t had for the past couple of days! Right now, I’ve stopped the wheat, but eat a small portion of Basimati rice or potato with dinner.
    Since starting this, I’ve noticed something odd…my mouth feels like I’ve let butter melt in it. It feels oily all the time. I am religious about dental health, brush and floss regularly so I don’t think it’s that.

    The only thing I’ve changed is the Diet, have you heard of this before?

    Thank you for any information and for the book!

  7. Gloria

    I just downloaded your book and I am reading…reading…reading.

    I see comments about limiting rice and potatoes ? I am doing this diet to primarily lose weight.

    • Hi, Gloria–

      Lose weight . . . and regain multiple facets of health!

      It sounds like you are not tracking metabolic blood measures, but if you were you would also witness substantial improvement across multiple parameters: reduction in blood sugar, reduction in inflammatory markers, triglycerides, insulin, etc., all of which correlate with health gains.

  8. liz

    hi dr davis.
    i am on day 12 of the wheat belly diet and i am feeling lighter…better! my cravings are pretty nonexistent, which is almost making my nervous! i realize now how much i used to snack out of habit!
    i guess i need a new hobby…
    my rosacia is starting to clear…same with my scalp sores.
    please…more recipes…
    thanks so much..
    *also…it’s not a diet…it’s the way we should eat!

    • I hear you, Liz, on the need for more recipes.

      That’s right: “Grazing” is yet another wheat-induced phenomenon, a spinoff of the “eat more healthy whole grains” mantra.

  9. Mike

    I’ve been drinking a small can of V8 juice, and I notice the label says it contains 5g of sugar. Is this the sugar contained in the vegetables, or is this added sugar. In other words, is this product a no-no on your diet?

    • Probably not a big deal, Mike, though I’m a big fan of real food that has not been heated or canned. There’s also the potential for BPA exposure if canned.

      Have you considered a juicer?