The Battle for Control of Your . . . Colon

Your colon–yes, that 4-foot long tube residing in the deep recesses of your abdomen, ugly, slimy, kind of smelly, hardly something you’d think would represent the spoils of any battle–is a battleground.

The combatants? Bacteria.

Billions of bacteria live, work, fight, and die in your colon. Their work contributes in no small way to creating the stuff you emit into the toilet every day. Normally, they live in happy symbiosis with their host, even making useful contributions to our health, such as converting vitamin K1 in vegetables to vitamin K2 to play a role in bone and heart health.

But the normal bacteria have been fighting off the invading colon-equivalent of Al Quaeda: wheat lectins.

Nearly all plants contains lectins, proteins that provide the plant protection from predators like mold, fungus, and insects. And most lectins ingested by humans are harmless or have only minimal effects. Not so wheat lectins.

Wheat lectins are oddly impervious to digestion. What you eat is what you either absorb into the bloodstream or pass out in your stool. It means that, after other proteins, carbohydrates, and fats have been digested, the remnants making their way through your colon become concentrated in wheat lectins. It’s here where the high concentration of wheat lectins do their Weapons of Mass Destruction thing and cause good bacteria to die and encourages bad bacteria, like Escherichia coli and Lactobacillus lactis, to fluorish, a condition called “bacterial overgrowth.”

Wheat lectin-induced bacterial overgrowth causes gas, cramping, malabsorption of nutrients, and can lead to diseases like rheumatoid arthritis when the normal barriers to unwanted proteins are unlocked. The number of evil bacteria can grow a thousand-fold, overwhelming the helpless good bacteria. The evil bacteria winning the battle then invade northward, making their way as high as the duodenum and stomach. That’s when it gets really ugly.

Dietitians advise us to get more fiber, such as that in wheat like wheat bran. That’s how wheat lectins Trojan horse their way into your bowels.

Conventional response: antibiotics. Unconventional response: probiotics that repopulate the good guys. My response: Rid yourself of the colon WMD, wheat lectins and take back control of your colon!

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Comments & Feedback...

  1. Lana Parkhurst

    i hathis has me curiousve always eaten wheat and i am overweight and have most weight in belly

  2. Paul

    Does the environment in the colon allow the K2 to be taken up? I have read that rats eat what they pass and this keeps them topped up with K2.

    • Hi, Paul–

      I’m not aware of any data to this effect. I, too, have some burning questions I’d like answered about vitamins K1 and K2 behavior in the intestinal tract.

      Thankfully, this line of research is gaining speed. I’ll be we’ll have plenty to talk about over the next 2-3 years.

      • Neicee

        I’ve been taking K2 with alfalfa – which was the only one I could find in my area when I purchased it. Now, they have a small shelf full and I’m wondering if anyone has found any new research on it? The ‘sperts all seem to recommend MK7, which is costly. I was hesitant about the alfalfa but have found it really is benign. Any thoughts guys? And, what dosage?

        • Neicee

          Ok, after asking a the question I posted did some simple Bings and ran onto one of the best explanations out there on the subject of Vitamin K2 dated March 2008 on by none other than Dr. William Davis! Actually answered the burning questions I had about taking it and why I would. Then I checked my folders, and I had pulled that same article some months ago….so, slinking out of the room with a red face. :)

  3. Gina

    Do we need to give up all grains or just gluten containing grains? Is brown rice ok? I tend to get hypoglycenia like symptoms when go grain free.

    • Ah, be careful, Gina. The only reason to be hypoglycemia is if you follow a carbohydrate-overloaded diet, wheat or not. It also means you are careening towards diabetes.

      The solution: Ditch the carbs, even if it sounds healthy, like a “multi-grain gluten-free bread.” Read: junk carbohydrates.

  4. Susan

    Hi Dr. Davis,
    I have been following your diet since early October of this year. I have found a huge difference in cravings and much less bloating. I have lost a few pounds but I am still having loose stools and it seems like I am having a hard time digesting fats and I am still tired all the time. Any suggestions?

    • Hi, Susan–

      Sounds like:

      1) A thyroid issue. Hypothyroidism is becoming increasingly common. A thorough evaluation that includes free T3, free T4, TSH and perhaps reverse T3 is in order.
      2) Consider probiotics and pancreatic enzymes that includes lipase. Some people have had such awful disruption of intestinal health, including intestinal microbiota, that they require additional steps for recovery.

  5. Sittaro

    Hello Dr. Davis,

    I am writing to comment specifically on the bacterial overgrowth. I am in complete agreement that bacterial overgrowth can wreak havoc on your digestive system. By controlling the over growth you will avoid all of the nasty toxins that some of these bugs can produce. One amazing little factoid; 10 % of our bodies are comprised of human cells and 12 % of our body mass is actually a symbiotic microorganism such as bacteria, yeast etc. So I my feeling is that feeding the 12 % that should be there is best for our health. And therefore any deviation from this balance is likely to cause greater health issues than we can imagine, or have proven empirically.

    I applaud your willingness to go against the grain and have really enjoyed reading your book. I have however gone wheat free for a different reason. My husband was recently diagnosed with Cohn’s and we have decided to eliminate all processed foods from our diet. He has sufferred from loose bowel movements his entire life and it was onlyon the Atkins diet that he found he was having formed stools. However, this time around we have eliminated all highly processed and complex carbohydrates. Those foods that are highly branched and complex leaving the bacterial in our guts a feast of undigested polysaccharides. I would recommend those that continue to see very loose stools following elimination of wheat to look further at other complex carbs. Intact, the only carbohydrates we now consume are naturally occurring sugars in fruits and vegetables. No table sugar, no wheat or grains, not even rice. The goal is to starve the bacteria in our intestines that are not meant to be there in order to allow the growth of the appropriate 12%.

    I do believe however that wheat may be the catalyst for all of these digestive issues that have grown significantly over the years. I have also developed food sensitivities and it makes sense having read your book that gluten may have created that “leaky gut” environment allowing foods to be exposed in it’s undigested form to my immune system. For otherwise, why would someone develop antibodies to banana’s and pineapples.

    I hope that the future will bring more medical professionals, such as yourself, who see food as the route to take for wellness rather than a medication which causes sometimes severe side effects. The medication my husband was on, I am convinced, is what landed him in the ICU touted as a severe Crohn’s flare. And this is the reason we are choosing to eat the way we were meant to.

    All the best to you and once gain thank you for your pioneering vision.


    • Very well said, JEnn!

      We need better documentation of the bowel flora-altering effects of wheat consumption in non-celiac people to go to battle more effectively with the Wheat Lobby.

      In the meantime, I agree: Say goodbye to wheat, then say goodbye to junk carbohydrates and your body will be far better off, as will the populations of non-human organisms inhabiting our bodies.

  6. Darlene

    Was just about to go on insulin for diabetes when I found your Wheat Belly book. I am 7 days into the program, and it is working wonderfully for me. Cravings are nearly gone, I have more energy, and today I am starting to wean myself off of my oral diabetic medication as for the first time in 5 years, my blood sugars are not only under 200, but are beginning to go below 100!! Can’t wait to be medication free, but it looks like it will surely happen. I look around and know so many people who would benefit greatly from this program. Thank you, Dr. Davis for your research and for sharing this with the public. Darlene

    • Dr. Davis

      Fabulous, Darlene!

      Free yourself of this wheat monster and many do indeed say goodbye to diabetes!

    • Darlene – how is your diabetes progressing?

      I ask because I went off insulin, metformin, diamicron, a blood pressure medication and a cholesterol medication. I did not speak to my doctor before doing so, because he kept wanting to prescribe more and more drugs, and it made no sense to me. When I did my own research, I learned that diabetes can be ?cured? with proper food and exercise. Since going wheat-free, my blood sugar is between 4.5 & 5.2 fasting (Canada Diabetes says non-diabetic should be higher), and all other measures are better than population averages. I share this because I’m curious how being wheat-free has helped you.

  7. Alice

    I read your book and hoped for some help. However after reading many promises, all you really said was what not to eat – and being diabetic you did not really include anything to really help.

    The conclusion for me from the book is don’t eat anything and starve…

    I wish someone actually had some answers.

    • Kelly

      Alice, there is PLENTY to eat out there after cutting out sugar and grains. Stop being so dramatic (“The conclusion for me from the book is don’t eat anything and starve… ” Seriously?) If you are diabetic you should already be used to monitoring your sugar intake. You need to focus on meats, proteins, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds. Believe me, NO ONE moaned and groaned more than me about what they CAN’T eat, after my naturopath made me read Wheat Belly and eliminate sugar/wheat/dairy/nuts/seeds AND alcohol from my diet (due to many digestive issues following an undiagnosed stomach infection 2 years ago at 26). But after a couple weeks into it, people would continue to say to me “Oh my god, what do you eat? Isn’t it so hard?” And it hit me that, no, it’s actually getting easier!

      The people who have health issues and refuse to try eliminating wheat and sugar because it’s “too hard” clearly don’t TRULY want to feel better and heal themselves, and stop taking/paying for pharmaceuticals. Otherwise they would at least try it. It really is a pity.

  8. Sandy Saulters

    I have been looking for a place to right this, I was looking at the blog when the news came that my neighbor just died, she had been ill since last week and they said she contracted E-Coli. So where does E-Coli come from? I know some of the details after looking it up on line last week when I learned of her illness. Do we have E-Coli in our bodies? Can we get it from restaurant’s? The neighbor said she its out a lot. My husband and I don’t eat out much now that we have been wheat free. But we still will and keep on the diet sometimes. I am now concerned that she may of contracted it from food. Dr. Davis can you tell me a little about E-Coli?A

    Also to stay on the wheat free subject, I have been reading a lot of things on here, some people having problems with health and have been wheat free a long time. I guess it takes some people a long time to clean their systems out? For me, and my husband we feel so much better so far, and my hypoglycemia that I have had for over 30 years has gone away!

    If interested, read my post under Brain effects to read my story.

    Thanks, Sandy Saulters

    • Anna

      There are many strains of E. coli but the strain that is dangerous is 0121, not that the number matters. E. coli lives in the gut & the contamination occurs during slaughter when the bowel of the cow is accidentally punctured. To put it simple, cow poop gets in the meat. Cooking at high temps will kill the E. coli. Corn fed cows are at great risk due to the fact that corn alters the pH of the gut allowing the E coli to proliferate.

      Other sources of E. coli are lakes, ponds conaminated with e. coli contaminated poop. Veggies fertilzed with E. coli contaminated poop. Poor hand hygeine.

      Very scary stuff. Stick with grass fed beef if you eat beef, and cook it well just to be sure. Wash your veggies well, too.

      Lots of info online:

  9. Jeanine

    I just saw a news piece on the bacteria TMAO that has been identified as an indicator for a heart attack. The piece said it is the result of bacteria in the gut breaking down red meat, cheese, and eggs. Does anyone have any other info on this? Since starting WB, I eat a lot more eggs eggs than I ever have. Thanks.

    • Boundless

      I haven’t read the NEJM article, only the reports, one on sciencedaily. I suspect that Dr. D. has a subscription, and will let us know if there’s any “there” there.

      The TMAO link is only an “association”, which leaves open the question of whether it is a cause or an effect. In a quick search, I didn’t see any proposed mechanism for how TMAO causes heart disease.

      And did the studies adequately isolate the results for those on low-carb grain free diets?
      I’ll bet not.
      Indeed, the abstract includes this telling remark: “More studies are needed to confirm that TMAO testing, like cholesterol, triglyceride or glucose levels, might help guide physicians in providing individualized nutritional recommendations for preventing cardiovascular disease.” The “like cholesterol” suggests that they are mired in conventional confusion about CVD.

      I’m suspecting that those who have been on a low-carb grain-free (WB style) diet for an extended period have made themselves effectively immune to CVD, and dietary items that are minor correlated risk factors for high glycemic eaters are irrelevant to WB eaters. Dr. D. has reported eleswhere in this blog that in his office practice, due to the dietary intervention he is seeing almost no heart attacks anymore.

      • Jeanine

        Thanks. According to the news piece (NBC nightly news), the concern was that it increases plaque. I, too, was thinking that the grain free part of the diet would counteract or mitigate this.

  10. Neicee

    Roam over to Mark Sisson’s Input the search for TMAO and it’ll pull up all the articles they’ve got on the subject. It ain’t what it seems on the surface and many flaws about it. The critics simply want all the carnivore’s of the world to drop dead from eating red meat.

  11. Dana

    Dr. Davis,
    I do not have celiac disease but have been following your wheat belly diet for nearly 3 months now (primarily for health reasons). I had occasional constipation prior to starting this diet, but nothing that would qualify for IBD or any other significant GI diagnoses. Since making these changes in my diet, I have noticed that my stools are softer, but also much smaller in caliber than before. The volume I pass is also much less, but I do have more frequent bowel movements than before. I have re-read your book and you blog to determine if this is normal, but cannot find anything. Is it normal to have a change in the caliber of your stools following implementation of this diet?

    • Dr. Davis

      No, but it is very common to struggle for the first several weeks as your colon repopulates with healthier bowel flora minus wheat.

      Most people find they can easily accelerate the process simply by supplementing with a high-potency probiotic, e.g., 50 billion CFUs, for 4-8 weeks.

      • Kelly Bosso

        I’m looking forward to reading the book! Dr. Davis, which strands of probiotics do ou recommend?

        • Dr. Davis

          I’ve had success with many brands, Kelly, including Renew Life, Enzymedica, and Garden of Life.

  12. Rich

    I eliminated wheat and junk cabohydrates 1 1/2 months ago. I experienced hard stools at first, but a couple of weeks into it and with the help of probiotics, things settled down quite nicely. As weight loss set in, I noticed that my stool color had dark geenish color every now and again. It is as if the body is getting rid of toxins. Perhaps a reduction in inflamation (one can hope)?

  13. > It’s here where the high concentration of wheat lectins do their Weapons of Mass Destruction
    > thing and cause good bacteria to die and encourages bad bacteria, like Escherichia coli and
    > Lactobacillus lactis, to fluorish, a condition called “bacterial overgrowth.”

    Adverse gut flora is probably going to become #5 on my list of problems with modern food (1-4 are wheat, fructose, low fat mania and adverse fats).

    I suspect that wheat is only one of a long list of villains, which includes but may not be limited to:
    – high carbs generally promoting adverse bacteria
    – antibiotics in meat, dairy and eggs
    – pesticide residues (which will be worse in GMO crops designed to tolerate them, but off-schedule use on non-resistant crops is an issue as well*)
    – unintended consequences of GMO itself (Bt corn needs a look)
    * Wiki had this: “Health, environmental and food chain effects from alteration of gut flora by wide use of glyphosate are largely unexplored.”

    So a course of probiotics is probably worthwhile when shifting to the WB lifestyle. But what might be indications that a booster shot is needed?