Gluten-free is for sissies

Gluten-free means avoiding the diverse group of proteins lumped together as “gluten.” Being gluten-free means avoiding foods that contain either gluten proteins or other proteins that cross-react (immunologically) with glutens. This includes modern wheat, spelt, and kamut; barley; rye; and oats (though variable).

The gluten-free movement is expanding rapidly. In fact, analysts are predicting that the gluten-free food industry will boom to $5 billion by 2015.

The unfortunate situation this has created, however, is that it leads people to believe that, if they are not gluten-sensitive, there is no benefit to eliminating wheat. Wrong. Flat wrong. It would be like avoiding venturing into the bad part of town because the pizza there isn’t as tasty–there are plenty of other reasons not to go there.

What is in modern wheat beyond gluten? The biggies:

1) Gliadin–Gliadin is a subfraction of gluten. Even if you are not gluten-sensitive, continued exposure to wheat means you are still exposed to the unique and plentiful gliadin proteins that have emerged from the genetics laboratories, the gliadin that is a very effective appetite stimulant. Eat wheat: get hungry, eat more. Gliadin explains why we have all-you-can-eat lunch buffets and why overweight athletes.

2) Amylopectin A–This is the highly-digestible carbohydrate that accounts for wheat’s high-glycemic index and ability to increase blood sugar higher than table sugar or candy.

3) Lectins–The wheat lectin, wheat germ agglutinin, that is resistant to digestion in the human intestinal tract, is the protein that “unlocks” the normal intestinal barriers to foreign substances. Not everything that goes in your mouth should have access to your bloodstream, so intestinal cells are designed to be selective in allowing or preventing various components in foods to be absorbed. Wheat germ agglutinin disables this selectivity, allowing all manner of foreign substances to gain entry. This is why wheat consumers have more inflammatory and autoimmune diseases like type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and inflammatory bowel disease.

You might not be gluten-sensitive, but you can still get fat, become diabetic, get arthritis, cataracts, acid reflux, irritable bowel symptoms, and lose emotional control from consuming wheat.

Wheat elimination is not just for gluten-sensitive. It’s for everybody.

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90 Responses to Gluten-free is for sissies

  1. Mary says:

    Dr. Davis I wish you would consider sending an autographed copy of Wheat Belly to NJ Gov. Chris Christie.
    I’m not really concerned about him in regards to his politics one way or the other. I just wince everytime I see a video of him. The poor guy looks like humpty dumpty, he looks miserably unhealthy.
    I’m an old RN and I have an automatic habit of physically accessing people and he looks like he would benefit greatly by going wheat free. Maybe I’ll order and send him a copy of the book myself. My problem is I know so many people who need this wheat free information maybe I’ll hand them out for Christmas instead of cookies.

    • Patty Amidon says:

      Mary, it breaks my heart to see Governor Christie having to carry around all that weight when the solution would be so easy for him. Maybe as Dr. Davis’s message gets promoted more Gov. Christie will give wheat free a try.

  2. JJ says:

    I like the title – eye catching which I think is important.

    Anyway, I have known for some years that I was sensitive to wheat. In a way I suppose I was ‘lucky’ because I get a reaction after eating bread so the link was easy to make. What I couldn’t understand was that I got a similar reaction eating wheat-free, gluten-free bread. I didn’t worry about it for long though, when I looked at the extremely long list of crap ingredients listed on the packet. Now I am trying to avoid processed food generally I view the gluten-free frankenfoods as little more than big business looking for more ways to make money.

  3. Julie says:

    Bacon and maggots in brain is an urban legend. Check out snopes the next time you hear a far fetched story.

  4. Michelle says:

    Dr. Davis, does consuming barley or oats produce the same symptoms of bloat (and the myriad of other health issues) that wheat causes? Are the culprits Gliadin, Lectins, and Amylopectin A all present in ANYthing with gluten? Or just wheat?

    • Dr. Davis says:

      Hi, Michelle–

      Barley is a gluten source, while oats have a protein that can cross-react immunologically with wheat gluten. However, they will induce symptoms like bloat, etc. in only gluten-sensitive people. They do not contain gliadin, important lectins, or amylopectin A.

      Nonetheless, they are substantial carbohydrate sources that increase blood sugar, so be careful, even if you are not gluten-sensitive.

      • Michelle says:

        Ah, ok, thank you… Even before I was informed that wheat causes bloating, I suspected it on my own and decided to go off both wheat and gluten as an experiment. I have been wheat free and gluten free for about 6 months now and have noticed enormous differences such as weight loss, no more bloating, and no more “false hunger” as I like to call it. As an experiment I tried introducing wheat again very briefly, and I immediately noticed the bloated feeling and the same familiar false hunger I had always battled. (Kind of similar to wanting a caffeine fix very strongly). I was glad to have proven to myself that indeed something in wheat was actually doing this.

        So I quickly and easily went right off the wheat again. Now the question is whether I’m gluten-sensitive or just wheat sensitive. I was an avid cereal eater all my life, but now that I haven’t had wheat-based cereal in months, I am wondering whether something like muelsi (oats and barely) would be ok. I introduced it, and I definitely feel that false hunger, even though you say that the gliadin isn’t present in barley or oats. (Could “false hunger” as I call it be a result of simply eating very high GI foods? Blood sugar fluctuations?) I feel like oats and barley is affecting me in the same way that wheat does. In the past, I could never ever eat enough cereal (I could go through a box a day) and this kind of behavior was what led me to believe that wheat wasn’t good for me (I suspected wheat was “filler” in some way and just lacked nutrition). But so far, oats and barley seem to do the same: I could eat a ton of it and walk away feeling physically full but totally unsatisfied and consequently, feeling the false hunger.

        • Dr. Davis says:

          Hi, Michelle–

          It sounds like you are very prone to blood sugar effects which, by the way, tend to signal a significant tendency towards diabetes.

          I, too, have this personally and cannot eat the non-wheat grains else I will have very high blood sugars and hunger is triggered, at least triggered at the insulin/glucose low.

          • Michelle says:

            Bingo!! Yes, my dad and his side of the family all have diabetes. I have come a LONG way from growing up eating junk food to now (at 27) eating almost 100% fruits and vegetables and no processed food. Knowing I had to watch out for diabetes, I had switched to low GI foods quite some time ago starting at around 23, but removing refined sugar (completely! no tiny exceptions), and finally wheat products seemed to be the final step. I noticed an unprecedented stability in mood and hunger control once I stopped these foods. After years of battling the blood sugar fluctuations (and eating out of boredom consequently, which I would continually punish myself over) I now ONLY eat when I am hungry!

            Ok, so wheat along with other high GI foods are simply foods I should avoid, primarily due to my blood sugar sensitivities. Looks like the cereal I’ve been missing out on isn’t something I can replace with muelsi .. it’s just too much sugar!

            Thank you for verifying all of this for me!

          • Deanna says:

            I have the same blood sugar effects and I too am a cereal lover. So I’ve been mixing a granola (nuts, seeds…pumpkin and sunflower…, unsweet coconut, raisins and a sprinkle of cinnamon served with almond milk). I seem to be doing ok with that and it it has helped me not to miss cereal. It takes a lot of chewing though…lol. I am a little concerned about fat content, but it doesn’t take very much to fill me up.

          • Pattye says:

            Deanna, that mix sounds good but I would be cautious with the raisins or any dried fruit as it makes the sugar content more potent.

  5. Michelle says:

    Bingo!! Yes, my dad and his side of the family all have diabetes. I have come a LONG way from growing up eating junk food to now (at 27) eating almost 100% fruits and vegetables and no processed food. Knowing I had to watch out for diabetes, I had switched to low GI foods quite some time ago starting at around 23, but removing refined sugar (completely! no tiny exceptions), and finally wheat products seemed to be the final step. I noticed an unprecedented stability in mood and hunger control once I stopped these foods. After years of battling the blood sugar fluctuations (and eating out of boredom consequently, which I would continually punish myself over) I now ONLY eat when I am hungry!

    Ok, so wheat along with other high GI foods are simply foods I should avoid, primarily due to my blood sugar sensitivities. Looks like the cereal I’ve been missing out on isn’t something I can replace with muelsi .. it’s just too much sugar!

    Thank you for verifying all of this for me!

  6. Gary Miller says:

    The New York Post had an article yesterday about the wheat-free trend and “killer loaves” of bread. Of course there were calming and dismissive naysayers quoted that said unless you have Celiac there was no concern, and that of course man has been eating wheat for “thousands – THOUSANDS of years.” Of course, not TODAY’S wheat!

  7. Billy says:

    Ok, quick questions.

    Are the three things at the bottom of the post exclusive to wheat? or are they also in the other grains containing gluten, like barley, and spelt, etc.?

  8. Billy says:

    Actually nevermind, I find out. The term “gluten-free” should be called “prolamin-free” instead from what I’ve gathered. By definition, “gluten” is the combination of a gliadin (the prolamin in wheat) and glutenin. So really no other grain contains gluten. However, other grains like barley and rye contain other prolamins. Due to the similarities between the prolamins, they all can cause problems for people with Coeliac disease. It makes a lot more sense. The term “gluten” free is just sort of a giant misunderstanding.

  9. MJ says:

    I think this raised awareness battle will probably be won one person at a time. A bunch of people yelling and marching in the streets have a problem getting a coherent message across. But a friend telling a friend about personal experiences going wheat-free is more personal and powerful. I can’t resist telling my friends about this, because I want them to be healthy.
    MJ

  10. Pingback: Gluten Free Oatmeal | Gluten Free Oatmeal, Cereal, Flour and Mixes - Gluten Free Oatmeal

  11. Christine says:

    I’m curious to know if rye would have the gliadin, amylopectin and leptins. I know someone asked about oats and barley. I have been promoting the metabolic balance approach which really tries to get people’s insulin levels down. The starch that people can eat initially is a wild yeast rye bread – which is low GI. But I”m curious about the other things.
    thanks, christine

    • Dr. Davis says:

      Yes, it does.

      “Low glycemic index” is a nonsense concept. Snickers bars, for instance, have a very low glycemic index. By the logic of glycemic index, you should eat lots of Snickers bars.

  12. I just sent you a question by e-mail, then found some of the answer above. My apologies.

    But a question remains: In answering Michelle, above, you state that barley and oats “do not contain gliadin, important lectins, or amylopectin A”; here you say that rye does. If that’s the case, then, would you say that someone who is not gluten-sensitive should avoid rye more thoroughly than barley and oats, or is it a “trial and error” thing for each person.
    I personally find, for example, a couple of rye crisp breads (Ryvita or Wasa) with peanut butter to be a very sustaining snack, with none of the “false hunger” Michelle describes as following wheat consumption- which I’m very familiar with.
    Thanks

  13. Bud says:

    Is beer off limits? Beer is made with barley, unless it’s wheat beer.
    But is barley evil as well? I have no addiction or bloating, or any other issues with wheat. I don’t feel any cravings for wheat products.

    But I’d like to lose a few pounds. Problem is I really enjoy my beer. :)

    Please advise.

    Thanks!

  14. Lister says:

    I’m curious about this too. The book talks extensively about the evil modified wheat, how it’s nothing like it once was. But I don’t think it mentions barley. SO, has barley gone through this metamorphasis as well? If not, I can’t see why there would be a problem with beer, other than the general carbs and calories.

    But we should let the experts comment.

    • Dr. Davis says:

      Barley is a potential problem for those of us who have celiac disease or have “gluten sensitivity” and/or are gliadin antibody-positive.

      It is likely benign for the rest of us, except for potential carbohydrate over-exposure.

  15. Les Jennings says:

    Dr. Davis
    I have been on the path to a nearly wheat free diet for 3 weeks, starting week 4 today.
    I have lost 13 lbs. I am very happy, as gastrointestinal issues have improved greatly.
    I switched to spelt as my source for lunch sandwich bread. Which I thought was a good choice.
    Today I found your posting of Oct. 5,2011 Gluten-free is for sissies. You put spelt in the same bad category
    as all the other wheat. I had not found this matter having searched you site before I started buying spelt.
    I never thought I had a gluten issue.
    I was drawn to you diet by hoping to get relief from inflammation and loose weight, I was diagnosed with IPF
    in early 2011. I am now working very seriously on improving my overall body health in this battle with this strange disease that has very limited medical help.
    I please that despite still eating bread it must be a healthier bread than the whole wheat we always ate. (lots of whole grains)
    I am follower of yours now and spread the word to everyone about your findings. I am a very technical individual and must prove that something really does work as is stated in someones book.
    I know the food industry is huge and they are going to fight big time, I have a good personal friend who farms several thousand acres of corn and soybeans, I have needled him for years about is bad for human crops, wheat trumps all of his crops.
    Best wishes,
    Les

  16. Boundless says:

    News on the GF front:
    http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm363474.htm

    The FDA has published their 20ppm rule for the use of the phrase “gluten free”. It’s not in effect until 2013-09, has a 1-year grace period, and of course, it will take months to years for remaindered non-compliant packaged foods to vanish from the shelves. So we’re looking at late 2015, and perhaps 2016 before “GF” on a product means 20ppm. Some products will probably stop making the claim.

    More significantly, however, this is apt to hit restaurants hard. Unless they are entirely wheat/rye/barley/oat-free establishments, which source nothing but 20ppm GF ingredients, I don’t see how they can possibly claim 20ppm compliance. The rule does apply to them, and they aren’t allowed to say “gluten free*” with a disclaiming footnote. My guess is that food service industries are going to have to come up with a new phrase, perhaps “BELG” (Best Effort Low Gluten).

    • Bea Pullar says:

      In November last year I fell victim of a major hotel/Casino here on the Gold coast in Queensland. When I accepted the invitation to attend an afternoon tea “Thankyou” function, I requested wheat free. On arrival I confirmed this with the waitress for my table. In due course, was presented with a plate of supposedly wheat free goodies. Within an hour and a half I was racing to the facilities – way down the corridor. When I called them to let them know what had happened and how serious it was for me an others they told me it was a mistake. On my next visit with friends, I planned to eat only my own nuts, but I saw that were using a new label for certain food items “ALMOST GLUTEN FREE”.
      As always – we have to be vigilant – if we don’t want to be inadvertently wheated.
      Thanks Boundless, I hope our laws change too!

      • Boundless says:

        > … here on the Gold coast in Queensland.

        It will be interesting to see if the rest of the world takes up the 20ppm rule.

        > … were using a new label for certain food items “ALMOST GLUTEN FREE”.

        Expect more of that as “gluten free” becomes legally defined, and represents a standard that many sloppy purveyors cannot reach (and haven’t been reaching to date).

        > As always – we have to be vigilant …

        GF, in food service, has always been a guess, misleading (well above 20ppm), false or flat out fraudulent in almost all cases. It is nearly impossible to assure 20ppm in food prep unless the establishment is scrupulously free of all ingredients with gluten-bearing grains.

        Every GF menu we have seen includes a cross-contam disclaimer. We’ve had one reactionary experience at a supposed GF deli.

        The new FDA rule here is going have the effect of removing the phrase “gluten free” from menus. That’s a benefit in that it no longer provides a false assurance. It’s a hazard in that it might result in restaurants giving up on even trying to accommodate the wheat free. Businesses that continue the effort are apt to need a new term or phrase to describe it.

        Another approach is to simply list all the ingredients in each dish, and let those with ingredient sensitivities puzzle it out themselves. And that might be OK. Once low-carb high-fat, grain free, sane O6/O3, non-GMO, organic becomes mainstream, less fine print inspection will be required anyway.

    • Boundless says:

      > … food service industries are going to have to come up with a new phrase …

      I just noticed a sign of the beginning of the decline of
      NOW GLUTEN-FREE !!!
      as an vacuous food labelling fad. GF is now serious business. The reality (and expense) of the FDA 20 ppm rule is starting to show up in the market.

      Quest Bars: Until the latest 3 flavors came out this year, these low carb bars used to sport a not terribly prominent “GLUTEN FREE” claim at the upper right corner of the package. That top line also had the other promotional claims, such as: “HIGH FIBER”, “ONLY 1g SUGAR” or “NO SUGAR OR SUGAR ALCOHOLS USED”.

      The new flavors now say at upper right:
      “NO GLUTEN CONTAINING INGREDIENTS”

      This phrasing is allowed in both the US and UK. See, for example, question 21 at:
      http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/Allergens/ucm362880.htm
      It means: “… consumers should not assume that the food meets all FDA requirements for a gluten-free food.”

      It is not cheap to source 20 ppm ingredients, nor to control your facilities to avoid cross-contamination to this spec. This is going to result in the GF claim morphing on many products, or disappearing altogether, and yes, dear celiacs, that means that many GF products today are not credibly GF, and never were.

      In the Quest case, it seems likely that either they’ll tweak their production to meet 20 ppm, or the GF claim will become an NGCI claim on their older Quest products, as opportunities arise for package updates. New production will need to be compliant by October 2014. You may see older packaging well into 2015.

      Product producers are going to have to get serious about GF. I expect many will assess the market demand for authentically GF products, and decide that it’s not worth it. It will be interesting to see what happens on those products produced by high-glycemic clowns who slapped a GF on the box because there was no legal penalty for it being false.