The Wheat Deficiency Syndrome

Beware the dreaded Wheat Deficiency Syndrome. This is what will happen to you if you eliminate wheat, the food that the USDA and U.S. Dept of Health and Human services tell us, through their Dietary Guidelines for Americans, to eat more of. The American Dietetic Association, the American Heart Association, and the American Diabetes Association also all agree: Terrible things will happen to you if you eliminate wheat. You will develop Wheat Deficiency!

So what does the Wheat Deficiency Syndrome look like? Like any other syndrome, you can recognize this condition by its many tell-tale signs:

–Flat abdomen
–Rapid weight loss
–High energy
–Less mood swings
–Better sleep
–Diminished appetite
–Reduced blood sugar
–Reduced blood pressure
–Reduced small LDL and total LDL
–Increased HDL cholesterol
–Reduced triglycerides
–Reduced C-reactive protein and other inflammatory measures

Of course, you could choose to cure yourself of this syndrome simply by taking the antidote: foods made with wheat flour like bread, breakfast cereals, pastas, pretzels, crackers, and muffins. All the signs of the syndrome will then disappear and you can have back your protuberant abdomen, irrational mood swings, exagerrated appetite, higher blood sugar, etc. and you will have satisfied the requirements for a healthy diet as advised by the revised Food Plate.

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Comments & Feedback...

  1. CW

    Wheat free since 8/30/11 and online 35 pounds lighter, moderate depression that appeared to be in my DNA totally gone since week two, and on and on and on and (!!) remaining wheat free for life….plus enjoying the humor of this morning with a big thank you. :-)

  2. DavidS.

    Been wheat-free for over 3 months now and feeling great. Six months ago my triglyceride level was at 104, just got my lab tests back from last week, triglycerides now at 68! HDL went from 43 to 48 and total LDL is the same, at 85. The only thing that I changed is getting rid of the wheat! Also, my blood pressure is better than ever, 107/70. What a difference eliminating wheat makes…

    • Excellent, David.

      And you will more than likely watch HDL creep up over the next year, since it is the slowest to respond. But going this route, i.e., saying goodbye to wheat, along with vitamin D supplementation to achieve a 25-hydroxy vitamin D level of 60-70 ng/ml, achieves HDL levels commonly in the 70-80 mg/dl range.

  3. Kim

    Give me a break! Follow the money..they are going to push their agenda and not care if we all get sick and die in the process. I’ve never felt better getting rid of the toxic grain! My skin looks better, I have a lot more energy, my heart rate went down (was resting at over 100 before), my stomach doesn’t bloat, my entire GI system is much happier with me : ) Wheat is toxic!

  4. Daniela

    How does one keep the weight on while going wheat free. I am 125 down to 123 in 1 week only of being wheat free. Every case in your book it seems needed to loose weight. I don’t want to lose weight nor do I want to eat more meat in order to keep the weight on. What do you suggest?
    Thank you

    • If you want more caloric content I’d go for good fats (mono and saturated, avoid too much poly as it oxidates too easily) and starchy veggies like sweet potato, yam, yucca, taro, squash, and pumpkin. If you exercise then try to keep the starch to post-workout.

      Good sources of fat are wild caught fish, grass fed animals, coconut products, olive oil. Hit up pretty much any website on Paleo eating and you’ll find quite a bit of info on foods.

    • You could try by supplementing your diet with more Snickers bars or just chow down at the sugar bowl, but these just don’t quite match the sugar punch that wheat has. Without the fat gathering power of wheat, you may just have to resort to the surgical option of visceral fat implants.

    • While the rest of the world talks about how to lose weight, in my office the question “Am I too skinny?” is a common one.

      Several things to keep in mind:

      1) There is no need to restrict calories. If you want a 4-egg omelet, go ahead . . . and add cheese, olive oil, mushrooms, and green peppers. Plenty of calories.
      2) Perhaps you are not too slender. You may appear slender, however, compared to those around you who are, by all estimations, overweight.

      Also, note that the people who observe you and your slender figure will often throw slights at you like “Are you ill?” Ignore it.

    • Shelly

      Daniela, I’m dealing with the same issue. I haven’t lost a ton of weight, about 10 lbs, but I’ve lost many inches and am getting to a point where I’d like to keep my curves! The things that have worked for me are potato chips or home fried potatoes, rice, sweet potatoes with lots of butter and chopped nuts, and eating a little later in the day. I haven’t found that squashes have much of an effect on my weight, even the winter squashes, but that could just be me. Do not be afraid of animal fats! Coconut oil is heavenly, if you haven’t tried it yet. I use the regular stuff for cooking and frying as it have very little taste and a very high smoke point, and use the extra virgin to top side dishes and to put in my coffee. Alternately, if I cut these starchy things out and have the majority of my food for breakfast and lunch with only a light dinner the weight drops off.

  5. Those are some frightening symptoms, but you forgot one:

    -Painless joints

    Since dropping wheat, I developed the symptom of being able to once again raise my arms over my head without shoulder pain. Probably due to a gluten deficiency. Can’t say the USDA didn’t warn me!

    BTW, great post Dr. Davis

  6. Sarahbearah

    I was having problems with my stomach and by chance realized that wheat was making me sick. I then took my 3 year old twins off of wheat because I started learning how bad it is for people. I don’t think I am depriving them of anything necessary but I think some people would disagree. I cook almost all foods from scratch and I enjoy feeding my family healthy wheat free foods. They seem to love my cooking even though it is lacking in wheat.

    • Your kids will be healthier and perform better in school as a result, Sarah.

      It is pure fiction that multiple nutritional deficiencies develop without wheat. This is fabrication on a par with “Your mortgage is in safe financial hands,” and “Yes, Mr. Madoff has made money for many of his clients.”

  7. If we accumulated everyone’s symptoms no matter how small and put them on this list, it would probably go on forever. When you put it altogether in one place showing the big picture, it is really shocking to see how detrimental this franken-food is. Nicely done, Dr. Davis!

    • Hi, Eva–

      Sadly, the myriad ways wheat intolerance shows up is also the reason many of my colleagues pooh pooh the notion of a genuine association.

      But we all have our own individual method of testing: On again, off again with symptoms.

  8. AllisonK

    I get comments/questions all the time on how I am getting enough fiber and nutrients for my children.
    One word…veggies! With all the fiber marketing out there, people seem to forget about veggies and think you MUST get it from cereal and granola bars and Metamucil.
    I also found once dropping wheat that veggies taste much much better. I, personally, never had an issue with my kids being picky about veggies(I have troubles trying to get them to eat meat) but, it makes me wonder if dropping wheat/sugars with kids that won’t eat veggies will change their tastebuds towards vegetables?

    • Catherine

      AllisonK: my 4 year-old is not completely off wheat (hard to completely avoid given the world we live in but it is a work in progress) but I find she self-regulates, as I believe all children can, given the chance. For example, she had a soft-boiled egg this morning and didn’t care for much else (she did have meatballs and spaghetti the night before at a family gathering so I somehow sensed that today would be a wheat-free day for her and it was). Late lunch was made of 6-7 green olives, 2 slices of ham, homemade cream cheese with chives and she later had an apple. At dinner she wanted nothing more than a plateful of green beans and didn’t care for the rest of the meal (meat and potatoes)…

    • Rose

      I am noticing that the skin on chicken tastes sweet to me now I have eliminated all grains, sugars, starches. It seems plausible to me that our bodies find ways to compensate even after decades of our mistreatment of them.

    • I think that’s true, Allison.

      And, in fact, I’m suspicious that many problems of childhood, including behavioral problems, inattention and ADHD-like learning difficulties, depression, anxiety, as well as distortions of taste and food preference, all share origins with this weird product from the genetics lab.

  9. Shelly

    I’d want to add – Increased nutrient absorption – to the list.
    I donate blood from time to time and whenever I do I take iron supplements 2 – 3 days before hand and eat more red meat so I can meet the iron minimums to give; even with this regime I have been turned away twice for low iron levels. I’ve been wheat free for two months now, but at only two weeks in I donated without my usual supplementation. I easily met the iron requirements! I’ve noticed pinker gums and nail beds, too.
    I think the slightly higher level of meat and eggs in my diet probably play their role, but my diet is and has been very plant and dairy heavy so I find it difficult to attribute it to a dietary change other than wheat elimination. I feel eliminating wheat has allowed me to take better advantage of the good foods I’m eating.
    The weight loss and clear skin are nice too. =)

    • Yes, the effect is paradoxic.

      The wheat people say we will lack crucial nutrients when we go wheat-free. The truth is that absorption is so improved that we actually enjoy higher absorption of essential nutrients. It’s true of iron, it’s true of folate, it’s true of other B vitamins.

  10. Maralyn Taylor

    Question about grapeseed oil? What factor makes it unhealthy for gluten intolerance folks? Just curious, because I have always used it and thought it was preferable to olive oil for sauteing etc. Thanks.

    • While it has a higher smoke point for cooking, grapeseed oil falls into the category with corn oil, safflower and sunflower oils–too rich in omega-6 linoleic acid that likely encourages inflammation. I don’t think that you have to avoid these oils, but I would not use them in cooking or foods since most Americans are astoundingly overexposed to linoleic acid.

  11. Happy to be Wheat Free!

    I have been living with “Wheat Deficiency Syndrome” for over a month now, and thankfully have not experienced a migraine since day 2 when I was in withdrawal!. This is huge for me, since at least once a month I lose 2 full days of my life dealing with it, and recently had to go to the hospital for relief from the pain. Now, I am certain that living wheat-free is the way to go. I indulged in cheesecake, wheat-filled crust and all, over the holiday weekend. Today, my knees are aching, my stomach is very unhappy, and I have a headache. Honestly, I’m ok with it because I know it’s the consequences of my poor choice. I feel great knowing that I have so much control over my health and wheat does not any longer! Also, I’ve lost 10lbs and my clothes feel looser already. My husband was slowly eliminating wheat, and realized that the wheat-filled stuffing did him in on Thanksgiving: heartburn, upset stomach, headache, the works! Now he’s a believer too. Although some friends and family think I am crazy, I will not be deterred! I keep sharing your book and encouraging people to READ IT for themselves! I work in the medical field, and am now horror-filled as watch diabetics, autistic individuals, schizophrenics, and developmentally disabled as well as those with dementia, high blood pressure, etc. consuming breakfasts with nothing but toast and cereal some days! All this with a nutritionist actively participating in the process. YIKES! We’ve got a LONG way to go to get the word out. I plan to be a visible witness of “Wheat Deficiency Syndrome.”

    • Hi, Happy–

      Yes, once you recognize the adverse effects of wheat for what they are, you begin to realize that it is epidemic. Everyone around you is suffering from wheat consumption in some form or another, or more likely multiple forms.

      The on-again, off-again effect of wheat consumption provides proof-positive of your individual response. Choose the off-again!

  12. MarilynB

    I gave up consumption of all wheat on October 1, 2011, following a nutrition class. I have been plagued with weight gain and abnormal lipid levels for the last several years. My doctor has been steadily trying to push a barage of Lipitor and Prevachol down my throat and I have been steadfast in my refusal of these horrible drugs. I had my doctor pull a lipid profile yesterday 11/28/2011, and the results are amazing. My triglycerides have dropped 169 pts, my cholesterol has dropped by a little over 20% in only about seven weeks. My weight has dropped 14.5 pounds and no I’m not exercising. The pain in my feet and hands has disappeared and my energy levels are amazing. It is very easy to argue with my subjective viewpoints but it is almost impossible to argue with the objective findings on my labwork.

    Thank you so very much for your willingness to preach truth and God Bless you and yours with the most wonderful Christmas.

    Thank you again.


  13. Rachel

    I just started, yesterday in fact, and I already feel better about my decisions since reading everyone’s feedback. I do have one question: Is it okay to still drink milk or eat sugar in things like pudding or applesauce?

    • The sugar, in particular, Rachel, is a problem.

      You are I should absolutely minimize sugar exposure. Would you settle for stevia or Truvia instead?

  14. Jeff

    I’m a 44 year old long distance runner and run as much as 50 miles per week. Until I read your book I did not understand why I could not completely shed the roll around my midsection. Your reference to triathletes with the same issue really opened my eyes. I’ve been wheat free for nearly 2 months and feel absolutely fantastic. Previously, I would contribute my 2 hour cycle of hunger to the high level of physical activity that I engaged in. Since going wheat free, I no longer experience hunger pains and find that hunger is something that gradually appears. It no longer crashes in and takes over. I’ve had several experiences missing meals and not even realizing it. Beyond losing the wheat I’ve also restricted other carbohydrates and the only thing I’ve noticed is that I need to have at least some carbohydrates on days that I am going for a long run. I am really enjoying the lack of hunger, the loss of the final roll, the absent after lunch tiredness and the increased mental alertness.

    • That’s great, Jeff! Wow: 50 miles per week?!

      You can see that this answers the question to why athletes are overweight, a microcosm of the entire wheat experience.

    • Lindy

      Jeff, I know everyone is different, but how long did it take before your appetite subsided? I’m also an athlete and new to the wheat-free life (on the 4th day), but I’m still hungry every 2-1/2 to 3 hrs. I still eat, just only what’s acceptable to the diet.

  15. Kathleen McFeron

    8 weeks in and I haven’t lost any weight. Is this abnormal? What’s wrong with me? Getting really frustrated to say the least.

    • No, it is not normal.

      Please see the blog post about a month back that addresses just this question. Consider excessive carbohydrate intake and/or thyroid dysfunction as your first choices.

  16. MamaCass

    Laughed so hard at this list! Mostly because my one friend who HATES the entire gluten-free concept is the one person in my life who could so obviously benefit from it. Finally caved and sent it to him today, as I brought it up while planning Christmas dinner with him, and he was all perked up “Wheat deficiency? Really?! I told you I needed wheat.” Then, the list…. he didn’t think it was nearly as funny as I did.

    I’ve been gluten-free since 2001, and reversed joint pains, bloating, auto-intoxication, chronic diarrhea and constipation, depression/mood swings, amenhorrea, skin patches (psoriasis?eczema?), edema, and many other problems. I have insanely stable blood-sugar, even when pregnant, which is always baffling to people b/c I feel hunger, but not the craving/crash cycle of people on wheat and sugar. And my 4 children also all have great stable blood sugar, meaning we don’t have to travel with snacks or be constantly eating (no juice), and they have tastebuds for fermented veggies, fermented dairy, all veggies, and the one grain in our diet, soured (24 hours) brown rice flatbreads made w/ pastured eggs and pastured home-rendered lard.

    I’m very excited to read the book, and to have a new resource to pass along to the many I know who suffer from the many chronic conditions that can be cured with some simple dietary shifts.

    • Very well said, Mama.

      You’ve done the most important thing any of us can do: Pass this message of health onto those around us, especially our children.

  17. Does the book give more information on possible withdrawal symptoms? I am so envious reading all the good outcomes people are having; I have been wheat/gluten free for over 3 weeks and I feel awful. I eat well, lots veggies, coconut oil, fish, tofu, pears, berries etc. I have had some dark chocolate. I make pancakes from chick pea, coconut and buckwheat and have a couple for breakfast but not every day.
    I am trying to recover from chronic fatigue, I am sometimes 90% well then crash down again for a few days. At the moment I can barely stay awake, I sleep 10 hours at a time followed by afternoon naps – I was not doing this before stopping wheat, in fact I had not had an afternoon nap in ages.
    I am also getting heavier! I dropped 4lbs very quickly the first week and felt excited, then I put 6lbs ON! I have always been on odd ball but I am surprised at being so different to everyone here.
    Giving up wheat is my absolute last hope of recovering my energy as I have done everything else, but it’s not looking good so far. My nose has stopped running every day so maybe something is happening.

    • Dr. Davis

      It sure sounds like you are among those with prolonged withdrawal, Jane. Sadly, I know of no way to abbreviate it.

      Consider having an intelligence thyroid assessment from a functional medicine doctor or naturopath. Also, consider having your cortisol status evaluated. While these may not be causal right now, they may be contributors to your current unhappy status.

      No other food (except alcohol, if you consider that a food) can generate such withdrawal phenomena except, yes, “healthy whole grains.”

      • Doctors here in UK are reluctant to test without what they see as ‘obvious’ thyroid signs – have been through so much over the last 10 years or so I am tired of fighting with them. Their basic thyroid tests say I am ‘normal’, so they won’t explore any further.
        Initially I started this as a 30 day challenge, and then did more reading and listened to Youtube lectures by yourself and others and now I am convinced I need to keep this up. I am just hitting a bit of an emotional phase and this is when I have gone running back to bread in the past. I also feel a bit sick, but I will keep going. All my tests for years have said I should be normal, but I am rarely well and have no energy at all, so there must be something deeper going on.
        It would be good to hear from some other people who haven’t had the 2 day miracles!
        Thanks for your reply and all the info you give freely here.

    • Update: oh gosh, I think I might have broken through into ‘wheat deficiency’! Is this what all the fuss is about? I feel so different! I feel calm, I have no pain in my body, I am finding it easier to think and solve problems. I have spent the weekend completing jobs around the house I had no desire to do for 2 years or more! I hope this is it, if I stay like this, it’s a miracle. I have suffered body pains, fatigue, brain fog and numerous other symptoms for 10 years.

      This was originally just a 30 day challenge for myself, but I am carrying on to see what the effects will be. I have not lost an ounce of weight, not one in a month, but right now I am just happy to feel this way.