The Gliadin Effect

Gliadin is a protein found within wheat gluten. It is, from a cold scientific viewpoint, a fascinating issue, a protean protein capable of incredibly varied biologic effects in humans. Among the things we know about gliadin:

–Gliadin is the most abundant protein in wheat, contained within gluten polymers.
–Gliadin of 2012 is different from the gliadin of, say, 1960, by several amino acids, part of the genetic transformation of wheat introduced to increase yield-per-acre.
–Gliadin is degraded to a collection of polypeptides called exorphins in the gastrointestinal tract. Exorphins cross the blood-brain barrier and bind to opiate-receptors to induce appetite, as well as behavioral changes, such as behavioral outbursts and inattention in children with ADHD and autism, hearing voices and social detachment in schizophrenics, and the mania of bipolar illness.
–People who consume gliadin consume 400 calories more per day; people who remove gliadin reduce calorie intake by 400 calories per day.

Incidentally, antibodies to gliadin are capable of binding to nervous system tissue and may contribute to immune-mediate neurological impairment, such as cerebellar ataxia and gluten encephalopathy. Gliadin, particular the omega fraction, is also responsible for allergic responses, including Bakers’ asthma and the odd wheat-dependent, exercise-induced analyphylaxis (WDEIA).)

The high-yield, semi-dwarf strains of wheat, invented in the 1960s and 1970s, was introduced to North American farmers in the late 1970s, who adopted it over the next decade. By 1985, virtually all wheat farmers were growing this high-yield strain. (Can you blame them? Per-acre yield increased about 10-fold, provided sufficient nitrate fertilizer was applied.)

What was the effect of the new wheat with its new gliadin protein? Take a look at the CDC’s chart of calorie intake in U.S. women:

It would be an oversimplification to attribute the rise in calories strictly to the new gliadin, as high-fructose corn syrup from soft drinks also contributed, especially in young males.

But the pattern is quite intriguing. Introduce the new gliadin with potential for stimulate appetite 400 calories per day, followed by gradual weight gain, followed later, after a lag of a few years to allow 30,40, 50 or more pounds of weight gain, by diabetes.

Of course, the “official” response is that the increased calorie consumption, overweight/obesity, and diabetes are your fault because you are a glutton and you’re lazy, eating chips, cookies, and other junk snacks along with sweetened soft drinks while you watch The Biggest Loser.

But, you know, I look around at the people I come across and I know hardly anybody over age 20 who fits this bill.

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Comments & Feedback...

  1. Antibubba

    Dr. Davis said: Wheat is wheat, Cate, sprouted or not.

    The article implies otherwise. It’s modern wheat strains that are the high-gliadin sources. It would seem that older strains, such as spelt and kamut, would provide a healthier alternative, as would other grains like barley.

    As for oatmeal, I eat it occasionally, but I like to cook oat groats instead. It’s the entire hulled oat, and not only is it tastier, but its glycemic impact is less.

  2. Alina Watson

    So, do you suggest that we give up all wheat, all grains from our diet? And what about posting some more information on this ‘Gliadin’? I feel it would be more beneficial for me if I could have more information to compare to information from my father, who is a trained geneticist and specialises in plant genetics.
    I also agree with Ken Duffy, could you please provide at least some of your sources? As much as I would love to, I am not physically able to buy your book just for the sources in the back of it, and I should like to consult those sources in my own time and for my own uses.
    I remain, Doctor, intrigued but nevertheless cynical of this topic.

  3. Ricardo

    My friend, according to my sources oats, if they are not refined have a very low glicemic index, because it releases calories very gradually since its starch is only processed when it reaches the colon, actually I lost 20 pounds in 10 months switching to oatmeal for breakfast

    • Dr. Davis

      Sorry, Ricardo, but you need friends with better nutritional information! You lost the weight DESPITE the misguided switch.

      • Linda Hazen

        Ricardo, when you say “unrefined” are you speaking of whole oat groats? These, especially when undercooked a bit, still chewy not soft, are pretty low on the glycemic index. These are much different from a rolled oat or heaven forbid instant oats. I’m glad to read that oats do not contain gliadin :-)

  4. Abigail

    After years of digestive upset, joint pain, bloating and other chronic health issues I gave up wheat in an attempt to get relief from debilitating reflux pain.
    Not only did the reflux go but also 9KG of weight and still dropping. The health benefits far out weigh the hassle of learning to eat without wheat.
    Our body is our MOST valuable possession, in fact the ONLY thing we can’t do without in this life. Thankyou Dr Davis for your thorough research and informative writings.

  5. Onlooker

    Hey Doc. Your book is confirming what I have recently been noticing through first hand personal experience. I’ve eaten wheat my entire life (20+ yrs), and though NEVER overweight, I ALWAYS over ate, and had trouble controlling when to stop! My body kept telling me to eat until I felt sick!!

    Since lowering my wheat consumption (not cutting out grains, just wheat) I not only eat less, but I have more ENERGY, and clearer COGNITION. The importance of these results cannot be overstated, that even for non-sylliac persons, such as myself, GRAINS CAN HAVE PROFOUND INFLUENCE, though often unnoticed.

    If you wish to contact me about this please send me an e-mail.

    • Dr. Davis

      That’s terrific, Onlooker!

      I agree: The health and social mess that has been created by wheat simply can NOT be overstated. It is plain awful.

  6. George Racz

    The healthiest people in the world eat grains in large quantities, every day. It is their culture, their whole existence for thousands of years. Their life has only improved, not declined in this time. Can we tell them they are sick for thousands of years, even before America and its culture was discovered. Perhaps we can attribute the disappearance of Maya culture to their bad habit of eating bad grains?
    Or do we make money out of fools lacking culture, based on the old script of ‘self diagnosing’ terrible diseases. following suggested ‘reasons’?

  7. John Dabaco

    Is it possible that wheat consumption is a contributing factor in Psoriasis patients? If so, is there any evidence that elimination of wheat in the diet will aid elimination or reduction of Psoriasis symptoms.

    • Dr. Davis

      Yes, there is actually plenty of both formal and anecdotal evidence that wheat elimination can improve psoriasis.

      This is not to say that all psoriasis is cured. But what other “treatments” are free, without side-effects, and come with a whole range of other health benefits? It is certainly worth a try.

    • I am a living proof that eliminating gluten has a huge impact on psoriasis. 3 months of gluten-free diet and I have no visible psoriasis on my skin.

    • Matthew

      Mine did. I had it around the crown of my head, also my belly button. Completely gone!!. Im down over 130lbs my joints that were all messed up are getting better. Now my intestinal problem that was going the way of Crowns is getting better.. Do whatever you can do to kill wheat in your diet.

  8. Susan

    What is the best way to eliminate wheat? It seems to be in everything… I’m also concerned about all the GM products out there. It is my understanding that we is not GM but it has been mofied and that is reason for the concern. Is organic wheat okay or has the damage been done?

    Thanks in advance for your reply…


    • Matthew

      Modern wheat has been bread over and over with plants that made really fluffy bread. This is whee the problem is. Just like you might breed an apple to be sweet or a great dane to be tall the wheat has been breed to be the way it is. Ad this to GMO and its a 1 2 punch

  9. Susan

    Should have edited prior to sending the first time; here is the edited version……What is the best way to eliminate wheat? It seems to be in everything… I’m also concerned about all the GM products out there. It is my understanding that wheat is not GM but it has been modfied and that is reason for the concern. Is organic wheat okay or has the damage been done?

    • Dr. Davis

      Organic wheat is no better, just the usual genetically manipulated stuff without herbicides.

      That’s right: Modern wheat is NOT “genetically modified.” It is repetitively hybridized, crossbred with other grasses, and intentionally mutated using the techniques of mutagenesis–in many instances, methods that are WORSE than genetic modification.

  10. alice

    Further to Susan’s question I would indeed like to establish what grains have not been manipulated to increase the glaintin, we only eat organic and are sticking with spelt in the meantime. Where glaintin occurs naturally and without manipulation does it cause problems? What grains are best used for museli and is it even worthwhile in your opinion to eat organic? Looking forward to your reply and thank you for your book and insights!

    • Dr. Davis

      Remember: While the gliadin protein of wheat is the BIGGEST problem of all, it does not mean that anything without gliadin is good for you.

      Jelly beans have no gliadin but they are not good for you. Don’t fall for the flawed logic of nutrition: If you replace something bad with something less bad, and there is an apparent health benefit, we cannot conclude that a lot of the less bad thing must be good.

  11. alice

    Further to Susan’s question I would indeed like to establish what grains have not been manipulated to increase the glaintin, we only eat organic and are sticking with spelt in the meantime. Where glaintin occurs naturally and without manipulation does it cause problems? What grains are best used for museli and is it even worthwhile in your opinion to eat organic? Looking forward to your reply and thank you for your book and insights!

  12. Cheryl

    I am a vegan and consume a fair amount of seitan, which is essentially vital wheat gluten. Does gliadin reside there as well?

    • Dr. Davis

      Yes, they absolutely can.

      In fact, the gliadin protein of wheat, through its peculiar intestinal “leak” effect, underlies many, if not most, autoimmune conditions.

      • Von

        Do you think that family genetics make one more susceptible to wheat intolerance..Has there been any studies in this area.?

        • Dr. Davis

          There is no question that some aspects of wheat intolerance vary on a genetic basis; these are discussed in the books.

          However, there are also intolerances that have nothing to do with genetics but develop in everybody, such as the blood sugar effects of amylopectin.

  13. Jo

    Thank you for sharing your insight,,
    What is the best way to be tested for gluten/gliadin intolerance, and are the tests available in Australia? I’ve only recently begun to study into this condition, I’ve read it may be linked to infertility, with around 30% of the western population having fertility issues now, if it was the cause of a woman’s infertility might that be corrected as the body heals and repairs itself? Also would the effects on the brain be repaired?

    Thanks again for your invaluable experience and help to us all..


    • Dr. Davis

      Well, in my view the best solution is to never, ever eat anything wheat ever again, regardless of test results.

      But if testing is desired, there are several conventional blood tests: gliadin, transglutaminase, and endomysial antibodies. In my view, gliadin should be run with the transglutaminase.

      And, yes, the brain effects are at least partially reversible, thought they do so very, very slowly.

      • Jo

        Thank you for your response Dr D,
        I had read soooo many of these blogs its taken me ages to find where I had written my question, yay i finally found it!! Absolutely, test or no test( I decided I couldn’t wait for test results and my choice was already made to ditch the wheat/gluten/gliadin without being tested) I am totally grain free (including my lovely basmati rice) and will stay that way I’ve no doubt. Although I’m not feeling as great as I thought I would, and my weight hasn’t dropped much at all. Might it be my digestive system can’t handle the increased nuts very well yet?
        Also is it 15g net carbs for each meal or 15g net from non wheat grains ie rice you recommend?
        Any thoughts on the fertility issue also?

        Thank you again for your help. :-)

          • Jo

            Thanks. Errica,

            No more sharing of fruit platters for afternoon tea with the kids, I’ve always tried to encourage them to eat at least 2a day as do I, well did, and starting the day with an orange will be greatly missed . But the wheat belly won’t!! :-)

        • Erica in RSA

          Jo, Dr Davis allows up to 50g nett carbs per day, so you could add some fruit but that should preferably be berries. Perhaps you could have something like strawberries with a few pecan nuts. The reason I suggest pecans is that their nett carbs are very low because of the high fibre content coupled with a relatively low carb content. Although he allows other nuts you need to be careful with cashews because even their nett carbs are pretty high. Best to look up a carb and fibre counter on the internet for the figures for various berries and nuts and see what you can do with the remaining 5g nett carbs per day (unless you are coming in at under 45g between your 3 meals).

  14. Claudia

    I buy sprouted grains and flours, including wheat, from a privately owned company. I have cut back on wheat considerably however still enjoy my sprouted flours and grains several times a week. How do you feel about sprouted organic wheat and grains? And what do you feel is a good exchange for them? Thanks.

    • Barbara in New Jersey

      A rose by any other name is still a rose.
      Or, as Boundless has stated: How do you like your hemlock? Organic? Sprouted? Steamed? Broiled? Steeped? On ice? Hot? Cold?

  15. Jo

    Can anyone answer and clear up for me the position and use of oat bran, I gave it all away in my clean out and then found for high cholesterol( for which I was using it as I don’t like taking meds) Dr D includes using it, does it have gliadin or an inflammatory response in the intestine, my digression is really poor and weight loss really hard.

      • Jo

        Thanks boundless,
        So 3 Tsp/day is too much, I don’t use any sugars at all only stevia, what are your thoughts on zucchini just found out the net carbs on this much loved veg, does it cause an insulin spike combined in a meal? I think it would put the meal carb count way past 15.


  16. Jo

    The calorie, carb, fiber etc book I’ve been looking at lists 70g zucchini 1/2c. @ 21g carbs and only 2g fiber, but since your comment I Googled it to find obviously that is clearly wrong, which now has me wondering what else is wrongly printed. I’ll stick to Google I think.
    I’m so glad too as zucchini is such a fav and I’m looking forward to trying it as a pasta substitute.
    6 weeks grain free, as is my hubby and my12 and 14 yr old sons their choice (my 19 yr old daughter’s not on board so there is still some wheat bread and such in the house but the rest of us are not all tempted)
    We love the flax flat wrap and cook it in different size bowls to make buns and sandwich bread also.
    There’s a lot to learn or re- learn but it’s all exciting and we are all loving it.
    Thanks for you input Boundless.
    I’ve noticed your input on may of the comment’s do you assist Dr D or are a well journeyed low carber if you don’t mind me asking.

    • > I’ve noticed your input on may of the comment’s do you assist Dr D …

      I’m an ordinary reader on this blog; just a citizen desiring to avoid being maimed or killed by fatally flawed official dietary advice and incompetently dogmatic medical standards of care. I contribute what I can on forums that I get value from. This is one of them.

      > … or are a well journeyed low carber if you don’t mind me asking.

      Apprentice, perhaps. Just 2 years in, and only due to another family member who finally isolated the effects of wheat. I’m still connecting dots on the bigger picture into which WB fits.

      • Jo

        I very much agree with you, I’ve in the past followed the high carb low fat diet, eat pretty “healthy” mostly, don’t have a sweet tooth, prefer savory ( salami, cheese, olives and bread ). :( which has got me fat and unhealthy left me weak and with a constant food battle, guilt when I eat anything not vegetable cause I know carbs make me gain instantly, felt like complete bondage. Aside from the illnesses I’ve had to deal with, post vital chronic fatigue for 9yrs, heal spurs for 11 that interferes with exercising, loss of muscle and such. So when I first made a flax bread topped with 2 fried eggs (in coconut oil) and knew it was low carb, omega 3’s and perfectly good for me, I experienced an extreme sense of freedom that I will not give up.
        Thanks again for your input in helping us along the learning journey, God bless you and yours.

  17. Nahla Fattohi

    Dear Dr. Davis
    I have a hypothyroid and for 10 years I have been blaming my symptoms on my dysfunctional thyroid despite the good TSH and T4 levels. So why these symptoms, BLOATING, mild joint pain, brain fogginess, lethargy. I hated to go to gatherings because I did not know what to wear with that distended tummy.
    I have always been a bread eater; my grandmother made bread, my mother makes bread and it is nothing like it. Being a scientist (Ph.D. in Peptide Chemistry) has helped me link my symptoms to my food intake, the day I ate more bread, did not matter if whole wheat or white I have found out that my symptoms were augmented especially the BLOATING. I suspected gluten sensitivity however after loading up on bread for 2-3 weeks the test for Gliadin AB came back negative . I was really happy, now I can eat bread without fear. I was still miserable and so unhealthy, even my 82 yr old mother seemed healthier.
    A heavenly intervention and spending two days reading your articles and watching your YouTube videos helped discover the cause.
    About my divine intervention, I was going through some stressful situation in my life (additional to the stress from eating bread) and I said I am going to fast for the Virgin Mary to intercedes and ask Jesus for help in my stressful situation. My grandmother (who is Armenian) use to fast on bread and water only back in the old country (Nineveh-Iraq) and I wanted to do the same. So I started fasting on Wed and Fri eating nothing but bread and drinking tea. By the end of those days I was extremely miserable with extreme BLOATING and migraine headache for which I had to take advile and just go to sleep. It took me about two months to finally make an appointment with a Gastroenterologist. So this was the divine intervention from my protector and Heavenly Mother, Mary, to point at the bread as the source of my ailment.
    So I went to the Gastroenterologist. She recommended that I take Align, an OTC probiotic. I took the first dose and felt better within 1-2 hrs, I noticed a reduction in the bloating. She also recommended to stop eating bread for 2 weeks to see the effect. I had not mentioned to her the: mild joint pain, brain fogginess, lethargy, I only told her about the BLOATING, I did not think of it. She mentioned a very interesting thing about another patient who has similar symptoms like mine, BLOATING. When this patient goes to India and eats bread there, she does not have the symptoms, only when she is back to the States where she experiences the symptoms back again.
    So this is where you come into play. I took two days August 1st and 2nd, off from work and read your articles and watched your YouTube videos. It was an eye opener and thank you so much for the education, you saved my life.
    I read also something about the bread making process. We humans cannot digest Gliadin, so who is going to do it foe us? I have to say, my Grandmother and my mother never liked the bread we buy from the market and I had no idea why. They made their own bread and no one complained after eating it. The way they made it was a Loooooooong process. As a peptide chemist now I have an appreciation the looooooooong fermentation process. The loooooooong fermentation process will digest the Gliadin FOR US into its smallest constituent, the amino acids, which do not promote harmful immune reactions. There are scientific papers to support the complete digestion into amino acids. On the other hand, the short fermentation process which all marketed breads are made by produce partial digestion which leads to the formation of peptides which are highly immunogenic and hence all the horrible and miserable symptoms.
    So now after 1-2 days of eliminating bread: the bloating has diminished considerably, I have no pain in my finger joints, no tingling in my fingers and toes, my energy is high, no brain fog which made me feel stupid.
    After one month of bread free diet, I will make an old fashioned loooooooong fermented bread and I will evaluate its toxicity by monitoring my symptoms.
    I would love to hear your comments. Thanks again for your work and your angelic guidance.

    • > After one month of bread free diet, I will make an old fashioned loooooooong
      > fermented bread and I will evaluate its toxicity by monitoring my symptoms.

      Please do report on that. Gliadin presents at least 4 separate toxicities, so the question arises: will fermenting neutralize all 4? Then there is the exorphin opioid, and whatever other appetite stimulating chemicals are present.

      But the elephant in the room is carbs. Even you eliminate the toxic frosting, you still have a cake that is just as provocative to blood sugar as sucrose.

    • Dr. Davis

      You are on your way to health, Nahla!

      However, I would caution you to not believe that a lack of perceived effect in, for instance, traditionally aged doughs and other traditional manipulations, means no adverse potential. This is simply untrue.

      The breads made by your mother and grandmother were less harmful, but not harmless. I would argue that grains, worst of all wheat, are incompatible with humans. If we consume them, we do so by making compromises in health.

      This is an issue I will be discussing at great length in coming blog posts and books.

  18. Alana

    What about Wheat Grass juice?? I am Vegan currently only live foods and juices and Im trying to find if Wheat Grass juice contains any Gliadin … everything I read says its Gluten Free but what are your thoughts on drinking a daily shot of Wheat Grass juice? I start to wonder given how over modified it has become

  19. Tyler Brodie

    Hello Dr. Davis,
    I am a college student who has conquered depression and anxiety with a gluten, gliadin free diet. I’m doing a research paper on glutenin and gliadin being contributing factors to much of the chronic disease of today. I am unclear about one thing though. Gliadin is a composite protein of gluten? correct? A recent NPR article based on the research of Donald Kasardra says that the amount of gluten hasn’t increased in the past 20 years. So does that mean that they aren’t looking at the ratio at which the composite proteins make up gluten? Your saying there is MORE Gliadin than the wheat of yesteryear?
    Tyler Brodie

    • Dr. Davis

      Many imprecisions here.

      Kasarda is correct: Gluten has not increased in wheat. What he did not address (as he works for the wheat industry, in effect, through his post at the USDA) is that gluten has changed.

      As you may recall, gluten is made of two different classes of proteins: gliadins and the larger polymeric glutenins. ALL have changed; gluten has therefore changed, too. They have changed in amino acid sequence due to all the genetics/breeding efforts made over the past 40-50 years.

      To my knowledge, there are no data suggesting that the proportion of gliadin within gluten has changed. But there is no question that the gliadin has changed. Don’t be surprised if most people don’t know this, although it is widely known among wheat experts.

  20. Hi, I’ve been reading these comments and still am unsure if spelt or ancient Kamut grains are a lesser evil or an equal evil..?
    I feel that the sheer amount of wheat consumed in our diets today has gone crazy! You can’t go anywhere, eat anything without it.

  21. Pip Power

    Aretaeus of Cappadocia, living in the second century, recorded a malabsorptive syndrome with chronic diarrhoea. His “Cœliac Affection” (coeliac from Greek κοιλιακός koiliakos, abdominal) gained the attention of Western medicine when Francis Adams presented a translation of Aretaeus’ work at the Sydenham Society in 1856.

    You state:
    “Gliadin is the most abundant protein in wheat, contained within gluten polymers.
    –Gliadin of 2012 is different from the gliadin of, say, 1960, by several amino acids, part of the genetic transformation of wheat introduced to increase yield-per-acre”.

    Yet, almost 2000 years ago, it was causing problems.

    Would you like to explain?

    • Barbara in New Jersey

      Pip Power,
      Dr. Davis already has explained this many times. Wheat is not suitable for human consumption.
      It wasn’t 2000 years ago and it isn’t now.

    • > Yet, almost 2000 years ago, it [gliadin] was causing problems.
      > Would you like to explain?

      From 2000 BCE to 1960, it affected everyone, but only 1% rapidly and severely.

      After 1960, the severe effect rose to 6%, and is still climbing. Estimates are that at least 40% of the population is measurably reactive to this stuff, using tests just now becoming available.

      It went from “bad” to “worse”.

  22. Diane Hillman

    I buy Organic Hard White Wheat Berries, sprout them, dry them and grind them into flour. Am I wasting my time thinking I am eating healthier? I thought once you sprouted the wheat berries, there is so much more healthy things for your body in it. I also thought that ORGANIC wheat berries would be safer and not contain the bad things. Have I been wrong this entire time and have I been actually “poisoning” my family?

  23. Ken

    just curious, I searched on gliadin blockers, and did not find any fabricated “new” vitamin compound to hit the marketplace. White Kidney Bean Extract, does this even begin to accomplish that goal / objective?, because it along with Garcinia are being proffered as the latest and greatest to address this complex-chain concern. please advise… thanks