My letter to the Wall Street Journal: It's MORE than gluten

The Wall Street Journal carried this report of a new proposed classification of the various forms of gluten sensitivity: New Guide to Who Really Shouldn’t Eat Gluten

This represents progress. Progress in understanding of wheat-related illnesses, as well as progress in spreading the word that there is a lot more to wheat-intolerance than celiac disease. But, as I mention in the letter, it falls desperately short on several crucial issues.

Ms. Beck–

Thank you for writing the wonderful article on gluten sensitivity.

I’d like to bring several issues to your attention, as they are often neglected
in discussions of “gluten sensitivity”:

1) The gliadin protein of wheat has been modified by geneticists through their
work to increase yield. This work, performed mostly in the 1970s, yielded a form
of gliadin that is several amino acids different, but increased the
appetite-stimulating properties of wheat. Modern wheat, a high-yield, semi-dwarf
strain (not the 4 1/2-foot tall “amber waves of grain” everyone thinks of) is
now, in effect, an appetite-stimulant that increases calorie intake 400 calories
per day. This form of gliadin is also the likely explanation for the surge in
behavioral struggles in children with autism and ADHD.
2) The amylopectin A of wheat is the underlying explanation for why two slices
of whole wheat bread raise blood sugar higher than 6 teaspoons of table sugar or
many candy bars. It is unique and highly digestible by the enzyme amylase.
Incredibly, the high glycemic index of whole wheat is simply ignored, despite
being listed at the top of all tables of glycemic index.
3) The lectins of wheat may underlie the increase in multiple autoimmune and
inflammatory diseases in Americans, especially rheumatoid arthritis and
inflammatory bowel diseases (ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s).

In other words, if someone is not gluten-sensitive, they may still remain
sensitive to the many
non-gluten aspects of modern high-yield semi-dwarf wheat,
such as appetite-stimulation and mental “fog,” joint pains in the hands, leg
edema, or the many rashes and skin disorders. This represents one of the most
important examples of the widespread unintended effects of modern agricultural
genetics and agribusiness.

William Davis, MD
Author: Wheat Belly: Lose the wheat, lose the weight and find your path back to health

Like This Post? Sign Up For Updates — It’s FREE!

Plus receive my latest collection of recipes, Wheatbelly Hearty Entrees!

Comments & Feedback...

  1. Nadya Mahoney

    This is so well put. Thank you for clarifying. I am indebted to all this information. And am very glad this is getting out there.

  2. Jo McCracken

    Dear Dr. Davis,

    I want to thank you for writing this book. I read it on the recommendation of a friend. After one week of grain free living I have lost 8 pounds. My previously bloated, pregnancy look, belly is gone. I must have been carrying a load of junk around in my intestines for years. This week it made its way out. I”ve been eating well. Lots of meat, cheese, nuts, veggies. And yes I have had carb withdrawals. But I will not go back to grains because my belly feels so much better. I will be tickled if I manage a 2 pound per week weight loss after this awesome week, but if it doesn”t happen I will still be happy. I love feeling so good. Thank you again.

    From a previously very grouchy momma,

  3. Dana

    I”ve never been diagnosed with celiac disease (and I probably won”t try; they can”t seem to make up their minds which tests are most “correct” and it takes just one false negative for the average doctor to stop listening to you and to write you a psych referral!), but I went without any wheat, even the incidental stuff in soy sauce, from the beginning of this year til the first week in February. Ate a plate of pasta and was sleepy within half an hour. I”m curious to go another month and eat a plate of *rice* pasta and see if it does the same thing. Not in any hurry to do the experiment though.

    I will say that I”m more likely to have GI disturbances on wheat. And that I”m afflicted with that lovely problem at the other end that so many women get who”ve ever been pregnant, and if I want it to settle down and not bother me a lot, I have to drop grains. Seems like even brown rice will aggravate the problem somewhat, though I blame that on insoluble fiber, and wheat still seems to be the worst offender.

    I don”t know why they even ask the question “who should not eat gluten.” Nobody NEEDS to eat gluten. I wish the media would work as hard to protect the jobs of ordinary Americans as they do to protect the paychecks of Big Ag and Big Pharma. Our economy wouldn”t be in the hole now. What about “New Guide To Who Should See A Hairdresser Once A Month” or “Why You Shouldn”t Do Home Repairs All By Yourself”? I don”t need to hear that if I don”t have symptoms on a checklist I should still eat poison birdseed.

    • Well said, Dana!

      Yes, nobody needs to eat gluten or wheat. And the gluten of 2012 is not the same as gluten of 1960, but very different in amino acid sequences.

      Yet another unintended undesirable consequence of the genetics shenanigans meant to increase yield-per-acre.

  4. Cherie

    Dear Dr. Davis,

    Once again, thank you for your tenacity on the ill-effects of wheat and the underlying science. When it was first suggested that I eliminate wheat, my first question was, “Why is wheat suddenly so bad?” I am trained as a horticulturist and worked for years on preserving biodiversity of seeds in human food crops, though I didn”t work with grains. What I do understand and appreciate is how the genetic and protein structure of the grain has changed in the last 40 years, and how our bodies are not able to digest it the way our ancestors did. I really hope scientists will continue to study this ubiquitous grain and demonstrate worldwide the impacts these changes have had on human health. Talk about a public health concern!!

    I also want to reiterate that humans don”t need to eat grain to survive! And, people who choose not to eat gluten do not need to go out and buy a bunch of “gluten-free” products. Eating wheat/gluten-free is really easy if you like fresh vegetables, fruit and meats!

    Thanks again for your insight and important work!

    • Ah, Cherie: a horticulturist? Excellent!

      You”re no stranger, then, to the genetic distance a plant can be taken. In the case of wheat, light years.

  5. Raina

    I”m amazed at the addictive component of wheat and how it doesn”t get more press. What other food is able to make you increase your consumption, often against your will? At the pressure of friends (yes, I know I”m too old for peer pressure, but what can I say?) at a Superbowl party, I ate some of the nachos that the host prepared. I had arrived with a full stomach and zero interest in consuming anything. Not 15 minutes after eating the nachos, I was STARVING. I don”t just mean “oh, I could eat something”, I mean I was raid the kitchen, miss the game to run out to a pizza place starving. Luckily I have a fair amount of control, and didn”t want to miss the game, so no additional wheat was consumed (had some nuts which didn”t fill me up but did at least keep my hands and mouth busy), but I could see me eating an extra 1000 calories of pizza that I neither needed or really wanted if I was newer to this way of life/didn”t understand the ability of this grain to take over my brain.

    When I consume closer to a paleo diet, I have complete control over my meals. When I”m in a situation where going wheatless is overly difficult, I can eat thousands of calories more without even feeling sated. I am quite thin because luckily I gear more towards real foods than prepared foods, but the sheer amount of food I can consume when wheat is involved is frightening. People need to start learning about this instead of being told to eat as many grains as they can stuff in their faces.

  6. Fantastic Dr Davis!! Get this message out there – we are all doing out bit. I have now “converted” quite a few of my blog friends, early days yet but I have high hopes for them. My husband and I are now 5 months wheat free/low carb and have now lost over 20 pounds each, lowered out blood pressure, normalised our blood sugars and feel and look great. I even had the surprise pleasure of having my blog listed on Jimmy Moore”s Livin La Vida Low Carb list of February blogs to follow!

    • Very nice, Lynda!

      You”ve now deprived the poor pharmaceutical industry of revenues for high blood pressure drugs and diabetes drugs. What”s a poor CEO looking for his $50 million bonus to do?

  7. Uncle Roscoe

    A species of small-beak finch eats a species of small berries. Drought kills off the small-berry bushes. But a species of large-berry bushes is drought tolerant. It survives the drought. All of the small-beak finches die except for a pair of finches with a mutation for large beaks. Large-beak finches flourish, and become the new dominant finch species, and surviving small-berry seedlings get a chance to reclaim lost ground. Evolution changes animal species ONLY in environments which kill the species down to a breeding pair or two.

    The current form of human has walked this earth for roughly 3 million years. The societies we live in today exist around, and because of, agriculture. These agricultural enclaves began about 10,000 years ago in northern Africa when people began farming grains. People have spent roughly 0.3% of modern evolutionary history trying to adapt to grain.

    When animals (humans) eat the seeds of a plant species, we threaten the existence of the plant species. One method of plant survival is for plant species to make their seeds poisonous. Human agricultural environments become successful by being food-plentiful. Food-plentiful environments are totally incapable of changing an animal species. Only killing environments are capable of changing an animal species. The 10,000 years which humans have spent eating grassy grains has done NOTHING to change the fact that they are poisonous to us.

    Addiction, autoimmune disease and cancer are the methods which grassy grains and fruiting plants use to defend themselves from us. If we were living 11,000 years ago the earth would only contain a fraction of its current population. We would not have these diseases of modern civilization, and we would not be having this discussion.

      • Uncle Roscoe

        Dr. Davis,

        I saw some of Diamond”s Guns, Germs and Steel special on PBS. I agree with him as far as it goes. But according to the Diamond perspective I saw, Diamond underestimates the contribution of agriculture to changes in civilization.

        The Guns, Germs and Steel paradigm plays right into the Hollywood perception of Europeans conquering outlying civilization with these three commodities. But the reality is different. Europeans did not defeat American Indian nations and take over their lands by war, or simply by communicable disease. These diseases do not, and did not, turn into epidemics until perspective victims were placed onto diets of grassy grains.

        The Holy Roman Empire existed and spread by forcing conquered people into slavery. The conditions of that slavery included farming grassy grains, banking the grains in communal silos, and eating the soured grain stocks. Can you say aspergillus poisoning? …..ergot poisoning?… The great killing plagues of Europe have been directly linked to these grain coops.

      • Uncle Roscoe

        ….an example provided by malaria and wheat? Malaria is a multi-stage parasitic disease. In the early stages of malaria, malaria parasites attack red blood cells, rendering them useless for transporting oxygen. The Roman and Holy Roman empires of Europe existed on wheat.

        Wheat is loaded with iron. Wheat causes leaky gut syndrome, and acts as a sieve for wheat-based iron to enter the bloodstream. Years of this regime causes diseases which rival and surpass malaria. But until that time, wheat provides replacement iron in the bloodstream for fighting the effects of malaria. Why is this important? After the sixth century a.d. Europeans, as part of the Holy Roman Empire, sent armies to conquer people in tropical regions. These armies marched on the grain stocks which they carted along with them.

        Malaria is endemic to the tropics. The tropical armies probably had more natural resistance to malaria, but wheat provided the European armies enough malaria resistance to fight and win many battles. In the tropics the European conquerors died early deaths from wheat ingestion, European bloodlines mixed with tropical bloodlines, and any endemic malaria resistance was curtailed.

        ….and 19th century Europeans couldn”t figure out why their attempts at establishing tropical farming communities kept ending in death.

  8. Janet

    I had to go to the local nice resale shop today and buy another couple pairs of jeans that were a size smaller than the pairs I bought 2 weeks ago. Down 2 sizes since first of January. My husband wondered where my behind went last night! Never felt so good, lost so much weight so fast EVER. I have a waistline again.

    Last night I cooked a nice Wheat Belly/Paleo dinner which my hubby loved. Horseradish Encrusted Cod–using 1/2 cup almond flour, a little fine chopped walnuts mixed with 2 T horseradish (prepared) and 2 T olive oil, s & p, then the mixture is pressed on the top of the cod pieces.

    Bake 15 minutes or until fish is done @ (375) and then under the broiler to make the topping brown and crispy.

    When I fine tune this a bit, I will submit the recipe.

  9. lcg

    Hi Dr. Davis,
    Great post as usual!

    I also just got around to listening to the Jimmy Moore podcast, and it was so great to hear your voice.

    I have a question about sdLDL. I have been 100% grain free since early October of last year. Prior to that time I was getting sugars only from fruit, and other whole foods, like sweet potatoes beets etc. and the lactose in low fat dairy. I monitored my diet carefully, limited dairy to 2 servings maximum a day, and bread or cereal to one serving a day. I am not diabetic, just wanting to lose a few lbs. I was basically following the South Beach diet, but never went higher on grains due to the fact my hunger issues returned. I mostly ate cooked oatmeal, or lo carb pasta. So much to my dismay, my VAP results are not what I expected and are not trending downward. First set of values was December 27, last wheat eaten October 5. Last week showed very little difference. Is there a logical explanation for this?

    • Michael Kovacs

      On you VAP test results, what was your LDL pattern, A or B? If you LDL was predominantly pattern A that is good, if it was predominantly pattern B its maybe not so good.

  10. Mary Taylor

    Dear Dr. Davis,
    I have never before found an honest, real reason to say this but the time has come. You are my hero. Truly, my hero. Without you, my husband would be 50+ pounds heavier and well on his way to cardiac disease as a result of carbs & sugars feeding his small LDL (which already was elevated due to familial causes). Without you, he would have continued with his severe mood swings and progressive joint pain. Without you, I would be 75 pounds heavier (or more!), my rheumatologist would be pushing me toward Enbrel for my “atypical RA” which never tested positive for RA factor but showed severe inflammation. Without you, I would have continued to have horrible joint pains and severe intestinal dysfunction (strange that when you”ve lived with it for 40+ years it becomes your “normal” and now I know it was anything BUT normal!).

    Without you, I would be miserable, likely divorced, probably heading for permanent disability, and suffering deep depression for the loss of a life I could have, should have had. Now I have that life and so much more! I still have 25+/- pounds to go (yes, I was >100 pounds overweight!), and I”ve had to learn how to move again (a joyous task I must say!) but now I LIVE each day, THRIVE each day, and hop out of bed every morning ready to tackle the world. I”ll send my full story to you when I get to my goal weight (without exercise, mind you!) but I think it”s very important for you to understand this now: You are my hero. You helped me to save my own life and that is why 2011 will forever be my favorite year.

    Thank you for continuing to speak out. You are not alone. Every life we touch, every body we heal becomes a soldier in our army. People cannot deny the effects of living wheat free and THAT will be what wins this war!

    PS…I see my rheumatologist once more in April for a discharge visit. No wheat = No RA! :)

    • Wow, Mary. Your story alone makes the battle worth it!

      Please do update us with your progress. There are countless others, silently suffering, accepting more and more prescriptions, wondering why their life and health has crumbled . . . when it all boils down to this corrupt thing in their diet. Others need to hear your story, so when you are ready to give us all the details, let me know and I will post as a blog post to bring it front and center.

  11. Mark

    Dr. Davis,

    Thanks for all you are doing! My wife and I have been wheat-free for over a week now and already feel great. We read your book and are charging forward. The weight is dropping, and I have to remind myself to eat now. Unbelievable.

    Thanks also for the fantastic recipes! We are having a blast.

    • Neicee

      Yep, I saw that yesterday and the CDC is blaming salt (the only ingredient in the mix your body has to have to live) but the ”heart healthy grains” got off scott free. Being grain free I find that no matter what I consume, any fluid injested is gone in minutes. None retained. I remember eating a dinner of pasta and french bread where I retained that fluid till the next day. I swear they will not be happy until every single good food is listed as harmful, and the only food they”ll recommend for consumption will be grains.

  12. SteveL

    For a person with chronic hamstring inflammation and leg edema how long would a person need to be wheat free to know if wheat was the culprit? Secondly as we know wheat is in almost everything how sensitive might a person be? If they go wheat free for six weeks but happened to have a little wheat unbeknownst to them would that negate the test? Thanks for any help.