Down and out wheat addiction

Anne posted this comment. Her story provides a perfect example of the wheat withdrawal process we encounter when we go wheat-free.

I finished reading your book. I’m truly inspired to make a lifestyle change, but have failed at all attempts to start.

I’ll make it through a better part of the day and eventually give in. The most I have made it is 3 days. I get crabby, dizzy, lightheaded, and feel tired & weak.

Any suggestions??? I feel I’m destined to be fat forever! I’ve been overweight (50-75 lbs. for the past 10 years) and I’ve tried every diet, some extreme, but they work temporarily and I regain it back.

There are no secret remedies except to understand that Anne is an opiate addict.

She is addicted to the gliadin opiate in wheat. There is no way to become no longer addicted . . . except to stop eating it.

The gliadin protein of wheat, degraded in the gastrointestinal tract to small polypeptides that act as opiates called exorphins, cause addictive eating, food obsession, and incessant hunger; removal generates a withdrawal syndrome.

Imagine you’re an alcoholic. How do you get off alcohol? Stop drinking, of course. There is no easy solution except to remove the thing that destroyed your health in the first place. (Alcoholics do have the option of taking a class of drugs called benzodiazepines to smooth the transition, but there is no such drug for the opiate in wheat. There is, of course, the opiate-blocking drug naltrexone, but that does not smooth the withdrawal, only provoke its onset.)

So Anne must brace herself for a withdrawal effect that may last 5 days, 7 days, occasionally longer. Given her emotional and physical turmoil, she is best choosing a non-stressful period to do so, e.g., vacation, not a high-pressure week at work. Don’t expect to exercise or meet new challenges during wheat withdrawal because it will only make you miserable, your performance will be awful. Having anything made of wheat to soften the blow will only reinvigorate the addiction and prolong the withdrawal.

Recognize that this is an absolutely crucial step in regaining health. The gliadin protein that lies at the root of wheat addiction exerts other effects, such as joint inflammation, hormonal distortions, mind “fog,” and depression. This gliadin protein, inadvertently changed during genetic manipulations of the 1970s to create the high-yield, semi-dwarf strain of wheat, lies at the root of the evil effects of this agricultural Frankengrain. Lose the wheat, thereby lose the gliadin opiate, and health and weight loss can finally proceed.

Is it any wonder that Big Food puts wheat flour in EVERYTHING?

Additional strategies that can make this sometimes terrible process a bit more tolerable include:

–Vigorous hydration
–Adding salt to your diet (unless, of course, you have some bona fide reason not to)
–Consider a probiotic–e.g., 50 billion CFUs or greater per day to accelerate the recovery of normal bowel flora and minimize the gastrointestinal disruption (gas, cramps, constipation) that results in some people.
–Consider magnesium supplementation–e.g., magnesium malate, 1200 mg twice per day
–Consider vitamin D supplementation–since it makes you feel clearer and stronger and improves health, an effect second only to wheat elimination in health benefits. Most adults require 6000 units per day in gelcap form to achieve a healthy 25-hydroxy vitamin D blood level of 60-70 ng/ml.
–Consider a high-potency multivitamin–that provides zinc, B12, B6, folate, iron (females primarily) to address the common deficiencies that develop in wheat-consuming people.
Indulge yourself–Buy a new outfit that you will be able to wear when you lose the 40 pounds you want to get rid of. Get a massage. Watch a comedy and laugh.

You will survive! But, like an alcoholic having his last swig of bourbon, it is an absolutely necessary step to say good riddance to all wheat-containing foods.

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112 Responses to Down and out wheat addiction

  1. Lindsay says:

    Chocolate and sometimes potato chips have been my methadone. In the first week of withdrawl I also ate cheezies ( and found that for the first time ever I was able to stop after one moderate serving!). I think for some people leaving all comfort food is just too much. But, leaving all wheat is essential in order to make it through the week or so of withdrawl. During the first grueling week of wheat withdrawal, in addition to a healthy wheat free diet of unrestricted calorie consumption, I indulged in chips, cheezies and chocolate. During this, the second week, I’ve been fine without chips and cheezies, and I’ve switched to organic milk chocolate and some organic semi-sweet dark chocolate. I also had an evening of indulging in 2 deliciously gooey grilled cheese gluten free sandwiches. Today marks 2 weeks and I haven’t lost any weight, and didn’t expect to eating grilled cheese and potato chips. I have, however, made it through the withdrawal, which I believe for many of us should be our only goal during the first couple of weeks. Next week I will eat only organic dark chocolate as a treat, start paying attention to my calorie consumption, and hit the gym. I think a lot of people are just tackling too much at once. Can you imagine if an alcoholic was entering rehab and told you he planned to totally overhaul his diet and lose 5 pounds during his first 2 weeks there? I think you’d see that as a little nuts! You’d be like, “Dude, eat some cheezies, gain 5 pounds, just get off the sauce!” Then you can worry about making all of your other consumption habits more ideal, figuring out an exercise program, and finally worry about your weight!

    • Dr. Davis says:

      Yes, many people with overpowering addiction to wheat should do it as you describe, Lindsay, and not sweat the details. Perhaps I should make that clearer.

  2. Adam says:

    I purchased source naturals magnesium malate and immediately (5-10 minutes) get very drowsy (1 tab in morning and one before bed). I sleep very well and much longer than usual (have had trouble with getting good restorative sleep for 4 years now so I am glad I’m sleeping…and actually ‘feel’ drowsy for the first time in years…I’m usually the tired and wired…running on fumes type…very ADD and short attention span and low memory). Off wheat for a month and don’t take any Meds. Only vitamin c, b, iodine, and d. I’m not really worried about this side effect but what are your thoughts on it? Others have reported drowsiness and some say its a sign of overdose…could it just be that magnesium is in a way showing me how tired I am from lack of good sleep for so long?

    • Dr. Davis says:

      No, I think it’s simpler than that. It may simply be the soporific (sleep-inducing) effect of magnesium.

      You may be best off taking your magnesium only at bedtime.

  3. Vickie says:

    Today is day 16 of no wheat and sugar! I have not had a Fresca in 6 days. But this has been the most difficult one of all. I must be horribly addicted. I pray for strength because tomorrow my daughter is getting married and there will be the most delicious wedding cake. Maybe I can take some stronger votamins or something. LOL

  4. Laura says:

    Have passed day 6 with no wheat, but not getting that upswing in healthiness yet, and just want to understand the chemical basis for some of the symptoms. I don’t know the medical terms that have been used for it, can you list the main symptoms of wheat withdrawal and give the reasons in layman’s terms? Can you say whether ‘modified food starch” if it happens to be made from wheat is just as bad or worse than wheat? I threw out everything that has the modified food starch as well.
    Thumbs up to the chocolate poster – I have been doing some of that too.

  5. liz says:

    my god, i cannot believe how different i feel after 10 days of this. incidentally i am also 10lbs lighter

  6. Pingback: Wheat Withdrawal and Gluten Intolerance | Gluten Free Recipes Fast

  7. Bill says:

    I have been wheat free for 3 days now. Last night my blood pressure was pretty high. Is this a symptom of withdrawal? Should I give it a few more days before becoming alarmed?

  8. Susanne Arnett says:

    I’m on day 4 of being wheat free. I’m incredibly nauseated… is this normal?

    • Dr. Davis says:

      “Normal”? No, absolutely not.

      Expected? Yes. It is part of the withdrawal syndrome of wheat. This is not normal, but it is something we expect from 40% of people. Thankfully, it is temporary. (If, in the extremely uncommon event it persists, then you should seek an evaluation.)

  9. anaisninja says:

    I’m on day 3 of wheatlessness and after feeling pretty good when I woke up this morning – no joint pain or belly bloat for the first time in a while – I just had 2 nasty bouts of diarrhea. Sorry for the TMI. Now I feel exhausted. Thanks for this article and the coping suggestions. I’m currently prescribed acidophilus and will start upping my dose today. I just made myself a bowl of white rice and gluten-free soy sauce. I agree with taking baby steps and getting past the wheat withdrawal before taking other steps. That’s it for now; back to convalescing on the bed. :)

  10. Linda says:

    Did anyone have high blood pressure when withdrawing. I am on about day 4 and every afternoon my head starts to pound and bp is 150/80. It is very stressful and I need some encouragement. thanks

  11. Chef Art says:

    @Dr Davis. After reading this article and other things from wheat belly, you must be familiar with Dr. Gundry whose program I have had tremendous success with.

  12. Trisha says:

    Have been off wheat now for 5 weeks. This is the first week I feel the withdrawal, jitters, extremely tired especially in the evening, a little nausea and pains out the top of shoulders. Is this all part of the process? I have been taking magnesium and vitamin B complex. Any suggestions how I get past this.