The Reluctant Wheat Belly

Blogger Gourmet Girl Cooks posted this tale of her reluctant adventure down Wheat Free Lane:

I am now 7 weeks without wheat or grains. I initially started WB to address my sky-high triglycerides and small LDL, hoping that this might be the answer for me and to keep my doctor from adding yet another medication to my routine.

After many years of losing weight, exercising, and replacing whole grains for the “white stuff,” per my doctors orders, to address my triglycerides (and it failing), I finally decided to give your program a try. I have been a regular reader of your Track Your Plaque Blog for years (way before WB) where you also talked about abstaining from all wheat to address high triglycerides. I will be honest with you: I started WB hoping that it would work . . . but fully expecting it not to. I assumed this was just another fad eating program of some sort.

I finally decided that I needed to know if it could be my answer once and for all, so I dove in 110%. I intentionally did NOT exercise. I wanted to put it to the test and see if the results of just abstaining from wheat/grains would do anything for me. It just turns out that I had a physical before starting the program and my bloodwork came back bad . . . again — bad enough that my doctor had me return in 3 weeks to recheck my BP and some of my bloodwork.

Here is the surprise: After 3 weeks, my triglycerides were cut almost in half; I had lost 16 pounds–yes 16 pounds. I gave my doctor your food plan that I printed out from your website (the Quick and Dirty). She said it must be working for you. Continue and come back and we will run your bloodwork again in 8 weeks. At 4 weeks on WB, I am down 21 pounds–who knew it could be so easy??? That would have taken months to do at any other time in my life. This is the first time I will be looking forward to my blood test results (early October).

I started this plan intending to prove you wrong. I am 7 weeks into this plan wondering where you have been all my life!!! I thank you from the bottom of my heart and I have never been so glad in my entire life to have been proven wrong. I will keep you posted on my progress (I have not weighed since the 4-week mark, but I am shrinking before my own eyes. It is astonishing to say the least). Thank you, thank you….thank you!

Isn’t that great?

Look through Gourmet Girl’s blog over time and you can see her shift in thinking about food. While her older posts (still beautifully photographed!) included plenty of wheat flour and pasta, her more recent recipes reflect her new wheat-free enlightenment. Take a look at her latest Eggplant Ricotta Bake. It looks like Gourmet Girl is another great resource for us wheatless folk looking for more clever recipes!

For those of you interested in understanding high triglycerides:

The issue of high triglycerides suggests that people like Gourmet Girl have a gene (or genes) that allow incredibly efficient conversion of carbohydrate calories to storage forms of energy–a survival advantage in a wild setting with intermittent and uncertain food supply.

Carbohydrates are converted to triglyceride-containing lipoproteins (such as VLDL) that provide the appearance of high blood triglyceride levels. It means high-efficiency de novo lipogenesis by the liver, the conversion of carbohydrates to triglyceride-containing lipoproteins. In a wild setting in which you may not eat for days or weeks, Gourmet Girl has a wonderful survival advantage. But in a modern setting in which foods flow many times a day, the product of liver de novo lipogenesis–triglycerides–accumulates to high levels. (Made worse, incidentally, by knuckleheaded advice like “Eat many small meals every 2 hours.” Wrong! This CAUSES heart disease and diabetes.)

The answer to reducing high triglycerides is not to cut the “white” foods and certainly not to cut fats, but to minimize exposure to carbohydrates, thus limiting the process of de novo lipogenesis.

The worst carbohydrate of all? The amylopectin A of wheat.

Anyway, welcome to the happy, healthy, and slender ranks of the Wheatless, Gourmet!

This entry was posted in Wheat-elimination success stories. Bookmark the permalink.

71 Responses to The Reluctant Wheat Belly

  1. Lou says:

    Hi all. Not sure where to post this.

    I think I’ve been a victim of the mentality that because my doctor is a nice, caring person, he always knows best.

    I have a strong family history of heart disease, and Doc has had me on a statin for about a year. The side effects are horrible; I’d rather die young than feel that bad. Doc says that only 3-5% of people have to get off statins because of side effects, and has strongly advised me to continue the meds but I weaned myself off. I went for a calcium score and it was zero so I determined that giving up the wheat, etc., will help me more than a statin. The other wrinkle (he claims) is that because I had a total thyroidectomy, I am more susceptible to heart disease. I don’t see the correlation, frankly, but I’m getting the right amount of Synthroid so it’s a moot point I think.

    I’m scared that I’m just going to drop dead one day now that I’m off the statin. Is that an irrational fear? I don’t sleep through the night because I’m worried about dying in my sleep.

    • Dr. Davis says:

      You definitely need a new doctor, Lou.

      Where to start? Here are few thoughts:

      1) If there is family risk for heart disease, what is the genetically-transmitted trait? Lipoprotein(a)? CETP variant that results in excessive small LDL with carbohydrate consumption? Apo E4? This needs to be answered.

      2) Risk for heart disease is NEVER via “high cholesterol,” but via other lipoprotein and metabolic factors that can be identified, e.g., via lipoprotein testing.

      3) Most people with hypothyroidism do BETTER on a T3-containing preparation, not just Synthroid. Lack of T3 (Synthroid is T4) acts as a coronary risk factor, especially if there is inherited risk for heart disease.

      You might consider perusing my Heart Scan Blog and Track Your Plaque program for added insights that cannot be covered in this blog for wheat.

      • Pat Proft says:

        You are so right about Synthroid. In 2003, I also had a thyroidectomy and 5 years ago I switched from Synthroid to Armour. I had been on Statins (first Lipitor, then Crestor, then Vitorin) but quit all of them due to pain in my knees. After the switch to Armour, my total cholesterol has been fairly normal. The last lab (in August) I had total cholesterol at 197, triglyceride 126, but HDL was 54 and LDL was 118. So all is not completely good, but I feel a lot better.

        To be sure, there have been problems with Armour and the latest form from Forest Labs isn’t as good as the form they were manufacturing in 2007 (too much cellulose now). I think I have tried all forms from Naturethroid, Westhroid, etc. and now I am taking 3 grains/day of NP Thyroid.

        Finding a doctor to prescribe it for you can be your biggest hurdle. The do exist but are few and far between. You just have to be persistent.

        All that being said, I too have wheat belly, and was diagnosed in August (after a bought with sever abdominal pain) with fatty liver disease. It wasn’t found from blood liver tests because they were normal (AST – 23, ALT – 55), but was found from an ultrasound. I am also pre-diabetic with a fasting blood sugar of 108 (has been this for years).

        I read your book and I have been wheat-free and sugar free (use Stevia) for three weeks. So far I have only lost 2 pounds. I am a 5’2″, 61 year old female and need to lose at least 40 more pounds. Hopefully some how I can get past this.

        • Dr. Davis says:

          Because of your slow progress, Pat, you might consider restricting total carbohydrates to, say, 15 grams “net” (total carbs minus fiber) per meal.

          This can often boost you out of a weight loss slump.

      • Lou says:

        Thank you, Dr. Davis. I’m signing up right now.

  2. Jared says:

    I’ve learned so much from your book and have recommended it many times. There’s one thing about your book I don’t understand though, and that’s the sky high blood sugar response you say comes after consuming wheat. What confuses me is that even though the glycemic index of wheat bread is high (70) the glycemic load is actually low (only 7.7). From what I’ve learned about the glycemic load vs. the glycemic index, the load is a much better representation of how the food will respond in your body, and that foods with a load of less than 10 are considered good to eat because the blood sugar response is low. You talk about the glycemic index of foods in your book, but not about the glycemic load. Can you help me to understand this better? (Another thing worth mentioning is that the glycemic load of table sugar is 7 and the glycemic load of white bread is 8.4…….. both less than 10). Now I’m really confused. Please help me if you can. Thanks.

    • Dr. Davis says:

      There’s a very simple self-test you can conduct and see how ridiculous the whole notion of glycemic index AND glycemic load are.

      Get a glucose meter and test strips (e.g., at Walmart or Target, available without prescriptions). Consume a food and test a pre-meal and 1-hour after eating blood sugar.

      You will see, for instance, that 2 slices of whole wheat bread raise blood sugar typically to 170 mg/dl. An equivalent quantity (by carbohydrate grams) of White table sugar raises it to 158 mg/dl. Two slices of multigrain bread raises it to 152 mg/dl.

      In other words, it’s ALL bad, just different shades. The effect we want is an after-eating blood sugar of 100 mg/dl or less, the phenomenon that prevents or reverses multiple metabolic phenomena.

      What we want is NO glycemic index and NO glycemic load.

  3. Ali says:

    I have been wheat free for 3 weeks (although I did cheat a few times) and I haven’t even lossed 1 lbs!!! Ergh :(

    • Dr. Davis says:

      Then something is impeding your success, Ali.

      First, consider complete wheat elimination. Second, most people do best with restricting carbs to 15 grams “net” carbs per meal or less. Third, consider thyroid dysfunction and/or iodine supplementation.

      After that, there are a number of issues to consider. In other words, wheat elimination is powerful, but cannot correct every abnormal condition, such as thyroid dysfunction.

  4. Megan B. says:

    Dr. Davis,
    I was 2 weeks into the wheat free lifestyle and had lost 7 pounds. I was so excited as I am a 38 year old avid exerciser who was monitoring calorie intake and was inexplicably continuing to gain weight. Anything that helped me take weight off was definitely something I could do! At the end of 2 weeks, I gained 2 pounds and have hit a stand still on weight loss. I am eating the same, working out the same, etc. I am pre-diabetic and had gestational diabetes with each of my three children so I know that insulin levels are likely the issues with my weight loss both before and after being wheat free. You stated that the fat loss I am experiencing can increase insulin levels. Also, my thyroid has been tested several times and all appears to be fine. Here are my questions…..
    1. Other than restricting all over carbs to 15mg per meal (which I am starting to do), do you have any other suggestions to get my body loosing again and keep insulin from spiking? And should I test my sugars before and after meals to monitor this?
    2. If my insulin levels may be up due to fat loss, that would mean that I would continue to see body changes even though I don’t see weight changes?
    3. How long do these plateaus usually last and at what point if I don’t start loosing again should I suspect another issue is the culprit?
    Thanks for your help,
    Megan B.

  5. Darcy says:

    Dr Davis
    I have been wheat free for three weeks. My daughter has celiac and I have many of the symptoms you have mentioned in the book. My energy level is up, the fog in my head is gone( this has been the most amazing part). My joints are not aching like they were. Only one negative, a bit Nasty subject. My bowel movements have become light colored, almost clay colored. This never happened when I was eating wheat. Any thoughts or suggestions? The Internet is a scary place and a lot of sites are saying I may have a liver problem. But if it just started when I went on the diet, that does not make sense to me. The only significant diet Change ( other than eliminating wheat) is I am eating a lot of nuts

    Thanks for your help!!