You are BETTER than your bowel flora

As often happens in our Wheat Belly conversations, we end up talking about bowel health. After all, our unwitting bowels are the primary means through which we (used to) ingest this thing that annoys, erodes, irritates, and generally wreaks havoc on our health. The gastrointestinal tract, probably more than any other organ system, is the unhappy recipient of most of wheat’s destructive properties.

The composition of your bowel flora, the little bacterial critters populating your gastrointestinal tract and outnumbering the number of cells in the rest of your body (yes: you are mostly a bacterial organism, judging by numbers! over 2 pounds in total), are increasingly appearing to be major players in overall health. Witness, for instance, this talk of “fecal transplants” in which the bowel flora/stool of a slender animal is transplanted into the intestinal tract of an overweight animal–and the overweight animal loses weight. Fecal bacteriotherapy may, in fact, be entering mainstream treatment for Clostridium dificile infection.

The 1) number, 2) species, and 3) locations (e.g., duodenum, jejenum, ileum, as well as colon and rectum) of bowel flora can vary from person to person. Obesity, for instance, is associated with greater numbers of Firmicutes and Staphylococcus aureus and reductions in Bacteroidetes and Bifidobacterium (Ley 2006).

Fact: Wheat-eating humans have different species and numbers of bowel flora compared to non-wheat consuming humans, judging from the celiac disease population who eliminate wheat/gluten and experience shifts in bacterial populations (though also modified by the disease itself).

Before wheat/gluten elimination, there are greater numbers of Bacteroides, Clostridium and Staphylococcus species and reduced numbers of Bifidobacteria. Wheat/gluten elimination results in reductions of those species and increases in Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus species.

The challenge comes when a wheat-eating human decides to stop consuming this gastrointestinal toxin called wheat: Bowel flora has to make the shift to a healthier profile of species, numbers, and locations. Ideally, remove the wheat and normal bowel flora species repopulate the gut, and normal bowel function proceeds with good digestion, normal bowel regularity, and normal stool character. But sometimes bowel flora fail to promptly repopulate with the right species and there is a period of bloating, gas, diarrhea or constipation, and poor digestion.

This is when probiotics can come to the rescue. Probiotics are nothing more than a collection of healthy bacteria designed to repopulate the gastrointestinal tract with “good” bacteria and crowd out the undesirables. While understanding of bowel flora is still in its infancy, repopulating with Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus seems to provide relief from many of these wheat-free “transitional” struggles. Most people do best with higher counts of bacteria, e.g., 50 billion “colony-forming units,” or CFUs, the usual method of quantifying bacteria.

It is not entirely clear just how much time is required to repopulate your bowel flora, a time period also influenced by how well other aspects of gastrointestinal health recover–or fail to–with wheat removal (e.g., pancreatic function, cholecystikinin release). Four weeks is too short to full repopulate and, provided other aspects of bowel health have recovered, we should not require them chronically. I have been advising 8 or so weeks and that seems to work well for most people.

Perhaps a high-potency probiotic should be something we all consider to smooth the shift to a life of wheatlessness?

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Comments & Feedback...

  1. Will 100 mg daily of doxycycline for rosacea affect the bowel critters? It’s been 8 months wheat free with tons of good results. This area is recovering, but it’s a slow go. Will try the probiotics. Perhaps with the doxycycline I might have to do probiotics for ever?
    Thanks!
    Jerald

    • Mari Fenili

      I would also like to know the answer to that question. I take the same thing for rosacea, but I only take it twice a week. I have incorporated fermented vegetables into my diet, but I’m not sure how much I should eat them or how often.

    • Deb

      My rosacea has really improved from adding betaine hcl as I was low in stomach acid and the book, Why Stomach Acid Is Good for You: Natural Relief from Heartburn, Indigestion, Reflux and GERD by Jonathan Wright, explains it. The topical antibiotics I was given never really helped.

      I had already been wheat, gluten free for 4 years, but not grain free and I think that this has helped as well. Maybe, in a couple of years, we won’t be swimming against the tide so much as in having to make everything ourselves.

    • Amanda

      Jerald, has your rosacea gotten any better since going gluten-free? I, too, was on doxy for rosacea and hidradenitis suppurativa when I was obese following the “healthy” SAD, but once I changed my diet (which wasn’t just gluten-free, I did/still do paleo/primal) both problems resolved completely. Antibiotics decimate your intestinal flora and contribute to candida overgrowth (I got one yeast infection a month when I was on the doxy). I would do anything you can to get off of them chronically, they will only harm your health.

    • GrainFree Jan

      The short answer is yes, Jerald. I also took that dose of doxy for rosacea for years, finally quit because I’m allergic to too many other medications and didn’t want to erode the efficacy of the cycline drugs in case I ever get sick. But yes, courses of antibiotics – and especially, those taken over a long term period – really do a number on our bowel flora (i.e., wipe a lot of it out). This is one reason a lot of people on long-term antibiotic therapy become prone to systemic yeast infections, as yeast starts to overrun the system (especially when we feed it lots of sugar with the Standard American Diet). When I went grain-free 10 months ago, I eventually noticed that my rosacea cleared up and seemed to go into remission for a long time. My skin looked better than ever. Now it’s come back to a degree, but unless I see a return to the styes/chalazions that prompted me to start taking the doxy, I’m going to stick with grain-free eating, a good probiotic and as few oral antibiotics as possible. Hope that helps.

      • Thanks for the info, I will make probiotics a regular part of my routine. The last week of them has helped a lot. The rosacea flareups are almost gone since I dumped fuctose sugar and grains. I live on greek salad (homemade, the commercial dressings have fuctose) smoked salmon, beef, free range, chicken, brocolli and cauliflower, eggs and cheese. Nuts seems to create a lot of gas and bloating so i am backing off on those. Cant seem to give up milk in my coffee.
        Ocular rosacea is the real challenge, barely under control even with the doxy, so I will continue with the meds and use diet and probiotics to deal with the side effects.
        Again, thanks for the feedback.
        Speaking of feedback, since losing grains, people say I look amazing, I only lost a few pounds but that just put me to a healthy bmi as I was pretty close. Still, I look really healthy now they report, I walk into a room and women turn their heads. Women who rejected me in the past are approaching me now, and saying I look amazing. I answer that I hadn’t noticed, what about me has changed? Then that makes them go into detail, and also describes their level of shallowness when it comes to priority in relationship, but that’s another blog :) . Cheers!

          • There ya go, a new marketing strategy, sex sells better than health (‘must have’ item as opposed to ‘should’).
            Oh and yes I took my cat off his ‘science’ diet which had corn and grains in it, to a food that has salmon and peas, and canned salmon every day as well, in small amounts. He’s like a kitten again, lost weight, and a total terror playing with toys and running around. So, what happened to me also happened to him. *grin* Thanks again for your care Dr. Davis. The advice has helped a lot.

  2. tom

    I am reading Wheatbelly right now. Great book.
    Our whole family quit wheat because our daughter can’t tolerate it. Wheat makes her very sick. We found we are all doing well on a wheat-free diet.
    My question is about Rye. I have found some Polish bakeries that sell 100% rye bread. I realize rye is a gluten but views seem mixed among celiacs with some saying they can tolerate it. I have read rye is a longer gluten, thus, perhaps not as harmful.

    Your thoughts, Dr. Davis?

  3. Not anMD

    Jerald–I’m not a MD, but doxy is a antibiotic and from my lay person’s knowledge kills bacteria (probably both good and bad intestinal flora). It probably would not hurt to take probiotics while taking doxy. Just don’t take it at the same time.

      • Birgit

        I am excited to see NuSI getting off the ground as well. We can’t have enough real research about nutrition.
        Both Peter Attia and Gary Taubes are quoted a lot on our Wheatbelly team on spark people (which just reached 200 members yesterday).
        Especially Peter Attia’s series about cholesterol is excellent. It is what we tell people to print off and take along to their doctor in addition to the Wheatbelly book when they are told that low-carb is dangerous for heart health.

        Birgit

  4. This was a crucial part of my recovery from celiac disease. Long story short, I was having problems with raging appetite and fructose (I had turned to fruit as I had gone first gluten and then totally grain free and had not yet discovered the idea of replacing calorie deficits with good animal fats) malabsorption issues. I developed a strategy based on a lot of reading that included lots of raw coconut and coconut oil and then I also added raw dairy. I chose to do this because commercial gluten free probiotics were actually making problems worse instead of better. I, unfortunately, didn’t have the wherewithal to have any sort of lab assessment of intestinal flora to understand what might have been out of balance but it seemed that the probiotic formula was merely overpopulating that which I already had too much of. I cut that out and relied on the raw dairy. The turnaround was astounding. The raging appetite went away. I did have a pretty brutal period of adjustment to this where I had some strange things happen for about 48 hours but once that was over there was this incredible feeling of lightness as my body truly began to heal. Prior to that I had been losing weight at a precipitous rate. This seemed to stabilize my whole system. There is a huge difference, for me anyway, between raw dairy and pasteurized. If I drink pasteurized I have horrible blood sugar issues and break out in boils on my hips. Raw does none of those things. As I began to tolerate more and more good organic foods I also added in things like Kvass and Sauerkraut as a natural way of maintaining my gut flora.. Oh, and also raw dairy cheeses that are rennet and gluten free. Because poop matters to a celiac sufferer, I can truly say this turned me into just another regular guy.. in the best sense. (sorry if that’s TMI.)

    • Dr. Davis

      I find it fascinating, Charles, how many of us are coming to similar conclusions, all having traveled somewhat different paths!

  5. lupo

    I have repeatly heard people recommending fermented food of various kinds (cheese, sauerkraut) when going paleo. Though fermentation is not really paleo in the sense of “our ancestors ate it”, I assume it’s useful to restore a grain-damaged gut flora.
    And Charles is right, of course: Pasteurized dairy sucks.

  6. Jenni

    Dr. Davis, do you recommend a certain brand for probiotics? I googled it and Nature’s Way was the first I saw.

    • JoAnne

      You might want to try Ultimate Flora Critical Care (50 billion CFUs) made by Renew Life. Dr Davis mentioned it in a post some time ago. I found it quite helpful.

  7. Sian Parkhouse

    Hello,

    Thank you all Dr. D and all commenters, I have found great comfort and support from information I read here.

    I have had a total colectomy, 20 years ago, (polyposis, villous ademoma) and now have an ileo-anal j-pouch, as well, gall bladder removal and total hyster/oopherectomy. I am 54 and have eaten “low carb” style in the past, with sucess but couldn’t stick with it.

    But what a difference to remove all wheat and all grains!!!!! The first thing to improve, within days was my psoriasis on my feet and hands that has been driving me around the bend for years. The skin softened the itching stopped and the cracks healed, it has been nothing short of a miracle after years of bandaids, creams and embarrassment. As well I have lost 8 pounds (with a desire to lose more!). This has occured over the past 6 weeks of this dietary change.

    Three days ago, my thumb and inner heel started to itch and within 12 hours the newly healed skin, started to crack (along old crack lines). I have been vigilant about the wheat but feel I may have had some when I ate out, fish with a sauce that I think was the culprit.

    My question, can a very little bit of wheat exposure trigger the reaction I have just experienced?

    As well, I have always had a gut feeling, no pun intended, that my lack of a large bowel and has comprimised the function of my small bowel, as fecal matter sits in the j-pouch for a time, and that proteins etc my “leak” through the gut wall and cause auto immune responses.
    When I have brought this up with my Dr’s (gastroenterologist included!!) I get an “eye roll” response and pat on the head type of treatment, basically suggesting I am way off base.

    I have always wondered would probiotics benefit me, with my anatomy the way it is?
    So far the positive results I am experiencing give me sense of hope about bettering my health that is greater than anything I have felt in years so again I thank you for getting the word out and standing your ground.

    • Dr. Davis

      Think of it this way: Wheat is a poison to humans, sufficient to ruin the gastrointestinal tract and mimic multiple diseases like colitis and gastritis.

      It is not only possible, but LIKELY that many, if not all, of your issues, were caused by exposure to modern wheat, the product of short-sighted genetic manipulations.

      I am uncertain whether, at this point, the probiotics will help. But I do not believe they are harmful in any way. They are just normal intestinal bacteria, after all.

  8. Lynda (FL)

    I want to express my appreciation for these ‘perspective pieces’ in this blog. I have been wheat free for almost a year now and enjoy many improvements; but I hit a landmine about two months along. My drs. never found what was rampaging through my intestinal tract, even with tons of tests, but it took one fifth of my not considerable body weight off in a short month and a half. With my drs in tears from not being able to help me and getting rather desparate, I read my daily Wheat Belly blog for distraction: Dr. Davis had put in a message on bowel health and probiotics. That convinced me to try them since nothing else was working. I am profoundly grateful for both the wheat free message and all the responses in the discussion on bowel flora. Folks, you just might have saved me twice and I thank you.

  9. steve

    Hi:
    Yes changing over to any kind of diet, water, anything that upsets the flora of the bowel can be devistating. We are all different, yet the same, we need fuel to run our bodies, and it all depends apon the grade of fuel that we ingest. Populating the bowel with acidophilus is a step in the right direction, using fermented foods is one tool that helps. I personal use 50 billion acidophilus from flora, for me it works. As the bowel becomes populated with these cells, it take less and less to do the job. But remember we as humans eat a lot of our food that is cooked in some manner, we loose alot of enzymes from the cooking process, so a good digestive enzyme help replace the enzymes in the food that have been taken out. We have been slowly posion by wheat, that have wrecked havoc with our bowels . Another skrike against our bowels. Protecting our flora will take effort, knowledge and persistance. Doc on this site the knowledge is in abundance.

    Steve

  10. Tyson

    Bubbies brand at whole foods has awesome naturally fermented pickles and real fermented cabbage. I think eating real foods that have been fermented is a far superior way to get good probiotics than pills. Kombucha and Kefir are the other ways to get a lot of really good flora to repopulate your gut. Yogurt, unfortunately, does not repopulate anything, so you are best off sticking with Kombucha, Kefir, Kimchi, Saurkraut and pickles (look in the refrigerated section of the grocery store).

    • Tyson

      Oh, if you want to do it yourself for a lot less $$, then Yeemos is one of the best places I’ve found for Kefir cultures, and Pickl-It is one of the best place to get the correct mason jars for veggie ferments.

      • Janet

        THANKS! Tyson. I have been looking for something like this, but didn’t really know what I was looking for. The 5 liter jar is going on my Christmas list, unless I can’t stand it and buy it anyway. I am itching to make sauerkraut.

  11. yuma

    I’m on a plan to de-wheat myself. I’m avoiding all wheat items such as bread and any processed food that includes wheat a an ingredient.
    1. I still have oats which are 100% natural Scottish style porridge oats. Do these also have to go?
    2. What about plantains, sweet potatoes, cassava, yucca, regular potatoes. Do these have to go too?
    3. I eat sweets (ice cream, cake, candy, chocolates) occasionally – 2-4 times per week – and put 1/2 of a packet of sugar on my coffee. Do these have to go?

    Thanks!

    • GrainFree Jan

      Yuma, the oats have to go – they will give you a big blood sugar spike. The regular potatoes have to go for the same reason. The other sweet veggies you mention need to be consumed very infrequently, in small amounts, and shouldn’t be consumed at all if you have weight to lose. The sweets and sugar have to go. Learn to enjoy your coffee with an artificial sweetener like stevia, erythritol or sucralose (the liquid EZ Sweetz brand of sucralose has no carbs from the maltodextrin and you can get away with using very little). In the book, Dr. D has recipes for lots of very satisfying sweet desserts and baked goods made sugar-free and grain-free (some on this site, as well, plus he’ll be publishing a full cookbook on December 24th). Good luck!

    • Dr. Davis

      Oh, boy, Yuma: You are carbohydrate/sugar addicted . . . big time!

      It is indeed a rare person who can get away long-term with such an extravagant carbohydrate intake.

      Cut them back to, say, 15 grams “net” per meal, and health is transformed.

  12. Deb Curl

    Dr Davis,
    I have been following your plan for some months now. My mate and I are retired, we love to prepare your recipes, and our health and well being are really improving. I have microscopic colitis and the plan has not really altered the diarrhea I experience. My gastronomy MD prescribed Cholestyramine for Oral suspension USP. This has been a miracle “drink” for the colitis. However this med includes fructose. I note it is also available as Cholestyramine Light with aspartame. Should I request this instead? Or, is there an alternative med you would recommend that I request?

    Thanks in advance for your recommendation.
    Dr Deb

    • Dr. Davis

      Sounds to me, Deb, like you need a head-to-toe reconsideration of exactly what is going on in your gastrointestinal tract.

      This is unlikely to come from a conventionally thinking gastroenterologist. It is more likely to come from a functional medicine practitioner or naturopath.

      I’ll bet that you have impaired pancreatic enzyme function, with the near-term solution simply being supplementing pancreatic enzymes. Ideally, someone with knowledge and understanding of these issues performs an evaluation and recommends (natural) treatments.

  13. MillieJ

    This is what I am going through now. 2 weeks wheat free and I just started having diarrhea. Now I know this too shall pass…..literally :)

    • Dr. Davis

      Hi, Jennifer–

      Very nice, an excellent start, especially with the relief from joint pain! You can see why I say this approach is life changing!

      I posted a link to your blog on the Wheat Belly Facebook page.

  14. Amanda

    Hi, could anybody out there send a copy of the book to Michelle Obama, she is so proactive and trying to spread the need to eat well, but I saw her on The View showing healthy choices like “pasta” -yuck- whole grain, she said, and she was on Dr. Oz too and she said their girls eat healthy, they have pizza days, yuck. I think she should be better informed. Just thinking…

    • Neicee

      Amanda, sadly, sending a copy of anything to our First Lady will have no affect on the school lunch programs. This is a 5 billion dollar endevour for the feds to completely control what our children eat. I saw the interview with Dr. Oz and he mouthed her sentiments to a tee. More grains, fruits, vegetables, with protein BUT no fats in the diet. That’s not going to solve the obesity in our children. Parents have been completely shelved in favor of what is being subscribed to by nutritionists, and last I checked not one person sitting on these ‘highly paid’ commissions have any nutrition backgrounds.

      • Dr. Davis

        Yeah, it’s amazing how far behind these people are, though their intentions are good.

        Their advice will benefit the kids who have nothing to eat or rely on junk food due to ignorance and poverty in their parents, but ALL children will pay the long-term price of weight gain, diabetes, and other health problems.

        I fear it will take much more than one book to turn the tides at this level. We all need to keep hammering away in all our communities, spreading the word, becoming personal examples of wheat-free success, while those of us who are able generate the data and broadcast our findings in the media. It will take 20 years . . . but it WILL happen.

        • Neicee

          It would take a lot less than 20 years to evolve from high carbs if our own feds didn’t subsidize the very products that are killing the population of this country (and others with exports) and the wheat/grain/rice/corn and potatoe growers had to charge exactly what the product cost them to raise. Not only is our ‘Food Plate’ aka food pyramid grossly out of whack but so are our priorities.

  15. Norma

    I have been wheat free for three days and am experiencing gastrointestinal issues, weakness, light headedness,loss of appetite (a good thing) and low blood pressure. I take BP meds as well as statins since having a stent emplaced six years ago. My concern is about the low BP (90/60 range)…. I know the WF diet does normalize BP but did not expect such a drastic change so quickly. Have had no health problems with the stent at all and recently had an appointment with my cardiologist and all was well. Up until now, have always had lots of energy and am never sick but have put on extra weight that I would like to get rid of and nothing seems to work. Also have high triglicerides and low LDL but they only used the calculated method to measure it so am not sure if they are the small or large particles.

    • Dr. Davis

      Be sure to hydrate, Norma. Also, many of us need to add salt to our diet after wheat elimination. So consider sprinkling sea salt on your food.

      A BP of 90/60 is normal, but you don’t want to drop much lower.

      And consider getting yourself a cardiologist who actually knows something about preventing heart disease, not just performs procedures when “required.”

      • pat

        It also has to do with drop in serum sodium when you go low carb , secondary to the drop in insulin spikes-so increase salt intake.

  16. Norma

    Thank you for the recommendations, Dr. Davis. How do you find the right type of cardiologist? Have wanted to change for some time but didn’t want to change from one “procedure happy” one to another.

    I was on leave from the ME, coming from sea level to 8000 ft elevation and was experiencing some shortness of breath and ended up with the stent…..no other symptoms and no repercustions from the “procedure”. Was prescribed medications and was on the plane back to the ME a week later. I have always questioned whether the whole thing was necessary. I have always been high energy and very healthly and continue to be, even after all this. There was not much time to shop around for doctors at the time as they treated it like I was having a heart attack, which I am sure I was not. They tested me overnight for antibodies and still weren’t sure what was going on. There was a blockage, however.

    I am monitoring my BP….it has been as low at 87/55 but have left off my evening dose of Metroprolol (25mg) to try to keep it from going any lower. Also take 20mg of Benicar and 40mg of Simvastatin daily, along with Fish Oil and 81mg of aspirin. Do not want to call my doctor for the obvious reasons. Would love to get off all medications, if that is possible.

    BTW…have lost 5 pounds….surely from the loss of appetite and the WF Revenge but it is a start…..30 more to go.

    So grateful for your book and this blog.

    Norma

    • Dr. Davis

      I hate to say this, Norma, but in Milwaukee where I live, if I were to develop heart disease, I might trust perhaps 2 or 3 of my colleagues out of over 100 in the city.

      Cardiologists for the most part have learned to put health second and profit first. It is a shameful situation. They are the first to embrace procedures and drugs, while poking fun at nutrition and natural methods.

      I think your best start is to identify a functional medicine practitioner, naturopath, or chiropractor, then ask if they know of any open-minded, honest cardiologists in your area. Don’t be surprised if they tell you it is a very, very short list.

  17. Linja

    I’ve been off wheat for two decades and have taken probiotics for much of that time. However, I still have all sorts of health problems and just got results today from a digestive stool analysis. It shows virtually zero lactobacillus and very high levels of two varieties of “bad” bacteria plus a parasite and some other problems. My doctor has added an antibiotic to the mix and I’m trying enzymes again.

    In short, giving up wheat is not a miracle cure. Probiotics may not work if something else is going on in your digestive tract. I haven’t given up but I am sure discouraged.

    • Walter Caero

      Hello Linya,
      My mother is also a long time wheat free advocate but has always had stomach issues.
      She recently has had much success with Olive Leaf Capsules which are historically known to fight off unhealthy bacteria.
      That is a very pretty name, by the way, much like my daughter’s who is called Senya. Kudos!
      Good luck !

  18. Hey Dr. D.

    Well, we’re very close to almost 2 months of being gluten (wheat, grain free).. I had a little incident the other night in the middle of the night.. and I have NO idea if this really is related to my healthy way of life.
    I woke up in the middle of the night to ah, well, go potty.. as I was ready to head back to bed.. I began to get sick.. horribly nauseated and thought I was gonna throw up.. also accompanied by a big cold sweat. Felt like I was gonna just die.. after about 5 min. (that felt like an hour) it all subsided and I crawled back into bed. And now to back up.. I had just been to the hospital that evening with news my 2 year old grand daughter who we are visiting here in S.C. was taken to the hospital in a seizer.. (turned out to be a fever seizer and she’s having an EEG next week to be safe).. I was quite stressed out of course.. but felt under control.. and it was the morning I woke and had this experience.. Now, I’m not looking for you to diagnose me for sure.. but was wondering if it is possible that this is related in some way to being off of wheat? Friends say I had an anxiety attack (I find hard to believe from just waking up).. I really am in good health.. have good cholesterol etc.. good heart rate (I check frequently)..
    I’ve posted before asking you about this BIG lack of appetite I have now.. and it still is very strong.. and since this incident I almost feel as though my stomach just feels kinda icky.. like I had the flu..
    This is the first real issue since we started going gluten free.. and I’ve noticed I am having more of the gas you speak of.. mainly at night.. (lucky hubby!!) Gad zukes.. am I really blogging about gas??!!!
    My question is.. can I start going through something this far into the new lifestyle? I haven’t experienced a hunger pang for weeks..!!!

    • Dr. Davis

      Sure sounds unrelated to me, Kate.

      Stress, especially one as substantial as worrying about children and grandchildren, can have many strange effects.

      There are other issues that can affect us, too, such as contaminated or tainted foods, to consider. But I don’t think it’s the new diet.

  19. Iris

    I went cold turkey with wheat and maybe i should have slowly taken the wheat out of my diet. It’s been about 31/2 weeks since I cut out the wheat. My stomach has been really upset with gas and what feels like acid reflux. I truly do not feel well. Which in turn makes me very anxious. I have an appointment next week with a gastro doctor. I am taking lots of probiotics so I am hoping this helps. I also noticed that I have become moody. I hope this all settles down soon.

    • Iris ~

      Hope all goes well with you… I just added some plain yogurt to my diet..

      I know that I’m under stress from saying good bye to my daughter here on Monday as we drive back to Arizona.. and the hospital visit this week for my grand daughter.. So try not to get anxious.. I’m sure it will make you feel worse.. Guessing you’ve read the book Wheat Belly? He does talk about the withdrawal that one can go through.. I would imagine it might depend on how much processed foods you might have been eating before going cold turkey..??
      Anyway, hope all goes well with you.. hang in there.. I would imagine.. putting this poison in our bodies for as long as we have.. has to take time to feel better..

  20. Monica

    been wheat free / gluten free/ starch/ sugar..(wheat belly and paleo) for almost 3-1/2 weeks. Generally feel 100% better ! Even my coworker said my complexion and eyes looked brighter. I have lost 9 lbs. My problem is constipation. Before the huge diet changes I had bouts of diarrhea and constipation. Now only constipation. I believe I am eating plenty of veggies and never eat a whole meal of just protein (expect breakfast which is an egg).. any suggestions ? I have not eaten any fruit for fear of the sugar rush that could cause me to crave more and therefore not lose weight as I am hoping to.

    • Kat

      I have been wheat free for four weeks and I too am having constipation troubles as well as digestive issues. Is this normal? Does anyone have any helpful comments?

      Thank you!

      • Yup, I third that….
        Generally helpful:
        – lemon squeezed into room-temperature water (or apple cider vinegar and water)
        – yoga
        – an apple before bed (I know, carby, but…gotta do whatcha gotta do…)
        I even tried to dissolve chia seeds in water and drink it…gel-like and not very yummy.

        Still, I’m into week 4 and suffering same issue…

        Hopefully just a stage….

        • jimrex

          Anne (and others),

          I have been on restricted carbs for years – taking it to an extra level this past week with wheat elimination. I have relied upon pysllium powder for years now. I mix a TBSP with 8oz water, 1 TSP lemon juice (unsweetened), and a stevia packet (I used to use honey). I add all that to a 1/2 liter plastic bottle and shake vigorously. Not too bad going down. You have to follow that with 8oz plain water as soon as you can.

          I used to do this twice per day, but I found that the evening dose didn’t allow for enough liquid consumption afterwards and sometimes caused it own blockage – it would catch up every other day (I know – TMI).

          CVS has plain psyllium powder for aroung $15. There are flavored varieties, but they either use sucrose are artificial sweeteners other than those discussed here.

          I hope this works for others as it works for me.

          JamesH (jimrex)

          • Tanya

            Magnesium!

            I used to use psyllium (still have a huge bag of it unused in the fridge) but it caused me bad bloating, gas, “the gurglies” (sorry for TMI) and if not enough water was used with it would, um, compound the problem, no joke.

            My ND suggested a magnesium powder such as Natural Calm. Worked great but at $25 a bottle it was just getting too expensive, and I needed 2 scoops a night. Found a magnesium oxide powder that is $9.99 and I only need a half-teaspoon or so to have an effect the next morning, sans bloating or gas. It takes some tweaking to get the dosage just right, not enough & you don’t ‘go’, too much and well you have the other end of the spectrum (usually only once or twice though!)

            My ND says not everyone can tolerate psyllium, and that he himself has the same effect from it, no matter how much water he drinks!

      • L.J.

        I am 32 day free of gluten, wheat and all grains. My bowel issues have finally cleared up. I found a site: Chris Kresser is his name. He has great articles and info that have enhanced my move to the WB way of life. Sauerkraut was the key that helped my bathroom issues. I don’t remember which post it was in. But I made sure to have it for breakfast and dinner a few times a week. I didn’t find out about the probiotic deal until a week or so ago. I also cut out potatoes and yams.
        I have been frustrated about lack of weight loss but after years of gut wrenching pain (not from diarrhea, just the feeling that eagle talons were scratching around in there) and the fact that its gone has kept me going. My job isn’t very active, massage therapist, so I think now that I’m feeling better I will add that in.
        I have also found my self defensive or outright hiding the fact that I’m eating this way because people really find it crazy!!! That was a huge surprise. It’s as though they truly can’t wrap their noggins around the idea.
        Anyway, the point was SAUERKRAUT. It worked for me. Good luck to all.

    • Kira

      Have you tried increasing your greens consumption? Easiest trick for me is to throw frozen organic spinach into my daily smoothies/protein shakes (vegan soy-free powder)… PeerTrainer Energy Soup is also a nice way to sneak in more veggies. I will also sometimes use a stronger probiotic for a short period of time — it’s expensive, but it definitely makes me regular quickly!

  21. Sean

    Hey Dr. Davis,
    is there a particular brand of probiotic that you recommend for your patients? I’ve done some looking around and the highest CFU I could find was 2 billion.

  22. Susan

    Two years ago I was feeling ill often and my HR dropped to 39, so I went to the doctor. Lots of test including a treadmill stress test. I was told I need a pacemaker and that I am very healthy otherwise. I refused to get the pacemaker until they figured out what was causing my other symptoms. The next year I continued to have extreme fatique, but not every day, confusion, feeling like I wasn’t getting enough oxygen to my brain (brain fog) and other symptoms. A year later I came to the conclusion that I might be allergic to soy. I mentioned this to my doctor, he then tested me for gluten intollerance, my result was positive (>29 which my doctor said is not that high). I stopped eating soy and wheat, and began feeling better. A month later I had two bites of a teriyaki chicken burger on a wheat bun when I realized there is soy in the sauce. Nine hours later I went into analphylaxis, vomiting and lost conscientiousness. I did not go to the ER because I did not seem to be having trouble breathing and I was aware as to what was happening. Called my doctor the next day and he was upset due to the risk of my HR going too low and going into coma. I tried my best to avoid wheat and soy, but soy is in so many things, and there is a learning curve. I continued to have problem days, so went off dairy and finally started feeling better. I still have occasional issues and have now started reacting to eggs and cashews. Anything I eat often becomes a problem, I’m running out of things to eat. I also discovered I have a zinc deficiency and a month ago started taking a zinc, vit C, B6, L-lysine supplement and behold a good side effect… my acne cleared up. My doctor thinks I might be malnourished, now waiting for latest blood work results. Just to let you know, I took antibiotics for years for my acne (who knew all I needed was some zinc), I believe this has distroyed my gut. Funny thing, since I stopped eating all these foods I have lost less than 15 lbs. I also have issues with constipation (this has been a life long problem, except while I was eating whole grains). I’ve tried probiotics and that causes so much bloating and inflammation that I had to stop. As soon as my blood work comes back I think I will try magnesium. Does anyone have any suggestions?

    Dr. Davis, I love your book, Wheat Belly, it is terrific…I’m telling everyone to read it. Also love this website. Thank you.

    • Dr. Davis

      Wow, Susan: You’ve likely got plenty of bowel injury to recover from that has created these multiple intolerances.

      Yes, magnesium is helpful in at least the stool-softening world. Most wheat-eaters develop magnesium deficiency, anyway, despite the magnesium content of wheat. If a laxative/osmotic effect is desired, you might consider magnesium citrate, 400 mg twice a day. If too strong, the malate form, 1200 mg twice a day, is a good choice.

      I predict that the longer you are minus the foods that trigger your current reactions, but especially wheat, corn, and soy, the better you will get, perhaps losing at least some of the current intolerances. But I suspect this will take months, if not years.

    • Dr. Davis

      Yes, I am aware of the study. But I don’t know how relevant this is to human health, as they used large quantities and it was, of course, in rats.

      It is the perennial problem in experimental model research: knowing how relevant it is to human health.

      That said, sucralose is not at the top of my list for sweeteners.

    • Nimbrethil

      Stevia (Truvia is a brand-name for stevia-based sweetener) is not an artificial sweetener the way that Splenda is. Since the article refers specifically to Splenda and makes zero mention of stevia anywhere, I wonder why you are assuming that a study on splenda would apply to stevia as well? There’s no cause to conflate the two: splenda is a lab-created artificial sweetener, whereas stevia is a plant that serves as an alternative to sugar.

  23. MGH

    I am almost 5 weeks wheat free and feeling much better. My IBS symptoms are dissipating, sinus issues less annoying, and I am taking less than half the amount of Allegra I took before embarking on a wheat-free lifestyle. I added ground flax seed to my diet to deal with the initial constipation issues caused by removing the fiber I used to get from eating wheat (Raisin Bran) breakfast cereal. I selected flax seed over other options because it tastes good and has actual food value. The flax seed does a better, far more consistent job of things than Raisin Bran ever did.

  24. Anna

    Hi susan,
    I am experiencing similiar issues with multiple food intolerances since the birth of my daughter..have you heard of leaky gut syndrome or candida? I think this is my issue but I don’t know how to heal my gut because I don’t know what foods Zi can tolerate :( good luck to you

  25. I have been wheat free almost 3 years now. Best thing I ever did. I also have low thyroid funtion for over 40 yrs. But my constipation cleared up right away and I lost weight Another thing is to stay away from all the sugar. I have had stomach issues all my life. I use zyphan and that helps I get it from Standard Process . I also stay away from any soy products & mushrooms

  26. Ixi

    HI Dr. Davis,
    I’m in the third week of my wheat belly diet and noticed that I’m dealing with a lot of string movement bowel and being very regular in going to washroom every single morning.
    As this wonderful diet cuts off carbs and sugar, I wonder if am passing parasites.
    Have your patients commented on expelling parasites naturally after a few weeks into the program?
    thanks!

  27. Miriam

    I just saw this post, so comment is a bit late, but I’m wondering if some “constipation” people think they’re experiencing is not constipation at all, but just not having tons of indigestable junk running through the bowels? I’m sure there IS constipation; just I wonder if there’s as much as people may worry over. I wonder this for three reasons:

    1. The simple fact that any machine that produces excess waste is not working efficiently. If the machine of the body is operating efficiently and actually using and digesting what it eats (instead of it just hanging around slowing things up as whole grains do) wouldn’t it produce less waste?

    2. I noticed that when I took my dogs off grain-based dog food and put them onto bones and meat like they’re designed to eat that not only did their health improve in every respect (digestion, back, energy, joints, breath, coat, sight, reaction time, etc) but they also started producing bowel movements far less often. They had been very regular, morning and evening, on grain. On bones and meat they go maybe once a day, often once every two days. Their waste no longer stinks, nor is it “messy.” And they are both perfectly happy and healthy going on a year now. They never seem “constipated.”

    3. We’ve been very low carb to nearly meat-only for 4 months now, and saw the exact same result as our dogs. We never “feel constipated” yet we are never as regular as we were on our “healthy” whole-grain and tons of vegetables and fruit diet. Everything seems to be working just fine, especially minus all the gas and bloating that accompanied grains. And, yes, we DO know what constipation is, because we have experienced it once or twice when we had too much cheese. But really we didn’t really think about this aspect till others mentioned it on forums or blogs like this about low-carb diets; so it’s made me wonder if some of the constipation worry is just people thinking they have to be producing bowel movements two or three times a day when they don’t.

    • Dr. Davis

      Yes, I believe that you are correct, Miriam.

      Some people experience constipation and/or bloating and diarrhea, as well as passing undigested fragments of food, due to incomplete digestion of foods due to disordered pancreatic/CCK from a lifetime of disruption at the hands of wheat.

      If anyone experiences this and it is persistent, a formal evaluation of pancreatic function and/or supplemental pancreatic enzymes may be in order.

  28. DJ

    Hello
    I am into 3rd week of wheat and Dairy free diet. Had been having headache ,constipation and gassy. So I took excedrin for headache. Had a slice of bread and some tea thinking it will make it feel better.
    Is this approach correct?
    Thanks

  29. Josie

    Fascinating reading all your comments! This site is a real learning curve….! Just to add to the pot, having had tons of digestive issues for years really and especially the last 6 months, have recently been diagnosed with duodenal ulcers and mild gastritis….don’t smoke, don’t take NSAIDS, H.Pylori test negative. On meds now after initially being diagnosed last August with IBS and given Mintec – but my Doctor’s advice now I have a diagnosis is to increase greatly wheat products for fibre, telling me wholegrain better than white for peptic ulcer state. After a week of this, felt so unwell even meds were not working for me, removed wheat a week ago today (bit tentatively) and feel so much better and my digestive system feels calmer for sure. I know I am going against Doctors advice and feel how can he be wrong but I also know how I feel. Cannot find any reference to wheat causing or worsening duodenal ulcers though. Will keep reading posts, thanks for listening :)

  30. Nimbrethil

    The live-culture yogurt that I buy contains six different species of probiotics. I’m aware of your assertion that yogurt and other dairy products (except cheese) should be eaten in limited portions, but I’m curious if this will suffice to repopulate gut bugs as an alternative to probiotics. Even if it takes several weeks longer.

    • Dr. Davis

      No, yogurt tends to have too few organisms to materially contribute to repopulating your bowel with health organisms. Not to say there is no benefit, but that yogurt alone is insufficient if your goal is the accelerate the transition to healthy bowel flora with wheat elimination.

      • Nimbrethil

        Darn. I thought that was going to the case, but I’d hoped otherwise. Probiotics are expensive.

      • Nimbrethil

        Well, I got some probiotics in the mail from Amazon today. A small, inexpensive pack. Only ten probiotic strains, and a 30 day supply. I was looking to buy a supplement with more strains (saw several recommended brands that more than a dozen strains), and a longer supply, but I’m eager to get my digestive tract under control due to my body adjusting to the lack of wheat by going back and forth between mild bouts of both diarrhea and constipation, so I got what I could afford. We’ll see how it goes.

        • Jeanine

          I’m about 3 months free of wheat and grains and feeling great. I almost feel like my body is being re-sculpted. I started a 50 billion probiotic about 2 weeks ago, even though I felt fine, intestinally speaking. I figured I’d take it for two months…just because I liked the idea of having an even healthier intestinal system. Because my whole life until now has been a mix of intestinal issues (always feeling bloated, discomfort, constipation…) I’m not sure how a healthy intestinal system should work. So my question is how do I know if the probiotics are working–or “over working”. I’m feeling great, but was feeling great before the probiotics.

          On another note, I want to thank Dr. Davis for promoting the wheat free way of healthy living. People who haven’t seen me for a few months are literally doing double-takes and commenting on how great I look. They’re not quite sure what’s different. My lovely secretary told me I’m transforming before her eyes–that I look so healthy and slender. I didn’t tell anyone I was going wheat free. I just started because
          I was sick and tired of feeling crappy. The thing that bothers me now, though, is that as a public school administrator, I feel like I’m betraying my students by feeding them food required by the national school lunch program. I hang out with them at lunch. They’re eating mac and cheese, while I’m eating pecans and blueberries. Not sure how to systemically tackle that one. I hire staff whom I would want my own children to have as teachers. But I’m providing food that I wouldn’t allow my own children to eat. NOT a good feeling. Forgive this digression…but it’s been on my mind–every lunch period.

          • Jimmy

            Hello Jeanine,
            I hear what your saying about feeding your students according to the school lunch program being not very healthy. The students can bring in their own lunches that are healthy if they want. The lunch program at school is out of your jurisdiction. Maybe let them know what you are eating and leave the food choices up to them.

  31. William Veitch

    Many years ago (1996) I was diagnosed with IBS. Not sure how much of wheat belly is relevant to IBS but I will relate my story and see if anything appears relative. I was originally prescribed a product called Dicetel which I took for a couple of years without noticing any significant change in symptoms. A family GP then suggested I replace the Dicetel with a non prescription product called Flor-A-Stor (saccharomyces boulardi). Again I tried this for a couple of years and again not sure that it offered any significant change. The foods that tend to cause the worst or fastest discomfort (diarreah) are apples, strawberries, lettuce, soy, and any kind of hot (spicy) items like chapotle, etc. — like using a very strong laxative. These particular foods other than the spicy ones just don’t seem to make sense that they react the way they do. I am now trying a new (non-prescription) product called Align (bifidobacterium longum), a probiotic. I have been on it for 30 days and as with the others I do not notice any change in symptoms or discomfort. Overall in my diet I do eat a regular amount of breads (white or whole wheat) but they do not seem to have an effect on me that I can notice although at times if I change to a multi-grain for an extended period of time I do wonder if maybe?
    I have read about a product called Donnatal on the internet which has relatively good reviews regarding IBS but need to do more research into it and talk to my doctor as it is a prescribed drug.
    If Dr. Davis reads this and has any knowledge or comments on my experiences I would appreciate his comment or input.

  32. Pippa

    I’ve been wheat free for almost a year now. Best thing I’ve ever done. However, the only issue I have is my bowel movements are almost always very large and solid which can hurt to pass. I drink a lot of water. I’m wondering if you could pls recommend a stool softener which won’t include wheat in the ingredients? Thank you.

    • Jeanine

      I would try the probiotics rather than a stool softener. They worked really well for me. I get mine at Whole Foods and get the 50 billion count.

      • Pippa

        Thanks very much Jeanine. I’m Australian and not sure whether Whole Foods is a health food shop? What brand probiotic would you recommend?? You take them every day?

        • Jan

          Pippa…..see if you can find “Ultimate Flora” in your area….I had great success with this brand.

        • Jeanine

          It’s called Ultimate Flora. Whole Foods is an over priced grocery/health food/supplements store that caters to folks wanting organic and healthier food choices. Big on whole grains, but I just go past those aisles. I think this is a good product. Good luck!

      • Dr. Davis

        Yes, probiotics have really helped people transition from the disrupted bowel flora of the wheat-eater to the healthier bowel flora that has to develop minus wheat.

  33. Gail

    I have recently purchased the Wheat Belly and Wheat Belly Cookbooks. I have been gluten-free for several months, but have still been experiencing stomach distress. While I have had Irritable Bowel my whole life, with predominant diarrhea, now constipation is predominant. I have tried probiotics, but it seems they increase my stomach “gurgling.” In the past nine months I’ve lost over 30 pounds, and that was a lot to lose from my 5’6″ frame, as I started at about 135lbs. I began my journey with the Body Ecology Diet (the weight loss seems to have been a result of this), then began experimenting with some Paleo Diet recipes, then made a few recipes from the book “Gluten-Free Girl Every Day”, and now to Dr. Davis’s books. I have a good friend here in Wisconsin who is a patient of Dr. Davis, and she has done very well with his wheat-free diet recommendations. I have had a sensitive blood sugar over my life (I am in my late 60’s), tending towards hypoglycemia, and have always been careful about my carbohydrate intake.

    My concerns: continued stomach distress, especially after eating, and my low weight. According to the formula in the Wheat Belly Cookbook, my BMI is 14.06, under the low limit for the Underweight category. Generally I feel well, and according to my massage therapist, my muscles and range of motion of my joints are in excellent condition. Having been on the WB diet for just a few days, I have cautious optimism that eventually I will get well. My energy is pretty good; I don’t have the sleepiness I once had during the day, and I wake up earlier in the morning than I have for years.

    The stomach and pelvic distress started in ernest about a year and a half ago, when I was going through some very emotional life changes. I will continue on the WB diet (have so far made the turkey sausage patties and the Date/Nut bread and loved them both). Over the past months I’ve experimented with all sorts of foods, adding or subtracting, but have not been able to come to any firm conclusions about cause and effect. Perhaps the WB recipes will be the answer.

    Question for Dr. Davis: how do I GAIN weight? Throughout the books, and everywhere, the emphasis is on weight LOSS. I’m concerned that restricting carbohydrates (as with the Body Ecology Diet) will contribute to more weight loss. My doctor thinks I would be better with ten more pounds. Thank you!

  34. Mark

    I can identify with your symptoms! I went paleo about 8 months ago and the switch has caused excess gas, constipation, and a nagging lower left quadrant pain which could be diverticulosis or it could be hip pain from RA – haven’t figured that one out. Don’t have any diarrhea issues – just plugged up. Sometimes go for about 3 days before relief. That said, I’ve had my gallbladder taken out some 15 years ago – that didn’t help with the digestion of fats which are more prevalent now that I’ve gone Paleo, thus I take Super Enzymes by NOW, but haven’t noticed any great effect yet. Am on an expensive pro/prebiotic called Prescript-Assist twice a day. Hoping it will start to fix things. Like you, I’m too slender 5’9″, 135 lbs. Lost about 10 lbs when I switched to Paleo – eat a bunch of nuts (macadamias) to get extra calories, but all the fat in nuts is also problematic. So not quite sure what to do. Thought about eating more fiber but that seems to make it worse (see http://www.gutsense.org). Have to limit my carbs because I’m a type 1.5 diabetic, so hard to pile up those calories without adding lots of fat (I do use coconut oil, avocados, MCT oil, etc). I also started eating fermented sauerkraut and pickles by Bubbies (you can find that at Whole Foods -http://www.bubbies.com/). Eating a lot of veggies in the form of kale, lettuces, asparagus, broccoli, and powdered super greens (Amazing Grass) – ll those veggies can be pretty tough on a sensitive gut and I ponder if that is where the problem lies. Rather embarassing at times if your colon starts letting out these gurgling, groaning noises – people hopefully think it’s from my stomach and that I’m hungry! :)

    Mark

    • Gail

      To Gingerbread and Mark,

      Thanks for your comments. With cautious optimism, I would like to say I’m just a bit better. It’s been five weeks since my post on the last day of June. About ten days ago I pressed on with daily doses of probiotics which I’ve had in my fridge for months but had to stop them because of the stomach distress I would suffer after taking them, which I did with lunch. When my instincts told me to stop this time, after about four days, the last day with two capsules, I did. Overall, I can eat more variety of foods at one time now, and generally more food at one time than I could eat even two months ago. My joints are in excellent shape; my respiration is wonderful, nose not runny or stuffed; my constipation has eased. I have good energy and am feeling more positive than I have for a long time.

      I just read over Dr. Davis’s article about bowel flora, and the time it takes for our digestive systems to “change gears” to adapt to the new wheat-free and low carb intake. I’m beginning to realize that something someone told me quite awhile ago could be true: sometimes the treatment seems worse than the disease. Patience! I made up my mind that I would act positive even if I didn’t feel that way, and so today I still remain hopeful that I will eventually regain some sort of digestive normalcy. I haven’t weighed myself for weeks, and don’t plan to for awhile. I FEEL heavier, though the mirror doesn’t show it, but I’m not going to worry about it.

      Mark, on the subject of the nuts and your concern about the fats: you might want to check Sally Fallon’s book “Nourishing Traditions” for her recipes on soaking and then drying raw nuts yourself. I’ve been experimenting with organic raw nuts I buy online from Jaffe Bros, and using Sally’s recipes. Soaking the nuts in water is said to weaken the enzyme inhibitors that are part of raw nuts that make them difficult to digest. It may not be the fat in them that’s causing the problem; it may be the fact that your digestive enzymes cannot counteract the enzyme inhibitors in the nuts. Just a thought…I still go easy on even the soaked nuts. A little goes a long way.

      • Steve George

        You all could be suffering from a leaky gut. Even though you’ve cut out the wheat/gluten it can take more efforts to heal your leaky gut. I’ve benefitted greatly from reading and following a very strict elimination diet after reading Digestive Health with Real Food by a RD Aglaee Jacob (I think that is her name). Read it.

  35. VibeRadiant

    I bought the Wheat Belly book August 29, 2013 and read it cover to cover in three days. I went gluten free the same day. I do not have CD, I am not intolerant to gluten, but not sure if I have a sensitivity or not. What scared me wheat-free was the frakenwheat descriptions in the book and in your videos. YIKES!
    I started taking a pro-biotic 8 days ago as well. I have a question about the output since starting the pro-biotic. My stool looks like it is mixed with undigested rice, but I haven’t had any rice. What is that about?

    • Dr. Davis

      That’s wacky.

      You may have to have your stool examined to know. A laboratory should be able to do this through your doctor.