Nutritional supplements in the wake of wheat elimination

Consumption of modern wheat distorts health at many levels. Remove wheat, like removing a splinter that makes your finger hot, sore, and open to infection, and the body needs to readjust to this new lifestyle.

There are a number of strategies to consider to accelerate the adjustment. And there are other strategies worth considering that help recover overall ideal health. This last item, of course, is a huge issue, but there are several basic efforts that provide outsized benefits.

Among the issues/strategies to consider:

Bowel health
Remove this great disrupter of normal bowel flora called modern wheat and you need to transition back to healthier bacterial populations. After removing wheat, some people experience constipation and bloating (often misinterpreted as lack of fiber), more rarely diarrhea. Both situations can be addressed by taking a probiotic preparation that provides 50 billion CFUs (colony forming units) of lactobacillus and bifidobacteria species. I’ve had success with Renew Life and Enzymatic Therapy brands. Because intestinal bacteria should repopulate fairly quickly, 4-8 weeks of probiotic replacement usually suffices. (Continuing need usually signals that something continues to disrupt resumption of healthy bowel flora.) If this dose of probiotic is rough on your gastrointestinal tract, you can try a lower potency preparation, e.g., 10-25 billion, for the first few weeks. A softer, slower approach is to take advantage of the “prebiotic” effects of inulin, a fiber/polysaccharide contained in some of the sweeteners used in Wheat Belly recipes, such as powdered stevia extracts with inulin, Swerve, and others; inulin encourages growth of lactobacillus species.

If this fails to provide relief from bowel complaints, such as acid reflux/heartburn, constipation, thin or liquid stools, cramps, or bloating, then it is best to undergo formal evaluation to assess for pancreatic insufficiency/failed cholecystokinin signaling, biliary insufficiency, bacterial overgrowth resistant to wheat elimination/probiotic supplementation, and hypochlorhydria. This evaluation is best undertaken by a functional medicine practitioner, naturopath, or chiropractor with interest in these conditions. An occasional person does fine on his/her own by supplementing with a pancreatic enzyme supplement such as Enzymatic Therapy Mega Zyme or Renew Life ParaZYME.

Vitamin D
I count vitamin D as secondary only to wheat elimination as among the most powerful strategies I have ever witnessed to regain ideal health. While a wheat-free diet is richer in vitamin D from eggs, mushrooms, fish, and meats, most people nonetheless remain deficient. Because most of the people I know refuse to run naked outside in a tropical sun but live indoors and/or wear clothes, and because we lose the ability to activate vitamin D as we age, supplementation is necessary for most people to achieve desirable blood levels of 25-hydroxy vitamin D. Having restored vitamin D in thousands of people over the past 6-7 years, I have found that most people require 4000-8000 units per day in gelcap form to achieve a desirable 25-hydroxy vitamin D level; I aim for 60-70 ng/ml (150-180 nmol/L). (Tablets are poorly or erratically absorbed.) Just as removing wheat mimics the natural diet of Homo sapiens that was without grains for 99.6% of the time we have walked on earth, so vitamin D supplementation restores the vitamin D we should have obtained from consumption of organ meats, mushrooms, fish, and the eggs of birds, as well as skin exposure to sun when possible.

The list of potential benefits of restoring vitamin D include relief from winter “blues,” heightened mental clarity, elevation of mood/relief from depression, improvement of memory; increased bone density/protection from osteoporosis and fracture; increased HDL cholesterol, reduced blood sugar/enhanced insulin sensitivity, reduced blood pressure; enhanced athletic performance; protection from colon, breast, prostate and other cancers; among many, many others.

NOW, Carlson, Nordic Naturals, as well as Sam’s Club and Costco, sell excellent vitamin D preparations at reasonable cost.

Omega-3 fatty acids
If you were a wild-living Homo erectus living one million years ago, hunting the African savanna, or an Ice Age Cro Magnon scratching out a living in the cold Northern European Plain of stone blades, you’d consume the snout, brain, heart, kidneys, liver, and hindquarters of auroch, ibex, reindeer and other creatures. Several pounds of animal flesh and organs per day was not uncommon. If you had access to coastal waters, you might also spear fish or scavenge shellfish. In the appropriate environment, you might also consume seal, whale, or walrus. You would thereby obtain rich quantities of omega-3 fatty acids that play varied roles in the human body, including participating in brain health and modulating the after-eating (postprandial) processing of meal byproducts.

Modern diets in which we are advised to cut fat and cholesterol and eat more “healthy whole grains” are woefully deficient in omega-3 fatty acids. A typical RBC omega-3 index (one method to gauge your omega-3 fatty acid content, obtainable as a blood test via fingerstick) of an average American is 3%, i.e., 3% of all fatty acids in red blood cells are omega-3s. The omega-3 RBC index of a wild living Homo sapiens who consumes fish and animal flesh/organs would be 8%, 10%, even higher (depending on the environment and the mix of animal and fish food sources). Interestingly, the risk for sudden cardiac death and cardiovascular events has been shown to drop off dramatically with an omega-3 RBC index of 10% or greater.

Nearly everyone achieves an RBC omega-3 index of 10% or greater with intakes of EPA and DHA (the two principal omega-3 fatty acids) of 3000 to 3600 mg per day, readily obtained by supplementing fish oil. (This is NOT the quantity of fish oil, but the quantity of EPA + DHA contained within fish oil.) The best fish oils are in the highly-purified triglyceride form, a form that requires additional purification steps beyond that usually taken to create the common fish oils on the supermarket, drugstore, or health food store shelves (the less well-absorbed ethyl ester form). The additional purification means triglyceride forms contain fewer parts-per-billion mercury, PCBs, dioxin, or other contaminants, and is better absorbed. (Notably, the prescription form of fish oil, the widely-prescribed and perversely expensive Lovaza, is the ethyl ester form.)

Supplementing omega-3 fatty acids reduces the postprandial excursions of lipoproteins (thereby reducing cardiovascular risk), reduces triglycerides, raises HDL cholesterol, reduces the proportion of small LDL particles, reduces blood pressure, enhances parasympathetic (“relaxation”) tone, and exerts anti-inflammatory effects.

The best sources of the triglyceride form of omega-3 fatty acids include NutraSea from Ascenta, Nordic Naturals, and Pharmax.

Iodine and thyroid health
If thyroid function is low, even if just by a bit, it will 1) impair your ability to lose weight, even adding weight, sometimes substantial, 2) increase LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, and thereby 3) increase cardiovascular risk. It can also be responsible for low energy, inappropriately cold hands and feet, constipation, thinning hair, and other abnormal phenomena.

Iodine is crucial for health; without iodine, thyroid hormone levels decline, you develop colds hands and feet, become tired, constipated, retain water, gain weight, develop heart failure and can eventually die. Iodine is critical for thyroid health, as it is required for the thyroid gland to manufacture thyroid hormones, T3 and T4. Iodine is also important for breast health (reducing fibrocystic breast disease, a potential precursor to breast cancer) and oral health (as salivary glands concentrate iodine for antibacterial effects).

Problem: Unless you live in a coastal environment, the food you consume likely lacks iodine if it is sourced inland. (All the iodine on earth is in the ocean.) It means that people in the midwest or other inland areas can experience iodine deficiency, as they did up until the first half of the 20th century when goiters (enlarged thyroid glands due to iodine deficiency) were everywhere, affecting 25% of the population. This is why the FDA passed a regulation in 1924 that encouraged that iodine be added to table salt, a time in which there was no TV, radio, internet, and much of the U.S. was illiterate and/or rural. Early 20th century Americans were therefore encouraged to use more salt to “Keep your family goiter free!” (This was the actual motto on the Morton’s iodized salt container.)

Excessive salt use (along with the salt-retaining properties of modern wheat) led to problems with sodium in some populations. The FDA responded by urging Americans to cut their salt consumption. People listened . . . and iodine deficiency reappeared, showing up as the symptoms listed above, the symptoms of underactive thyroid, or hypothyroidism.

Iodine deficiency is readily reversed by supplementing an inexpensive iodine supplement in capsule, tablet, or liquid form. I generally ask patients to supplement 500 mcg per day, a level higher than the 150 mcg per day RDA but a level that does not generate toxicity. (Rare side-effects are generally confined to people who have been severely iodine-deficient for an extended period and develop an overactive thyroid response, signaled by jitteriness, anxiety, and lab values suggesting an overactive thyroid, or hyperthyroidism. This is distinctly uncommon.)

Along with iodine deficiency that impairs thyroid function, we have all been exposed to a wide range of organochemicals: perchlorates residues from synthetic fertilizers in your produce, polyfluorooctanoic acid from non-stick cookware (which can persist for 10 years or more in your body or in groundwater), and many others. This can result in hypothyroidism, a very common condition. While approximately 20% of people will experience partial or total restoration of thyroid function with just iodine supplementation, the other 80% with hypothyroidism will require prescription thyroid hormone replacement. The great majority of people do best with restoration of both T4 and T3 thyroid hormones, not just T4 (Synthroid or levothyroxine). It means taking levothyroxine (T4) with liothyronine (T3) or a combination tablet containing both, such as Armour thyroid or Naturethroid. The hurdle is in trying to find a practitioner to 1) perform a full thyroid assessment, then 2) address all aspects of thyroid health, including T3.

Wheat consumption over many years impairs intestinal magnesium absorption. To make matters worse, modern water treatment (either municipal or home water filtration) removes nearly all magnesium from drinking water and modern produce generally contains much less magnesium (60-70% less is typical). The result: widespread magnesium deficiency. This expresses itself as cramps in the hands and calves; constipation; heart rhythm disorders; and (modest) distortions of blood sugar and elevated blood pressure.

To remedy, consume foods rich in magnesium. While green vegetables and nuts contain some, seeds–sunflower, pumpkin, sesame–are unusually rich in magnesium. Most people, however, do better by supplementing magnesium. Magnesium malate is my preferred form, such as Source Naturals, 1200 mg (total tablet/capsule weight) two or three times per day. The malate form (the malic acid “salt,” an acid from apples and fruit) is well-absorbed and least likely to cause diarrhea. (Most other forms of magnesium cause loose stools, especially the oxide form.) If constipation is a real bother for you, magnesium citrate is a better stool softener, though a bit less well absorbed; 400 mg two or three times per day.

Eliminate all modern wheat, eat real single-ingredient foods, and follow the suggestions detailed above, and I predict that 80-90% of all modern chronic conditions, including hypertension, “high cholesterol,” diabetes and pre-diabetes, joint pains, gastrointestinal struggles, depression and other psychiatric difficulties, as well as literally dozens, if not hundreds, of other conditions, will recede, if not outright disappear.

Interestingly, note that, by eliminating wheat, supplementing vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, and iodine, we are recreating the life of a primitive human–no primitive human consumed wheat or grains; they obtained vitamin D through sun exposure by living outdoors with greater surface area of skin exposure and/or consumption of foods containing it; obtained omega-3 fatty acids through consumption of animal organs, especially brain, and fish and shellfish, and (ideally) consumed coastal plants and animals containing iodine; consumed nuts, seeds, and drank water from a flowing stream rich in magnesium. In other words, these are the strategies we KNOW are consistent with the life created by human evolution.

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148 Responses to Nutritional supplements in the wake of wheat elimination

  1. shaw says:

    Dr. Davis,

    Can u suggest me any supplements that i can add in our daily routine for improve increase my muscles…..Reply please as soon as possible.


  2. JayInKett says:

    Dr. Davis:

    On 10 February 2013 I began to remove weat [misspelling intentional] from my diet, and by the 17th I was weat-free. As of today (3 March) my weight has dropped from 225.5 pounds to 218.5 (-7 pounds). This weight loss has truly been effortless. I have not added exercise, and I have not consciously restricted caloric intake. I eat as usual until I’m full. Historically, I’ve not been below 220 pounds since I began to chart my weight by week (I’d probably have to go back to 2003).

    My waist size over this same period dropped from 44 inches to 42.

    Much more significant to me has been the change in my blood pressure. Once I have a full month of data (through the end of March) I’ll report back with some better before/after figures. But here’s a taste: at a scheduled office visit on 18 February my physician measured 100/70 (!) in the right arm at around 4 pm. For comparison, my average awaking right arm BP for December 2012 was 139/87.

    On 23 February I had my usual 6-month blood tests – lipid, hepatic – and my annual A1C and fasting glucose tests. These numbers were pretty much on par with the last round of tests (i.e., no significant change) -
    A1C – 4.6 (down from 5.0 in March 2012)
    fasting glucose – 88 (up from 86 in March 2012)
    Lipids: total cholesterol 122; triglycerides 69; HDL-cholesterol 45; LDL-cholesterol 63; VLDL-cholesterol 14.
    hepatic – all values within normal ranges except for globulin, which was below low normal by 0.1.

    I think the significance of these recent blood test results is that going weat-free, and the resulting weight loss, does not necessarily imply that one’s blood lipid numbers will change dramatically. September’s numbers will be the ones to watch.

    I should also note that I did not eliminate other “bad carbs” from my diet. I eat plain potato chips with my lunches at work, enjoy baked and mashed potatos (real, not instant), and consume rice, beans and corn in meals as usual. In other words, I have taken the weat out of my diet but nothing else.

    Subjective experiences -
    In addition to the above-mentioned BP and weight/waste effects, I too have experienced the loss of hunger pains. I can now go for 6 to 8 hours between meals. On two occasions, as recent as yesterday, I skipped a meal because I was otherwise involved in an activity that precluded eating. Gone are those times throughout the day when it feels as if a little demon is poking my stomach with a pitchfork. Now I experience a dull empty feeling in my stomach. It is not unpleasant at all.

    I am eating less. I get full with less food than before.

    Negative experiences? Well, some folks have complained of constipation after weat elimination. I’ve had the opposite problem, with stools ranging from diarrhea to runny “soft-serve ice cream” consistency. Bowel control has not been an issue, but of course the looser the stool the more urgent the demand when Nature calls.

    I’ve had two episodes of what appears to be Reynaud’s syndrome in the middle finger of my right hand. Both episodes occurred in cold outside temperatures with the hand exposed (i.e., not gloved). It has never happened to me before.

    My plan is to continue as is through March. If the stool issue does not “firm up” by the end of this week then I will take your advice and take a probiotic preparation.

    And again, I’ll have some better BP data to report come the first of April.

    • JayInKett says:

      Hi everyone.
      I promised a follow-up at the end of March. So I’m two weeks late.

      Average blood pressure dropped dramatically in February and March. Here are the numbers for my right arm -
      NOV ’12 — 135/86 @ 73 (systolic/diastolic @ pulse rate)
      DEC ’12 — 139/87 @ 75
      JAN ’13 — 146/90 @ 76
      FEB ’13 — 129/82 @ 73 (started weat [misspelling intentional] elimination 10 February)
      MAR ’13 — 122/77 @ 72
      (The blood pressure in my left arm is consistently less than the right arm. Thus, for the purposes of reporting my blood pressure I use the right arm values.)

      Keep in mind that I did not eliminate other starchy foods, but neither did I fill the weat void by eating more of them. I stand/move/walk all day at my job, but aside from that have not taken up any additional exercise.

      Weight is now at 210.5 pounds (-15 since start). Waist size is 41.5″ (-2.5″ since start).

      The apparent Reynaud’s symptoms I experienced in the middle finger of my right hand have not completely disappeared, but with the change to warmer weather have lessen. This will be something to watch.

      On March 18 I suffered a muscle spasm in my lower back. This is related to an old injury suffered 25+ years ago and happens every once in a while. Recovered after a day of bed rest (or, more accurately, laying down on the living room floor), which is usual.

      The stool issue resolved itself. Bowel habits are now, if not as frequent, normal in terms of consistency and appearance.

      Going ahead, I will continue my weat-free ways. I am strongly considering eliminating corn and corn products from my diet. The rationale for this change pretty much follows from the fact that today’s commodity corn crop, like modern weat, is a genetically-modified soup of unknowns. I’m looking to start this in May after I get two solid months in with just weat elimination. I’m also considering some basic exercises to improve my arm and chest strength. I am using ideas promoted by Fred Hahn and Robb Wolf as inspiration on this endeavor.

      As always I much enjoy this site. I make it a regular stop on my daily blog reads. And again, I thank you Dr. Davis for sharing so much of your research, clinical experience, and positive attitude.


      • Boundless says:

        > I am strongly considering eliminating corn and corn products from my diet.
        > The rationale for this change pretty much follows from the fact that today’s
        > commodity corn crop, like modern wheat, is a genetically-modified soup of
        > unknowns.

        The larger problem with corn, whether GMO or not, is the excessive net carbs. You can find, for example, baked (oil-free) organic non-GMO corn chips on the market. But it takes a mere 6 chips to blow the entire 15 grams net carb budget for one meal or six hour period.

        When you are ready for low carb as well as wheat-free, corn is one of the first things to cut back severely, if not eliminate altogether. Just avoiding GMO corn, of course, amount to a significant cut back by itself, because non-GMO takes some effort to find.

      • Dr. Davis says:

        Slow but sure, Jay!

        And note that long-term results may be even greater, as ongoing weight loss tends to blunt the drop in blood pressure. As the flood of fatty acids that accompanies weight loss subsides, I predict that BP will drop even further.

  3. Wheat is very important & very useful for our body muscles. it is more powerful then any supplements because its natural.

    • Rose says:

      LOL you got to be kidding!!!! I don’t think you want to discuss WHEAT here!

      • Boundless says:

        They don’t want to discuss wheat. They were just using the Website field of the Leave a Reply dialog to spam the URL to their web store of trendy supplements, most of which appear to be overpriced placebos.

        Don’t be surprised if that Reply vanishes.

        • Boundless says:

          From a typical page on that site:
          “We would delivery your order to your door my registered air mail.”
          Whois says that the domain is registered in Novosibirsk, Russian Federation.

          The text of their trollish post here is evidence that they know nothing about human nutrition or health, and don’t care. As regards their products, anyone ordering them can count on one thing: the money will vanish.

    • Erik says:

      HAHAHA!!! excellent joke ! april 1 is five days away, mate…

  4. Nimbrethil says:

    There’s nothing wheat provides that can’t be had from a different and far superior source.

  5. Hello, you say above “Magnesium malate is my preferred form, such as Source Naturals, 1200 mg (total tablet/capsule weight) two or three times per day”

    I’ve just purchased their 180 tablet (1250 mg) container, but unfortunately the label lends itself to a great deal of confusion. Their serving size is 3 tablets which contains 425 mg of magnesium malate. Do you therefore mean one should have 3×3 tablets (= 9 tablets to get 425 mg. x 3) two or three times a day for a total of 18 to 27 tablets?

    I’ve spoken to Source Naturals and here is what they sent me:

    Source Naturals Magnesium Malate tablets contains 1250 mg of magnesium malate, which is a compound consisting of magnesium and malic acid.

    Magnesium – Each tablet contains approximately 142 mg of pure magnesium that yields 425 mg of magnesium per 3-tablet serving.

    Malic acid – Each tablet contains approximately 833 mg of malic acid, which totals 2500 mg (2.5 g) of malic acid per 3-tablet serving.

    The product provides 1250 mg of Magnesium Malate per tablet that will yield approximately 833 mg of Malic Acid. Magnesium Malate is a large complex molecule, which contains Malic Acid as part of the overall structure. This means that per three-tablet serving this product will provide 3.75 g (1250 mg X 3 tablets) of magnesium malate and 2.5 g of malic acid (833 mg X 3 tablet serving), in addition, there is approximately 141 mg of magnesium per tablet (425 mg divided by 3 tablet serving).

    So: (and I do apologize for taking up your time with this), on the basis of this, how many of these tablets should one take?


  6. its really amazing post thank you so much for sharing such an knowledgeable post. keep it up guys.

  7. Jane says:

    Dr. Davis,

    I had my gall bladder removed about 20 years ago. Since that time I have had had numerous digestion issues, GERD, and related. I have been wheat free since May 2012 and have noticed some improvement in digestion, but it doesn’t seem completely corrected. Does the lack of a gall bladder affect the process? Are there supplements I should/shouldn’t be taking?

    Thank you, thank you for your sharing Wheat Belly with us! What a difference it is making in our lives!

  8. Pingback: Essential Magnesium : Two Skinny Twins – One Fat Problem!

  9. Joe B says:

    Dr. Davis,
    In addition to Centrum Specialist I now take Vitiman D gelcaps as you suggested. I have (or had before I started WB, not sure now) high cholesterol. Should I take B6 regularly as well as shown here: Thanks.

  10. I re-read the section in your book regarding bone health and am a little nervous. You indicate that a 5:1 ratio of plant protein to animal protein is optimum while mine (if my calculations are correct) seems to be running in the area of 2:3…..with total daily protein consumption below 100g. My pH is good…..usually around 7 and have never broken a bone but am now wondering if I should get a kit to check calcium urine levels. I see that Osumex has a home test kit.

    Vitamin C….what is the daily requirement in your opinion? Since backing off fruit, due to the high sugar content, do you recommend a supplement? I realize we get vitamin C from vegetables as well…..but not as much. Should I be concerned?


  11. Daniela says:

    which brand of magnesium should I buy and how much? thank you


  12. MsG says:

    I’m sure I read about LDL going up when eating this way but my dr wants to add another pill because they went up instead of down. My triglycerides dropped from 400′s to the 100′s over the past 4 months. My ‘good’ fats are up. Help! I already have to take zocor at night. I was hoping to get off meds not add more. After 1st month of wheat free I started counting carbs. No sugar, lots of veggies, grain free.

    I feel so much better and have lost 6lb but I’m kinda freaking out!

    • Dr. Davis says:

      No need to freak out, MsG.

      Please refer to the chapter in Wheat Belly called “My particles are bigger than your particles.” You will see that the calculation used to generate the LDL cholesterol values is INVALIDATED by this dietary approach. INSIST on the superior measures, such as NMR Lipoprotein analysis, VAP, Berkeley HeartLabs electropheresis, or HDL Labs lipoprotein analysis. Alternatively, get an apoprotein B test at the very least.

      Unfortunately, you have an unsophisticated doctor who follows conventional thinking . . . as established by the drug industry.

      • Jeanine says:

        I’m so glad I kept searching the blog on this issue, and I will definitely review that chapter. I’ve been “freaking out” because my doctor was alarmed by recent test showing high LDL. I’m going to request one of the above analyses. I may also bring in the chapter you refer to so my doc can better understand “what I’m up to” and at least consider it before she dismisses it. If she dismisses it, then I need to find a more enlightened physician. The entrenched skepticism I encounter regarding this life style and its benefits bothers me. It feels so good to experience the positive results and share “the secret” with people who inquire. It’s another experience to have your doctor call with alarm bells ringing.