Say “no” to drugs!

Tobechi posted this question about emotional and physical struggles just 2 days into his/her wheat-free experience:

It’s only the end of my second day of not eating wheat, and I have has this constant headache since I’ve stopped eating wheat products. My headache seems to be constantly getting worse, but I’m eating fruit, veggies and fish, so I’m not sure if there are any essential vitamins/nutrients I’m lacking? I’ve been having crazy cravings for cereal, bread, crackers, cake, anything with wheat! Will the cravings ever go away?

Tobechi is experiencing headache, along with cravings for wheat-containing foods. Others experience marked fatigue, nausea, and depression. A bit later in the process, constipation or, less commonly, diarrhea, can result. Could this be due to some nutritional deficiency? Is what the nutritionists say true, i.e., grains are necessary for complete nutrition and a wheat-free or grain-free diet will lead to deficiencies of B vitamins, fiber, and other nutrients?

No. Unless desperately malnourished to begin with, no nutritional deficiency will result within a day or two. Recall that, in addition to eliminating wheat, we replace the lost calories (fewer, given the removal of the appetite-stimulant, gliadin) with real, single-ingredient foods like eggs, olives, avocados, vegetables, nuts, and seeds–not candy and soft drinks. By doing so, nutrient intake is at least on a par with that of a wheat-containing diet. Fiber, likewise, is the same or increases. Interestingly, nutrient absorption is also improved minus the intestinal distorting effects of wheat (gliadin/gluten, wheat germ agglutinin, changes in bowel flora) with increased absorption of iron, zinc, magnesium, folate and several others.

So, no, Tobechi: Headaches, wheat cravings, and other phenomena most definitely do NOT represent a nutritional deficiency. They represent wheat withdrawal, the collection of symptoms that result from stopping the flow of the gliadin protein in wheat.

Recall that, upon digestion, gliadin from wheat is broken down into a collection of mostly 4- and 5- amino acid polypeptides that cross the blood-brain barrier and bind to the opiate receptors of the human brain, often called “exorphins,” or endogenous morphine-like compounds. In most people, wheat exorphins generate mind “fog”; in children with ADHD and autistic spectrum disorder they cause behavioral outbursts and difficulty with learning and attention span; in people with schizophrenia they cause paranoia and auditory hallucinations; in people with bipolar illness they can trigger mania; in people with bulimia and binge eating disorder they trigger obsessive food thoughts. And when the flow of wheat-derived opiate exorphins ceases, there is opiate withdrawal.

Gastrointestinal phenomena such as constipation or diarrhea is, I believe, due to the changes in bowel flora that develop minus the destructive effects of wheat. A shift towards a healthier collection of bowel flora is required but is not immediate. Most people respond to a brief course of a high-potency probiotic for these issues.

The whole wheat withdrawal package is something experienced by 35-40% of people who stop consuming it. It generally lasts 3-5 days, though occasionally much longer. Aside from common sense efforts such as hydrating well, pampering yourself, not subjecting yourself to stressful situations, etc., I know of no way to avoid the withdrawal phenomena . . . except to grin and bear it.

The good news: You emerge on the other side of your wheat withdrawal feeling wonderful: energized, optimistic, and well on your way to beginning to experience relief from the collection of wheat-induced aches and pains like joint pain, asthma, and gastrointestinal complaints.

Wheat is a mind-active drug. Eating it distorts mentation and health. Stopping it, at least at first, disrupts mentation and health, complete with its very own withdrawal syndrome. But, like an alcoholic needs to stop drinking, the wheat-addicted individual needs to stop consuming wheat.

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Comments & Feedback...

  1. Kimberly

    I so know the truth of this! We started low-carbing last January and cut out wheat entirely. Fabulous results beyond weight loss—seasonal allergies practically disappeared, rosacea cleared up, my menstrual cramps eased signficantly, I had so much more energy, I didn’t think about food all the time.

    But this fall, my husband began working in a donut shop. What was a once a week donut treat became a daily thing and then twice daily. My menstrual cramps became debilitating to the point where I was vomiting (haven’t had that problem since high school). My joints ached and I just lacked energy. And all I did was think about food.
    Since January 1, we’ve said goodbye to donuts again and we both feel so much better. Wheat is poison!

  2. JillOz

    I’m still having problems with sugar, especially on hot days. I’ve changed a lot of my diest and some habits but some harder than others. Someone wrote about glutamine.
    What does that do exactly?

  3. Kurt

    Is modern barley also genetically modified to the degree that modern wheat is? Is it as bad for you as wheat?

    • Dr. Davis

      No, but it can still pose 1) gluten-exposure issues for celiac disease people and the gluten-sensitive, and 2) potential excessive carbohydrate exposure.

  4. Alice

    I have wondered if “withdrawal” symptoms are actually due to gut bacteria die-off and if the cravings are an attempt at “host manipulation.”

  5. Karen

    I have been wheat-free for 24 years. Right away I noticed changes in my mood. Food cravings and hunger went away, so as time went on, staying wheat-free became easier and easier. Processed foods have to be eliminated because wheat is in EVERYTHING. Shopping the perimeter of the grocery store is the key.

  6. michele

    I’ve been gluten free for 3 months. What I really missed was the texture & crunch of crackers. There a quite a few GF crackers out in the stores. I also started taking a multi-strain probiotic, 2 times a day, to help the gut flora recover. This took care of any constipation issues. Within 2 weeks of being GF, my tendonitis was totally gone, so hang in there.

    • Lindsey

      There’s a line of “Nut Thin” crackers that are gluten free, amazingly crunchy, the pecan and almond versions are particularly good. Expensive, IMO. Which is the only thing that keeps me from being an addict, LOL.

  7. Anthony

    Dr. Davis, et al,

    and one can only speculate that for adolescents who are on multi psychotropic medications concurrently, and who are eating a largely SAD, but who for unknown reasons, perhaps related to wheat availability, who knows, simultaneously “go off wheat” as it were, AND abruptly stop their meds. I’m thinking of the neurobehavioral effects of doing that as might be seen in late adolescents who are adept at binging and puking. Anybody care to predict the incidence of violent outbursts toward self and/or others?

    • Dr. Davis

      It’s never been formally quantified, Anthony, but I fear it is a big number.

      The behavior improvements I have witnessed are just too dramatic to believe that this could not apply to a broad population in more mundane ways.

  8. malita

    This all sounds very familiar – back in August I got hit hard with what I thought was a virus of some kind – worst headache of my life followed by vomiting and body aches. It wouldn’t stop, just when I thought I was getting better it all came back again. I finally had to go to a doctor – she ran blood tests on me, all came back negative for every virus they tested for. She was concerned about the headaches and ordered a head scan (still paying for that one thanks doc) – head scan came back negative. She gave me medicine for the nausea and headaches which helped me sleep – a lot. I woke up feeling much better.

    Funny thing was I had dropped about 5-7 lbs – I can’t remember exactly how much. I was shocked. I thought for sure when I got better and started eating my regular diet I would gain it all back – never did. Still haven’t to this moment. Now most virus, flu related sicknesses you loose weight and then gain it back. Right? So I’m suspicious/curious/fairly certain?? it was wheat withdrawal.

    • Dr. Davis

      Wow, Malita: Vomiting, body aches, blood tests, CT scan of the brain? All for wheat withdrawal?!

      This is why I tell stories like this: So experiences like yours don’t happen!

  9. Mouselady

    I’ve not experienced any withdrawal symptoms (it’s been a week). What I have noticed is that I’ve gained 3 pounds and feel very “heavy” especially around my “belly”. This is not working for either my husband or I.

    • Dr. Davis

      Then either something is wrong as you shift away from wheat, or there is something else at work.

      I wouldn’t be surprised if wheat elimination has triggered a shift in bowel flora. Transitioning to healthy bowel flora can take some time. Some people respond to a high-potency probiotic preparation, e.g., 50 billion CFUs per day for several weeks.

  10. I started the Wheat Belly diet 2 weeks ago and I love it..I can feel a difference in my belly already. My problem is that I am a long time vegetarian and I don”t think I”m getting enough protein. I”ve been having dizzy spells and palpitations. I just want some advice on what to eat for more protein since beans have to be limited.

    • Dr. Davis

      More nuts, seeds, coconut flour/milk, chia. Use the recipes for muffins, cookies, etc.

      There are indeed a very restricted list of remaining choices, so you’ve got to choose from the list. And, whatever you do, don’t rely on only raw foods!

    • Alice

      Vegetarians can eat eggs. Go to your local health food store (or sometimes the regular grocery store) and look for “Humane Certified” eggs. I am a vegetarian and had four eggs today. I personally did not find find dairy to be a good source of daily protein for me, but you could consider cheese and full fat yogurt (Brown Cow brand is humane certified).

    • Annie

      Great post Doctor! I feel the same sometimes (dizziness and rarely palpitations) and i think it’s because of low blood pressure. I’ve always have low blood and now it’s getting worse since I eat no grains and sugars (5 months).

    • Lindsey

      I’m a vegetarian, too. Used to be vegan but I can’t imagine doing wheat-free and that, LOL. I use eggs and a variety of cheeses along with mostly raw (sometimes roasted) nuts and seeds. The only real problem I have (TMI alert!) is that baking with almond meal gives me terrible constipation. So I’ve been trying to modify the recipes so that there’s only a little nut meal with other things thrown in.

  11. 10044

    is it me or anyone else who went on this diet lost around 4-5 pounds the “first” week then the second week almost “all” the lost weight comes back AND the belly gets actually BIGGER??!! is this normal? I’d like to think fish/olive oil/avocado/seeds/nuts are healthier than wheat junk, but why the bigger belly, isn’t it the opposite of what’s supposed to happen?

      • 10044

        Thank you Dr.
        very informative and thought provoking…I pretty much dropped oatmeal and raisins from my daily diet, and doubled down on walnuts and almonds/dark chocs(90%)/sushi,salmon,tuna and avocados (everything I love basically)
        I never was (nor am) a fan of bread/bagels etc… perhaps I just have to slow down a little on these
        once again thanks!

        • Uncle Roscoe

          Sorry, with wheat it’s all or nothing. You totally eliminate wheat, or you don’t get any benefit. Take Dr. Davis’ advice.

        • Doug

          Did you use soy sauce with your sushi? There is wheat in the soy sauce. You need to be very careful and read everything!
          If it comes from a bottle, can or package be very careful. Better yet make your own sushi.
          For a day or two after I accidentally ingest wheat my weight will move up and I will get bloated. It goes away.
          Keep up the good work and remember it’s all or nothing. There are no cheats.

  12. MichelleNZ

    I’m on day 2 and its going well i’m not wanting to fall asleep after eating anymore and I am sleeping better already! But whoa after lunch today I got a really bad sudden stomach pain that radiated into my back then pain in my throat by my collar bone and now I have a really bad headache! I’m going to remember this and also my bad IBS after Xmas indulgences when I think that eating wheat again is a good idea. Also haven’t eaten any sugar either as i’m trying to cut out sugar as much as possible as well! Here is me telling people i’ve never taken drugs…. I should really say i’ve never taken drugs except those that are publicly advocated as healthy in moderation, called food and served at every meal.

  13. John

    Dr. Davis,
    As I’m sure you know, many of us are struggling to get our medical professionals to take your advice seriously. Have you considered putting together a paper or a site targeted to and written for Medical Professionals, that we could point our doctors and nutritionists to? I’ve tried suggesting the book but my doctor just shrugged it off as the latest fad.
    I think something written for them in their language would go a long way toward getting our doctors on our side, instead of fighting us on some of these non-traditional concepts. Even a summary of studies would help.

  14. Uncle Roscoe

    As an adolescent my family was totally destroyed by late-onset schizophrenia.

    You know, Dr. Davis, it’s gut wrenching for a person like me to know that wheat and sugar elimination could end this nightmare, and could have ended my mother’s nightmare. I don’t see how people who haven’t been affected can realize the magnitude of this significance.

  15. DW

    I have just discovered an egg allergy, and I think a major one, so not one that will probably disappear.
    Anyway, I have been trying to substitute for eggs in the recipes in the cookbook for almond flour and using an
    almond flour, flax seed flour, sesame seed flour mix in a 2:1:1 ratio. Anyway, it is not substituting
    very well as far as getting good results (the taste is fine but I couldn’t serve it to company). So, I was wondering if anyone else has worked with this situation and had good results?

    I did find a book of recipes for egg free, gluten free recipes, but it is not grain free and would mean going back to some of the gluten free flours.

    • Uncle Roscoe

      May I suggest that you test a theory of mine? There seem to be lots of people who abstain from glutenous grains (wheat, barley, rye and oats), but also abstain from other grains like corn. I do not question that you react to corn. I only question why. You have recently discovered that you have an allergy to eggs. I have the exact same set of allergies …..grassy grains, corn and eggs. Most people consume corn and corn products in the form of yellow corn. I discovered that I have little problem with white corn and white corn chips (without “lime”). So my corn problem is really with yellow corn.

      There is little to differentiate white corn from yellow corn, or to connect yellow corn with eggs …….except extreme concentration of lutein and zeaxanthin. Lutein and zeaxanthin are polyphenol dyes, and are common causes of allergies. Modern egg farmers feed yellow corn to their laying hens. It gives egg yolks a bright yellow appearance.

      You might be able to consume white corn and white corn products.

    • Lindsey

      I haven’t tried it, but have you ever seen/tried Ener-G egg replacer? I used to use it in baking when I was vegan.
      There’s also the 3 tablespoons of boiling water to 1 tablespoon of flaxseed meal trick. Sticky stuff, makes a great binder.

      • DW

        @ Uncle, Hmm…hadn’t thought about the white/yellow corn connection and lutein and zeaxanthin

        @Lindsey, yes, I have tried both of those and more. I think the almond flour is too heavy, even diluted with sesame seed flour and flax seed flour.

  16. Maria

    Hi Dr. Davis and members,
    i have gone wheat free and have the WB cookbook and book. I am experiencing some awful symptoms but i am not sure how long these will last and are these common? Can someone help me out.
    For the past couple of weeks I have been feeling nauseous on and off, cramps, bloating and feeling likem y stomach is upset. I am not sure why this is happening as the withdrawal phase should be over. I am now going for blood work and an abdominal ultrasound that my dr. ordered. She asked if I had made dietary changes and I said I went off wheat and she recommended to stay off the wheat but I am not feeling that great with digestive symptoms. I would appreciate any feedback from members and Dr. Davis.

  17. Maria

    Ooops, I forgot to mention to my post above that I have been wheat free for about a month. I do include about 1/3 cup of Bob’s Red Mill wheat free oats 3 times a week and we do eat a pasta from True Roots that is gluten free and has amaranth, quinoa and rice flour. I eat this maybe once a week but has not given me symptoms before or after I got off the wheat. I eat lots of almonds, make my own almond milk and am pretty good with the wheat belly guidelines except for the oats and pasta…..I am not celiac and so don’t think I should be feeling such gastric upset and symptoms.

    thanks and look forward to your reply. Maria

  18. Tim

    I just want to add that in addition to the probiotics, digestive enymes have been a huge help for me, especially for those of us that have damage to our gut lining.

  19. JaneK

    Dr. Davis –
    I have been wheat free for about a month now. I feel great. Lost 14 pounds. My issue is I no longer feel like eating. I’ve been keeping track of what I eat and calories burned through exercise and noticed I am not eating very many calories. (For example, one day I took an hour long Spinning class, golfed pulling my clubs for 18 holes and could only muster eating 1000 calories for the day.) My app warned I was in starvation mode. Is that true?

    Thanks. Jane

    • derp

      What is your current weight and height / BMI? I’d say the body is just burning the excess fat. If you don’t feel hungry, I don’t see a problem. Hunger (and calorie demand) comes back as soon as you hit a weight plateau.

  20. I was so thrilled yesterday when I saw your new cookbook. I’ve been searching for one that uses stevia for sweetening, the different nut flours and is not low fat, and there it was. Usually I could only find books that did either/or and I’d have to play with the recipe to try to make it work. Thank you so much. I started yesterday, lost a pound over night and feel great. I’ve limited wheat and refined sugars for quite a few years so this is just an easy and tasty adjustment for me.
    Several years ago I was diagnosed with non-reactive RA or Lupus. My CPK several years earlier had been 60 and over the past three years it has steadily climbed to 220. I get it checked again in April, and I’m hoping to see a reversal back down to the normal range. I have no doubt that I can go without wheat until then and far beyond thanks to all your great recipes.
    Thank you again,

    • Dr. Davis

      Great start, Judylyn!

      I’m going to be surprised if your autoimmune conditions DON’T improve with your new wheat-free lifestyle!

  21. Abby

    I’m on Day 5. I feel better, and definitely notice that i”m hungry a lot less – YAY! It’s like I’ve hopped off this crazy wheat roller coaster! BUT…I started at 146 pounds, and I now weigh 145. I’ve had NO wheat, and have made MOSTLY whole-food, low-carb choices. Do you think there is still hope for me? I’ve ready that people can lose a pound a day for the first 10 days. I’m getting worried…. Thanks.

  22. I was really glad to see this post! My headaches were worrying me and I figured it was due to all the changes I have put my body through since giving up wheat. Add to that the stress of appendicitis and an emergency appendectomy a week ago, no wonder! Each day is a new one though as I learn by trial and error, what to ditch and what to very interesting and enlightening…not to mention lightning the load of excess weight as a bonus! Even with a sleeve, that doesn’t give a person a license to kill themselves eating crap food!

    I bought my First magazine yesterday, congrats Dr. Davis! (you should have had the bigger Also caught you on CBS yesterday morning, wish you could have had longer than a few minutes…they could have been a little nicer to you too! Who knows, maybe you will have your own show one day…would love to see that!

    You rock Dr. Davis!!!

    • Dr. Davis

      Thanks, Wanda!

      We are indeed starting conversations about doing our own media. We will get this message out and you will see more and more healthy slender people walking the mall!

  23. shelley

    I have started the no wheat ‘life change’ just 9 days ago. For the first 6 days I had a horrible headache but it has now completely subsided. I am full of energy even though I am not getting enough sleep due to my new baby. Also, I just weighed myself and I am down 6 lbs, in just 9 days! That is a little scary and very exciting to me! I have had a lot of weight gain during my 4 pregnancies with only two years apart. I have been eating ‘I thought’ really well! I stayed away from processed foods and ate ‘whole grains’. I exercise 6 days a week. I mean intense exercise such a spin class and weight lifting. I couldn’t loose even a pound and I was beginning to get very depressed. So now, after just 9 day loosing 6 lbs!! I didn’t expect it but I am now a believer :) Much love and thank you!

    • Dr. Davis

      Great, Shelley!

      You can appreciate how, if these facts were not revealed to you, difficult weight loss, feeling good, and regaining health can be. You can also begin to appreciate that the real answer is the exact opposite of conventional “wisdom”!

      • shelley

        Thank you :) The reason I was feeling dizzy I feel was that I wasn’t eating enough. I had some lean meat last night and felt better. It is a ‘learning’ process that I am at the beginning of. Also, when I lost the 6 lbs I wasn’t exercising as much as I normally do either as I had two sick babies. I think I was stressing my body out before. Now to be kind to my body by stressing it out less and making ‘wiser’ choices. ‘

  24. Cori

    Wheat is so addictive! I hate it. I can’t get my husband or kiddos on board so there I’m always finding wheat products around the house. Will a bite here and there slow down the weight loss? I would say I am “wheat free” 95% of the time with the occasional (1-2 x’s per week) cracker or bite of cookie. I wouldn’t think that would matter, but it seems to be slowing down my weight loss.

    • Dr. Davis

      Thanks, Boundless!

      And, yes, that small quantity of wheat consumption would be more than enough to fully impair the ability to lose weight, given the gliadin appetite-stimulating effect.

      • Cori


        Looks like I need to try a little “mind over matter” and give up the remaining 5%. Why is this so hard? I guess I need to stop feeling bad for myself and think of all the great reasons for not eating wheat instead of mourning the loss of a stupid animal cracker.

        Thanks Dr. Davis

        • Janet

          Keep up the good work. I think and imagine the bread I see around me now as simply a very filthy and dirty floor that is used to eat the good stuff off of. Would you really want to throw a juicy steak or some grass-fed burger patties on your basement or garage floor and then dig in? That is bread to me now. I just picture my nasty old garage floor, with road salt, grease and antifreeze stains. Those are poison–just like bread. You will get there.

          My husband is not totally on board either, but he is kind of “stuck” eating the now excellent food I buy and make. If he wants bread–he can go out and buy it. I won’t. He also was kind of brainwashed by all the excellent paleo and low carb podcasts I listen to, so now he is coming my way on this. He asked about what kind of sweetener to use in his coffee the other day and what was best. You can get your family changed too–just do it subtly.

  25. JEY

    Dr Davis…you know your Wheat is a Drug message has hit the big-time when you are on the Colbert Nation! A 6+ minute comedy piece, but any media exposure is publicity.
    Thought for Food-Wheat Addicitions (The segment with the Wonder bread on right)

    • Dr. Davis

      Yes, thanks, JEY. I got a good laugh out of the beaver and wood antics!

      Although it clearly did not provide the rationale for the message, it might stoke curiosity.

  26. Hi Dr. Davis, Thanks for all you have done to help “the people”. I am just recently embracing this way of eating for myself and my family, but I have one question. We travel every year to a third world country where wheat is a major part of the meal…every meal. It would be considerably rude for our family to pass up the bread at each meal (bread is very sacred to this culture and never to be wasted). Do you believe we will encounter the same problems outside of the USA with wheat?

    • Dr. Davis

      Yes, though the severity may vary, depending on the “cultivar,” or wheat strain.

      In the setting of chronic calorie deprivation, wheat is still a poison, but just not as poisonous for issues like weight. It can still wreak havoc on gastrointestinal health, mind effects, joints, etc.

      I’m not sure how to best deal with this. Could you claim a newly-diagnosed “wheat allergy” to spare their feelings?

  27. I don’t want to be a big whiner but just finished reading your book and bought your cookbook over the holidays.
    My husband who has been the worst sabotager of a healthy lifestyle is finally on board with cooking and following a “wheat free way” so 3 days in I am enjoying his cooking from the cookbook like I’ve never experienced before!!
    My big dilemma is I’ve gained 3 lbs, have a constant headache and eating like crazy… All good foods but craving fat ie: Greek style yogurt, cheese, avocados, butter, oils, fat from meat, etc.
    I have a constant headache and tonight I shared a whole bottle of wine with my hubby. Then ate almost an entire loaf of your “herbed focaccia” featured in your cookbook. By the way that is amazing!!
    What is wrong with me? Is this just part of the withdrawal process or am I destined to continue to eat my way through these delicious foods without control?
    I want to thank you for enlightening my husband to healthy eating but fear I’m creating a cooking monster.
    Any idea if this is normal?

  28. Brenda Sitter

    Dr. Davis, My husband and I have been reading your book following it as we go and just ordered your cookbook (should arrive Monday and i can’t wait) and we are having great results so far. Losing some weight and inches. My clothes are fitting better and looking forward to get out of my big clothes. Recenly I have been having a difficult time going to sleep … often not getting asleep until 4:00 or even 5:00 am and thankfully since I’m retired get to sleep in to get the sleep my body needs. My daughter suggested taking a Benadryl last night to get to sleep. We were out late but did take it and certainly did fall asleep about 1-1/2 hours later. Could this be due to my diet change or maybe I need Melatonin or something? The other day I heard on a program that if you were having trouble going to sleep to drinK Tart Cherry Juice before you go to bed. Do you have any thoughts. I love this blog and so thankful for your helpful input and all the people writing you. It has helped so much. THANKS! Brenda

  29. I just stopped eating wheat food four days ago, and I already feel better. My stomach cramps are gone and I am not tired all day anymore. Now let’s sue the companies that are re-engineering wheat and urge the FDA to crackdown on companies that are re-engineering our food.

  30. Meg

    I purchased the Wheat Belly Cookbook and make the basic bread recipe. Unfortunately, my husband and I do not like it at all. We are committed to trying this wheat-free lifestyle, but do want to enjoy some type of bread. Is there another recipe someone can recommend? Thanks!

    • Dr. Davis

      Try the focaccia bread recipe in the cookbook or on this blog, Meg. Not making a loaf but making it as a flatbread yields a different taste and texture.

  31. Faye

    Dr. Davis, I stopped eating wheat mid November 2012. Mid December I started to experience stiffness in my whole body. I thought it would be my rheumatoid Arthristis. But last week I couldn’t bear the pain anymore and consulted my physician. He diagnosed me with myositis. My physician encouraged me to eat wheat free, organic, sugar free and cowmilk free. I eat 95% organic and 95% wheat free and 95% sugar free. How is it possible that I suddenly experience such a bout of muscle inflammation, could this be a withdrawal effect? I also had a greenish vaginal discharge for 3 weeks after I stopped eating wheat. I imagine that this was a way of detoxing.

    Thank you!

    • Dr. Davis

      Not sure, Faye, but I would doubt that it is part of the withdrawal phenomena, as this should not happen with withdrawal from an opiate.

      It sure sounds to me, however, that you would potentially benefit more than most people by losing the wheat 100%. Remember: Exposure to the gliadin protein of wheat is a likely underlying reason to explain multiple autoimmune processes. Surely there are other causes for autoimmune conditions, but wheat elimination is one that is easy to do with outsized benefits that extend even outside of reducing potential for autoimmunity.

    • Uncle Roscoe

      Faye: “I stopped eating wheat mid November 2012. ……my physician ……diagnosed me with myositis. My physician encouraged me to eat wheat free, organic, sugar free and cowmilk free. I eat 95% organic and 95% wheat free and 95% sugar free.”

      I don’t understand a few things about your post. You said that you totally eliminated wheat, and became “95% wheat free”? You said your doctor encouraged you to totally eliminate three things, wheat, sugar and cow milk. You responded by becoming “95% wheat free” and “95% sugar free”, but you mentioned nothing about even curtailing cow milk.

      To put a fine point on Dr. Davis’ comments….. Ingested food peptides cause autoimmune disease. The immune system creates antibodies to affected tissue when it detects the presence of the offending food protein(s). The problem is, it creates these antibodies when you ingest even the slightest amount of the food protein(s). I can’t stress this strongly enough ……even the smallest amount.

  32. Faye

    Uncle Roscoe: Sorry, I see I forgot to mention 95% cow milk free. In my house it’s 100% free, but I always keep 5% for when I visit people, have dinner outside the house, being on vacation, traveling, etc.
    Please, could you explain what you wrote? Does this mean I have to eat 100% protein-free? I’m confused, as I’m encouraged to eat nuts, eggs, cheese, etc.

    Thank you!

  33. Deborah

    I had been wheat free for 3 weeks. I know I am a wheat addict. Tonight my cravings were so intense I broke down and ate some potato chips and two pop tarts. Really bad choices, i know. I didn’t feel sick from eating the wheat, in fact i felt wonderful ( but guilty). Eating wheat to me is like a drug. It makes me feel really good. My problem is I will eat too much of it if not restricted by a diet like wheat belly. I will start my wheat free diet over tomorrow. I just wonder what people do to deal with intense wheat cravings. I thought they would be gone by now. They had decreased until tonight. Are these cravings still part of the withdrawal?

      • Neicee

        Deborah, sorry the wheat monster bit you today….just getting even for your neglecting them for awhile. ;)
        I spent years knowing I was gluten intolerant or sensitive, paid for it every single time but kept returning. Only when I gave it up totally did the wheat monster die!

  34. Kelly

    I am allergic to nuts, and you incorporate nuts into almost everything. Can you suggest some alternatives?

  35. Molly

    I just began a wheat and sugar free diet. I’m eating apples with peanut butter for a treat, but no toast, cake, cookies etc…and I have to say, I feel a bit wonky. I have a headache, which I never get, and sort of a restless mania-like state in my legs. Its definitely not like quitting smoking, which made me want to peel my face off, but I’m in kind of a pre-tantrum state most of today and yesterday.

    I am really excited about the results, but I think I might need some help.

    When I quit smoking, I was an obscene wreck, because I did it cold turkey while working 60 hour weeks on a farm. What really helped was gin and tonics. I don’t usually drink much, and I don’t have a problem with alcohol, so MY QUESTION IS should I try this while detoxing off wheat?

    • Dr. Davis

      Not a good idea, Molly.

      But recognize that you are experiencing withdrawal from an opiate in wheat. It is a very real withdrawal process.

      Hang out with friends, do something nice for yourself like get a massage. Recognize that this is how you take back control over appetite, eating impulse, health and life!

  36. Hylianux

    Wheat Withdrawal
    dear dr. davis, and fellow wheat-belly’ers,

    I’ve heard you mention “withdrawal-like” symptoms, but I can’t seem to get anyone close to me to take me seriously when I go through them. Inevitably, I wind up accidentally intaking wheat, and whenever I do, torment follows.

    I am wondering if my symptoms are anything like anyone else’s out there…

    Have anyone noted this in their behavior?:
    panic attacks
    increased stress and irritability
    mood swings

    First I want to state that no, I do not take any recreational drugs. I drink caffeine, and occasionally drink alcoholic beverages.

    This always happens to me when I accidentally intake wheat. My body hasn’t had wheat in a while, so it feels like when I do, I’m suddenly having an opiate relapse, much like an addict receiving their drug after 3 weeks of sobriety… I get anxious, and irritable. I tend to want to react in extreme manners, very strong and even borderline violent reactions (i.e. my reactions tend to be physical, such as banging my fist on a desk, throwing something, etc… nowhere near to the point where I feel that I’m putting anyone in any physical danger).

    I feel as though I’m going through many minor panic attacks, because I feel intensely stressed, and I want to scream, burst into tears, freak out… anything. I can’t find any satisfaction in anything I do; no amount of food, movies, games, legal drugs seem to make me feel at ease.

    I’m extremely impatient, and have to concentrate really hard in order to conduct myself in a normal manner.

    Currently, the only thing I’ve been able to do is piggy-back off of the ADHD disorder’s perk of using stimulants to calm myself down (i.e. pop caffeine pills until I achieve that Ritalin effect used to keep young ADHD kids under control). I absolutely realize this is unhealthy, but I have to get under control somehow.

    To those who are reading this, while these symptoms do sound serious (precisely why they frighten me), do not underestimate my own strength of will in self control :). I have to work harder to keep myself under control, but have had absolutely no failure in maintaining a professional appearance.

    I’m fine after about a day or two, but I’m wondering if my symptoms are like any others that have been experienced in coming down off of wheat, or an accidental intake forcing the spike and decline again.

    Ultimately, I ask you: is any of this normal?

    If this is indeed normal, then what can I do about it? I don’t mean the symptoms, I mean the problem of these drugs in wheat? While, as I said earlier, I have strong self-control, I can’t speak for everyone else. I’ve been conditioned to be very conscious of my behavior, and I can’t expect everyone to have undergone that conditioning. With wheat, and by extension, opiates, being in nearly everything we eat, I feel that my next relapse/withdrawal attack can happen by accident at almost any time. One time I suffered it by simply chewing on a piece of a Twizzler, then spitting it out when I discovered it had wheat in it. This is serious!

  37. Christine

    “The whole wheat withdrawal package is something experienced by 35-40% of people who stop consuming it. It generally lasts 3-5 days, though occasionally much longer. ”

    Can you go into a little bit of detail about the ‘occasionally much longer’ part? Last week I attempted to give up grain and I became extraordinarily depressed for seemingly no reason (though I quickly associated it to lack of grains after some google research led me to the ‘atkins attitude’ theory that lack of grains cause severe mood swings in some people).

    This week I am attempting once more to nix grains… and this week, like last… the withdrawal seems to be hitting as early as Day 2. Extreme lethargy, lack of motivation to do ANYTHING, depression… I even started sweating sporadically this morning for no apparent reason, followed by chills. Cold sweats! If that’s not an addiction withdrawal….

    I think I can grin and bear it if I know that there will be light at the end of the tunnel after Day 3… even Day 5… but ‘occasionally much longer’ scares me. I’m worried I won’t be able to be a functioning member of society!

    What are some of the longest cases you’ve experienced? And is a little brown rice here and there worth tapping into or should I continue to cold turkey?

    Thank you!

    • Dr. Davis

      The longest that I have observed is 4 weeks. Thankfully, that is very uncommon.

      It is a form of opiate withdrawal. I find it incredible that we have, in effect, an opiate addiction that drives the continued consumption of wheat, pushed on us by all official agencies, including the recent push for schoolchildren to eat more “healthy whole grains.”

      I hope this disservice that has been done to you provides sufficient resolve for you to weather this withdrawal and say “no” to their manipulation of your behavior!

  38. Helen

    I seem to be going through a vicious and prolonged episode of wheat withdrawal and it’s really getting me down now. It started 3 days after giving up wheat/gluten and I’m into my 6th week of headaches (every 2 days or so) and general aches and pains I’m not used to. The abdominal bloat is much improved, a prolonged poor sleep pattern is a bit better, food cravings have almost gone and I get glimpses of improved energy. I know Dr Davis says in WB book that 2-5 days withdrawal is usual, and on this blog that he has known of withdrawal lasting up to 4 weeks in rare cases. I’m doing a probiotic at 50 million CFU and magnesium citrate.
    Any advice out there, or at least encouragement to keep going on the diet?

    • Barbara in New Jersey

      Drink more water and add more good fats. Try Bulltproof Coffee. Google it! Make sure you use a ftother to blend the ingredients well.

    • Dr. Davis

      This makes me believe that prior wheat consumption really screwed something up in you, Helen, and that you are re-accommodating back to a life without this poison. If true, just allowing your body to go through this transition is all you need to do.

      However, it’s also possible that something entirely new is going on. Do you have access to a practitioner of functional medicine?

      • Helen

        Thanks for reply Dr Davis. For now, I will wait to see if symptoms resolve. I do think that wheat may have been causing me problems since childhood (bowel issues, bloating, tired; severe migraines as an adult ) so only 50 years of toxicity to undo!

  39. Helen

    Thank you Barbara. I am drinking more water and upping my intake of good fats. Googled Bulletproof coffee. Coffee is not a good idea for us migraine sufferers, and it would be taking another highly addictive substance (other than wheat). And I’m not sure how wholesome the MCT oil is. Apparently coconut oil is not a suitable substitute. Does Dr Davis endorse Bulletproof coffee?

    • Barbara in New Jersey


      You can add the coconut oil, butter and MCT oil to hot tea. Chai is delicious this way. Any tea will do. You can add cinnamon too. The idea is to get an extra amount of the GOOD fats into your system. Start slow and then gradually increase the amounts of oils, organic butter. Using the frother makes it a Starbuck’s like concoction. Dr. D approves of all these extra fats. Many of his recipes have coconut oil as an ingredient. The Medium Chain Triglyceride Oil is tasteless and can be used for some low heat cooking as well as in smoothies. It is more concentrated than coconut oil and not really an allergenic.
      Everyone has had difficulties with wheat/grains/sugar since childhood. You are not alone! Only recently have people like Dr. Davis actually named the culprits causing our health problems. It is never easy to “buck” the system, yet the only eventual relief from our ailments comes from not eating the grains and sugar and going against the common medical and governmental dietary advice.

      Keep up the good efforts. Going to a functional medical doctor would help if your regular doctor is unenlightened.

      • HungryinTN

        Not all coffee is created equally, either. A lot of cheap supermarket brands are contaminated with substances that make them much more harmful than they should be. I had very little tolerance for coffee before I gave up grains and before I learned to be more selective about my beans and spend a little more money on them. Any time I drank coffee at my boyfriend’s house or went on a Starbucks run with coworkers, I always felt jittery and anxious afterwards followed by a severe sugar crash and headache. When I’ve been a regular coffee drinker in the past, missing my morning coffee always gave me a headache and made it more difficult to function. Now, while my coffee (with the Bulletproof ingredients) makes me feel better, gives me sustained energy, and never gives me a crash or headache. But at the same time, I can do just fine without it (I had to yesterday when forced to choose between the cheap hotel coffee or going without, then had a great meeting with the mayor and city officials about their tourism development plan!). As for the MCT oil, it isn’t good for cooking, necessarily, because it oxidizes at a pretty low temp, but adding it to your coffee or anything else is a great way to keep your body burning fat for fuel.

  40. Jenny Schipae

    What a relief to find out what I’ve been going through is wheat-withdrawal. It’s been about 10 days since I gave up wheat, and after 3 days, I started getting a headache every day, and dizzy spells. Also, very emotional, and crying over the least little thing. I have only been sleeping a few hours at night, and when I do, I have strange dreams and nightmares. I honestly didn’t know what was happening, and considered going back to eating wheat, just to feel better!

    What a relief to know this will eventually pass. Most people would never believe this! I don’t think I would, if I hadn’t experienced it myself.


    • Dr. Davis

      Yup, scary stuff, Jenny!

      But it does indeed pass, thank goodness, and you will be back in control of your mind, appetite, impulses, emotions, and health!

  41. Shanda

    Ok, going into this I knew to expect some crazy stuff to happen to my body, but this is just crazy. I’m on day 4 and it went from very painful pressure from constipation to now I feel like I’m passing a kidney stone. I don’t feel like this is normal, or was wheat really doing that much damage. I need help!

  42. Mishi

    While caught up in the Cyber Monday craze, I ordered the Wheat Belly Cookbook while on sale. A few days after recieving it and skimming through various parts of the book a friend of mine invited me out to eat for my birthday. I noticed she ordered her turkey burger without a bun and I mentioned I had just recieved the WB Cookbook – this prompted an entire conversation about her past struggles with health, weight, and overall well being that were completely reversed when she went grain free about a decade ago and she agreed that elimating wheat may be a good treatment for my lifelong struggle with PCOS. The next day, Tuesday, I let go of the wheat with one final farwell snack consisting of a homemade Tortilla mid-day. Wednesday went by without much change except for a slightly odd feeling in my gut. Thursday morning, I woke up feeling like I was getting the flu and stayed home to cope with the lethargy, depression, dizziness, foggy head, body aches, headache, and moodiness alone. After consulting with my friend, she assured me this was wheat withdrawal and to just stick with it, drink lots of water, and take some sort of probiotic. I later went to the store to pick up a bottle of Kefir. I drank almost two cups worth while reading more of the WB Cookbook, fell asleep early and woke up today feeling amazing with a notable 4.5lb weight loss since Monday! However, on my way to work, the dizzyness and foggy headedness returned. I’m hopeful it won’t continue for long and am so thankful for Dr.Davis’ work and for the fact the book was on sale – I may have never thought twice about ordering it had it not been on sale, but think it’s worth every penny at full price!

  43. Nicole

    I’m on day five of a four-week, doctor-suggested, gluten-free trial. I’ve read WB, and I’m convinced that this will be a lifelong change. The first couple of days, I felt great. Yesterday, I had the worst headache of my life, all day long. Terrible! But trying to power through. Having my labs rechecked in a month is something to look forward to. The eleven pound weight loss is nice as well.