A drug for every wheat condition

Nina posted this tale of an entire family’s health gone sour, treated with medication after medication, only to discover that it was wheat at the bottom of it all.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for your book. So many answers in one place.

My oldest daughter had what moms call “upset stomach” a lot while growing up. She began having acid reflux which only got worse and, by her sophomore year of high school, she had grade B esophageal ulcers and was diagnosed with depression. By senior year, her GI doctor had run all the tests. She was on 3 types of meds: one for reflux, one for irritable bowel, and one for [gastric] emptying which was sluggish. She also contracted mono—our bright, National Honor Society student could barely attend school and would sleep 14 hours a day. Finally, she interviewed another student for yearbook who had celiac. We asked the GI doc to do the blood test, but he said the blood tests were not reliable and he had seen no sign of celiac on the upper and lower GI. Hmmm. Luckily my daughter, who was exhausted and miserable, took it upon herself to remove gluten from her diet and search out materials she shared with me. We were horrified by the amount of foods and sauces that contained wheat, even Tylenol. We started reading labels. My daughter is now a junior in college and doing well.

Her younger sister, however, began having seizures at age 15. She also was underweight for her age. In grade school at 8 years old, she was diagnosed with ADD [Attention Deficit Disorder], a mood disorder, and exercise-induced asthma. She had an elevated heart rate at rest and her triglycerides were elevated.

My kids were very medicated. I lived in doctor’s office waiting rooms.

I became more concerned after reading more about gluten intolerance. I read that it could cause poor uptake of nutrients, including magnesium, which was one of the supplements my second daughter’s neurologist had her on. I asked the neurologist to do a gluten intolerance blood test along with her routine blood tests for her carbatrol level. She had to look up what to test, but she did and my daughter tested positive with elevated antibodies to gluten. I also asked my pediatrician to test my son, who also tested positive.

My ophthalmologist ex-husband was furious because I asked for the tests and insurance refused to cover them. My son didn’t immediately go gluten-free, but earlier this year, when GI distress and reflux got out of control, my son, now 13 said, “Okay, Mom, you were right: It’s time to go gluten-free.”

There’s been a mixed reaction from family members. My ex-husband has been reluctant to acknowledge there is such a thing as gluten-intolerance. My mom, who has been learning along with us, went gluten-free, especially after looking at a long family history of irritable bowel,reflux, her younger sister diagnosed with GI cancer. After reading your book, I have been wheat-free for under 2 weeks. By the 6th day, my pain from osteoarthritis diagnosed in my early 40s eased. Ahhh.

The reason I’m writing you is my 18-year old, now living at home and attending beauty university after a disastrous 1st semester at our local university, continues to be on meds for seizure, mood disorder, and ADD and refuses, despite testing positive for gluten intolerance, to eliminate wheat. We argue daily over my refusal to buy wheat at the grocery store or drive her to McDonalds. She eats wheat whenever she can manage. I’ve tried to talk to her about the repercussions to her health, but her father denies the problem and our pediatrician just nods his head and says “You can do a gluten free diet,but it’s a pain.”

If you have any ideas on how to convince my now 18-year old, high maintenance child that she is doing irreparable damage to her body, please let me know. I’m not getting a lot of help from my local medical community. Thanks for listening to my long story.

What is so bothersome about Nina’s case–beyond the long delay between onset of symptoms and diagnosis–is the resistance she encountered from the doctors around her, as well as the indifference to the power of eliminating the cause of many of these problems. After all, seizures (especially temporal lobe seizures, less commonly grand mal) may be part of Nina’s younger daughter’s wheat-related syndrome, a genuinely serious condition.

Perhaps the reluctance on the part of my colleagues to accept the destructive health effects from wheat stems from the overall indifference to nutrition. Or perhaps it has to do with the reluctance to admit that many of the conditions they have been treating over their careers are nothing more than expressions of wheat toxicity. Or perhaps it has to do with their own intuitive sense of their own opiate addition to the gliadin in wheat. It’s probably all three.

How many other foods can be the cause for such an incredible range of health conditions, from acid reflux and esophageal ulcers, to asthma, to seizures and worsening of the phenomena of Attention Deficit Disorder? And what other food can be responsible for such an astounding frequency of blundering misdiagnoses that leave lives shattered, bodies pained and disfigured?

With regards to helping Nina persuade her stubborn 18-year old, I can only suggest that continued efforts at education are the only solution. Because she is an adult who will make her way out into the world on her own, nobody can force someone to follow a healthy diet minus wheat. Nina can only hope that, with her continued encouragement and information, her daughter will, thanks to efforts such as Wheat Belly, hear this same message in the news, on talk shows, in magazine articles and eventually say, “Gee, I guess my Mom was right.”

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Comments & Feedback...

  1. Alice

    Trying to convince someone of something = trying to control them. She’s an adult, she has all the information she needs already, and has the right to eat wheat. It could be she’s insisting on eating wheat as a form of rebelliousness against what she perceives to be attempts to control her. One thing to try is backing off and unmeshing. You have a right to rules in your own house and your boundary could be that you will not personally purchase any wheat products or keep them in your kitchen. However if she acquires wheat products and keeps them in her room, that’s her business. It takes two people to have a fight. If she wants to fight you can say, “You know where I stand and I’m not having this discussion.” Then walk out of the room. If all this seems impossible then consider family counseling, because the wheat issue is a symptom, not the main problem here. If you two learn healthy boundaries then she’ll have no reason to eat wheat to spite you.

    • Judy

      If the mother is paying for the education while letting the so-called adult daughter stay at home, she has a right to demand that the daughter may not have wheat in the home, including her room. If this is truly affecting her education, she has a right to expect cooperation at school as well. But, since it is impossible to control an adult’s choices, She should stop enabling her by not paying for her wasted schooling, not paying for her room and board, and not providing any sort of transportation. if this stubborn and foolish girl wants to defy the test results, she should do it on her own dime. No parent should be forced to enable an adult child to make bad choices.

    • Sheila

      I assume that this child is covered under her mothers insurance and her mother then pays for the medication to cover all of the ills caused by the gluten sensitivity which has been diagnosed by a doctor. Therefore I believe that the mother does have the right to say that she may not eat wheat in the home- her room, or take her to McDonald’s or wherever where she can get food containing wheat.
      Let her father know that since the daughter has been diagnosed with gluten sensitivity and she with his blessing refuses to conform to the diet she needs to remain healthy he will pay for all of the doctor visits and medication the girl needs, hospitalizations, etc.
      By now it has become a rebellious thing as Dr.Davis says but maybe when her father realizes that his refusal to cooperate in this effort to keep his daughter healthy it will have financial consequences.

  2. JillOz

    If Nina’s daughter is on several medications and wheat, she’s probablay in such a morass of confusion and pain she probably can barely think straight, let alone make an intelligent decision to rid herself of an addictive substance!
    One piece of advice i can give – not medical – is to start making lots of breads, muffins hamburger buns and suchlike products and have them available at home. If she wants aburger, offer her one at home first before the McDonald’s version.
    When the daughter wants burgers or muffins, give her the non-wheat bread. Dont’ say it’s non-wheat, just give it to her. If she wants more let have more.
    it will be interesting to see if she can spot the difference.
    Find a doctor on board with WB and work from there. the doctors you’ve got are clearly not beneficial for your daughter.
    Wish I could help Nina, but good luck with this.

  3. JillOz

    By the way, Nina you’re dealing with an addict. maybe talk to the local drug rehabilitation centre for some hints and techniques.

    And seriously don’t bother arguing with her. None of this is about logic. Just be kind, fill her with vitamins and nutrients and then eventually she may get to the pouint where she can actually hear you and start thinking again. Addicts have no conscious self, they are a walking mass of need.

    • Rebecca

      Nina has the same problem that most face with gluten free, even when people test positive or have a long family history of celiacs it is difficult to get everyone on board. Each person has to choose what they consider optimal health. My family has celiacs on both sides , mom and dad tested positive, I am celiac and stick to the diet religiously ( don’t want to be sick all the time) but my brother who tested positive can not give up his beer and my sister though showing symptoms will not get tested because she does not want to give up bagels. Sadly, all you can do is show the positive sides of gluten free living and encourage hopely one day their health will mean more then the food they enjoy. Also, it is hard having a family member who is in disbelief about gluten intolerances but you must realize that they have control only over themselves, the children who are on board being gluten free already understand and will not be swayed. Best of luck!

  4. PaulaB

    Paleo Parents, Paleo Mom, Everyday Paleo and several other “paleo” and “primal” bloggers also have good discussions and suggestions about how to transition children and teens to a grain free lifestyle, and also how best to function in a mixed-diet household.

  5. Barbara

    As one of my friends once told me, “Doctors have 2 solutions to problems. They can give you a pill or they can cut something off. If your problem doesn’t fit their solutions, they can’t/won’t help you.”

    I once asked my doctor at what point we would be able to eliminate my blood pressure medication. She looked at me as if that were a novel idea and said, “I never think about taking people OFF their meds.”

    • Dr. Davis

      Wow, Barbara. Time for a new doctor, one who actively engages discussions about your health, not one who does the bidding of the last sexy sales rep in his office.

      • Susanne

        Yes; I have finally found a doctor who doesn’t think everything needs a pill. I was on 3 blood pressure medications. When I lost just over 70 pounds she weaned me off 2 of them. She told me that eventually after I lost more weight and stayed faithful to my program, I could probably discontinue the other blood pressure pill too. That is definitely my goal.


    • wrotek

      Barbara exactly. I was just thinking today, what diseases doctor can cure ? And could not find anything, except surgeon that cut out problems which actually is not exactly curing, since the reason is not addressed.
      The end road of going to doctors is a psychiatrist office, when they never give You any hope…

  6. GaryM

    I have 19 year old and 17 year old boys who eventually adopted Wheat Belly. They did it on their own time. I think initially I was to much of a zealot. Finally I stopped, and just led by example. They had seen vast changes in me. Eventually they started and are reaping the benefits of eating this way. You cannot force anyone to do anything…something I think we all learn as parents at some point along the way. I try to help them make the right decisions, but acknowledge they are THEIR decisions. So I think the best thing the poster can do is to just follow it herself, and let the chips fall where they may.

  7. Cindy Balderson

    Google “Paleo Physician’s Network” to find a doctor near you who advocstes a grain-free, paleo/promal lifestyle and backs it up with science.

  8. Mary

    What I would do is stop the fighting and try this:
    Ask your daughter to just try it for one month. Before the month begins, identify her favorite foods and find gluten free replacements. For example, if she loves Pringles, I think Lays Stax taste the same and are gluten free. Have a plan for foods for her to eat. If she doesn’t cook for herself and relies on fast food, premake meals for her. If you have to give her a reward to work towards for the end of the month, do so. At this point, what is important is saving her life, not worrying about spoiling her. You may even make a bet with her that she cannot be gluten free for one month. Maybe that would work. A little reverse psychology. Anyway, I wish you the best of luck and I hope if you succeed with her that you write back and let us know.

  9. Wow Dr. Davis & Nina, what a story. Thanks for posting this.

    I have just begun my (now 100% committed) wheat free journey at age 54….. despite having had, for at least 15 years, as you said above, a strong “intuitive sense of their own opiate addition to the gliadin in wheat”.

    Though I suspected wheat caused an addictive response in me, I wasn’t sure that made any sense, so usually I thought I was “just” a compulsive overeater. I was a member of Overeaters Anonymous on & off in the past without successfully staying abstinent. I believe I AM an overeater, but Dr. Davis, your book Wheat Belly was written for me (sorry everyone else) because it FINALLY tied together all the loose ends of my experience and experiments of years & years & years, trying to become the healthy person I knew i could be.

    I have just begun my own blog that will include, in large part, a chronicling of my wheat free journey. Feel free to check it out.

    Nina: I am also a 13 year member of Al-Anon (friends & family members of alcoholics) and let me reassure you that your loving detachment from your daughters wheat problem AND taking beautiful care of YOURSELF, will go far in restoring harmony to your home and giving her the chance to follow your example.

    I will be thanking you Dr. Davis, over & over, but let this be the first expression of my gratitude: I will carry your message wherever I find it is needed and wanted.

    • Dr. Davis

      That’s great, Pam! I believe that the majority of people who struggle with food addictions are really struggling with the gliadin opiate in wheat, the thing that drives relentless desire for carbohydrates. Getting rid of wheat is liberating!

      Please be sure to come back and update us with your progress, or at least a link to your updated blog posts.

  10. nonegiven

    What Mary said, if you can get her to try it for a month and find enough substitutes to satisfy, when she goes back to eating it, she may be so sick she will stop on her own.

    Also, you said ‘opiate addition.’ I think the word you need is addiction.

  11. Colin

    Hi Dr Davis
    Have you noticed any link between blood type and the severity of wheat intolerance? In the blood type diet Dr D’Adamo says type O’s do particularly badly on wheat but type A’s do well on Spelt or sprouted wheat. Any thoughts?

      • Diana

        I am A+ and I don’t do well on wheat either. My digestion got worse and worse until I was living with acid reflux and I was taking Pepcid all the time and then I realized maybe it was the gluten. I stopped it and my digestion is much better.

      • Susanne

        I am the same Denise. I am A+ and the blood type diet doesn’t seem to apply to me. I definitely cannot tolerate wheat and am allergic to it.

  12. Denise

    When my sons were in high school their science teacher / track coach taught the negative effects of drinking soda on their athletic performance. Neither ever really consumed soda even when it was available. Not to say they NEVER drank soda but they rarely drank it. They were educated and made the decision for themselves without me telling them they could not drink it.

  13. Catherine Griffice

    Dr. Davis, I have been wheat free for 6 weeks and have had great success except for one part. I have acid reflux and have been on Omzerprole . Now however, I have not only the reflux but a bad upper back ache.
    The main reason I decided to go wheat free was to relieve my migraines which has happened and I generally feel great. What can I do for the backache?

      • Catherine Griffice

        Thanks, you are right… Drinking H2O is very hard for me but I tried it and it appears to be helping…Like so many things, its just making a concerted effort…..Hope it works.

    • derp

      Try Robb Wolf’s paleo autoimmune protocol. It is basically a diet that excludes lots of disease-causing foods and you can add them step by step back to find out what was causing the problem.

  14. Diana

    I know how she feels. My sons are wheat addicted too and I think my youngest son who is 20 is having bad sinus infections from wheat and acne as well. I wish he’d just try going wheat free for a couple of months and prove me wrong. :)

  15. Tyrannocaster

    What Nina is facing with her daughter is not nutritional, it’s psychological. Behaviorists have a twelve dollar word for it: “negative thigmotaxis”. I know this because I train dogs and use a lot of behaviorist approaches. Anyway, I don’t use the big word to impress you but to show that this is a recognized state, one that I call “pushback” – it’s a lot easier for people to remember than “negative thigmotaxis”, LOL. But, anyway – if you put a leash on a dog for the first time, it WILL pull away from you and anybody with a puppy has seen this. The best solution is not to drag the poor thing around and “teach it who the master is”, but to let it figure out that it’s better to go where the person goes. You use treats, praise, whatever.

    In Nina’s case, since the daughter is an adult and their relationship is already fully formed, she can’t use treats or such things because the girl is already suspicious of her motives – human children are a lot harder to deal with than pets. :-) So what do you do? You let her realize on her own that the wheat is causing the problems; you’ve told her this, and she’s heard you, but right now she is pushing back aginst your authority. So you don’t push on her to do what you want, because that will make it worse. It may be that this is something that is a long term goal, because there are probably other dynamics in the family that enter into this, or at least reinforce it; she might not come to her senses until she’s moved out of the house and is on her own.

    I certainly sympathize – I spent years with doctors telling me they had no clue what was wrong with me, taking an early retirement, then going on to all sorts of problems that have already been written up on this blog, only to find out on my own that my problem wasn’t depression, or Chronic Fatige Syndrome, or any of the other possibilities that the doctors raised, but rather…just plain wheat and the other foods that contain the things I react to. Once I dropped those it only took three days for me to literally become a new person, so I know how hard it is to try not to evangelize, but people don’t want to be preached to. You’re far better off letting them hear the message and then come to the result on their own.

    Good luck, Nina.

  16. Janet

    Out of all the posts I have read here, this one made me the angriest–at these so-called physicians and the one–the father–that seems to just want to get even with his family and ex wife–no wonder they are divorced. These Doctors are bad doctors in my opinion–an opinion I am forming everyday I am living and studying about the CON job the world is trying to pull on us and the grief they shovel on their sick patients who only want to get better and STAY the hell out of their freekin’ offices. Shame on every single crappy one of them this poor mother visited and didn’t have the brains or even curiosity to check out her pleas. Sick of this.

  17. “…our pediatrician just nods his head and says ‘You can do a gluten free diet,but it’s a pain’.”

    I’ve posted my story on my blog, but it’s worth stating here, too. Last year, I was in an accident that fractured my right arm and knocked my right canine tooth out of place, leaving my unable to chew. Since I live alone and require a wheat-free, low-carb, high-nutrient, mostly paleo diet, I had to make my own soft/liquid food, with one hand, to meet my requirements. And you know what? It wasn’t that hard. I don’t ever want to hear how hard it is to do a gluten free diet.

  18. Mike

    I have a similar story. My wife suffers from IBS. In my own mind I am sure that if she adopted the Wheat Belly regimen (like I have done) she wold feel lots better. But talk about a brick wall — she flatly refuses, claiming that she wouldn’t have enough to eat. She does not like to cook, and carbs and wheat make up a large portion of her diet. She is thin.

  19. Barb

    Dr. Davis,
    My husband and I have been on your eating plan for 11/2 years. We both lost 20 pounds and are no longer overweight. When we started I was pre diabetic with an A1c of 6.7. My fasting blood glucose is now 85 and my A1c is now 5.5. Until July we were going to the exercise club for 1-2 hours 3 times per week and walking 30″ outdoors the other days. For the first time in my life (we are in our 70’s) my HDL is over 40. We were both feeling great and had lots of energy. However this past June, my husband’s blood pressure went higher and had to increase his blood pressure meds. Then in July, when my leg swelled up, an ultrasound showed I have a DVT behind my knee. The ultrasound also showed a 5 cm tumor on my kidney ( opposite side from the clot). I had never had kidney or vascular issues before. I had surgery in September; luckily the tumor was not cancerous and I have recovered well. They don’t know what caused the renal onconocytoma. Diet related? Unfortunately I am still on Coumadin and must wear a 20-30 support stocking and I’ve had difficulty getting back to exercising other than walking. My question is: is it possible that this eating plan which has resulted in our eating more eggs, meat, nuts, seeds, and olive oil ( along with lots of salads and cruciferous veggies and berries that we’ve always eaten) could have led to my vascular issues and my husband’s higher blood pressure. It has been suggested to us perhaps we have suffered dehydration due to no longer ingesting much salt. I picked up Furhman’s book about eating nutrient dense foods (primarily green and other vegetables, beans, nuts, and fruits and some oats, brown rice…. Little or no meat or fish, little or no oils including olive oil, no eggs or dairy). His plan differs in many ways from yours though he also discourages wheat. Now we don’t know what we should be doing… Eat meat or not? Olive oil and walnut oil or not? Eggs or not? Is it possible that the belly fat I lost on your eating plan went into my blood and caused the blood clot?

    • wendy roberts

      I hope the dr. replies to this letter-I am really curious about the blood clot and your husbands blood pressure.I just can’t believe this way of eating could have caused any of these problems but I want to know what DR. DAVIS says

  20. Dr Davis,
    I posted a note a few days ago, and it is not on the blog with or without a reply. I read your book, and have been wheat free for four months.
    I feel better, my stomach feels better and I am sticking to the program without deviation. I have lost 10 lbs, but I do not seem to be able to lose any more. My Belly seems to be going down because I have to tighten my belt to notches I haven’t used in years.
    Early on I equated Wheat Free with Gluten Free and started eating a lot of gluten free breakfast cereal and other products. I read your book again, and discovered my errors.
    I walk in water a couple of times a week, and swim a little along with playing golf.
    Any suggestions from you or anyone else on the blog would be appreciated.

  21. Laura

    Can I eat wholegrain Rye and Oats on the wheat belly diet? (I realize these grains are contraindicated on a Gluten Free Diet….but are they permitted on the Wheat-Free diet recommended by Dr. Davis?)

    • Dr. Davis

      Not good choices, Laura.

      Rye is too closely related to wheat, as it first arose as a weed in wheat fields and crossbred many times.

      Oats simply raise blood sugar too high.

  22. The supplement industry has not overlooked an opportunity here either. A family member just noticed that there are multiple products now available to help you digest gluten:

    Based on the customer feedback, it appears they don’t work reliably, and even if they calm the uproar in your gut, they do nothing for the other hazards posed by modern gluten-bearing grains.

    Of course, if you need a digestive aid, is what you’re eating actually a human food?

    • Barbara in New Jersey


      Isn’t capitalism wonderful?
      These companies have combined digestive enzymes with probiotics in one pill rather than the 2 separate products. Both have been sold for many years to address the various ills and problems most probably caused by grains/sugar.

      Even our very own government tells us to eat more grains. Just ask ’em if they think this is human food!