The happy “coincidences” of wheatlessness

Wheat Belly Blog reader, Limor, posted this triumphant story of freedom from the health-destroying bonds of wheat:

You validated what I have felt for so many years!! I read you book and watched your lectures over and over again and was fascinated by your knowledge and findings.

I am a therapist in NYC specializing in Eating Disorders and I also recovered from Anorexia and Bulimia. I have been gluten-free for over a year and, after reading your book, I am working hard on being wheat-free.

Prior to being wheat-free, I suffered severe pains and cramps in my stomach. After several failed attempts to ask various doctors why I have been experiencing such discomfort, particularly after eating wheat products, I decided to do the “elimination diet.” About a month after I went wheat-free, I noticed HUGE changes in the way I was feeling physically and emotionally.

Prior to going wheat-free, I suffered from tendinitis which was very debilitating. The doctor I saw told me that I had inflammation in my knee and that I had to go to physical therapy at least twice a week and take medication. When I asked why I might have had such severe pain that made me fall on several occasions, he said “It was genetic” and medication should relieve the pain. I never went to physical therapy and I didn’t take any medication for the pain.

Two months after going wheat-free, I almost had NO pain or discomfort with my knee or my stomach. When I went back to the doctor he said that it MUST have been a “coincidence” that my knee pain stopped after I went wheat-free. I knew that eating wheat caused me a LOT of discomfort and when I read your book and listen to your lectures i wanted to scream THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I now recommend to all my patients who suffer from bulimia or binge-eating or any other psychological/physical problem to give wheat-free a chance! I am already witnessing changes. THANK YOU for giving me the confidence to follow what I thought made me feel better and for making me a happier and healthier person!

When I first asked patients to eliminate wheat, I did so to reduce blood sugar and the long-term measure of blood sugar fluctuations, hemoglobin A1c, HbA1c. I did this in the hopes of helping people gain better control over heart disease risk, as diabetes and pre-diabetes introduced substantial excess risk for heart attack and other cardiovascular disasters. People went home armed with my little 2-page handout detailing how to do this. They returned several months later with lower fasting glucose values, lower HbA1c, as I expected. They also demonstrated greater reductions in small LDL particles (the #1 most common cause for heart disease!) than I expected, typically dropping 70-100%. The results were far better than I expected. After all, I had asked patients to eliminate “healthy whole grains.”

But what really caught my attention were all the stories people following this wheat-free lifestyle began telling me: complete and nearly immediate relief from acid reflux, disappearance of bowel urgency, relief from wrist and hand pain, improved mood, deeper sleep, no more mental “fog” or afternoon energy slumps. People with rheumatoid arthritis reported dramatic improvement, sometimes outright cure. People with ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease reported marked reduction in cramps, diarrhea, and even hemorrhage; many were able to stop 1, 2, or all 3 drugs used to treat the conditions. Asthmatics pitched their inhalers. People with depression felt their moods lifting for the first time in years, many getting off antidepressants. Men and women reported improved sex drive. A wide variety of rashes, especially seborrhea and psoriasis, as well as acne and dandruff, went away, even after years of salves, shampoos, and steroid creams. People with bulimia and binge eating disorder reported complete loss of around-the-clock food obsessions that had plagued them for decades.

The first few dozen times these sorts of stories came my way, I too dismissed them as just happy coincidences. “Gee, John: I can’t see why your disfiguring rheumatoid arthritis would just GO AWAY!” But many, many of thousands of “coincidences” later and it has become absolutely clear: This is NO coincidence, no incredible series of serendipitous occurrences without meaning. This is the extravagant and unexpected effect of eliminating something that should NEVER have been introduced into the human diet, let alone enjoy the widespread endorsement of the USDA, U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services, and the nutritional community.

In the world of nutrition, you make your own luck!

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Comments & Feedback...

    • Cynthia

      Well strictly speaking, whole wheat bread is better for you than white bread (which is also made of wheat, of course). But in a nutshell, wheat is an appetite stimulant (causes you to eat more), it increases the permeability of your gut and causes inflammation, and it may be addictive due to interaction of certain wheat proteins with your opioid receptors (same as the ones that are affected by morphine!) Wheat is in everything, not just the obvious foods like bread and baked goods and pasta. It’s an additive in almost all processed foods even though it doesn’t need to be.

    • There’s an excellent, easy-to-read, interview with Dr. Davis that sums it up in 2 pages.
      As a diabetic, seriously consider going wheat free. My aunt developed diabetes 2 years ago. Someone gave her a copy of Wheat Belly, she followed the diet and now tests as a non-diabetic. She also lost a ton of weight!

  1. paula

    I’ve been wheat-free for 3 weeks now and I must say I am very disapointed. I lost 2 pounds in the first 4 days, mostly water but gained everything back and more. I weight more today than 3 weeks ago! I am very strict whit my diet, don’t eat any grain, no starchy foods at all. I gave up rice and potatoes and of course all wheat. I eat tones of vegetables, steamed, stir fry or raw. Little fruit, almost exclusively berries and meat, fish, eggs and nuts. The only oil I use is olive oil ( coconut oil gives me soare throat). Don’t drink milk but I eat some cheese. During this process my skin became very dry and itchy ( no skin problems before) and my joint pains didn’t improve. I feel exausted too. Thyroide function normal, checked few months ago. I’ve been overweight for all my adult life since my pregnancies, keeping the same weight and can’t get rid off the pounds. Actually if I put a few pounds on very quickly they’re going to melt by themselves. It’s like my body adjusts himself to keep this precise weight!
    My husband is following the same diet, he is not loosing weight either but got rid of the acid reflux he’s been having for years. So he’s going to continue the diet. For me it’s over. I think some people have more wheat-gluten sensivity than others.

    • janet

      You are doing the right thing!! Congrats. More damage requires more time to heal. It is complicated, but carry on–accept the signs of improvement you are seeing. DO NOT weight yourself all the time or even once a week. The scale is a prison that does not accurately measure what is happening when you eliminate wheat and sugar and start to eat whole foods or exercise and build muscle. I weigh about the same now, but went from a size 12 jean to a 6–a number on a scale did not accurately AT ALL measure the changes going on. I have some itchy skin sometimes, but it’s winter here and I have very thin skin that chafes easily. Ditch the scale and don’t believe it sometimes. We are all different and the body rebels or responds differently.

        • Janet

          I use it on my face and neck and hands, but have just started using it on dry leg areas. I put some in a little jar and heat it up on one of those low temp “coffee cut warmers” so it melts. I find it easier to apply and makes my face feel softer. I may be more diligent on a particularly itchy area on my leg.

    • I would check to make sure there is no wheat/gluten products ‘sneaked’ in on you. Many packaged foods, including meats and produce, can be dusted with flour or gluten to preserve looks. Local farmers and butchers usually don’t do this, it’s only big scale operations that ship products distances.

      Medications, pesticides and environmental toxins can also slow weight loss.

  2. Tyrannocaster

    Okay, I’ll bite: “I have been gluten-free for over a year and, after reading your book, I am working hard on being wheat-free.” How can you be gluten free and not be wheat free?

    • Boundless

      Wheat dextrin, for example. It’s GF but not WF.

      But I suspect that Limor was being imprecise, and meant something else, possibly “I have been gluten-free for over a year and, after reading your book, I am working hard on being low-carb.”

    • Jeanne

      I couldn’t agree more! Contrary to conventional wisdom for decades now, too much calcium is not helpful and ( in my honest opinion) detrimental to bone and overall health, as are biophosphonates. I think they make poor quality bones prone to fracture.

      The K2 is so important for keeping the calcium IN the bones and OUT of the artery walls. I have been taking it for many years after learning about its importance through Life I have been a fan more or less ( I don’t agree with all reccommendations or supplement marketing) since the mid 80’s.
      I was in my 20’s at the time and people thought I was a bit of a wing nut for my ideas. HA! Not anymore! In my 50’s and I have bones of a 30 year old!

  3. pam

    patient: complains about knee (or other joint) pain.

    a doctor’s typical response typically it’s genetic, aging, or stress.

    translate -> i DON’T know

    • mmfromkc

      I would have more respect for a doctor if he/she actually said “I don’t know” instead of making up some nonsensical reason like aging or stress.

  4. NewWbelly

    Not related to this post but i’m wondering about Hemp….
    I recently read the Thrive Diet and according to it ….Hemp is Vegan and gluten-free, hemp is an ideal, non-dairy alternative for vegetarian, vegan and raw diets or anyone with soy or dairy allergies. Hemp is not only one of the most wholesome sources of plant-based protein, it’s also a rich source of essential vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids.
    Does it fit in the Wheat belly diet?

  5. DeeDee

    The radical improvement of so many people in so many ways must be quantified so that it will be recognized by the medical profession. We don’t need a control group given a placebo; anyone who eats wheat is part of this group. I’m glad and grateful that I found this information.It is time for scholarly studies. The insanity of public funding of health care while simultaneously funding a substance that is so harmful must stop. .

  6. Melissa

    I checked this blog today to see if Dr Davis commented on the latest New England Journal of Medicine report on the Mediterranean Diet. Now I feel compelled to comment on the vitamin D/Mg discussion:

    In December 2012 my husband’s blood work showed a Vitamin D deficiency. His cardiologist prescribed 2000IU Vitamin D daily. The reason he was even having this blood work or seeing a cardiologist is because he had a central retinal artery occolusion of the right eye. In laymen’s terms, a small piece of plaque or calcium blocked the artery feeding his retina and now he is permanently blind in his right eye. This happened while he was asleep.

    The night before this happened we ate avocado and tomato salad. I’ve read that avocado ‘scrubs away’ the plaque in your arteries so I worried that our diet caused this event. But the doctors we spoke to don’t seem to believe plaque moves… so that conversation got us nowhere. One doc recommended the DASH diet. A low salt, diet including lots of healthy whole grains.

    We have been following the wheat belly diet since May 2012, and both lost a good bit of weight, hubby’s blood pressure was pretty good back in the summer, we were feeling great ….except for this eye thing. There were no symptoms he just woke up and couldn’t see. . . They also found my husbands blood pressure to be quite high in December. He is now taking a whole bunch of pharmaceuticals and I bought a blood pressure cuff to keep a close eye on it. His blood pressure didn’t drop to normal until he started the Vitamin D. And it is a light switch! If he forgets to take Vit D in the morning by the evening his blood pressure goes up.

    I was really shocked that he even had the D deficiency since we live in sunny San Diego. Then I read somewhere that most people have Vit D deficiency in the winter time and it was suggested that this was the real reason people tend to get sick in the winter.

    In a totally unrelated search I read that Mg deficiency can cause asthma, among other things. My son has asthma and eliminating wheat seemed to help him but did not totally eliminate it. Sometime in the fall my husband had started taking a Magnesium supplement due to leg spasms. It worked like a charm. My son can’t swallow the giant Mg pills my husband takes. He does like broccoli, a supposed natural source of Mg, but who knows if it is really in there with soil depletetion, etc. So I went looking for a Mg supplement made for kids. I found a liquid dispersion that is a combination of Vit D, Calcium, Phosphorus, Magnesium , Zinc and Potassium. I thought if my husband has Vit D and Mg deficiency then my son probably had too. I started giving this supplement to my son and it is a light switch that turns off his asthma. If I miss giving it to him a few days asthma comes back.

    I have long believed that we should strive to get our vitamins and nutrients from our food and not pills. But these recent occurances are causing me to cross over to the other side. Eliminating wheat has improved our health significantly, but at least for this family, there was still room for improvement.

    • Dr. Davis

      Yes, indeed, Melissa: Wheat elimination is among the most powerful phenomena I have ever witnessed . . . but there is certainly more to health.

      See this recent Wheat Belly Blog post:

      Also, note that retinal artery occlusions, if not from debris from a carotid plaque, most likely originates from atherosclerotic plaque in the aorta. This is worth discussing with the cardiologist.

    • Sammie

      Melissa-could you tell me the name of the liquid you found for your son. My daughter is 11 and I’ve been giving her Vit D supplements for years. A couple weeks ago she started complaining about cramping in her hand and foot sometimes. I’ve been thinking she needs mor potassium, but perhaps the supplement you found would help her.

      • Melissa

        Thanks for the reply. Echo shows he has a bicuspid aortic valve. Carotid US didn’t give a % blockage. But there is a comment there is some calcification “more than expected for age,” 46. But there was nothing to call for any procedure. He said his aortic valve would have to be replaced at some point, but they would put it off as long as possible so it wouldnt have to be done twice. I said we are just gonna eat so good it never has to be replaced.

      • Melissa

        The supplement is by MRM Cal-mag zinc liquid. Says it is for bone density. There was one for kids but this was more concentrated for the same money.

  7. Fiona Jesse Giffords

    I simply can’t think of quitting wheat or whole grain foods to lose weight, i may reduce them a little bit in my eating habits. I think they have more carbohydrates compare to other food resources. You shouldn’t be on gluten free diet if you don’t have celiac disease or as recommended by your dietitian.

    • James

      Hi there,

      Half-French speaking here, grew up among baguettes, croissants, “pain de campagne”, flutes, you name it. That’s exactly what I did: I quit wheat and broke my addiction. “To quit wheat” is exactly the right expression: you usually “quit a drug” in order to break an addiction. Your admitting not being able to “quit wheat” should make you think twice about your position.

      Everyone is free to eat what he/she wants … but when addicted, freedom is a fuzzy concept … ;)


      • James

        And by the way, if you think it is about weight, you’re quite mistaken. You don’t quit wheat or grains for losing weight, it just happens so that quitting these grains has a nice weight-loss side-effect in about 90% of people. The main point that motivates ditching the grains is to stop poisoning yourself. You may think it is an extreme thing to say but after reading tons of literature about the subject, that is the only conclusion you can draw.

    • derp

      This is your second post here that is neither a question nor of help to anyone. Eat what YOU want, it’s YOUR blood pressure, it’s YOUR stroke, it’s YOUR myocardial infarction, it’s YOUR cancer. It’s YOUR n=1 experiment that tells whether your diet is healthier than ours. I don’t care.

      • Karen

        Fiona, honestly, your premise of “reducing the wheat a little” to “help” is flawed. This is like telling an alcoholic to just reduce his intake of alcohol a little and that will help. It is apparent you have not read Wheat Belly. Gluten negatively affects everyone even if you do not have celiac disease. The carbohydrates may be worse in some regards. You may never want to give up wheat but you should at least not stay blissfully ignorant. Be an informed wheat eater. You owe yourself that much.

  8. janet

    I wish I had known this during the 12 years I suffered (and it IS suffering) from Bulimia and a head so completely and thoroughly messed up, depressed and compromised by what I now know may have been wheat and it’s horrors. Bulimia is a hidden horror as we don’t really look fat or conversely emaciated to tip people off all is not well inside. I look around and hear people obviously ill and don’t know what to do. Most won’t listen and it is sad to me that in one breath they may say they are desperate (and I KNOW desperate) but turn away in shock when I mention wheat. When I was a kid in the 50’s and 60’s we forget that when people dieted then, they were told to NOT eat bread, sweets, ice cream, cake, etc. That seemed sensible then–nobody told people to not eat meat or eggs. Now this crazy “moderation” fools so many into eating the crap that makes them sick and the purveyors of this poison have infected every food they now crave and think if they only eat in moderation or 100 calorie bites–they will lose weight and keep it off. Disaster looms. But hope is quietly churning in the background–more and more people are getting the Wheat Belly message. More articles are coming out turning conventional wisdom and just plain fraud upside down.

    When folks pick up your book, Dr. Davis, at the library I work at, I always make sure they hear my story. Just yesterday a nice lady picked it up from the hold shelf and I talked to her about what this book has done for me. She told me that she was at a “health” event at the hospital and a nutritionist at a booth whispered, yes, whispered to her that she should read Wheat Belly!!! I got a call from one of our library patrons who was at SAMS club and was actually holding the book in her hand. She called the library wondering if we had it to check out. While we were talking, someone walked by her and told her to “get that book”. I also told this patron my story and since the Wheat Belly book is ALWAYS checked out, maybe she should buy it and get started! She did. These little moments make me feel so good. If these people “go for it”, then these moments are actually BIG moments.
    I love reading about the lives being changed in this blog/

    • janet

      I believe my experiences above too are the happy “coincidences” of wheatlessness. Those that “are” like me, are in place at moments to help those who “aren’t”. And at the minimum, spark something they may act on later or get confirmed by growing information getting out.

  9. Elizabeth

    Off subject, but has anyone else heard of a new study out recommending that breastfeeding infants
    be given gluten in order to prevent possible celiac disease later in life? Could this possibly become
    mandatory somewhere down the road, all infants fed gluten between 4-6 months? It may help
    save a lot in health care costs. (The article was reported by US News, Feb 19, 2013)

  10. Karen

    Dr. Davis. I am about half way through Wheat Belly and was already convinced that wheat was the spawn of the devil by page 40:-). I have been going strictly wheat free and trying as best I can to stay off the high GI foods. At day 5 I have already lost 3 lbs, don’t feel endlessly hungry anymore and, as a distance runner running regular half marathons (65lbs overweight) my joints stopped hurting. I’m very excited about this change in lifestyle eating. And I have been a vegetarian for 20 years and fat. So even a veggie can do this!
    BUT, I have a question regarding a starchy food I really love. I am referring to a corm (tuber like structure) called Malanga (Xanthosoma sagittifolium). Apparently, also called yautia, cocoyam, eddo, coco, tannia, sato-imo and Japanese potatoes. The only place I was able to find the glycemic index of this vegetable was in a basic research paper and they cited it at a GI of 60 ( using wheat bread as their standard).

    Do you know anything about this vegetable and is it ok in limited quantities in your opinion? Thank You!

  11. PhilJ

    Hello Dr Davis!

    I have a peculiar situation. It appears to be a ‘Happy Coincidence’ but I would like to know your thoughts and wonder if any others here have experienced this change after going wheat-free.

    I am a 58-yr-old male. Eighteen years ago I discovered I was lactose-intolerant. I had experienced the classic symptoms and they were particularly strong whenever I had even a small amount of milk products. The day I consulted a physician about it was a few hours after eating a honey-bun and a glass of milk for breakfast. I was doubled over in pain and was speeding between bathrooms on the way to the Dr’s office. I suggested and he agreed that I was probably lactose intolerant and he said to lay off of all milk products for two weeks. After a couple of days all symptoms were gone. I started taking Lactaid pills with meals and was able to get back on dairy to some extent.

    Heavy-duty lactose foods like sour-cream and ice-cream were still off-limits, though the pills did reduce the severity of the symptoms. Whenever I forgot to take the Lactaid, I paid the price. I knew I had to wait it out until my system was ‘clean’ again. So I have lived this way for 18 yrs – always carrying the pills with me and being careful about consuming milk products. Let me be clear about this. If I had just one latte without taking a tablet – bad things happened. Always.

    So move forward to now. I went WB in Jan. 2012 and experienced the positive effects – 26 lbs in 60 days fell off without me really doing anything other than no wheat. Amazing. But just lately I noticed that when I forgot to take my Lactaid – I had no discomfort. None. So for the past month I have intentionally not taken the pills with meals. Lattes don’t bother me, nor does butter and soft cheeses. These have been killers to me before. No heartburn, no sudden ‘explosions’ and having to get to a bathroom NOW! situations.

    So I performed a test. I consumed a goodly amount of ice cream at one sitting and experienced NO symptoms at all. I am totally at a loss to explain it.

    My query to you – have you heard of any relationship between wheat consumption and lactose-intolerance showing itself? I can’t find anything on the net about it. But my body can’t suddenly re-start producing the lactase enzyme to enable me to digest milk again can it? Can reversing the intestinal inflammation damage caused by wheat alleviate this condition?

    I am happily befuddled.


    • Neicee

      PhilJ, I too experienced the same thing, though I never used pills to try and tolerate milk products. I never drank milk as a child because it just made me sick. After years of avoiding nuts too (which I’d grown up with 2 almond trees and one walnut tree in our backyard) found that only after going completely wheat/grain/rice/potatoes/corn free was I able to eat them again. It’s a miracle in my book. All those years of avoiding milk and it’s byproducts I now have a severe problem with osteoporosis, sometimes craving a 1/2 glass of full fat milk. I also am loving being able to eat nuts again. The only food I still cannot consume are peanuts, but they’re not really nuts. It’s great freedom isn’t it?

      • Neicee

        Forgot to add: I have been sugar free since Jan. 1, 2012. The only sweetener I use is a couple of drops of stevia, perhaps twice a week.

        • Barbara in New Jersey

          As your system becomes overwhelmed by grains/sugars, it starts to reject more and more of the types of foods being eaten. The longer this happens, the more it is stressed and it reacts, sometimes in a different way. Symptoms of ill health get worse and worse until it is debilitating. The more foods that are eaten that it doesn’t like, more symptoms develop. Some of these are seemingly not related. You wonder: what does indigestion have to do with arthritis? What does headaches have to do with the need to eat every few hours?

          I have found that various food sensitivities have diminished significantly
          the longer I am grain and sugar free. As the inflammation in my organs and veins decrease, the more I can tolerate these foods. As I look back on my life, I can now understand why I felt the way I did and what foods I was eating at the time probably caused the problem. Visits to doctors treated only the symptom and never got to the cause.

    • Dr. Davis

      Hi, Phil–

      Yes, this is a fairly common experience, but the underlying mechanism is only speculative.

      It probably relates to the abnormal intestinal health (bowel flora composition, irritation to the ileal/jejunal endothelium, disrupted pancreatic signaling, etc.) that improves with wheat elimination.

      This seems to result in reduced or reversed intolerances to many things, dairy proteins and lactose included. (By the way, you may or may not have been lactose intolerant; it could have been intolerance to one or more dairy proteins.)

  12. Cynthia

    I’m so curious as to Dr. Davis’s opinion as to why the Mediterranean way of life (which includes bread and wheat products) and eating, has almost half the incidences of heart disease , diabetes , etc. They consume less sugar by far than the American diet, but their intake of grains are by far tolerated with less if all the diseases too. I’m hoping for any feedback here! I’ve been adhering to my parents way of eating (Greek islanders) by staying within our Greek cuisines and I’ve had zero health problems my whole life, and both my parents are in their 90’s and living independently. So I’d really like to know why the Dr. is calling the “staff of life” … “Poision”. Has he read and researched all the longevity of the Mediterranean people? There are thousands of studies on this way of life. Not hundereds. Any thoughts would be so appreciated.

    • > … why the Mediterranean way of life (which includes bread and wheat products)
      > and eating, has almost half the incidences of heart disease , diabetes , etc.
      > They consume less sugar by far than the American diet, …

      ..and less HFCS specifically. They also consume more non-starchy vegetables, more fat, esp. olive oil (not having fully fallen into the low fat trap), and the coastals eat more fish. They also eat fewer calories total, which probably translates into lower net carbs, likely a combined effect of the appetite suppression from fats, and the higher cost of food. Heirloom grain strains and dough aging may play some role, but I’m guessing it’s not much.

      > … but their intake of grains are by far tolerated with less if all the diseases too.

      Regional trend charts, such as diabetes, are all in the wrong direction presently.

      > So I’d really like to know why the Dr. is calling the “staff of life” … “Poision”.

      The original Wheat Belly book deeply examines the charges. I’m going to guess that you haven’t read it. Wheat, of any claimed vintage, contains exactly nothing that outweighs its hazards.

      > Has he read and researched all the longevity of the Mediterranean people?

      I suspect Dr. Davis has read every nutrition paper available on the topic, including those not available in English. If physicians here read even 5% of what he reads, we might not have the chronic disease problems that we do.