Experience your inner Homo erectus

In many ways, what we are doing in following the arguments in Wheat Belly is returning to the ways of primitive humans.

Humans have adapted to life on earth under a range of conditions, from sub-Arctic cold coastal conditions, to hot dry African Savannah conditions, to wet tropical conditions. Over this 2.4 million year timeline of adaptation, our bodies have become dependent on a number of nutrients, many of which we no longer obtain in sufficient quantities. We also have more recently incorporated foods into our diet that were not present during the majority of time that humans have walked the earth. Among the most important:

Wheat and other grains–Despite the wide variation in foods and environmental conditions that Homo species have survived under, there is one constant: NONE ate grains. Some ate fish, virtually all ate the organs and meat of land creatures (mammalian and otherwise), insects, each other (i.e., cannibalism), nuts, seeds, tubers/roots, fruit, and other edible parts of plants–but NONE ate grains. None ate grains until approximately 10,000 years ago: einkorn and emmer wheat in the Fertile Crescent, maize/teosinte in Meso and coastal South America, rice from the swamps of Asia, sorghum and millet in sub-Saharan Africa. We have therefore consumed grains for 0.4% of the time we have inhabited earth (with a subsequent downturn in health as a result).
Omega-3 fatty acids–Primitive humans ate the brains and other organs of animals that contained the EPA and DHA required for human brain and overall health. They also consumed marine creatures, if coastal. This was among the driving factors believed to have contributed to the 300% in brain size experienced by Homo, from the 450 cc brain of Australopithecus to the 1350 cc brains of modern Homo sapiens. (Though omega-3 fatty acid consumption alone is insufficient by itself to fuel brain size, else lions and jackals would be the smartest creatures on earth.) This is why fish oil, containing highly-concentrated EPA and DHA, provides unexpected and broad health benefits. You could, of course, eat the brains of animals, but fish oil capsules and liquid is more convenient and palatable to most.
Vitamin DHomo lived outdoors, often with substantial skin surface area exposed, the phenomenon that generates vitamin D, crucial to overall health. As humans migrated to climates away from the equator with less intense sunlight and greater need for heat-protective clothing, we lost our dark skin coloring to make us more sensitive to the ultraviolet light required for the vitamin D reaction. The most northern humans, such as the Inuit, lost their melanin coloring but also consumed the organs of animals, especially the liver and kidneys, rich in vitamin D.
Vitamin C–Unlike most other mammals, humans do not synthesize their own vitamin C, required for numerous bodily reactions. So we obtain vitamin C by consuming the liver and kidney of animals, as well as fruits and vegetables.
Iodine–Iodine is the primordial antibacterial. Just as Mom swabbed it on your knee when you skinned it, so your salivary glands, mammary glands, and thyroid have come to rely on iodine. Your thyroid gland requires it to produce the thyroid hormones, T4 and T3, with T4 requiring 4 iodine atoms per T4 molecule, T3 requiring 3. We obtained iodine by consuming marine animals and plants, or by consuming animals and plants that contained iodine that had leached into or was residual in the soil from the ocean.

Human needs extend beyond these factors, of course. But these factors–no grains, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, vitamin C, and iodine–are among the most powerful of strategies to adopt into modern human diet and health. It also provides an explanation for why, when us modern humans adopt such practices, a multitude of health benefits develop.

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Comments & Feedback...

  1. Boundless

    > … no grains, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, vitamin C, and iodine …

    Quibble: I would add “low net carbs,” in between “no grains” and “omega”.

    Based on the questions that are most commonly asked by those new to WB, the low carb advocacy is something that most of them overlook in the books.

    • Gene K

      Speaking of low carb in general, from what I gathered from reading on Dr Kruse’s website, it is important to vary carb consumption based on the season – from almost no carbs at all when the light day is shortest to locally growing fruit and vegetables during the season. Yet, from several posts by Dr Davis on his Track Your Plaque site a couple years ago, those of us with heart disease should really limit fruit consumption, even in season.

      • Boundless

        > … those of us with heart disease should really limit fruit consumption, even in season.

        That would be due to fructose, I presume, which would be the alternate #2 thing behind “no wheat” if I hadn’t suggested “low carb”.

        If you are WB low carb (less than 15 grams net per 6 hr period), you probably aren’t consuming a lot of fructose.

      • Fruit is overrated. It has some nutrients, but it’s mostly sugar. In general, you’ll get more nutrients from LC vegetables with a lot less carb.

  2. Susan Fox

    Your post makes so much sense. We’ve been living as if we’re immortal and can do anything we want. But we’ve been filling our bodies with poison. I know people wouldn’t do that to their cars. Why do they do it to their bodies? It’s really crazy when you think about us being part of the earth and yet we think we’re superior to it and can do whatever we want. The truth is a lot of us don’t think but just follow like sheep and do what everybody else does. Many have never learned anything about real food and just eat prepared crap produced by the food industry. It’s hard to even call what they produce “food”.

    I’ve now become a Wheat Belly activist. I speak out the truth whenever the opportunity arises. The other day some Girl Scouts asked if I wanted to buy some cookies. I said I don’t eat wheat. One girl piped up, “Next year we’ll have gluten-free cookies!” I said those are just as bad. I know I probably didn’t change anyone’s thinking in those couple of comments but I made them aware of something new and maybe they’ll start taking about it and research it. Even if people don’t get it they at least have heard about it. My partner has been wheat -free for a month now and he even spoke out about it several times this week.. So maybe we’re both becoming anti-wheat and anti-junk carb activists.

    • organicguy

      I would have given the girls the money after telling them about gf,then toss the death cookies in the trash.

    • James

      The analogy of the car is VERY misleading. The car is NOT “forgiving” if you dump weird crap into it because it is a VERY SIMPLE system and does not have the possibility to become addicted :D
      The body of an animal is FAR MORE COMPLEX and relies on all sorts of balance, signal feedback loops, etc, etc, unlike a car. Don’t wonder why people don’t stuff their cars with crap, the cars wouldn’t drive, would they ?

      There was this famous case of a girl in the UK eating nothing but McNuggets for years (like almost 20 years …). A cynical view would be to say that since she reached reproduction age, the food she was indulging in was just fine … not sure she was that fertile but I do not know. It is easy to become an “activist” when enthused by the discovery of some very positive process but I don’t think you need to become a “wheat belly activist “. Health benefits experienced by more and more people will speak for the “cause”.

      • Susan Fox

        It wasn’t really an analogy. It was a comment that says people value their car more than their body.

        • James

          Hello Susan,

          I see your point but I still don’t fully agree. I think people have NO choice but do the right thing with their car: no one would put diesel fuel into a gasoline engine for example (except by mistake) because it would compromise the car’s basic function. But wheat ? yes, you can eat it and don’t feel bad at all (I did for years) and you are even told that whole wheat is super healthy. Many people have switched to whole grains from refined grains because of the opposite of what you say precisely: they were valuing their body to the extent that they switched to what they thought was healthy!! I don’t think people are stupid (some really are though, no denying of that) but they tend to be passive or “lazy” because they rely way too much on someone else’s expertise to provide the right simple message: eat this, exercise more, don’t stress, blabla, simple messages that become the basic principles of a lifestyle. I think that is the real issue: lack of critical thinking from every one.

          • Susan Fox

            I totally agree. Many people don’t use critical thinking. They don’t seek out alternative sources for information. The mainstream media is owned by big corporations who make a ton of money from the big food industries, etc., but not just the lack of critical thinking causes the problem. Misinformation is abundant. That definitely confuses everything and many people aren’t able to evaluate whether something is coming from a good, reliable source. I was fortunate that I learned to read non-fiction that is documented so I can check the source. And I always question everything to see if it makes sense.

            Since I gave up wheat prior to reading Wheat Belly I had no idea wheat was causing a multitude of my ailments. They mysteriously went away after dropping wheat. So when I read the book it logically explained what had happened to me and why and finally made sense.

            I started having digestive problems in the late 80′s and through the 90′s. The problems kept getting more pronounced as the years went by. The story of an acquaintance of mine would periodically flash in my brain. She had celiac and she told me about her symptoms with her digestive tract. I started wondering if possibly I had the same problem but then would push it out of my mind. I ended up in the ER one time because of severe chest and abdominal pressure and after an endoscopy by a gastroenterologist I was told I had high acid and to stay away from fat. Then I went to live on a boat in the Caribbean for 4 1/2 years traveling from country to country. I was told by a couple living in Panama who baked homemade bread that the flour in Panama didn’t have gluten so they would bring it there from the U.S.. I’m sure the flour I got in South and Central America was genetically modified but was not exactly the same as the flour in the U.S. Third world countries were the first to have genetically modified wheat. But I didn’t know all this when I was there. I didn’t eat as much wheat in the latin countries. Most the foods I ate were simple and not processed. When I visited the U.S. after 2 years away I spent 2 months eating food that was different than what I was eating in the Caribbean. I bloated and gained weight and generally felt crummier as the visit progressed. Then I would go back to the Caribbean and start feeling great again. Then another visit and the same thing happened. And when I moved back permanently 4 1/2 years later I started having serious digestive and other issues. I ended up in the ER one night thinking I was having a heart attack. Nothing was found by the doctors. I had intestinal pain, abdominal and chest pain. I also had such bad joint pain I thought I was getting rheumatoid arthritis. I had other symptoms also but had no idea they were related to wheat.

            I decided to try dropping wheat to see if that would change anything. I started having a definite change in my digestive tract, and after 2 weeks my joints quit hurting, plus I was dropping some extra weight I had gained since being back in the U.S. My skin and hair got nicer and lost the itchiness. My eyesight improved and other things improved.
            When I was searching for an interesting book one day on my kindle I saw Wheat Belly and ordered it. After reading just 20% of the book I was astounded. I wrote to Dr. Davis because I was super amazed at how accurately he described my many symptoms and how dropping the wheat changed all that. I did just focus on the wheat for a while but soon realized I needed to drop all junk carbs. I bought The Wheat Belly Cookbook and learned even more. I feel so great now. I hear people around me complaining and I tell them about my experience and the books by Dr. Davis. I get really angry about how the public has been fooled by the big food industry. I’ll do all I can to spread the word about Wheat Belly to everyone.

          • James

            Hey Susan,

            Thanks for sharing your story! Quite a tale …
            My story is very simple: I simply started to grow too fat and when I came back from my last summer vacation (3 weeks in France indulging in bread, pasta, cakes, pastries, etc), I was so depressed by what I saw in the mirror, I needed to do something. I had been going through yoyo weight for as long as I can remember but NEVER had I known about insulin resistance. But more recently, things started to go worse: wrist pain, skin rash, dental pain because of cold, brain fog, etc. I put that one the account of lack of exercise, too much fat in my diet (love butter and cheese!), and screwed up sleep (father of 3 and 1.5 y.o. kids) until I read a danish book about what a real diet should be about: no junk carbs, no dairy, real good fat and beggies. I experimented for 3 weeks and while I did, I read about wheat belly and much more (paleo and primal diets, low carb-high fat, etc, etc). I caught up with A LOT of information and really, I should have known better when I think about what I went through in my entire life …

            J.

  3. Katherine

    Dear Dr. Davis,
    Thank you again for your brilliant books.
    A quick question, the blood sugar impact is a lot lower for rye bread compared to wheat bread. Gluten issues aside, is this because rye doesn’t contain the super starch (super carbohydrate) Amylopectin A? The same for Barley?
    Thank you so much again!
    Katherine

    • Boundless

      When this question arises, the usual answer is that barley and rye have experienced the same genetic tinkering as wheat, and need to be treated with the same caution (avoid ‘em).

      And yes. that writes off most beers.

    • Dr. Davis

      Plenty of uncertainties with rye and barley, Katherine, even putting aside the gluten issues.

      It is unclear how much of a gliadin effect they exert, for instance. One thing we know, however: They both raise blood sugar substantially.

  4. Drae

    Dear Dr. Davis,

    I wanted to mention to you some research into hemp seeds and hemp oil. In trying to find more information from you and Dr. Cordain about whether hemp is allowed on the paleo diet, I’ve found that there is still some concern over what proteins are contained in the hemp seed. Thankfully, I’ve been able to do my own research with the help of a book called Hemp Today. In it, there is a chapter called “Why Hemp Seeds?” in which the author commissioned a full nutritional analysis of the hemp seed and its oil. There are no lectins or gluten in the protein analysis and the omega-3 to omega-6 is a perfect 3:1 ratio. I wanted to post this information for you so you could read the information for yourself. If, by chance, you cannot find a copy of Hemp Today, I would be more than happy to have the chapter I mentioned scanned and email it to you, though the book is available on Amazon. Feel free to contact me if need be. Thanks.

    • Dr. Davis

      Thanks for the post, Tuck.

      But I stand by my assertion that the evidence suggests that Homo sapiens did not make a habit of consuming wild grains until 10,000 years ago.

      And note that Neandertals did not give rise to Homo, but vice versa.

  5. Karen

    Dr Davis: Along the lines of the information in your post, the following TED lecture by Dr Terry Wahls and her experience of addressing her own MS through diet may be of interest: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fs7jqqdv5eg ; she also mentions her own ongoing research related to her approach to diet. It’s quite dramatic and inspiring.

    Karen

  6. Interest post, Dr. Davis. I just read this article in today’s Los Angeles Times entitled “Signs of heart disease found in far-flung antique mummies.” The article at http://www.latimes.com/health/la-sci-mummies-heart-disease-20130311,0,7389576.story goes on to say that scientists scanned mummies from various cultures and ” in addition to studying 76 scans of Egyptians who lived between 3100 BC and AD 364, the researchers reviewed radiologic images of mummified remains from five pueblo dwellers who lived in what is now Utah between 1500 BC and AD 1500; 51 Peruvians who lived between 900 BC and AD 1500, before Europeans arrived in South America; and five Aleutian hunter-gatherers who were alive in the pre-industrial period around AD 1900…They found the calcium deposits of atherosclerosis in mummies from all four cultures, with the New World specimens having buildups in the same places and in similar amounts as the Egyptians.” These so-called scientists have obviously not read your book or tested it for themselves as they point out that the mostly poor people would not have had the luxury of eating a high fat diet…blah, blah, blah, and yet they found these calcium deposits. They never mentioned that with the exception of the Aleutian Islanders, these were all agrarian communities and they ate GRAINS! When will they get the message?

    • Dr. Davis

      Yes, Robin: VERY astute observation on your part!

      All the populations except the Aleutian Islanders were grain-consumers. So I am not sure how this last group fits in. Could their atherosclerosis represent a vitamin D deficiency despite consumption of animal organs?

      This is an interesting addition to our discussions, but I’m just not quite sure how it fits in yet.

      • Kathy

        I find it hard to believe the Aleutian Islanders ate absolutely no grains in 1900….big difference between 1900 and like 4000 BC.

        It was already known that one of the older mummies (maybe it was Hatshepsut? I’m not sure) suffered from Diabetes.
        Not even in the comments for some of these articles (I saw 3 other articles after reading the AP one) did people point out that they ate grains….it was all “fat” this and “fat” that.

      • Dr. Davis,

        Perhaps living in relatively cold climate, the native people would huddle in dwellings around a fire with little ventilation, a practice which has been documented in other cold weather societies, causing the same effects that smoking tobacco does to the arteries. And yes, vitamin D deficiency is likely due to overcast conditions much of the time, where these people with somewhat heavily pigmented skin live in high-latitudes where UVB levels are relatively low.

        Robin

        • Dr. Davis

          How the author’s interpret their findings as something related to fat is beyond me. As you point out, there are many other factors that could have played a role; fat would be among the last things I would consider.

    • Dr. Davis

      Isn’t it amazing, Matt, that after all the discussions we’ve had, that media still thinks that gluten = wheat and vice versa?

      They seem not to understand that wheat is so much MORE than gluten.

    • Susan Clarke

      Medscape recently put out a series of articles on gluten sensitivity and celiac disease. The gastroenterologist who wrote the lead article admitted that many people who don’t test positive for celiac may be gluten sensitive. These people usually feel better when they eliminate gluten from their diet. But he cautioned that people shouldn’t just eliminate gluten. Oh, no. Even though they feel better, we can’t have them taking their health in their own hands like that! They need to see a nutritionist who will guide them to the proper diet. Yeah, right.

    • Rebecca

      Everytime I read these articles is it really an accurate percent (1) of the population I know over 25 people who have health issues that disappeared with the elimination of wheat. Maybe all are not celiac but there is some sort of wheat, rye barley allergy issue. I guess us non wheat eaters must be attracted to each other since both my husband and me have an intolerance to wheat, rye , barley and oats and strangely feel better corn and rice free. Mmmm, this article states its hard to be healthy without being informed about how to go gluten free I do agree everyone who goes gluten free should read wheat belly it clears up the myths of healthy eating.

  7. tatertot

    Iodine is a funny thing. I’ve heard it said many times that iodine can only be sourced in nature from seawater, seaplants, or seafood, however, every living mammal needs iodine in huge quantities.

    Take for instance a buffalo. Raised in captivity and fed grain, one must supplement it’s food with 10g of iodine per day to prevent goiter and healthy offspring. The same buffalo living on wild grass, 1000′s of miles from the sea, needs no supplementation. Same can be said for all mammals–supplementation only needed if fed on a controlled diet.

    A human needs approx 200mcg/day, much less than a buffalo. Why? Body size. Iodine is needed to form T4 which is converted to T3 and used in every cell of the body–more size, more iodine needed.

  8. Brad

    Hi,

    I am frustrated by diet’s reliance on nuts and nut flour. My son has tested allergic to many nuts and does go into anaphylaxis if he ingests peanuts. Which other flours can we use?

    • Sula

      Try sunflower seeds ground up, I even heard they are cheaper than almonds. There are also tons of good flax seed flour recipes out there. It must be hard with nut allergies, I feel your frustration.

  9. Loretta

    Dr, Davis,
    Had appt. with Dr. today to get results of my FBS and A1C. FBS is 94. A1C went from 6.2 to 5.9. It was at 6.1 for several years and in the last six months, it came down 2 points. How much further do I need to go down and how long should it take?

    Thanks.
    Loretta

  10. gingerbread

    Hi Everyone,
    typing this out for any newbies who are thinking that they can slip some stuff other than wheat in and not affect their bodies. I have been wheat free since December 2012. I have lost about 15 pounds, from 187 to 170. I am a 5′ 5″ black female. My weight loss has stalled but I think it is because I have not TOTALLY eliminated all grains.
    Each shopping trip, every two weeks, out of habit I buy a variety pack of frito lay chips. I reason with myself that they are single servings and I have been really good and it is just a treat. This past weekend, I took a test within my profession, which lasted 4 hours. I didn’t get hungry, but afterwards went with my co-worker to a Chili’s for chips and salsa. When I used to work in the office, this was a standard bonding snack and social convention. She had beer (I have already told her about wheatbelly and the dangers of wheat) and I had tequila, margarita.

    We had a good time chatting and had fun. Cleared a basket and a half of tortilla chips. Remember I still have frito-lay at home. I promptly had my ‘evening’ treat later that evening. And again on Sunday. I decided to break the cycle, but by Monday, i was feeling a ‘catch’ in my inner hip joint that wasn’t there before. It lasted through Tuesday. I had to walk with a limp. No stretch would make it go away. It began to occur to me that perhaps my indulgences were catching up to me. My stomach was bloated; late yesterday I kept scratching my legs at various spots. Turns out that I have red bumps and small pustules (about 10 of them) on my legs and one on my back and shoulder that I just couldn’t reach! While watching the NBA playoffs last night I happened to look down at my ankles; swollen.

    Now newbies, one could say that these are anecdotal occurrences, but being wheat free and mostly grain free since December, I can definitely track what my body is doing and it is NOT happy with me right now. I can look at my mom’s body and tell where this will all end up, but I guess I wanted to spin the wheel again because nothing is more convincing than swollen ankles, bloated tummy, and covered in a skin rash! And I didn’t feel ‘sick’ per se. Just noticed that these issues had gone away along with many others and here they were, creeping back in. Pay attention to what is going in your PIE-HOLE! My body doesn’t recover quickly; I am 51 years old as of June 6. My goal is to lose a total of 40 pounds. I am a third of the way there but I can see now how easy it is to let ‘little’ things slip back in a sabotage my efforts. My mom has fibro, arthritis, COPD, edema, blisters on skin, pre-diabetic, and many other conditions. She is on many meds and has a hard time listening to the daughter whose diaper she changed. I am on no meds. Just supplements. And I want to keep it that way.

    So I recommitted today. If you are under 30 and reading this, JUST DO THIS. At 50 the body just doesn’t respond as quickly; at least mine doesn’t. Ah, the vanity of youth. I spent most of my life in great shape, size 2 in college with no effort at all. Size crept up after the babies, but not tremendously so. At 35-40 everything changed and my good eating habits really went out the window. I was just recently a size 16, now a 14 with the weight loss so far. My family medical history will probably make it very difficult but I want to be healthy again. At 140-150 lbs, i will be so much closer. And healthier. Could probably stand to lose more, but that is the goal for my one year life change.

    • > … because I have not TOTALLY eliminated all grains.

      Consider going low carb, if you haven’t already.

      > … a variety pack of frito lay chips.

      Some of the chips are wheat-based, as you probably know, but you didn’t mention which you ate. If you ate the Sun Chips, a wheat re-exposure reaction is likely. But even with the other chips, there are several ingredients that could cause similar reactions. The corn chips, for example, are almost certainly GMO. I don’t think we’ll have a clear picture of what fructose, GMO, MSG and unwise cooking oils really do until a large segment of the population is off wheat, whose effects probably mask a lot else that is going on.

      > I reason with myself that they are single servings …

      Toxins aside, they are single servings, if one 15-net-grams-of-carb bag is all you eat as the entire meal.

      The non-wheat chips are loaded with problematic ingredients, like unhealthy oils, corn syrup (fructose), MSG and GMO corn. Remember, this company used to run a more revealing “Betcha Can’t Eat One” campaign, which their commercials revealed to mean
      “Betcha Can’t Eat {Just} One”.
      These products are scientifically designed to provoke appetite.

      > … I had tequila, margarita.

      Between the sugar (which might be HFCS syrup), triple sec and fruit juice, a typical marg can be a half day’s carb load.

      The market clearly needs a low-carb chip. I haven’t seen any yet that I like. Low carb margs are easily done, but no restaurant offers them yet. You’re a dietary pioneer. It can be challenging at the moment.

  11. Nick

    I just saw a report of a study that apparently suggests even a small amount of fish oil supplementation leads to a significant 43% increase in incidence of prostate cancer and a giant 71% increase in the most aggressive and deadly form. I saw a link to it in my twitter timeline, I believe out of UK’s Mail online for today, and credited to a team of researchers from Seattle. I’m always sceptical of correlations that may not be causative but I wondered if this had hit anyone else’s radar screen yet. I’m taking 3.6 g of Omega 3s daily based on a WB blog suggestion and have a family history of prostate cancer and not sure if I ought to be concerned.

    • > … out of UK’s Mail online for today …
      July 11 Journal of the National Cancer Institute, according to other reports. I haven’t found it yet.

      But as always, the critical question, probably unanswered, is: what else were the studied individuals eating? My guess is that they are looking at people on typical diets. Does the correlation hold or vanish if the data are controlled for low carb?