Deja ewww!

It’s peculiar but instructive: re-exposure phenomena triggered by wheat exposure after being confidently wheat-free. The exposure can be intentional, as in “Just one won’t hurt!” or it can be inadvertent, as in “That gravy looks okay.”

Typically, someone will be wheat-free for at least a week. Re-exposure from, say, salad dressing or seasoning mix then triggers wheat re-exposure fireworks.

The most common re-exposure phenomena to are:

Gastrointestinal distress, bloating, and diarrhea that can last hours to a couple of days. (People with celiac disease can have problems for months, however.) This response resembles food poisoning.
Joint pain–characteristically in the fingers and/or wrists
Upper airway phenomena such as asthma and sinus congestion
Emotional effects such as anxiety in females, irritability or rage in males
Appetite stimulation–What I call the “I ate one cookie and gained 30 pounds” effect. Eating one cookie does not, of course, cause 30 pounds of weight gain. But just one exposure can set the appetite-stimulating machinery in motion and days or weeks of increased appetite for junk carbohydrates can result, thanks to the gliadin-derived opiates of wheat.

And the symptoms that initially went away with your wheat-free adventure can return in all their glory, such as migraine headaches, depression, mental “fog,” sleep disruption, and seborrhea.

The longer you are wheat-free, the more violent the reaction. It is a fitting reminder of just how inappropriate modern wheat is for humans. It reflects our inability to consume the seeds of grasses.

On again, off again; on again, off again: Like pushing a button, you can start or stop the process at will. This represents incontrovertible proof of your individual intolerance to the Evil Grain.

Anyone want to share their re-exposure story?

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123 Responses to Deja ewww!

  1. Krissy Nusky says:

    I’ve been wheat free and grain free for a month and my fibromyalgia symptoms are 90% better. Last night we went to Bob Evans and I ate burger no bun and coleslaw. The coleslaw has no wheat according to the website but does have gluten(possibly barley or rye). Today I am so bloated and my fibromyalgia hit me full force like a ton of bricks. It makes me question going grain free, now I’m so scared to get even a minimal exposure. What am I doing to my body? When I ate gluten all the time I had some pain but now I don’t eat gluten but minimal exposure sends me into a full force whirlwind of pain. Is it better to minimize but still keep this toxin in our bodies so that we don’t have horrendous side effects? I don’t want want to go back to wheat but I can’t afford the “re-exposure phenomenon” either! Some gluten exposure is inevitable for all of us! What do we do?!!!

    • Dr. Davis says:

      No, I believe it would be foolhardy to allow low-grade exposure continue to wreak havoc on your health just to minimize the re-exposure process.

      I would say treat your diet as a celiac sufferer would and be meticulous in your wheat/gluten avoidance.

  2. Peter says:

    “Barbara in New Jersey” recommended Jones Farm (brand) Pork Sausages.
    I buy them often, and second her recommendation, but with this warning to check labels carefully. Jones Farm makes many varieties of sausage. Some contain things we don’t want to eat.

    – Peter
    Bangkok, Thailand

  3. Susie Orr says:

    A friend knows someone at Med School in Australia who have a pile of research paper that reinforces that a ‘small’ amount of gluten is acceptable for coeliacs, suggesting that cross contamination when eating out is not a problem.

    I am not saying I think this is true, I just wondered if anyone else has read about this?

    • Dr. Davis says:

      This is utter nonsense, Susie. Small exposures can 1) result in MONTHS of horrible symptoms in many celiacs, and 2) escalates risk for intestinal cancer enormously.

      And, anyway, the arguments made in Wheat Belly are that wheat is inappropriate for ALL humans, not just those with celiac disease.

  4. James says:

    I have not had wheat for ages now (9 months and I have tweaked my diet to what seems the absolute best for myself after a lot of experimenting with ketosis, high fat low carb, strictly whole foods only including starchy stuff, lots of fruits these days, and for the last 3 months: one meal a day only – but before you start at this, I would say: to each his own, what works for me may not for you).

    … but next time I go to France on vacation, I will definitely try a baguette and a croissant at the bakery I usually never fail to visit every time I visit my family there. It will be very interesting to see what happens with a “wheat treat” out of the blue. I will take the pain for the sake of the experiment. Not that I am interesting in eating wheat again but I have to check how bad I react to the wheat I was exposed to for decades when I was living in France. And I see this as a different experiment than if I were to try it in the US because I know for sure that wheat based products in the US really suck (been there, done that …).

    • Cathy MacDonald says:

      Oh James, I too have been wheat free for some time….however, we are going to France next Spring. How on earth will I do without my croissant? In fact, what can I have for breakfast if I am not eating wheat? Oh well…

    • Alexandre says:

      Don’t wait till you go back to France. No sense getting sick when on vacation. It isn’t just pain but if you get the diarrhea symptom, like I do, you could end up spending your vacation in the toilet instead of enjoying France.

      • James says:

        Yes, there is a point to doing it when I am in France because wheat found in processed foods, whether in where I live (Denmark) or in other places is truly crap and poisonous. But a croissant or a baguette from a local French baker that still does the stuff in a traditional way, using flours from local strains, that could be another story. But whether I come out of this symptom free or not will not change my daily way of eating: 100% wheat free.

  5. JimO says:

    My wife and I have been wheat free for months. We got invited to a church concert with friends. We did not have time to eat & we were both very hungry. A spaghetti dinner served prior to the concert. She had mostly salad while I ate a large helping of both. I felt like I had a bad case of the flu: bad stomach cramps, headache, joint pain, & severe fatigue. I didn’t get out of bed until 11 the next morning. Never again.

  6. Dave says:

    I accidentally got wheated last night. I was feeling too lazy to cook dinner and picked up some deviled eggs from the grocery store deli. Within the hour I could tell I had gotten some wheat, probably soy sauce. GI distress last night, and then I couldn’t fall asleep until taking several sleeping aids. This morning at the gym I was much sweatier than usual. I’m getting to the point where I don’t trust any food I don’t prepare myself.

  7. Liz says:

    The 4th of July was my baby’s first birthday, and after being wheat free for almost three months, I fell off the wagon and had a cupcake! Since then my allergies have been out of control – sneezing, runny nose, itchy throat, the works. That cupcake was SO not worth it…

    • Liz says:

      Oh! I also had headaches for a few days and was cranky and extra hungry, but managed to not spiral out of control on the wheat. Back on track! :-)

  8. Jo says:

    I was low carb for about 2-3 years then went Grain free after reading your book . Was led to believe I could have what some call “safe carbs ” although they did not make me sick like after being wheated which is bloating high heart rate ,headaches and constipation !!!
    But what it did do is cause cravings for other carbs bad carbs . I do believe that some of us are so sensitive we need to just stay away from carbs in any form other then Veggies seems that way for me anyway

    Thanks Dr.Davis for doing what you do !

  9. Christine says:

    I was amazed last year when I discovered that I was wheat-intolerant on top of having Crohn’s. When I saw one of your videos that talked about arthritis in the hands and wrists of those with Crohn’s, I knew I was on to a good thing. I saw great changes in my body such as an increased energy level, losing 20 lbs, no more brain fog and significantly less headaches.
    Although the arthritis has improved dramatically, I still get symptoms from time to time. I don’t know where I’m getting some inadvertent exposure to wheat. I read all the labels and bake and cook my own food for the most part, mind you not everyone in the family is following my lifestyle changes. Could this be the reason? What else can I do to ensure I don’t have any wheat exposure? I don’t want a war at home. Teens are particular about what they eat and are less willing to change.

    Thanks for any advice you can give me. :)

    • Barbara in New Jersey says:

      Check your foods for other grains, sugars and other ingredients. Canned tuna in water is really canned tuna in a soy broth. Sigh. Most take out rotisserie chickens have lots of non WB approved ingredients injected or an ingredient in the brine. Lots of fillers, extenders, smoothers and other ingredients added to your foods where you never expected like in store bought cole slaw and yellow cheeses.

      Look back at what you have eaten for several days before your symptoms started. Maybe your body is telling you that it doesn’t like certain foods, maybe you need more water, maybe you need some of the supplements Dr. D. recommends.

    • Erica in RSA says:

      “Teens are particular about what they eat and are less willing to change.”

      And I thought it was us older folks who were supposed to be resistant to change!:-)

  10. Martin says:

    I have experienced reintroduction many times both intentional and unintentional and reappearance of symptoms are not always predictable. I guess this depends on the status of your intestinal mucosa as a result of other foods and lifestyle factors

    • Barbara in New Jersey says:

      Good morning Martin,

      You brought up a very good point!

      Perhaps having a healthy supply of bacteria in your gut really does diminish the reactions as well as other foods/lifestyle. I’m wondering if taking probiotics though out the first year of following this diet would blunt the more severe reactions and help them heal faster?

      My thinking is that we don’t really know what condition our intestines are in or how long it will take, if ever, for them to fully recover from our years of abuse. Wheat and sugar are insidious enough that it took years to develop our health problems with most health care officials not even aware of the causation. Many bloggers have reported that bone broth and nutritional supplements have strong posiitve benefits, enough so that we are willing to spend our money and time on them.

      Could this be true of extended probiotic enhancement as well?

  11. Adam says:

    Very interesting. I have only been wheat-free for 9 days, and have enjoyed the benefit of the weight loss. I lost 7.5 pounds the first week–which was exciting for sure. But then I got on the scale today, day 9, and have gained about 1.5 pounds! That was certainly depressing. I have about 35 pounds to lose (or more) and although I enjoy a net-loss of about 6 pounds, I am worried that this gain might happen again. I am more strict this week than last regarding the starches and carbs, too. Anyone else out there with similar experiences? Is this common? Dr. Davis–any advice or reassurance?

    • Dr. Davis says:

      That small shift over a small period of time, Adam, is meaningless. It could be something as trivial as additional salt use.

      It’s the long-term experience that counts.

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  13. GoGoJo says:

    How do you know that the negative effects of reintroduction can entirely be blamed on wheat being unhealthy? Couldn’t it be that the bad effects are a result of your new diet messing with how capable your body is at digesting these foods?
    If it is true that the longer you are off of wheat the more severe the effects of reintroduction, doesn’t that tend to show that this diet is doing something unhealthy to your body’s digestive capabilities?

    • Barbara in New Jersey says:


      If this diet was doing “something unhealthy” to you, your blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol levels etc. would not go back to normal levels. You would not have more energy, deeper sleep,
      less nasal congestion, pain free joints, clearer thinking…..and all the other improvements people have written about. The indigestion and after meal sleepiness caused by wheat and sugars would not disappear either. People from all over the world and all races are saying that they feel better and health conditions are clearing up without grains and sugar in their diet. It stands to reason that these improvements diminish and strong reactions occur when substances your system doesn’t like are consumed.

      If our bodies were capable of easily digesting wheat and friends, we would not be here on line, but rather someplace where we would be enjoying our Twinkies.

  14. Nancy says:

    I’ve been wheat free for only 2 weeks and though I’ve only lost 5 lbs. I am seeing the benefits! The other day we went school shopping and stopped off at Subway…. I researched it and the chicken strips are all chicken no fillers, but I forgot and allowed the counter reason to cut up a patty instead. My hunger returned that afternoon, I woke up to a slight weight gain and was really depressed! We have saved a lot of money by not eating out all the time like we I’d, but next time I will be much more careful!

  15. Grammie Vi says:

    Appreciate all the comments – everyone’s experience is different. That helps me to accept that my reactions to wheat/gluten may be different but that I must pay attention!! Thank-you Dr. Davis for all your helpful input!
    My adult daughter was diagnosed w/celliac thru a blood test a year ago – tho’ she had NO symptoms! My own blood tests continue to show negative to gluten; but because of symptoms of IBS, etc.,etc. my Dr. suggested going gluten free and keeping a food log. Bought Wheat Belly Cookbook in Jan. 20013 and have changed my eating habits. Have lost 15 lbs. Any small indulgence by chance or feeling deprived causes bowel issues including tremendous bloating and flatulence! And, each time my body reacts worse than before. Can understand others wanting to eat local specialties when traveling. Since I was born is Sweden I have many favorites I miss. Ate one piece of crisp bread last week and five days later I am still bloated, having painful cramps and having bowel issues (staying home near the bathroom) and often carry Immodium in my pocket if I am out. Wondering if taking that is NOT a good idea?? Is it possible that it just slows down the offending grain leaving my body??

    • Barbara in New Jersey says:


      Have you tried taking the 50 billion cfu probiotics? These will help to increase the proper flora in your intestines and help them heal faster. Depending on your personal situation and age, it can take months and months for many people to to replace the flora properly and for the gut to heal. Taking the probiotics speeds this up. Dr. Davis recommends this. Also check the other nutritional supplements he recommends (see left hand column of topics) as they all help us in this transition back to health.

      • Grammie Vi says:

        Have been taking probiotics for years since I am dairy intolerant! Since reading Dr. Davis’s book – I have upped the amount to 35 billion CFU’s. Thanks for the comment; I will check about other suggested supplements.
        Is Immodium safe to take – I wonder?? These IBS urges don’t happen that often any more; but when they do it’s an emergency. So, I carry Immodium in my pocket.

        • Barbara in New Jersey says:

          Check the January 2013 Archive for the nutritional supplements Dr. D. recommends. There is a discussion too. Magnesium is very important for your intestinal problem and also for sugar issues. Google it for more
          information because it is an integral substance for good health.

          The immodium is harsh for your still healing intestines. Obviously it is not working well for you.

          By the 2nd month on WB, I purchased these supplements and really noticed the difference in the way I felt overall. My intestines haven’t given me any trouble since. No sugar cravings either. I used to eat a lot of fruit in season. I have cut back significantly for the time being to allow my body to stay in ketosis and my pancreas to normalize

          I too have taken the smaller amounts of probiotics for many years. Right now, I just feel better with the increased dosage. I also am lessening the dose since it has been 6 months of trial and error and I think i am OK now. Some people just take the high dose for a month. I needed more.