Autoimmunity and wheat

Autoimmunity occurs when your own immune system is no longer able to distinguish friend from foe. It means that antibodies, lymphocytes, killer T cells, macrophages and inflammation-mediating proteins can’t tell the difference between, say, the protein of a fungal wall from proteins in your liver or joints. It’s as weird as a mother not recognizing her children, sometimes as tragic as friendly fire.

Depending on which tissues in which organs are attacked, the misdirected immune attack of autoimmunity can express itself as autoimmune hepatitis (liver tissue), primary biliary cirrhosis (bile ducts), type 1 diabetes (pancreatic beta cells), uveitis (iris of the eye), skin (psoriasis), platelets (autoimmune thrombocytopenic purpura), muscles (polymyositis), thyroid (Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Grave’s disease), or just about any other organ or tissue.

Wheat consumption has now been confidently identified as both the initiating process in autoimmunity, as well as a perpetuating factor.

Autoimmunity is just one way that tells us that this “food” was never appropriate for human consumption in the first place. First consumed in desperation 10,000 years ago, after not consuming grains for the preceding 2.5 million years, then altered by the efforts of geneticists and agribusiness, increased wheat consumption accounts for the increasing landscape of multiple autoimmune conditions, especially type 1 diabetes in children (and, now, adults), Hashimoto’s, and inflammatory bowel diseases.

So what is it about modern wheat that can cause such misguided immune responses? There are several reasons:

  • Increased intestinal permeability–Dr. Alessio Fasano and his team, working at the University of Maryland (now at Harvard) have worked out the complex path by which gliadin, when remaining intact, opens the “tight junction” barriers between intestinal cells, allowing foreign substances entry into the bloodstream and thereby organs. Among the substances that can enter: intact gliadin, gliadin-derived peptides, wheat germ agglutinin (a large and highly inflammatory protein), lipopolysaccharide from bacterial cell walls, and others.
  • Gliadin peptide toxicity–While some gliadin remains intact, some also gets degraded to peptides. Some of these peptides can enter the bloodstream to exert opiate effects on the brain, while other fractions are toxic to the intesinal lining.
  • Wheat germ agglutinin–Humans cannot digest the roots, stalk, leaves, or husk of wheat because it is a grass. For that reason, humans only consume the flour ground from the seed of wheat. We can only efficiently digest the amylopectin and amylose of the seed endosperm, the carbohydrates. Wheat germ agglutinin of the seed, a component of all wheat flour, is an example of another indigestible component of this grass. This large 4-part structure is highly toxic to the intestinal lining, causing complete denuding of the villi in experimental models. If it gains entry to the bloodstream, it is a potent activator of the immune system.
  • Molecular mimicry–As if this wasn’t already strange enough, there are amino acid sequences in the gliadin protein of wheat (and thereby the secalin of rye, the hordein of barley, perhaps the zein of corn) that look just like sequences in some human proteins. To date, human proteins that resemble gliadin include transglutaminase (in muscle, liver, many other tissues), synapsin (in nervous tissue), and calreticulin (ubiquitous). The gliadin sequence activates an immune response, which can then launch an attack on the organs containing these cross-reacting proteins.
  • Dysbiosis–Wheat changes bowel flora, not uncommonly causing dysbiosis, or changes in bowel flora characterized by decreases in healthy species, such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria, and increases in pathogenic bacteria, such as E. coli and Clostridium difficile. Dysbiosis increases intestinal permeability, especially to the lipopolysaccharide component of bacterial cell walls, a powerful activator of inflammation.

Note that NONE of these phenomena leading to autoimmunity require the presence of celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. The abnormal intestinal permeability induced by gliadin, for instance, develops in 80-90% of people; the toxic effects of wheat germ agglutinin affect everybody.

Anyone diagnosed with an autoimmune condition should avoid wheat, as well as its nearly genetically identical brethren, rye and barley (identical gliadin and wheat germ agglutinin sequences), as well as corn (some overlap of corn zein with gliadin) and rice (identical wheat germ agglutinin).

Also, vitamin D restoration (e.g., achieve a 25-hydroxy vitamin D level of 60-70 ng/ml or 150-180 nmol/L), omega-3 fatty acid supplementation, and correction of disrupted bowel flora (probiotics, naturally fermented foods, prebiotics) are all crucial steps in maximizing your hopes of reversing your autoimmune condition.

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Comments & Feedback...

  1. mandy

    I would love to discuss this article with my doctor, but I know that as its completely unreferenced he’ll dismiss it out of hand. you mention things like “wheat consumption has now been confidently identified…” – please can you reference those studies or writings that say this? unless references are included there is nothing to say that parts of this article are any more than wishful thinking. From my personal experience I know that changing my diet is improving my AI condition (as verified by regular blood testing), so I’m not a disbeliever, I just like statements to be supported by references – then I can share it/discuss with other people.

  2. Michael

    Hi Dr D,
    You say above that rice has rice identical wheat germ agglutinin to wheat itself. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen you say that before. I thought you said rice in small quantities (no more than 1/2 cup per day) was reasonable and safe. Please clarify. Cheers

      • Loekie

        I’m curious about this too, I feel terrific after eating rice and I can’t believe it is so bad for you. The Japanese are getting very old in a healty way by eathing fish, rice and vegetables.

        • > The Japanese are getting very old in a healthy way …

          No, they aren’t. The T2D diagnosis rate is only slightly behind the US, and rising just as rapidly. I just saw a news article today that 20% of Japanese 65 and older have dementia.

          I suspect that diet shift explains this, and yes they would be better off on a strictly traditional diet.

          Rice is not as toxic as wheat, but it’s not benign.

          “Conclusions: Elevated intake of white rice is associated with an
          increased risk of type 2 diabetes in Japanese women. The finding
          that is suggestive of a positive association of rice intake in physi-
          cally inactive men deserves further investigation.”

          • Loekie

            It is the arsenic and lead in rice – specially in rice from the US, China and Taiwan – that frightens me the most.

          • Tom Street

            I am under the impression that the Taiwanese are amongst the oldest living people on the planet. The Japanese mainlanders apparently eat more rice than the Taiwanese who eat in moderation. There are other elements to their diet that are different as well but their diet and longevity would indicate that perhaps rice can be eaten in moderation and not have a major negative effect on one’s health.

            I think it is pretty clear that eliminating wheat and perhaps other grains has a positive impact on most people’s health as indicated by weight, blood pressure, HDL, triglycerides, LDLp, etc. However, I think that part of the all or none approach, to wheat at least, is that people find it difficult to engage in moderation because of the addictive properties of wheat. Therefore, they are advised to simply cut it out to eliminate the addiction.

            The above is often true of things like cigarettes, other drugs, and alcohol. But there are some people who can, in fact, cut way back on these things and never return to a regime of excess consumption.

            The question is, if one ate, say, a very small quantity of wheat per week, could one gain most of the benefits of a wheat free diet? Are there any studies that show the impacts of the consumption of various quantities of wheat and other grains?

            The all or none approach may not work for everyone so it might be useful if some could engage in moderation and still achieve some or most of the benefits. Some would say moderation, in wheat at least, is not possible because of the opiate like effects. Well, I think you could say the same things about nicotine. For me, I had to completely eliminate nicotine and there is no way I would have one cigarette for fear of being readdicted. But I know people who can restrict themselves to a couple of cigarettes a day.

          • HungryinTN

            RE: Tom Street’s comment – I think Dr. Davis wrote in another article that following the diet 80% would derive something closer to 25% of the benefit. So, yes, you can benefit from reduction, but the difference between reduction and elimination is dramatic. For the vast majority of people, I think reducing without committing to elimination is just setting one’s self up for failure, not because of an all or nothing mentality, but because the level of toxicity created by grains in the body is just too difficult to overcome through moderation. If you’re working hard enough to change 80% of your diet but only see 25% of the benefit (say you eliminate joint pain but don’t lose any weight, for instance) you’re not going to be very motivated to stick to it. Add that to the addictive quality of the protein and the odds are really stacked against you. Elimination of wheat is an important component to kicking food addiction in general. In fact, you could say that wheat elimination IS moderation in a way. When you are addicted to cigarettes or drugs or alcohol, despite some unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, you can quit them cold turkey; you can’t quit eating and live. You CAN quit wheat.

          • Barbara in New Jersey

            Everyone reacts differently to wheat/grains, but everyone reacts to them. Some people much more so than others. If you don’t eliminate the toxin, then you are not eliminating the effect it has on your body. Your immune system still is over-active, your organs don’t heal themselves and all your vital signs remain about the same because you aren’t getting rid of the food properties that contribute to disease development.

            This sabotages your body’s ability to stop the inflammatory response where ever it happens, whether in your brain or in your intestines.

    • GaryM

      Doc wrote the book in 2011. The conversation didn’t stop there, however, and his work has continued. He has come around to the declaration that for optimal health we should eliminate all grains.

      • Tom Street

        I still would like to know the definition of “optimal health”. Perhaps he is referring to lipid values or BMI. Don’t know.

  3. JP

    What about the agglutinin of Wild Rice? Is it also identical to that of wheat? I also understood that small quantities of rice was reasonable and safe. Is that still the case? Thanks.

  4. Toni

    I had the same question, plus corn – I know we avoid this starchy vegetable, but didn’t realize there may be an immune link in someone with an autoimmune disorder. My daughter was recently diagnosed with narcolepsy, an autoimmune disorder. She is a stubborn 18 year-old who won’t try a gluten-free diet because that means eliminating favorite foods (in her mind). Thanks for your input.

  5. Lisa

    I have hypothyroidism, and have just had my levels tested (0.23) which is supposedly closer to hyperthyroidism. I have given up wheat, dairy and sugar. However, my skin rashes will not clear up. I am itchy all the time and the doctor keeps blaming menopause (I’m 48). I have also had my liver tested, and tested for Lupus and Celiac disease. My doctor will not take my skin rashes seriously, and I’m getting tired of taking an antihistamine at night. My skin is dry, and the left side of my sinus becomes stuffy, as does my left ear, and my left eye is pinkish and gritty feeling. I am very frustrated and cannot seem to get any straight answers. This has been going on…off and on, for over five years. Today I was rather stressed, and my stomach was in great pain, bloated and gassy. I also get something like a sore in my mouth on the inside cheek, and blisters under my tongue, and have been treated once for Thrush. I have mentioned Candida to my doctor, but he looks at me like I’m nuts. I take fish oil with D, calcium/magnesium and Vitamin C pills each day. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

    • It will probably help if you eliminate fructose from your diet. I have recently done this myself (although I was not eating a lot of it) and I have noticed a difference. This does not mean you have to give up sweet things altogether, it just means taking the fructose component out and substituting something like dextrose (used in the making of beer). Fructose interferes with the hormone system of the body and does a lot of harm in other ways. It is also probably okay to have milk products (in my experience) as long as they are full cream (not low fat which has fructose added to make the taste better).
      You will also feel better if you can get a better night’s sleep. Maybe try a good quality aromatherapy to help you get down into the deep sleep which is so refreshing and necessary for good health.
      Hope this helps, Namaste, Tricia

    • Patrick Kelley

      I’d try eliminating other items from your diet. I found peanuts were causing me skin problems after I’d removed wheat (gluten) and diary.

    • Alice C.

      Hi Lisa,
      It looks like there are still foods that you are sensitive to. It is not easy but try eliminating legumes, nightshade vegetables and eggs. If things don’t improve, it means there are still foods that you are sensitive to. Some people also are sensitive to shellfish and yeast products. One has to experiment with themselves to find out what causes the problem. It is really difficult but I think elimination diet works. Try searching Paleo autoimmune protocol and you will find more info on this.
      Good luck!

      • Barbara in New Jersey

        Hi Lisa,

        There are several other things that seem to work well for many people:
        1. Drink half you body weight (in ounces) to keep yourself hydrated. This allows your system to clean itself faster.
        2. Begin taking the probiotics Dr. Davis recommends for improving your bowel flora. Skin rashes often start to disappear when the flora is corrected.
        3. Make sure you are eating enough vegetables and fats to balance out any animal products.
        4. Coconut oil used as a skin cream may help your rash.

        As Alice said, this is all a process of elimination/tweaking until you find relief from your symptoms. Sometimes an underlying food sensitivity exists that you never really noticed because there were so many other problems.

    • Claire leduc

      Hi Lisa,
      You are describing the symptoms our son had for a number of years. He also had frequent nose bleeds. After experimenting, observing, eliminating, he discovered that he is sensitive to chocolate, eggs, ALL grains, some legumes and dairy – he basically does the paleo diet and feels great! A friendly and well informed doctor reminded him to also do rotation of foods i.e. Not eat the same foods everyday…. Good luck to you!

    • Find a functional medicine practitioner in your area!
      Typically this waxing and waning thing you describe is indicative symptoms of hashimotos autoimmunity.
      You’ll need to have your TPO or thyroid binding globulin levels checked to confirm AI.
      Once you do this, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to run a full AI panel to find out what other tissues you have autoimmune reactions to.
      In addition I recommend finding a functional medicine practitioner to handle this. Many times, management of this nature is not covered by insurance, but it is very worth it to get your lives back.
      I’ve had 2 patients just this week test positive for hashimotos, and they cried of joy because they finally had an answer (that ALL of their MDs couldn’t provide for them).

    • Ashcrash

      Lisa, I was recently diagnosed with low thyroid as well. When they started me on the natural thyroid supplements (i.e. Armour Thyroid and Nature Thyroid) I broke out in an itchy rash all over my upper body. Nothing seemed to help until they tested me for thyroid anti bodies. They were off the charts! Turns out that I was actually allergic to the meds that they were giving me. I was switched to Levothyroxin, which is a synthetic version of the same med and the rash went away. I have also stopped eating gluten and limited my intake of dairy but the rash is still gone and I feel much better. Has your provider tested you for these antibodies? Your situation sounds a lot like the one that I went through.

    • Susan

      I’m not a doctor, but your symptoms sound very close to Chron’s disease. Maybe look into that.
      All the best! Never give up, keep on searching until you have your answers.

  6. Tyrannocaster

    Thanks for getting back to the fact-based articles on what wheat does. That’s why I read this blog, not for the recipes – even though I appreciate them.

    • Linda

      I agree. I’ve missed the health discussions and success stories. I never read the recipe stuff.
      Doc, it’s time to spring for a website manager and please get rid of those horrible letterhead figures.
      Nevertheless, thank you for helping me to make such positive changes in my life.

  7. Culinary Adventurer

    Dr. Davis,
    I have one question regarding your saying we should understand these are the same…”wheat, as well as its nearly genetically identical brethren, rye and barley (identical gliadin and wheat germ agglutinin sequences), as well as corn (some overlap of corn zein with gliadin) and rice (identical wheat germ agglutinin)”

    I had been using just the least amount of rice flour on rare occasions. On a scale of 1-10, how urgent is it that I completely abandon this as well? It sounds like I should from your post and if that is your updated advice, I’ll follow it. I too would like clarification though since it is better for some uses than coconut flour.

    I have been experimenting with ground flax seed more often and am trying to adapt more recipes.

    Thank you again for your passion and expertise.

    • > I had been using just the least amount of rice flour on rare occasions.
      > On a scale of 1-10, how urgent is it that I completely abandon this as well?

      Rice flour brings a greater threat, which is a massively increased surface area of carbs. For flours made from starchy carbs, a rule of thumb might be total_carbs = net_carbs, and they act little differently from pure sugar in terms of blood sugar effects.

  8. Jeanine

    The rice comment caught me by surprise. I always knew it should be consumed rarely and in small amounts, but I didn’t realize it messed with autoimmune system. We had no issues letting go of wheat. We don’t eat rice a lot (every few weeks), but it’s a treat when we do.

    • There is rice and rice. I believe that the genetically modified is bad news. However, rice, on the whole, is more easily able to be digested than wheat products. Intolerance to wheat is many times more common. We have done terrible things to our food, which is why so many people are having health issues related to what we eat.
      It is high time that the food manufacturers be made accountable for what they are doing to our food.

  9. Sharon

    Although I gave up wheat over a year ago (since July 2012), I haven’t been careful enough with my diet for many months (weight loss stalled beginning of April 2013). Kind of difficult when 2 out of 3 people in the household still eat the unhealthy ‘garbage’ and I cook for them! (Yes, I’m making excuses.) I’m still getting ‘wheated’ somehow, because I still have arthritis pains and I’ve gained back about 10 pounds. And let’s not talk about my evening snacking! ::sigh:: . I would try to schedule an appointment with a dietician, but they’d probably tell me that I need whole grains in my diet!

    My greatest concern, however, is whether the increase of protein in my diet could be causing my increasing creatinine and BUN levels (last two blood tests within 6 months). I’m scheduled to see a nephrologist next month. I don’t think that the cause is dehydration, and I’m certainly not exercising too much; in fact, not at all. So, between all of the eggs (which I used to rarely eat) and meat, I could be setting myself up for kidney problems. I’m also wondering if it could have something to do with “subclinical hypothyroidism.” I say subclinical, because they won’t do the helpful tests (such as FT3, FT4, and RT3), and the TSH is “in range.” Hypo symptoms and nodules are ignored.

    Have any of you WB followers had these kidney problem indicators since increasing your consumption of proteins?

  10. Uncle Roscoe

    “Autoimmunity occurs when your own immune system is no longer able to distinguish friend from foe.”

    This idea that autoimmune disease represents the immune system mistaking self tissue for invading antigens is an old wives’ tale which permeates the medical community. I’ve seen no evidence to support it. I’ve read experimental results of many autoimmune pathway studies, and all of them have one common theme. Autoimmune disease represents an invading antigen attaching itself to tissue, and damaging the tissue. The immune system attacks the invading antigen, and attempts to remove the damaged tissue. There is no confusion.

    That said, both sides of this discussion, yours and mine, are irrelevant to the central point. And we agree on the central point. Autoimmune disease happens when glutenous grains allow food antigens across the intestinal lining. It’s then that the other part of your essay kicks in. The antigens mimic bodily proteins, and plug into cellular receptors. The immune system recognizes this as an attack, and deals with it accordingly.

    Europeans are products of the 10,000 year human adaptation to glutenous grains. Our immune systems tend to ignore invading antigens, simply so that we don’t cause ourselves autoimmune diseases when we ingest these grains. It is a mistake to assume that this de-tuned operating system is flawed when it actually does its job.

    • Jeanne

      Uncle Roscoe it sounds like you are saying at the end of your post, that Europeans don’t get autoimmune diseases because that are miraculously more adapted. I find this more than a bit nonsensical.
      The rates of celiac in Europe are generally the same as in the States, and since Americans are primarily 1-4th generation from other places, such as countries in EUROPE, we are part of your 10,000 year old European antigen adapted. Did I miss something? Were you tongue in cheek and I haven had enough tea this morning to catch it? Ha ha!

      • Uncle Roscoe

        As I said in my post below communicable viruses are an integral part of autoimmune diseases. Modern people have an image of Europeans invading North America and conquering Indian warriors on battlefields. Not so. War killed off only a tiny fraction of the American Indian population. The bulk of Indians died from disease.

        Indians had no concept of property ownership. They were hunter gatherers, not farmers. European immigrants staked claim to Indian lands and started farming them. Indians had no choice, either adapt and adopt European farming methods, or starve to death. Europeans also brought all of the diseases which they had become resistant to from Europe …..typhus, plague, measles, chicken pox…. The combination of viruses and agriculture caused insurmountable disease levels among native Americans.

        The propensity toward celiac disease among Europeans has several explanations:

        * grain opiates are addictive, and people tend to eat them in greater quantity until they reach the level which sickens them. It’s part of human nature. We refuse to tolerate success.

        * As Dr. Davis points out modern wheat strains are not the traditional European wheat strains. They contain more of the proteins which make wheat dangerous. Largely these modern wheat strains are being grown in North America, and exported to Europe.

        The Europeans most vulnerable to celiac disease live and hail from European outskirts, namely Northern Europe, Western Europe and Mediterranean islands. The celiac problem is not as pronounced in central Europe where glutenous grains and plagues have repeatedly thinned populations. In fact, these central Europe die-offs have been repeatedly followed by influx of people from European outskirts.

        By eating wheat for 10,000 years Europeans evolved to ignore most porosity-caused food antigen attacks. That’s how people end up with diseases like type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Would they be better off if their immune systems responded to the food antigens which cause these diseases? It’s hard to say. One thing is certain though, avoid the foods which cause these diseases, and you will avoid both types of disease for as long as possible.

  11. Uncle Roscoe

    I believe the “confusing self for antigen” argument comes from a rational viewpoint. It doesn’t make sense that an immune system would attack its host if the immune system’s only function is to protect its host.

    The answer? The immune system does not exist to protect its host. The immune system exists to protect the species.

    As you imply, Dr. Davis, humans evolved as warm blooded predators. A steadfast rule of evolution says that it takes 40 pounds of prey to sustain 1 pound of warm blooded predator. When predators become too effective at predation their populations climb, and prey-to-predator ratios fall below 40-to-1. In the wild starvation ensues, thinning predators back to the 40-to-1 ratio. Some predator species have coping mechanisms ….for example, the intra-species murder displayed by large cats.

    With humans the advent of agriculture have caused populations to blossom. Look around. Humans are crowding the planet at a rapid rate. Evolution does not like this expansion. Humans have gone through agricultural expansions many times before this one, except on smaller scales. We carry the evidence within us in the form of maltase, amylase and DPPIV, enzymes which allow us limited digestion of starches like millet, sorghum, white corn and rice.

    Evolution’s method of dealing with human agricultural overcrowding is exactly what we see today, neolithic disease …..insulin resistance, heart disease, cancer and autoimmune disease. Evolution is allowing communicable diseases along with agricultural sugars and proteins to kill us.

    But in the process evolution is allowing the human species to evolve. Humans have evolved faster than any other species. This happens because we are attempting to transition from carnivore to herbivore. The intestinal porosity which comes from glutenous grains and sugar-grown microorganisms inserts viruses. The viruses become components of the autoimmune puzzle as they attack our DNA. Those of us who become able to incorporate viruses into our DNA, and code around the viruses, survive and procreate.

    Autoimmune disease is how humans win the evolution race. Each of us need to teach ourselves how to survive in spite of our immune systems.

    • Culinary Adventurer

      Uncle Roscoe,
      Would you please respond to these questions?
      1. Since when are we carnivores evolving into herbivores. Are we no,t as we always have been, omnivores? (Perhaps with Neanderthal exceptions)
      2. I am unsure about your comments so must ask, (I am not being confrontational here) are you working with Dr. Davis and what is your area of expertise?

      • Uncle Roscoe

        “1. Since when are we carnivores evolving into herbivores. Are we no,t as we always have been, omnivores?”

        Mammalian nervous systems stand apart from the rest of our bodies. Most cells operate in an amalgam of water, using hydrophilic chemical labs. Nervous systems operate in an amalgam of animal fat, using hydrophobic chemical labs. This distinction makes up an essential part of the “blood brain barrier”. The human nervous system is so large and complex that it dwarfs the competition. There is only one source of animal fat adequate to feed this system ……other animals.

        If you were not a carnivore you would not be focusing on a computer monitor and communicating with other members of your species. Your eyes would be on the sides of your head. You have a very short, small digestive tract, and a brain so large that it puts even other carnivores to shame.

        The incorporate-and-code method humans have used to win the evolution race, the one I described above, requires large quantities of the lipid DHA. DHA is only available from eating animal fat.

        Herbivore babies are lean, spindly babies capable of walking within a short period of time. Carnivore babies tend to be fat. They require significant periods of protection while they mature. Take these differences, square them, and you have humans. Our babies are helpless little blobs of fat. They require 1/4 to 1/3 of a human lifespan of protection. Baby fat is the operating medium which human babies use to develop their central nervous systems. Search for the cause of the modern autism epidemic. You will find a lack of animal fat at its core.

        We are carnivores.

        “2. I am unsure about your comments so must ask, (I am not being confrontational here) are you working with Dr. Davis….?”

        I have no relationship with Dr. Davis.

  12. Brian

    Uncle Roscoe thank you for your thought provoking posts. I watch for your posts and your historical references as my main interest in this great nutritional discussion is in the history of our dietary habits. If you can get your hands on a copy of Captain Cook’s voyages ( it has to be by the Haklut’s society) you will find detailed first encounter with the all the peoples on the pacific rim and it’s just as enlightening as Dr. Weston Price’s account of the last hunter gatherer societies.

    • Brian

      Uncle Roscoe – one more thing, we both suffer from tinnitus and IIH and |I always attributed mine to a benzodiazepines I took years ago for insomnia. About 5 weeks ago my Naturopath treated my digestive tract with L- glutamine and a digestive enzyme. The head pressure has disappeared and the volume on the tinnitus is down by half. I have a hard time linking the disease the medicine and the results but nothing should surprise me as I’m learning if the gut isn’t working correctly the cascading disease can show up in the most unexpected places. Be well and post often!

      • Uncle Roscoe

        Thanks for the props and the advice. I’m very wary of glutamine. Glutamates play an essential roll in the gut permeability pathway and in the cancer pathway.

      • Bjorn

        Brain – are you able to tell me the name of your Naturopath – I need to tread my tinnitus for 3 years – My right ear is alarming on the scale 1 – 10 – it´s about 8 :-( I would love to tune it down to 4 !!

        • Brian

          Bjorn Unless you live on the west coast of Canada my Naturopath might be an awkward and expensive visit for you. I made an appointment to deal with a stomach issues after 2 years wheat free and the reduction in tinnitus volume was an unexpected bonus. I suspect my tinnitus was made worse but my constant head pressure (IIH) and my guess is the relief trail might have went something like this: settle the stomach, stop the sinus pressure, reduce the head pressure, turn down the tinnitus volume.

  13. Johnny de Haan

    Dr. Davis,

    Let me first say thank you very much for writing your WB book. It has literally saved my life. I was suffering from so many health problems and no doctor could figure out what was wrong with me. Just a small list:

    – chronic fatigue syndrome (I would walk maybe 2 blocks and be exhausted)
    – poor sleep
    – weird dizzy spells
    – bloated stomach
    – skin rashes
    – acid reflux
    – moodiness
    – gas/flatulence
    – weight gain

    But after giving up wheat most of my problems have diminished or gone away completely, and I’m only 1 month in.

    The only thing I disagree with you on is eating Spelt bread, which you say is not good to eat. I have switched to spelt and my health symptoms are still improving. I tried gluten-free bread, but it was so disgusting that I had to stop eating it.

    I have noticed no difference regarding the speed of which my health problems are resolving themselves between gluten-free bread and spelt bread.

    Keep up the great work!! And I’m severely ticked off our governments have allowed this modified wheat poison into our food supply. Very, very ticked off!!

    Again, thank you very much for writing your book.

    Johnny de Haan
    Toronto, Canada

  14. 10044

    Dr. Davis,
    I’ve been WF for almost a year. Back in Jan 2013 my tsh was 1.7 and back then I’d lost 10 pounds (down to 131lbs)…since July I started gaining all the 10 pounds while eating the exact same foods. I started a kelp binge in september (2 a day) and my latest tsh is still 1.7 (t4: 7.5, t3: 2.6), cholesterol 143…how long do you think it’ll be before my tsh goes down below 1? my sodium level is high, does that contribute to this?
    thank you.

    p.s. I’ve read “I lost the wheat but did not lose the weight” post like a 100 times!

    • Alice C.

      Hi 10044,
      I am not a medical doctor but I read a lot about health and nutrients. After the initial weight lost, some people may benefit from increasing their carb intake to 100g or so per day if they don’t feel right. I know Dr D. recommends 60g net carb per day. I went low carb since mid March and lost the weight I needed to loss. However, about 1.5 months ago, I started to wake up with extreme thirst 2 – 3 times every night. It was very tiring and unbearable. If you check out the carb intake curve on Mark’s daily apple, you will see a range of intakes for different purpose. Perfect Health Diet also suggest more carb intake from safe starch. Although I find that their recommendation is a little high. People who does intense labour work also need more carb. For some of the population, it stresses their bodies to go under low carb for an extended period of time. Their cortisol level go up and weight lost stall. After I increase my carb intake, I no longer wake up with extreme thirst. By increase, I mean 50 g steamed sweet potatoes and 1/2 banana a day. I believe we are all unique and one rule may not apply to everyone. We have to find out what work best for us.

        • Uncle Roscoe

          10044, How is your dairy intake? Dairy contains copious amounts of tyrosine. Tyrosine is the enzyme which the body concentrates in areas where it intends to create tissue.

          Even if you don’t react badly to the sugars and proteins in dairy, it carries little of benefit besides fat. If you want butter fat then clarify your butter before using it. Search Youtube for “clarify butter”.

          • 10044

            I hardly consume butter (I use coconut oil instead)..i eat a little bit (1Tsp) of either sharp cheddar or mozzarella
            not sure if almond mile is considered “dairy”, but I drink at least a couple of glasses of those daily.

        • Alice C.

          Hi 10044,
          Depends on the person, 20-30g may be a little too low for a year. It is better to cycle to higher carb intake after a while on this extreme low. However, I see that you are drinking “at least couple of” almond milk daily. Almond is high in omega 6 and the almond milk I found in my supermarket mostly high in carb. What about yours?

      • 10044

        i was given these:

        thyrotropin: 1.73 uIU/ml
        thyroxine: 7.5 ug/dl
        triiodothyronine resin uptake (t3ru) : 34%
        thyroxine free index: 2.6
        not sure what to make of it all and how that differs from “free” t3/t4.

    • Dr. Davis

      Is that a free T3?

      Also, a kelp “binge” may not be wise: too much and you can actually turn your thyroid off and trigger weight gain.

  15. ¿Is it true that _white_ rice is devoid of agglutinin? Your comment about rice perked my interest, and I have been researching lectins since, ¡but I encountered some paleo websites that said that white rice has no lectin/agglutinin content and that it is, thus, safe to eat! They said that the agglutinin is in the husk of the rice, and that only brown rice has agglutinin, therefore. ¿Is that true? I gave up (white) rice two days ago in response to your post. Rice was one of my staples, so it is quite an important issue for me. I researched the horrors of agglutinin online, since your post, so I know it truely is horribly inflammatory and damaging. I gave up wheat over a year ago, by the way, and am eternally grateful to you for your publication of your discoveries, as I am much healthier since.

    • > … paleo websites that said that white rice has no lectin/agglutinin
      > content and that it is, thus, safe to eat!

      … for questionable definitions of “safe”, perhaps :).

      Entirely apart from the issue at hand, rice is high glycemic, and white rice moreso than brown or wild. “Staple” suggests that you are using it in more than condiment quantities, possible even as in flour form. Mind the contribution of whole rice to net carbs. Avoid rice flour almost entirely.

      Paleo sites vary wildly in their grasp of the hazards of high glycemic carbs.

  16. Ri

    Dr Davis the awareness your providing the public regarding the truth about wheat and its detrimental effects is so vitally important it will definitely save many lives. Thought i would share this i was watching a documentary called Thin about women obsessed with food and their body image -some did not eat all others were bingers and purgers and it made me so sad to watch these women in this clinic trying to so desperately get help but seeming almost helpless and failing over and over again. Meanwhile they were pretty much forced to eat pizza, cupcakes, bagels etc -foods void of any real nutrition but packed full of calories to make them gain weight. The staff never did teach them proper eating habits or to have a good relationship with food instead a one week stay would cost them $4500 and the clinics staffs goals were primarily to make them gain weight and go home plumper. The reason i mention this is because so many women young and old suffer from eating disorders and it usually starts young and when girls dont learn to properly nourish their bodies they end up overweight and malnourished and have a love/hate relationship with food which could literally cost them their life. If only they knew how addictive wheat was and how it acts as an opiate in the brain and it really is not their fault for wanting to binge, i briefly experienced an eating disorder as well but luckily i came out of it and i made it my mission to learn about nutrition and because of the work you and others like you do i now have a much healthier relationship with food i dont stress about what im going to eat or not eat everyday. I wish they had staff who were actually equipped to work at eating disorder clinics seemed like most of them were overweight -they need to educate themselves and read your book!

  17. Ann

    I believe Dr. Davis saved my husband’s life recently. I read Wheat Belly a few months ago and the information about neurological effects just stuck with me. My husband went from being vibrant, social, and energetic to hardly able to function over the past few months. He could no longer organize himself to follow through on anything, was unable to remember things (even things he had said a couple of hours earlier), could not problem-solve or reason, was unable to express himself well verbally any longer, and was no longer interested in socializing with anyone, including me. He displayed all of the symptoms of dementia. We realized that he had begun these behaviors shortly after we got married, at which time he began eating lots of leftover wedding cake. Before that time, he rarely ate any wheat. He then got very busy fixing up his house to sell and was grabbing a fast food piece of pizza or a sandwich daily and the symptoms steadily became worse.
    When asked about his behavioral changes, he would always say he didn’t know or he didn’t remember saying things. Within three days of getting off of wheat, he was back to his old self. We are calling it our Christmas miracle. Thank you Dr. Davis.

    • Dr. Davis

      That’s absolutely wonderful, Ann.

      I fear that this wheat syndrome that your husband experienced is a lot more common than we think. I’m glad you and your husband found the answer and it was so simple, inexpensive, and effective!

      I would like to reproduce your comments as a blog post, Ann. Thank you!

  18. Kasia

    Dear Dr Davis, dear all,
    I live in Poland and I just read Dr Davis book (it was translated into Polish language). When I was a kid, my grandmother told me that I should kiss a slice of bread when it fell down by accident on the floor… It was a symbol of respect that Polish people have for bread as a food and as a body of the Jesus Christ. My grandma is 86 years old and still remembers the II World War and a common problem of starvation during that time. Now, 20 years after the fall of the Communism in Poland, the situation is totally different. There is plenty of food based on wheat available all around in all shops and my kids are laughing when I tell them a story about kissing bread.
    However, I am writing to you because I have a specific question, to which I could not find an answear in your book. I would very much appreciate if you could answear. I am 38 and I am a very thin person ( I am 175 cm tall and I weigh only 52 kg). It was always like that. Even when I was trying hard to add weigh, I could not. Generally I am healhy (except for the migrene, which I have been suffering from since I was 10). After reading your book, I am planning to get rid of wheat of my diet, but I would not like to get event more thin than I am now. I cannot imagine being even more thin. In your book you keep convincing the readers that they will lose weigh when they get rid of wheat-based products. Could you please tell me – is the wheat free diet for such people like me? What to do not to lose weigh and get rid of wheat.
    best regards

  19. Paula Settle

    This phrase caught my eye:
    “First consumed in desperation 10,000 years ago, after not consuming grains for the preceding 2.5 million years.”

    Today (Jan. 8 2014) on the 4th day of horribly cold weather, I watched a cat from a small “colony” of “feral” animals living in an unoccupied residence nearby. This poor kitty unsuccessfully attempted to catch a bird under our feeders (which were covered with sparrows and finches), and having few hunting skills (she is from 2013 summer litter) and out of “desperation”, settled down and began picking through and eating dropped bird seed. Made me think about why people first turned to grains as a primary food source……And it just seemed so wrong watching it. And, yes, I went out and planted bowls of good cat food around my property — just to help them through until the thaw.

  20. Lydia

    I hope this doesn’t make me sound stupid but I thought this article was hard to understand. I hope I’m not the only one. I’m interested in the topic and was hoping to gain an understanding. Maybe I’ll try again tomorrow on a fresh mind.

  21. Dave

    I understand the problems associated with today’s wheat and I am avoiding it in my diet. However, I plan to use einkorn wheat occasionally to make bread since that is what was consumed during Biblical times. I can’t recall reading that einkorn wheat produces the same health problems (other than possible belly fat) that today’s wheat causes. As I am a Christian, I have read in the Bible that Jesus “broke bread” with His disciples and changed bread and wine into His Body and Blood. It doesn’t make sense to me that Jesus would take part in eating and promoting a food that would be harmful to us if eaten in moderation. After all, He is the One who created wheat. We are the ones who changed it into something harmful. Anyone else have any hard data on the effects of einkorn wheat ?

    • > … plan to use einkorn wheat occasionally to make bread …

      See “Heirloom wheats” at:,89.msg463.htm

      For what you have planned, and assuming genuine einkorn, no one has yet run the clinical trials on a grain-free population. It might cause a typical or sub-typical re-exposure reaction (compared to modern menace strains).

      Eating biblical grains might only cause health problems of biblical proportions.

  22. Astarte

    Having given up wheat 30 years ago (yes, a pioneer) and grains 10 years ago I can vouch for the veracity of this article. I had a number of symptoms of autoimmune disease – numerous allergies manifesting as eczema, asthma, hives, food reactions and arthritis. My doctor gave me ventolin, which made me feel worse and said I should come back when my arthritic joints hurt more, because there was nothing she could do for me at the tender age of 30.
    A friend put me in touch with a naturopath, a real weirdo, I thought. He told me to cut out wheat and dairy products. It was a difficult thing for me but I did it. The results were amazing – after 2 weeks I had no joint pain, my asthma and eczema cleared up and my 6-month-old son started sleeping and stopped his constant grizzling. All that from wheat! (I’m back on raw milk).
    Down the track I went vegan for 9 years, a bad move! Then aged 44 I resumed eating meat and felt so much better. Things improved exponentially when I eliminated grains at 50 years old and, with the addition of a variety of supplements to my diet I would say I’m healthier now than I have been since babyhood.
    I still have the markers for autoimmune disease, plus rheumatoid factor, malabsorption of vitamin B12 and a gut that reacts to any grains and sweet desserts, but with knowledge and good management I manifest very few symptoms.
    I now coach people with ‘inexplicable diseases’ back to wellness.

  23. Jennifer

    I am just wondering if wheat and grains could ’cause’ dizzy spells? I have had dizzy spells when I get up from sitting or kneeling to standing up for over 10 years. My head gets hot, sometimes I go into a tunnel vision and no one can figure out what is wrong with me. I have been to several doctors, neurologists, cardiologists, which discover a rapid heartbeat but one physician assistant suggested POT Syndrome, which another lady that has POTS suggested acupuncture would help because it is build up of an allergy in the nervous system. Obviously, I feel better when I eat healthier, but I live a very poor rural county in KY and we do not have access to good food or good healthcare. So I try to research everything on my own by talking with others, which seems to help more than anything else. The cardio. put me on a beta blocker which has helped my heart rate and some of the dizziness but I still have bad periods. I call them spells where I can have those dizzy spells several times a day, feel electro impulses in my back to my arms, legs, or wherever, and just feel more sensitive, like my heartbeat is beating out of my chest but I check it and it is not fast. The neurologist suggested fibromyalgia but that doesn’t explain the dizziness. Everyone just keeps saying this or that is sensitive? So what kind of doctor could I go to check for this allergy? My quality of life in the last few years have significantly declined and I am only 26. I cannot do the things I used to and have come to realize if this is POTS then it may be something to deal with forever but I hope not. I am a therapist and do not believe this is anxiety because I have been through therapy for years to prepare myself as a therapist, with good self awareness of my inner state. When I do experience anxiety is looks different than this. I am just trying to change things slowly so I can integrate them therefore more likely changing my life style but I think this wheat and grain may need to be address sooner rather than later.