Wheat: the silent killer

I’ll hear this comment with some frequency:

“Go wheat-free for 4 weeks. If you feel no better, you can go back to it.”

While consumption of modern wheat can indeed yield health conditions with overt symptoms, such as joint pain, skin rashes, and pain and explosive diarrhea from irritable bowel syndrome,  many of its effects are silent and do not result in any perceived symptoms.

The changes that underlie autoimmunity, for instance, that lead to multiple sclerosis, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, rheumatoid arthritis, autoimmune hepatitis, autoimmune pancreatitis, pancreatic beta cell destruction leading to type 1 diabetes, and other conditions all develop silently, brewing beneath your perceptions, without your knowledge, until you develop the joint swelling, pain, and disfigurement of rheumatoid arthritis or the abdominal pain of pancreatitis.

Among the silent effects of modern wheat products are:

  • Gliadin protein triggered intestinal permeability–the entry of foreign substances into the bloodstream that initiates the diseases of autoimmunity all begin silently.
  • Changes in bowel flora–A shift away from healthy lactobacillus and bifidobacteria species, for instance, occur without your knowledge.
  • High blood sugars–the amylopectin A of wheat and related grains is responsible for sky-high blood sugars that exceed the blood sugars, gram for gram, that result from table sugar. This, in turn, triggers all the silent phenomena of glycation, i.e., glucose-modification of proteins, that leads to cataracts, hypertension, coronary disease, peripheral vascular disease, skin aging, kidney damage, cancer, and dementia.
  • Digestive disruption–Wheat germ agglutinin is a potent blocker of the intestinal signal hormone, cholecystokinin, or CCK, that signals the gallbladder to release bile and the pancreas to release pancreatic enzyme. This allows “bile stasis” that cultivates gallstones, incomplete digestion of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates that may not cause symptoms but results in undesirable changes in bowel flora and impaired nutrient absorption.
  • Blocked absorption of iron, zinc, vitamin B12, and magnesium–The phytates of wheat and related grains block up to 90% of the absorption of these cations (positively-charged ions), all without your awareness. Vitamin B12 absorption is blocked at several steps in its complex absorption, including disruption of parietal cells of the stomach and the intrinsic factor required for absorption–none of which you will know.
  • Mood and emotions–Though not truly silent, many people fail to attribute their depression, paranoia, irritability, anxiety, difficulty with concentration, and impaired memory with wheat consumption.

There’s more, but you get the idea. Wheat is a silent killer and a silent disrupter of health, in addition to causing myriad overt symptoms of health disruption. Just as a silent cancer can kill you, so the silent and destructive effects of wheat and related grains can wreak all manner of destructive health effects. Silence in this instance is certainly not golden.

 

 

 

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Comments & Feedback...

  1. Sean

    Love your book Love any tips that show up on Facebook? For some reason it’s very sporadic . Probably the most interesting stuff is when you stall out what you suggest is always great…been on it two years, down 40 lbs, feel a. Ton better, more alert etc… But have stalled out. Would like another 10-20lbs to go.

  2. Boundless

    “Go wheat-free for 4 weeks. If you feel no better, you can go back to it.”

    The take-away here for WB evangelists might be: don’t say that.

    When I’m speaking to someone with one or more issues that might be resolved by diet, I usually say “Try it for a month. See what happens. Do know that re-exposure reactions can be harsh.”

    When I’m speaking to someone who appears, shall we say, asymtomatic, I’ll run down the major features and benefits of a radical change in diet, also caution on the wheat re-exposure, and emphasize what such reactions imply about the stuff that contaminates 80% of prepared food products.

  3. Ben

    Dr. Davis,
    I know I have read on this blog before that eating wheat once can set you back after being on a non wheat diet for a while, but I can’t seem to find that link anywhere. Can you explain that real quick or I do have your book, you can let me know what page it mentions it. Thanks.

        • Bob Niland

          You’re welcome, Ben. I might add a couple of things.

          One; the site’s search is pretty weak. I only found those articles using it because I knew what keywords to try. Even the “-” mattered, as it turned out. I usually use the Goog, restricting the domain to wheatbellyblog.com.

          > … you can let me know what page it mentions it.

          Second; as I recall, the original book has almost no mention of re-exposure issues. I’d guess that Dr. Davis’ patients, the dataset to that point, were generally compliant with the suggested diet and didn’t encounter re-exposure often enough to raise an eyebrow.

          When the blog went live, the wheat-free population ballooned, and both the fraction and total number of intentional and unintentional re-exposures soared. Stories began pouring in. The later cookbooks have more coverage of the topic.

  4. Linda Richards

    Found out about you from an article in The Daily Mail, the British newspaper. Love the recipes and have bought your first book (British version).
    Have you come across Helmsley and Hemsley: The art of eating well? They support gluten free eating and have some excellent recipes including bread that can be toasted, muffins and other pizza recipes using the likes of ground almonds, linseed flour.

  5. This is an article that really needed to be written, and it’s useful for me because it gives me points I can use when discussing this with some of the people I talk with, many of whom still eat wheat because they don’t see any problem with it. All of which is a long-winded way of saying that I’ve bookmarked this page for later reference.

    BTW, Dr. Davis, I did a post on my own blog that has as its final image a picture which I think will put an evil grin on your face. The text is stuff you (of all people) already know, but the picture…is not. :-)

    http://benboomed.wordpress.com/2014/08/08/inflammatory-speech/

    (Pic is at the bottom of the post. Should be safe for work, but with some employers you never know. Just sayin’.)

  6. Lynn

    I too, have “stalled out” for a couple weeks. What knocked me off kilter is all the sick stuff going on from Mt. Sinjar to the suicide of Robin Williams. Normally I can block it out well enough to cope but for some reason the anguish of it all got to me and I guess I reverted to the effects of gliadin to cope. Weird, because I was JUST beginning to feel a calming effects of whole food organic, fermented foods.

    I guess I’m still addicted, and always will be, but just having the concise explanation of all the bad effects of wheat is enough to push me back on the wagon. What I had been doing to stop eating wheat is take glucose readings several times a day. I am going to start taking them again after I finish typing. If the readings are not good it jolts me to better behavior, and if they are good, that is a reward and reinforcement to keep going.

    And does anybody out there have a good recipe for homemade fermented foods they could recommend?

    • You have put your finger on an essential detail, Lynn: Consuming wheat is little different than smoking cigarettes or being addicted to a drug.

      There are many good online sources for instructions on fermenting foods. Sandor Katz’s book, The Art of Fermentation, is an absolute masterpiece of everything you need to know about fermentation. I also included a section on how to ferment foods–vegetables and coconut milk and dairy–in the new Wheat Belly Total Health book coming out in September, 2014.

      • Lynn

        Thanks. I already pre-ordered your book, looking forward to it. Thanks for the reference on fermented foods. Currently we ingest a half cup of organic kefir a day, and two T. Trader Joe’s sauerkraut. That’s not a lot of fermented food and it definitely helps me feel calmer, and helps me and my husband sleep better. Being back on the program for the last two days feels better. It’s an addiction, for sure. I should be a charter member of “Over(wh)eaters Anonymous.”

        • Neicee

          I think anyone that has ever eaten wheat or grains of any type is a card carrying member of carboholics. Cold turkey, and the same for sugar is the only way I did it. Now, I don’t buy something special for company. If they insist on poisoning themselves I’ll loan them my car. Oh, I’m sol myself if I get a craving. too stingy to run to the store for a snack.

          • Lynn

            Thanks, for your reply, and your comment about the “scabby” pancakes has me laughing out loud!

  7. Loekie

    ‘incomplete digestion of fats’ which to often leads to the advice from doctors to eat no fat anymore. With devastating results.

  8. Neicee

    At the risk of getting slammed on this, but it’s been bothering me. A friend sent a link to freetheanimal.com where they asked what the name of LCHF (wheat free movement) was going to be now that they are getting on board with pre-pro biotics? I eat tons of VCO and feel great! Why would I need two more things in my diet to swallow? Some of the people I’ve converted are asking the same thing. VCO is already anti-viral/anti-bacterial/anti-fungal. Do these things counter each other or work togethe4r. Are we losing our brand and a new movement starting? I follow the WB book. No wheat, grains, potatoes, rice, corn and have thrown out many bottles of bad oils. And, being told that PS is now safe – how many things are we going to be re-introducing? If we keep this up, when do we add wheat back in?

    • Bob Niland

      > At the risk of getting slammed on this …

      Nah. I’m not sure who Richard thinks are the die-hard deniers of his new vision for human diet, but I don’t think it’s Wheat Belly Blog. What matters here is actual results.

      > … what the name of LCHF (wheat free movement) was
      > going to be now that they are getting on board
      > with pre-pro biotics?

      Well, firstly, wheat-free isn’t necessarily LCHF (although Wheat Belly has so far amounted to that) and LCHF isn’t necessarily wheat free.

      What the Wheat Belly way of eating will be called in the future is “Wheat Belly”, I suspect. What it specifically recommends has evolved with emerging data, and I expect it continue to. For example, if you sign up for the blog’s emails, you get a “5 Things to Know” PDF.
      #1 is get your gut biome in order.
      I suspect that wouldn’t have been #1 as recently as a year ago, and it’s not the only thing that has evolved.

      > I eat tons of VCO [virgin coconut oil, I presume] and feel great!
      > Why would I need two more things in my diet to swallow?

      Because modern humans are far removed from routine daily exposure to what we now see as two key elements of metabolism: soil-based micro-organisms and substrates to feed them. If we revert to a paleo lifestyle, we won’t need any supplements for pre&pro.

      > VCO is already anti-viral/anti-bacterial/anti-fungal.
      > Do these things counter each other or work together.

      Great question, and one I don’t know the answer to. I suspect that virgin coconut oil is not much of a gut antagonist, if at all.

      > Are we losing our brand and a new movement starting?

      No and no. I don’t expect the WB brand to change, but the WB movement from the outset has been following developments and adopting what works. The only ways to be unchanging are to be infallible or to be dogmatic. The former won’t be possible for decades yet, if ever, and the latter is a mistake pretty much anytime.

      > I follow the WB book. No wheat, grains, potatoes,
      > rice, corn and have thrown out many bottles of bad oils.

      Of those, only the potatoes are creeping back in, with specific preparation. This is what change looks like.

      > And, being told that PS [potato starch, I presume] is now safe –
      > … how many things are we going to be re-introducing?

      Depending on what is learned, I won’t be shocked if net carbs could be raised for people with optimized biomes (and we’ll need some way to know it).

      I don’t expect wheat or industrial grain oils to ever come back in. Corn probably never for multiple reasons. Rice only if the WGA and arsenic problems can be eliminated, and only then in some forms.

      > If we keep this up, when do we add wheat back in?

      On that I confidently predict: never.
      Leaving aside that what’s on the market hasn’t been wheat for decades, consider what the fossil record tells us, as in Ötzi’s case:
      eat neolithic grains, get neolithic diseases.