FAQs

Is wheat really that bad? I thought that whole grains were good for you?
First of all, it ain’t wheat. It’s the product of 40 years of genetics research aimed at increasing yield-per-acre. The result is a genetically-unique plant that stands 2 feet tall, not the 4 1/2-foot tall “amber waves of grain” we all remember. The genetic distance modern wheat has drifted exceeds the difference between chimpanzees and humans. If you caught your son dating a chimpanzee, could you tell the difference? Of course you can! What a difference 1% can make. But that’s more than modern wheat is removed from its ancestors.

Why do you make the claim that removing all wheat from the diet results in weight loss?
Because I’ve seen it happen–over and over and over again. It’s lost from the deep visceral fat that resides within the abdomen, what can be represented on the surface as “love handles,” “muffin top,” or a darned good imitation of a near-term baby, what I call a “wheat belly.”

Typically, people who say goodbye to wheat lose a pound a day for the first 10 days. Weight loss then slows to yield 25-30 pounds over the subsequent 3-6 months (differing depending on body size, quality of diet at the start, male vs. female, etc.). When you remove wheat from the diet, you’ve removed a food that leads to fat deposition in the abdomen. Factor in that the gliadin protein unique to wheat that is degraded to a morphine-like compound that stimulates appetite is now gone and appetite diminishes. The average daily calorie intake drops 400 calories per day–with less hunger, less cravings and food is more satisfying. This all occurs without imposing calorie limits, cutting fat grams, or limiting portion size. It all happens just by eliminating this thing called wheat.

When you examine food labels in the grocery store, you see that wheat is in nearly everything. Is it really practical to remove all wheat from the diet?
Yes, it is. It means a return to real food from the produce aisle, fish and meat department, nuts, eggs, olives, and oils.

It raises a crucial question: Just why is wheat such a ubiquitous ingredient in so many foods, from ice cream to French fries? That’s easy: Because it tastes good and it stimulates appetite. You want more wheat, you want more of everything else to the tune of 400 or more calories per day. More calories, more food, more revenue for Big Food. Wheat is not in cucumbers, green peppers, salmon, or walnuts. But it’s in over 90% of the foods on supermarket shelves, all there to stimulate your appetite center to consume more . . . and more and more.

It also means being equipped with recipes that allow you to recreate familiar recipes that you might miss, like cheesecake, cookies, and biscotti–without wheat, with little to no sugar or carbohydrate exposure, yet healthy. That’s what I’ve done in Wheat Belly.

So does it mean going gluten-free?
Yes, but do not eat gluten-free foods! Let me explain.

Wheat raises blood sugar higher than nearly all other foods, including table sugar and many candy bars. The few foods that increase blood sugar higher than even wheat include figs, dates, and other dried fruits and rice starch, cornstarch, tapioca starch, and potato starch–the most common ingredients used in gluten-free foods. A gluten-free whole grain bread, for instance, is usually made with a combination of brown rice, potato, and tapioca starches. These dried pulverized starches are packed with highly-digestible high-glycemic index carbohydrates and thereby send blood sugar through the roof. This contributes to diabetes, cataracts, arthritis, heart disease and growing belly fat. This is why many celiac patients who forego wheat and resort to gluten-free foods become fat and diabetic. Gluten-free foods as they are currently manufactured are very poor substitutes for wheat flour.

Anyone who consumes gluten-free foods, like gluten-free muffins, should regard them as an occasional indulgence, no different than eating a bag of jelly beans.

What can you eat on the diet you advocate?
Eat real, natural foods such as eggs, raw nuts, plenty of vegetables, and fish, fowl, and meats. Use healthy oils like olive, walnut, and coconut liberally. Eat occasional fruit and plenty of avocado, olives, and use herbs and spices freely. Eat raw or least cooked whenever possible and certainly do not frequent fast food, processed snacks, or junk foods. While it may sound restrictive, a return to non-grain foods is incredibly rich and varied. Many people’s eyes have been closed to the great variety of foods available to us minus the wheat.

Recall that people who are wheat-free consume, on average, 400 calories less per day and are not driven by the 90-120 minute cycle of hunger that is common to wheat. It means you eat when you are hungry and you eat less. It means a breakfast of 3 eggs with green peppers and sundried tomatoes, olive oil, and mozzarella cheese for breakfast at 7 am and you’re not hungry until 1 pm. That’s an entirely different experience than the shredded wheat cereal in skim milk at 7 am, hungry for a snack at 9 am, hungry again at 11 am, counting the minutes until lunch. Eat lunch at noon, sleepy by 2 pm, etc. All of this goes away by banning wheat from the diet, provided the lost calories are replaced with real healthy foods.

What exactly is in wheat that makes it so bad?
Gluten is only one of the reasons to fear wheat, since it triggers a host of immune diseases like celiac, rheumatoid arthritis, and gluten encephalopathy (dementia from wheat).

The protein unique to wheat, gliadin, a component of gluten proteins, is odd in that it is degraded in the human gastrointestinal tract to polypeptides (small proteins) that have the ability to cross into the brain and bind to morphine receptors. These polypeptides have been labeled gluteomorphin or exorphins (exogenous morphine-like compounds) by National Institutes of Health researchers. Wheat exorphins cause a subtle euphoria in some people. This may be part of the reason wheat products increase appetite and cause addiction-like behaviors in susceptible people. It also explains why a drug company has made application to the FDA for the drug naltrexone, an oral opiate-blocking drug ordinarily used to keep heroine addicts drug-free, for weight loss. Block the brain morphine receptor and weight loss (about 22 pounds over 6 months) results. But there’s only one food that yields substantial morphine-like compounds: yes, wheat.

The complex carbohydrate unique to wheat, amylopectin A, is another problem source. The branching structure of wheat’s amylopectin A is more digestible than the amylopectins B and C from rice, beans, and other starches (i.e., in their natural states, not the gluten-free dried pulverized starches). This explains why two slices of whole wheat bread increase blood sugar higher than table sugar, higher than a bowl of brown rice, higher than many candy bars. Having high blood sugars repeatedly is not good for health. It leads to accumulated visceral fat–a “wheat belly,” diabetes and pre-diabetes (defined, of course, as having higher blood sugars), not to mention cataracts, arthritis, and heart disease.

As if that wasn’t enough, there are even other components of wheat that are harmful, such as the lectins in wheat. Lectins are glycoproteins that have the curious ability to “unlock” the proteins lining the human intestinal tract that determine what substances can enter the blood or lymphatic system and what substances cannot. The intestinal tract must be selective in what is allowed to enter the human body else all manner of diseases can be triggered, especially autoimmune diseases. Wheat lectins disable these proteins. This is the suspected explanation for why wheat consumption has been linked to rheumatoid arthritis, skin diseases like dermatitis herpetiformis, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, and a variety of other inflammatory diseases.

Beyond gluten, there are over 1000 other proteins in wheat that also have potential for odd or unexpected responses. You might say that wheat is a perfectly crafted Frankengrain that almost appears like it was created to exert maximum health damage in the most desirable, irresistible form possible. I really don’t believe that this monster was created on purpose to hurt people, but the astounding collection of adverse effects, all packed into one food, pushed on us by the U.S. government and other “official” health agencies, explains why this one thing has exerted more harm than any foreign terrorist group can inflict on us.

If I go wheat-free, is there any harm in having an occasional bagel or cupcake?
It depends. It depends on your individual susceptibility to the effects of wheat.

If you have celiac disease or any of the long list of inflammatory or autoimmune diseases associated with wheat (rheumatoid arthritis, cerebellar ataxia, peripheral neuropathy, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, dermatitis herpetiformis, etc.), then wheat and gluten avoidance should be complete and meticulous.

If you have an addictive relationship with wheat, e.g. one pretzel makes you want to eat the whole bag, then complete avoidance is also advisable. Because wheat consumption in the 30% of people with this problem cannot stop themselves once it starts, it is best to avoid wheat-containing foods altogether.

Yet another odd observation: Many, though not all, people who have removed wheat from their diet for at least several months have what I call “wheat re-exposure reactions” usually experienced as abdominal cramps, gas, and diarrhea (just like food poisoning); asthma attacks in the susceptible; joint swelling and pain; and emotional effects such as anxiety in women and rage in men. I’ve witnessed many people go wheat-free, feel great, lose 30 pounds, then have an emotional blowup at a birthday party after indulging in just a small piece of birthday cake, then spending the next 24 hours on the toilet with diarrhea.

There are indeed a percentage (20-30%?) of people who can get away with occasional indulgences. Sometimes it’s a matter of running a little test yourself to gauge your reaction. Anyone with a history of autoimmune or inflammatory diseases, or having had celiac markers like an anti-gliadin antibody test positive, however, should not even try this.

666 Responses to FAQs

  1. Amanda says:

    Hi Dr. Davis,

    Thank you so much for your book and for supporting everyone through this transformation via this blog!

    I just had a few questions that are specific to my case, but I believe may resonate with others.

    I have always been interested in nutrition and natural health/natural approaches- treat the cause not the symptom!

    I came to read your book as I was recently diagnosed with PCOS, and found the news absolutely devastating. I had been suffering so much, that I guess it was good to finally know an answer or a reason, but I couldn’t believe that they weren’t telling me any natural ways to approach my health and wellness…I just got the usual “Take these pills that will probably make you sick, and probably won’t be that effective anyway” advice.

    Anyway, so I come to WB for reasons specific to my new PCOS diagnosis (weight loss and insulin/blood sugar management) and also because of what you have said wheat in and of itself for the general population.

    I am 10 days into the WB lifestyle and I have noticed some great benefits:

    - Drastically diminished cravings, no longer feeling “called” by food and not just wheat related food, I even watched my husband eat pizza, ice cream, etc. and I didn’t have to have “will power”, I just simply didn’t want it! This is remarkable for me!
    -Being full from much smaller portions.
    - Sleeping better
    -Acne/ other skin issues clearing.

    This above is all FABULOUS and I am so grateful!!! But I just have a few questions about some other things I am and am not experiencing.

    - I have not yet felt relief from hunger every few hours. I haven’t felt cravings or quite “hypoglycemically” desperate (I have a long history of quite severe hypoglycemic symptoms) I just feel hungry still about every 3-4 hrs. Any ideas?
    - Since beginning WB I have a experienced an INCREASE in GERD symptoms. Ideas? I DO remember when I was first diagnosed with GERD and given pills to take, that the Doctor said that the healing of the esophagus, etc. would actually initially increase GERD; as the damage healed, the sensations would return…is that maybe what’s happening here?

    -And my final question is about wheat re-exposure. In many stories on here, people speak of having an increased sensitivity to wheat/gluten (when they are re-exposed) after having been off wheat for a while.

    What is happening there? Are we just not remembering how sick we really were on wheat? Or do you really become more sensitive in its absence? I believe in the benefits of removing wheat, but as an avid world traveler and person who lives in developing countries and in circumstances I cannot always control (humanitarian/aid worker), about the worst thing I can think of is becoming SO sensitive to wheat (because of absolute elimination) that one can no longer lead a “normal” life ie, fear going to restaurants, fear leaving the house, have anxiety in food situations they cannot control, because of the horrible symptoms of re-exposure after becoming even more sensitive, as I have heard reported in this blog….Does this make sense- of course I am speaking of the NON-Celiac/Gluten Intolerant folks like myself, I realize that those with Celiac/Gluten Intolerance must remove every speck! Are there ways to avoid this increased sensitivity?

    Thank you so much for your consideration of my questions.
    Amanda

  2. Kylie Howsam says:

    Thank you so much for your work.

    A family member is having terrible heath issues, and likely in danger of developing intestinal cancer. They are of course, stubborn. Your books are fantastical, but honestly, and sadly, they’ll never reach those who are too tired/busy/avoidant, and not in the habit of reading, and email/Facebook only web users.

    I was searching yesterday for a mayo clinic style DVD on Celiac, and other such info in your books. In a quick search, I found a whopping 1 dvd , and it didn’t’ seem like it would cover the info in your book.

    So. .. I am humbly requesting Wheat Belly: The DVD.
    It would be lovely to have an educational style DVD to show adults/family, complete with visual graphics showing animated gut/gluten interaction, damage, and overall health decline. Stylewise I”m thinking of the fantastic educational videos you see on the history channel. I’m envisioning somethign covereing basically what’s in your book. What wheat/gluten is, what wheat used to be, what wheat is today and how it came to be, and how gluten and other high carb/sugar items operate in the bodies to make us sick, including build up, break down on body parts, and various avenues to over-time illness. I find a lot of adults think that if they eat an apple, or eat well for a meal or tow, then for that meal they should be fine. They don’t understand that their system is damaged, so ALL food is harming them. There needs to be a better understanding of the system, what it takes to heal it, and what a “broken” system might look like

    It would be very smart to have a separate “movie” on the dvd to show young kids, 5-6+ kids, done in a cartoon/storybook/animated style to explain the basics to them of what Celiac/sensitivity is, how damage accumulates overtime, and to teach them as best as possible how to avoid wheat, key “trick words” on labels (caramel coloring) and safe/healthy alternatives. Start em young in label/ingredient awareness!!! A story book to explain celiac and sensitivity to kids wouldn’t be a bad idea either. I think I sense my own company brewing here in the future.. but for now.. :)

  3. Reality Check says:

    Hi Dr. Davis,
    I got your Journal yesterday. It’s well laid out and has lots of room for journaling and recording food eaten. I have always found keeping written track of food consumed very important. It’s so easy to “forget” a snack.
    In your books, you say that we should limit our carb consumption to around 50 grams per day or about 20 grams per meal. I’m keeping track of my approved carbs next to each item,( though it would have been nice to have a column for these as well as water consumption.) I also really appreciate the temptation and sleep quality ratings. It’s a real change from just focusing soley on food.
    My question is: While staying within 50 grams of carb per day, what would you suggest the breakdown for both fat and protein for, say, 1500-2000 calories per day. Although I know that counting every calorie isn’t important, I also feel that calories do count to some degree. What percentage of our intake consist of protein and what of fat?

  4. Lisa C. says:

    I just received both your “Wheat Belly” book and “WB 30-Minute” cookbook.

    Neither book brings up the subject of sodium. As a cardiologist, aren’t you concerned with the high blood pressure problem?

    The recipes sound delicious and we plan on trying lots of them. However, many of the recipes are VERY high in sodium, per serving. One muffin recipe has over 1,700 mg of sodium in just ONE muffin (and, it is listed as being kid-friendly). With the recommended intake of sodium at about 2,300 mg a day, that single muffin doesn’t leave much room for the rest of one’s meals, as far as salt is concerned.

    At the beginning of the book, too, you say processed meats (such as deli meats) are to be avoided because of probable wheat ingredients. Yet, there are many recipes that call for DELI meats such as pepperoni, ham and pancetta. How can the high sodium, alone (aside from wheat and along with other things like preservatives) in these, be considered part of a healthy diet?

    I find this very confusing.

    • Barbara in New Jersey says:

      Lisa,

      Once you read your new Wheat Belly book you will understand that the addition of salt is needed in our grain and sugar free diets. Prepared, packaged foods containing wheat, other grains and sugars all have very high amounts of salt. Once you eliminate those foods, you need to make sure you get enough salt in the foods you actually eat. Vegetables, meats, fish, fowl, nuts and fruits contain little or no salt. Like magnesium, salt is essential for many bodily processes, too many to list here. This is why salting our foods should be a part of daily diet.

      There are many brands of deli meats available that are uncured and obtain little, if any, sugar. Applegate’s is only one brand that comes to mind.

    • Boundless says:

      Salt is quite likely another false villain, like cholesterol, that may need to be tossed out with the rest of the failed Lipid Hypothesis.

      It seems like it might be worthwhile for Dr. Davis to post an article about salt (and perhaps he has on the TYP site, where we might not be able to see it).

      Low carb eating appears to increase the need for sodium. If you are very low carb/keto, Dr. Attia (eatingacademy.com) is even more blunt: you must supplement sodium.

      I’m going to argue: if you’re concerned about BP, simply measure it.

  5. Cassandra says:

    Hi Dr. Davis,

    My family is now gluten free, and I would prefer to use a combination of almond flour, coconut flour and garbanzo bean flour in our food preparation. However, my husband has Herpes Simplex II, and has been advised to avoid all nuts and nut-products in order to reduce the occurrence of outbreaks. I am hopeful that going gluten free will in and of itself reduce the frequency and severity of outbreaks altogether, but in the meantime, I am uncertain as to what is our next best alternative in terms of flour choices. I do not want to use flours and alternative products that have high Glycemic index/ Glycemic load, but I am uncertain as to what our best option is at this point.

    Would you have any recommendations? Thank you so much!
    Blessings,
    Cassandra

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  9. I’m starting to replace my pantry items after buying your Wheat Bely 30 minute meals and Loose The Wheat, Lose The Weight cookbooks. As a Registered Nurse the diet make sense.
    I was wondering why you don’t use more cooking oils like sunflower, grapeseed and vegetable?

  10. Mary Wallace says:

    Dr.Davis, as I continue to read your book and blog, I find little or no discussion of the gluten induced problem of anxiety or panic attacks. My 27 year old daughter has a severe relation to gluten and panic attacks is one of the things she has dealt with practically her whole life. She is three years gluten free and the anxiety is much better, but not totally gone. Could you address possible suggestions for her?

    Thank you!

    Mary W.

    • Dr. Davis says:

      She might consider complete elimination of ALL grains, Mary, as the similar proteins in other grains can partially mimic the effects of the gliadin-derived opiates from wheat.

  11. Jeannie says:

    Hello Dr Davis ~

    So far I am 3 days into being Wheat free. The main reason for going wheat free is for weight loss and because I believe I am addicted to wheat products. My biggest struggle will be still cooking meals for the remainder of my family as they are not on board with going wheat free but are being incredibly supportive as I try to tackle this. I am struggling to come up with some interesting breakfasts that include some meat. Any suggestions? Thanks so much for this blog, it has been extremely helpful.

    Jeannie K.

  12. Rick Raffesberger says:

    If gluten is the problem it is made out to be then, 1) Why don’t the autoimmune disease websites claim so and why don’t webmd.com and mayoclinic.org claim so? 2) Why is there no published data stating this link between gluten and ill-health? If it really was the problem it is claimed to be, I am sure the mainstream media and news outlets would get a hold of it. Instead there is only feel-good anecdotal subjective stories. 3) I was gluten free for 3 months and my autoimmune disease was no better or worse before,during or after the fast. This left me feeling quite disillusioned with the gluten-free campaign.
    Rick Raffesberger
    Osceola, Wisconsin

    • Dr. Davis says:

      Ha ha!

      This made me laugh, Rick. As if we can expect sources of idiocy, such as WebMD, to provide health information. Don’t hold your breath!

      If it does not yield revenue from drugs or procedures, they ain’t interested.

    • Boundless says:

      > I was gluten free for 3 months and my autoimmune disease
      > was no better or worse before,during or after the fast.

      This doesn’t sound like a trial of the Wheat Belly way of eating, which is way far from just GF.

      Did you also, for example:
      * reduce net carbs to under 50 grams/day
      * increase Omega 3 (DHA/EPA) consumption
      * reduce Omega 6 consumption (PUFAs)
      * eliminate trans fats
      * avoid soy
      * select organic non-GMO products
      * carefully chose alternative sweeteners

      I’m also thinking that for several auto-immune conditions (and you didn’t specify which), 3 months might not be long enough for unmistakable results to appear.

      • Michael gardiner says:

        Try not eating any grain products at all . Gluten is not enough. I have found that just cutting back on grain is not enough When I gave up 3 years ago I felt much much better I lost 16 kilos down to 64 is and that weight has stayed off, I did,not go on the diet to lose weight but it happened because of no grain. I am 70 ridding my push bike every day and doing physical things I haven’t done for a long time . I no longer take anti reflux tablets my immune system is now strong. If you are looking for a replacement bread without grain then you can,t go past Deek’s seed bread , the first in the world made here in Canberra 4years ago, it’s my life saver.
        Yes without a doubt grain and it’s well documented toxins was slowly killing me.
        Michael

  13. Sue Hickey says:

    Dr Davis and friends, has anyone taken action towards those responsible for developing the kind of wheat now being used in our foods today? It was done with regard to cigarette companies.

    • Michael gardiner says:

      Sue
      wheat has always been bad for humans , it’s not new wheat it’s a fact that wheat contains lectin a pesticide to protect itself from insects . You see that same pesticide attacks us, it’s obvious it’s not a natural food for humans it’s a poison! Try giving it up all grains for 2weeks and see how you feel
      Michael

  14. Sue Hickey says:

    Dr Davis, action should be taken against the geneticists and researchers responsible for the wheat being grown today!

  15. Elisabeth Pett says:

    My family and I are about to start the WB plan, but I am allergic to almonds. No other nuts, just almonds. For the baking mix, can I substitute the almond flour with another nut flour?

  16. Rozanne says:

    Dr Davis,
    My husband and I started on your diet about 5 months ago. His blood sugar was borderline and I wanted to bring it down without having to go the medication route. I believed it would be easier (since I am the cook) for us both to follow it. We have followed the diet faithfully all of this time. I have been baking all of my own nut breads etc.

    We initially felt a little weak and tired but that soon passed and we are very energized. While we were both in decent shape we still lost about 12 pounds each, then leveled off and look and feel great. My husbands acid re flux went away and my blood pressure went down significantly, also the arthritis that I usually am bothered with in my hands did not happen this winter.
    The problem is, and this is a big one, my husband just went to have his fasting glucose done ( I was expecting it to be fabulous) and his numbers were very high.
    Initial test was 5.9 mmol/L, and 2 hour was 9.9. His recent test (after 5 months on the diet) was 6.8 and 15.33.
    If you have any suggestions or explanations for this I would appreciate it very much.

    • Dr. Davis says:

      Unfortunately, Rozanne, your husband likely found this lifestyle too late. He has probably damaged his pancreatic beta cells that do not recover once damaged.

      It means that, at this point, diabetes is irreversible. This is why it is so important to do this as early in life as possible.

      While I am not confident that it will fully reverse the situation, it might help. Google “resistant starch.” This can nudge blood sugars down if distorted bowel flora and/or failed butyrate metabolism are at fault.

  17. Bobby C says:

    I went wheat and grain-free for 4 weeks and noticed considerable improvement in anxiety symptoms, reduction in aches and pains, no longer wokeup bloated in the morning, etc.

    However, after running out of groceries and being somewhat stranded due to some family circumstances I ate some low quality pizza. I immediately felt terrible- coughing fit, increase in body temp, head and body aches.

    IF I “accidentally” eat some wheat, or more accurately choose to eat some “bad food,” is there anything I can do to get my health back on track? Or is it simply a matter of getting back on my diet and letting time take it’s course?

  18. Colby Proffitt says:

    Hi, I have not gone wheat free yet but I am going to start. I was wondering if going wheat free will help with headaches and body aches and neck pain. Thank you for the advice and all your hard work.

    • Bobby C says:

      I did seem to help me with things like that. I would say that you should give it a try, as I see no possible downside. I’m not saying going wheat-free will cure your ailments, but I’d say it’s a strong possibility it will improve your quality of life in some way. For me, my acid reflux went away and I stopped aching in the morning.

  19. Julie A. says:

    It’s been eight days in for me and really not losing any weight. Stomach bloat down a little. Should there be any calorie counting? I am 51, 5’2 1/2″ and very small frame. I try to work out every day.

    • Boundless says:

      > … and really not losing any weight.

      See:
      http://www.wheatbellyblog.com/2012/10/i-lost-the-wheat-but-didnt-lose-weight-2/
      and the three newer videos on the same topic found in the Feb 2014 archive at left.

      > Should there be any calorie counting?

      No. The WB way of eating only counts net carbs, and most people (like me) don’t even bother with that once they know what foods to seek and avoid. Appetite takes care of itself for all but a handful of people.

      The keys are carbs-down, healthy-fat-up, consider ditching dairy for a while, and resolve any confounding endocrine issues.

      > I try to work out every day.

      Exercise is valuable, but extremely inefficient for weight loss, and therefore not a material part of the strategy. On WB, exercise is used to gain or maintain weight as muscle mass, as well as its normal other benefits.

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