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. Stacy says:

    Hi – Is balsamic vinegar ok to have on a salad? Not the kind with sugar and grape juice – real balsamic vinegar.

  2. ellen says:

    I’m not sure if I’m in the right place to leave a message/question.

    Can you comment on this article: http://www.naturalnews.com/022986_xylitol_health_sugar.html

    I have read it before and came across it again (after making a couple recipes from the Wheat Belly cookbook. It is really scary as I don’t like the taste of stevia and find Xylitol much easier to use and better tasting. However, this article really makes me nervous. I’d appreciate any feedback you have. Thanks!

  3. LibraryLady says:

    I started on the Wheat Belly diet last Monday. I have had no wheat since then, but my blood sugars are running higher that usual. I am a diabetic under very good control. What am I doing wrong? I had hoped to see at the very least numbers a little lower, not considerably higher.

  4. Claudia says:

    Dr. Davis,
    my husband and I are on our 3ed day of being wheat free. We have purchased both the Wheat Belly and the Wheat Belly cookbook. I am concerned about the amount of sodium as well as calories in these recipes. I am thinking about using 1/2 salt. Will that change the way the breads rise? Do our bodies need that much sodium on a wheat free diet?
    Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us! Something our government should have done when they discovered what our modern wheat is doing to us!
    Claudia

  5. Dianne says:

    I have nut allergies so is this diet still good for me and can I just use coconut flour instead of almond flour and stick with seeds for snacking? Any other advice on the diet for those with nut allergies?

  6. Mia says:

    Is rice starch the same as rice flour for the purposes of eating wheat free?

  7. Melanee Renner says:

    Is Rice Chex cereal ok? No wheat but gluten free. Program is good but concerned should not have this cereal.

  8. Sarah B. says:

    I’ve heard that it is ok to eat sprouted grain bread which includes sprouted wheat berries or breads made from spelt flour. Should these be cut out too?

  9. Jo M says:

    Hi, just started reading the book. Just wondering, I realise no rice starch/flour but what about rice itself…stupid question I know…cheers

    • Boundless says:

      > … what about rice itself…
      In the “Quick and Dirty” summaries on this blog, it’s in the “Limited” category. See:
      http://www.wheatbellyblog.com/2012/12/wheat-belly-quick-dirty-2/

      In another discussion about it, I lately opined:
      Until we get more word on rice, which may be peculiar among carbs, I’d suggest:

      Avoid rice flour entirely, and be highly suspicious of processed foods containing rice that is not obviously in whole grain form.

      Avoid or minimize sticky white rice (sushi) as this has a very high GI.

      Tend toward wild or brown, long grain.

      Mind the net carbs (15 per meal or 6 hour period).

  10. janice says:

    ok, I’m frustrated, to say the least. I’ve been totally wheat free since Feb 1 and have not dropped 1 pound. I have NOT CHEATED. I have stuck to mostly whole foods, the times I did not were 1. a corn tortilla (no wheat) and some chocolate covered peanuts (no wheat or by products) . Any thoughts? I am so tired of carrying around this extra weight in my mid section. Help!

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  12. Lynn Moore says:

    I’ve been on the wheat free diet for well over a month. I have lost about 5 lbs, but thought it would before. I’m an older, 77, client and I wondered if my age is making progress slower. There’s been no change in my “belly.”

    Thanks

  13. MANDRIA says:

    I have been sticking to this eating plan for 7 weeks now – love it! I found it very hard to stick to other plans. I noticed results after 2 weeks, especially in the belly area! Amazing! I do have one question though, I like sour cream but I checked all brands at my grocery store and in the ingredients is modified corn starch…. Is this ok? I don’t want to have come this far and ruin it by sour cream! Thanks for a wonderful book and great cookbook too!!!!

    • Dr. Davis says:

      It’s probably okay, Mandria, since it is present in minimal quantities.

      However, whenever budget and availability allow, opt for organic dairy to minimize issues like estrogen content.

      • ellen says:

        Look for Daisy brand. Their sour cream and cottage cheese don’t have junk in them. Of course, Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s have organic, but much pricier…

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  15. Dianna Urbigkit says:

    My mother has very flaky skin around her ankles and lower legs and has used all different kinds of lotions to get rid of it…with no success. We are reading your cookbook on Wheat Belly…is this a condition caused by wheat? Her acid reflux and belching continually certainly sounds like it. Thanks for feedback. By the way, your books on Wheat Belly are fantastic..only problem I have is that we are vegans..what can we eat?

  16. Alan W. Balkany says:

    From “I lost the wheat, but didn’t lose weight: 2″:

    “You can add fats/oils to many foods, e.g., add 2-3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive or coconut oil to scrambled eggs or soups. Some people even choose to consume coconut oil “straight.” ”

    For decades, I’ve repeatedly heard that saturated fats clog your arteries. Coconut oil is one of the most saturated lipids around.
    Yet, it’s recommended here (and other places).
    I’m confused: Is coconut oil good or bad??

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  18. Señor Bill says:

    I have suffer with abdominal pain and gas for years, but went gluten free for the last 3 months after reading your book. At first I felt immediately better. More energy and hardly and discomfort. I had also stopped taking digestive enzymes, thinking the gluten must have been my problem.

    Then occasionally I would get pain, and rationalized that there was probably some gluten in something that i ate.

    Finally I went to a doctor in Mexico who suggested that I had IBS and prescribed Libertrim SII (Trimbutine and Simethicone). This also seemed to work for awhile but I have had pain occasionally while taking this medication.

    I have had a colonoscopy and checked for parasites and haven’t take prescription medication for 40 years up to two weeks ago. I am a 77 year old male in very good health otherwise (strong and fit).

    Do you have any advice for me?

  19. Simon says:

    Hello, what about oats?

    Instead of wheat bread sandwiches I’ve been eating oat cake sandwiches with nut butter fillings (a selection from peanut, walnut, almond, brazil, cashew and hazelnut).
    I have not set out to avoid gluten – instead I just avoid wheat (and spelt)

    Thanks
    Simon

  20. CJ says:

    I read Wheat Belly book and just started diet Sunday. Is this like the Atkins diet, if I quit I will gain more weight than I lost?

    • Dr. Davis says:

      This is not a diet, CJ.

      Wheat Belly is an articulation of what genetics research and agribusiness have done to wheat. Among its effects: appetite-stimulation and glucose-insulin provocation. It can therefore be used as a diet, but this is not “The Wheat Belly Diet.”

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