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. Mandy says:

    So with wheat free, would do you think of peanut butter, also what would you suggest I eat peanut butter on? I found that having a piece of toast with it on it maintained my hunger for longer, that and I love peanut butter, so I’d really hate to eliminate it.

    Thanks,
    Mandy

  2. michal says:

    hello.
    i wish to try this diet for health reasons.
    but i dont want to lose weight!
    do you have any special recommendation?
    thank you!

  3. evan says:

    I have been researching wheat free diets after reading your book and have now been wheat free for 7 days.

    The more I research the more I am confused.

    I used to have plain yogurt nuts and honey for breakfast – now is the honey bad for me?

    I switched for dates, now I read they cause greater blood spikes!

    Does brown rcie create a problem? Do lentils pose a problem?

    we need a concise list of what is good and bad, otherwise , like me this past week, will be eating unhealthier than I thought…( perhaps! )

    thank you

    Evan x

  4. Gail Blackwell says:

    I’ve just completed 28 days on The Fast Metabolism Diet — no wheat, corn, sugar, dairy, soy. So far I’ve lost a out 12 pounds, feel lighter and am wearing clothes I haven’t been able to wear in forever. Just had a lipid profile done and my numbers are so much better. Last year they were “terrible” (my doctor’s word). Got the results today: 2012 – total cholesterol 273, today 199; hdl actually went down slightly from 58 to 52; ldl went from 184 to 131. My doc has prescribed 3 different statins and I had allergic reactions to all so haven’t been taking anything. I purchased your Lose the Wheat Belly and believe in what you say. I want to continue on the no wheat while adding back some dairy and occasional sugar. For the last month the only sugar I’ve had has been a teaspoon in my morning coffee plus a piece of cake on my birthday. Also I’ve been eating about 2 slices of Ezekiel bread most days. I don’t seem to have a wheat sensitivity problem (no gastro problems). I have so far eliminated the need for statins and also dropped the Prevacid I couldn’t live without for over 20 years. I’m sure hoping eliminating wheat completely from my diet will continue to improve my health. Just one question: Is the Ezekiel bread okay to continue since it doesn’t seem to cause a problem? Oh, by the way my belly is shrinking. I’m going to attribute that to “no wheat.” Thanks!

  5. karen davis says:

    Hello. I just finished your book and was wondering if the recipes you have in here, like the flaxseed wraps, have been modified for stove top cooking. We don’t use a microwave. Thanks!

  6. Lori says:

    A nutritionist once told me that wheat is genetically-modified with the gene of a rat. She said it is like a rat and wheat had babies. And that is the wheat we are eating. Can anyone verify this? I tried googling it but no luck.

  7. Mary Elizabeth Robb says:

    Where can I find the rsearch about aautoimmune and wheat? I have had an autoimmune diseise for over 10 years and all my doctors say diet has nthing to do with it. e

  8. Karen says:

    I am just beginning to live gluten free. I have both books (Wheat Belly and the Wheat Belly Cookbook). I really don’t like the flavor of coconut, so I am wondering if it works to generally substitute milk for coconut milk, almond flour for coconut flour, and other oils (olive oil, etc.) for coconut oil. Thank you for any guidance you can give as I start these adjustments.

    • Dr. Davis says:

      I would advise trying the recipes as written and seeing if you can taste any of the coconut; most of the time you cannot.

      Otherwise, those substitutes are reasonable.

  9. Sharron Mitchell says:

    I have always had for several years very good optimal blood pressure ranging between 110 to 120 over high 60′s to low 70′s.
    However since I have been on this new lifestyle of no wheat, no sugar, (since the end of January) I am now noticing recently that I am on the very low end of normal.
    This morning as I was sitting at the table after finishing breakfast, I was feeling slightly dizzy, which is the first time this has happened while just sitting. It has only been happening recently during gardening etc. and standing up after bending over.
    I asked my husband to get the blood pressure monitor and it was 100 over 63 and upon checking again, it was as low as 98 over 65.
    This is not in the dangerous low level at this point, but I feel I should be getting it up to a higher level. I seem to remember reading somewhere in the WB book(s) that salt intake should be increased with this new lifestyle but after quickly looking at the books tonight I could not find the reference again.
    Just as an update, after a couple of hours today after breakfast, my blood pressure was 105 over 73 and tonight as I write this it is 103 over 60
    Can you please advise my as to the best course of action to take?
    I am very pleased otherwise with the results of this new lifestyle and look forward to your input.

  10. Sally says:

    Are hemp hearts wheat belly friendly?

  11. RJ says:

    Is NON GMO wheat still bad for you? or is it more like the original wheat grown in farms by or forefathers generations ago?

  12. RJ says:

    Is nonGMO wheat still bad for you? I would think it is like the wheat our forefathers grew on their farms generations ago.

  13. Austin says:

    I am going to Europe in the near future, should I still be as skeptical of wheat products there as I am here? I will be staying with a family and I am afraid of offending them by not eating certain things and the people I’m going with keep telling me that the food is so much different there. How accurate is this?

  14. Susan says:

    I’m not sure what I am doing wrong! I went wheat free about 5 wks ago. At first I lost a pound a day. Then the weight loss stopped. I still felt better – less aches and pains, more energy, but no more weight loss. In fact I gained back the 5 lbs I had lost. My diet is mostly clean, the only cheat I still have is packaged “Smartfood” popcorn. Could this small cheat be standing in my way?

  15. Kevin says:

    I believe all of this, and I’ve read the book, but what about studies like this one: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22426755

    …and websites like this:
    http://wholegrainscouncil.org/whole-grains-101/health-studies-on-whole-grains

    Can someone help me out?

    • Boundless says:

      Are the NIH studies controlled to isolate low-carb grain-free? Seriously doubtful.

      Anything on the WGC site is promotional. The site exists to push grains, and is unlikely in the extreme to post anything the reveals the real effects of grains in a context (low carb, high fat) that also violates USDA dogma.

      We know that “whole grains” are about 5% less destructive than refined grains. The common analogy is filtered cigarettes are “heathier” than unfiltered.

      The grain effects dial can be turned from 95% destruction to 0.
      Turn the fructose dial down with it.
      Turn the fat dial up.

      None of those studies do.

  16. Vicki Bott says:

    After suffering from chronic pain of what his doctors call reactive arthritis for the past few years, I got my brother to buy and read your book. After a month of eating gluten/grain-free, he described an 80% reduction in pain. We were ecstatic. After two months of this great pain relief–and still consistently gluten/grain-free–his pain was right back at the old levels. He’s still gluten/grain free and continues to have significant pain. He’s on the highest dose of oral meds and is about to move on to the injections because he’s in so much pain. Any ideas?

    • Barbara in New Jersey says:

      Vicki,

      Try having your brother eliminate diary for a few days to a week. Then soy. Then citrus. Then all sugars and so on until he finds the other culprits. Wheat/grains elimination is only the first of many.
      Also, very important is taking the high dose probiotics to help along his intestinal flora. Dr. D. recommends 50 billion cfu. You can get this at a health food store or even chain drug stores. This heals the intestines and promotes decreasing the inflammation obviously still affecting him. Also, carefully check the ingredients of the food he is eating for any previously unidentified wheat or soy item. Carrageenen in ice cream, annatto coloring in cheddar cheese are also irritants.

      Next on the list is making sure you are drinking enough water. 48 oz minimum.
      Followed by checking the supplements list Dr. D. has provided. He may be needing magnesium, etc.

      Hope this helps.

  17. Pingback: Wheat & The Belly.

  18. Pingback: Is Wheat Giving You a Belly? | Living Young and Healthy

  19. Emily says:

    Dr. Davis,

    I get wheat from a co-op that is non-GMO, with no gluten added, bran still in it, etc. How do you feel about wheat that is freshly milled into flour at home and immediately used?

    Thanks.

    • Dr. Davis says:

      It is, unfortunately, just as poisonous as any other wheat.

      The lack of herbicides and pesticides is a plus, but the fundamental problems with semi-dwarf wheat still apply in all their glory.

  20. Carla says:

    Hi, I had a colonoscopy in March 2013 and I had five polyps, the Dr, suggest I eat more wheat and wheat by products because our stood should be heavy/bulky each time after using the bathroom. Also, for extra fiber to take Citrucel and for heartburn, prilosic and so far they are all doing what he say they would do and I’ve lost weight in the belly area. So, buying any wheat by products is not good, even though we are to have bulk like stools, this can be confusing, would you please reply Dr. D.

    Thanks!

    • Boundless says:

      > … and I had five polyps, the Dr, suggest I eat more wheat and wheat by products …

      The polyps may well have been caused by wheat.

      > … because our stood should be heavy/bulky each time …

      This largely takes care of itself on a healthy diet. You might need to supplement with one psyllium capsule (dextrose- and dextrin-free) daily.

      > Also, for extra fiber to take Citrucel and for heartburn, Prilosec …

      As Dr. Davis says “there’s a drug for every wheat condition”. Those are being prescribed to counter the effects of wheat.

      Go low-carb grain-free for a month (zero wheat, and zero wheat-contaminated products). As improvements are noted, consider winding down the meds.

      If you are happy with the results, report to your doc that the wheat was the original problem. Caution: your doc is so clearly confounded that you can expect a response somewhere between skeptical and hostile. Why? See:
      WFF: “What’s Up With My Doctor?”
      http://wheatfreeforum.com/index.php/topic,275.0.html

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