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. Rachel says:

    I have a question regarding oil. I like to enjoy Kale chips, using olive oil, kale and some sea salt baked in 325 degree oven. Does heating the oil make this treat a no-no?

  2. Pingback: Wheat – The Other Poison « Get Cha Mind Right

  3. Will says:

    Doctor,

    Some context: I am 66 years old. I have been seriously overweight for 2 or 3 decades. I was on blood pressure medication for about 5 years, with good response. I had the usual aches and pains, stiffness and poor conditioning most of us acept as “getting older.” I had cancer of the appendix, which was discovered when my appendix was removed. about 10 years ago. Follow up has shown no remaining identifiable cancer.

    I have been on an essentially gluten-free vegan diet for the last year or so. I am no longer taking medication for elevated blood pressure and my typical pressure readings are now 120/73 with a resting pulse of around 60. I have never experienced a fasting (morning testing before eating) blood sugar of over 115, and typically it is below 100. I have lost about 100 pounds (I started at 397) and anticipate losing about 100 more in the next year or two.

    Since making this dietary change I have more energy, am more active, have regained flexibility, and experience little joint pain, even after physical labor (I live on an organic farm.)

    As might be epected, weight loss has slowed as I get closer to what I should weigh (even though I have a long way yet to go.) so I am again looking at my diet as well as my activities. In reading Wheat Belly I have been unable to find the answers to two questions,

    My first question:
    What do you mean by “carbohydrates?”

    As I understand it, almost all food (real food, not the manufactured stuff that is supposed to be food but isn’t) has at least some carbohydrate component. Certainly vegetables, fruits and grains. In the book I find occasional references to limiting consumption of fruits, as well as what appear to be contradictory references to eating non-gluten grains. (I mean the grains, not “gluten-free” products.)

    I also find references to limiting total net carbohydrate intake to various levels (I believe I have encountered references to 15, 20 and 25 grams per day?/meal? in various places in the book and on this site.)

    But I am unable to find any clear discussion of what you mean when you talk about “carbohydrates” as you seem to mean different things at different times.

    Could you clarify, please.

    My other question:
    You recommend eating nuts, always raw (except peanuts, which I understand aren’t actually nuts.).

    I usually buy raw nuts (and peanuts), but I prefer to roast them in a toaster oven before eating. I simply spread them on a tray and heat them, which primarily drives off moisture, I believe. I imagine there is some loss, perhaps some change in molecular composition (nutrient breakdown?), but it makes them more palatable for me. I do not add anything (no salt, no oil…) Is this acceptable?

    Thank you for clarifying these two points.

    • Dr. Davis says:

      Hi, Will–

      Very nice on the weight loss!

      In answer to your questions:

      1) Tolerance to carbohydrates is a highly variable thing. Most people, however, do quite well by limiting “net” carbohydrates, i.e., total carbs minus fiber, an old but excellent Dr. Atkins’ idea, to no more than 15 grams per meal. It means, for instance, that green vegetables that are mostly fiber fit easily into such a limitation.

      2) Dry roasting of nuts is still pretty good. The avoidance of commercially roasted nuts is the most important point, as they usually do so in hydrogenated cottonseed or soybean oil. You get exposure to some degree of exogenous glycation/lipoxidation products, but this is likely not a huge issue.

      • Will Newman II says:

        Doctor,

        Thanks for the helpful response.

        One more question: What is the difference/where is the line between high-density carbohydrates and the others (low-density? Middle- and low-density?)

  4. Shaun says:

    Doctor,

    Can you advise me as to whether you would or would not recommend using the following;

    Organic Oat Flour
    Organic Whole spelt flour
    Organic Barley Flakes
    Organic Brown Flax
    Organic six grain flakes
    (the above come from the comapny Milanaise ( http://lamilanaise.com/ )

    Breamy rye flakes (rolled rye)
    Buckwheat

    Thanks very much.

    Shaun

  5. Jessica says:

    Can I eat cream cheese?

  6. Pingback: Why Bread is Bad for Your Brain | Calm Mind Kitchen

  7. Vicki says:

    Would your diet plan be nutritionally sound for a person with severe food allergies, ie anaphylaxis specifically to all dairy, eggs and peanuts(life-long)
    Is it advisable to cut out another food group(grains, wheat) with a diet that is already so limited?

    • Boundless says:

      > Is it advisable to cut out another food group(grains, wheat) …

      Umm … grains are as much a “food group” as tobacco. Wheat, barley and rye are as much a food as hemlock, just slower.

      But yes, you can do a WB-friendly (paleo or keto) diet. You don’t have to eat dairy. However, after you’ve been grain-free for some time, carefully re-challenge the other allergies. People have reported here that their sensitivities to other foods vanished with the wheat, lactose intolerance in particular.

    • Dr. Davis says:

      This would be like asking, “Is it safe to remove all cigarettes when I have food allergies?”

      I know it sounds like I’m exaggerating the situation, but I assure I am not. Modern wheat is a true chronic poison. Life is transformed without it, food allergies or not. And, by the way, many food allergies improve or disappear with wheat elimination. Not all, of course, but a substantial proportion improve.

  8. Jason says:

    What are the dietary and functional differences between your diet and Atkins/Banting and other glycemic index diets like South Beach? I seem that after cutting out the wheat, you’re left with basically the same diet. Are you saying that carbohydrates in the absence of gliadin are ok? Is there a study contrasting a low-carb diet control group and a low-carb diet with added gliadin to demonstrate the effects of gliadin? I personally have done a low-carb diet and experienced the same claims you make, so your claims could be from overall lack of carbs and not gliadin specifically.

    • Dr. Davis says:

      You will see that, over and over again, diets like Atkins, South Beach, etc. all remove wheat and limit carbs . . . then add them back, followed by weight gain.

      So the most crucial point of all is elimination of wheat.

      And, by the way, Wheat Belly is not a diet. It is an articulation of the problems introduced into the wheat plant by agribusiness. It happens to contain a diet that incorporates these lessons.

  9. Karla says:

    Hello Doctor,

    My question is, am I able to use Almond meal/flour and/or coconut flour for cooking and occasionally baking? Are the side effects of these similar to gluten free alternatives ( meaning, not that different from actual flour.) or because they are made from completely different substances are the effects completely different?

    Thank you for your time,

    Karla

    • Dr. Davis says:

      Yes, but almond and coconut are chosen because they LACK all the adverse health effects of the usual gluten-free flour choices.

      Cornstarch, tapioca starch, rice flour, and potato starch all ruin health via generating high blood sugar, visceral weight gain, inflammation, and lead to cataracts, arthritis, heart disease, dementia, and cancer. Almond and coconut do NONE of this.

  10. Tal says:

    Are steel cut oats allowed? I’ve read they are wheat-free.
    Tal

    • Dr. Davis says:

      They are indeed wheat-free, but not healthy. If you were to check your blood sugar 1-hour after consuming, you would see sky-high blood sugar values. I say toss it in the trash.

  11. Sara Goodman says:

    After reading Wheat Belly, I contacted Eli Rogosa and obtained some Emmer and Einkorn flour from her. My question is, is it ok, according to your program, to eat these heritage forms of wheat? If the answer is yes, shouldn’t we be encouraging our local small organic farmers to start growing these old strains of wheat?

    • Dr. Davis says:

      They’re less harmful, Sara, but I do not believe that they are ideal for health.

      Eli and I differ on this issue.

  12. Sonal Patel says:

    Can you have plain white rice on this diet?

  13. susan sappington says:

    When God made wheat…it was “good”….it was also necessary to live….now that it’s not “good”….because man has reinvented it…….does the body “need” wheat…. ( the right kind)…….does anyone in the US grow the “God kind” of wheat?
    I went without my toast today ( whole wheat) of course, and I must say I feel “lighter”….I have felt like I’m PG for quite awhile now…and I am a small person who eats right but has to have the two pieces of toast for the past 20 years…What, if any…bread do you recommend ?

    • Dr. Davis says:

      Only those we make from non-grain products, Susan, for ideal health. See the focaccia flatbread recipe on this blog.

      Einkorn is the closest to natural, ancient wheat. But it still introduces some compromises in health. See http://www.growseed.org for more info.

  14. manon says:

    Hello Dr Davis,
    I agree with you on the wheat but my problem is what do I eat for breakfast? I have hypoglycemia and I do not want to have eggs every morning of the week but I need to have proteins in the morning. I do not eat red meat and am intolerent to dairy. So what can I eat?

    Manon

    • Tanya says:

      Manon,

      If you don’t have time or don’t feel like cooking before work I have found it efficient to have a container of cooked chicken in the fridge, whatever cut you like, I like chicken thighs, I do them with different seasonings so you can mix them up not eating the same-tasting chicken all the time. Same with pork chops, I’ll do up a family pack tray of them, keep ‘em in a container in the fridge, that way when I’m hungry I can just have one of those cold or reheated… Or if plain eggs are boring make a huge quiche (there isn’t a recipe here for quiche but there’s one for frittata) One of those should last you a couple days, that’s what I did yesterday, a nice big quiche with almond & pecan flour crust, that way your eggs aren’t boring at all, I put a ton of cheddar in it & vegetables… super easy to cut a slice of that for breakfast! Sorry I just saw that you’re intolerant to dairy, hmm there are soy cheeses for vegans but I don’t know if Dr. Davis recommends those, you’d have to check them for wheat ingredients. I’ve never been diagnosed with hypoglycemia but I sure do get all the symptoms of it if I go too long being hungry!

  15. manon says:

    What do you think of green wheat grass? some people say that is has less then 20 ppm gluten and is free from allergens found in mature wheat? In the raw food industry it is recognized for being a “super food”

    • Tanya says:

      I thought wheat grass powder would have no gluten in it?

      I am wondering this myself, hopefully Dr. Davis will come to answer this one. I have some leftover wheat- and barley-grass powder that I haven’t used since I started reading this blog. I was taking it as I’ve read it’s highly alkalizing..

      • Dr. Davis says:

        No gluten to my knowledge, but wheat grass contains wheat germ agglutinin, a bowel toxin.

        The barley grass I don’t believe has anything destructive about it.

    • Boundless says:

      It’s not just the gluten. It’s also the gliadin, lectins, amylopectin A, just plain high GI carbs, and other alien genetics that causes who-knows-what. Unless you’re 100% sure it’s ingredient-free, it’s not worth the risk :)

  16. Barry says:

    Is it harmful to drink wheat grass JUICE from non modern wheat seeds?

  17. tammy says:

    How is a vegan to get a balanced diet by elumunating so much from the diet? Do you have a book relating to vegans?

  18. GREG says:

    IS SPELT A GRAIN OR WHEAT? I KNOW THE GI IS LOWER THE WHEAT BUT IS IT A GRAIN OR WHEAT?

  19. Lindsay says:

    I’m kinda lost…..Do I need to cut all carbs out? Or can I still have things like potato’s?

  20. Pingback: What's Up With Modern Wheat? | Greatist

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