“I think totally eliminating wheat is too hard! What if I cut back, say, 80 or 90%? Can I still get most of the benefits?”
The short answer: No.
Let me explain. If you cut back on sugar by 90%, you obtain 90% of the benefits, right? 90% less weight gain, 90% less insulin provocation, 90% less dental cavities, etc. Simple arithemetic.
But, as with many things in this wheat- and grain- distorted world, that simple arithmetic does not hold with cutting back. Instead, a bizarre calculus of metabolic distortions apply because of several long-lasting effects of modern semi-dwarf wheat and other closely related grains.
There are several reasons why just cutting back does not work:
1) Disruption of bowel flora
Wheat-eaters experience undesirable distortions of the microorganisms in their intestinal tract: different species, different numbers, and shifts in location (migration higher up into the small intestine, and even duodenum and stomach). Wheat-eaters have fewer desirable lactobacilli and bifidobacteria, and more undesirable species of E. coli, bacterioidetes, and even Salmonella and Clostridia. Occasional wheat consumption, likely via wheat’s amylopectin A, wheat germ agglutinin, and gliadin, maintain undesirable bacterial and fungal populations and prevent a shift back to healthier species. Similar effects apply to other close-related seeds of grasses, such as rye, barley, and corn.
2) Small LDL particles that cause heart disease are triggered for 10 or more days at a time
Large, relatively benign LDL particles persist for 24-48 hours after formation, cleared by the liver promptly. Small LDL particles, triggered to extravagant degrees by the amylopectin A of wheat, persist for an unusually long period, much longer than the larger LDL particles. Once triggered, the human liver does not recognize unnatural small LDL particles, causing them to persist for an abnormally long time and allowing prolonged and repetitive interactions with the wall of arteries to create atherosclerosis (leading to coronary heart disease, heart attacks, stents, bypass surgery, as well as your hospital to boast about its record number of heart attacks treated). This likewise applies to all other grains that share the amylopectin A carbohydrate.
3) The gliadin protein stimulates appetite
Even occasional exposure to the opiate-like exorphin polypeptides that result from digestion of the gliadin protein of wheat, rye, and barley are enough to stimulate appetite. Appetite is stimulated, but not for more salmon or steak, but for carbohydrates–more wheat, more cornstarch, more candy, more soft drinks, more junk. Occasional wheat consumption therefore makes adhering to a healthy diet more difficulty, as your impulse control is under the influence of the gliadin opiate, an effect that lasts several days after every indulgence, occasionally longer.
4) Glycation is forever
Recall from the discussion in Wheat Belly that, whenever blood glucose ranges above 90 mg/dl (5 mmol/L), glucose-modification of long-lived proteins in the body, or glycation, proceeds at an accelerated rate: the higher the blood glucose, the greater the quantity of glycation. ALL grains are guilty of this effect.
It means, for instance, that you have, say, a Snickers bar and experience a blood glucose of 134 mg/dl and glycation occurs in the proteins of the lenses of your eyes (cataracts), the proteins in the cartilage of knees and hips (brittle cartilage, arthritis), the proteins in the cells lining arteries (stiff arteries, hypertension, atherosclerosis), and structural tissue of the skin (wrinkles, “liver” spots of aging). Have two slices of whole wheat bread as a ham sandwich and blood sugar peaks at 170 mg/dl (a very typical blood sugar after wheat consumption) and glycation develops at a greater rate. Glycation in long-lived proteins is irreversible–the effect cannot be undone: cataracts do not reverse, bone-on-bone arthritis does not regenerate, wrinkles do not unwrinkle. For all practical purposes, once you glycate, you glycate for good.
All in all, it means that cutting back on wheat and grains by 80 or 90% does not yield 80 or 90% improvement in destructive health effects. Maybe it yields a fraction of those benefits, say, 20-30%. Cutting back on wheat, like cutting back on unsafe sex and practicing safe sex on weekends only, can still get you into a heap of trouble.