I hear this comment with some regularity when, for instance, someone recognizes me as the author of the Wheat Belly series. This is a step in the right direction.
But saying that you have a wheat intolerance is like saying “I have a tobacco intolerance.” The impact of tobacco smoking on health ranges from mild impairment, to incapacitating diseases such as chronic lung disease and abdominal aortic aneurysms, to death. A rare person escapes the ravages of years of smoking, but most people develop at least one, if not half-a-dozen, health problems from cigarettes.
And so it goes with wheat: It’s a rare person who escapes its effects. But many people don’t recognize health problems caused by wheat consumption and think, for example, that their acid reflux, fibromyalgia, type 2 diabetes, lupus, or Barrett’s esophagitis are just a combination of bad luck and bad genes. Likewise, many people don’t realize that cataracts, plantar fasciitis, eczema, toe fungus, gallstones, and fatty liver are largely a result of the bagel or bran breakfast cereal you have every morning, the pasta salad for lunch, or rolls with dinner. In other words, thinking that intolerance to wheat and related grains only shows up as celiac disease or gluten sensitivity is like believing that, if you don’t have an aneurysm in your abdominal aorta, then you must therefore be healthy despite smoking two packs a day.
There are also many silent processes that you are unaware of that develop with wheat and grain consumption. These silent processes can eventually catch up to you in the form of a heart attack, an autoimmune condition, dementia or other disease that develop over decades. Among the silent processes that develop with each pretzel, sandwich, or wrap you eat are:
- Intestinal leakiness–The gliadin protein of wheat and related grains has been shown to initiate the process of intestinal leak, i.e., a physical separation of the intercellular barrier (“tight junctions”) between intestinal cells that allows various substances to enter the bloodstream, such as the lipopolysaccharide of dead microbes, or microscopic fragments of food. This leads to inflammation and autoimmune diseases. Recall that inflammation alone underlies numerous diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s dementia.
- Provocation of small LDL particles–One sandwich on Monday provokes formation of small, oxidation-prone LDL particles that are not cleared from the bloodstream until Friday, Saturday, or Sunday. In other words, small LDL particles are unusually persistent in the bloodstream and add cumulatively to development of atherosclerotic plaque in the heart’s coronary arteries, the carotid arteries and small vessels to the brain, and other arteries. Large LDL particles, on the other hand, provoked by fat consumption, last only 24 hours. This is why, if you quantify total and small LDL particles via advanced lipoprotein analysis, not crude, outdated, and generally useless cholesterol testing, you see profound reductions with wheat/grain elimination and carb limitation, results that far exceed that achieved with silly statin drugs.
- Liver de novo lipogenesis–Eating wheat, grains, and sugars cause the liver to convert the carbohydrates/sugars to triglycerides. Some triglycerides are released into the bloodstream (explaining why grain-consuming people have high triglycerides), others accumulate in the liver and lead to fatty liver, the condition that can precede cirrhosis. Both phenomena occur without reaching conscious awareness.
- Postprandial lipoprotein distortions—It’s a mouthful, but all this means is that wheat/grain consumption, via the amylopectin A carbohydrate, caused prolonged and sustained after-meal (postprandial) digestive byproducts (especially VLDL particles) to persist. It is not uncommon, for example, for Wednesday’s waffles or pancakes to be measurable in the bloodstream on Friday (as high triglycerides and VLDL particles). This is a powerful cause for heart disease, stroke, and insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.
That’s just a sample—there are many more silent effects of wheat and grain consumption that brew beneath the surface. I hope you can therefore see the dangers of thinking that some people are intolerant of wheat and grains, while others can consume them willy-nilly without ill-effect. Eat wheat and grains and it will catch up with you in some form at some time, even if it tastes good going down.