In the seven years since the original Wheat Belly book hit bookstores and turned the nutritional world topsy-turvy and millions of people have engaged in a grain-free lifestyle, many unique lessons have been learned.
Even though I had engaged the practices of this lifestyle for a number of years and in thousands of people before I broadcast these ideas through books, expanding the audience to many more people yielded feedback on an enormous scale, new lessons that even surprised me.
Among the new lessons learned along the way:
- Plantar fasciitis—I did not expect to have so many people report that this painful condition that causes excruciating pain just by standing on your feet would reverse within days to weeks of adopting the Wheat Belly lifestyle.
- Gastric hyperacidity—In conventional medicine, gastric hyperacidity, i.e., excess stomach acid, should occur when the microorganism, H. pylori, is present or when there was severe emotional or physical stress present. But wheat/grain removal proved to be a powerful way to reverse gastric hyperacidity in the absence of H. pylori or stress, nearly always sufficient to be weaned off acid-blocking drugs.
- Reversal of kidney disease—I did not expect to witness repeated instances of kidney disease reversing partially or completely, as evidenced by reductions in the blood test, creatinine. People with near-total kidney failure due to a condition called IgA nephropathy, for instance, reported complete reversal. People with diabetic nephropathy on a course to total kidney failure and dialysis reported reductions in creatinine (though typically not all the way back to normal) sufficient to avoid dialysis.
- Introducing prebiotic fibers would prove to be a way to detect small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)—Because banishing all wheat and grains reduces daily intake of prebiotic fibers that nourish bowel flora from the average daily intake of 8 or 9 grams per day to about half that (due to removal of arabinoxylan and amylose fibers), I asked everyone to supplement prebiotic fibers from non-grain sources such as legumes, chickpeas, hummus, or raw potatoes and to target an ideal daily intake of 20 grams per day. It became clear, however, that a substantial proportion of people simply could not achieve this without excessive gas, bloating, diarrhea, or mental or emotional effects. It also became clear that this condition represented SIBO in which bowel flora organisms had ascended up from the colon into the ileum, jejunum, duodenum, and stomach, a serious though exceptionally common condition responsible for causing or contributing to fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, restless leg syndrome, psoriasis, autoimmune and other conditions. While grains clearly play a role in causing SIBO, it is likely also due to many other factors including intermittent prescription antibiotic exposure, antibiotic and pesticide residues in food, use of long-term stomach-acid suppressing drugs (especially PPIs like Prilosec, Protonic, and Aciphex). But engaging the strategies of the Wheat Belly lifestyle served to unmask the presence of SIBO.
- Seborrhea is the signature rash of wheat consumption–that reverses within days of wheat elimination. This rash that characteristically is responsible for inflamed, red cheeks clears back to normal healthy skin promptly, allowing people to stop using steroid creams or other temporary and generally ineffective maneuvers.
- Mistaking the Wheat Belly lifestyle for a gluten-free lifestyle that leads some people to indulge in gluten-free foods yields extravagant weight gain, high blood sugars and type 2 diabetes, visceral fat accumulation, rise in triglycerides, fatty liver, disruption of bowel flora, reactivation of celiac disease, leg edema, hypertension, and, over time, takes you down the path of increased risk for heart disease, cancer, and dementia. In other words, people who made this crucial error learned the hard way that gluten-free processed foods are horrible and that no one should include them in their diet.
- Fatty liver is reversed promptly and consistently–While I knew that fatty liver was an easily reversible process with this lifestyle, I did not expect to see so many people reverse the evidence of this condition so promptly, typically within a few weeks. Liver blood tests AST and ALT would drop from several hundreds to low double digits followed by ultrasound or CT scan evidence of reversed disease, an effect paralleled by a dramatic drop in blood triglycerides (since fatty liver simply represents triglyceride accumulation in the liver).
- How much healthcare is unnecessary–While I knew this going in, having witnessed my patients and online audience being able to stop prescription drug after prescription drug and reversing countless health conditions, to see this play out on a international scale has been astounding. It became clear that the majority of healthcare for chronic health conditions was simply not necessary once people banished all wheat and grains and addressed common nutritional deficiencies as we do. It is simple and easy to reverse type 2 diabetes, coronary disease, fatty liver, rheumatoid arthritis, hypertension, and many other conditions along with the drugs or procedures that accompany them.
Surely there will be more lessons to learn. I anticipate that new lessons from our efforts to cultivate the human microbiome, in particular, will yield important new lessons that make this lifestyle even more powerful and effective. Stay tuned.