When you remove wheat and grains from your diet, you remove phytates that block gastrointestinal absorption of magnesium, iron, zinc, calcium, and other positively-charged minerals. You also remove the trigger for autoimmune destruction of stomach parietal cells that produce stomach acid and “intrinsic factor” necessary for vitamin B12 absorption. Wheat/grain elimination therefore preserve the stomach’s capacity to produce hydrochloric acid necessary for digestion and intrinsic factor for effective B12 absorption. So if you banish wheat and grains and thereby increase absorption of nutrients and make a habit of eating nutrient dense foods such as avocados, green vegetables, meats with the fat, nuts, and non-grain seeds, why do we need nutritional supplements?
There are definite benefits obtained by supplementing several crucial nutrients intrinsically necessary for health. But let’s be clear: nutritional supplements are not necessary to compensate for deficiencies that accompany the elimination of wheat and grains (except for the few grams of prebiotic fibers they provided, but easily replaced with other foods with none of the problems attached with grains). Nutritional supplementation is necessary to compensate for:
- Nutritional deficiencies that developed during previous grain-consuming days but not fully reversed with their elimination—This applies mostly to magnesium, as magnesium deficiency is cumulative, evidenced as phenomena such as bone thinning (osteopenia, osteoporosis). We also rely on water filtration for obvious reasons, a process that removes virtually all magnesium, making magnesium supplementation necessary. To a lesser degree, this also applies to iron and zinc. While most grain-free people obtain sufficient iron and zinc from food, an occasional person will need to supplement one or both. (Vegans and vegetarians, for instance, are commonly deficient in iron and zinc as heme iron from animal products is the preferred form of iron and zinc only comes from animal meat and organs.) There is no benefit in supplementing calcium, as vitamin D and cultivation of healthy bowel flora increases calcium absorption and grain elimination reduces urinary calcium loss. If you have indeed damaged the parietal cells of the stomach, they are poor at recovering. You therefore remain deficient in stomach acid that impairs nutrient absorption and deficient in vitamin B12. In this situation, you may have to take measures to increase stomach acid, such as supplementing with betaine HCL or vinegar to help break down proteins, as well as B12.
- Nutritional deficiencies created by modern life—Because we don’t run naked in a tropical sun, we need to supplement vitamin D. Because we no longer consume the brains of animals and cannot consume plentiful seafood due to mercury contamination, we supplement omega-3 fatty acids. Because we don’t all live along the coast and don’t eat the thyroid glands of animals, we supplement iodine.
- Dysbiosis—As a society, we have managed to really mess up bowel flora resulting in epidemics of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, SIBO, and intestinal fungal overgrowth, as well as lesser degrees of disrupted bowel flora. “Spontaneous” (i.e., without a preceding course of antibiotics) episodes of Clostridium difficile enterocolitis are also increasing. We therefore take specific action to help cultivate a return to a healthier profile of bowel flora with probiotics, fermented foods, and prebiotic fibers.
That sums up the rationale for the various components of the Wheat Belly Total Health and Undoctored programs. Each and every component meet an intrinsic, genetically-determined need. There are indeed additional nutritional supplements beyond those we put to use in the Wheat Belly and Undoctored lifestyles. You can, for instance, add gotu kola or ashwaghanda, but your expectations should be lower, as they do not correct any deficiency nor serve an intrinsic need.