If we were to believe the claims of conventional diet advice, eliminate wheat and grains—“an entire food group”!—from your diet and you will lose your job, neighbors will make fun of you, your mother-in-law will move into your house for an indefinite stay, and you will become constipated and malnourished and suffer multiple nutritional deficiencies.
Not true. In fact, nutrition improves with elimination of wheat and grains due to increased absorption of multiple nutrients once the digestive disruption of wheat (gluten and lectins) are removed. Pancreatic release of digestive enzymes improves due to the increased intestinal release of cholecystekinin; absorption of magnesium, calcium, iron, and zinc improve, as they are no longer bound and passed out in the toilet due to grain phytates; and improved absorption of vitamins, minerals, proteins and fats results when the dysbiosis or bacterial overgrowth associated with wheat consumption reverses, among other effects.
Let’s talk about vitamin B6, pyridoxine. B6 is essential, as it is not synthesized in the body by human cells. A considerable amount is produced, however, by numerous species of bowel flora, as microbes are vigorous producers of many B vitamins. (Whether this is subject to our influence via cultivating a healthy microbiome remains unclear.) The rest must come from diet.
B6 deficiency leads to rashes like seborrheic dermatitis, atrophy of the tongue and mouth sores, and central nervous system impairment. B6 is often cited as a nutrient that is deficient in 15% of people with celiac disease, a deficiency that can be responsible for depression; deficiency is believed to be due to the disease, however, not the diet.
The adult RDA for vitamin B6 is 1.3-1.7 mg per day for adults, over 80% of which is produced by gut microbes, though many argue (and I agree) that higher quantities are beneficial. According to the USDA, two slices of whole wheat bread contain 0.117 mg of vitamin B6.
What other sources of B6 are there? Here’s a partial list:
Salmon, 4 oz: 0.64 mg
Spinach, 1 cup cooked: 0.44 mg
Chicken breast, 4 oz cooked, 0.68 mg
Tuna, 4 oz, cooked: 1.18 mg
Flaxseed, 2 tablespoons: 0.18 mg
Pistachios, 1/4 cup shelled: 0.408 mg
Sunflower seeds, 1/4 cup hulled: 0.484 mg
Avocado, 1 cup: 0.41 mg
Herbs and spices, such as garlic, paprika, turmeric, oregano, and chile powder, are also rich sources of B6. Just two cloves of garlic, for instance, contain 0.074 mg B6, or 63% of that contained in two slices of whole wheat bread.
So 4 oz of chicken breast provides nearly 6-fold more vitamin B6 than two slices of whole wheat bread, 4 oz of tuna over 10-fold more. Even two tablespoons of flaxseed—very easy to obtain—handily exceeds the B6 content of wheat products.
So, sure, if wheat is replaced with Skittles and lemon ice, you will likely become vitamin B6-deficient. But if wheat is replaced with whole foods of the sort we preferentially choose on the Wheat Belly lifestyle like fish, meat, nuts, flaxseed, and avocado, no vitamin B6 deficiency develops . . . B6 intake typically increases.