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This online course at RodaleU distills all the wisdom of the original Wheat Belly books and the lessons learned by the millions of people who have adopted this approach. In this 10-day course you'll learn step-by-step how to detox your body of wheat and grains and be well on your way to living the Wheat Belly lifestyle! Just $79.99
Visit Dr. Davis' Wheat Belly Blog for articles, recipes, and more!
Wheat Belly FAQs
Is wheat really that bad? I thought that whole grains were good for you?
First of all, it ain’t wheat. It’s the product of 40 years of genetics research aimed at increasing yield-per-acre. The result is a genetically-unique plant that stands 18-24 inches tall, not the 4 1/2-foot tall “amber waves of grain” we all remember. The genetic distance modern wheat has drifted exceeds the difference between chimpanzees and humans. If you caught your son dating a chimpanzee, could you tell the difference? Of course you can! What a difference 1% can make. But that’s more than modern wheat is removed from its ancestors.
What about organic wheat?
Organic generally means that a food was grown without the use of synthetic pesticides and chemical fertilizers. While that’s a good thing, organic or not, wheat should be avoided.
Why do you make the claim that removing all wheat from the diet results in weight loss?
Because the studies examining this effect have demonstrated it and because I’ve seen it happen–over and over and over again. Weight is lost from the deep visceral fat that resides within the abdomen, what can be represented on the surface as “love handles,” “muffin top,” or a darned good imitation of a near-term baby, what I call a “wheat belly.”
Many people who say goodbye to wheat lose a pound a day for the first 10 days. Weight loss then slows to yield 25-30 pounds over the subsequent 3-6 months (differing depending on body size, quality of diet at the start, male vs. female, etc.). When you remove wheat from the diet, you’ve removed the gliadin protein unique to wheat that is degraded to morphine-like compounds that stimulates appetite, and appetite thereby drops. The average daily calorie intake drops 400 calories per day–with less hunger, less cravings and food is more satisfying. This all occurs without imposing calorie limits, cutting fat grams, or limiting portion size. It all happens just by eliminating this thing called wheat.
What if I lose the wheat but FAIL to lose the weight? Does this mean this approach does not work for me?
No, it does not. It means that something is impeding your weight loss success.
The factors that impair weight loss success include various medications (beta blockers, some pain medication, insulin, some seizure medication), iodine deficiency, endocrine disruption from industrial chemicals (e.g., triclosan in hand sanitizers and hand soap), marginal hypothyroidism, and others.
I see that many Wheat Belly recipes use almond flour. What if I am allergic to almonds?
Almond flour or meal is just one choice among many. Among the other choices of healthy, baking-friend wheat-free flours and meals are:
Ground golden flaxseed
Pumpkin seed meal
Sesame seed meal
Sunflower seed meal
Garbanzo bean flour
Chia seed meal
Note that combinations of meals/flours typically work better than single ingredients, e.g., 2 cups pecan meal + 1 cup ground golden flaxseed + 2 tablespoons coconut flour. Cooking times and proportion of other ingredients, especially liquids, may need to be modified, also, to accommodate the varied baking characteristics of different combinations.
When you examine food labels in the grocery store, you see that wheat is in nearly everything. Is it really practical to remove all wheat from the diet?
It raises a crucial question: Just why is wheat such a ubiquitous ingredient in so many foods, from ice cream to French fries? That’s easy: Because it tastes good and it stimulates appetite. You want more wheat, you want more of everything else to the tune of 400 or more calories per day. More calories, more food, more revenue for Big Food. Wheat is not in cucumbers, green peppers, salmon, or walnuts. But it’s in over 90% of the foods on supermarket shelves, all there to stimulate your appetite center to consume more . . . and more and more.
It also means being equipped with recipes that allow you to recreate familiar recipes that you might miss, like cheesecake, cookies, and biscotti–without wheat, with little to no sugar or carbohydrate exposure, yet healthy. That’s what I’ve done in Wheat Belly.
So does it mean going gluten-free?
Wheat raises blood sugar higher than nearly all other foods, including table sugar and many candy bars. The few foods that increase blood sugar higher than even wheat include rice flour, cornstarch, tapioca starch, and potato flour–the most common ingredients used in gluten-free foods. A gluten-free whole grain bread, for instance, is usually made with a combination of brown rice, potato, and tapioca starches. These dried pulverized starches are packed with highly-digestible high-glycemic index carbohydrates and thereby send blood sugar through the roof. This contributes to diabetes, cataracts, arthritis, heart disease and growing belly fat. This is why many celiac patients who forego wheat and resort to gluten-free foods become fat and diabetic. Gluten-free foods as they are currently manufactured are very poor substitutes for wheat flour.
Anyone who consumes gluten-free foods, like gluten-free muffins, should regard them as an occasional indulgence, no different than eating a bag of jelly beans.
What can you eat on the diet you advocate?
Recall that people who are wheat-free consume, on average, 400 calories less per day and are not driven by the 90-120 minute cycle of hunger that is common to wheat. It means you eat when you are hungry and you eat less. It means a breakfast of 3 eggs with green peppers and sundried tomatoes, olive oil, and mozzarella cheese for breakfast at 7 am and you’re not hungry until 1 pm. That’s an entirely different experience than the shredded wheat cereal in skim milk at 7 am, hungry for a snack at 9 am, hungry again at 11 am, counting the minutes until lunch. Eat lunch at noon, sleepy by 2 pm, etc. All of this goes away by banning wheat from the diet, provided the lost calories are replaced with real healthy foods.
What exactly is in wheat that makes it so bad?
The protein unique to wheat, gliadin, a component of gluten proteins, is odd in that it is degraded in the human gastrointestinal tract to peptides (small proteins) that have the ability to cross into the brain and bind to morphine receptors. These polypeptides have been labeled exorphins (exogenous morphine-like compounds) by National Institutes of Health researchers. Wheat exorphins cause a subtle euphoria in some people. This explains why wheat products increase appetite and cause addiction-like behaviors in susceptible people. It also explains why a drug company has made application to the FDA for the drug naltrexone, an oral opiate-blocking drug ordinarily used to keep heroine addicts drug-free, for weight loss. Block the brain morphine receptor and weight loss (about 22 pounds over 6 months) results. But there’s only one food that yields substantial morphine-like compounds: yes, wheat.
The complex carbohydrate unique to wheat, amylopectin A, is another problem source. The branching structure of wheat’s amylopectin A is more digestible than the amylopectins B and C from rice, beans, and other starches (i.e., in their natural states, not the gluten-free dried pulverized starches). This explains why two slices of whole wheat bread increase blood sugar higher than table sugar, higher than a bowl of brown rice, higher than many candy bars. Having high blood sugars repeatedly is not good for health. It leads to accumulated visceral fat–a “wheat belly,” diabetes and pre-diabetes (defined, of course, as having higher blood sugars), not to mention cataracts, arthritis, dementia, and heart disease.
As if that wasn’t enough, there are even other components of wheat that are harmful, such as the lectins in wheat. Lectins are proteins with direct toxic effects in the human gastrointestinal tract. They also impair digestion by blocking the cholecystokinin hormone, an effect that contributes to gallstones and impaired pancreatic enzyme release.
Beyond gluten, there are over 1000 other proteins in wheat that also have potential for odd or unexpected responses. You might say that wheat is a perfectly crafted Frankengrain that almost appears like it was created to exert maximum health damage in the most desirable, irresistible form possible. I really don’t believe that this monster was created on purpose to hurt people, but the astounding collection of adverse effects, all packed into one food, pushed on us by the U.S. government and other “official” health agencies, explains why this one thing has exerted more harm than any foreign terrorist group can inflict on us.
If I go wheat-free, is there any harm in having an occasional bagel or cupcake?
If you have celiac disease or any of the long list of inflammatory or autoimmune diseases associated with wheat (rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, cerebellar ataxia, peripheral neuropathy, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, dermatitis herpetiformis, etc.), then wheat and gluten avoidance should be complete and meticulous.
If you have an addictive relationship with wheat, e.g. one pretzel or one Twizzler (yes: wheat is the second ingredient!) makes you want to eat the whole bag, then complete avoidance is also advisable. Because wheat consumption in the 30% of people with this problem cannot stop themselves once it starts, it is best to avoid wheat-containing foods altogether.
Yet another odd observation: Many, though not all, people who have removed wheat from their diet for at least several months have what I call “wheat re-exposure reactions” usually experienced as abdominal cramps, gas, and diarrhea (just like food poisoning); asthma attacks in the susceptible; joint swelling and pain; and emotional effects such as anxiety in women and rage in men. I’ve witnessed many people go wheat-free, feel great, lose 30 pounds, then have an emotional blowup at a birthday party after indulging in just a small piece of birthday cake, then spending the next 24 hours on the toilet with diarrhea.