Wheat – friend or foe?


I watched an appearance by cardiologist Dr. William Davis on television this morning.  He is the author of a study and book on wheat and the role it plays in weight gain and a whole array of other health complications.  Say it ain’t so!


We’ve all been hearing that wheat – at least the whole grain kind – is good for you.  Not so, says Dr. Davis in his new book “Wheat Belly.”

The title refers to the big spare tire that so many people today are carrying around in front of them.  While he’s no fan of sugar or other refined carbohydrates, Dr. Davis believes wheat is a primary (if not the primary) driver of the rise in obesity we’ve witnessed in the past quarter century, and he makes a strong case for that belief.   But getting fat is hardly the only price we pay for our love of bagels, breads, cereals and muffins. As Dr. Davis explains in the book’s introduction:

While much of the Wheat Belly story is about overweight, it is also about the complex and not fully understood range of diseases that have resulted from it – from celiac disease, the devastating intestinal disease that develops from exposure to wheat gluten, to an assortment of neurological disorders, curious rashes, and the paralyzing effects of schizophrenia.

Tom Naughton did an interesting review of the book on line and hit some of the salient points.

He says, “Documented peculiar effects of wheat on humans include appetite stimulation, exposure to brain-active exorphins (the counterpart of internally derived endorphins), exaggerated blood-sugar surges that trigger cycles of satiety alternating with increased appetite, the process of glycation that underlies diseases and aging, inflammatory and pH effects that erode cartilage and damage bone, and activation of disordered immune responses.”

There’s hardly a single organ system that is not in some way affected by wheat products according to Dr. Davis. He claims everything from depression to joint pain is a direct result of wheat consumption.

He delves into quite a bit of nutrition science and some biochemistry, but writes in a clear (and often humorous) style that makes for easy reading. As a doctor who’s treated thousands of patients, he has the added advantage of being able to cite case histories from his own practice – patients who came to him unknowingly damaged by wheat, but were cured by wheat-free diets.

I was impressed by a couple of the testimonials in the book:

One patient, a thirty-eight-year-old woman, was told by her doctor that she’d have to have part of her colon removed and replaced with an external bag. After Dr. Davis talked her into going wheat free, her colon healed itself.

Another patient, a twenty-six-year-old man, was experiencing so much pain in his joints, he could barely walk. Three different rheumatologists failed to identify a cause. When he visited Dr. Davis for a heart condition, Dr. Davis suggested he try a wheat-free diet for the joint pain. Three months later, the young man strode into the office pain-free and reported he’d been jogging short distances and playing basketball. His heart condition had cleared up as well.

I’m going to dump whole wheat – or any other by products for two weeks and see if I feel any different. Bye bye, low carb tortillas.

9 thoughts on “Wheat – friend or foe?

  1. I’ve been trying wheat free since late July and think there’s something to this. Feel so much better and have lost a slow 12 lbs without all the effort I’ve put into food policing in the past. In the morning, I substitute a small handful of walnut pieces for my former must-have bran muffin. It seems to be work. No giant, gotta-have-it cravings, so far. Good luck with the 2-wk test.

  2. I made it through one day, Carroll. Wondering if you allow yourself corn bread if you omit any flour and use stone-ground corn meal? As a true Suhtherner, I will find it hard to give up my cornbread!

  3. Yeah, one day down! Give it a chance, particularly if you have stomach troubles. Hate to say that I gave up corn bread when I gave up butter and margarine. Just found a huge container of corn meal in the fridge a few days ago while cleaning. It’s still sitting on the counter — hard to throw it out. Like every other recipe I’ve given up for “good health”, there’s that pang of will I still remember how to make it from scratch? As for wheat free, I’m trying to relearn how to eat what I need, not all the wonderful flavors I want. Lived in NO too long not to crave really good food. Still enjoy corn tortillas once a week w/ various salsas and avocado — just not the meat. That’s probably a diet sin, too!

  4. So corn chips are gluten free? Well, there’s something! And my buttah! Oh dear. Maybe I’ll just go back to weight watchers – that way I can eat M&Ms all day so long as I stay within allotted points. But seriously, I am anxious to see if giving up wheat will impact inflammation which is my biggest problem at the moment. I,too, lived in NO which is where my weight problems all began!

  5. Cornbread will stay in my house, as will the various “buttahs” we make…honey, etc. But I did get rid of whole wheat bread and now have a big loaf of rye bread in it’s place. We haven’t tried it yet, but at least I have made the first step.
    Noticed online that flour can be made from oats done in a food processor. Has anyone baked with that?

  6. Well, after suffering through a whole slice of rye bread, checked the ingredients and….whole wheat flour is the first one listed. Guess I thought RYE bread was made from rye flour. Back to square one.

  7. You would think so, Pat. Seems most preparerd foods contain wheat in some form. I did some checking too – I guess you could make your own, but I haven’t been able to find rye flour anywhere around here.

  8. I gave up bread 3 1/2 months ago to lose weight i went to the gym for a while but not in the last three weeks because of a sore knee,i’ve lost 17 lbs(mostly belly) with no trouble or cravings.One side affect i had hayfever all my life (51 years)nearly every day and i have not had one attack for the last three months.No more bread for me ever.

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