“Just as the tobacco industry created and sustained its market with the addictive properties of cigarettes, so does wheat in the diet make for a helpless, hungry consumer. From the perspective of the seller of food products, wheat is a perfect processed food ingredient: The more you eat, the more you want. The situation for the food industry has been made even better by the glowing endorsements provided by the US government urging Americans to eat more ‘Healthy’ whole grains.” – Dr. William Davis, Wheat Belly
I have recently had my nose in a great book, sneaking in a chapter in every spare moment. It has captured my attention, because naturopathic doctors are highly trained in the field of clinical nutrition, and despite being aware of much of the information, the argument presented is new to me. In his best-selling book Wheat Belly, Dr. William Davis pulls together existing information on wheat from all corners of research to create a very compelling argument against wheat consumption for all human beings. There are many adverse effects of wheat that can wreak havoc on people (whether you have a food allergy or not) because our wheat today is not the wheat of our ancestors. The following is a summary of some of the most important points, in my opinion, presented in Wheat Belly:
1. Be in Control of Your Appetite and Your Blood Sugar – Wheat contains a unique complex carbohydrate called amylopectin A, which is quickly broken down into glucose and absorbed into the bloodstream. Because of this rapid process, it results in a spike of blood sugar, followed by an inevitable drop. This drop is what stimulates hunger. Once you consume wheat again, the cycle repeats. There are other foods that have a blood sugar increasing effect, too, but the unique properties of today’s wheat along with the volume and frequency of consumption give it command over one’s appetite. Studies actually show that people who do not consume wheat consume less calories per day than those who consume wheat.
2. Lose the Wheat Belly and Muffin Tops – When high blood sugar and subsequent insulin release are repeatedly triggered, it leads to increased fat accumulation especially around the abdomen, known as visceral fat (a.k.a. wheat belly). In men, the increase in fat makes estrogen levels rise, which can result in breast growth – ‘gynecomastia’. The more fat, the more inflammation occurs and the higher your risk of chronic disease including diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
3. Don’t Become Another Diabetes Stat – 1 in 17 Canadians have been diagnosed with diabetes. Diabetes — or complications from the disease — now kills 3.8 million people a year or about the same number as HIV/AIDS. The damage and eventual destruction of pancreatic beta cells is the hallmark of prediabetes and diabetes. The continual intake of wheat, which spikes your blood sugar, takes your pancreas on a roller coaster ride. The higher your blood sugar goes, the more glucotoxicity (gluco = sugar) occurs. Lipotoxicity (lipo = fat) is another phenomena that damages the beta cells as triglycerides and fatty acids are the produced with the high carbohydrate intake. Additionally, inflammatory cells are released that add insult to injury, resulting in prediabetes, then diabetes.
4. Protect Your Gut and Immunity – Gliadin, a protein in wheat, has recently been found to have the ability to make your gut lining more permeable, meaning it loosens the otherwise tight junctions between cells lining your gastrointestinal tract. This results in gliadin and other unintended invaders to have a free for all in your bloodstream. One of the results of these unwanted guests is the activation of your immune system against itself, called ‘autoimmunity’, where your immune system starts to attack its own organs and tissues, leading to autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, celiac disease and more.
5. Keep Your pH in Check – When metabolized, wheat creates acidic by-products in the blood, including sulfuric acid. Your body needs to neutralize these acids in order to survive, so it steals calcium from your bones, which over time, leads the osteoporosis after years of an acidic diet. A University of Toronto study measured the loss of urine calcium with gluten consumption and found it to increase by a staggering 63%.
6. Preserve Your Joints for Life – The more wheat you consume, the higher your blood sugar increases and the more a process called ‘glycation’ occurs. Glycation is a sugar-coating of proteins that is irreversible and affects body tissues, including the joints. Cartilage in the joints is extremely susceptible to this process, becoming stiff and brittle, eventually disintegrating, leading to arthritis and joint pain.
Now I know much of this information may come as a surprise to you, as it did to me. I encourage you to read the book for yourself and evaluate the validity of Dr. Davis’ case against wheat consumption. But, philosophical arguments aside, let your body be the judge!! I challenge you to go wheat-free and gluten-free for 30 days. See how you feel – how your energy, your mood, your sleep and your overall health change. Please share your experience – I would love to hear from you!