The beat on wheat!

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Wheat Belly is a New York Times Bestseller that I finished reading on my flight to Regina. As a side bar, I am so happy that as of this May I will be moving back to Regina and read books in the comfort of my own home, rather than in transit at an airport wahoo! – now, on to my book review.

This book is well written, by cardiologist, Dr. William Davis. He links the proliferation of wheat products in the North American diet with the expansion of our waists, as well as a myriad of other health concerns (autoimmune, diabetes, exhaustion, mental health etc.) – a connection that NDs have long been privy to, and we fervently recommend many of our patients eliminate wheat from their diets.

Dr. Davis explores how the modern wheat that our society is eating today, is not the same wheat that was eaten decades ago. He refers to today’s modern wheat as truly toxic, calling it franken-wheat, a genetically modified version of the wheat of our ancestors, one which wreaks havoc on our bodies creating such issues as blood sugar disregulation, autoimmunity, pain and chronic allergies. Genetically modified wheat was created in order to increase yields and to be resistant to pesticides – it is now the main wheat we see on every grocery aisle and many of us are consuming large amounts of genetically modified foods at every single meal!

I have seen many of my patients improve dramatically when they have eliminated wheat from their diet. Whether they eliminate all gluten grains, or if they eliminate wheat as a stand alone and continue eating other gluten grains (kamut, spelt, barley). They will often note a huge improvement in their well being. Simply put, North Amercians eat way too many wheat products, so cutting out wheat from our diet, cuts out a lot of processed foods and lends itself to people switching to whole foods derived from veggies, proteins and gluten free grains (quinoa, buckwheat, millet, oats, rice).

My one criticism of Wheat Belly is that Dr. Davis seems to unduly minimize the role that refined sugar plays in food-related addictions and our society’s health epidemics.  The majority of glucose from wheat is distributed in the blood and taken up by most of the cells for energy, the rest going to the liver. But all fructose goes to the liver to be metabolized. So it’s true that sugar does not cause as great a rise in blood sugar, but metabolism of its fructose component creates more triglycerides than glucose and has been implicated as the cause of insulin resistance, weight gain and hypertension. The consumption of high fructose corn syrup (pop, sweet processed food) is widespread and is contributing to much of the obesity epidemic and general health problems that plague our society. Having said that, many wheat products contain sugar, so eliminating wheat from our diets eliminates much of the sugar as well. But I would not want to give the impression that you can eliminate wheat, gorge on slurpees and achieve optimal health.

The Wheat Belly is a good introduction into the damage that wheat gluten, can cause and is written in a way that everyone can understand. This is a great book to inspire people who may feel reluctant to try giving up wheat. This book is well researched.

I would encourage anyone wanting to dabble in improving their well being to go wheat free for a set amount of time i.e. one month and see if you feel a difference. And even if you do not notice a marked improvement, you will have given your digestive tract a break from a highly inflammatory food group (wheat), and you body will thank you for it.