Incurable wheataholics

Greg slumped back in his chair.

"I'm sorry, doc. I feel like the world's biggest schlump!"

He was referring to the fact that he had gone wheat-free for two months--eliminated all breads, bagels, donuts, pasta, breakfast cereals, crackers, pretzels--and promptly lost 30 lbs. He felt great, discovered new levels of energy he thought he'd lost long ago.

Then some friends convinced him to have some cheeseburgers at a fast food restaurant.

"After that, it was downhill. I couldn't get enough. My wife made chile and I had to have four slices of bread with it. Then I'd have two more. I just couldn't stop."

Now, having regained the 30 lbs in the space of another two months, Greg was expressing his disgust.

And it's not the first time. Greg has struggled with his wheat-alholism for as long as I've known him. I've tried motivating him by showing him the flagrant lipoprotein patterns that his wheat habit and excess weight caused: markedly elevated LDL particle number, severe small LDL, low HDL, high triglycerides, high C-reactive protein, high blood sugar, high blood pressure. Greg has received a total of 7 stents over the past 5 years. His next stop is the operating room for a bypass if he can't bring his patterns and impulses under control.

But for some reason, Greg seems to always return to the wheat trough, gorging on breads, pretzels, cake, often in great quantities.

I'm not entirely sure what to do with someone with Greg's severe degree of wheat-aholism. I view wheat-aholism as similar to alcoholism. For some, it can be as addictive.

The only strategy that I know can work is to make a clean break and drop wheat products altogether. Just as an alcoholic cannot just satisfy him/herself with a drink or two a day, so a wheataholic can't be satified with just a couple of wheat crackers. It inevitably leads to the avalanche of wheat indulgences.

Perhaps we should form a new group: Wheataholics Anonymous. "Hi. My name is Greg and I'm a wheataholic."

Comments (22) -

  • Anonymous

    11/2/2007 12:19:00 PM |

    In the past if someone came to me and said they are a wheat addict, I guess I say there are worse things to be addicted to - but I can't say that anymore.  

    On a different topic, but along the same lines, what did your family do for Halloween?  I didn't want to hand out candy so I found some oily nuts in packets to give away, but didn't feel comfortable with that either since the nuts were cooked in oil and salted.

  • Anonymous

    11/2/2007 6:53:00 PM |

    I'm also a wheataholic. But you must find substitutes, and I'm not talking about using high-glycemic rice or corn in its place. I'm talking about using bulk products like a teaspoon of glucomannan and/or salba once a day, or no more than two Betty Lou's nut butter balls a day as a snack. The carb count must be counted each day and it must be low, therefore it's a restricted carb diet. Suprisingly a full serving of oat bran or meal is probematic, so stay away. If the family members must eat wheat products, it must always be eaten away from the presence of the wheataholic. There can be no wheat products in the home. Finally the wheataholic must have something to live for.

  • Adoka

    11/2/2007 10:33:00 PM |

    Doc, That is the exact attitude I have.  I call myself a carbaholic though but I think your term is more accurate as I can eat veggies like green beans but the bread products are verboten.  I followed Atkins a couple years ago and dropped 90 pounds.  Then I happened to see TCBY had a low cab treat and then it was on.  Fried chicken, then the sandwiches and the cakes and pies followed.  It wasn't a slippery slope.  It was an ice slope.  I finally got back on track the begining of last month.  I feel great.  My bp dropped a bit, and I have lost 35 pounds.  The bread and sugar will kill you.

  • Anne

    11/3/2007 12:13:00 AM |

    I was a wheataholic. In fact a few years ago I said "If I ever have to give up bread, you might as well kill me." I said that at a time I went on a very low fat diet to "help my heart" after I got my first stent. I ate bread/wheat for every meal and every snack. Little did I know how sick it was making me. Turns out, I am sensitive to wheat, barley and rye (gluten). After 4 years of living without wheat, and regaining my health,  I can truly say I don't miss it. anymore.

  • Dr. Davis

    11/3/2007 12:47:00 AM |

    I have to admit that our youngest did go trick or treating, but we just encourage him to eat only a small quantity of his booty now and then. We handed out the usual, gummy body parts. Oh, well.

  • jpatti

    11/3/2007 4:00:00 AM |

    For the commenter who complained about oat bran being too carby, you can dilute it with other stuff.  Following is my "power cereal" recipe; I have this for breakfast 4 or 5 times each week.  

    For 17 servings, mix together:

    2 cups almond meal (about 1/2 lb)
    2 1/2 cups flax meal (about 1/2 lb)
    1 3/4 cups raw wheat germ (about 1/2 lb)
    2 cups oat bran (about 1/2 lb)
    2 1/2 cups unflavored, unsweetened milk isolate protein powder (about 1/2 lb)
    1 cup soy lecithin granules (about 1/4 lb)
    1 cup cinnamon (about 1/4 lb)

    Mix and store in a tightly-closed container in fridge.  

    When ready to serve, mix 3/4 cup of cereal with boiling water to desired consistency then stir in a tablespoon of heavy cream.  

    Each serving (with cream) contains 28g total carb (13g from fiber, so net is 15g), 23g protein, 25g fat (almost all  good fats) and around 400 kilocalories.

    WAY lower-carb than 3/4 cup of rolled oats at 42g carb, 8g fiber, net 34g or oat bran at 47g total & 11g fiber for net 36g.

    Plus for your 15g net carb, you're getting your daily almonds, omega3s from flax, a bunch of micronutrients and fiber, phosphatidyl choline for your brain, a good bit of protein, and cinnamon which might possibly be good for blood glucose control (research is unclear, but the stuff is yummy anyways!)  You'd be hard put to have a healthier breakfast cereal than this and it's very yummy... nutty and creamy and cinnamon-y.

  • Dr. Davis

    11/3/2007 12:33:00 PM |

    Thanks, jpatti. Sounds delicious. I am going to post this mix our Track Your Plaque Forum recipes.

  • Anonymous

    11/3/2007 1:02:00 PM |

    I have told my Dr for yrs I am a carb alcoholic and she laughs and says there is no such thing. I know me, I am fine if I low carb using veg and salad as means of carb, as soon as I tried sweet low carb bars, breads, ice cream I craved like heck and would not be able to stop until I went thru a few days of filling my face with carbs then would feel so ill, heavy, headaches and tired I looked forward to going back on low carb.

    I am learning I cannot go there,( actually I know I cannot go there but in times of high stress or weakness sometimes I do go there and am really sorry after, just like a boozer) (BTW the alcoholic gene is rampant in my family, I just chose food instead of booze)

    I would prefer to eat breads and cereals all day without ever veg or protein so I have to to let that go as it kills me.I am better at it and rarely fall off the wagon anymore.

    For cereal:I just grind some flaxseed in my coffee grinder, add big spoon of cinnamon as it makes it sweet as well as the possibility if lowers my bg,  boil the kettle, add hot water, not much as it gets too slimy, then add some fresh blueberries or strawberries, depending if bg is low normal, add a few tablespoons of heavy cream and it is an awesome brekkie, way lower in carbs as oat bran makes me need a shot of insulin.

    I bought some low carb flour( soy) from a baker in Calgary who took a course from Atkins the month before he died.

    I never have used it and would like too but fear it may raise my bg.

    Guess I can only bake something and test afterward.

    I make muffins grinding flaxseed, bit of almond flour( too pricey), a few eggs, bit of cream cheese, some olive oil, cinnamon, bit of grated chocolate, walnuts,protein powder,vanilla, they are dense and heavy but good with chunk of cheddar for brekkie or lunch and my bg does not rise.

  • Dr. Davis

    11/3/2007 7:01:00 PM |

    You make an excellent point: Even among non-wheat grains, flaxseed is superior to oat bran with regards to its sugar release. I also prefer ground flaxseed.

  • Bix

    11/4/2007 12:20:00 PM |

    Regarding the "ice slope"  Smile

    I have a feeling that the body will try to restore depleted glycogen, such as is seen while adhering to a ketogenic diet.  The introduction of quickly-absorbed carbohydrates sets the metabolic process in action to do just that, restore depleted glycogen.  And you end up with maybe an additional 6, 8 or 10 pounds.

    However, most of that new weight is glycogen and water, not fat.  If you can anticipate the weight gain from a few days of high-carb eating, and know that it's just glycogen and fluid, not fat, it may be easier to return to a lower-carb pattern.  Just a thought!

  • Anonymous

    11/5/2007 3:37:00 AM |

    It seems to me that unless you are dealing with an officially diagnosed allergy; that banning wheat will lead to a binge. I think we need to learn limits, portions, pleasure of meals and family,exercise-- a full life. Take some of this attention off "bad" vs "good" food.

  • Dr. Davis

    11/5/2007 4:13:00 AM |

    Sorry, but I believe that you are flat out wrong.

    You'd simply have to personally witness the flagrant and enormous progression of heart disease that I see when people fail to control factors like small LDL and high triglycerides, all triggered by wheat. One fatal heart attack is enough to teach you some important lessons about "limits."

    This has nothing to do with "balance" or "moderation," but with control and reversal of heart disease. "Balance" is the term used by the misinformed who subscribe to the lukewarm advice offered by those lacking sufficient courage  to declare what is truly effective vs. what is politically correct.

  • Anonymous

    11/5/2007 1:32:00 PM |

    OK, I get your point. But how do many cultures incorporate wheat (Italy and France for two) and don't seem to have all these issues? It seems in America we have come up with all these problems around food and in many cultures they just eat drink and be merry and live a long life. That is all I am saying. They seem to have a culture of food and we have a culture of diets, just observing this.

  • Dr. Davis

    11/5/2007 3:30:00 PM |

    I don't have an entirely satisfactory answer. Part of the difference is less reliance on processed junk foods in those cultures. Another is the increased physical activity and overall less total calories. Is that sufficient explanation? That I'm not sure about.

  • gc

    11/5/2007 4:25:00 PM |

    .......right on Dr D. when i hear all these folks spouting moderation, balance etc I think ya well it may be fine for you but not me.

    As a diabetic who ate the balanced diet of a DE for 15 yr and gained weight, got hi chol and even higher A1C and had to add on tons and tons of insulin to eat balanced..... I learned very quickly after eliminating wheat and going low carb and watching my blood work fall and my A1C become non diabetic in measurement( it will rear its ugly head if i go back to balanced and wheat).
    No one can tell me different now after 4 yr of low carbing, sure I love grains, but my body doesn't process them.

    When I was diagnosed in 1994 I was sent to see a sspecialist who was traveling Canada doing research for the CDA. She said when I walked into her room, without even an assessment, you are allergic to wheat, you have diabetes and your ancestors all came from north of Siberia many centuries ago.

    I thought "you are a quack". I was working on uncovering emotional abuse in the workplace, traveling all over doing presentations and when she discovered what type of work I did she disclosed her story to me about her colleagues who were trying to shut her up about wheat, how those in her office eventually shoved her out of practising and how all her research had been stolen.

    I believed this immediately as I had done hundreds of interviews on people living with emotional abuse in the workplace so I began to beleive her.

    I knew the pattern and she described it right on without knowing the pattern.

    I wish  I had listened to her, my doc convinced me she was wrong and not to listen to her as she is "off in left field".

    I know many docs who take a stand out side the box now get shafted by their peers and are often not accepted nor treated very nice.

    Look even at Freud and how he changed his research to make the other pychiatrists happy as they shunned him and his findings initially,  and how it labeled women unfairly for decades.

    Now a decade later I could tell this research doc, "you know were exactly right, my ancestors did come form Siberia many yrs ago, we did eat only protein/fats and grains has affected almost all my family in a negative way, yes I can't eat wheat and my fat belly was due to carbs or anything white I ate".

    Now for 4 yr I low carb, I don't have a fat belly, I don't eat wheat or white except cauliflower and my blood work reflects that of a non diabetic.

    So think twice before you say balance and moderation, doesn't work for me anymore.

    Obviously it doesn't work for Dr D patients either or he would never begin to think outside the box, do the research he did, write a book and expose himself to scorn from his peers unless he absolutely saw this over and over and over.

    His work would have been easier to follow the typical non researched approach of balanced and moderation, thats what our food guides are doing and its making an obese nation.

  • Dr. Davis

    11/5/2007 6:42:00 PM |

    I couldn't have said it better myself.

    I personally share this same pattern with you and know both from personal experience, as well as that of many patients, just how severe it can be.

  • Rick

    11/5/2007 11:13:00 PM |

    I've never paid much attention to things like low carb breads because I figured they'd be wretched in both taste and texture.  Just this past weekend I experimented with this flaxseed recipe I found on the web and was amazed.  It's easy to make, tastes pretty good and doesn't fall apart.  Even my wheataholic wife approved.  New worlds are opening up.

    Here it is.


        * 2 cups flax seed meal
        * 1 Tablespoon baking powder
        * 1 teaspoon salt
        * 1-2 T sweetening power from artificial sweetener
        * 5 beaten eggs
        * 1/2 C water
        * 1/3 C oil

    Preheat oven to 350 F. Prepare pan (a 10X15 pan with sides works best) with oiled parchment paper or a silicone mat.

    1) Mix dry ingredients well - a whisk works well.

    2) Add wet to dry, and combine well.Make sure there aren't obvious strings of egg white hanging out in the batter.

    3) Let batter set for 2-3 minutes to thicken up some (leave it too long and it gets past the point where it's easy to spread.)

    4) Pour batter onto pan. Because it's going to tend to mound in the middle,you'll get a more even thickness if you spread it away from the center somewhat, in roughly a rectangle an inch or two from the sides of the pan (you can go all the way to the edge, but it will be thinner).

    5) Bake for about 20 minutes, until it springs back when you touch the top and/or is visibly browning even more than flax already is.

    6) Cool and cut into whatever size slices you want. You don't need a sharp knife - I usually just cut it with a spatula.

    At 12 servings, each piece of bread has less than one gram of carbohydrate - .8 to be exact - plus 5 grams of fiber.

  • Dr. Davis

    11/6/2007 12:15:00 AM |

    It sounds fabulous!

    I'm going to try making it myself. Thanks, Rick.

  • Anonymous

    11/6/2007 7:32:00 PM |


    I'd first like to thank Dr. Davis for his blog, as it provides a lot of useful information.

    I have a question regarding wheat. If it's wheat itself that is dangerous, and not it's glycemic index entirely, are there any non-wheat breads or pastas considered safe to eat? I'm not talking about gorging on breads, as almost any will have some sugars, but are there any brands out there made just from barley, quinoa, oats or some other healthy grain?

    I have greatly reduced my carb intake, as well as wheat intake, but I still occasionally eat low-carb wheat bread. I'd be great to find a substitute out there. Perhaps a gluten-free bread/pasta?

  • Dr. Davis

    11/6/2007 10:30:00 PM |

    There are several low- or no-carb breads available. Jimmy Moore lists some of these products on his Livin' la Vida Lo Carb blog. Ezekiel bread is another. There is also an interesting comment on this post above that I've not personally tried, but sounds wonderful.

  • Anonymous

    11/7/2007 1:00:00 AM |

    Thanks for the link to Livin' la Vida Lo Carb blog. It seems I am already eating one of the brands he recommends, Arnold's carb counting bread, with a net of 6 carbs a slice.

    But... I guess my question is, is this product considered okay in moderation, since it still contains wheat? Would a higher carb bread (like Ezekiel, which still has sprouted wheat, but no wheat flour) be better for our lipid numbers? It comes down to, is it wheat itself, or the carbohydrates, that cause the real problem? Or both?

  • Dr. Davis

    11/7/2007 1:28:00 AM |

    The intensity and importance of this diet change depends to a great deal on patterns like small LDL, high blood sugar, and high triglycerides. So, the short answer--it depends. Some people don't benefit at all while others benefit enormously.