Wheat addiction: 140 lbs lost

Here is detailed comment from a reader who figured out the wheat (and dairy) issue on her own with impressive results.

Though it seems an unpardonable over-simplification of diet, this concept of eliminating wheat-based products (along with obvious unhealthy foods like candy and soda) yields unexpectedly large results, as our reader relates.

Hi Dr. Davis,

Several years ago, chronic untreated asthma infections hospitalized me. I thought it was recurring bronchitis as I'd never had asthma in my life. Killed much of the alveoli... took awhile to de-crap the lungs and regrow the alveoli. Got assigned a cardiologist sort-of by accident while in the hospital for that (couple days of constant heated steroid, stress, a pain + situation combined, elevated my heart rate to 298 for a brief time). When I went to see him, he wrote me a prescription for the Eades' PPLP [Protein Power LifePlan] book.

It's taken awhile, since it's required radical gradual changes in most aspects of my overly Type-A life, but I'm now about 140 lbs lighter, and hopefully much more in the future.

Miraculously, after 10 days on a hard meat-eggs-cheese-veggie-berry approach (which I sadly confess was mostly pepperoni & mozz nuked... I was busy! ;-)), all my medical symptoms disappeared too. Acid reflux, acne, brain-fog, rashes, 'severe asthma', allergies, etc. etc. By trial and error I realized I wrongly attributed that to lowcarbing when it was getting off gluten that actually did it for me. Which since I'm lowcarb also means all the crap my celiac boyfriend can eat, I can't. Lowcarb does many great things for me (just dropping all the bloating and increasing the energy level are awesome), but getting off wheat was critical.

I've since found that a single tablespoon of "milk" in the morning, or something with wheat (say a tortilla), will make me ravenous *specifically for milk and wheat* all day. Conversely, I can be eating lowcarb and then eat total junk--but something without gluten--and not have it bother me much at all. But one pumpernickel slice at Outback and I am DOOMED. It doesn't always happen that instant; will-power has some sway; but the odds of my making a 'poor decision that leads to cascade failure and totally abandoning my eating plan' in the next 48 hours is astronomically higher if milk or wheat were involved. Oddly, cheese does not seem to affect me this way.

When I was younger (I'm 42 now) I had to stop drinking milk. If I drank some I wanted more. If I drank more I needed more. If I drank more, that was it: I'd be stumbling to the kitchen in the dark at 3am, drinking out of the carton, falling gasping against the refrigerator after several long gulps, like a heroin addict who just got a fix. I finally realized that since I'd lived on a ton of milk my whole life, maybe this was a milk problem; so I usually stayed away from it. So then it turned out wheat/gluten were an issue too. Which made me realize how much of my life was filled with not-eating most of the time (very busy, workaholic, but very sedentary), but when I did eat, ingesting amazing amounts of wheat products. I'm astounded that my whole life I mostly ate things I am apparently intolerant to "or something." Sometimes I wonder how much different even my brain would be if it'd been different.

This might contribute to my ending up weighing 500# at one point. The only amazing thing is that I didn't get a disease. (Well I did--obesity--but I mean any others.) I'm from a family of people who are mostly fat, mostly alcoholic, and mostly dead of cancer. I'm just fat, worse than the others but otherwise seemingly ok. Now I'm starting to think that maybe my whole family may have some 'issue' with the primary foods of our culture.

I tell friends that my horrible chronic acid reflux was solved merely by getting off gluten. They nearly all say, "I could never give up bread!" (Isn't it funny, you never hear people say, "Oh man, I could never give up broccoli!") I tried to convince one young friend to try it; her doctor told her eating more protein and fat was unhealthy, and gave her a prescription (this is lifetime--it doesn't cure it, merely treats the symptom) to a drug to help with acid reflux. I said you're kidding me, you think taking a drug the rest of your life is healthier than trading your pasta for a steak?? Go figure.

I still haven't figured out the milk connection (or why I seem ok with cheese for some reason; maybe there is a dosage-difference, or the sugar combined with it has some effect), but I think it's pretty clear that dropping milk and wheat has very radically changed my life for the better. I may actually live, which being a single mom to an awesome 11 year old girl, is a good thing.


Comments (14) -

  • Anonymous

    5/27/2008 6:15:00 PM |

    Dr. Davis,

    What a great story to share!

    Just an aside, most people have no idea the impact of particular foods or the excess of foods on their blood sugar. Still we go about our daily lives, some of us with very high blood sugar after a meal on a daily basis. I think if non-diabetics (the general population) were encouraged to learn to use a glucose meter (that you don't have to be a diagnosed diabetic to use one), some chronic health ailments would diminish.

  • Brian

    5/27/2008 9:35:00 PM |

    I find it interesting when wheat and dairy get mentioned at the same time when talking of food addiction. Some years ago I came across information on the opiate- like nature of gluten and casein (proteins in wheat and milk). A quick web search will return lots of leads.

  • Angela Coppola

    5/27/2008 10:00:00 PM |

    So why is it that cheese seems ok to some people? What about yogurt? Is it the lactose or something else? I have always wondered about these things.

  • Anne

    5/28/2008 1:37:00 AM |

    One reason that you may be able to tolerate cheese but not milk is because milk contains lactose and hard cheeses are almost lactose free. Lactose intolerance is caused by the lack of the enzyme to digest this milk sugar.

    Cheese is high in casein, a major protein in dairy.

    Both lactose intolerance and/or casein intolerance are often associated with gluten intolerance.

    I am glad that you turned your health around with lifestyle eating changes.

  • Anonymous

    5/28/2008 3:35:00 PM |

    I had a major gut episode yesterday after eating rice cereal with milk. I've previously tolerated milk, and cheese as well. But I've read that a gluten-sensitive gut can be sensitive to other foods until the gut heals (by avoiding gluten). I'm not sure if it's the casein or lactose, but I'm leaning towards lactose since I've been able to tolerate fermented cheese.

    The lady in this post, and your last post mentioned strong cravings for wheat after eating some. I've read theories (at alternative sites) about most people having at least a small amount of candidiasis. I wonder if that might be part of the reason for the strong cravings. I don't crave wheat anymore, but if something causes severe pain enough times, one tends to get over it quickly.


  • Nyn

    5/28/2008 4:10:00 PM |

    Very inspiring to read. I would have to know more about how this 'Type A' personality managed to eat so low-carb and eliminate wheat long enough to lose that kind of weight. I am at a loss as to what to eat in place of wheat, and while it seems like an easy answer, I have almost zero time for meal prep. I eat 2 of 3 meals a day at my office or in the car, and some days even all 3. No way to slow down my schedule either. Anyone know of a elimination-wheat-blog/diary I can follow to get some ideas? Still a wonderful story, and glad you shared it.

  • PJ

    5/28/2008 11:35:00 PM |

    Wow, thanks for posting my email comments doc. When I gave permission I didn't realize it'd be front page news. Though I noticed you did leave out my ravings about how wonderful you and my cardiologist are I noticed... very humble of you!

    I'm no expert on anything, and my blog isn't a nutrition blog, but I'm at The Divine Lowcarb for anybody who likes layman blogs.


  • Sue

    5/29/2008 1:25:00 AM |

    Just eat a green salad or low-carb vegies in place of wheat.  Salad and vegies easy to prepare if you get them packaged - already washed and cut.

  • Gyan

    5/30/2008 11:48:00 AM |

    Is that so that carbs are less harmful to physically active people and more harmful to sedentary people?

    Since the active muscles of physically active people with tend to utilize glucose more efficiently than not-so-active muscles of sedentary people.

    Also does it make any difference if one consumes freshly milled flour of 100% extraction
    (the way our ancestors used to eat) with plenty of butter?
    (By fresh I mean less than one week old).

  • jpatti

    6/4/2008 10:28:00 PM |

    Carbs are more harmful to people with the genetic propensity for metabolic syndrome, whether they are active or not!  

    Of course, exercise helps whether someone is perfectly normal or flatout diabetic.  

    As for wheat, I don't personally think if you're not diabetic and don't have gluten intolerance that it is necessarily bad.  But as far as grains go, it's relatively nutritionally bankrupt.  Barley or buckwheat are the best grain choices.  I think even rice or oats are better choices than wheat.

    And, of course, veggies are better bang for your carb buck than any of the grains.

    I really think that those who tolerate wheat and choose to eat it should prefer whole wheat berries (they cook up to a nice hot cereal overnight in a crockpot with some apples and cinnamon).  Second best choice is bread or pasta made from freshly ground flour - you can grind it yourself with either a dedicated grinder or some appliances can grind wheat like the Vitamix.  Far behind those choices is freshly baked bread made from preground whole wheat flour.

  • jpatti

    6/6/2008 10:40:00 AM |

    I just want to add - even for those who have no problems with wheat and eat it as a whole grain... the problem is it's a staple in people's diets.  Same problem with corn.

    There's not enough nutrition in wheat or corn foods to make them worthwhile as a significant part of your diet.  Even if you tolerate them just fine now and then, you just don't need them to be at the base of your food pyramid.  Vegetables should be at the base, whether you eat grains or not.  

    And if you eat grains regularly, there's so many better choices than wheat or corn.  Barley and buckwheat are the best.  But even oats or whole grain rice are way better than wheat or corn.

    Wheat and corn are pretty much "filler" foods at best - they mostly provide calories.  In places  and times where there are food shortages, they're very useful foods cause they prevent starvation pretty well.  They're cheap, store well, and fill bellies, but that's really the best you can say for them.

    But in the western world today where we have a wide variety of foods available to us, the primary benefit of wheat and corn is to food manufacturers who make a fortune out of processing such cheapo ingredients into forms that tempt us to pay big bucks for them.

    I don't agree that wheat is somehow worse than all other carby foods, but realistically, cutting wheat out of your diet *mostly* results in a much healthier diet cause most folks eat so much crap made from wheat.  

    Personally, if I had to give *one* piece of diet advice to *everyone*, it wouldn't be to avoid wheat.  Rather, it would be to eat at least half of your food intake as fresh vegetables.  

    Eating loads of veggies provides a wide range of nutrients, probably ones we haven't discovered yet too.  And it also crowds most of the worst foods out of your diet, regardless of what they are.

  • Anonymous

    6/3/2009 4:45:37 PM |

    A recent study using Italian cheese made from ewes milk showed some very strong heart health benefits.

    The cheese mentioned in this study is an Italian cheese called Pecerino.
    The most popular type in the US is called Pecerino Romano,an aged cheese with a salty taste.

    CLA-rich cheese may boost heart health: Study

    Consuming cheese from ewe’s milk, rich in conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), may reduce markers linked to heart disease, suggest results from a small Italian study.

    Researchers from the University of Florence report that ewe’s milk rich in cis-9, trans-11 CLA produced favourable changes in inflammatory cytokines and platelet aggregation, both of which are associated with atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries due to the build-up of fatty deposits on artery walls.

    Atherosclerosis is the primary cause of coronary heart disease (CHD), which costs the British public health system more than €5bn per year.

    “These observations, although preliminary and obtained in a limited study group, seem to be of relevance for the practical implications in terms of nutrition and health of the general population,” wrote the researchers in Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases.

    “If the effects of dairy products naturally enriched for their contents of cis-9, trans-11 CLA are confirmed by further examinations, this will likely have important implications for human nutrition and food industry.”

    Cheese – ewe decide

    Researchers, led by Francesco Sofi, recruited 10 subjects with an average age of 51.5 and randomly assigned them to consume a diet containing 200 grams per week of cheese from ewe’s milk (pecorino cheese), naturally rich in CLA, or cheese from cow’s milk (placebo), for 10 weeks.

    Sofi and his co-workers report that consumption of the CLA-rich ewe’s cheese produced significant reductions in inflammatory markers, including a 43 per cent reduction in interleukin-6 (IL-6), a 36 per cent reduction in IL-8, and a 40 per cent reduction in tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha). No significant changes were observed following 10 weeks of placebo, they added.

    Furthermore, a 10 per cent reduction in the extent of platelet aggregation, induced by arachidonic acid, was observed for the CLA-cheese group, compared to placebo.

    “CLAs have been previously reported to attenuate inflammatory cytokine expression in animals and humans, and it has been recently reported that they are able to inhibit the expression of cytokine-induced adhesion molecules on endothelial and smooth muscle cells,” wrote the researchers.

    “Thus, it is conceivable to hypothesise that CLAs are able to attenuate the atherosclerotic process through inhibition of the initiating inflammatory cytokines, such as those measured in our study, as well as through inhibition of the stress signalling cascades these cytokines elicit,” they added.

    Source: Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases
    Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1016/j.numecd.2009.03.004
    “Effects of a dairy product (pecorino cheese) naturally rich in cis-9, trans-11 conjugated linoleic acid on lipid, inflammatory and haemorheological variables: A dietary intervention study”
    Authors: F. Sofi, A. Buccioni, F. Cesari, A.M. Gori, S. Minieri, L. Mannini, A. Casini, G.F. Gensini, R. Abbate, M. Antongiovanni

  • Chrissy

    7/6/2010 9:55:19 PM |

    I wanted to lose weight so I decided to keep it simple.  cut out wheat is the only rule.  However I am not in the obese category, and don't drink soda's or much sugar, most of the sugar I eat is in with the wheat foods (eg: cake).  I also eat fruits ad vegetables every day and very little fast food (now and again when travelling for example)  by day three and four of the no wheat diet, I am WAY less hungry and eat less.  But I am having cravings for toast - previously my staple food.  I used to eat up to six slices of toast a day, plus other wheat based foods, biscuits and such.
    The reason I know it's a craving for wheat, is because I look at other foods I like, and I have no appetite for them whatsoever, because I am not ACTUALLY HUNGRY.  It's easy to over-eat on wheat based products, but if you're not allowed them, you just don't want to eat anything.  so your appetite becomes regulated.

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    11/3/2010 7:29:34 PM |

    Just an aside, most people have no idea the impact of particular foods or the excess of foods on their blood sugar. Still we go about our daily lives, some of us with very high blood sugar after a meal on a daily basis. I think if non-diabetics (the general population) were encouraged to learn to use a glucose meter (that you don't have to be a diagnosed diabetic to use one), some chronic health ailments would diminish.