Are you wheat-free?

According to the recent Heart Scan Blog poll, Are you wheat-free?, the 173 respondents said:

Yes, I am free of wheat products.
87 (50%)

No, I include wheat products in my diet.
73 (42%)

I'm not sure.
1 (0%)

I think you're nuts.
12 (6%)

That's kind of what I expected.

There are people who have eliminated wheat and experienced nothing except a feeling of deprivation. These people are in the minority. Though the poll was not set up to reflect this (i.e., asked who tried it and experienced no perceptible benefit), in my experience, this applies to about 20% of people. Little happens with elimination of wheat beyond modest weight loss. Those are the people who generally think I'm nuts.

Or, these people may have been brainwashed by "official" agencies like the USDA, the American Diabetes Association, and American Heart Association and the constant marketing of (high markup) grain products like Cheerios and Shredded Wheat . Some people are really uncomfortable going against the "grain" of popular public opinion.

Then there are the people who try to eliminate wheat and fail. They can't deal with the overwhelming fatigue, mental fog, and moodiness that comes with withdrawal from wheat, the phenomenon of converting from a sugar-burning metabolism to a fat-burning metabolism. Although wheat withdrawal usually runs its course in 2-5 days, some people find it intolerable. (That would be another fun poll to run: Have you experienced wheat-withdrawal?) Occasionally, the withdrawal is replaced by endless cravings, a phenomenon that applies to only about 10% of people. These are the true "wheat addicts." These are the people who eliminate wheat, lose 40 lbs, then regain it when they have one cracker and the floodgates of impulse control crumble.

Then there are the majority, 50% in the poll, though more like 70% in my face-to-face experience. Why is my experience skewed? Well, the people I deal with every day come because of coronary disease in some form (abnormal heart scan score, for instance) or because of lipid or lipoprotein abnormalities. So my experienced is skewed towards people who are likely to have something abnormal, such as high triglycerides or small LDL particles, both of which are created by including wheat in the diet.

This last group also shows unexpected effects of wheat elimination: substantial weight loss, dramatic reductions in blood sugar and triglycerides, increase in HDL, reductions in small LDL, reduction in c-reactive protein and other inflammatory measures. Appetite shrinks considerably. Not uncommonly, improved well-being, reduction in bowel complaints like cramping or "irritable bowel syndrome" is experienced, some rashes clear, occasionally arthritis will improve. See below for some of the testimonials to this experience.

When I first set out to advise people to eliminate wheat, I did it because I reasoned that it would be a quick and simple way to get people to reduce blood sugars and help correct the ubiquitous metabolic syndrome that afflicts nearly 50 million Americans now. And it did indeed accomplish that simple goal. But I did not expect all the other benefits to develop, the dramatic weight loss, improved well-being, reduction in hunger, etc.

I view wheat elimination as an easy-to-remember, digestible way to obtain enormous health benefits in a coronary plaque-control program, one that works for most--but not all--people. And I relate this experience not to sell you something, but to simply relate what I see as the truth, a way that is contrary to conventional advice yet works enormously well.

Unsolicited testimonials of people who have successfully been wheat-free:

Barbara W said:

It's true! We've done it. My husband and I stopped eating all grains and sugar in February. At this point, we really don't miss them any more. It was a huge change, but it's worth the effort. I've lost over 20 pounds (10 to go)and my husband has lost 45 pounds (20 to go). On top of it, our body shapes have changed drastically. It is really amazing. I've got my waist back (and a whole wardrobe of clothes) - I'm thrilled.

I'm also very happy to be eating foods that I always loved like eggs, avocados, and meats - without feeling guilty that they're not good for me.

With the extremely hot weather this week in our area, we thought we'd "treat" ourselves to small ice cream cones. To our surprise, it wasn't that much of a treat. Didn't even taste as good as we'd anticipated. I know I would have been much more satisfied with a snack of smoked salmon with fresh dill, capers, chopped onion and drizzled with lemon juice.

Aside from weight changes, we both feel so much better in general - feel much more alert and move around with much greater flexibility, sleep well, never have any indigestion. We're really enjoying this. It's like feeling younger.

It's not a diet for us. This will be the way we eat from now on. Actually, we think our food has become more interesting and varied since giving up all the "white stuff". I guess we felt compelled to get a little more creative.

Eating out (or at other peoples' places) has probably been the hardest part of this adjustment. But now we're getting pretty comfortable saying what we won't eat. I'm starting to enjoy the reactions it produces.

Weight loss, increased energy, less abdominal bloating, better sleep--I've seen it many times, as well.

Dotslady said:

I was a victim of the '80s lowfat diet craze - doc told me I was obese, gave me the Standard American Diet and said to watch my fat (I'm not a big meat eater, didn't like mayo ... couldn't figure out where my fat was coming from! maybe the fries - I will admit I liked fries). I looked to the USDA food pyramid and to increase my fiber for the constipation I was experiencing. Bread with 3 grams of fiber wasn't good enough; I turned to Kashi cereals for 11 years. My constipation turned to steattorrhea and a celiac disease diagnosis! *No gut pains!* My PCP sent me to the gastroenterologist for a colonscopy because my ferritin was a 5 (20 is low range). Good thing I googled around and asked him to do an endoscopy or I'd be a zombie by now.

My symptoms were depression & anxiety, eczema, GERD, hypothyroidism, mild dizziness, tripping, Alzheimer's-like memory problems, insomnia, heart palpitations, fibromyalgia, worsening eyesight, mild cardiomyopathy, to name a few.

After six months gluten-free, I asked my gastroenterologist about feeling full early ... he said he didn't know what I was talking about! *shrug*

But *I* knew -- it was the gluten/starches! My satiety level has totally changed, and for the first time in my life I feel NORMAL!

Feeling satisfied with less is a prominent effect in my experience, too. You need to eat less, you're driven to snack less, less likely to give in to those evil little bedtime or middle-of-the-night impulses that make you feel ashamed and guilty.

An anonymous (female) commenter said:

My life changed when I cut not only all wheat, but all grains from my diet.

For the first time in my life, I was no longer hungry -no hunger pangs between meals; no overwhelming desire to snack. Now I eat at mealtimes without even thinking about food in between.

I've dropped 70 pounds, effortlessly, come off high blood pressure meds and control my blood sugar without medication.

I don't know whether it was just the elimination of grain, especially wheat, or whether it was a combination of grain elimnation along with a number of other changes, but I do know that mere reduction of grain consumption still left me hungry. It wasn't until I elimnated it that the overwhelming redution in appetite kicked in.

As a former wheat-addicted vegetarian, who thought she was eating healthily according to all the expert advice out there at the time, I can only shake my head at how mistaken I was.

Stan said:

It's worth it and you won't look back!

Many things will improve, not just weight reduction: you will think clearer, your reflexes will improve, your breathing rate will go down, your blood pressure will normalize. You will never or rarely have a fever or viral infections like cold or flu. You will become more resistant to cold temperature and you will rarely feel tired, ever!

Ortcloud said:

Whenever I go out to breakfast I look around and I am in shock at what people eat for breakfast. Big stack of pancakes, fruit, fruit juice syrup, just like you said. This is not breakfast, this is dessert ! It has the same sugar and nutrition as a birthday cake, would anyone think cake is ok for breakfast ? No, but that is exactly the equivalent of what they are eating. Somehow we have been duped to think this is ok. For me, I typically eat an omelette when I go out, low carb and no sugar. I dont eat wheat but invariably it comes with the meal and I try to tell the waitress no thanks, they are stunned. They try to push some other type of wheat or sugar product on me instead, finally I have to tell them I dont eat wheat and they are doubly stunned. They cant comprehend it. We have a long way to go in terms of re-education.

Yes. Don't be surprised at the incomprehension, the rolled eyes, even the anger that can sometimes result. Imagine that told you that the food you've come to rely on and love is killing you!

Anne said:

I was overweight by only about 15lbs and I was having pitting edema in my legs and shortness of breath. My cardiologist and I were discussing the possible need of an angiogram. I was three years out from heart bypass surgery.

Before we could schedule the procedure, I tested positive for gluten sensitivity through I eliminated not only wheat but also barley and rye and oats(very contaminated with wheat) from my diet. Within a few weeks my edema was gone, my energy was up and I was no longer short of breath. I lost about 10 lbs. The main reason I gave up gluten was to see if I could stop the progression of my peripheral neuropathy. Getting off wheat and other gluten grains has given me back my life. I have been gluten free for 4 years and feel younger than I have in many years.

There are many gluten free processed foods, but I have found I feel my best when I stick with whole foods.

Ann has a different reason (gluten enteropathy, or celiac disease) for wanting to be wheat-free. But I've seen similar improvements that go beyond just relief of the symptoms attributable to the inflammatory intestinal effects of gluten elimination.

Wccaguy said:

I have relatively successfully cut carbs and grains from my diet thus far.

Because I've got some weight to lose, I have tried to keep the carb count low and I've lost 15 pounds since then.

I have also been very surprised at the significant reduction in my appetite. I've read about the experience of others with regard to appetite reduction and couldn't really imagine that it could happen for me too. But it has.

A few weeks ago, I attended a party catered by one of my favorite italian restaurants and got myself offtrack for two days. Then it took me a couple of days to get back on track because my appetite returned.

Check out Jimmy Moore's website for lots of ideas about variations of foods to try. The latest thing I picked up from Jimmy is the good old-fashioned hard boiled egg. Two or three eggs with some spicy hot sauce for breakfast and a handful of almonds mid-morning plus a couple glasses of water and I'm good for the morning no problem.

I find myself thinking about lunch not because I'm really hungry but out of habit.

The cool thing too now is that the more I do this, the more I'm just not tempted much to do anything but this diet.

Comments (25) -

  • Susan

    9/24/2008 3:18:00 PM |

    I was plagued by knee pain for years. It came and went in severity, but it was always there. When I ditched bread for weight loss, the pain went away, but it took several months (and a particularly bad recurrence when I went to France for two weeks) for me to realize what was happening.

    Knowing the consequences of eating wheat makes it a lot easier for me to keep it out of my diet.

  • Peter Silverman

    9/24/2008 3:56:00 PM |

    I can't figure out if the main problem is 1. wheat 2. carbohydrates 3. all grains 4. refined grains, or 5. overeating.  It certainly seems like lots of the countries that eat rice all day long (Japan, for instance)have a fraction of the heart disease we do, but that doesn't fully answer my question.

  • Nyn

    9/24/2008 5:13:00 PM |

    I have been reading your blog for some time, and I believe that wheat has a bad effect on my body. I've gone without wheat for about 2 weeks successfully, and admit I felt better at the end of it - clearer minded and noticeably less cravings. I've quit wheat over and over like an alcoholic trying to get sober. But all it's taken for me has been one unplanned day, one rushed afternoon, one span of time where I'm starving and have been caught out where there is nothing but wheat-related food, and I backslide. And then I am right back to square one or worse, wanting even more carbs/wheat.

    These success stories are wonderful, and truly inspiring. But I want to see, or maybe need to see, someone come out with a book that explains what their day to day life of eating without wheat is like. What they do when they get up in the A.M. and have to take their breakfast to work, what they take for lunch, what they whip up for a family of 4 at 6 after working all day...and what they fill their shopping carts with. It is wonderful to hear how great these folks are doing, but it is discouraging because I cannot for the life of me see the how that would also help me. Do folks that have quit wheat carry a list with them of the 10 foods they can? How does one handle the social aspect of life that says you pay $5 for a burger and throw away everything but the .50 patty? My apologies for going on and on here, I do not mean to be confrontational. I enjoy your advice and knowledge, and have learned much. This cannot be as easy as 'just quitting' or people really would just quit.

  • Nancy LC

    9/24/2008 5:31:00 PM |

    Giving up wheat (and later all grains) made an enormous difference to me.  I had such brain fog while eating it I thought I had early onset Alzheimer's.  I had terrible IBS, running to the bathroom 15 times a day.  I had pain in every joint and a diagnosis of Ankylosing Spondylitis (without fusing).  

    Giving it up the joint pain is gone, the IBS is vastly better and my brain feels like it used to... sharp and my memory is great!

    I'm low carb too and that plays into it as well but wheat (gluten) was a major part of my problem.

    I have been wheat free for 3 years now.

  • steve

    9/24/2008 6:39:00 PM |

    the meditteranean diet of Greece and other ocuntires of that region consume grains,and wheat, but yet are quite healthy with little evidence of heart disease.  Perhaps wheat is not the villian, but something else in the diet we eat such as as to much sugar/starch

  • Roger

    9/24/2008 8:22:00 PM |

    Peter raises a very good point, one I hope can be addressed.  Since Dr. Davis brought up the wheat issue, I've done a lot of googling around, and while there seems to be some agreement of a correlation between too many (or too refined) carbs and CHD, I can't really find any peer-reviewed studies specifically singling out the cereal grain wheat as the culprit.  Of course, wheat is the most common refined grain, and the one we tend to eat the most, so if this is the connection, (too much wheat, especially as refined flour) than I get it.  But as one who answered "no" on the survey, and still eats wheat on occasion, I should explain.

    A couple years ago I realized to my horror that my Body Mass Index was no longer in the "healthy" range, i.e. under 25.  I know there is some controversy about this arbitrary formula, but for me, looking in the mirror confirmed it.  Somehow, despite regular exercise and eating what I thought was a healthy diet, I had, over the years, put on 30 extra pounds.

    I first experimented mostly with portion control, and had a bit of success.  Then I became familiar with Dr. Walter Willett, who recommends a Mediterranean-style diet.  After communication with Dr. Willett, I cut carbs even more, trying to raise my low HDL.  For me, cutting out all sugary beverages, most bread, baked sweets and snack foods, and severely restricting other sweets like candy to token amounts, made a huge difference.  I astounded myself by losing all 30 pounds, getting my BMI back into the "healthy" range.  All this without any starvation or deprivation.  So the lower-carb way has been a wonderful discovery.

    Having said that, I find it difficult and probably unnecessary to eliminate all grain products, including wheat.  For breakfast I find that a bowl of whole oat groats, soaked overnight in hot water and mixed with fresh-ground flax and some chopped walnuts and dates is a wonderfully filling and not-too-sweet way to get me going.  At lunch I will sometimes have a piece of dense German rye bread.  When we have Chinese food, a little rice goes a long ways, but a stir-fry with absolutely no rice feels odd.

    Every once in a while I bake bread from grain which I grind fresh.  Without wheat it is very hard to have enough gluten to allow the bread to rise, so I usually add some  hard red spring wheat to the mix.  I slice my loaves into very thin slices and savor every bite.  It's a completely different aesthetic experience from mindlessly chowing down on commercial bread or bakery products.  I also bake whole-grain waffles for my kids on special occasions, and have a square or two for old times' sake.

    So for me, moderate intake of grains (in small portions and as little-processed as possible) is okay.  I have no celiac disease and have noticed nothing different when I throw some wheat berries into my morning oat porridge.  Call me skeptical, but it's just hard for me to believe that the cereal that built the pyramids and sustains the long-lived Hunzas is intrinsically any worse than any other grain, though I do understand Dr. Davis's message about wheat's ubiquity in our food culture.  If being categorically wheat-free helps some folks to stay strong, then I say more power to them, but for me it is just too wonderful a grain to give up.  And, as Peter as noted, millions, actually billions of folks have lived long and healthy lives eating grain, including wheat.  So until further peer-reviewed studies indict wheat and grains in general, I will keep eating a moderate amount of them.

    On another thread we can discuss the role of grain in supplying simple calories--feeding people--across our wide planet.

  • rabagley

    9/24/2008 10:17:00 PM |

    I said that I included wheat in my diet because during my weekly cheat meal, I don't care what's in it, and more often than not, there's wheat.

    As for the Japanese, the association with heart health has more to do with increased fish intake than their moderate intake of carbs (including rice).  The correlation with rice consumption is one of the classic examples of "correlation is not causation".

  • Gyan

    9/25/2008 4:21:00 AM |

    Is the problem with grains mainly because of fiber (15g in whole wheat flour per 120 g).
    So is whole wheat even worse than refined flour?

  • Anne

    9/25/2008 11:48:00 AM |

    There is evidence that the proteins in wheat, barley and rye can cause heart problems. Here is a link to the section on heart disease in The Gluten File.

    In the current issue of Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care there is an article "The emerging role of the gut in chronic heart failure". The abstract says "Recent studies suggest an altered morphology, permeability, and absorption of the digestive tract in chronic heart failure. " The PubMed abstract is 18685461

    Gluten is one cause of problems with permeability and absorption of the digestive tract.

    I am gluten free because gluten makes me sick. I am grain free as I feel my best without other grains. I am low carb to keep my blood glucose under control. What do I eat? I eat all the veges, proteins and fats I want. My shopping cart is filled with whole fresh foods. No, it is not easy, but my improved health is worth it. I don't crave wheat products now so I am not tempted when cakes and donuts are brought into work.

    Twelve years ago, when I started having problems with CAD, I went on a low fat, AHA diet. I gained weight, triglycerides went up, I had SOB and pitting edema. I said "At least I don't have to give up bread. You might as well kill me if I ever have to give up my bread" Little did I know that it was the bread that was killing me. Yes, grain free for me is a small price to pay for good health.

  • Anonymous

    9/25/2008 12:20:00 PM |

    Asymptomatic celiac disease is very common. A dramatic positive reaction to going wheatfree (or intense withdrawal issues) could justify testing at (these tests can still be valid for about a year on a gluten free diet).

    Why? you might want to avoid gluten in meds and supplements or you might want to share the test results with your children, etc.

    Also - the GF/celiac community is well aware that many restaurants (IHOP, Denny's types) put pancake batter in their omelettes and even scrambled eggs. You'll need to inquire if you want to be certain.

  • Nyn

    9/25/2008 12:43:00 PM |

    Anne, your words are encouraging. Think back to when you were quitting wheat, everyone makes it sound so easy (which makes me feel like a failure for struggling so). I'm off fresh produce because of IBS symptoms. If eating wheat did the same thing fresh veggies and fruit did to me, it would be much easier to quit. I'm supposed to be off dairy for the same reasons, but have managed to consume some dairy without problem. That leaves cooked vegetables and meat, both of which I eat when I can, but it's difficult to eat cooked green beans when driving in the car. I have tried eating packaged lunch meat on the go, but when that is all I'm eating, it makes toast even more appetizing. Again, I appreciate everyone's successes, and I mean no offense, but from the still-addicted crowd, it starts to sound like those who've lost hundreds of pounds on morning TV shows who exclaim, "I exercise 3 hours a day everyday, but it's worth it to be thin!" What does one do when they truly do not have those metaphoric 3 hours of time in their life? It is as discouraging as it is encouraging...

    However, congratulations on gaining control of your health.

  • wendys

    9/25/2008 3:44:00 PM |

    I have taken your advice and am attempting to eliminate wheat from my diet.  If I take a break from it I notice immediately and I do feel tired and have cravings for a couple of days.  

    I decided to go wheat free becaue my weight was going up and I couldn't seem to stop it.  Happily stopping wheat has made a big difference and my weight has started comming down.

    Thank you.

  • Anonymous

    9/25/2008 6:45:00 PM |

    In response to comments like "What about the Japanese who eat rice all day" and "those eating the mediteranean diet consume wheat and grains do not suffer heart disease so maybe wheat is not the culprit".
    If the Japanese ate rice all day and the greeks at nothing but grains all day they would be dying in droves. Luckily, they eat very little rice and grain and a lot of fish, animal products, fat (yes even Okinawans eat lots of lard), liver pate, cream, butter, etc. The low intake of rice/grains and the high intake of protein and fat is what makes these cultures healthier than North American.And when the Japanese make sushi, I'm sure that the first and second ingredients are not rice and high fructose corn syrup like it is here.

  • NancW

    9/25/2008 8:56:00 PM |

    At age 40, two and 1/2 years ago, I determined that wheat (gluten) was causing my anxiety attacks, depression, fatigue, joint pain and rapid weight loss (among other symptoms). My PCP had been suggesting statins for high cholesterol and anti-depressants for over a year. Six months gluten-free found me happy, 10 lbs. lighter, LDL down 40 pts, and HDL up 7 pts. Fasting blood glucose went from pre-diabetic to normal.
    One year ago, after food allergy testing, I cut out dairy, yeast, corn, rice and all other grains. Seven months later my HDL was up 5 more points, my LDL down another 30 points.

    While I am not strict as far as eating low carb, and procuring and planning meals can be challenging, I do eat well, and enjoy much better physical and mental health as a result of my dietary changes. Important to someone like me with heart disease and Type 1 diabetes looming large in my family medical history.

    My PCP is amazed at the changes, and my case has prompted her to provide more dietary advice to her other patients. I'd like to see more medical professionals consider what goes into their patient's mouths before turning to meds as the only solution.

    Oh, and I really like this blog-thank you!

  • Anonymous

    9/26/2008 5:08:00 PM |

    Hi Dr. Davis:

    Thanks so much for all the great informaion.  I too cut out carbs about 5 years ago, for the first time since I was 25 years old have regained my health.  Since I feel so great there is no temptation to go back.  Occasionally I eat cake at a social event, and it is enough to remind me of how lousy I use to feel, and makes me crave my day to day low carb diet.  
    I was wondering if you have come accross any information on the effects of excess fluoride in the diet and heart disease.  I recently read that it can increase the risk of heart disease and increase lp(a).  Do you have any insights into the dangers of fluoride.  I have also eliminated all obvious fluoride overexposures (is tap water, tea) from my diet, and have more energy as a result.  Thanks again.

  • Anonymous

    9/26/2008 9:12:00 PM |

    While I do believe and respect that eliminating wheat from the diet of many people has helped improved their health  in many ways (cholesterol panel, blood sugar, weight loss, etc), is it really that black and white?

    I mean, are you suggesting that all people who eat wheat products will (or do) have these health issues.

    Is it possible that *some* people can eat wheat products and be perfectly healthy?


  • Andrew

    9/26/2008 9:57:00 PM |

    As a 27-year-old male in what I would call the top physical condition of my life (14 hours of vigorous exercise per week . . . perhaps even TOO much, but I love playing sports too much), I find it extremely easy to stay relatively wheat-free, although I've never been a wheat addict.

    I'm curious what some of you that have wheat cravings CRAVE, because I don't find it too terribly difficult to stay away.  Instead of a sandwich, I wrap my chicken in lettuce, or just eat the meat mixed with a bit of mayo and stone ground mustard.  Don't get me wrong, because I do eat a bit of wheat, but maybe once or twice a month, at most.  I just don't find that there are things with wheat in them that I just can't do without.

  • Anna

    9/28/2008 9:09:00 AM |

    There has been a great discussion lately on wheat, carbs, & grains with a lot of scientific data on Stephan's Whole Health Source blog.  Check out some of the recent posts and comments.  

    Peter's Hyperlipid blog has had some past discussion (posts and comments) that is pretty damning of wheat and grains, too, though is is pretty technical biochemistry usually.

    What wheat can do in the body is fascinating and somewhat alarming.  Gyan, I think there may be some truth to the wheat fiber, in fact, being particularly damaging, perhaps making refined wheat the lesser of two evils.    But try explaining the nuances of that argument to a convinced wheatophile...especially one hooked on whole grain and bran cereal - it's an exercise in futility (and in fairness, it wasn't that many years ago I would have raised an eyebrow at the suggestion, too).  

    Roger, if one is going to consume wheat, I think you are right to grind your own fresh, and soak or ferment the grain or flour.  That minimizes some of the issues with wheat.  Though I'm not sure I'd look to the Egyptians for inspiration on diet.  There's evidence of rampant dental problems, as well as obesity and diabetes in ancient Egypt, perhaps due the high intake of wheat.   The idea that agriculture was a not-so-good path in many ways is an interesting one.

    And I'd take the Mediterranean Diet advice with a grain of salt, too.  It isn't duplicated well in non-Mediterranean cultures, anyway, because it's out of context and culture.    And just yesterday I read a newspaper article about the worry over too much processed food in Greece, which is causing all the same problems with young people that we are having, just a few paces behind us.  Japan is experiencing the same thing, as is India.  Traditional cuisines and food preparation techniques all over the world are being replaced with "convenience cuisine" and "machine cuisine", using starch and sugars as filler, and substituting industrial vegetable oils for the natural fats traditionally consumed.  It's telling that I've never been anywhere in the world where Coca-cola wasn't readily available.  Sad.

    My experience in Italy this summer was that if one could cook for oneself, it was relatively easy to eat well and with controlled carbs (by focusing on fresh veggies, eggs, dairy, seafood, and meat, especially pork - pork was everywhere in all forms, especially salami).  But in out on the street and in cafés and restaurants, I saw entirely too much bread, sugar, and starch eaten, with limited alternatives, especially for breakfast.  And there were far more overweight and unhealthy-looking locals than we are led to believe.  Can't speak for other Mediterranean areas.  Others I know and other readers here have said it is better in Southern France, for instance.  

    I didn't come to my conclusions from one article, one blog, or one book (though Taubes' book nailed the coffin shut on a few suspicions).  I've been puzzling through these issues for several years, and it is the preponderance of the credible evidence I keep finding that is so convincing.  This Heart Scan blog has been very helpful, too.  I'm always considering the contrary evidence, too, but it usually isn't very compelling or credible.

    I'm more convinced than ever that wheat in particular, but grains in general (at least as they are conventionally consumed in contemporary industrial societies) are to be minimized, or even eliminated, along with modern industrial oils (PUFA  and hydrogenated vegetable oils such as soy, corn, canola, cottonseed, etc.).  If consumed, soaking/fermenting are essential and flour should be freshly ground, not pre-ground.  For those with an intact glucose metabolism, non-grain starches are probably ok, especially if consumed without modern PUFA vegetable oils, but unfortunately, my glucose control is impaired already so I have to refrain from most non-grain starches, too.


    There are gobs of books that give meal suggestions and recipes that don't include wheat.  Some LC cookbooks are wheat-free but not all.  In fact, many LC recipes and products have added wheat gluten to make up for the lack of starch, so that is even worse.  Check out Mark's Daily Apple blog.  Mark has a paleo (stone age) way of viewing diet, which tend to be easy to manage.  

    My main adjustment with wheat was getting over the food "transportation" issues.  If you think about it, bread, crackers, tortillas, etc., are often the "vehicle" for the good stuff, so we can eat with our hands.  In medieval times, people didn't even use plates, they used big slices of  bread for plates, which sopped up the juices and gravies of the meat (fresh veggies were fairly limited, btw).  Giving up wheat often means giving up eating with your hands.  I've just gotten used to using knives and forks more often.  It's tidier anyway.  

    And I don't even think about tossing the bread way because of the cost, because it is just wrapping in my mind.  In most cases, if I can't afford to eat good food when out, then I eat at home or pack a meal.   Lately I've been finding that if I ask in advance to hold the bread, fries,  or whatever starch comes with the meal, a side salad ,  more veggies or fruit, or other option is offered as a substitute.  

    Many of Dana Carpender's LC recipes are wheat-free, such as nut crusts for pies, etc. I also use Bruce Fife's books with coconut flour recipes.  I especially like his Butter Coconut cookies and have blogged about the recipe several times, with variations.  I have Fife's wheat-free low sugar coffee cake in the oven right now, for my son's birthday party tomorrow (also good because a number of his friends are gluten-intolerant or allergic).  But in general, I bake a lot less now and usually limit it to special occasions.  Home-made ice cream, baked egg custard, or super dark chocolate are more often our dessert if we are indulging.  Sometimes cheesecake with nut crust, if I feel like making ricotta cheese first.

    Dropping the old habits, especially when under pressure, is much easier when you have given some thought to  adopting new habits and coping mechanisms, as well as advance preparation  (shopping lists, making over your pantry, pre-prepping ingredients, recipe support).  Otherwise it is too easy to go back to the old ways in moments of desperation.  Knowing why the change is a good one is also useful to stick to the plan.  Now that I know wheat issues are about more than just the carbs, it's harder to give in.

  • Anna

    10/5/2008 5:35:00 PM |

    " it's difficult to eat cooked green beans when driving in the car."  

    I'm really hoping you were joking about driving and eating.

    If you were serious, I hope you don't take this the wrong way, but it's hard to drive while eating just about anything, not to mention very unsafe (distracted drivers are a huge cause of costly and deadly car accidents).  For many reasons, it's healthier to separate driving and eating.  

    Besides, no matter what you eat or where, your meals shouldn't be eaten on the run day-in-day-out.  Stress hormones and the digestive system don't work well together.  

    There is a lot to be said for sitting down to a relaxed and enjoyable meal, preferably with enjoyable company.  Even if dining alone, savoring the food, allows for far better digestion than gulping it down in a rush.  And if the food isn't worth savoring, then why eat it?

    I don't mean to come across like a mom lecturing on how to eat or not eat, but I think in the US we've really developed a warped and unhealthy way of eating, mindless and rushed, often without companionship, not very nutritious food, and not very tasty unless it is doctored up with lab chemicals.  It's easy to see a difference if traveling outside the US.  In most European countries, school children eat real food, made from scratch,  on real plates in their cafeterias instead of starchy, cheap microwaved pre-cooked chicken-like substances or bean & cheese burritos.  If they can feed their kids like civilized human beings, why can't we?  

    And I'm not saying it never happens, but I don't think that most Europeans make it a habit to eat their food in their cars very often, let alone while driving.  Many European model cars still don't even have drink cup holders.  One can't even sell cars in the US now without cup holders for every passenger.  In fact, it's hard to get coffee to go in Europe unless one goes to a McDonald's.  It might be hard to imagine, but there is something to be said for sitting down, relaxing a few minutes, even to have just a cup of coffee or tea, instead of lugging a paper cup, travel mug, or Big Gulp around.   This is one where I should follow my own advice more often - I too often prepare a beverage, even water, to go when I leave the house.  

    Our lives are so rushed (often unnecessarily) and meals are one place where we really could make significant changes and reap health benefits (or at least not let our health suffer).  Even if eating fast food, going inside to sit and eat at a table has got  to be better on n a hormonal level than trying to stuff it in while driving or sitting in a parking lot with the engine idling.

    Ok, I do sound like  a mom.  Smile  Guilty as charged.

  • Nyn

    10/7/2008 2:28:00 AM |

    "And if the food isn't worth savoring, then why eat it? "

    Because we must eat - whether food is good or not, we must eat to survive. And while savoring food is a great and wonderful thing, it has caused me a great deal of heartache and difficulty. Is this not approaching the problem of weight and dieting with the idea that enjoying or 'savoring' food will make you want less of it because you made your taste buds happy?

    I agree with everything you've said about taking the time to eat and enjoy and reduce stress, although Starbucks are all over the place and portable coffee/tea has long been a fav for our friends 'cross the pond. I recall my European cars having some form of holder for a drink, and now that I think about it, one of them was old enough to not have rear seat belts. But even if my memory is off, there's no point debating how much better and thinner Europeans are because they sit down and savor a meal. (Have you ever eaten British food? Savor???!)

    I write this a bit flip and with a smile on my face, but honestly, if I had the time to sit down and enjoy a meal, gazing out the window and listening to classical music as I reflected on my day, I'd also have time to shop for, prepare, package, and savor every meal I ate, as well as burn it off in post-eating workouts. Yes we move too fast here, yes we are stressed and overworked, and yes we all need to slow down. But the fact of the matter is that's not going to happen any time soon. Not in my lifetime, and maybe not in my children's. In order for something to stick, I have to not only incorporate it into my life, but make it possible to incorporate.

    I know you're trying to help, and your comments are appreciated. We'd all do well to take heed to it. However, I believe our solutions have to be bigger than our should haves for success.

  • Anonymous

    12/28/2008 11:32:00 PM |

    Someone said:

    "In response to comments like "What about the Japanese who eat rice all day" and "those eating the mediteranean diet consume wheat and grains do not suffer heart disease so maybe wheat is not the culprit".
    If the Japanese ate rice all day and the greeks at nothing but grains all day they would be dying in droves. Luckily, they eat very little rice and grain and a lot of fish, animal products, fat (yes even Okinawans eat lots of lard), liver pate, cream, butter, etc. The low intake of rice/grains and the high intake of protein and fat is what makes these cultures healthier than North American.And when the Japanese make sushi, I'm sure that the first and second ingredients are not rice and high fructose corn syrup like it is here."

    I very much agree with almost everything on this blog, but the above is simply false. I have lived in Japan and I can tell you that the Japanese do in fact eat rice at every meal and for snacks between meals too. What is so radically different from the standard US diet is mainly the PORTION size, which is TINY relative to the US size. In addition they eat a lot of foodstuffs that are unpalatable but undoubtedly very good for us, like natto (YEAUCH!!!). They also eat lots of raw fish and whole shellfish. But mainly, they eat sticky rice, which is white, not whole grain, and very glutinous. So much rice I wanted to SCREAM!

  • Anonymous

    2/7/2009 7:38:00 PM |

    "And when the Japanese make sushi, I'm sure that the first and second ingredients are not rice...."

    Well, the main ingredients in making sushi is water, japanese rice, japanese rice vinegar, and salt.

  • Lonnie Fogel

    2/19/2009 4:37:00 AM |

    I am intrigued by your views on the harmful effects of wheat (I assume all wheat, including whole wheat). Can you point me to a medical reference, especially a peer-reviewed study to confirm this? Thaks.

  • BeckerConsulting

    3/12/2009 4:37:00 PM |

    You are correct that further study is needed.

    My story is that I had been on satins and experienced muscle damage.  My cardiologist and general doctor told muscle weakness was normal.  I went to another doctor who did a simple blood test for creatine kinase whiched showed that muscle cells were being damaged.  The cardiologist put me on niacin.  This helped with triglycerides.  but still not satisfied he prescribed zetia.  One look on the internet and I saw how pointless.  The other doctor advised me to try red rice yeast.  That helped.  On my own I quite buying bread.  Still eat it when I am on a holiday.  My triglycerides  plummeted and my LDL dropped 50 points.  My total cholesterol is now 150.  What can I say? It worked for me.

  • buy jeans

    11/3/2010 2:25:57 PM |

    When I first set out to advise people to eliminate wheat, I did it because I reasoned that it would be a quick and simple way to get people to reduce blood sugars and help correct the ubiquitous metabolic syndrome that afflicts nearly 50 million Americans now. And it did indeed accomplish that simple goal. But I did not expect all the other benefits to develop, the dramatic weight loss, improved well-being, reduction in hunger, etc.