One of the many books that contributed to me eventually skipping down the keto path was Wheat Belly by Dr. Williams Davis. His words challenged andchanged my way of thinkingand continue to have a profound impact. There’s a whole lot of controversy around Wheat Belly, and I’m often asked my opinion. You, of course will make up your own mind when you read it. But here’s my Wheat Belly book review. Davis begins with his personal story, observing a photo of himself at a family vacation where he’s carrying about 30 pounds too much around his middle. Feeling sluggish after wheat-packed breakfasts, and returning high cholesterol and diabetic blood sugar levels pushed him to embark on his ownwheat-free missiontowards better health. Davis explains a wheat belly is essentially the wheat food product equivalent of a beer belly. Eliminating wheat, even whole grain wheat from our diets can lead to permanent weight loss and relieve a broad range of health and digestive problems. For most western societies every single meal or snack contains food made with wheat flour. Davis draws on decades of clinical studies and outlines the amazing results he has seen from putting thousands of his own patients on a wheat free diet.
What happened when they kicked the wheat?
After removing grain from the diets of his diabetic and overweight patients, after only three months the diabetics had become non-diabetic and many had lost 20-40 pounds!
Other pesky health concerns were also relieved by the removal of wheat. Acid reflux (me) cramping and diarrhea
(me) lack of energy (me) lack of focus (me) difficulty sleeping (me; but i’ll blame that one on my kids) rashes, rheumatoid arthritis, pain and asthma symptoms. Hmmmm. During chapter 1 it was like Dr Davis was describing my plight word for word.
“I don’t get it. I exercise five days per week. I’ve cut my fat and increased my healthy whole grains. But can’t seem to stop gaining weight.”
That was me! And i’m vegan for goodness sake,aren’t I being super healthy? Needless to say at the completion of chapter one I was well and truly listening. Davis dissects the historical role wheat has played in the human diet. What used to be a pure natural grain that our forefathers churned into their daily bread has become quite the imposter.
So what’s wrong with wheat? (and what am I going to eat?!)
Davis explains the wheat of today is a shadow of its former good self. It is the second most consumed grain on the planet behind corn, and typically accounts for 20% of all calories consumed. So if it really is a bad guy for our gut that’s a big problem.
Over the last 50 years wheat has changed dramatically under the influence of agricultural science. Pure strains are now hybrids crossbred to withstand drought or fungi. Genetic changes have been introduced to increase the per acre yield of the plant. When you’re producing the second most consumed grain on Earth, I guess they had to work out how to keep up with demand. Wheat has been modified and adapted by science to such a degree that modern strains are unable to survive in the wild without our support. Does that sound ludicrous to you? It did to me.Like many of my vegan friends carbs and wheat are featured often on my plate. A nice big bowl of pasta was a quick and easy favourite go-to. We are aware that highly processed white breads and pastas are full of sugar and preservatives, so always reach for the whole grain alternatives thinking we’re looking after ourselves. Wheat products can be regarded as a super-carb because they’re highly digestible and more efficiently converted to glucose than all other carb foods.
Glucose is accompanied by insulin with converts glucose to fat, particularly abdominal fat, leading to…you guessed it – Wheat Belly!
Am I addicted to my wheat belly?
I don’t know; but by this stage I was addicted to the book. If the previous chapters weren’t enough to have me kicking my sourdough out the door, Davis goes on to outline the addictive properties of wheat. Without us realizing, wheat can dictate timing of meals and snacks, our food choices, calorie consumption and moods. It apparently dominates our thoughts!
Breakfast – wheat, lunch – wheat, dinner – wheat, dessert – wheat, snacks – wheat. Wheat Wheat Wheat.
30% of people who kick the wheat habit experience symptoms of withdrawal: irritability, fatigue, mental fog, depression. It was gobsmacking to me that something as mainstream and seemingly insignificant as wheat can impose a similar psychological effect as crack or nicotine!
The addictive properties of wheat, expressed as overwhelming temptation and obsession, obstructed by opiate-blocking drugs, (whaaaat?) are not directly due to gluten, but to exorphins, the breakdown product of gluten.Davis outlines that wheat is an appetite stimulant. Rather than making us feel full – like we thought it would do, it makes us want more. More foods containing wheat, sugar and carbs. Exorphins from gluten have the power to generate euphoria and addictive behavior. In the next several chapters Davis draws wheat and visceral fat connections to a myriad of physical and psychological medical concerns and diseases. This of course had his book shrouded in controversy, with many stating the factual evidence just wasn’t there to back his claims. I’m no physician, so I’m hardly one to comment.
Possible Side Effects From Wheat
Schizophrenia and Autism
Obesity and Diabetes
Hypertension and Heart disease
Dementia and Rheumatoid Arthritis
Acne, Cataracts wrinkles and aging
What is a wheat-loving vegan to think?
I took several breaks during these frightening chapters to not only kick my sourdough down the hallway; but rid my pantry of wheat completely – which was a harrowing experience. My cupboards were virtually bare! And I set about Googling how to handle wheat withdrawal. I found Davis chapter about wheat and acid fascinating. As a vegan it was very valuable. Our bodies are happy being slightly more alkaline. Vegetables and fruits are obviously dominant alkaline foods in the vegan diet. A healthy whole grain diet is acid-charged with grains being the only plant product that produces acidic by-products.
Wheat and other grains can be responsible for tipping the already quite acidic pH balance of the vegan towards acid. If wheat is removed and the calories replaced with more veggies, nuts, fruit and beans the balance shifts back into the alkaline range – similar to the gatherer pH levels of our vegan ancestors (there must’ve been some surely).
What foods does Dr Davis recommend in Wheat Belly?
Davis concludes by listing the foods we should consume in unlimited quantities, what we should limit and consume very rarely or not at all in order to lead a healthy wheat-free life minus the stubborn and debilitating wheat belly.
Wheat Belly Book Approved Foods:
- Some fruit (namely berries, apples, oranges), but much less of “sugary fruit” (pineapple, papaya, mango, banana)
- Unlimited raw nuts, plant-based oils such as olive, avocado, coconut, and cocoa butter
- Grass-fed, humanely raised meat and eggs
- Full-fat cheese
- Ground flaxseed
What To Eat In Limited Quantities:
- Full-fat, unsweetened cottage cheese, yogurt, milk, and butter
- Soy in its fermented forms: tofu, tempeh, miso, and natto
- Olives, avocados, pickled vegetables, and raw seeds
- Other whole grains such as quinoa, millet, amaranth, chia and beans
- Stay away from wheat-brewed beers and choose a glass of red instead (yay)
Consume Rarely or Never
- Wheat products
- Unhealthy refined and hydrogenated oils (vegetable oil, canola)
- Gluten-free foods: those made with cornstarch, rice starch, potato starch or tapioca starch
- Dried fruit
- Fried foods
- Sugary snacks
- Sugary fructose-rich sweeteners
- Sugary condiments
My Wheat Belly Book Review Summary
In summary, this book really opened my eyes to the implications of agricultural science on our future. It’s scary just how far we have managed to modify foods that were once gifts of the earth, into unrecognizable hybrids the earth refuses to grow without our intervention. To me that really says a lot. Despite your views on the medicine and science, Wheat Belly is certainly well worth the read.