The underrated dangers of wheat

In Fitness, Sports
Courtesy of MCT

The amber waves of grain flow majestically across the fields of the United States and are processed into wheat, thrown onto the food plate of Americans everywhere.  Many of us eat our beloved staple crop without hesitation, unaware of the harmful implications that wheat has towards our body.

I discovered only this year that wheat has led toward a large amount of discomfort in my life. I was diagnosed with a wheat allergy and advised to watch what I eat. Being that wheat has always been an average part of my diet, I was quite surprised.

One in 133 Americans has a gluten intolerance, and while symptoms crossover between the labels of wheat allergy, wheat intolerance and celiac disease, leading it to be difficult to exactly pinpoint what one may have at times, one thing is certain. The absence of wheat products helps everything. In taking wheat out of my diet, I’ve noticed my life change drastically as well.

Things that I felt were “normal” to my everyday life ceased to exist. My chronic lethargy, constant stomach pains and looming depression were originally attained to an umbrella term of irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS. This diagnosis is common for many like me, but upon eating less wheat products, all of my negative symptoms were a thing of the past and my body feels the best it ever has.

However, avoiding wheat is not so simple. Unbeknownst to many, wheat or gluten and products go under a wide variety of names. For celiacs, some have to avoid common ingredients such as ascorbic acid, maltodextrin and glucose, as these can sometimes be processed by chemicals which contain gluten. Wheat is also a common product in binders and sweeteners in products within the United States, going under names such as “malt” or “barley malt.” Products that list these ingredients still manage to say their food contains no wheat. It’s up to the consumer to always read labels.

Luckily, we live in the best time for gluten free products and many stores and organic grocers take the time to label foods as gluten free. Wheat in baking can easily be replaced with products such as brown rice or potato flour, and even many mainstream restaurants offer vast menu options such as gluten free pizza and gluten free bread, which tastes as great as any wheat product.

The truth is, though, many are not allergic to wheat in this world. They don’t have intolerance or celiac disease, however, there is still a good reason for wheat to be avoided, as it possess harmful and addictive properties that can hurt anybody.

William Davis, a preventive cardiologist and author of Wheat Belly, has noted the dangers of wheat and how the current strain we use is not the same as it was 50 years ago, and many wheat strains undergo processes such as sterilization by gamma radiation or utilize sodium azide, a highly toxic chemical to humans.

Aside from production practices, wheat is noted for being a cause of weight gain, as it contains amylopectin A, which is converted to blood sugar and can increase blood sugar levels higher than that of a candy bar. The cycle of eating wheat is one of highs and lows, where blood sugars decrease causing hunger and another wheat product is grabbed to snack on again, subsequently causing blood sugar to go back up. If wheat is removed, the appetite stimulant in our bodies is gone, and we’re no longer as hungry all the time.

Lastly, wheat is addictive. It’s broken down into a collection of gluten-derived polypeptides that are released into the bloodstream and eventually enter the brain, binding to the brain’s opiate receptors. When a wheat product is eaten, one obtains a mild euphoria. However, its been tested that the pleasurable feelings are blocked when given naloxone, an opiate blocker commonly given to heroin addicts.

On my own personal journey in decreasing the amount of wheat I consume, I’ve seen many of these situations take place. I snack less and I crave less, and because my blood sugar isn’t constantly changing I’m not as tired as I used to be. Upon removing wheat from my diet, I longed for bread, sandwiches and pizza, but now I hardly think of eating such things.

To avoid wheat may be hard for some at first, but the results seem to be truly beneficial and studies continue to show that it may not be as healthy for us as we once thought. Wheat-free does not mean food-free, and anyone can live more happy and healthy without wheat products.

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  • lori

    Dr. Davis is on to something…..we’ve been eating wheat free for a week and all our cravings are completely gone, it’s almost too good to be true! We feel fantastic, have more energy and are excited to see the health benefits to follow. Dr. Davis is a lifesaver, don’t be fooled by the big name labels, claiming ‘heart healthy’ and all that jazz….read the ingredients and you will soon see what he is saying is true! Thank you Dr. Davis!!!

  • Wendy Cowan

    After Eliminating wheat, cravings have vanished, skin breakouts are greatly diminished, no more reflux (heartburn), I sleep better and I am down 35 pounds and counting!

  • vicki

    Very well written, thank you. I am sharing with my friends, and really appreciate your take on IBS and lethargy. I am one year wheat-free, and could not be more pleased with the results. The wheat addiction speaks loudly for some, when they complain about giving up BEER, or pizza. My solution, switched to potato vodka (Chopin or Blue Ice) and instead of pizza, I ask for a side of meatballs with extra cheese and a chopped salad! Works for me 🙂

  • john schroeder

    i concur,with one month of wheat product free diet i am minus 18 pounds. i also use an apple cider vinegar honey with water tonic to jump start my system and i like what smart eating habits are doing for me. i started at 256 pounds and 56 years age with all the wheat belly traits such as large belly, high blood pressure, and other inflammation issues.

  • Lo

    There are also coconut flour and almond flour for baking which are better choices than rice and potato flour according to Dr. Davis and the Paleo crowd.

  • Helen Dore

    I totally agree! Dr. Davis’ book was a real eye-opener! I am so grateful that he cared enough to share his knowledge. He has given my daughter and me our lives back. It’s not easy and we’re still learning, but we’re feeling better every single day! Thanks for helping to spread the word. There’s power in numbers!

  • Garrett

    Thank you for the responses! It’s very comforting and reassuring to hear about others who have gone off wheat and seen results that have helped in very personal ways.

    Lo- Ahh, very true. Rice and potato seem to be the most common with people, but coconut and almond are definitely healthy choices.

    Vicki- I’m not sure if you’ve had it, but as far as gluten-free vodka goes, Titos is usually my go to choice! A little more expensive than most vodka, but worth it and mixes very well.

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