10 Reasons Not to Eat Wheat

Man Eating BreadFor a long time, I’ve realized that wheat is one of the worst things in the modern diet.

I’ve done my best to stay away from it and constantly recommended that others do so as well.

But I just finished reading a book called Wheat Belly.

While going through it and looking at some of the hundreds of scientific references in it, I have come to the opinion that wheat is much, much worse than I originally thought.

Wheat, either directly or indirectly, can contribute to various chronic, life-threatening diseases.

Here are 10 reasons not to eat wheat.

1. Wheat Raises Blood Sugar Rapidly

According to Dr. Davis, the author of Wheat Belly, wheat contains a type of starch called Amylopectin A which is digested a lot faster than the starches found in other foods like beans and rice.

The starches in wheat are readily broken down into glucose by digestive enzymes (1).

When starch is broken down into glucose in the digestive tract, next it goes in to the bloodstream to become blood sugar.

Wheat, even the “heart-healthy” whole wheat, has large amounts of this fast acting starch, which gives wheat a high glycemic index (2).

This can lead to various health problems down the line.

2. Wheat Can Give You Acne

One of the dietary factors that can cause acne are foods that raise blood sugar levels quickly (3, 4).

Wheat, with its unique ability to elevate blood sugar rapidly, will therefore be particularly prone to exacerbate acne.

3. Wheat May Stimulate Opioid Receptors in The Brain

When gluten proteins are broken down by enzymes in the digestive tract, the small peptides they form are able to stimulate opiate receptors, just like morphine and heroin (5).

One indicator of these opiate-like peptides being able to reach into the brain is the fact that consuming gluten can increase severity and risk of mental disorders like schizophrenia (6, 7).

Taking an opiate blocking drug changes the response to gluten, another strong indicator of gluten having an activity similar to opiates (8).

4. Wheat is Addictive

There are many indicators that wheat may be downright addictive.

Ever crave a piece of bread? A slice of pizza? A muffin? Cravings that have nothing to do with hunger?

That’s not normal and is potentially caused by the addictive properties of wheat.

Time will tell whether wheat can be downright addictive. I personally think that it is.

5. Wheat Can Give You Heart Disease

Wheat, with its high carbohydrate content and rapid increase in blood sugar, can raise risk factors for heart disease like triglycerides and small, dense LDL.

In fact, whole wheat may raise small, dense LDL (really bad!) by as much as 60% in as little as 12 weeks (9). How’s that for a “heart-healthy” slice of whole wheat bread?

6. Wheat is an Appetite Stimulant

When blood sugar levels go up rapidly, they tend to go down rapidly as well. This leads to the constant cycles of hunger and cravings that occur when we eat refined carbs.

Add to that the potential for addictive opiate activity in the brain and you’ve got a monster on your hands.

When overweight celiacs are placed on a gluten-free diet, they automatically eat 400 fewer calories every single day (10, 11).

7. Wheat is Horrible For Your Digestion

Wheat may be one of the worst things you could possibly do to your digestive system.

Celiac disease may afflict about 1% of the population and its little brother Gluten Sensitivity may be much more common (12).

Those who have these disorders mount an immune response to gluten. When they eat wheat, their immune system attacks the walls of the digestive system.

The incredibly common ailment irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) may be improved on a gluten-free diet as well, but that has yet to be proven (13).

8. Wheat Can Make You Fat

Through it’s 400 cal/day appetite stimulating mechanisms, the opiate-like activity and blood sugar roller coaster, wheat can make you fat.

9. Wheat Can Make You Crazy

Wheat gluten is believed to exacerbate the serious mental disease schizophrenia and this disease is highly correlated with celiac disease (14, 15).

When schizophrenic patients are placed on a gluten-free diet, their symptoms drastically improve (16, 17).

10. Wheat Can Make You Tired

Ever felt tired a few hours after having cereal for breakfast?

That’s the blood sugar roller coaster that you automatically take a ride with every time you eat a meal loaded with wheat.

Wheat Belly

Additionally, wheat and celiac disease have been associated with various other disorders like diabetes, cerebellar ataxia, autism, ADHD and premature ageing.


 

30 Comments

  1. As a naturalist who has researched this topic as well, we have to conclude that wheat berries (the unprocessed wheat kernel) is one of the most nutritious types of grains we can eat. It is the processing of wheat that makes it so bad. I actually have done a couple of blogs on this myself. However, as far as nutrition is concerned, grains themselves are pretty much uneccessary.

  2. Kris,

    I agree there are many harmful properties of wheat that are good reasons why we should stay away from it. I haven’t read Wheat Belly yet but it’s definitely on my to-read list.

    Alykhan

  3. Hi Kris

    Interesting argumentation. Dogmatic. Simplification at it´s best. Your message is clear. I also read Wheat Belly. However I´m not convinced. I think you me be sending a wrong message. There are a number of studies indicating health benefits from whole grain.

    In the Nurses’ Health Study, women who ate 2 to 3 servings of whole-grain each day were 30 percent less likely to have a heart attack or die from heart disease over a 10-year period than women who ate less than 1 serving per week. (Liu S, Stampfer MJ, Hu FB, et al. Whole-grain consumption and risk of coronary heart disease: results from the Nurses’ Health Study. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition . 1999; 70:412-9.)

    A meta-analysis of seven large studies showed that cardiovascular disease was 21 percent less likely in people who ate 2.5 or more servings of whole-grain foods a day compared with those who ate less than 2 servings a week. (Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2008 May;18(4):283-90. Whole grain intake and cardiovascular disease: a meta-analysis. Mellen PB, Walsh TF, Herrington DM.)

    In a study of more than 160,000 women whose health and dietary habits were followed for up to 18 years, those who averaged 2 to 3 servings of whole grains a day were 30 percent less likely to have developed type 2 diabetes than those who rarely ate whole grains (de Munter JS, Hu FB, Spiegelman D, Franz M, van Dam RM. Whole grain, bran, and germ intake and risk of type 2 diabetes: a prospective cohort study and systematic review. PLoS Med . 2007; 4:e261).

    The Iowa Women’s Health Study linked whole-grain consumption with fewer deaths from noncardiac, noncancer causes. Compared with women who rarely or never ate whole-grain foods, those who had at least two or more servings a day were 30 percent less likely to have died from an inflammation-related condition over a 17-year period (Jacobs DR, Jr., Andersen LF, Blomhoff R. Whole-grain consumption is associated with a reduced risk of noncardiovascular, noncancer death attributed to inflammatory diseases in the Iowa Women’s Health Study. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition . 2007; 85:1606-14).

    • There’s a massive confounder in all of the whole grain epidemiological studies: these people are also much more likely to be health conscious and live a healthier lifestyle overall.

      Obviously whole grains are better than refined grains. But no grains might be even better.

      Anyway I’m not trying to make the argument that all grains are bad. But there are many indicators that the gluten grains, especially wheat, can be harmful.

      I eat oats and rice myself. These grains are probably fine to eat, although the health benefits of no-grain (low-carb) are unquestionable in my opinion. You can see that well in the low-carb vs. low-fat RCTs where the low-fat dieters are usually eating a mainstream low-fat diet which tends to be high in whole grains.

  4. Halli Magg says:

    One of the problems I see with the official recommendation of eating whole grains, like pasta, bread and such is that people go and eat the “grains” but forget about the “whole” part. According to Dr. Cordain 85% of grain consumption in the USA is refined grains. People are being tricked by the food companies that their “food” products are whole grain, but in reality it is mostly refined grains with a little bit of whole grains so they can but the statement on the package.
    One can easily skip wheat and still include whole grains in the diet from e.g. oats, buckwheat and quinoa (not really a grain). What is the problem with that, why does it always have to be wheat? These grains are all excellent source of fiber.

  5. Have you read this?

    Systermatic dismantling of all the unsubstantiated claims that Davis makes in his Wheat Belly

    http://www.aaccnet.org/publications/plexus/cfw/pastissues/2012/OpenDocuments/CFW-57-4-0177.pdf

    • I didn’t say I agreed with everything in Wheat Belly. I don’t agree with everything in that report you posted either.

      I like the book though and the book actually promotes a low-carb paleo diet (not just removal of wheat) which I fully believe in.

      Of course, a lot of this is speculation supported by experience and preliminary evidence. This has yet to be proven conclusively, just as it is with most subjects in nutrition.

      There are a lot of indicators that wheat and gluten grains can lead to various health problems. As with almost any other controversial subject in nutrition and public health, we will have to wait for the controlled trials to be 100% certain. That could take decades.

  6. What about Eastern diets? Wheat is a staple food here in India. I’m sure most people don’t know about this side to the story. Some of us who do, however, do not stand much of a chance in explaining the ill effects when the consumption of wheat and wheat products is on such a massive scale (not to mention on a daily basis in all households). What do you suggest?

    • Agreed. In Indian household, wheat is considered superior to white rice. Wheat and rice are the 2 main grains consumed. People are eating whole wheat roti on a daily basis ( 365 days in a year). People are gaining weight and having wheat bellies. Its hard to explain them and tell them to stop eating this WHEAT. The other option for them is white rice, which they consider worse than wheat.

  7. kelly o'leary says:

    Often foods are targeted as “raising blood pressure” or “raising blood sugar.” Personally, I have low blood pressure and low blood sugar. Why should I care if a food raises my blood pressure or blood sugar? In fact, it may help me feel better. What’s wrong with my logic?

  8. Hi Kris, Bread is stable food In SA same as A.a in India comments above. I have not read the book, however the points you raised make sense to me as a diabetic 2. I can describe myself as a wheat addict and find it difficult to avoid wheat bread in any form. When i don’t wheat eat bread i get lots of cravings for bread (not other food). If i fight the cravings for a week or so it disappear and i feel much better with great energy levels and weight loss. Sadly like an addict i soon start again with the same ill effects. For me without doubt it is an addiction and i can only to stop it with willpower. and like an alcoholic must refrain from alcohol I must totally refrain from eating wheat bread not to start again. I wrote this just to support the point that it is addicted… it does not matter what the argument is for or against.. for my body/system it is bad and I am of the opinion it is the biggest contributor of obesity in the western world.

  9. Very interesting. I agree too I am always so tired after I eat things like cereal as you mentioned. My question is what would you suggest using in place of wheat? That is what I struggle with is what do I use instead of pasta noodles, bread or wraps? I have two kids so it needs to stuff kids would eat too and not be too expenisve either because that is another thing is sometimes the good stuff is quite a bit more expensive for people and not everyone can afford it. The really should make healthy things cheaper and junk more expenisve that would definately help people lol Do you have any tips, ideas, websites or books I could go to for yummy food ideas for my family? Thanks! :)

  10. I think you went overboard when you said “wheat can make you crazy”. The fact that schizophrenic patients feel better when placed on a gluten-free diet doesn’t justify what you’ve said. It is a serious statement and some people look up to you as an authority in this field so you have a responsibility here. It is a medical subject after all.

  11. N=1; I have suffered from IBS since my late teens (I’m 41). I have never taken pills for it. I saw a gastroenterologist when I was 23 and that was it. And there were no “unnecessary” tests. No lower GI. Just a little look inside me and that was it. 2 years ago, I spent 6 months on a calorie-restricted – counting, weighing and logging foods, low-fat, high carb “healthy” whole grain “diet” due to a mis-diagnosis of Fibromyalgia (my own research and blood sugar monitoring tells me it was Reactive Hypoglycemia -dad and older brother are diabetics). I lost weight. But when I stopped eating grains/beans/flours/sugars and most dairy and fruit (found Primal Blueprint), backed off on indigestible fiber and increased my healthy fats (sat. and mono.) my IBS disappeared within 6 weeks along with my belly. And I’m not celiac! I dropped 12lbs below my lowest adult weight. All digestive, skin, dental, mental issues I have suffered for years disappeared. My guess is there’s a connection.

    • I wasn’t overweight when I started. 130lbs. Dropped to 120lbs – went Primal. Dropped to 108lbs now hover around 111-112. When I drop below 110 my appetite skyrockets. I have suffered my whole life from anxiety, mild depression, skin issues like scaly skin and eczema, IBS and ALL associated symptoms. I have had dental issues like cavities since 5th grade. I’ve had root canals and I have 5 crowns. My teeth have been cracking and breaking since 28 years old. Since I went Primal I haven’t had a single cavitiy – stopped instantly. And the cracks are gone. my body fixed them. I don’t care what anyone says – wheat is nasty (and corn and soy)

      • What do you mean by Primal?

        • Primal is eating like cavemen supposedly did. Only real food (no processed food). Lots of protein (meat, fish, poultry) and vegetables but not a lot of nuts, fruit and dairy products. I think Kriskris got some articles about this way of eating on this site.

  12. I do intense exercise 6 times a week. The exercises I do is a mix of running (including sprinting), body weight exercises like push ups and lots of lunges and squats and burpees and mountain climbers and weight training days and some kettle bell days. I follow a so-called healthy diet and I do not consume a lot of of calories (between 2000 and 2400 calories for a 6ft1 male is not too much?). Despite all this I actually gained fat in the last year. I have a fat belly and some upper body fat. I need to loose about 15 pounds of fat. Ridiculous!
    I just started the Dukan diet. Like all diets this is actually for sedentary people who overeat. I don’t feel I should need to follow extreme diets in order to lose weight, so there must be something wrong..
    I’ve lost 2 centimeters around my waist in 2 days on this diet. The first 5 days you only eat protein, as much as you want. It seems to work so far but I am quite annoyed that I, as an active, fit guy should make such changes.

    • This has happened to me too (eating just anything I wanted. I was spending over 1000 kcal a day just for exercise so I guess food wasn’t a factor). I looked for answer long and hard and came to conclusion that excessive exercise is also a stress, which raises cortisol. Cortisol makes you gain weight, particularly in your waist area.

      Trainers know that. One of the trainers told me not to do that because I will gain weight. I said I just like to move, but he was right. I don’t allow myself to exercise more than 3 times per week now and if I really want to move I just take long walks on my rest days, which makes me lose weight much better than 800kcal per hour activities.

    • What is a so-called healthy diet? Describe a typical day of nutrition.

      • Elana, high intensity exercise does raise cortisol, but I can’t believe that it would cause someone who exercise intense and regularly to gain weight. It doesn’t make sense..
        Rob a typical daily menu for me used to be either oats or 2 eggs and white toast in the morning, a fruit during the morning and for lunch chicken breast or prego steak and salad, usually on low GI bread. A little nuts or a banana in the afternoon. Dinner would typically be steak, garden salad and vegetables for the past few months. I used to eat rice and or potato and pumpkin and so forth with almost every dinner. I thought that the starchy foods was the problem but since I changed to only salad and vegetables my weight has remained the same. I never used a lot of sauces with my food. I never drink soft drinks. I do have sugar with my coffee and I have about 3-4 cups per day. I thought that that was the cause and stopped drinking coffee for 2 weeks. There was no change in my weight or body fat% . Now I do drink coffee again but with sucralose as a sweetener.

        • Well there should be a reason. You yourself are saying you didn’t eat all that much and gained weight, so I just thought I will share my findings. Hormones are very powerful, often more powerful than a handful of white rice so don’t dismiss my suggestions too fast ;-) Here are some articles that support my claims
          http://www.jamesyourpersonaltrainer.com/Articles.aspx?aid=aafaea2e-c13c-4d74-b4f5-a52c657cb956
          http://www.momlogic.com/2009/05/weight_loss_mistakes.php

          • Thanks for the info, I can see that it might be the cause for weight gain in some people. However, I don’t think (or hope) that it is the case with me. My doctor has suggested ( a few months ago) that I go for blood tests for thyroid and insulin and some other stuff. Insulin and cortisone are both important factors in weight loss, so it is definitely something to look into. I still have the referral letter for blood tests so I might as well go and do it before I continue with dieting.

          • Halli Magg says:

            This article is really good and I have seen this numerous times in my clinic and this is one of my concerns with how exercise has been developing of being super intensive, e.g. with the bootcamp, HIIT classes and crossfit.
            I see this more often with women.
            And if someone would like to test their adrenals for cortisol output I would recommend doing the saliva test (see link below), it shows how the adrenal are working and if the person is working their way into adrenal fatigue (level 1-2-or-3). The regular cortisol test you get your doctor is just to see if cortisol is way to high (hypercortisolism) or way to low (hypocortisolism) but doesn’t show the functional capacity of the adrenals.
            http://biohealthlab.com/test-menu/hormones/functional-adrenal-stress-profiles/#201

  13. Kris, experience seems to agree with the addictive properties of wheat from my point of view. During a 14 hour long work day yesterday, my co-worker suggested ordering pizza as we were too busy to leave and I was unprepared for multiple meals at work that day and ravenous. I just gave in, kept working and ate two pieces of pizza. Today, I started gnawing on toast at breakfast at a restaurant. Later, found myself eating bread w/ peanut butter and easily caved when my son offered to bring home pizza for dinner, his treat, knowing I was pretty exasperated at the end of a really long day yesterday. Add to it a bunch of anxiety over a part-time job and I was craving wheat like crazy. One day, one slip and it led to a one day binge of sorts. So yes, looking back before low carb and no wheat, I used to binge similar to that day in and day out. At least now I’m aware and will fight it, jump back on the wagon right now. Food addict, wheat addict, I don’t know–they are pretty closely related in my humble opinion. But the result is the same—appetite unhinged. Thanks, Kris, for making me aware and putting some things that I didn’t want to personally address into words that made sense in a non-judgemental way.

  14. I can only go by my own experience, and my experience shows me that I feel better, and look better, and crave less w/o sugar and wheat! It works for me!

  15. So every argument you have here, is a) taken from davis; and, b) based on the GI of wheat?

    Weak. Very, very weak.

    • So many people have stopped eating wheat and seen huge improvements in their healthy and it’s even aided is weight loss. Reality doesn’t lie.

  16. I have been off grains for almost a year, and am completely happy with it. My arguement against grains may not be scientific, but this morning on the news, it was reported that 78 million people are obese (I was too). Why? If folks are eating “whole grain” pasta, WG bread, WG tortillas. Here in California, all the “food programs” push the WG agenda, and the low income folks, the middle class folks, and many of the “health conscience” folks are fat to obese!

    As someone who was formally obese and eating SAD, with WG bread and pasta, all sorts of beans and rice, and the low fat versions of my favorites, never being able to lose any weight, I can personally say, that even if Dr. Davis is not right about everything, his research findings should be looked at more!

    Thanks Kris!

  17. to all these people who feel they can’t move until a study us done. Look around, ask day people what they eat, I do and almost 100% they will tell you, whole wheat and low fat and “lots of dairy for my bones” but I can’t lose weight. Kris is right on the mark, Wheat is bad period. I was always gaining weight even though I felt I ate healthy, I started reading Kris’s articles and blogs and I haven’t eaten bread or wheat for 4 months now I eat low carb lots of veggies and small amounts of fruit, I was in Europe for a month eating lots of high fat breakfasts but no toast and no desserts, plenty of red wine and I came back the same weight as when I left. My BMI is way below normal mow and so is my blood pressure. Kris is right there is no need for scientific studies to prove him wrong, what he says works and you feel south better with lots more energy.
    Keep up the good work Kris you are helping so many people, who have been failed by so called modern science

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