A few weeks ago, someone suggested the book “Wheat Belly“; the title, description and Amazon reviews intrigued me, so I ordered it on Kindle. [Just an aside, I like the Kindle better than print books for a couple of reasons, including being able to search for text, and having a built-in dictionary if you ever encounter any unfamiliar words.]
The author, William Davis, M.D., has come to the conclusion based on his own personal experiences, the experiences of thousands of his patients, as well as published research, that what we call “wheat” today is bad for us, in really all of its various forms.
He notes that modern wheat has changed substantially in just the past 50-60 years, so that the “wheat” our ancestors of 100 years ago ate was quite different from what we eat today; and both today’s wheat and the wheat from a century ago are quite different from wheat of a thousand or more years ago. Last century’s wheat grew about 4′ tall and did not have as full or heavy a head of grain as today’s wheat, which usually tops out at around 18″ tall, and also has a shorter growing season (all these things making it more profitable for the farmer to grow). It is his contention that the genetic differences that allowed these changes are also at the root of a whole host of problems people have with wheat and wheat-based products.
Much of the problem, he believes, is due to the way the body breaks down the carbohydrates (wheat and white flour have a higher Glycemic Index than white sugar!), so he spends a good deal of time talking about insulin and diabetes, and how wheat — even “healthy” whole-grain wheat — causes a great deal of harm to the average person, and even more so to diabetics or pre-diabetics. Of course, he talks about celiac disease, and how that many people are undiagnosed, misdiagnosed, or don’t have “classic” celiac disease, yet are unable to properly digest wheat, so have a whole host of health problems. There is evidence to suggest that some 40% of the population (either worldwide or just in America), while never having full-blown celiac disease, would benefit from reducing or eliminating gluten from their diet.
The book is actually fun to read. While of necessity he must speak of dry, boring things like studies and ancient history, and how exactly wheat (or components of wheat, including gluten mostly) interacts with various body systems — and wreaks havoc with them — he makes it interesting and enjoyable to read; frequently throughout the book, I smiled or even laughed at the humorous way he put some things. Sprinkled throughout the book are many personal and professional anecdotes of how getting rid of wheat changed someone’s life for the better — lost weight, “cured” diabetes or prevented pre-diabetes from becoming full-blown diabetes, improved cholesterol, reduced acne and other skin ailments, even regrew hair! Plus, he has a rather lengthy recipe section of alternatives to gluten-containing and even “gluten-free” foods. [He notes that most “gluten-free” foods that are meant to substitute for gluten-containing foods, like “gluten-free” pasta, breads, etc., use corn starch, rice starch, or other carbohydrates that will provoke the same insulin response as gluten-containing foods, so he does not recommend these foods to be consumed on a regular basis, especially if you’re diabetic or pre-diabetic.]
I would highly recommend that anyone who is even curious about whether wheat is causing them health problems — such as the “spare tire” around your middle, which Dr. Davis calls “wheat belly” — read this book, especially if you are wanting more and deeper information about what all problems may be caused by wheat, cured by giving up wheat and other gluten-containing foods, how wheat/gluten causes the body to react, and/or the science behind all of this. There is so much information, I couldn’t begin to do the book justice by trying to summarize it, so you should read it yourself.
If you’re skeptical (either now, or after you read it), try giving up wheat for 4 weeks and see if there is any difference in your life and health — and especially your weight! He says that most people feel a significant health difference within a week or two — some in just a few hours; though he does warn that the addictive effect of wheat may make you have withdrawal symptoms for several days, which may make you feel worse before you feel better, as your body demands the near-constant supply of wheat to which it has become accustomed.
Now, onto my personal experience…
A couple of months ago, I was eating the Standard American Diet (SAD), though probably more “whole foods” based than most people, since I tend to cook from scratch as much as possible, and drink almost only water. Then, I read some article somewhere that suggested that people give up gluten, corn, soy, dairy, peanuts, yeast and eggs for 3 weeks, and also take probiotics three times a day during that time. I thought, “Why not?” and did it. I was also doing a 40-day fast from sugar, so I was sugar-free — no sugar or artificial sugar substitutes (only honey, maple syrup and stevia). I felt better and lost weight (probably about 5 pounds or so), though I didn’t change my (lack of) exercise. But when the three weeks was up, I went back to eating normally (going to visit my mom, the baking queen, didn’t help). A few weeks ago, I was tired of the way I looked, the way I didn’t exercise, and the way I felt, so I made some big changes. I started doing the P90X exercise program (tomorrow is the last day of the third week), so was looking over their diet recommendations… and remembering how I lost weight with those previous dietary changes. So, I decided to give up gluten and corn (I don’t eat much soy anyway; and most if not all of the yeast I consume is in wheat/gluten products), along with the sugar that the P90X diet requires, but not go hog-wild with dairy. So, I have been doing (mostly) gluten-, corn-, and sugar-free (my husband has taken me out to eat sometimes, and for the most part, I try to stay on the diet, but I know I’m probably consuming hidden “bad” stuff).
I have noticed positive health experiences related to these dietary changes (though I can’t say for sure it’s being off of wheat/gluten, since my diet is quite different from what it was before; plus I’m exercising). I am less hungry, eating less, sleeping better, yet feeling better with less sleep than before, rarely get “the afternoon slump”, etc. Since I haven’t been perfect, I don’t know if I would feel even better if I was completely off gluten and corn, but I feel better enough to keep wanting to keep on going — and if I get off-diet, to get right back on it.
Some fifteen years ago, I was gluten-free for several months, though I didn’t go on the diet *intending* to be “gluten-free” (I’d probably barely heard of a substance called “gluten” back then, much less any negative effects it might have had). Someone told me about “The Hallelujah Diet” — called that in part because you’re supposed to feel so great that you just want to say “Hallelujah” all the time, and partly because it is based on the Bible — “The Garden of Eden” diet — namely, only fruits and vegetables, and preferably raw. The goal was 100% raw and vegan, though he allowed a baked potato — no cheese, sour cream, butter, or bacon!! — for supper. I did feel great, though I probably was eating a lot of food that raised my blood sugar. I didn’t like (and still don’t, to be honest) a lot of vegetables, plus we had a limited selection of fruits and vegetables at our local grocery stores, so I didn’t eat a wide variety of things, eating mostly grapes, apples, bananas, oranges, pineapple and carrots. Still, I must say, I felt great, and I lost weight (though I was working out quite a bit at the time, as well). I fell off the wagon for my mom’s birthday, and instead of getting back on it, I rediscovered how *yummy* sugar and other bad foods were, and started eating “normally” again… and predictably gained weight. Sigh. And I stopped exercising so much — double-sigh.
Now that I look back on it, I wonder if I stopped exercising because I was tired, and if I was tired because of my food choices. After reading “Wheat Belly”, I wonder if I started eating so much because wheat triggered my body to want more and more food. I am certainly more able to pass up food — food in general and also particular “bad” foods that normally I would eat substantial quantities of — since being on this diet. I would normally attribute it to my strong will-power (which, usually, I say I have little or no will power, but when I have a plan such as I now have, I do have a certain amount of stick-to-it-iveness), but now I wonder whether it’s more because the addictive hold that food has on me has lessened because of giving up wheat. The other night my husband blended up dried apricots in vanilla ice cream — and normally, I have a HUGE sweet tooth, with almost no food being “too sweet” for me, and also with it being difficult for me to pass up any dessert, especially ice cream. But while I mentally assented that, yes, I did sort of want ice cream, I more wanted to stay on my diet. My husband insisted I try his concoction, so I had a taste, but it was too sweet for me to want any. Weird, huh?
When I started P90X, I intended to be on my diet — no wheat/gluten, no corn, no sugar or artificial sweeteners, no alcohol, no fruit juice, no more than 1-2 pieces/servings of fruit per day, 5 servings of veggies per day, no “bad” fats, and drinking at least 3 quarts of water per day — for 90 days, the duration of the program, and possibly longer. While I haven’t been perfect these past three weeks, I’ve done rather well, especially compared to my previous normal diet, and can see me keeping it up, more or less, for longer. This doesn’t mean I will never have a piece of chocolate cake again, but I can see many health benefits to keeping my intake of carbohydrates — especially wheat and sugar — low.
My latest copy of Parents magazine came in the mail the other day, and I’m reading through it. It’s kinda like candy — not much substance but it gives me something to do — far too mainstream for me. Sometimes I get more enjoyment out of disagreeing with and/or arguing with an article or statement than I do from agreeing with it! 🙂
Take the paragraph-long snippet of an article titled, “Measles on the Rise.” The intent is to cause concern among slacker parents who are not vaccinating their children right on schedule, or to give thoughtful non-vaccinating parents some doubt as to the validity of their choice. They note that many parents are concerned about the MMR-autism link, and debunk it, saying that “study after study has shown that vaccines don’t increase a child’s autism risk” (although I’ve heard and read things about these studies that make me question their validity). I don’t think that MMR is the sole cause of autism (thinking it is probably the result of a number of chemical and environmental assaults on the body), but it might cause some.
Still, the ominous tone of this article is hilarious. It starts off by saying that choosing not to vaccinate has “dire consequences.” That’s possible, so let’s read on — what are the “dire consequences”? That there were 131 reported cases of measles in the United States in the first six months of this year — the highest number in 12 years. Ok, so it’s the highest number — fine, let’s accept that, but so what? Were any of these children harmed by measles? Let’s not forget that prior to the vaccination, measles was considered to be a mild, generally harmless childhood illness that all kids got at some point unless they were naturally immune to it. A few kids became very sick from it and a very few even died; but millions of children got it (probably annually) without anything worse than a fever and a rash. Now, just because it’s “vaccine-preventable” it’s made out to be as bad as cancer or something. I’d rather my kids get real measles than the vaccine — do you see how many people make it through childhood without measles, thanks to the vaccines, and then end up getting it or losing their immunity as adolescents or young adults — or old ones? Measles, like so many other diseases, including chicken pox and mumps, are relatively benign diseases when contracted as a child. They cause the worst problems to infants under one year of age and older teens and adults. So, we immunize children who will generally have a mild case and receive permanent natural immunity from a disease, only to let it wear off when they will have a horrific case and could end up permanently scarred, disabled, or even dead. I got chicken pox when I was 12, so I remember it well, and it was not fun. But I’m glad I got it then and not as an adult! I know somebody who got chicken pox as an adult, and he had a far worse case than I did at 12 years old! He was horribly sick for a lot longer than I was. As far as the infants go, if mothers have natural immunity from these diseases (after having had chicken pox or measles naturally), they will pass on their immunity to their children through pregnancy or breastfeeding for the first several months if not a full year, or however long they nurse. That means that the infants are generally going to be protected when they’re most vulnerable, and are not able to get any vaccines. But women who, like me, are only artificially immune to diseases like measles, mumps, and rubella, cannot pass that immunity to our children, leaving them vulnerable should they come into contact with the disease when they are babies.
Back to the article — a whopping 131 cases. Since the article is so short, it is not very informative, in that we have no idea who these people were who got the disease. I remember a measles scare (possibly the one mentioned in the article that happened 12 years ago), in which college kids had to get a booster shot, because the immunity from the vaccines they received as children had worn off. It’s anybody’s guess if the booster shot actually works — it was assumed that the original vaccine would be enough, so why should we believe the assumption that the booster shot is going to live up to its hype? But, let’s assume that all of the cases were in children, and no adolescents or adults. There are roughly 4 million babies born in the United States every year. If we count children from, say, age 3 all the way up through the end of elementary school (5th grade, although some people consider it to end at 6th grade), then there are 32 million children under consideration. Wow — 131 cases out of 32,000,000 — oh, yeah, that’s dire. Again, there is no hint in the article of the severity of the cases — just that they were reported.
Continuing on, the article says that more than half of the children who got sick hadn’t been vaccinated due to their parents’ beliefs. Let’s take the “beliefs” part — not everybody who chooses not to vaccinate does so because of fear of autism, though I daresay that is the most prominent one. Some people don’t like that some vaccines are grown in tissue from aborted fetuses (called “human diploid tissue”), or monkeys, or cows (due to mad-cow disease, although the cows used are supposed to be stringently tested), or other “unclean” things (I think some vaccines are grown in pork or other things that are unclean to Jewish, Muslim, and possibly other religions). Some people are concerned about SIDS or diabetes or auto-immune disorders or cancer. Some people think they may be linked to allergies such as eggs (which some vaccines are grown in), or perhaps other substances — why is it that so many children nowadays are allergic to so many things that used to not cause problems? Give parents the choice that a certain vaccine may reduce their child’s risk of getting an already-rare disease which is usually typically mild and self-limiting, but that it may increase the risk of him or her developing a life-threatening allergy to peanuts or something, and what do you think most parents will choose? (Not saying there is a link, just wondering if there is.)
Finally, “more than half of the children who got sick hadn’t been vaccinated.” They don’t attach a number, so we’re left to guess as to the actual percentage, and only know it’s somewhere between 51% and 100%. I can just about guarantee that if it were much over 50%, they would have said something like, “nearly 2/3 of the children…” or “over 75%…” So you know what this means? Almost half of the children who got sick had been vaccinated.
I don’t know what the “official” immunization rate is for this or any other vaccine. I’ve read numbers in the past, but they tend to get jumbled up in my mind. I think that even the strongest vaccine proponents do not pretend to have higher than 98% efficacy on any vaccine, most are no more than 95% while many are down around 75-80%.
But we still don’t know out of the “dire” 131 cases out of 300,000,000 people in the United States, how many of these people had anything more than a mild case of measles that wasn’t worse than a stomach virus with itching.