Thursday, September 29, 2011

Is Wheat Belly making little heavier than you'd like?

I've never reviewed a book on this blog before, but this one is important, so here goes...

You eat fairly well, by the standards of most Americans. But, no matter how much weight you lose, or how carefully you follow a good dietary plan, or how much you exercise, you cannot get rid of that pesky bulge out front:  the one that makes people wonder if perhaps you are six or so months pregnant.  Most likely, you are a victim of Wheat Belly!

In his book, published this year by Rodale Press, Dr. William Davis coined the term Wheat Belly to describe the all-too-familiar sight of the bulge that frequently goes by another name, but is usually not caused by beer at all.

Davis describes the much hybridized wheat of today as scarcely related to the wheat people began eating 10,000 years ago. That wild grass, called Einkorn, changed just a little through natural hybridization, over thousands of years. But in the last 50 years it has been hybridized and changed so dramatically that its’ genome is scarcely recognizable from that of its’ ancient ancestor. What began as a four foot tall grass with 14 genes now has been dwarfed, its’ stalks made sturdier, and its’ production beefed up to the point where it has over 40 genes, many of them never before encountered by humans. Today’s wheat has far more gluten than its ancestors, giving rise to almost ubiquitous gluten intolerance and celiac disease. It even has proteins not found in any of its’ parents, including gluten structures unlike any ever seen in food before.

According to Dr Davis, this new wheat, which was never tested for safety or dietary compatibility, is at the root of most diabetes, arthritis, and the ubiquitous fattening of Western, especially American, populations. He goes on to say, “Small changes in wheat protein structure can spell the difference between a devastating immune response to wheat protein versus no immune response at all.” Translated, that means a lot more people are allergic or sensitive to today's wheat.

Today, approximately half of all calories consumed by most Americans come from carbohydrates, and 20% of those calories come from wheat. Ten thousand years ago nobody ate the kinds of wheat found today, and little of what they ate came from any form of wild grass, or Einkorn wheat. Our bodies’ requirements haven’t changed, so this is a most unnatural situation, causing a cascade of unfortunate biochemical events. These events adversely affect every organ in the body, causing breakdown, aging and degradation.

Davis has taken hundreds of patients off wheat and many have lost huge amounts of weight without any other dietary changes. Research shows that the newer wheat varieties cause cravings through peptides, called exorphins, that travel to the same brain receptors as morphine. These exorphins are seriously addicting, stimulating people to eat more wheat every couple of hours, even when they don’t feel hungry. In fact, they keep them from knowing when they are satisfied, so they consume more food overall. Research shows that people who stop eating wheat subsequently cut out close to 400 calories daily, simply because they no longer feel the urge to feed the wheat addiction.

Many people have gluten intolerance in one form or another, but few ever find out the cause of their problems. Even those who don’t test positive for gluten intolerance or wheat allergies often find symptoms improve when they stop eating wheat in any form.

People with gut symptoms should always be tested for gliaden antibodies. Even without testing, it is a good idea to emphasize the importance of getting off all wheat. But test before removing the offender from the diet, so the test will be accurate. Often relief from the pain of small intestinal villi being ravaged by gluten will come quickly with wheat elimination. Yet, interestingly, people suffering from celiac disease often crave the very wheat that is destroying their gut. Other tell-tale symptoms are blood sugars in the diabetic range and wide mood swings following wheat consumption. Not all gluten intolerants have gut symptoms, but every organ is being affected as long as they continue eating gluten.

Wheat promotes cancers, especially those of the intestinal tract. A 30-year Swedish study of 12,000 celiac patients found 30% more gastrointestinal cancers, including small intestine, liver, bile duct, pancreas, throat, and esophagus, with up to double the cancer mortality of those without celiac disease.

Yet, more often than not, celiac remains undiagnosed. Often it doesn’t carry gut symptoms at all. Yet those with undiagnosed celiac who remain on wheat and other gluten-containing grains, have a 77-fold increase in lymphoma and a 22-fold increase in cancers of the mouth, throat and esophagus.

The first thing to do if you have acid reflux is to stop eating wheat. This is often all that is needed to solve the problem. I had that experience, and help came within just a day or two of removing wheat from my diet.

Dr. Davis strongly advocates taking all diabetics and pre-diabetics off wheat, because two slices of bread spike blood sugar faster than any other food tested, including straight sugar. This is true for organic whole wheat as well as for refined white bread. After the dramatic blood sugar rise, of course, blood sugar plummets, stimulating the craving for more wheat. Once off wheat, all markers improve and normalize, including not only blood sugar, but high blood pressure, inflammation, glycation, dangerous small LDL, and triglycerides.

Diabetics age faster in every organ, developing poor circulation, atherosclerosis, vision loss, peripheral neuropathy, cataracts, and dementia earlier than the non-diabetic population. This is because they produce Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs). These AGEs are cellular debris that muck up the works, and they are directly caused by high blood sugar. Diabetics are two to five times as likely to suffer heart disease and attacks, and up to 25% of diabetics will develop kidney failure or malfunction 11 years after diagnosis. Diabetics have up to 60% more AGEs than non-diabetics. Since high blood sugar often comes from wheat consumption, you can safely say that wheat causes aging!

The formula for developing osteoarthritis, and possibly even rhumatoid arthritis includes eating lots of wheat. This causes leptin levels in the blood to soar, and this mirrors leptin levels in fluids that lubricate joints. Increased leptin levels cause inflammation, which then causes wearing of joint cartilage. All this leptin comes from the wheat bellies you see all around you. A fat belly is a leptin factory!

Americans are notoriously acidic and wheat is one of the greatest acidifiers in their diets. A study at the University of Toronto showed that increased gluten intake causes a 63% increase in urinary calcium loss, a result of blood trying to maintain its crucial pH by pulling calcium from the bones. Because most Americans and Canadians are chronically acidic, 25-year-olds now are frequently found to have bone loss. This acidity also contributes to the initiation and growth of cancer.

The brain isn’t any safer from the ravages of wheat than any other organ. A fancy name for the problem is gluten encephalopathy, and it expresses as migraine headaches and stroke-like symptoms such as loss of control of an arm or leg, visual difficulties or even difficulty speaking. 

Gluten sensitivity can cause seizures, which often occur in teenagers. This type of seizure, which occurs in the temporal lobe, just beneath the ears, causes such strange phenomena as hallucinations of smell and taste, or feelings of overwhelming fear without reason.

If all this isn’t enough to put you off wheat, listen to how it contributes to heart disease, our number one killer. Briefly, heart disease and stroke are caused by oxidation, glycation, inflammation, and high triglycerides, along with dangerous small LDL particles. These are all a result of a diet too high in carbohydrates, especially those from wheat.

In a nutshell – or more appropriately, a wheat berry – you now know a bit about the dangers of today’s forms of wheat. To understand the full picture, Wheat Belly is a well-researched good read, and Dr. William Davis is thorough, experienced, and even quite funny at times.