Wellness Wednesday - To Wheat or Not to Wheat? That is the Question - Book Review: Wheat Belly by William Davis, MD

This week's Wellness Wednesday is brought to you by BioStar Performance Whole Food. When I sat down to read this book I had no expectations it would substantially change how my body feels today. I expected the book would focus on gluten intolerance and celiac disease (neither of which I suffer from). It was quite shocking to find out that modern wheat is not simply a gluten-laden food, but that a specific carbohydrate in modern wheat spikes blood sugar more readily and easily than table sugar. It is this ease of digestion of Amylopectin A that triggers high blood sugar, and consequently more fat accumulation. A serving of wheat, whether whole wheat or white can raise blood sugar higher than a candy bar or a soft drink.

Inspired by the book, I stopped eating wheat (no pasta, pizza, bread, rolls, crackers, cookies, cereals) and no glutens (found in other grains like barley, rye, bulgur). After two weeks my little pot belly had gone down. After three weeks a very interesting phenomena occurred: the arthritic discomfort I’ve had in two finger joints completely disappeared. At first I thought it was the weather (cooler, less humidity); to test whether wheat was the cause, I ate a piece of whole wheat bread for dinner...the next morning both finger joints were stiff and painful.

Reading this book made me think about the horses; the number of horses I see that are overweight, particularly with swollen bellies. When we look at ingredients on many horse feeds we see listed: wheat middlings. When we take the horses off processed feed, the overweight horses start loosing that heavy belly syndrome.

Gluten is the predominant protein in modern wheat, and once broken down in the stomach gluten yields polypeptides. In an NIH study, the dominant polypeptides in wheat gluten were found to cross the blood brain barrier and bind to the brain’s morphine receptor; the very same receptor that opiate drugs bind to. The head researcher on this study, Dr. Christine Zioudrou, named these polypeptides “exorphins”, short for exogenous morphine-like compounds. Interestingly enough the opiate-blocking drugs: naloxone and naltrexone also block wheat exorphins. Modern wheat is in essence an appetite stimulant, and one we can easily become addicted to.

It is interesting to note that modern wheat is only distantly related to the wheat of our ancestors: einkorn and emmer wheat. The changes in wheat have happened most rapidly in the last 50 years, as geneticists focused on high yields, and subsequently high carbohydrate loads. The ancient wheat varieties are higher in protein and lower in complex carbohydrates, specifically absent in the ancient wheat is Amylopectin A.

The triggering of high blood sugar from wheat consumption repeatedly or over sustained periods, causes more fat accumulation. According to Dr. Davis, ”the bigger your wheat belly, the more inflammatory responses are triggered: heart disease and cancer.”

After reading Wheat Belly, you may never look at bread the same way again!