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Are you wheat-free?

Posted Sep 24 2008 11:41am
According to the recent Heart Scan Blog poll, Are you wheat-free?, the 173 respondents said:

Yes, I am free of wheat products.
87 (50%)

No, I include wheat products in my diet.
73 (42%)

I'm not sure.
1 (0%)

I think you're nuts.
12 (6%)

That's kind of what I expected.

There are people who have eliminated wheat and experienced nothing except a feeling of deprivation. These people are in the minority. Though the poll was not set up to reflect this (i.e., asked who tried it and experienced no perceptible benefit), in my experience, this applies to about 20% of people. Little happens with elimination of wheat beyond modest weight loss. Those are the people who generally think I'm nuts.

Or, these people may have been brainwashed by "official" agencies like the USDA, the American Diabetes Association, and American Heart Association and the constant marketing of (high markup) grain products like Cheerios and Shredded Wheat . Some people are really uncomfortable going against the "grain" of popular public opinion.

Then there are the people who try to eliminate wheat and fail. They can't deal with the overwhelming fatigue, mental fog, and moodiness that comes with withdrawal from wheat, the phenomenon of converting from a sugar-burning metabolism to a fat-burning metabolism. Although wheat withdrawal usually runs its course in 2-5 days, some people find it intolerable. (That would be another fun poll to run: Have you experienced wheat-withdrawal?) Occasionally, the withdrawal is replaced by endless cravings, a phenomenon that applies to only about 10% of people. These are the true "wheat addicts." These are the people who eliminate wheat, lose 40 lbs, then regain it when they have one cracker and the floodgates of impulse control crumble.

Then there are the majority, 50% in the poll, though more like 70% in my face-to-face experience. Why is my experience skewed? Well, the people I deal with every day come because of coronary disease in some form (abnormal heart scan score, for instance) or because of lipid or lipoprotein abnormalities. So my experienced is skewed towards people who are likely to have something abnormal, such as high triglycerides or small LDL particles, both of which are created by including wheat in the diet.

This last group also shows unexpected effects of wheat elimination: substantial weight loss, dramatic reductions in blood sugar and triglycerides, increase in HDL, reductions in small LDL, reduction in c-reactive protein and other inflammatory measures. Appetite shrinks considerably. Not uncommonly, improved well-being, reduction in bowel complaints like cramping or "irritable bowel syndrome" is experienced, some rashes clear, occasionally arthritis will improve. See below for some of the testimonials to this experience.

When I first set out to advise people to eliminate wheat, I did it because I reasoned that it would be a quick and simple way to get people to reduce blood sugars and help correct the ubiquitous metabolic syndrome that afflicts nearly 50 million Americans now. And it did indeed accomplish that simple goal. But I did not expect all the other benefits to develop, the dramatic weight loss, improved well-being, reduction in hunger, etc.

I view wheat elimination as an easy-to-remember, digestible way to obtain enormous health benefits in a coronary plaque-control program, one that works for most--but not all--people. And I relate this experience not to sell you something, but to simply relate what I see as the truth, a way that is contrary to conventional advice yet works enormously well.

Unsolicited testimonials of people who have successfully been wheat-free:

Barbara W said:

It's true! We've done it. My husband and I stopped eating all grains and sugar in February. At this point, we really don't miss them any more. It was a huge change, but it's worth the effort. I've lost over 20 pounds (10 to go)and my husband has lost 45 pounds (20 to go). On top of it, our body shapes have changed drastically. It is really amazing. I've got my waist back (and a whole wardrobe of clothes) - I'm thrilled.

I'm also very happy to be eating foods that I always loved like eggs, avocados, and meats - without feeling guilty that they're not good for me.

With the extremely hot weather this week in our area, we thought we'd "treat" ourselves to small ice cream cones. To our surprise, it wasn't that much of a treat. Didn't even taste as good as we'd anticipated. I know I would have been much more satisfied with a snack of smoked salmon with fresh dill, capers, chopped onion and drizzled with lemon juice.

Aside from weight changes, we both feel so much better in general - feel much more alert and move around with much greater flexibility, sleep well, never have any indigestion. We're really enjoying this. It's like feeling younger.

It's not a diet for us. This will be the way we eat from now on. Actually, we think our food has become more interesting and varied since giving up all the "white stuff". I guess we felt compelled to get a little more creative.

Eating out (or at other peoples' places) has probably been the hardest part of this adjustment. But now we're getting pretty comfortable saying what we won't eat. I'm starting to enjoy the reactions it produces.

Weight loss, increased energy, less abdominal bloating, better sleep--I've seen it many times, as well.

Dotslady said:

I was a victim of the '80s lowfat diet craze - doc told me I was obese, gave me the Standard American Diet and said to watch my fat (I'm not a big meat eater, didn't like mayo ... couldn't figure out where my fat was coming from! maybe the fries - I will admit I liked fries). I looked to the USDA food pyramid and to increase my fiber for the constipation I was experiencing. Bread with 3 grams of fiber wasn't good enough; I turned to Kashi cereals for 11 years. My constipation turned to steattorrhea and a celiac disease diagnosis! *No gut pains!* My PCP sent me to the gastroenterologist for a colonscopy because my ferritin was a 5 (20 is low range). Good thing I googled around and asked him to do an endoscopy or I'd be a zombie by now.

My symptoms were depression & anxiety, eczema, GERD, hypothyroidism, mild dizziness, tripping, Alzheimer's-like memory problems, insomnia, heart palpitations, fibromyalgia, worsening eyesight, mild cardiomyopathy, to name a few.

After six months gluten-free, I asked my gastroenterologist about feeling full early ... he said he didn't know what I was talking about! *shrug*

But *I* knew -- it was the gluten/starches! My satiety level has totally changed, and for the first time in my life I feel NORMAL!

Feeling satisfied with less is a prominent effect in my experience, too. You need to eat less, you're driven to snack less, less likely to give in to those evil little bedtime or middle-of-the-night impulses that make you feel ashamed and guilty.

An anonymous (female) commenter said:

My life changed when I cut not only all wheat, but all grains from my diet.

For the first time in my life, I was no longer hungry -no hunger pangs between meals; no overwhelming desire to snack. Now I eat at mealtimes without even thinking about food in between.

I've dropped 70 pounds, effortlessly, come off high blood pressure meds and control my blood sugar without medication.

I don't know whether it was just the elimination of grain, especially wheat, or whether it was a combination of grain elimnation along with a number of other changes, but I do know that mere reduction of grain consumption still left me hungry. It wasn't until I elimnated it that the overwhelming redution in appetite kicked in.

As a former wheat-addicted vegetarian, who thought she was eating healthily according to all the expert advice out there at the time, I can only shake my head at how mistaken I was.

Stan said:

It's worth it and you won't look back!

Many things will improve, not just weight reduction: you will think clearer, your reflexes will improve, your breathing rate will go down, your blood pressure will normalize. You will never or rarely have a fever or viral infections like cold or flu. You will become more resistant to cold temperature and you will rarely feel tired, ever!

Ortcloud said:

Whenever I go out to breakfast I look around and I am in shock at what people eat for breakfast. Big stack of pancakes, fruit, fruit juice syrup, just like you said. This is not breakfast, this is dessert ! It has the same sugar and nutrition as a birthday cake, would anyone think cake is ok for breakfast ? No, but that is exactly the equivalent of what they are eating. Somehow we have been duped to think this is ok. For me, I typically eat an omelette when I go out, low carb and no sugar. I dont eat wheat but invariably it comes with the meal and I try to tell the waitress no thanks, they are stunned. They try to push some other type of wheat or sugar product on me instead, finally I have to tell them I dont eat wheat and they are doubly stunned. They cant comprehend it. We have a long way to go in terms of re-education.

Yes. Don't be surprised at the incomprehension, the rolled eyes, even the anger that can sometimes result. Imagine that told you that the food you've come to rely on and love is killing you!

Anne said:

I was overweight by only about 15lbs and I was having pitting edema in my legs and shortness of breath. My cardiologist and I were discussing the possible need of an angiogram. I was three years out from heart bypass surgery.

Before we could schedule the procedure, I tested positive for gluten sensitivity through I eliminated not only wheat but also barley and rye and oats(very contaminated with wheat) from my diet. Within a few weeks my edema was gone, my energy was up and I was no longer short of breath. I lost about 10 lbs. The main reason I gave up gluten was to see if I could stop the progression of my peripheral neuropathy. Getting off wheat and other gluten grains has given me back my life. I have been gluten free for 4 years and feel younger than I have in many years.

There are many gluten free processed foods, but I have found I feel my best when I stick with whole foods.

Ann has a different reason (gluten enteropathy, or celiac disease) for wanting to be wheat-free. But I've seen similar improvements that go beyond just relief of the symptoms attributable to the inflammatory intestinal effects of gluten elimination.

Wccaguy said:

I have relatively successfully cut carbs and grains from my diet thus far.

Because I've got some weight to lose, I have tried to keep the carb count low and I've lost 15 pounds since then.

I have also been very surprised at the significant reduction in my appetite. I've read about the experience of others with regard to appetite reduction and couldn't really imagine that it could happen for me too. But it has.

A few weeks ago, I attended a party catered by one of my favorite italian restaurants and got myself offtrack for two days. Then it took me a couple of days to get back on track because my appetite returned.

Check out Jimmy Moore's website for lots of ideas about variations of foods to try. The latest thing I picked up from Jimmy is the good old-fashioned hard boiled egg. Two or three eggs with some spicy hot sauce for breakfast and a handful of almonds mid-morning plus a couple glasses of water and I'm good for the morning no problem.

I find myself thinking about lunch not because I'm really hungry but out of habit.

The cool thing too now is that the more I do this, the more I'm just not tempted much to do anything but this diet.
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