Kyla posted this question on the Wheat Belly Facebook page. Her story so perfectly illustrates some of the problems with gluten-free foods that I’m sharing it here. I started the wheat free diet at the end of May. I lost over 8 1/2 inches all over during June and at the end that month I found the “gluten free/wheat free” section at the grocery store. Not thinking about the fact that it had rice flour, I found things I really liked. Problem is I stopped losing and actually gained an inch back, and started getting incredibly bad headaches that would last for hours. Could it be the rice flour? Yes, Kyla: The increase in fat weight and headaches can most definitely be blamed on the rice flour. We’ve discussed why such gluten-free replacements are unhealthy, but let’s do so again in some greater detail. There are four common flours used to replace wheat and gluten to recreate baked products like breads, pasta, and cookies:
- Rice flour (and brown rice flour)
- Potato flour
- Tapioca starch
You already know that wheat products raise blood sugar to high levels, such that 2 slices of whole wheat bread raises blood sugar higher than 6 teaspoons of table sugar. (Don’t believe it? It’s in every table of glycemic index. Get yourself an inexpensive glucose meter and test strips and check your blood sugar 30-60 minutes after consuming either: You will see high values after sugar, higher values after whole wheat bread.) What foods are worse than wheat? Rice flour, potato flour, cornstarch, and tapioca starch. Every time blood sugars rise to high levels, high insulin levels follow. Insulin blocks mobilization of fat and encourages fat deposition. So wheat makes you grow fat, especially the inflammatory visceral fat variety–and so do these gluten-free flours and starches. That’s why I call these gluten-free replacement ingredients junk carbs. Let me state this unequivocally: Gluten-free foods made with these junk carb ingredients make you fat. The values below would be a representative blood sugar experience 30-60 minutes after consumption of these foods: Fasting blood glucoose: 100 mg/dl After a whole wheat bagel: 167 mg/dl After a whole grain gluten-free bagel: 189 mg/dl These would be typical values in a non-diabetic. People with diabetes typically range even higher. Every time blood sugar ranges above 100 mg/dl, you glycate proteins, i.e,. you glucose-modify proteins irreversibly. If the proteins in the lenses of your eyes are glycated, they create opacities that, over time, result in cataracts. If the proteins in the cartilage of your knees and hips are glycated, cartilage becomes increasingly brittle, eroding over time and leading to arthritis. If the proteins in your LDL particles in the bloodstream are glycated, they are much more adherent to artery walls and cause atherosclerosis and heart attack. If you glycate the proteins in the skin layers, you get brittle skin and age spots. Glycation is a body-wide process and, the higher the blood sugar, the greater the glycation. It doesn’t end there. As Kyla observed, rice flour had effects that could not be blamed on blood sugar phenomena, headaches in her case. In addition to its exceptional glycemic potential, rice has a small quantity of wheat germ agglutinin (even though it is in rice) that is inflammatory and a direct bowel toxin. It also contains inorganic arsenic, a finding that had the FDA commissioner, Dr. Margaret Hamburg hemming and hawing recently. FDA conclusion: levels detected did not provoke acute toxicity, even though the highest levels (30 mcg per serving in rice bran cereal) overlap with the toxic levels that occur in water in some parts of the world (WHO), but chronic toxicity is still an uncertainty. Among the effects of acute inorganic arsenic toxicity are neurological phenomena, such as headaches. If her gluten-free products were made with cornstarch, then there are other potential problems. Even though corn is technically classified as “gluten-free,” nobody tells you that the zein protein of corn overlaps substantially in amino acid structure with the gliadin proteins of wheat, rye, and barley. Many of effects triggered by wheat gliadin, such as increased intestinal permeability and anti-gliadin antibody autoimmune phenomena, are also triggered by the zein protein of corn. This explains why, for instance, in animal models of type 1 diabetes, 15% of animals eating wheat- and cornstarch-free chow develop the disease, while 57-70% of animals develop type 1 diabetes if they consume either corn- or wheat-containing chow. And, because the majority of corn is now genetically-modified, it means that most corn products contain residues of the herbicides glyphosate and/or Bt toxin, as well as all the uncertainties introduced by the insertion of new genes, changes both genetic and epigenetic. In other words, the gluten-free industry have chosen to dig this deep hole for themselves, resorting to such junk ingredients to replace wheat and gluten. Don’t fall for it. And if you hear me repeating this over and over and over again, it is because the gluten-free message continues to propagate and engage many people who enjoy initial health benefits from elimination of wheat and gluten, just as Kyla did, only to then experience health problems because of the gluten-free bagels or breads you thought were good. 100% gluten-free usually means 100% awful.
Hi Dr. Davis,
I wanted your quick opinion on water. I know your supposed to drink a lot of water. It seems that from being on the wheat belly diet I am extremely dry mouth all night long, yet I am constantly peeing all night long. Do I just need to chug more water during the day? It’s just strange that I am constantly thirsty all night (I really do don’t eat a lot of salty foods). Just wanted to know if you had any thoughts.
If this is a different Ben, see the answers that another Ben got to a similar question early last month:
I get multiple autoimmune diseases, usually when I don’t stick to a strictly modified paleo diet. I get symptoms from yellow corn, egg yolks and yellow squash in any great quantity. I get symptoms from lots of foods with dyes. I have to assume the problem with yellow corn, egg yolks and yellow squash lies with lutein and zeaxanthin. Both are major problems for many autoimmune type people.
I also get major symptoms from corn products which list “lime” on the label. These manufacturers aren’t squeezing the juice of limes into their corn products. They are adding powdered limestone. It cuts down on hot grease froth, and makes chips which don’t crumble. You can build roads with them.
Interesting observations, Uncle!
I hear you on the gluten free foods, however some foods just happen to be gluten free so I am not always sure if they are substituing anything. I generally use net carbs to evaluate a food that is free of gluten, is this not a wise appoach? For example I make Turkey Tacos with Ortega whole corn shells, gluten free. I try to avoid corn usually, but these shells only have 5 net carbs a piece and are oversized. Ingredients
Whole Yellow Kernal Corn, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Maltodextrin, Corn Bran, Water, Salt, Hydrated Lime.
With such a low carb count and no gluten, these things seem to be pretty healthy or am I missing something?
> I generally use net carbs to evaluate
> a food that is free of gluten, …
Ditto. But I look for other adverse ingredients as well.
> For example I make Turkey Tacos with
> Ortega whole corn shells, gluten free.
Well, since corn is natively gluten-free, any brand that promotes that is probably doing so to appeal to the underinformed, to put it diplomatically.
> I try to avoid corn usually, …
Ditto. User Boundless has a concise summary on WFF:
Ortega claims neither non-GMO nor organic, so the corn used is almost certainly GMO, and may contain Bt toxin, glyphosate, or both (plus the unknown hazards of the genetics).
> Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil,
Ugh. Partially hydrogenated means “transfat”.
Soybean, other than fermented, is problematic as a human food, and even more so as an oil. Many people avoid soy due to the isoflavones (phytoestrogens, a potential cancer risk) which are also goitrogens (aggravate hypothyroid), and phytic acid. The oil is over 50% Omega 6 PUFA. Although it might not make it into the oil, the beans used are almost certainly GMO, probably glyphosate-resistant, and the crop will have glyphosate uptake as a result. We will eventually find out just what hazards that represents.
The net carbs is indeed surprisingly low. The other hazards are not, and are typical of corn chip/shell products.
Thanks great information!. Boundless’s summary on corn is informatiive, but all this GMO stuff is above me. I am not the least bit sensitive to anything really, simply made a decision to eliminate wheat for the most part (aka a low carb beer now and then slips by). So I mainly use net carbs to evaluate foods blood sugar effects in absense of Gluten. Ortega does not advetise its shells as Gluten free, however they are listed as Gluten free if you dig for it on the website. And with only 5 net carbs per shell I don’t think the GCI should be much of a factor. So the fact that it contains corn for me is mostly a non issue as I avoid corm mostly due to its carbs and GCI. However the other bad ingrediants do concern me. I can’t seem to find a quick and dirty on reading labels. Seems to me we need to have a list of ingrediants that are wheat, that are bad gluten free replacmeent items and now things that are just plain bad for you like Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil and possibly maltodextrin and why. For me personally as long as the net carbs are low, and it is gluten free it passes the majority of my personal agenda items for weight loss and wheat avoidance. But of course I can always improve as I learn about new things that are “bad”
from boundless – Corn is a high glycemic carb, even as an organic heirloom (ancestral teosinte is over 50% carb by weight).
Using Wheat Belly targets, a mere 6 corn chips, one tortilla, is your entire meal/6-hour-period allotment of net carbs (15 grams). Betcha can’t eat just 6.
> … but all this GMO stuff is above me.
Some GMOs may turn out to be beneficial. Some may be harmless. Many may be harmful, due to the genes directly (e.g. Bt), genetic damage elsewhere in the organism, or indirectly due to the intent of the genes (glyphosate uptake enabled by glyphosate resistance).
Since Big Gene and Big Grain either have failed to perform long term (possibly even short term) food safety testing, or have quashed the results, you are the lab rat for the ongoing population-wide test in progress.
> I am not the least bit sensitive to anything really …
Until mysterious chronic ailments present some years later, and consensus medicine is unable to diagnose them or manage them, much less cure them. Avoiding GMO (and gmo) is not high on the WB how-to-eat list, but it’s on there. We may not fully understand the hazards for decades, as they consequences may be hiding behind the more severe and immediate problems caused by wheat, sugar and industrial grain oils.
> I can’t seem to find a quick and dirty on reading labels.
There isn’t one, because how-to-read-an-ingredients-list is not a simple topic. Entire books have been written on it, like “Rich Food Poor Food” (Carlton). The WB books and cookbooks do provide quite a bit of advice.
> But of course I can always improve as I learn about new things that are “bad”
We are all learning.
In the words of Mark Sisson: “Corn is not a vegetable, it’s a worthless grain.” Marks Daily Apple has a good article about it, as do many other websites – and here too.
Rob, in addition to the problems with hydrogenated soy oil (I’d stay away from that one like crazy) the maltodextrin can be a source of gluten. I know this because while I don’t have Celiac disease I do react to wheat (wheat has lots of nasty proteins in it besides gluten, by the way) and I once ate some Trader Joe’s tacos which had a totally safe ingredient list except for maltodextrin. At the time I didn’t realize the possible problem or I wouldn’t have eaten them. But the next day I had all my symptoms coming back and from then on I started avoiding anything with maltodextrin in it. The fact that the word “dextrin” is in there should tip you off that it isn’t necessary for your diet, unless you MUST have sugar, LOL. Now, just because I react badly to it doesn’t mean everybody else will, but you might at least consider it.
Thanks I’m sure I should just stick with turkey taco salad, but sometimes I just want that crunch. I seem to have no adverse effects but I suspect your correct and it’s not something I should eat if I can avoid it.
Unless your name is Rob Wolfe, you should not use the name Rob Wolfe. Rob Wolfe is a star in the paleo diet community. It would be like giving your opinion on acting methods while presenting yourself as Sean Connery.
Alas name I’ve been given, but I bet I had it first.
Don’t sweat the Rob Wolfe thing. The prominent paleo guy is Robb Wolf (2 b’s, no e).
> Alas name I’ve been given, but I bet I had it first.
Hey, at least you didn’t get born with the name Ancel Keys.
Thanks for a good laugh, Boundless!
Thank you for this post. I’ve been gluten free for awhile now, and on occasion, eat products containing brown rice flour. I always suspected something was up with rice because I’d get headaches and digestive issues. It’s helpful to see this post because I’m definitely going to cut it out of my diet from now on.
I’m really new to this Wheat Free business but keen to try for my daughter who, at the moment is off dairy. Even though she is consuming no dairy she has persistent hives/eczema, an awful deep cough that has hung around for months and headaches!!
Much rather eliminate whats causing it than give her prescribed medicines.
I was looking into getting some biscuits for Kindy snacks from a GF online store but noticed they are FULL of other crap flours … can anyone recommend some good kids snacks that I could make or buy.
Lucky for us she LOVES fruit and vegetables.
Many thanks in advance
A few things come to mind…..kale chips, zucchini chips are things you can make yourself…..celery with nut butters. Wheat Free Market Foods sell mixes for muffins, as well as for flax crackers. There is a link on this blog.
Don’t forget fried cheese rounds – I have to dust them when pulling them out of the oven with grated pecorino romano – yummm. Saw them in the deli the other day but had a feeling they didn’t list all of the ingredients.
> … good kids snacks …
We keep paleo cookies on hand (a home-tweaked WB-safe recipe). They freeze well.
Lily’s chocolates are about the most benign on the market, being sweetened with stevia. That brand also offers stevia chocolate chips, which is what we use in the cookies.
Quest Bars are safe (if low in fat), but so filling that kids sometimes won’t finish a whole one ($$). Using the Chocolate Brownie flavor as an example, cut a couple of bars into 8-10 slices. Wrap them individually in candy wrapping foil or other suitable material, and you have a splendid mimic of a Tootsie Roll, without the sucrose, corn syrup, trans fats, dairy, and other “natural and artificial” mystery ingredients.
Nuts and cheese are go-to snacks here as well, but might not please all kids.
I would be careful with gluten free beers if you have sensitivities to fillers/gums or sorghum.
Some people are quite sensitive to sorghum, which is often used as a gf beer base. I don’t react to it but it tastes funny to me.
However Omission really screwed me up. I bought it on recommendation of a local specialty beer store owner who said the only thing done to it was filtering out the gluten. Even though the label says nothing about it, I’m pretty sure they use xanthan gum or one of the gum fillers to enhance the body as I had the same reaction to it that I have when eating ‘gf’ bread products.
Not everyone is going to react to it, but it would be nice to have warning for those of us who do.
Millet beer has been drunk for millenia in other cultures. Some adventurous home brewers report favorably on the taste. I wish a commercial brewery would do a millet beer.
> Even though the label says nothing about it,
> I’m pretty sure they [Omission] use xanthan
> gum or one of the gum fillers to enhance the
> body as I had the same reaction to it that
> I have when eating ‘gf’ bread products.
They claim the product contains only “malted barley, hops, water and yeast”:
Their claims are quite interesting: “… Omission Lager and Pale Ale are devoid of known barley toxic epitopes, the specific peptide sequences and reactive sites in gluten molecules that cause reactions in the human small intestine. These same beers were tested using the R5 Competitive ELISA and were found to lack any measureable gluten content. A growing body of peer reviewed scientific literature supports that our process is effective in breaking up and detoxifying gluten peptides.”
> Not everyone is going to react to it, but
> it would be nice to have warning for those of us who do.
There’s another possibility, which is that with the barley, like wheat, gluten may not be the big problem, and that their process is leaving in proteins that are still problematic. I’ve only ever had one or two Omission beers, and have no further insight. But this plays into the base article here, which is that a myopic GF focus is likely to result in products that remain (or even become) unhealthy in other ways.
I had a question. I was diagnosed with Graves about 5 years ago (I’m a very active, nearly 50 year old male with no weight issues). Thyroid issues run in my family, so who knows what set it off. I had many of the symptoms around pounding heart, 15% body weight loss (which I could not afford), insomnia, etc. I chose to go the medication vs. the radiation route, and as long as I stay on top of my blood tests, medication (methimazole) seems to keep AMOST all of my symptoms under control. Sometimes I am totally off medication and right now on a low dose (10mg/day).
The symptoms that don’t seem to be under control even though I have no other problems are the ones related to my GI track. Gas, floating/frequent, stool, etc. You talk a great deal about hypo-thryroidism, but not so much about hyper….do you think going wheat free would help? I did it once before for a month to support my daughter who is wheat sensitive, and the thing I missed the most was the occasional cold beer. The rest wasn’t too hard after the first few days as long as I planned ahead.
> You talk a great deal about hypo-thryroidism,
> but not so much about hyper…
There is indeed very little on this blog about hyper – would be nice to see some advice, although the reasons for being hyper (and therefore the management options) may vary considerably. This is, alas, consistent with a general lack of information on the web about hyper. At least most of the consensus medical thyroid malpractice is focused on hypo.
> … do you think going wheat free would help?
There is zero harm in trying, and an opportunity for vast benefits even if it does nothing for the hyper.
> I did it once before for a month to support my
> daughter who is wheat sensitive, and the thing
> I missed the most was the occasional cold beer.
No need to miss that, actually. There are at least two brands of GF beer that taste fine, Bard’s and Omission. They are, however, 15 grams net carb per bottle, which is the WB limit for a whole meal. I occasionally have one with a naked burger and some coleslaw at a favored burger joint.
In addition to Bob’s comments: Yes, the gliadin protein of wheat can trigger Grave’s disease and hyperthyroidism, as this is an autoimmune condition.
It is truly astounding that the most common cause of autoimmune thyroid disease in several studies is the gliadin protein of wheat.
Bob Niland, I am so stealing your line “naked burger”. My favorite burger joint has been trained to throw a burger on the grill, make the bloody Mary, and forget the bun about every two weeks.
> I am so stealing your line “naked burger”.
It’s not mine. I learned it from a family member who reported, a few years go, that it was common restaurant parlance in California, another minor benefit of the so-called “gluten-free fad”.
I’ve been nearly GF for two weeks and already most of my GI symptoms have cleared up. I cheated once and they came right back the next day. I do a lot some competitive biking as a hobby and have been shoveling whole wheat in my mouth for decades to get the quick carb fix. I also feel so much less tired…pretty amazing how quickly this worked. This may be the new way to go for me! I’ll post back in a few months after my next blood test to let everyone know how things look.
On the cold beer front, New Planet makes a nice Pale Ale and Two Brothers is also offering a decent GF option. I was not a fan of the New Grist — it went right down the drain.
> These would be typical values in a non-diabetic.
> People with diabetes typically range even higher.
A group of doctors have just thrown down the gauntlet on carbs and diabetes (both T1D and T2D):
“Dietary Carbohydrate restriction as the first approach in diabetes management. Critical review and evidence base”
There are many familiar names, and at least one who lately changed his mind on this.
It has a long list of cites, including, interestingly, “Teicholz N: The Big Fat Surprise”, so it is really up to date.
Thanks for posting this Boundless…..I noticed Adele Hite of “Earthapology” fame is on their editorial board. Hope the publication gets a lot of play on social media.
As it happens, Mark Sisson also just took a look at GF,
from a different perspective:
addressing the myth of the supposed health hazards of gluten-free eating, which are, as here, related to what you replace the wheat calories with.
In addition to being high-gly junk (which Mark neglected to mention), most GF products:
* are not usually fortified with folates (as wheat is, but only because it’s required by law), and
* due to their high-glycemic nature, the majority of GF products provide less RS and other prebiotic substrate for desirable gut bacteria.
I read that yesterday and thought it was tongue in cheek. Heck, I’ve been on potassium and folate since I was 16 yrs. old……a little hypoglycemia going on. Used to pass out at the drop of a hat. My doc back then didn’t know to tell me to drop wheat/grains. Yep, had those symptoms of gluten intolerance way back then, in fact to when I was 5 Yrs. old. It was always – “what the devil did you eat?”
Question: Is it still possible to access all those great blog topics that Dr. Davis used to have prior to revamping to the new look? That used to be a tremendous resource back then. Boundless, how did you pull up the “wheat re-exposure blog” so quickly?
> Is it still possible to access all those great
> blog topics that Dr. Davis used to have prior
> to revamping to the new look?
Most of that content appears to still be here, although many of my bookmarks have gone 404. If you know an exact text string, some of the web archives may have snapshots of material lost in the revamp. For things still here, but just hard to find …
> … how did you pull up the “wheat re-exposure blog” so quickly?
site or domain: wheatbellyblog.com
The new WBB format’s Search, sadly, appears to find even less than the old one did, but the solution is still the same: use an external search engine restricted to this domain.
I don’t know where to post my question but hope you, Boundless, or some other super smart poster can help. I just bought raw pumpkin seed meal to help with insomnia with which I am plagued. (Sadly WB hasn’t helped with this.) I read that it’s full of magnesium which helps induce sleep. Since I still get a little confused over seeds/grains I just want to be sure this is WB OK before I rip open the bag. Thanks.
Pumpkin seeds have quite a bit of phytate, which prevents absorption of magnesium and other minerals. Better to just take a magnesium pill–one with a magnesium type that ends in “ate” like “gluconate.”
Personally, I’m going to try a couple of glasses of a great California red blend wine tonight.
Soak raw organic pumpkin seeds over-night in water with salt and roast/dry in the oven at the lowest temperature for 2 to 5 hours (check for desired consistency). These preparation will limit/reduce phytic acid and other anti-nutrients. Eat real, whole foods and do not take the advise of the following comment to get your magnesium via supplements. Many supplements have industrial contaminants (lead etc.) and do not always have the levels of the vitamin listed. For a fee, Consumer Labs does testing and provides data to those who subscribe. If you are going to be consuming industrial supplement, you might want to find out what’s in them via Consumer Labs or some other lab. Remember the supplement industry is self-regulating. Perhaps you trust industries that self-regulate? I don’t!
> … to help with insomnia with which I am plagued.
The causes of disturbed sleep, and the remedies, appear to be legion. Many people report improvement with wheat elimination, but not all. If it’s related to gut healing, it could take some time.
Right off the top we might find circadian disruptions: shift or on-call work. Changing jobs may be the only answer.
Get light under control, and eliminate blue light at night. One prominent blogger, who had tried everything else, finally got relief by wearing blue blocker glasses at night.
Cortisol. Dr. Davis has said on this blog: “Reordering the cortisol circadian pattern is a really tough issue, Jack. This is off course from the Wheat Belly conversation, but suffice to say that taking measures to re-establish the normal sleep-wake cycle is critical. I would even go so far as to talk about prescription sleep agents with your doctor to force the re-establishment of this pattern–a small price to pay for regaining control over adrenal rhythmicity.”
It might take meds. Dr. Davis has also said here: “If melatonin doesn’t work by itself, a little diphenhydramine, 25 mg, can also help along with the melatonin. It’s a harmless antihistamine. Also keep in mind that physical exhaustion is the best soporific.”
And back at the gut, user Boundless said: “An emerging topic in the WB lifestyle is gut biome, and it appears that it has a lot of influence on sleep quality. Taking a course of quality probiotics, and adding some prebiotic to your diet (such as a Resistant Starch like potato starch) might have surprising results (it improved my sleep, which didn’t need much improving).”
A belated thank you to Boundless. I still feel we have lost a great blog resource since Dr. Davis reconfigured things.
You can check archive.org and select appropriate date:
Dr. Oz speaking on yesterday’s show, “I recommend whole grains all the time.” It might be time for Dr. Davis to get back on for a refresher.
Sadly, his dietary strategies are more likely influenced by his source of advertising dollars.
The whole grains recommendation is one of my litmus tests to determine if someone is worth listening to or not. Dr. Oz is a charlatan.
Yes, time for a reminder!
Dr. Oz in a nutshell:
Concisely written…..just mailed it to my favorite Health Food store…..
What a good idea, Jan!
Outstanding post especially about glycation–scary stuff. I’m going to print it out and put it on my refrigerator in case of temptation.
Dr. Davis – thank you for one of your finest articles. I haven’t and won’t consume them even in the face of well intentioned friends and relatives that know I don’t do wheat. My husband tried to tell me one time that the reason he didn’t drink any beer made with rice gave him headaches. His friends chimed in that was the reason they couldn’t either. Obviously, I’m not a beer drinker. A copy of this is on it’s ways to all my friends and relatives.
Thank you, Neicee!