Screen Shot 2015-08-09 at 6.59.12 AM

Steve’s wife, Jenny, shared these photos of her husband feeling well off all wheat and grains, then after a wheat exposure:

“Went to a party last night. Thought he could have pizza since he’s looked so good for so long. This is him before and after.”

Of course, Steve will survive after enduring some misery and perhaps embarrassment. But the whole business of re-exposure to wheat and related grains can be quite nasty. Among the most common wheat/grain re-exposure reactions are:

  • Abdominal distress–bloating, diarrhea, discomfort, even severe acute pain
  • Joint pain–in fingers and wrists, as well as large joints
  • Skin rash–particularly if you had some form of rash, such as seborrhea, rosacea, eczema, or psoriasis during prior grain-consuming days
  • Mental/emotional effects–anger, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, depression, restlessness/restless legs, insomnia/disrupted sleep, impulsive behaviors

If you obtained relief from an autoimmune or neurological condition after several months of the Wheat Belly lifestyle (and the Wheat Belly Total Health additional strategies), wheat/grain re-exposure can re-activate your disease. One of my most memorable examples: I was seeing a 52-year old male businessman for mild coronary disease prevention a few years ago. As he had the typical lowish HDL, highish triglycerides, and plenty of small LDL particles underlying his coronary disease, I advised him to eliminate all wheat/grains, as well as add vitamin D and fish oil. (This was prior to the added strategies surrounding cultivation of bowel flora.) He also had rheumatoid arthritis, mostly affecting his hands and resulting in the typical disfigurement, now starting to involve his knees despite receiving a monthly intravenous drug and two oral drugs. On each return visit over 2 years, the pain and disfigurement were receding, enough for him to stop the intravenous drug and one of the oral agents. He reported that he was about 80-90% relieved of his joint problems. He then planned a trip to Germany where he declared “It’s my one and only trip of a lifetime to Germany: I’m having some damned pumpernickel!” He did, and the joint pain and swelling returned in full force, necessitating a return to all 3 drugs for 6 months before pain/swelling receded back to their prior level–6 months.

Some people say that, given the severity of some of these reactions, it’s not worth being wheat/grain-free in the first place. This is nonsense, of course, as it would deny you the extravagant long-term benefits of this lifestyle such as weight loss, freedom from inflammation, reversal of autoimmune conditions like ulcerative colitis and rheumatoid arthritis, reduced insulin and blood sugar, reversal of diabetes, protection from dementia, improved HDL cholesterol and triglycerides, precipitous drops in small LDL particles that lead to heart disease, etc. Why would anyone deny themselves such wonderful health benefits to avoid the occasional or rare exposure?

On the other hand, let’s face it: even the most meticulous among us will experience an occasional re-exposure, particularly when eating at restaurants, friends’ homes, and other social events. It could be a sauce, it could be cross-contamination from cooking utensils, or a “stealth” ingredient, but it can happen. As time has gone on, I have cut my inadvertent exposures to perhaps once a year, nearly always a presumed cross-contamination exposure. But the benefits I gain from the other 364 days of the year without such re-exposures are well worth the small risk.