I recently finished reading Wheat Belly by William Davis, MD. It’s a book that I’ve been hearing about for months, but that I honestly avoided because it seemed like everyone who read it became absolutely obsessed. Now I know why.
I have very mixed feelings about this book. I’ve taken away a lot of good, but also still have a lot of questions. I made sure to read it with a critical eye, because I didn’t want to simply believe everything he was saying just because it was in print. I think I did that well, and over the past week or so have spent time gathering my thoughts about where I stand on the great wheat debate.
If you haven’t read the book yourself, I do strongly suggest you read it. There is some great information in the book, and even if you don’t completely eliminate wheat from your life, it’s helpful to be armed with this information to at least start making some healthy changes to your diet and lifestyle.
My biggest question after reading Wheat Belly is this: Are all of our problems actually coming from the wheat, or is it really just the overabundance of sugars in our diet? If you don’t have celiac or a gluten sensitivity, is it really the wheat that is harmful? Or is it the 60-70% of daily calories that come from carbs for many Americans?
I know that the author points to a lot of science and research regarding this, and he seems convinced that it is, in fact the wheat. And before you say “but wheat has been around for centuries, blah blah blah”, the Dr. Davis makes it very clear that the genetically modified wheat that we consume today is no where close to the wheat that was around even 100 years ago. That, to me is a scary thought, that we have genetically modified some foods so much that they practically aren’t even the same food that they once were in the wild. Creating crops that can be grown quickly, with high yield and at low cost is on one hand brilliant science, but on the other hand possibly harming our insides slowly and silently.
Another thought that I had while reading was that it seemed to me that the author was kind of using scare tactics to get his point across. Someone who believes everything they read might come away from this book believing that if they continue to eat wheat, they’re going to develop a severe neurological disorder and/or heinous skin rash. It is scary to think that wheat could play a part in many of the diseases and disorders we see today, but people also need to realize that there are many, many people who eat wheat for their whole lives and never develop these life threatening diseases. (Or are there?). It is amazing though, the amount of disorders, diseases, rashes, etc. that can potentially be exacerbated by wheat products. I’ve had mild psoriasis my entire life; could it be cleared up by simply eliminating wheat from my diet? It’s an interesting thought.
I guess what I’m saying is, I don’t know what I’m saying. I definitely don’t think he’s incorrect, but I’m also not positive that everyone needs to eliminate wheat completely from their lives. But should we all cut down drastically on the wheat products we consume? Probably. (See, I told you I don’t really know what I’m saying).
So what am I going to do? Am I going wheat free? Well, not completely, not for now. What I have done since I’ve started reading the book is actively eliminating most wheat products from my diet. Notice that I didn’t say grains, but wheat specifically. I’ve still been eating oats and brown rice in the grain category. I have had some wheat products here and there, but extremely sparingly. I must say that the times when I string together several completely wheat free days back to back have been great. I’m not a huge bread/pasta/cracker eater on an every day basis, so this hasn’t been too difficult for me. Dr. Davis also included some very tasty looking wheat-free recipes at the back of the book, so I’m actually looking forward to trying some of them out. Maybe when I do so I’ll let you all know how they come out!
I think my plan for the immediate future is to eliminate wheat as much as possible, but I’m not going to get crazy about it. I don’t have celiac, so if a little bit of gluten creeps into my day, I’m going to be just fine. I’ll stick with this for a little while, and then may go completely wheat free for a while, but we’ll have to see. I don’t necessarily know if wheat is the devil, but I do know that it is not the healthy diet staple that the ADA would like you to think it is. I am in full agreement that wheat should not be the base of our entire diet, and that many people would see some great health changes if they decreased their wheat intake, and increased other parts of their diet such as veggies, eggs, and organic meats.
Maybe this is a slow transition into paleo for me, maybe not. All I know is, I still have a lot of questions, and you should too. Are there things that you are eating every day, disguised as health foods but that are really doing more harm than good? Possibly. Books like Wheat Belly may feel like brainwashing, and they may seem extreme, but to me, this information is worth looking into. Who knows, eliminating wheat may improve your life in ways that you would never expect (but maybe it wont, to be totally honest). Is it worth it to try? That’s up to you.