Gluten Free For Good


 

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Well, what do you think? Will this glob of dough migrate straight to your belly?

I haven’t eaten wheat in years, so I’m not worried about a “wheat” belly, but I understand my own physiology well enough to know that overloading on high-carb, baked goods (gluten-free or not) will make for wild blood sugar loop-de-loops, not to mention extra pounds.

Have you heard of the new book, Wheat Belly, by gluten-free medical doctor, William Davis? If you haven’t, you will soon. It made its way up to #5 on the New York Time’s best seller list (hardcover advice and miscellaneous category) and is generating lots of controversial chatter along the way.

I’m not sure why, but Dr. Davis’s publicist sent me a copy of the book (thanks, Olivia). I hadn’t heard of it, and to be honest, I rolled my eyes when I saw the title. I figured it was just another weight loss book, in what has become a bazillion dollar industry—this time using “gluten-free” as the hook.

After my eye-rolling subsided long enough to focus on the fact that the book was written by a preventive cardiologist, I was intrigued. Preventive being the key word when it comes to heart health. I like exercise science, which tends to revolve around cardiac function in one way or another. My thesis paper for my degree (way back when) was a long-winded question about whether exercise training promotes coronary collateralization in people with heart disease. And, if so, do these vessels enhance myocardial perfusion? I went on to do an internship in cardiac rehab, help start an out-patient program, and neurotically fuss about whether my cholesterol and/or my HDLs were too high. Yes, freakishly high HDLs, which are half my cholesterol and my cholesterol isn’t low.

So—Wheat Belly was written by a preventive cardiologist who advocates no gluten, less drug use, balancing blood sugar, and is focused on real food?

I’m in.

I read the book and spent an hour last weekend interviewing Dr. Davis for this blog post.

He’s delightful, has a good sense of humor, and is on a mission to find better solutions to the deluge of health problems we face in this country. He wants to help people. Many docs practice flow-chart medicine.

Oh, you have this symptom? Then you need this drug.

I didn’t get that feeling from Dr. Davis, and that’s unusual in cardiology. He won’t immediately hand you a prescription for a statin drug, but he might offer you a recipe for low-carb, grain-free pumpkin spice muffins. My Paleo friends will love him.

While I don’t agree with everything in the book and I find his food philosophy a bit animal-product-heavy for me, his “eat real food” approach to health makes perfect sense. He does use artificial/non-nutritive sweeteners (which I avoid), but he admits that’s a compromise. I understand his reasoning, as I do my own version of compromising when it comes to a few select, gluten-free products that I recommend to clients and that I occasionally use myself.

I also know, from a health standpoint, that trading gluten-containing products for gluten-free products isn’t the answer. Dr. Davis is on that bandwagon as well.

Excuse me while I step onto my soapbox for a moment.

I repeat. Switching from one overly-processed “food” to another is not the answer, and much of the time, the new gluten-free version has no more nutritional value than ground styrofoam.

Gluten-free baking often relies on refined starches and sugar to recreate a wheat-like texture and to improve taste. This has been a major frustration of mine for years. Many of the support organizations focus on replacing wheat with gluten-free products, rather than encouraging people to eat nourishing food that happens to be gluten-free. A major topic of discussion right now in the celiac community is the Gluten Free Labeling Law currently under consideration by the FDA. While I support a uniform labeling standard and understand the pros and cons of various ppm limits, if you eat real food, you don’t have to worry about labels, ppms, or government standards.

Stepping down from my soapbox now. Nah, I’ll keep one foot on and one foot off.

As a nutritionist, one of the things I think is most important in improving health is to eat organic, whole foods (lots of vegetables) and to balance blood sugar. That’s also the premise of my version of a gluten-free diet and what Dr. Davis is advocating. The overriding theme in Wheat Belly is to resolve metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes by reducing carbohydrates (especially wheat and refined starches), and in the process, most people lose weight. But, you can’t trade gluten-containing processed carbs for gluten-free processed carbs.

The basic premise makes sense. Unless you’re running a marathon, but that’s another story.

While I don’t agree with everything in Wheat Belly, I do get the idea that Dr. Davis’ motto, especially when it comes to heart health, is to “prevent” problems before they sabotage your health. I’m into that, too.

For more information, please check the following links.

Wheat Belly Blog
Track Your Plaque Blog (I love this—meditation, prayer, and deep breathing as strategies to enhance heart health. Go, Dr. Davis, go!)

Peace, love and real food.
Melissa

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37 Responses to “Wheat Belly”

  1. ROY of nj says:

    YES-Wheat is a major devil of empty calories to most people,
    and the old FDA food pyramid saying to eat 8 -11 servings a day was done for BIG AGRA.
    Milk and cheese I think is another overused food, as is sugar.
    But let’s face it–most people want to eat that way AND get their Rx.
    THANKS—Roy

    • Melissa says:

      Roy,

      Thanks for “weighing” in on this. I can’t imagine eating 8 to 11 servings of grain foods per day! That pyramid never made sense to me and, although better, the plate thing doesn’t work for me either. Yes, wheat, dairy, and sugar are totally overused. You’re right about that!

  2. Kari says:

    Hi Melissa! I liked this article and am interested in reading the book. My question is totally unrelated though- I was reading your bio and saw the cute pic of your dog. You mentioned he eats grain free and I wanted to know more about that? I recently bought grain free (dry) dog food at Costco because I think what we’ve been feeding her has been detrimental to her health. I’ve also read that we should be feeding our dogs the same things we eat – fruits and vegetables. I’d love to know your opinion on this?

    • Melissa says:

      Kari,

      Thanks for taking the time to comment and also to ask about my buddy Fairbanks. Sadly, he’s in that great big dog park in the sky now (sniff, sniff), but he was the best dog ever. =) What a great companion. I put him on a grain free diet years ago as he fell ill and almost died. The vets couldn’t figure out what was wrong with him, but his signs and symptoms looked strangely familiar to celiac disease. Dogs evolved to be meat eaters, so I’m not sure about the fruits and veggies, but I know they shouldn’t be eating grains. Here’s a couple of blog posts I did about dogs and nutrition. You might find a lot of good information in these posts. You’ll have to suffer through lots of photos of Fairbanks though! =)

      http://www.glutenfreeforgood.com/blog/can-dogs-get-celiac-disease

      http://www.glutenfreeforgood.com/blog/im-ready-for-my-close-up

      Thanks, Kari. I appreciate your comments and think it’s awesome that you care so much about your dog’s food!

      Melissa

  3. Outstanding review, Melissa! I’ve got this one on my coffee table right now. Hoping to take it with us this weekend if we go camping. Yep, I’ve become the nerdy non-fiction reader and of course, this topic is near and dear to my heart. Thanks, too, for the emphasis on reading it word to word! Again, great review and I appreciate it! :-)

    Shirley

    • Melissa says:

      Shirley,

      It’s an interesting book, especially if you lean towards Paleo style eating. That’s not me, but I do agree with much of what Dr. Davis advocates in the book. It’s a good read with lots of good information. Balancing blood sugar is one of my mantras and people don’t realize how much grains can boost glucose levels and cause weight gain. There’s so much more to it than that, but that’s an important piece to the puzzle. I’m interested in hearing what you think of the book. I’m not a “diet” supporter, per se, but like I said, he’s right on with his premise that over-indulging in fast acting carbs can lead to weight gain. Not to mention all the gluten-related problems wheat can cause. We’re all on the same page with that. I liked the guy. He’s on target with “preventive” cardiology. I wish more docs adhered to that notion, rather than jumping to the conclusion that everyone with borderline cholesterol should be on statin drugs.

      Hope you get to go camping this weekend. I’d love to be out backpacking right now. The weather here has been spectacular!

  4. Elese says:

    Thanks for a great review Melissa. Can’t wait to read this book. I couldn’t agree with you more about the importance of just “eating nourishing food that happens to be gluten-free”. I remember the point in my GF journey when I realized how simple it really can be…lightbulb moment: no label reading and fussing required when I eat things that have no labels and are inherently gluten free! Veggies, fruit, nuts, seeds, meat, herbs,etc….and truly the bottom line is that junk food is junk food, whether it’s gluten-free or not. In a complex world it is nice to just enjoy the simplicity of eating an apple as opposed to a bar or packaged product of some sort that requires looking up a bunch of ingredients my body doesn’t want or need anyway. One less thing to think/worry about is always a blessing to me! “Simplify, simplify”: a great motto (thanks Thoreau). Thank you for a great post Melissa.

    • Melissa says:

      Elise,

      I LOVE your “light bulb moment” in your GF journey. You’re SO right. We often make things way more difficult than we need to. Once you realize how many nourishing foods are GF by default, a whole new world of healthy living appears before you. I use (before all onslaught of GF processed foods) to tell people that finding out you have celiac is a gift and an opportunity to make much better food choices. Once you have to look at labels, you realize how many chemicals, additives, sugar, trans-fats, etc. are in our food supply. It’s not just about the ubiquitous wheat ingredients. If you stick to “real” food as you mention, it’s easy and healthy! Simplify is right on!!

      Thanks for a great comment!

      • Srie says:

        I’m a Celiac too and a vegetarian. I was dsognaied Celiac last year, but have been gluten free for 2 years now. I’ve been vegetarian for 25 years.My iron is as high as a male meat eater (according to my doctor), so I must be doing something right?I eat lots of different things. However, many of the soy products have gluten in them, so I have had to change the way I eat lately.For example:Breakfast:Gluten free museli with chopped banana and milk/rice milkLunch:Tzatziki dip, with tomatoes, cucumber, cheese (rennet free) and some rice crackersDinner:Large mushrooms baked in the oven with olive oil, garlic and paprika drizzled over themSteamed veggies eg: spinach, brussell sprouts, snow peas, cauliflower, broccoli,Put mounds of the steamed veggie over the large baked mushrooms, drizzle with Natural Greek Yoghurt (savoury) and sprinkle with Chilli flakes .(this is such a yummy nutrious dinner)Followed by a strawberry, banana, cinammon smoothie.There are many other recipes of course, my easy to make Chick Pea burgers are delicious, easy to make and highly nutritious . just do a google search for gluten free vegetarian recipes

  5. Deborah says:

    I so agree with your comment about support groups pushing highly-refine substitute foods. And their members continue to suffer with skin problems, joint pain, autoimmune diseases, depression, etc. How can they be so close, and still not get it?!

    • Melissa says:

      Deborah,

      Oh boy! We are on the same wavelength with that. I’ve been supportive (and still am) of several of the national and local celiac organizations and feel that they have done a great job guiding the way for the newly diagnosed. I go to all the national conferences and have learned something new each time, but I just can’t get over the focus on processed food. There is so much more to healing and thriving. It takes wholesome, nutrient dense foods, exercise, a mind-body connection, quality sleep, stress reduction, etc. People with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity need to be especially aware of the pitfalls of switching out one processed choice for another. I’ve mentioned this time and time again in my evaluations of the conferences. It shouldn’t be about finding the next GF donut. It should be about eating kale, beet greens, and bok choy. =)

      Anyway, I do support their efforts, I just wish they’d promote healthier choices. Many of those skin problems, joint pain, etc. that you mention above would dissipate on a whole foods diet.

  6. Maggie says:

    I’ve been hearing so much about this book! I really respect your opinion, thanks for the review Melissa:)

    • Melissa says:

      Maggie,

      It’s an interesting book and definitely worth reading. I’m wondering what the response will be from the wheat lobby groups. =) Not good, I’m guessing. While I’m not as extreme in my opinions in general, I do agree with much of what he says. He’s right about metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. Those are HUGE problems in this country and eating those processed, fast acting carbs has been a major problem. I’m really interested in your take on the book. Keep us posted!

  7. Viktoria says:

    Another great post, and I heartily (!) agree about the uselessness of swapping refined starches for wheat. Also, I’d love to get my hands on that recipe for low-carb, grain-free pumpkin spice muffins.

    • Melissa says:

      Viktoria,

      Thanks for your comment. I appreciate it. The muffin recipe is in his book. I’m not sure whether it’s okay to publish the recipe here or not. I’ll contact him (or his publicist) and see what the policy is. If it’s okay, I’ll make the muffins and do a blog post on them. I’ve made very similar muffins before, as have lots of GF bloggers. I would skip the artificial sweetener for maple syrup or honey, but otherwise, it’s a dairy-free, grain-free recipe. Elana’s Pantry (almond flour cookbook) has a lot of similar recipes, all grain free and with healthy sweeteners. Here’s the link to her blog. You can probably find a grain free pumpkin muffin recipe there. Otherwise, check back here, I may post one soon! =)

      http://www.elanaspantry.com/

  8. Nadya says:

    Yes!! Great review & heads up on this book – & I am so on the same page as you & several respondents – nutrient dense, ‘Real Food’ is SO much easier, day in day out! I’ve been a fan of whole foods for years, & have been frustrated that many “GF” grain mixes or flours are not OG, & no artificial sweeteners for me, either!! … as you say, much GIG focus gets taken up with grain substitutes rather than whole foods!
    The book ‘Diabesity’ is also really good – by endrochronologist Dr Francine Kaufman, specializing in children with diabetes – about 15 years ago, she began seeing type 2 in children for the first time!
    I do like amaranth & Quinoa, & tend to cook OG whole seeds weekly – but balance with a CSA share & goodies from my own garden. Got two cute little squash at the farmers market today …

    • Melissa says:

      Nadya,

      You always add so much good stuff to the conversation! Thank you. I really do appreciate your insight and knowledge. We’re very much on the same page with our food philosophies, although I quit gardening (other than a few potted veggies or herbs) when I joined my CSA program years ago. I almost get too much food in the small single share. I’d be overwhelmed if I also had a garden! I’ll check out the book “Diabesity.” Sounds interesting. It’s sad that so many kids are in the hole at such a young age as far as health goes. Very sad. I expect to be getting other varieties of squash in my share soon. We’ve had a lot of zucchini and yellow squash, but will be transitioning to acorn and such. I love it. Nothing like squash soups in the fall.

      Melissa

  9. I think that this is so funny, I had never heard of wheat belly until a couple weeks ago!

    • Melissa says:

      Celine,

      Yes, it’s a catchy name for sure! =)

    • Adi says:

      I seem happy again. My joint pain is gone and I have so much energy, that even drinikng coffee seems like too much now, LOL.So, this has definitely become my way of life now. I have no desire for carbs or desserts (maybe some chocolate from time to time) and the choice between having wheat or feeling great is not even an issue anymore. I am talking about it with everyone, and may have been able to help a few people.At home, I am slowly weaning daughter and husband (he will make some rice instead of pasta for dinner now) and lots of salads. As he is French, the baguette is not going anywhere for now not for him at least haa haa.I saw your book in the bookstore, and it just called out to me. I guess the teacher appears when the student is ready. I ran home and downloaded it on my NOOK and read it in two days.I am enjoying my way of eating and love the challenge of finding delicious things to make that fill me up and leave me satisified for hours on end.Thank you so much for all you have done! I feel you have saved my life and my brain is more alert now, so I can actually feel confident in the new career path I have chosen.

  10. Sounds like an interesting book Melissa! I couldn’t agree with you more. As someone who has yet to have any issues with gluten (tested, symptoms, or otherwise), most gluten-free products make my stomach turn. At first I thought it must be the gums, but I occasionally use xanthan at home, and have never had issues with it in my own baking. I eat a lot of hearty and fiber rich foods, so the only thing I could think was perhaps the high starch content of so many of those gf foods. Hmmm.

    • Melissa says:

      Alisa,

      Yes, high starch products bug me as well. It’s that “ground styrofoam” consistency and nutritional value of GF processed foods. I’ve never been a fan. The GF diet can be very unhealthy if you go for all the starchy, low-grade, processed stuff.

      Thanks for your comment. I love hearing from people who are not GF! =)

  11. Wheat Belly says:

    [...] more thoughts on the book visit Melissa’s blog post Gluten free for good, she is a nutritionist who interviewed the good doctor after reading his [...]

  12. nicole says:

    i should get this book in the mail today i am looking forward to reading it and cutting wheat out of my diet i have struggled with my weight for quite a while now and even gained weight when i became a vegetarian becuase i eat a lot of grains and other thing that i thought were good for me. it has been a struggle and i look forward to finally getting healthy.

    • Melissa says:

      Hi Nicole,

      I’m interested in hearing how you liked the book and whether you’ve cut back on grains in general or not. I find too many grains (even “healthy” GF grains) don’t serve me well. I do better with organic whole foods (heavy on the veggies).

      Thanks for commenting!

  13. Marc Richter says:

    I’ve been following the advice of Dr. Davis for a few years. My adherence to his wheat-free diet came from a concern for heart health. You should pick up his book “Track Your Plaque” if you are interested in that aspect of why Wheat kills. Wheat Belly is a great book and goes into great detail why the wheat we consume today is nothing like the wheat of yesteryear. I appreciated Dr. Davis’s work to help prevent cardiovascular disease as well obesity.

    • Melissa says:

      Hi Marc,

      I’m familiar with Dr. Davis’ Track the Plaque website, but have not read the book. Thanks for the tip-off. I’ll order it. I’m really interested in cardiac function and how wheat might impact heart health.

      Thanks! And wishing you continued good health!
      Melissa

  14. Mike Joiner says:

    Melissa, have you seen the Fork Over Knives documentary ? Seems like there are quit a few contradictions between Wheat Belly and the movie( I am reading Wheat Belly now). I can’t see how anyone can dispute anything in the movie, my wife and I are vegan, no dairy, no meat, and no soy and I would value your opinion on comparing the two, book and movie. Thanks for all your great help
    Mike

    • Melissa says:

      Mike,

      Thanks for your comment! I appreciate your opinion. I saw the short preview of the documentary, but I haven’t seen the full version. I do want to see it though. I’ll look for the contradictions. Wheat Belly is a little over-the-top, but I agree with a lot of what’s in it. And the more I learn about gluten, the more I think most people have the “potential” to be impacted by it. It’s interesting.

      I’ll check out the movie.
      Melissa

  15. [...] Free For Good) did a more comprehensive review of Wheat Belly on her blog that you can check out here. (She even snagged an hour-long interview with Dr. Davis, which gave her even more insight into his [...]

  16. Gayle says:

    Again, just a word of caution. Don’t drop the wheat before getting a simple celiac disease test. If you do have celiac disease which is at the root of your health problems (metabolic syndrome and Type 2 can sometimes be your only symptoms) you need to be tested. Many autoimmune diseases plaque those of us with celiac disease.

    Because celiac is inherited your family members will need to be tested too.

    …just sayin.

    • Melissa says:

      Good point, Gayle. Glad you mentioned that for our readers. I’m very aware of that and Dr. Davis is aware of testing as well, but it’s good to reiterate how important it is to find out before going gluten-free.

      Thanks!

  17. [...] Brussels sprouts and cipollini onionsgluten-free toasted oat breadthis just in — size does matterWheat Belly NUTRITION [...]

    • Linda says:

      Jon, I was thinking the same thing myself when I tried repeatedly to make his recipes work. I know how to cook, and these recipes fall short consistently and in every way. He must have copied them off the internet and never once tested any of them. I have wasted over $2K on groceries to accomplish this wheat belly diet for 6 people in 2 months. I am pissed. Not only am I out the money for the book, I am out for my trust in someone who simply lied and made me believe.

  18. John says:

    I have reviewed 18 of the major claims in this book in regard to the effects of wheat and gluten. I researched the specific statements in the book with cited references about gluten and wheat and read each one of the studies. The claims made by the book and even the citations themselves are misleading at best and most are absolutely false. I have documented each instance and will make any of the studies available for anyone who requests them. Dr. Davis, who I have met in person and spoken with, is out to sell books. I believe he has good intentions and most likely has seen positive results with people choosing to be gluten free. However, the book Wheat Belly is poorly written and is leading people to believe things that are completely false. Read the studies that are referenced in the book. I am not bias either way. My wife actually has celiacs disease. However, the claims made in the book and the references to scientific studies are completely misinforming the public. Do not believe what you read in this book.

  19. Rick says:

    I have reviewed all the research cited in this book and made a simple spreadsheet explaining exactly what the book claims is true and exactly what the scientific studies cited in the book say are true. The cited research does not even support Dr. Davis’ and the books claims. I will release this document to anyone that requests it and you can draw your own conclusions. These are not my opinions, these are scientific findings from the studies that are in this book. The truth needs to be told and this book is completely full of misleading information and completely false claims.

  20. Linda says:

    I am not in. Been trying with all my might to cook from the recipes in the Wheat belly diet cook book. I am finding repeatedly that these recipes don’t work. I am not trying to loose weight (5’7″ 120lbs) but just trying to loose the wheat as I cook from scratch 3 to 6 times a day 365 days a year for the past 8 years. I guess you could say I can cook, although after trying these recipes, I am having my doubts. My family is BEGGING me to toss the diet into the trash can. I just threw out another batch of wheat belly recipes (the Flap Jacks) and we are going without for breakfast…again. Guess that’s how he can claim you loose weight…non of it is palitable. Never in my life have I struggled with recipe after recipe from a cook book. These recipes have either never been tested, or folks are content to eating cardboard, souped up with a lot of cheese and butter! I am actually getting fat from this food, and it’s only been a little over a week. Do your homework before you fall for this. Eat in moderation, eat healthy, don’t ever eat out, and toss out bad cook books like this one.

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