Dana Carpender, friend and author of many low-carb cookbooks, provided this review of my new Revised & Expanded Wheat Belly, below.
It’s funny how things happen. Nine years ago I had already been eating a low carbohydrate diet for 16 years. During that time I had occasionally eaten low carb tortillas and low carb bread. These things were hardly a staple of my diet, but I kept ’em around for the occasional late-night grilled cheese sandwich or whatever. But the longer I ate low carb, the less I cared about them and the less often I ate them. Which is why, by January of 2011, it had been at least 8 months since I’d bothered eating either low carb bread or tortillas.
I was working on slow cooker recipes and came up with a recipe for slow cooker mu shu pork. As you may or may not know, mu shu dishes are served wrapped in Chinese pancakes. I figured low carb tortillas would be a fine substitute. So I made a supper of it, having two low carb tortillas wrapped around my meat and vegetables.
I woke up feeling like grim death. Bleary, thick-headed, exhausted, achy all over. It felt like a combination of a bad hangover and going hypothyroid. It was two days before I was back to my usual cheerful, energetic self.
Serendipitously, within a week or two I received a review copy of Dr. William Davis’s Wheat Belly in the mail.
As I wrote in my original review of the book, I have read a lot of books since I first became interested in nutrition in the summer of ’78. I generally learn a little something new from each one. But Wheat Belly? Wheat Belly hit like a bomb. Every page brought information I simply had not known, had not even suspected. I knew about celiac disease, but wheat linked to schizophrenia? Seizures? Dementia? Cancer? And a more, in a long and scary list? I had had no idea.
Completely new to me, too, was the information regarding the extreme hybridization of wheat — not the genetic modification that’s the current nutritional boogeyman, just crossing various strains of wheat, to the point that modern wheat is genetically a completely different plant than our grandparents ate — and one that has never been proven safe for human consumption. (Please note: even ancient grains were not good for humanity. The adoption of agriculture resulted in a drop in stature — humans are just recently beginning to reach the height of their hunter-gatherer ancestors — the weakening of bones, and the narrowing of the pelvic outlet, making childbearing far more dangerous and painful than it had hitherto been.)
Add to that the news that wheat is physically addictive — like, really, truly, similar-to-opioids addictive. And you wondered why you have cravings?
So I’ve been gluten-free ever since. Oh, I may get a tiny bit now and then by mistake, but then, I don’t have celiac. I’m not one of the people who is going to become desperately ill from a single crumb. But eat anything made with gluten grains deliberately? Nope.
It’s not just gluten, as Wheat Belly makes clear. Amylopectin A found in wheat (and other grains, like corn) turns out to be a super-carb, jacking blood sugar up worse than table sugar or corn syrup. Phytates bind up minerals, so those “healthy whole grains” actually lead to deficiencies.
Gluten itself can be broken down into gliadin which, among other charming tendencies, attacks the intestinal wall, causing everything from irritable bowel to leaky gut, and eventually autoimmune disease. Another gut-ripper is wheat germ agglutinin — which agricultural science has deliberately increased in the name of pest control. And you were worried about pesticides on your food! (As a long-time nutrition buff, I remember when wheat germ was the wonder-food du jour. Brrr.)
And exorphins! You know about endorphins, of course — the happy-juice your brain creates in reaction to exercise and such. Exorphins are just what they sound like — drug-like compounds from outside the body. Yes, wheat can get you high and is physically addictive.
In short, everything made of wheat, from an Oreo cookie to 100% whole grain bread, contains as pretty a package of poisons as you’re likely to find posing as food.
Which leads me to one more issue: Since Wheat Belly was first published in 2011, many, many people have chosen to quit eating gluten. Many other people have, for reasons that pass understanding, decided to be honked off about this. “I don’t mind people with celiac asking for gluten-free stuff. But those people who just pretend to be gluten-sensitive are muddying the waters! How can we know if it’s really important that their food is gluten-free? Why do they have to jump on the bandwagon?”
Why do you freaking care?! Do you question why Jewish folks don’t want their eggs scrambled in bacon grease?
My experience with the tortillas tells me that my body does not like wheat. Isn’t that enough? Can I eschew gluten grains (and grains in general) not because I have celiac but because I’m convinced they are not wholesome food for humans?
I should add that despite the deluge of important and often disturbing information, Wheat Belly is far from a grim read. Bill Davis is a fine writer; he makes the science easy to comprehend, even entertaining — and often funny.
If you’ve wondered what the whole shift away from gluten is about, you need to read Wheat Belly. If someone close to you has gone gluten-free and you cannot understand why you need to read Wheat Belly. If you have been toying with going gluten-free because a lot of your health-conscious friends have gone gluten-free, you need to read Wheat Belly. If you have, indeed, gone gluten-free because you’ve heard various information going around, but would like to bring the reasons into laser-sharp focus, you need to read Wheat Belly. If you’re tired of family and/or friends giving you grief over eschewing wheat and want sound, scientific information to argue with you need to read Wheat Belly. And if like me, you’re just a big health-and-nutrition geek, you have really, really got to read Wheat Belly.
For those of you who read the first edition, there is new info to be had; science marches on. I was pleased to learn of new tests for various wheat sensitivities, all of them less alarming than a bowel biopsy via endoscope. That said, I don’t need a test, I’m convinced.
Because of the new tests, they’ve found a whole lot of people have markers for celiac without the classic symptoms — but increased rates of all kinds of other ugly health consequences. I emailed Dr. Davis partway through reading the new edition of Wheat Belly with the inelegant subject line “Holy s***, Bill.” I had read a few reports recently of alarmingly increased rates of death among younger Americans starting in their 20s. The opioid epidemic is implicated but does not account for all of it. Then I read that celiacs have 29% increased mortality — and that celiac has nearly doubled in the past several decades. (Wait until you read how they discovered that!)
The new Wheat Belly Revised & Expanded edition is available from: