Hello everyone and happy Wednesday!
As most of you know, I am currently trying to eat a gluten-free diet to help with my IBS and digestive troubles. When one of my friends found out I was giving up gluten, she recommended I check out a book called Wheat Belly by William Davis. She had found it really interesting and thought I would enjoy it because of what I was attempting to try. She even lent me her copy so I could begin reading it right away! Big shout out to Jacquie for inspiring this post. 🙂
I flew through this book and found it absolutely fascinating to read, so I wanted to do a review to let you know what it is all about and what I thought about Davis’ theories.
Davis is a preventive cardiologist who uses diet to address heart disease and total body health. The main theory of the book is easily summarized by the catchphrase on the cover “Lose the wheat, lose the weight, and find your path back to health“: Davis is advocating for a diet completely free of wheat products in order to cure and prevent a myriad of physical and mental health problems that are currently found in the Western world. To name a few examples, Davis suggests that eliminating wheat will reverse and prevent diabetes, obesity, IBS and other digestive issues, early signs of ageing, acne, cataracts, heart disease, dementia, binge or excessive eating, and many more.
I know this seems a little extreme so here is a brief summary of his argument:
Davis’ theory is based on how the human body breaks down wheat currently found in modern supermarkets. Modern wheat and grain products have undergone an incredible amount of genetic modification in the last 60 years and Davis argues that our bodies have not been able to keep up and evolve to adapt to these drastic changes in structure and composition. Humans are no longer physically capable of properly digesting modern wheat and our bodies are reacting accordingly. This is the root cause of many current health issues.
The protein currently found in abundance in wheat is amylopectin A. This protein is easily digestible and increases blood sugar levels more than sugar. Davis explains that “Eating two slices of whole wheat bread is really little different, and often worse, than drinking a can of sugar-sweetened soda or eating a sugary candy bar”. High blood sugar levels lead to higher insulin levels, which in turn forces your body to create more fat. Davis argues that sustained exposure to these proteins (and resulting high blood sugar levels) over an extended period of time is what causes so many of the physical health problems experienced in today’s Western societies.
Gluten, another protein in wheat, creates a by-product when digested that mimics morphine and has incredibly addictive properties. Gluten is also an appetite stimulant and Davis explains that this is what causes us to experience “cravings” for wheat products and why people often have withdrawal-like symptoms when attempting to remove wheat from their diet. He argues that gluten not only contributes to the ongoing obesity epidemic in Western societies but can also exacerbate certain mental health issues like schizophrenia or ADHD.
It is the high concentration of glucose and the presence of gluten that gives wheat its one-two-punch knock-out.
The book itself is separated into 13 chapters.
Chapters 1-3 explain the background context of modern wheat, its structure and composition, and Davis’ main arguments. Chapters 4-12 each focus on a different body part (brain, heart, skin, intestines) or well-known health issue (celiac disease, insulin resistance, obesity) and its relationship to wheat and/or gluten. The final chapter is a guide to eliminating wheat and provides example daily meal plans, as well as helpful advice, tips, and tricks. There are two appendixes that provide a comprehensive list of foods where you would not expect to find gluten or wheat, as well as a number of gluten and wheat-free recipes (28 total).
What I liked about Wheat Belly: This book opened my eyes to how the wheat we eat today is vastly different from the wheat humans were eating just 50 years ago. It made me appreciate how addicting wheat products can be and why I often feel as if they are impossible to resist! It totally changed my perspective on wheat and moving forward, wheat products will be a rare occasional treat or indulgence rather than a food staple in my diet. The book gave me the knowledge and ammunition to feel confident in avoiding temptation (its not me…. its the wheat talking!).
Davis’ background and health care expertise give his argument credibility and he includes real examples of patients that he has worked with who experienced drastic physical improvements after eliminating wheat. Wheat Belly was a quick, enjoyable read and Davis presented a viewpoint that I have never read anywhere else. His arguments are thorough with a well-researched evidence base.
What I didn’t like about Wheat Belly: Throughout the book, I felt as if there was a tug-of-war going on between Davis’ expert knowledge of science and body chemistry versus easy-to-read text meant for the general population. Most of the book was straight forward, but every once in a while there was a passage that switched to include complex scientific terminology that was over my head. It made parts of the book confusing and difficult to follow.
While I understand that this book is focusing on wheat and gluten products, I also felt as if Davis’ argument was a little too extreme. He paints all wheat products with the same brush – everything ranging from All-Bran cereal to donuts, cookies, pizza and protein bars – without ever discussing the other ingredients in these products (e.g., added sugar, sodium, preservatives, etc.) that may also be contributing to the negative health effects found in modern society.
Additionally, when he provides an outline for his recommended diet in the final chapter of the book, there are a lot of surprises and new information that seem out of the blue! For example, he advocates for a diet low in fruits (limiting servings to less than 1/2 cup ) and total elimination of dried fruit, ALL fruit juices (even 100% pure, natural juice), and large servings of rice and potatoes. To replace these items, he recommends including more vegetables, oils, raw nuts, meats, eggs, and dairy products. While he does provide a brief explanation and rationale for each of his recommendations, I was left with many unanswered questions – especially since so much of his advice flies in complete opposition to a lot of other health research that exists.
My Overall Review:
I definitely recommend reading this book, especially if you have ongoing health issues. It is easy to read and gave me a new perspective on how I consume wheat products. It helped me to understand the effect that wheat or gluten has on my body and its relationship to many common ailments and diseases. However, I would take Davis’ advice and recommendations with a grain of salt (hehe). Do what feels right for you – whether that is eliminating wheat products all together or simply cutting down on your consumption.
Have you read Wheat Belly? If so, what did you think about the book or Davis’ theory? Let me know! I would love to hear your thoughts.
Also – I will still be doing a weekly posting and I will try to stick to Wednesdays but I may end up moving it around to other days of the week to give a little bit more flexibility in my schedule. Things have just been a little bit tight lately! Thanks for understanding and I will see you all soon!