Diabetes Diet

Lose Your Wheat Belly for Diabetes Health

When I started to read Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis, my first thought was that it didn’t go far enough. The book’s main message is to avoid wheat and we will be much healthier. Not only will we lose weight, but we will also be able to manage our diabetes much better.

But just wheat? Not all grains, which the paleo diet eliminates? Not starches, the enemy of low-carb?

No Wheat!

When I began to follow a very low-carb diet after reading Dr. Bernstein’s Diabetes Solution by Dr. Richard K. Bernstein and Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes, I eliminated almost all starch from my diet.

Almost all. Eventually, I did eliminate all wheat, but not until I had followed a very low-carb diet for several years.

That’s a key difference. On a very low-carb diet you can, of course, eat a teeny weeny bit of wheat. For example, when my natural foods store would offer samples of guacamole, until this year I would use a cracker as a carrier.

Wheat Belly is about eliminating all wheat from our diet, whether it is the supposedly good whole grains or the more commonly suspect bread and bagels. But once Dr. Davis establishes how wheat is a poison, he does recommend a very low-carb diet.

We have three excellent reasons for avoiding all wheat:

1. Dr. Davis, a preventative cardiologist who practices in Milwaukee, builds on the glycemic index. He correctly points out that wheat — whether refined or whole grain — has one of the highest glycemic indexes of any foods. The higher the GI the greater and faster a food will raise our blood glucose level. In fact, among the foods we commonly eat, only baked potatoes have a significantly higher level.

2. He shows that wheat can be addicting. Earlier, I made the same point in my article, “Wheat and Other Grains Can Be Addicting to People with Diabetes.”

3. Far from wheat’s reputed role as the “staff of life,” the wheat on the shelves of our supermarkets is not the same grain that our grandparents ate. In the past half century our scientists have genetically modified the wheat we eat to greatly increase its yield and make it more resistant to fungus and drought.

That’s what Norman Borlaug’s fabled “Green Revolution” (which my former boss Bill Gaud named) was all about, without which world-wide starvation would have been much worse. But we now know that every time we mess with nature we get some unwanted side effects. In this case we happened to modify the glutens in wheat to the extent that our genes don’t like them.

We all probably know someone who is gluten intolerant or has the even more severe celiac disease from consuming gluten. One of my own nieces suffered from celiac disease for many years until a doctor was able to diagnose it and help help her to entirely remove wheat from her diet. The sources of gluten are wheat and related species of grain including rye and barley.

But most of us probably don’t know how common gluten intolerance (or gluten sensitivity) and celiac disease are. Two million Americans have celiac disease alone, but less than one-tenth of them know it, Dr. Davis writes. Others believe that these diseases affect 15 percent of us.
Wheat Belly came out in September in hard cover with 292 pages at a cost of $25.99. The publisher is Rodale Books.

This book is easy to read because Dr. Davis has an excellent writing style as well as a great passion for his subject. At the same time he backs up his assertions by citing scientific studies in the professional literature.

To investigate the claims that Dr. Davis makes in Wheat Belly you don’t have to buy this book or even check it out of your local library, as I did. It’s easy to test what he proposes:

Just cut out all wheat products from you diet for 30 days — all wheat and all gluten from wheat, rye, and barley. That means no bread, no bagels, no pizza, no pasta, no cereal as well as the million other products in our supermarkets, where a diligent study of the nutrition labels will inform your quest.

In place of these grains you can eat more meat, vegetables, fats like olive and coconut oil, and nuts. If after 30 days you don’t feel remarkably better both mental and physically, have better blood glucose readings, and fewer pounds, feel free to sue us. But I’m sure that you will thank us instead.

This article is based on an earlier version of my article published by HealthCentral.

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  • JCC at

    Hi Val,
    Was very interested in your comment as I am just starting a very low carb eating regimine. I am type II but my sugars were still creeping up on the traditional plan. I understand the low carb, higher fat and protein thing but am having diffulty with the amount of calories I should consume daily. The fat has so much added calories, I’m assuming I can’t just eat as much as I want…..or is there a different dynamic at work here? Any advice from anyone would help. Thanks!

  • Natalie Sera at

    Here’s what doesn’t make sense to me: if it was just wheat, why isn’t it perfectly OK to eat rice, or quinoa, or yes, those potatoes? Isn’t Dr. Davis just picking out a subclass of those high-carb, low-nutrition foods when they’re ALL bad news?

  • Val at

    I lost 30 lbs this year on a very low carb diet. Used Atkins as a template. It was not at all difficult and once I was on maintenance starting 3 mos ago I made it easier using Julian Bakery low carb bread, as well as nuts and seeds for snacks. I pretty much eliminated fruit since I would rather have my cottage cheese and small amounts of plain yogurt which do have some carbs in them. Scandinavian Crisp bread supplies my crunchy needs. My insulin usage has dropped dramatically but I am very severe in the diabetic sceme of things and doubt I will ever get off of it since I have a strong genetic component and my pancreas seems to be very burnt out. I did read Taubes book of Good Calories and Bad Calories as well as the book you mentioned Wheat Belly as well as others but Taubes was the most helpful overall. They both helped me understand what was going on with my physiology and how to make decisions about foods to eat based on what I learned. I am 5’5″ and went from 180 lbs to 150 lbs over 4 mos time. My lowest was 145 lbs but it has been hard to stay below the 147 lb mark. Overall I am happy with my current weight status and have made low carb my default life style since if I do go over 20-30 g carbs per day I will gain. Having the low carb bread is a lifesaver since I do like my sandwiches. I also keep a container filled with assorted raw nuts for snacks. As far as recipies the diabetic literature generally uses too many carbs for me and the low carb cookbooks are better suited for my needs. They are most helpful for deserts. I have had good results with low carb cheesecakes and almond flour oat bran muffins. I am not sensitive to gluten but have cut out all wheat because of the carbs. This has been a lifesaver since my energy and endurance have improved dramatically over the past 7 mos. I felt as if I was a deaths door before and now I feel great. Retiring also helped. It would have been very hard to do all of this if I had still been working. Dealing with my diabetes seems like a full time job. If I let up at all it is back to square one: ie high sugars. So, it is important to stock the house with things that are allowed but still do not leave you feeling deprived as that state just sets you up for a downfall. It takes time and some investment of money in the right stuff. A lot can be found on the web: ie sugar free catsup and sugar free peanut butter, etc. I am still accumulating stuff but it is worth it in the long run since it is the long run I am planning for. Hopefully, very long.