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Verdict on Wheat Belly

09 Apr

Hello, Dear Readers:

Warning, this is a long one. But important. Go get a cuppa before you start reading, because there’s a lot to learn.

I’ve completed reading the eye-opening book Wheat Belly, and what I learned from reading it makes me say what I said the first time I mentioned the book in this blog after meeting Dr. William Davis in my earlier post on the subject:

STOP EATING ALL WHEAT IN ANY FORM, IMMEDIATELY AND FOREVER.

No kidding. It’s that toxic, even if you’re not sensitive to wheat or gluten. The “wheat belly” refers to what most people think of as a “beer belly;” a paunch that just won’t go away; but what if you don’t drink beer? Reading labels, as we all should be, will yield more places where you’d never think a wheat substance would subside (beer, too.) And if you or someone in your household has that problem with wheat and/or gluten, you’d probably already know all about it. If you don’t, go get this book and read it. Read the whole thing, now. (You can also get a Kindle version if you prefer.)

DISCLAIMER: I’m not a doctor, nurse, scientist, or medical professional. I’m a patient who reads and pays attention, and I blog about food and food-related subjects like this one. I am not suggesting anything I wouldn’t do myself, and not prescribing or pushing any drugs or agendas. And while we can’t all look like Hollywood movie stars, at least we can try our best to be healthy and well with the life we have. Thank you.

Now back to the editorial.

I quit eating bread, pasta, and all that more than 10 years ago after reading Suzanne Somers’ first books that discussed her Somersizing diet plan. Only on rare occasions would I have something with wheat, usually at a party, or something from Taco Bell or Taco Cabana. (Sorry. Mexican food is a weakness.) Hate to call Somersizing a “diet” because it’s more of a way of eating, but. . .the food was good, and it made sense after years of “low fat” and “low calorie” that ended up not doing much but leaving me starving–and didn’t keep the weight off. Once in a while, I’d have something, like at a restaurant, a party, or the occasional wedding. (You know I’m not missing wedding or birthday cake, right? Ditto for a really tasty looking cupcake.) But as a rule, I just didn’t have bread or pasta around anymore, and didn’t have it on a regular basis.

When I did the yeast-free diet, where you avoid anything that would turn to sugar and feed yeast in your system, the hardest thing was to give up dairy, but I did it, and am only now starting to eat cheese again. Not a lot, and not like I used to, but occasionally, like in the Wheat Belly Biscuits I made recently.

Of course, while reading these books and seeing milk, butter and cheese discussed in the book and used in the recipes, all I could think of was, “I can has cheez?” Oh, BOY!! I’ve started buying cheese and milk again, sometimes. Not gallons of milk, just quart bottles, or even a bit larger. Inexpensive chunks of cheddar, Colby and Swiss. (No Manchego yet.)

I will tell you that when you avoid high starch things like flour, or potato, and then have some, you get a strong reaction when you “try a little.” Last time I did was a couple of months ago. One of my neighbors, ironically, works for a large medical complex in the Houston area. Her department had a public outreach activity after work which involved food. She brought me some of it sometimes, not a lot, but them lemon bars were lip-smacking good. One lemon bar, or one little bite of cheesecake, no big deal. Even a couple of cookies were fine. Recently, she brought these little square chicken empanadas. OMG–they were perfectly baked squares of dough with a chicken and poblano mixture inside. They were SOOO GOOD! I think there were about 8 or 9. I had a couple when she brought them home, along with some of that incredible crab dip, but decided to save the rest for breakfast the next morning. Good idea, right? Well. . . .

I put them in the toaster oven, and when they were nice and toasty, I ate them, one by one. Then I sat down to do morning prayers. And after 20 minutes, I had to lay down and sleep. HAD TO. Could NOT stay awake. I slept for over 2 hours (probably close to 3) and kept having really weird dreams. Not only was I going to England with a weird guy I used to work with, and seeing myself go through the TSA line, (never in real life, OK?) I kept hearing my own voice behind me say, “You really need to get up now.” But I could. Not. Wake. Up.

There is no other explanation than the insulin spike from the white flour, which I normally avoid. I will avoid it the rest of my life. I was tired like I’d stayed out all night, when in fact, I hadn’t. Much as I appreciated the treats–which were very delicious, of course–eating them first thing in the morning was not a good idea.

This wasn’t the first time I’ve had such a thing happen. Back in the day when I started doing SugarBusters (along with everyone else in New Orleans), I’d been doing it about three months, and was married for about a year or so. We went to my parents’ for Thanksgiving, and my dear Grandmother brought something she called “Ambrosia.” I didn’t know what it was, but boy, did she insist that I eat some. Trust me, I didn’t need any, and I tried not to eat any. (Do YOU tell your Grandmother no? Me either. Eventually you give in.)  It was so good, I had seconds. (A small bowl, I promise.) On the way home, thank heavens I wasn’t driving–I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I threw the passenger seat back and was out like a light quickly, seriously upsetting the husband unit. I could barely walk up the stairs to our apartment–I was that wiped out, and I had no alcohol at all. I staggered to bed and slept for 3 or 4 hours. I was OK until I had that Ambrosia stuff. He was actually MAD at me for going to sleep like that, but honest, I really couldn’t help it. Later, I called my Grandmother and asked her what was in it. “Cool Whip, dried fruit. . .” in other words, it was just about pure sugar. Being off sugar for some time, then having that much of it was like taking a sleeping pill after the huge insulin hit.

Not doing that again.

I’ve occasionally embraced whole wheat since reading Suzanne Somers’ books, but not often, because of the high carb count. All flour-based food products like bread and pasta, as well as corn, potatoes, carrots, beets and others have a lot of carb in them, which breaks down to sugar in your blood stream, so I just don’t touch them (and, I hate beets anyway.) So when I first saw the book, I figured Dr. Davis was just talking about the high carb count, sugar/empty calories and all that.

Boy was I wrong. SO glad I finally read this book.

Dr. William Davis describes a legion of maladies that are directly tied to our modern genetically modified wheat–arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, acne, osteoporosis (modern medicine tells us it’s our estrogen or lack thereof) and even mental illnesses can result from GMO wheat. Not a joke–but most doctors won’t look for it, they’ll just medicate the symptoms. It’s not just celiac disease–and many people who have this sensitivity and other symptoms of it don’t always have celiac disease, either.

Yesterday, the deaths of three public figures were announced: former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, actress and original Mousketeer Annette Funicello, and socialite-turned-fashion designer Lilly Pulitzer. Now, most people assume that celebrities and “famous people” have access to the best healthcare in the world. That’s not necessarily true, they may just pay more. Now, I can’t answer for any of the deceased, (no cause of death was released for Mrs. Pulitzer), but any one of these ladies may very well have been helped by no longer eating wheat at some point before various maladies appeared. Annette Funicello would likely embrace the absence of wheat, since she lived in California, and she may have. The other two, maybe or maybe not–who knows, right? But the compounded health problems of many years come together at one point and manifest as one thing. In Mrs. Thatcher’s case, it was a stroke (and not the first one) was what ultimately got the Iron Lady. Annette Funicello had multiple sclerosis (MS) and died from complications–it develops over time, hence the possible wheat connection. It’s hard to pinpoint one specific cause, many so-called “chronic conditions” are a manifestation of many causes, like junk food, drinking too much and excess sugar eventually turns into Type 2 diabetes. That’s the obvious, but other conditions aren’t that way, like arthritis, which Dr. Davis discusses in depth.

In other words, after years of eating this science-project-gone-wild-thing they call “wheat,” the effects accumulate and do damage–sometimes permanent, like brain damage. It doesn’t come out of the air, there is a specific cause for something showing up at a certain point in the future. His patients who cut out wheat are surprised to see many seemingly unrelated conditions, like skin rashes, clear up when they stop wheat.

Wheat’s toxicity can do the same thing–one symptom over here, another trigger over there, and you find yourself in a health crisis that “comes on suddenly.” Could be a heart attack. Could be a stroke. I’m not presuming to know that much about these three women to say for sure. What I am saying is that after reading this book and assimilating the subject, many symptoms, problems and diseases can be cleared up or even avoided completely by the elimination and total absence of wheat and the so-called “whole grains.” No drugs or special equipment needed.

Yes, I know, we’re all going to die eventually. But why live with chronic sickness when you don’t have to?

As I mentioned in my first post, this is not the same wheat your from biblical times, or that our grandmothers and even mothers had. For the last 40 years or so, wheat has been tampered with, gene-spliced, and mutated into something that doesn’t even resemble natural (called “einkorn”) wheat on a cellular/molecular level. It’s not the same thing on any level, but it’s still referred to as “wheat.”

At this point, you’re probably wondering what you’re going to eat if wheat-based foods are cut out of your diet. (There are, in some people, actual withdrawal symptoms due to the opiate-like effect of this wheat.) Concentrate on what you can have rather than what you can’t, and focus on discovering new ways to have what you used to. You’re eating real food, and there are splurges involved. Dr. Davis and his wife obviously worked hard on these recipes, and the results are obvious when you try it, like the biscuit mentioned earlier.

You can eat some good stuff, it just takes a bit of an open mind and learning about it. But if you discover that you really are allergic to wheat, having “just a little” will teach you a lesson you’ll not soon forget. Ask anyone who *is* allergic. (No, luckily, I’m not.)

In the Wheat Belly cookbook, there is a flaxseed wrap on page 231 that you mix up in a few minutes and make in a pie plate in the microwave. I’ve only bought flaxseeds once, and that was for a sewing project! These pancake-like wraps are absolutely delicious, and I’ve made and eaten probably a dozen since last week. Pair them with the salmon salad on page 125, which uses CANNED salmon, (and homemade olive oil mayo), and you’ve got a great lunch, gluten free, and completely tasty. OMG. I could make a meal out of a couple of those. Who needs bread?

Ooh. . .I could turn that wrap batter into pancakes and make some Agave Maple Syrup from the second Babycakes book. . .OMG, brain’s firing on all cylinders. Holy Shish Kebab–look out!

Anyway. . . .

A couple of weeks ago, I found another related cookbook in Central Market–The Joy of Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free Baking by Peter Reinhart and Denene Wallace. It’s beautifully illustrated with some additional good recipes in it, and has some additional options for gluten-free living. (This too is available on Kindle.)

OK, I know, I shouldn’t have bought it. I splurged. (I promise not to do that again.) But take a look at that cake on the cover and you’ll see why I couldn’t leave it. Besides, it was 25% off the cover price in Central Market. (My tax refund came in, OK?)

One thing I was disappointed in is the recommendation of Splenda (sucralose), which is something I won’t touch. They also list Stevia Extract in the Raw, and New Roots Stevia; I’ll try those when I get to it and let you know how they work. (Dr. Davis uses Splenda as a condition of cutting out other stuff, but I still won’t buy it.)

I baked a loaf of what the authors call “Stout Bread” on page 38, which uses less expensive garbanzo bean flour instead of a nut flour. While the raw batter tasted kinda funky, the final bread was warm and delicious, and I need to make me another loaf because I have killed all 12 thick slices of it since the weekend. It stands up to toasting and butter, and you really feel like you’re eating Texas Toast, hence the name “stout.” There is no beer in it, just a really firm texture that makes it filling and delicious. (Hey. . .I wonder if I can make French toast with it? All the synapses are firing again!)

So what happens when you go out of your safe little kitchen? Lemme tell ya. . .yesterday, I was in downtown Houston and stopped in Starbucks on Smith Street, the Safe Haven With Food. I asked, and there was only one thing that was any kind of gluten/wheat-free. That was something called Two Moms In The Raw, a little 2 ounce bar called “Blueberry Granola” that cost more than I’d like to disclose here, but was indeed gluten free. It does have gluten free oats in it, and everything is organic. (Even Starbucks’ “protein plate” has a small cracker and honey-sweetened peanut butter.) This bar was not bad, but it is a bit on the high side. Sweet, but not overly so, and very, very crunchy. I was very early for my appointment, and just needed a quick bite before I went. You can read more at their their website.

This was my first adventure trying to be deliberately gluten free outside of my own regular cooking, but there are a number of ways to find gluten free recipes online, just pick yourself a website. Do a search on Martha Stewart’s website for a start, and find something. Foodnetwork.com will likely have some too, but. . .prowl around and find something. There are a number of sites that are devoted to gluten-free as well, just do a quick search and find one or two you like.

One warning that Dr. Davis makes repeatedly is that many products marked “gluten free” are not necessarily suitable–which is why reading labels is an essential part of taking care of yourself. (That’s true generally, but especially if you’re sensitive to soy like I am, or wheat like my friend BR is.) When wheat flour is removed, they have to replace it with something else, so it’s either cornstarch, rice starch, potato starch or tapioca starch–all of which will trigger that glucose-insulin response, causing you to gain weight (Page 72.)

Back when I did low-fat, I used to chow down on all those fat-free foods. Guess what? Didn’t help. When they take out the fat, they replace it with sugar, salt and other chemical additives that give it taste and something called “mouth feel.”  So while the fat was low, and maybe the calories were low, the carbohydrate impact made it worse than eating the “regular” food, if you can believe that. I’ve actually seen “unleaded” versions of stuff that had more calories than the “regular” ones.

And, if you go strictly by calories, you could theoretically eat candy bars all day and lose weight and be healthy. But, sorry, it doesn’t work that way. WAY more complicated.

This is an important subject for a lot of people, and that’s why I’ve been working on it sort of part-time to do a complete assessment. Needless to say, I’ve got no problem giving up wheat, since I really did it already. But if you’re suffering with chronic health conditions, and you’re on that “whole grain” thing, give it a try and see if something changes. I think Dr. Davis tells his patients 90 days. Really, it takes a little getting used to, but once you are used to it, no big deal.

But what have you got to lose? Illness? Excess weight? Allergies? Like I said, I’m not a doctor, but what would be the harm in trying it?

Besides–I want to keep my readers around to keep reading my long, rambling essays. This is my longest yet, but the topic is important, so I made sure I said enough.

Now go read this book and give up wheat, and find something healthy and delicious that you just can’t get enough of.

Happy Dining!

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