How to Safely Bring Wheat Back Into Your Diet
By Dr. Mercola
Is it ever appropriate to eat wheat or grains? John Douillard's book "Eat Wheat: A Scientific and Clinically-Proven Approach to Safely Bringing Wheat and Dairy Back Into Your Diet" would seem to be in direct conflict with my first book, the New York Times Best Seller "The No-Grain Diet: Conquer Carbohydrate Addiction and Stay Slim for Life." Interestingly, our views are nowhere near as conflicting as you might think. About 90 percent of our views are actually in agreement. But the devil's in the details, so I thought it would be interesting to have a dialog about this perceived conflict.
To Wheat or Not to Wheat
Douillard, who began his health career as a chiropractor, went to India for a two-week vacation in 1986. He ended up staying for a year and a half, studying traditional Ayurvedic medicine. During that stay, he met Deepak Chopra, and ended up running The Chopra Center for eight years upon his return to the U.S. "What I write about in my newsletter every week is the ancient wisdom of time-tested traditional medical practices that are now being proven with modern science. When you have techniques that have been successfully used for thousands of years and now backed by science — we should take interest in these concepts," Douillard says."Early humans have been eating gluten-rich grains like wheat and barley for as much as 3.4 million years according to a handful of studies.
There is a lot of science that has not been publicized that suggest many health and longevity benefits of whole grain, including wheat. We now have a $16 billion gluten-free industry that is promoting more processed foods. Most of the science that frowns on grains has been done on processed grains, not whole grains. My book 'Eat Wheat' shares over 600 references suggesting the documented benefits of whole [versus] refined grains. Thirty years ago, I was treating Epstein-Barr, chronic fatigue and Candida. The first thing you do is tell them, 'get off wheat and dairy.' They feel better … Six weeks later … their problems are back. We'll say, 'Get off of meat or become a vegetarian, or a vegan or a raw foodist.' You find that, again, we keep kicking the problem down the road, never really dealing with the underlying problem, which is our global inability to digest hard-to-digest foods, which is a result of a diet of processed foods, pesticides and environmental pollutants. There's good science that shows that these processed foods, not whole grains, have literally broken down our digestive system, particularly the microbes and the enzymes that help us break down wheat."
Grains Have a Place in Your Diet — After You've Regained Your Fat-Burning Ability
When I wrote "The No-Grain Diet" 13 years ago, it was primarily in response to the majority of the patients I treated that had insulin resistance. Avoiding grains is an important step if you're struggling with this issue. That said, my current position on grains has become more refined over the years. While I believe normalizing insulin resistance is still crucial, optimizing your mitochondrial function is even more critical for good health and disease prevention. A major part of that is regaining the ability to burn fat as your primary fuel — something 90 to 95 percent of people are challenged with. Becoming an efficient fat-burner involves a dietary shift away from net carbs — including grains — toward higher amounts of healthy fats. For this reason, I believe it's still wise for most people to avoid grains in the early phases of recovering the ability to burn fat as your primary fuel. As a general rule, I recommend keeping your net carbs below 15 or 20 grams per day, until you've recaptured your ability to burn fat. At THAT point, I believe grains can be reintroduced, and can be part of a healthy diet.
"I think you're absolutely right, we must reset fat burning," Douillard says. "In 1960, when they took cholesterol out of our diet, they replaced it with these processed, bleached, deodorized and refined oils that are completely indigestible.You walk down the grocery store aisle and [see] all those clear bottles with vegetable oils in them that have nothing in them that can go rancid, that are completely indigestible, and these processed oils found in almost all packaged foods break down our digestive strength by congesting our liver and gallbladder. When you look at how we digest things, the liver and the gallbladder are the kingpins of digestion. The bile your liver makes is like a Pacman that gobbles up toxins, fats and environmental pollutants. When bile from the liver and gallbladder is congested, you lose your ability to digest good fats and detoxify bad fats. The bile also buffers the acid in the stomach. [When you] eat wheat or dairy, [your stomach] produces a significant amount of acid that requires bile to neutralize it once it leaves the stomach.
But if there's no buffer from the bile because the liver and gall bladder are congested by years of processed foods, the stomach will slowly stop producing the acid we need to break down wheat and dairy. As a result … we have broken down … our digestive system to the point that we find ourselves taking more and more foods out of our diets rather than fixing the broken down digestion. I agree with you — you first have to reset fat burning — [and] those processed foods … inhibit us from doing that. But before we take the grains out, or in addition to taking the grains out temporarily, we must reset liver, gall bladder and digestive function because our digestive system is the same system as our detoxification system."
How to Optimize Your Digestive Function
So how do you restore your digestive function? One area of importance is avoiding pesticides such as Roundup, which has become a staple food contaminant over the past two decades. Research now shows glyphosate — the active ingredient in Roundup — causes leaky gut syndrome. Genetically engineered (GE) foods are notorious for having higher amounts of glyphosate contamination, due to the crops being glyphosate resistant. Conventional (non-GE) wheat also tends to have high amounts of glyphosate residues, courtesy of a process called desiccation. The crop is basically sprayed with glyphosate just before harvest, which increases yield. I was very pleased to see Douillard address this issue in his book, as many are still unaware of this problem. Knowing that's part of the problem, the answer becomes more readily apparent: Eat organic foods, and that includes organic wheat. The key is to repair the epithelium of your intestinal tract. Douillard notes there are several studies showing there's a significant difference between whole wheat and refined wheat in this regard. Whole wheat supports and increases levels of good bacteria, and supports tissue resistance in the epithelium, thereby protecting against leaky gut syndrome. Whole wheat may also help decrease inflammation and pain associated with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The problems many associate with wheat in general are specifically restricted to refined and processed wheat.
"There's interesting science … that I didn't [include] in the book because it came out afterwards. One study showed that people who eat gluten-free have four times more mercury in their blood as people who eat wheat. People who are gluten-free have less good bacteria and more bad bacteria in their guts than people who eat wheat. People who are gluten-free have less killer T cells, a measure of immunity, than people who eat wheat, suggesting that these hard-to-digest foods, the lectins and the phytic acids … [have] some benefit … [C]ertain irritants and poisons in our food (like tomatoes got tomatines, and potatoes have solanines, which are poisonous) … are a big part of our diet today … Those irritants have been shown to be immune stimulants for our immune system … What we're beginning to see is that [when] we … take all the hard-to-digest foods out of our diet ... our immune system is being compromised as a result … [W]e've been eating [grains] for almost 4 million years. Do we have a genetic need for these types of irritants to trigger our immune system? The science is pointing in that direction."
Ayurvedic Principles to Improve Your Digestive Health
To improve your body's ability to burn fat as its primary fuel, consider intermittent fasting. Never skipping a meal is a major part of the problem, as the constant feeding prevents your body from burning stored fat. Becoming a more efficient fat burner will also improve your energy levels and stabilize your mood. "Make lunch a bigger meal," Douillard says. "Supper comes from the word 'supplemental' or 'soup,' so try to eat smaller meals in the evening the very best that you can." To reboot your digestive health, be sure to avoid processed foods. Douillard also recommends incorporating ginger, cumin (regular, not black), coriander, fennel and cardamom in your cooking. These spices have powerful digestive benefits that support digestive health. "
When you put them all together, something sort of magical happens. This is an old ancient formula that has been used for thousands of years to reboot digestion," Douillard says. They do this in part by decongesting your bile ducts and improving your production of hydrochloric acid, digestive enzymes and pancreatic enzymes. When you take cumin, coriander, fennel, ginger and cardamom together, they amp up each other's benefits. He also sells these spices as a supplement called Gentle Digest. Ideally, add them to your meals every day. It typically takes two to three months to reset your digestion using these herbs on a daily basis. If you use a supplement, take it with your main meal.
Next, to improve bile flow from your gallbladder and improve your ability to digest fats, incorporate bile-promoting foods such as artichokes, fenugreek, fennel, beets, apples and celery into your diet. Drinking a small amount of juiced beets, apples and celery with your meal is a simple way to improve your digestion. Fenugreek tea or fennel tea are other traditional options. "Your bile flow allows you to go to the bathroom. It regulates bowel movement function. It detoxifies you, scrubs your intestinal villi. It allows for emulsifying of fats, for delivering good fats to your brain and your body and getting rid of the bad fats, and it buffers the acids from your stomach. Without that, digestively, we're in really big trouble," he notes.
Once Digestion Is Properly Restored, Wheat May Be Reintroduced
In addition to my own work, I also wanted to address the potential perceived conflict between what Douillard is promoting in his book "Eat Wheat," and Dr. David Perlmutter's recommendations, detailed in "Grain Brain," and other books. Perlmutter actually interviewed Douillard recently, and appears to be willing to embrace many of Douillard's notions. You can listen to this interview on LifeSpa.com. "David is an old friend of mine as well. He was delighted to have this debate," Douillard says. "I really feel like this issue of wheat or non-wheat … really needs to be talked about in an open forum. People can hear the science on both sides, because there is science suggesting that whole wheat (not refined wheat) is actually quite beneficial, and there's science that says it could be risky and dangerous. We need to understand it more. The only way to do that is with dialogue. Perlmutter was great. I think he totally got the idea that it is the digestive breakdown. His contention was stop eating wheat because it's hard to digest, and my contention was, 'OK. But let's fix the digestive system. Then maybe we could eat healthy wheat and not take the grains out of our diet,' which is exactly what you're saying.
I think it's really great to see us all coming on board with the same philosophy. For 30 years, I have been helping people reboot digestion and go from not being able to eat wheat or dairy to being able to eat wheat and dairy. I know it's very possible and people can pull this off. I also know when they do that, the ability to detoxify … is significantly enhanced. That, we don't want to go without. We don't want to go without ability to detoxify our body naturally. Doing a detox is a very important piece of the puzzle as well, but we have a natural detoxifying system that we have to optimize on a regular basis. That comes from rebooting digestive strength."
- Flexable Health