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Is Wheat Responsible for More Problems than just Celiac Disease?

Updated on March 2, 2015

Growing up Healthy

My Own Story

When I was growing up we were very poor. We had very little to eat let alone a nutrition centered diet of fruits and vegetables. Daily trips to the bathroom for a cleaned out digestive system were not in the cards for me. Relief came every five days at best and weekly at worst.

My mother had digestive issues as a child and as an adult thus it was suggested that all these stomach ailments were just hereditary and had to be accepted as a part of existence. I can recall going from eating and eliminating within a fifteen minutes window and eating and eliminating in a five day window. Nothing was consistent and things changed from week to week or sometimes month to month. The eventual diagnosis of Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS, as it’s called today, brought about an “I told you so” from my mother.

It was then I began to delve into the world of supplements and nutrition and soon discovered that fiber was key to my problems. After beginning a daily regimen that normalized my entire system, life was suddenly very enjoyable. I could go out to dinner without locating the restroom at the beginning of every meal.

For close to twenty years I survived quite splendidly except for the fact that my weight just didn’t seem to be going in the direction I wanted. At age 26 I had been diagnosed with an ailment that required daily medication. When it was discovered in 1992 that I was completely misdiagnosed with what seemed then like 1970 Voodoo medicine, I was given a clean bill of health and removed from all medications except those needed for my IBS flare ups. Fortunately, due to the nutrition, the IBS had long ceased to be an issue so was a happy camper. I began to power walk and took off over 50 pounds and my doctor was happy.

So why am I boring you with all thus humdrum about my intestinal tract? The background was necessary for you to understand why I began my next journey of discovery. I hope you read on.

My Stomach Took a Nose Dive

Things were moving along quite nicely in my world until I fell injuring my knee and back. Two surgeries later, my walking days were over and my 50 pounds plus some returned with a vengeance. That was bad enough and I knew I had to find some way to lose the weight. Even though I wasn’t eating much differently, I was too sedentary between my home life and job. The frosting on the cake was when my supplement company decided to stop making my fiber product. I was in a panic and begged them to sell me all the remaining bottles. As a stroke of luck they lasted me for another year. After that I began to supplement with three other types of fiber to replace what had been in the one tablet I had used for 20 years. Eventually elimination became more than just difficult when my bathroom habits mirrored those of my childhood. I began to eat all the fiber I could muster but nothing seemed to change. My knees had gone from bad to worse and the weight just kept climbing along with the blood pressure.

I finally decided a new doctor was in order. It was the best decision I had made in many years. The first order of business was my weight of course, but before we could get on a program I was stricken with blood clots in my lungs. The mortality rate from a pulmonary embolism being very high, my new doctor insisted I be on the drug Coumadin for at least year.

Soon after the Coumadin ended I found myself making numerous trips to the bathroom several times a day. Somehow with all the changes in my system and a vast array of nervous tension, my IBS had returned in full force. Dieting became a real problem as everything seemed to put my stomach in frenzy. Yet, in spite of my frequent visitations to the bathroom, the weight stuck to me like glue.

What is really making us fat?

The Obesity Epidemic in America

Back in our grandparent’s day people didn’t indulge in expensive restaurants or ready-made foods. Many people grew their own gardens or shopped at the local farmer’s market. Waistlines too were different then with women easily weighing about 115 pounds and men 175 pounds on average. Nowadays the majority of the American population, both male and female, is close to or well over 200 pounds. This includes teenagers and children. Some would say it is because of our sedentary lifestyle and it is true that does add to the problem. There is an obesity epidemic in this country today and for that reason alone, our lives will be cut short.

So what has changed over the last few years especially? The answer may surprise you. I’m sure you will agree that today people are more conscious of good exercise than ever before. We can often see bikers, jogging, and power walking on a regular basis. Yet in spite of all the emphasis put on exercise, we just keep getting fatter and fatter. Why?

Many diet plans today recommend a balanced diet of the five basic food groups: vegetables, diary, fruit, grains, protein. The food pyramid actually advocates up to eleven servings of grains per day with four to five being whole grains. That is a tremendous amount of wheat but unfortunately it is not the wheat of our forefathers. Did you know that the wheat we eat today has been genetically altered in such a way that the effect on the human body is astoundingly different than it was 50 year ago?

Back in the 50’s, for example, it was common to have a cereal breakfast, a sandwich for lunch and meat and potatoes for dinner. Today we indulge in calorie laden coffee drinks, bagels, pancakes and pizza on a regular basis. We follow the National Heart Association guidelines to incorporate “healthy whole grains" into our diet. Bread and pasta is a huge part of the American diet. The wild grasses harvested years ago have now migrated to 25,000 varieties, all of them the result of human intervention. Unfortunately, because of processing those grains are no longer healthy for us. The more grain-based foods you eat the more insulin must be produced to manage the fast digesting carbohydrates. The more insulin stimulation the more fat storage, thus the great weight gain.

Let's Talk About Celiac Disease

The first time I read about Celiac Disease was in a Soap Opera Digest Magazine when Sarah Brown, one of my favorite actresses, was telling about the discovery of her health ailment and what the disease had done to her body. It nearly killed her. The gluten sensitivity in those suffering from Celiac Disease ranges from mild to severe and can only really be determined with medical testing. A word of caution here. Some tests will prove inconclusive for Celiac when in actually the person does have the disease just in a milder form.

It seems I hear daily of more and more people discovering their sensitivity to gluten or in essence “wheat”. One has to be careful of gluten free products as they can sometimes be loaded with sugars and other chemicals to enhance the taste. The best answer for the Celiac disease is to eat a gluten free diet and that means eliminating flour. If you can find good gluten free flour and do your own baking that can be another option. In Minnesota we have a distributor in Buffalo who makes excellent products. If you do some searching via Google, you will probably be able to find one in your neighborhood.

About that wheat

How Much Wheat Do We Really Eat?

Let’s put aside the argument against wheat for those with Celiac Disease as that is a given expectation from gluten intolerance. Let’s talk for a moment about the many things in our diet that contain wheat. We have toast with breakfast, a bagel with our coffee, crackers with our dips, rolls with salad, and then pie for desert. As pointed out in the book entitled "Wheat Belly", what would apple pie be without crust, dip without crackers or a ham sandwich without the bread? It is a tough problem to eat completely wheat free, but what are the advantages?

What Really Happens to Our Body When Wheat if a Major Part of our Diet?

It was not too long ago that a new test was developed for measuring blood sugar. It was called an AIC test. The great advantage of the test was that you could determine the predisposition or pre-diabetic state without having to do a fasting blood sugar test. The bad part of the testing whether it be the AIC or Fasting Glucose Level, the standards keep changing from year to year. This is partly because the drug companies saw the advantage in changing standards to encourage doctors to prescribe more drugs. It is also because we are continuing to eat things they are raising our blood sugar and causing us to gain weight. They keep lowering standards in hopes of solving the obesity problem but it is not the answer.

For the past twenty years my fasting blood has been between 95 - 100. Years ago, nothing was said as the 99 or less was considered okay. Now 90 is the magic number. I am fortunate in that my doctors says one point is not critical but if I continued to eat as I am now, that blood sugar level could climb and result in the second national epidemic in our country - Type II Diabetes.

If people are eating more whole grains and they are really healthy then you would think the Diabetes epidemic would subside. Yet it is just the opposite. Wheat bread in actuality has a glycemic index of 72 while sucrose or table sugar has an index of 59. You can actually eat a candy bar and have your blood sugar spike lower than it would if you ate a whole wheat sandwich.

I have a sister who is Type II Diabetic and eats whole grains on a regular basis. Her blood sugar is now out of control and she has to take insulin. She was following her doctor’s instructions on what to eat for her diabetic condition – whole grains four times a day.

Get the Book, Read the Book and Follow the Book

As I told you earlier in my article, the story of my health history. When I discussed my health issues with my doctor, he suggested a water exercise class, starting on probiotics and reading the book called, “Wheat Belly”, by William David MD. My doctor himself had recently dropped 50 pounds from following Dr. David’s advice.

He told me to read it and follow it.

Of course I went right to Amazon and purchased the book; then I placed on my shelf fully intended to read it. Three month had passed before my IBS decided to rear its ugly head in full force.

It was then that I picked up the book and began to read.

The Real Eye Opener

To my surprise I discovered I had been eating incorrectly for years. All the things that I thought were healthy were actually the reason for my weight gain and were contributing to my IBS problems. I was stunned.

As I read further, I discovered an even greater secret. Celiac disease, IBS, Diabetes and Obesity have a common connection and it’s called “wheat”. It was like reading about a whole new world.

For years I had been fighting with weight problems but the thing that hit me right between the eyes was in Chapter Six when I read that not only is wheat disruptive for those with Celiac but could also have a negative effect on those with IBS and other intestinal ailments. Thus I began my own little experiment and was shocked to discover my stomach felt so much better when I skipped the wheat. I then recalled my diet when I was active and had no intestinal complaints. Breakfast was a protein drink, lunch and dinner were most salads, stir-fry, and only an occasional rice or pasta. It had only been since my retirement that I had begun to eat wheat bread for lunch and bagels for breakfast.

As I continued to read the book I saw the correlation between Type II Diabetes, arthritis, asthma, and a whole other gamut of illnesses. The longer I read the book the more intrigued I became. I smiled when I recalled my doctor handing me the book and saying, “read it and follow it; then come back and see me in three months”. I will be seeing him in another few weeks and hopefully he will be pleased with my weight loss thus far and the improvement in my joints and stomach.

When visiting my nutritionist, she was surprised that a doctor had recommended the Wheat Belly book as most physicians advocate using healthy whole grains in their diets for better health. I guess I am one of the lucky people that have a doctor who thinks for himself and works toward bettering the health of his patients. I am truly blessed.

Do you believe we have an obesity epidemic in America

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Other Tips for a Healthy Lifestyle

There are other tips I’ve learned since reading up on the havoc caused by wheat. I’d like to pass them along to you. Take each one for what it is worth to you and hopefully you will find something in these tips that will aid you in your search for better health.

1) Stay far away from diet frozen foods. These products contain very little nutrition and are chocked full of preservatives, high fructose corn syrup, processed flours, fillers, soy protein and the worst kind of fats.

2) Forget fat free as it’s full of sugar of the worst kind. Eat fresh fruits and vegetables like our ancestors did to stay healthy.

3) Slim Fast Shakes are far from healthy. They are loaded with high fructose corn syrup.

4) Fat free rice cakes are pure refined starch with no fiber. They break down immediately to pure sugar in the body spiking insulin and promoting fat storage.

5) Protein energy bars use soy protein which is virtually unusable by your body, plus they contain that nasty high fructose corn syrup and preservatives.

6) Sugar free desserts and diet soda. Really bad stuff. They actually raise the insulin level in your body and cause you to get hungry and thus store fat. It’s like a vicious circle.

7) Chips and crackers are loaded with hydrogenated oils so check labels carefully. This is true of sugary cereals advertised as healthy but loaded with refined sugar, grains, soybean flour and wheat.

8) Eat fresh and natural foods if at all possible. Forget the “quick frozen dinner” and definitely the “Fast Food”. It is killing us.

My Own Conclusion

Right now I have pretty much cut back on the wheat and my goal is to eliminate it completely. I do not believe I have Celiac Disease but I do know I have IBS and arthritis. I do not believe that the smallest amount of wheat will upset my intestines but I do know I feel better in general without it.

If you read the book you will be stunned to see all of the physical and mental problems for which that wonderful healthy wheat is responsible. There are diet suggestions and recipes to help you find a way to avoid the wheat in your diet.

The book has given me the first real hope since I started putting on the pounds 15 years ago. I may never see a size six again but will be thrilled with a size ten or twelve. I know it’s a decision only I can make and a path only I can follow. To each one of us weight is an extremely personal thing, but your health is affected by it so make the right choice. Read the book and judge it for yourself. The choice is yours and yours alone.

Frankly, I guess if the price of a good book could change your life, wouldn’t it be worth it?

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    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      When it is suggested that one in three Americans are obese I think it is safe to say we have an obese epidemic in this country, and our eating habits play a huge part in that. Very informative article, Sandra.

    • Sandra Eastman profile image
      Author

      Sandra Joy Eastman 2 years ago from Robbinsdale MN

      Thanks Bill. I can always count on you to be the first one in with a comment. Thanks for checking out the article. I learned a lot myself just from writing it.Have a great day.

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      MizBejabbers 2 years ago

      Sandra, I have to say AMEN to every bit of advice you’ve just given. Genetically modified wheat seems to be the most damaging food to the human body on the market today. Wheat will exacerbate other food allergies and seasonal allergies in a person with Celiac or other wheat sensitivity. It was explained to me that a person’s whole membrane structure stays in a state of inflammation, and when this inflammation heals, the body isn’t as sensitive to the other allergies.

      That has been my experience. I couldn’t touch dairy, and I thought my world had ended when I found out I couldn’t eat wheat foods either. Fortunately, I live in a city large enough that the stores have begun to stock a good supply of gluten-free breakfast foods, ready-made foods like soups, and even pastas, flours, and dessert mixes. I have been as gluten-free as one can be in this society, and now I’m able to occasionally eat a piece of cheese or a small bowl of ice cream. I still can’t do a glass of milk or cottage cheese, though.

      Mine is caused by heredity. I remember that my mother never had a glass of beer or liquor with the family. She might drink a small serving of wine, but that was rare. She suffered constantly with bloating and a swollen face, but she never knew that she was wheat sensitive. I am thankful to have been diagnosed with the problem and have the resources available to work with it.

      It is difficult to find food that doesn’t contain wheat. I’ve had to give up my favorite canned soups, even tomato, and so many other dishes. The gluten-free varieties cost double or triple as regular, and aren’t as tasty, but I get used to it. Sometimes I get a hankering for a real fast-food hamburger, so I buy one and take off the meat and trimmings and put them on a gluten-free bun. It isn’t quite the same, but it does satisfy. All I can say is, thank goodness for quinoa. Good hub. Voted up+++ and shared.

    • Sandra Eastman profile image
      Author

      Sandra Joy Eastman 2 years ago from Robbinsdale MN

      Mizbejabbers

      I'm so glad you discovered your problems and found your way to a healthy life. Yes Celiac does run in families just as IBS does. I have a friend whose entire family has it (on the fathers side). She was able to find a place here that makes gluten free bread without all the extra sugar and even gluten free flour so she can bake her own stuff.

      Good luck to you on your quest to stay healthy. Thanks for stopping by.

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 21 months ago from Oklahoma

      I like my wheat. Food for thought.

    • profile image

      Sandra Eastman 21 months ago

      Yes I know. There's lots of nummy stuff made from wheat. Unfortunately just because we like it doesn't mean it's good for us. Thanks for commenting.

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