Naturopathic doctor’s view on “Wheat Belly” and food sensitivities
Dr. Nicholas Anhorn, BSc, ND. Published in the Times & Transcript Saturday, May 4th, 2013
This article is a follow up of Dr. William Davis’ presentation called “Wheat Belly – the unhealthy whole grain” at the Capital theatre in Moncton on April 26th. For those of you who were at the presentation this will be an extension of the talk, and for those of you who were not able to attend, this will provide a summary of the information presented.
First of all, I want to thank everyone that came to my booth and was interested in learning about the Moncton Naturopathic Medical Clinic. I was so impressed that over 680 people attended the event. That is wonderful and I am excited to be involved in future health promoting events.
So, what were Dr. Davis’ arguments for wheat being the unhealthiest of grains?
First, Dr. Davis indicated that wheat has only been in the diet for 0.4% of human’s timeline. Therefore, we as a species, are not designed to digest it, and are definitely not designed for it to be the biggest proportion of our food pyramid.
Second, the wheat we are eating today is dramatically different than the wheat our ancestors consumed, and this new wheat is toxic to the system.
Third, wheat is a gluten containing grain. Gluten, which is composed of proteins such as gliadin, can cause irritation in the digestive system. Reactions to gluten have been shown to weaken the tight junctions of the digestive tract, leading to a condition called “leaky gut.” When your digestive tract becomes leaky, gliadin comes in direct contact with your immune system. This can cause two things: 1) the immune system releases substances throughout the body that cause inflammation (e.g. joint pain, high cholesterol, skin conditions, etc); and 2) the immune system can become inappropriately activated causing autoimmune conditions (e.g. celiac disease, rheumatoid arthritis, etc).
Fourth, wheat gets broken down in the body into opiates (e.g. drug like molecules) that trigger appetite and suppress the sensation of being full. Therefore, eating wheat presses a button in your brain telling you to eat more per meal and to snack more frequently.
Fifth, wheat in the form of whole wheat bread causes a bigger blood sugar spike than table sugar. This, in combination with wheat triggering your appetite and with the inflammation caused by gliadin (gluten), is the perfect storm for the development of obesity and diabetes. Hence, the name of his book “Wheat Belly.” Once this fat causing grain is removed, Dr. Davis sees patient lose an average of 26.7 lbs in the first six months, and says that he sees many patients’ diabetes reverse.
Because of these five problems with modern wheat, Dr. Davis argues that wheat is a major contributor to many chronic conditions such as obesity, diabetes, ulcerative colitis, celiac disease, high cholesterol, heart disease, osteoporosis, most skin conditions, rheumatoid arthritis, hypothyroidism, dementia, and fatigue. He recommends that a wheat-free diet in combination with healing the digestive tract results in significant benefits to each of these systemic conditions. Therefore, I will discuss the Moncton Naturopathic Medical Clinic’s approach to removing food sensitivities and optimizing the process of healing the digestive tract.
So, what is a naturopathic doctor’s opinion of gluten and food sensitivities?
At the Moncton Naturopathic Medical Clinic, we approach food sensitivities with an individualized approach. One way of doing this is by using advanced food sensitivity testing to help determine the specific food allergens that are responsible for your symptoms. Not only will this blood test, check for wheat and gluten (gliadin) sensitivities, it will also test other gluten containing grains, dairy, eggs, corn, nuts, soy, shellfish, and other foods that may be causing an immune reaction. In fact, it can test for 96 or 184 different foods (depending on the panel chosen). This gives us specific information related to what is contributing to your condition; whether that is digestive problems, hypothyroidism, asthma, migraines, skin conditions, joint pain, or any other condition related to inflammation or immune reactivity (for more information relating to your condition please refer to our website for previous times & transcript articles: www.monctonnaturopathic.com).
What is the best approach to healing the digestive tract?
In the presentation, Dr. Davis said that going wheat-free is only effective if you heal the digestive tract by taking high potency probiotic supplements. I agree that probiotics can be a key part of digestive healing and overall health in many people. However, with my patients, I find that it is only one piece of the puzzle and I use a more comprehensive and tailored approach called the “4 R’s for digestive healing”:
Remove – food sensitivities (might not be just wheat!), and dysbiotic microbes (bacteria, parasites, dysbiotic yeast, and other bad “bugs” in the digestive tract).
Replace & Restore function – It is estimated that 50% of Canadians are deficient in digestive enzymes, and approximately 20% of Canadians are on acid blocking medications for heartburn. Additionally, the average Canadian only consumes less than half the recommend amount of fiber per day.
Reinoculate – with probiotics and prebiotics (food for the healthy probiotics).
Repair & Replenish – the “leaky gut” with specific nutrients and plant based herbs. Also, replenish any nutrient deficiencies caused by improper digestion or absorption of foods.
When healing the digestive tract, each of these R’s are addressed on an individualized basis and the best results are seen when they are addressed in this order. For example, it is less effective to repair the digestive tract if you are still eating foods that you are sensitive to on a daily basis, or if your gut contains microbes that are continually damaging the lining of your digestive tract. Another way of illustrating this common sense approach is if you imagine a sink that is overflowing with water all over the floor and you were the only one around to clean it up – What would you do? You could mop up the extra water all day long (i.e. repairing the gut), or you could address the cause of the spill and turn off the tap (i.e. removing food sensitivities), and then mop up the remaining mess (i.e. repairing the gut). Furthermore, you might want to also look at the reasons why it was so easy to overflow so you can unclog any blockages in the drain (ie. restoring proper digestive function and reinoculating with healthy probiotics).
Usually, I am skeptical and hesitant of any type of hype or new health craze. I really enjoyed Dr. Davis’ presentation, and even though I too believe that cutting out wheat/gluten does have merit, I also believe that medicine should be personalized. I try to get my patients to look beyond the miracle cures and miraculous therapies, and instead use a systematic approach to address their unique imbalances. Therefore, instead of just cutting out wheat, I find far better success when I determine individual food sensitivities, and combine that with investigating and correcting the “4 R’s to digestive health”. But even this is just the tip of the iceberg. Naturopathic doctors conduct a comprehensive initial visit in order to determine all contributing factors affecting your health and all obstacles preventing you from healing.