Wheat Belly, by William Davis, MD

Three stars (of five)

As the parent of a gluten intolerant and potentially celiac child, I wanted to have a better handle on some of the arguments being made surrounding the health of gluten-free eating. Much discussion has come from this book, both positive and negative, leading me to ask myself if there might be some merit in reading what he has to say. Davis weighs in heavily, from a medical perspective, about the evils of wheat and its horrendous affects on the human body. The book begins by taking the responsibility for worldwide (especially North American) obesity away from the consumer and directly at the feet of wheat, one of the supposed whole grains people are told to consume by healthcare professionals. Arguing that it is the modifications made to wheat in the latter part of the 20th century that has made wheat consumption as dangerous as injecting/ingesting opioids and leaves the body as run down, Davis posits that the general population would stand exponential benefits from leaving gluten, especially that found in wheat, in their past. He uses the middle section of the book to show just how bad wheat can be and the awful things that it can and does do to the human body, including spiking blood sugars, creating insatiable hunger, and premature aging. Davis recommends a ‘cold noodle’ approach to completely sever wheat consumption to see how one can drastically change their weight and lifestyle with the somewhat simple loss of this grain. Citing numerous successes from amongst his own patients, Davis feels certain that wheat is behind many of the world’s heath woes and that the removal of wheat can act to alleviate some symptoms of other diseases. Any reader who thinks that leaving gluten behind and beginning a gluten-free diet, complete with the food alternatives sold in special section of your local grocery store might want to think again. Some of these wheat alternatives (potato starch, cornstarch, etc) might not aggravate the small intestine, but will spike blood sugars in ways equally or more detrimental than with wheat. Davis lists many foods that might be useful for those wishing to leave wheat behind, while also keeping the body’s chemistry in check. A very interesting read, but surely to be read with an open mind and taken with the proverbial grain of salt.

Stepping back for a moment, the conscious reader will note that Davis is a cardiologist and while he uses his soapbox effectively from a medial standpoint, his expertise lies outside of gastrointestinal diseases and disorders. While he does list numerous patients who have tried and succeeded at his no-wheat recommendations, he surely promotes this as general medical practitioner and not as a specialist with an intimate working knowledge of the ins and outs of celiac disease and its other gastrointestinal nuances. Additionally, Davis cites that he has wheat issues and so the book is fuelled also from his own personal experiences. Some might say this personalises the arguments and others that it jades the foundation of the book; I find myself sitting somewhere in the middle. The book leaves no wiggle room when it comes to wheat and clearly inculcates into the mind that the grain is falsely promoted by health professionals as a beneficial part of a balanced diet. Davis reminds the reader that they have been misled for decades and that he has come to act as health messiah. He does show that other studies have shown the issues with wheat, but chose not to accentuate it in the data. Where does this leave the layperson who is seeking to determine a professional’s opinion? As with most things, the reader must splice the information for themselves and determine how much of the sermon should be followed. Davis keeps his arguments relatively basic and his directions equally simple; stop eating wheat now and you will feel better. If only it were that cut and dry.

Kudos, Dr. Davis for this interesting view into your wheat-based insights. I take what you say and add it to my own knowledge to form a well-rounded opinion.