Do you know someone with celiac disease—that is, an extreme sensitivity to gluten?
I remember my first time meeting someone with celiac disease. As they gazed longingly at the pizza I was eating, I remember thinking, “Man, I’m so glad I don’t have that.”
JJ Virgin asks people to stop eating gluten, the main protein in wheat, for three weeks on The Virgin Diet. “You’ve got to completely eliminate it to see those benefits,” said Virgin. “Once most people try that initial three weeks going gluten free, they’re sold.”
So is wheat bad for you? After doing a bit of research, it turns out that while wheat-filled foods might do wonders for your taste buds, they can also wreak havoc on your body.
7 Reasons Wheat is Bad For You
1) Gluten intolerance—it’s more common than you’d think
Approximately 1% of the population has celiac disease, which is characterized by a serious hypersensitivity to gluten that makes eating gluten pain-free practically impossible. However, it is becoming more apparent to scientists that there is a whole spectrum of gluten disorders, leading researchers to believe that “non-celiac gluten intolerance” may be a relatively common condition.
For those that suffer from this, unpleasant symptoms may occur after eating wheat, such as bloating, stomach pain, and irritable bowels.
Related: 6 Reasons to Eat More Raw Food
2) Wheat products are processed
Most wheat products are quite processed, which strips nutrients from food. According to one study, highly processed foods generally have more sugar, more saturated fat, more sodium, less fiber, and many more calories than their less-processed counterparts.
3) Our bodies still aren’t used to it
According to one study, our bodies are still very vulnerable to wheat and we don’t know how to process it. Our digestive and immune responses suggest that our bodies were not built to process wheat—one of the main reasons the paleo diet has become so popular recently.
4) Wheat is like a drug—literally
Though not yet proven, there are studies that suggest that wheat is an addictive substance.
According to Dr. Mark Hyman, MD, wheat contains a “super drug” that make substances with wheat in them addictive—which is likely the reason why bingeing on foods like cookies and pasta is so much more common than foods like carrots, and why most foods you crave tend to have large amounts of wheat in them.
Dr. Hyman also points out the rather frightening fact that these cravings can be blocked by the same drug that blocks heroin or morphine in an overdose.
5) It’s genetically modified— more convenient, less healthy
According to Dr. Hyman, the majority of wheat we eat is dwarf wheat, which is not natural. Instead, it’s the product of genetic manipulation and hybridization to make it hardier and easier to grow in mass quantities—but it also contains much more starch, gluten, and “odd proteins” that our bodies are not used to. One “super starch” called amylopectin A was genetically added to this dwarf wheat, and it is what makes bread fluffy—but also raises blood sugar very rapidly.
6) Your blood sugar will spike…
Products with wheat get digested extremely quickly, which results in large increases in blood glucose. Even whole wheat bread is a culprit, as its glycemic index is 71—same as white bread. In fact, two slices of whole wheat bread can increase your blood sugar level even more than two tablespoons of sugar.
7) …which will make you eat more
As if a blood sugar spike isn’t unhealthy enough on its own, it causes a crash, which makes you feel hungrier faster. Even if many wheat products can fill you up, it won’t last.
William Davis, MD claims in his book, Wheat Belly, that this blood sugar drop will set you up to be rummaging through your fridge within two hours of eating wheat.
So is wheat bad for you? Signs point to yes. Though wheat might be in all our favorite foods, research points to significant reasons to keep it out of our diet. Our bodies aren’t equipped to digest it easily, and it shows: the uncomfortable (and unfortunately, common) pains of gluten intolerance, the over-processing, the physical addiction, the genetic modification, the blood sugar spikes, and the heightened appetite are all unfortunate and inevitable side effects of wheat.
Try cutting out gluten for a month and see how you feel. “For anyone who has a gluten sensitivity (I would say most people), I encourage you to give gluten free a try for three weeks,” said Virgin. “See if your symptoms don’t improve and you don’t reach a new normal of looking and feeling great.”