Is there something wrong with wheat?  This is the question that Dr. William Davis addresses in his recent book “Wheat Belly.”  This cardiologist noticed that his patients who eliminated wheat diet had their health problems all but disappear.  After some research he discovered that wheat had been dramatically altered in the past 50 years, and not for the better. 


Wheat has been hybridized to make it hardier, to grow faster and to yield more grain per acre.  The new wheat also makes fluffier breads, cakes and pastries.  Unfortunately the gluten content of wheat was also increased to the point that it is causing health problems for many people. Our wheat contains new gluten proteins that our bodies may not be able to digest.  


Dr. Davis links wheat intake to overweight, in particular the ‘spare tire’ around the waist (he calls this a “wheat belly.”)  Of more concern is research that links wheat with serious illnesses and conditions such as: cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, depression, arthritis and osteoporosis.  


Of course wheat is a big part of our diet. Canada’s Food Guide once told us to have 6-10 servings of grains per day (this amount was reduced in 2007). We obeyed this directive; most of our ‘grains’ – bread, cereal, pasta, crackers, pastries – are wheat based.  Wheat is in everything, so it is little wonder we eat so much of it.  Unfortunately, any food that is over consumed can lead to intolerances.


I share Dr Davis’ concern about wheat. I have assessed many clients to be sensitive to wheat.  Perhaps they tolerated wheat at one time, but now it causes any number of symptoms: indigestion, reflux, bowel irregularity, achy joints, sinus congestion and skin rashes. It is not necessary to have all these symptoms for wheat to be an issue.  When these clients eliminated wheat, they experienced almost immediate symptom relief. Eating wheat again caused their symptoms to recur.


Unlike Dr. Davis, I do not claim that everyone should avoid wheat. It is true that  everyone will benefit from eating a wider variety of grains such as: rice, oats, barley, rye, kamut and spelt. If there are symptoms as mentioned above it is important to rule out a wheat sensitivity, which is not detected by medical allergy testing.  In my nutrition practice I conduct sensitivity testing that provides reliable results for wheat and many other foods and additives.