10 Benefits of Living Wheat-Free - dummies

10 Benefits of Living Wheat-Free

By Rusty Gregory, Alan Chasen

Here’s a list of ten ways giving up wheat can prevent or slow various maladies. Many people claim these conditions are an inevitable part of aging, but those people have probably never seen what aging looks like on a wheat-free diet.

After you make the commitment to rid your life of wheat (and the sugar and vegetable oils that are often found in wheat products), you won’t turn back. The occasional relapse to your old lifestyle and the subsequent ill effects will provide a quick reminder of your previous life, when you “never had a problem with wheat.”

Ease gastrointestinal (GI) problems

GI complaints — such as gas, bloating, nausea, stomach pain, vomiting, and cramping — are by far the most common symptoms associated with wheat. Most folks don’t associate these symptoms with this irritant because wheat is still commonly considered an important part of the diet.

People usually call out something else, such as dairy or alcohol; though they may have issues with those items, more often than not they can trace the GI problem back to wheat when they learn of its destructive effects.

One easy way to find out whether wheat is contributing to your GI problems: Cut the wheat. Odds are you’ll see improvement within days.

Turn back the clock to younger-looking skin

The skin is a mirror of what’s taking place inside the body. If your gut isn’t healthy, your skin won’t be, either. Gut irritation caused by wheat, sugar, and vegetable oil intake — and the inflammation that irritation causes throughout the body — directly affects the health of your skin. Here are just some of the ways wheat consumption can cause skin issues:

  • According to the American Diabetes Association, 33 percent of people with diabetes have a related skin disorder. (For info on the link between wheat and diabetes, head to Chapter 2 and the later section “Lower the Threat of Diabetes.”)

  • An unhealthy lifestyle leads to impaired resistance from the skin after an infection or inflammation has occurred. Translation: Skin disorders are not only more likely to occur but also harder to control when they surface.

  • Wheat raises your blood sugar; the resulting elevation in insulin levels is linked to an increase in pore-clogging sebum production.

  • Wrinkles and lost elasticity are another product of longtime wheat consumption because of oxidative damage.

Reduce your risk for autoimmune diseases

Autoimmune diseases occur when the body mistakes its own proteins (called self-proteins) for external proteins and attacks the self-proteins. This response is actually appropriate because the body is doing what it was meant to do. Problems arise when the body is overwhelmed by resilient foreign invaders and the autoimmune system goes into overdrive.

Autoimmune diseases are thought to occur because of a combination of environmental factors and specific hereditary components. For example, gluten is the environmental factor for people with the hereditary celiac disease gene.

Protect your thyroid

The protein portion of gluten is called gliadin, which has a very similar molecular structure to the molecules of the thyroid gland. Some wheat-related gut issues allow gliadin to enter the bloodstream; when that happens, the body sends out antibodies to attack the inflammation. Unfortunately, the antibodies can’t distinguish the gliadin from the thyroid, so the body goes after the latter as well.

Twelve percent of people in the United States develop thyroid conditions during their lifetimes. Studies show a link between gluten intolerance and autoimmune thyroid diseases such as Graves’ and Hashimoto’s. Researchers even go as far as to suggest gluten intolerance testing if you have one of these conditions.

Improve your weight management

Cutting out wheat and sugar leads to fewer blood sugar elevations. Whole grains have been shown to increase blood sugar levels as much as a candy bar. When you have stable blood sugar levels, you have an easier time maintaining a desirable weight.

Besides the inflammatory results of chronically elevated blood sugar levels (see Chapter 4), the body uses insulin to direct the glucose levels to where they need to go, including your fat cells. They don’t call insulin the “fat storage hormone” for nothing.

Yes, your caloric intake will probably decrease on a wheat-free diet, which can also contribute to weight management.

Prevent hypoglycemia

When you have low, normalized blood sugar levels, you don’t experience hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, which can affect some people a couple of hours after consuming a lot of grains and sugar.

The cure for hypoglycemia, according to most doctors, is to eat more wheat or sugar to bring blood sugar levels back up. The benefit from this reactionary response is only temporary and doesn’t address the fundamental issue: ridding yourself of the excessive blood sugar drops.

When you eliminate the glucose response from wheat, you don’t have the roller-coaster effects anymore. Not only do the energy dips go away, but the need to eat several small meals a day also becomes unnecessary.

Most people end up eating two or three meals at the most on a nutrient-dense wheat-free diet. You get an empowering feeling when you’re not a slave to food to ward off headaches and mood swings. You eat when you’re hungry, not when the clock says to.

Increase your energy level

When people ditch wheat, sugar, and toxic vegetable oils, they notice an increase in energy. Whether the change occurs because hypoglycemia goes away or because the body relies more on fat for energy, you feel years younger.

That daily need for an afternoon nap may disappear, or you may find yourself easing up on the coffee in the morning. Relying on your natural energy and not an artificial boost from caffeine is an amazing feeling!

During your transition to your new lifestyle, your body goes through a lot of adjustments. The body is amazingly resilient, but you may experience a few days of energy dips, dizziness, hunger, and brain fog. If these side effects happen to you, hang in there. Things get better soon.

Lower the threat of diabetes

Risk factors for Type 2 diabetes include being overweight and having high blood sugar and triglyceride levels, among other things. You can easily control these three factors with diet, and cutting wheat is the first step. Throw in the fact that excessive wheat consumption raises triglycerides, and you have the diabetes trifecta.

Diabetes develops over 10 to 15 years, so start combatting it now. Waiting until the doctor says you’re diabetic isn’t a good option.

Decrease your risk for heart disease

Your heart is an obvious benefactor from a wheat-free diet because when you reduce your diabetes risk, you also lower your chances of developing heart disease. (People don’t actually die from diabetes. They die from the damage it causes to the heart.)

Keeping blood sugar levels down and reducing inflammatory response prevents cholesterol from being deposited in the artery walls. No inflammation means no heart disease, regardless of what your cholesterol numbers may say.

Minimize allergies and asthma

Allergies and asthma are two conditions that are often ignored as symptoms of a gluten-related issue. Gluten sensitivity problems are not simply black and white: the problem can show up in your daily life in the form of symptoms, such as respiratory problems, that you’ve been attributing to other causes.

Cutting out the wheat can relieve both allergies and asthma. Wheat is a pro-inflammatory food; that inflammation leads to allergies and asthma. In addition, the steroids used to treat severe asthma increase insulin response just like wheat does. It’s like adding fire to a fire.