Recently I read Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight and Find Your Path Back to Health , and wrote a review of it here. I’ve been thinking a lot about wheat, and low-carb eating in general lately, because I’m currently travelling and looking for an ‘easy’ way to keep my weight under control when I’m so out of my usual routine.
Less wheat in my diet
Also, as I’ve slowly reduced the presence of wheat in my diet, I’ve really started to notice its impact on my digestion when I do eat it. When you cut down or eliminate a food from your diet it’s far easier to isolate and identify the physical effect when you do eat it.
I’m currently in Vietnam, and finding that the standard breakfast choices here are all accompanied by a baguette, I suppose due to the country’s French colonial history. And damn those baguettes look good! Even when I’ve tried to request no bread, out it comes.
‘I don’t eat bread’ is just met with a quizzical look, as though I’ve just said that I only eat small children. Most mornings I’ve just ignored the bread, hoping that it if it’s clearly untouched, it will be offered to another customer rather than go to waste.
Twice, though, I’ve given in to the temptation of its crispy, golden crust and soft white insides. Who doesn’t love fresh bread, preferably smothered in butter? And both times I’ve regretted it. Within minutes my stomach will start to twist and cramp and I’ll feel dopey and lethargic.
The first time I ate more than half the baguette and realllly suffered. Ironically, I’d been feeling a little worried about food hygiene and food poisoning but the only thing that’s sent me running to the loo on this trip so far is plain old bread!
The second time, this morning, the feeling passed much more quickly as I only broke off one end to eat with butter and jam. But even so, I found myself questioning, what is it about bread that is so hard to resist? Even when I know with absolute certainty that I’m going to feel bad afterwards, I still occasionally give in.
In Wheat Belly (and on his website), Davis argues that wheat is in fact addictive, so my lapses in willpower can be partly explained. When wheat is consumed, exorphins – short for ‘exogenous morphine-like compounds’ (also known as polypeptides) are released.
In brief, the polypeptides in the gluten found in wheat “penetrate the blood-brain barrier that separates the bloodstream from the brain”. Once this occurs, the polypeptides bind to the brain’s morphine receptor.
Further research has found that opiate-blocking drugs used to treat drug addiction have been used successfully to block the ‘reward’ feelings associated with wheat, and people who otherwise feel they can’t reduce their wheat intake end up doing so.
Eating wheat no longer has the same appeal and in many cases their overall calorie consumption and weight goes down.
Are you addicted to bread?
When people say they’re ‘addicted’ to bread, in some senses they are, as these exorphins have the same impact of producing a ‘high’ regardless if they come from food or drugs. In my case the ‘high’ only lasts a nanosecond before the come-down begins, so it’s an easy enough calculation to just choose a different form of (legal – *cough*) high.
Davis writes that people who eliminate wheat from their diets often go through a withdrawal phase that can be acutely painful, and scarily similar to withdrawing from hard drugs. Once that’s passed, they report improved mood, fewer mood swings, improved concentration and better sleep as well as of course improved digestion. ‘Lapses’ inevitably see the negative side-effects return and the craving-reward cycle resumes.
Pavlov’s dogs style, I wonder how long it’s going to take before I’ve sufficiently ‘reconditioned’ my brain to automatically associate bread, and other wheat products, with discomfort.
Instead of looking at bread and salivating over how good I think it’s going to taste and make me feel, will my guts end up cramping just at the sight of it? Perhaps not, but I can dream 🙂
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Pop a comment in below. What do you think? Are you addicted to bread?
If you’re interested in reading Wheat Belly yourself you can click on the link below to buy it through Amazon.