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A surge in consumption of whole grains over the past decades reveals a similar surge in obesity and diabetes rates. Each American now consumes about 55 pounds of wheat flour every year.[i] Wheat products are hidden and disguised in various products from bread to cosmetics.

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Studies show that wheat is the largest source of gluten in the human diet and it has a high Glycemic Index (GI) – directly linking to abdominal weight gain and an increased risk of diabetes. A wheat- and gluten-free diet improves health and has the potential to promote weight loss.

What is Gluten?

Gluten is a protein used in a wide variety of goods from breads to bagels, from biscuits to cakes, that makes the dough sticky. This same food causes more and more people to react negatively due to gluten insensitivities. Wheat, barley, rye, spelt and oats contain gluten, with many other foods and products containing gluten in some form.

Proteins and Amino Acids

By understanding how proteins are digested, we can deal effectively with various health threats including diabetes, thyroid disease, cancer, iron deficiency, malnutrition, and major depression.

Amino acids are the building blocks for proteins such as gluten. Eight of the twenty common amino acids are absolutely essential and must come from what we eat. Amino acids are bound together in certain sequences to make up separate amino acid molecules. Disintegration of large, complex proteins into smaller particles is needed for optimal digestion, including amino acids and small peptides.

Small protein molecules are transported into the cells of the intestinal wall and absorbed into the bloodstream as nutrients. Optimally, 70 percent of digested proteins are absorbed as small peptides, while the remaining 30 percent are absorbed as free amino acids.[ii] Undigested and partially digested proteins are usually converted into fecal matter by a healthy digestive system. Some bonds that form gluten proteins from amino acids, are resistant to intestinal digestion. Some people produce the liver enzyme capable of digesting gluten, while some do not.

Gluten proteins that make modern wheat better for baking, can also trigger inflammatory reactions in people, resulting in a myriad of health problems such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, dementia, depression and more. The three ways that wheat triggers weight gain, diabetes etc are:

1.     The Super Starch – amylopectin A – that is super-fattening

2.     The Super Gluten that is super-inflammatory

3.     The Super Drug that is super-addictive.

How has Wheat Changed?

Since 1943 – the first hybridization efforts – modern wheat has been altered dramatically. Modern wheat contains a very easily digested form of complex carbohydrates, which are more efficiently converted to blood sugar – about the same as a can of soda. Due to this efficient digestion, a blood glucose peak is induced that lasts about two hours, followed by a crash as glucose levels drop. Insulin is required to metabolize glucose, so insulin levels increase as glucose levels rise. This causes the body to store more visceral fat due to the glucose-insulin cycle acting as an appetite stimulant. Stored visceral fat contributes to poorer insulin response, in turn requiring higher and higher levels of insulin – setting you up for diabetes.

Is Gluten Addictive?

Wheat gluten contains opioid active peptides – also referred to as exorphins. Opiate and exorphin overload can affect the brain and central nervous system due to the similar activity of morphine and endorphins.[iii]

Many similarities are shown in untreated celiac patients and untreated drug addicts because exorphins are biochemically similar to heroin, cocaine and morphine.[iv] Common withdrawal and detoxification symptoms are experienced when giving up gluten products. 

Carlos Manuel Viana found in his 2008 study that the three stages of addiction (acute rewarding effects, repeated administration, and vulnerability to relapse) are all seen in obese individuals who cannot control their simple carbohydrate consumption.[v] 

Dr William Davis, author of Wheat Belly explains in very simple terms, [F]or the most bang for your buck, eliminating wheat is the easiest and most effective step you can take to safeguard your health and trim your waistline. [vi]

Fat Storage

Glycemic Index  (GI) is a numeric value given to the rate at which a particular food raises your blood sugar. Refined sugars have a high GI, and most beans have a low GI level. Increased abdominal fat can occur from the way the body processes carbohydrates in wheat. This (amylopectin A) carbohydrate causes blood sugar levels to increase, leading to elevated insulin levels and visceral storage of fat.

Again, from Dr William Davis, The bigger your wheat belly, the poorer your response to insulin, since the deep visceral fat of the wheat belly is associated with poor responsiveness, or ‘resistance’, to insulin, demanding higher and higher insulin levels, a situation that cultivates diabetes.[vii]

How Gluten Stimulates Overeating

Insulin is a hormone that moves glucose into cells.[viii] Increased insulin production and release is known to be caused by exorphins – protein in wheat converted into shorter proteins. These exorphins are like endorphins and bind to the opioid receptors in the brain, making you high and addicted – like an addict. These super drugs cause addictive eating behaviour, including cravings and bingeing.

Rather than fat being circulated in the blood and available for energy demands, many of the calories absorbed by celiacs are stored as fat. At the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, it was reported that the hormone leptin represses a liver enzyme, which catalyzes the production of monounsaturated fats. In the absense of leptin, this enzyme rises resulting in more fat stored in the liver.[ix]

How Gluten Stimulates Inflammation

Gluten is the sticky protein in wheat used to hold bread together and make it rise. The old non-modified wheat with the small amount of gluten proteins is least likely to trigger celiac disease and inflammation. The modern wheat we consume today contains twice as many gluten proteins, including the ones most likely to cause celiac disease.

Your digestive system isn’t able to break down gluten into soluble proteins (amino acids) when you are gluten sensitive. White cells in our blood, known as T-cells, recognize antigens - toxins and for some people gluten – and destroy them so they won’t cause us any harm. Disruption to the work of the T-cells occurs from infections, medications, stress and antigens from food.

This occurs when antigens from foods we’ve eaten all of our lives suddenly produce inflammation, causing deterioration of our intestinal villi and allowing these antigens to enter our bloodstream.[x] Therefore, your body reacts to the gluten thinking it’s an antigen and the gluten isn’t able to be broken down and passed into the bloodstream. Antibodies are formed to unsuccessfully break down the gluten into amino acids, inflaming the lining of the intestine and sometimes passing into the bloodstream.

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Whole grain Alternatives to Gluten

While not everyone needs to avoid gluten - start with avoiding wheat and replace with another whole grain product. There are so many gluten-free products on the market now. However, not all gluten-free products are healthy, some are highly-processed, and may in fact be filled with other additives eg sugar to make up for the taste. Here's a good place to start:

In Conclusion

The Super Starch, the Super Gluten and the Super Drug in gluten products all contribute to wheat being an addictive appetite stimulant. If you are not sure if you need to go gluten-free, you should do a six-week 100 percent gluten-free diet and see if you have any positive changes. Wheat and gluten products are scientifically validated in making a lot of people fat and sick. Replace wheat products with whole grain alternatives to make you feel better, lose weight and even save your life.

[i] Mark Hyman, MD, Three Hidden Ways Wheat Makes You Fat, (2012)
[ii] James Braly, MD and Ron Hoggan, MA, Dangerous Grains: Why Gluten Cereal Grains May Be Hazardous to Your Health, (Avery: Penguin Putnam Inc, 2002), p 29-30.
[iii] Ritamarie Loscalzo, M.S., D.C., D.A.C.B.N., C.C.N., The Role of Gluten in the Etiology of Neurodevelopmental Disorders: Opioid and Immunological Mechanisms, (2006) p 6.
[iv] James Braly, MD and Ron Hoggan, MA, Dangerous Grains: Why Gluten Cereal Grains May Be Hazardous to Your Health, (Avery: Penguin Putnam Inc, 2002), p 111.
[v] Carlos Manuel Viana (Alfaro), Treating Insulin Resistance Through Addiction Treatment: A Need to Further Investigate Dysfunction of the D2 Dopanmine Receptors, 2008, p 34
[vi] Dr William Davis, Wheat Belly, (2012) online.
[vii] Dr William Davis, Wheat Belly, (2012) online.
[viii] James Braly, MD and Ron Hoggan, MA, Dangerous Grains: Why Gluten Cereal Grains May Be Hazardous to Your Health, (Avery: Penguin Putnam Inc, 2002), p 115.
[ix] Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Research Identifies Enzyme Involved in Fat Storage, website 2002,
[x] Shari Lieberman, PHD, CNS, FACN, with Linda Segall, The Gluten Connection, (Rodale: Holtzbrinck Publishers, 2007), p 14-15.


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