26 September 2014
Over the last two months, half a dozen people that I’d spoken with for about fifteen minutes total decided to recommend a book to me: Wheat Belly. They recommended it for two reasons, I’m sure: one, they each knew I was celiac or on a gluten-free diet. Two, they knew I was fat.
The first time someone mentioned it, I downloaded and skimmed the sample of the book. To me, it looked like the typical diet book, full of pseudoscientific claims in addition to some genuine ones. ## On Recommending This Book to a Celicac
Here’s what I’ve wanted to say to everyone who’s recommended this book to a celiac:
Do you think a celiac, of all people, has no clue how dangerous wheat can be?
Did you know that my intestines bleed when I accidentally eat a sandwich made with regular bread? That a smaller dose can land me in bed with three days of diarrhea and misery? Or that about half a crouton’s worth can cause me to run a fever for a couple of days? That my thyroid’s mostly shut down (a common co-morbidity) and is now sixteen times normal size? That my supposed “wheat belly” is actually a medication and thyroid side effect?
Did you know that I know people who’ve needed 16 to 26 units of blood (over a course of one to two years) after their diagnosis? That I know people who’ve wound up in the ICU because of celiac-induced anemia?
That I know people who were losing so much weight they could have died?
That I know someone who was being evaluated for a heart transplant before they figured out she had a wheat allergy? (Not celiac, a true allergy.)
Did you know that I have met people who get seizures from small amounts of wheat?
It dissolves our intestines. How much worse could it be, really? I don’t really know of any other analogous food issue.
Look, there are some things I agree with: less sugar, more traditional foods, there are good fats. Except, of course, this diet cuts out swaths of foods that aren’t bad for you. Buckwheat, to take an example, isn’t a grain, and is one of the best vegetarian complete proteins. Why limit it?
But I’m not open to villifying wheat for the 95% of you for whom it does no apparent damage. I do sincerely thank all of you gluten free people for making more food options available to me, but I’ve always stated: if it doesn’t make you feel better or doesn’t improve your medical numbers, I’m not convinced it’s worth the bother.
I’m not convinced that the increase in celiac disease expression is related to eating newer forms of wheat, as claimed in the book. If that increase is related to a single food, it may also be corn or soy. Or, you know, the shift from butter to margarine around WWII. It could be canola oil. It could be that we’re no longer eating much liver. Or lamb. It could be a different answer for different populations.
Other people have done takedowns of the book.
The first is from Michael Pollan:
Not too much.
The second is one I heard from a friend who’s Japanese, though I’ve never heard it from another Japanese person:
Thirty different foods a day.
One hundred different foods a week.
No, I don’t mean ingredients. I mean foods. Spices count.
It’s an interesting goal.
But avoiding buckwheat, which isn’t a grain, because industrial wheat may be bad for you? That’s crazy talk.
Also, because I apparently have to say this: recommending a diet book to a fat person you have just met and barely know is a dick move.