Cutting Gluten From Diet Can Improve Behavioral Health

‘Whole person care’ is the idea that integrating many kinds of health services into one concept of care can be more beneficial to consumers than receiving separate medical care from separate medical providers.

The same concept can be applied to a consumer’s own behavioral health choices. When we combine approaches to our health from multiple sources, we are able to treat our entire bodies and our minds as one ‘whole person.’

As a nutritional consultant for the past few years, I’ve seen how strong the connection is between what a person eats and the status of their overall health, and that connection plays a direct role in the status of their behavioral health.

We all love gluten-based foods. But what are we really putting in our bodies when we eat pizza, bread, pasta and other wheat-based foods?

Modern wheat has changed in the past 40 years. The recent genetic manipulation has made it more that 1 percent different from its ancestors.


In terms of genetics, that is bigger than the difference between humans and chimpanzees. Modern wheat gluten has been associated in various studies with neurological diseases, heart disease, arthritic conditions, diabetes, rashes, ulcerative colitis and schizophrenic symptoms.

The occurrence of celiac disease has almost doubled in the past 40 years.

Excessive wheat consumption is associated with the development of visceral (or belly) fat. This particular type of fat is especially harmful to health because it provokes inflammatory phenomena, distorts insulin responses, issues abnormal metabolic signals to the body and even acts as an abnormal, faulty endocrine gland, releasing hormones like bad estrogens that in some cases can result in the development of breasts in males. Yikes!

This visceral fat triggers inflammatory conditions. Wheat is acid forming in the body. Acidosis is a dangerous condition for the body that can compromise the immune system. If too much acid-forming food is consumed, the body will leech calcium from the bones to neutralize its pH, causing poor bone health.

Not to mention the fact that when we feel physically ill, we tend to feel unhappy as well.

Wheat is, in essence, is an appetite stimulant. Wheat increases blood sugar to a higher level than sucrose. It causes a spike in blood sugar followed by a low and a craving. This initiates a two-hour hunger cycle.

People who remove gluten from their diet essentially end up consuming fewer calories, without counting. This is not caused by decreased food variety, but by decreased sugar cravings. The high intake of sugar causes a rush throughout the body.

But sugar spikes are short lived, and when they wear off, our brains can feel like they are crashing, resulting in mood swings and irritability. When those sugar cravings are out of the picture, our brains can regulate more naturally.

Eliminating wheat has not only proven to make people thinner and improve their bowel, joint and lung health, but it also makes people more energetic and improves the clarity of their thinking and mood. In the case of celiac patients, their removal of all wheat products has been associated with improvements in ADD and ADHD symptoms.

Overall, this lifestyle change is beneficial to behavioral health.

When removing wheat from your diet, beware of packaged and processed foods labeled as gluten-free. These foods replace wheat flour with cornstarch, rice starch, potato starch or tapioca starch. These are among the few foods that increase blood sugar even more than wheat products.

Stick with foods that are home-cooked and organic. Eat as many vegetables and leafy greens as possible and a little bit of fruit. As for grains, choose non-wheat, non-gluten options.

Eat plenty of legumes and beans. When eating out, choose corn tortillas over burger buns or pizza, the less wheat exposure, the better.

Be aware that about 30 percent of people experience mild withdrawal symptoms when they remove wheat from their diet. Fatigue, mental fog and irritability usually doesn’t last more than a week, so be patient. Your body and your mind will thank you.


Dr. Davis, William, Wheat Belly. Rodale Books. 2011.


Ralitza Treneva



Contributing Author

Ralitza Treneva is a recent DePaul graduate living in Chicago. She is trained in plant-based nutrition and has worked as a nutritional consultant. She is from Bulgaria.

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