Man walks after removing wheat

No, this isn't some National Enquirer headline like "Woman delivers alien baby."

Tom is a 26-year old man with a complex medical condition, a malformation he was born with and has had reconstructed. Aside from this, he leads a normal life: works, is married, and is, in fact, quite intelligent.

He came to me for an opinion regarding his overall health. Tom was worried that his congenital condition would impair his long-term health and longevity prospects, so he wanted to optimize all other aspects of his health.

But, when I examined Tom, he could barely get himself up on the exam table without wincing in pain. When I asked him to walk, he hobbled a few steps, again clearly in pain. When I asked him what hurt, he said "everything." He said that all his joints hurt just to move.

He told me that his several doctors over the years didn't know why he was in such pain: It wasn't rheumatoid arthritis, gout, pseudogout, or any of the other inflammatory joint diseases that might account for virtually incapacitating this 26-year old man. Even the rheumatologists were stumped. It was also unrelated to his repaired congenital condition. So Tom went on with his life, barely able to even go for a walk with his wife without pain, slowing him down to the pace of an 80-year old.

So I suggested that he eliminate all wheat products. "I don't know for a fact whether it will work, Tom. But the only way to find out is to give it a try. Why not try a 4-week period of meticulously avoiding wheat? Nothing bad will come of it."

He and his wife look perplexed, but were so desperate for a solution that they agreed to give it a try.

Tom returned 6 weeks later. He walked into the room briskly, then bounded up on the exam table. He told me that, within days, all his joint pains had completely disappeared. He could walk, stretch, do all the normal physical things with none of the pain he had suffered previously.

Tom told me, "I didn't think it could be true. I thought it was just a coincidence. So I had a sandwich about 2 weeks into it. In about 5 minutes, I got about half my pains back."

Tom now remains wheat-free and pain-free, thankfully with no discernible joint impairment.

So, yes, Tom walked freely and without pain simply by eliminating wheat from his life.

Is it an immune phenomenon? Does wheat gluten trigger some inflammatory reaction in some people? There is surely something like this underlying experiences like Tom.

Wheat contains far more than gluten. Modern wheat is a collection of hundreds of different proteins, though gluten is the most plentiful, the one that confers the "viscoelasticity" of dough. But there's plenty more to wheat than gluten or celiac disease.

Comments (27) -

  • loco

    5/9/2010 2:04:43 PM |

    Maybe Monsato knows what causes it.

  • Nancy

    5/9/2010 2:04:43 PM |

    This is similar to what happened to me, although it took a lot longer.  I was diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis and had pain in almost every joint.  Removing gluten from my diet and in about a year my AS went into remission and I am feeling so much better.

  • loco

    5/9/2010 2:06:50 PM |

    Scratch that.  Amazingly wheat is one of the few product "monsanto" doesn't touch.

  • Lori Miller

    5/9/2010 2:40:44 PM |

    After cutting way, way back on the carbs (and eliminating wheat), my little aches and pains, sinus headaches and fatigue disappeared. My skin is better, too. Oh, and I'm back to what I weighed in high school. I'm so happy with my new diet that it's hard not to proselytize.

  • Darrin

    5/9/2010 4:43:35 PM |

    It's interesting how little attention is paid to gluten intolerance, and more generally grain intolerances, in humans.

    In contrast, it is quite easy to find statistics on the amount of the world's population that is lactose intolerant and which populations are most susceptible.

    Quite the eye-opening post.

  • Mike Turco

    5/9/2010 8:27:19 PM |

    I have a story that is somewhat similar. I've had chronic neck and back pain for years. Nothing debilitating but it was "there" every day, sometimes for many hours. I was taking way too much ibuprofen to manage the discomfort.

    Anyways, I read an article in the news somewhere about how "we" all sit in chairs too much, that the human body wasn't meant to do that kind of thing, and that doing so could lead to chronic neck and back pain! The suggestion was to use a standing desk.

    Being a bit of a cheapskate, I setup a shelving unit about two weeks ago, put my computer and so forth up on the shelf, and gave it a shot.

    Literally, the next day my back and neck pain was gone. Just gone. Hasn't come back. In addition, my weight loss efforts seem to be doing a little better. Hey, its not much exercise, but its certainly a better "workout" than sitting on my duff all day.

    Granted, I've only been at this for two weeks and its too early to tell whether any of the affects are real or just coincidental. Still, though, I'd recommend to just about anybody that they give a shot at standing up throughout their workday instead of sitting down. It can't hurt anything, I think, and its worth a try.


  • Anonymous

    5/10/2010 11:57:24 AM |

    Apparently, nobody cares about wheat. It's been this way for 15 years. It's like trying to convince people that earth is round rather than flat. We have a long way to go. Frustrating when we have Federal Government promoting low fat, high carbs diet.

  • scall0way

    5/10/2010 1:56:05 PM |

    I believe it. Most of my aches and pains went away when I eliminated wheat also. I used to almost have to crawl out of bed in the morning, which I attributed to "getting old". Yet not one single doctor ever once suggested my diet could have anything to do with the problem.

  • Fred Hahn

    5/11/2010 12:05:31 AM |

    Bill -

    You should send this story to Oprah!

  • WheatFreeNow

    5/11/2010 5:28:19 AM |

    Not surprising at all! :0  It's going to become more and more common to see results like this - and yes - I agree with your point about the problem being SO MUCH more to do with the gluten issue - it's more about the over commercialized, genetically modified wheat that has entered our diet which is probably causing the problem.

  • Dr. William Davis

    5/11/2010 11:45:28 AM |

    Hi, Fred!

    I was so impressed when I heard you talk that you mentioned the grain-rheumatoid arthritis connection. That's a pretty obscure relationship, but one I, too, am convinced is real.

  • Ned Kock

    5/11/2010 2:47:31 PM |

    This type of case must be very rewarding for a doctor.

    Not only did you save this person's life with your advice, his quality of life improved dramatically.

  • monte

    5/11/2010 5:13:34 PM |

    I also was diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis when I was 20 years old. I'm now 42 and have had both of my hips replaced. I read another article about the dangers of gluten:

    I've been off wheat now for about 4 months and the inflammation is almost completely gone. When I started I could only walk about 3 blocks but I'm up to a mile now and without the extreme pain in my joints. I still have a lot of therapy to do but I'm actually hopeful about my health for the first time in years.

    Thanks for getting this info out to people!

  • Anne

    5/11/2010 7:12:09 PM |

    My knee pain was the first thing that disappeared when I stopped eating gluten. That was 7 yrs ago and still doing well. I wake up in the morning with no joint pain. Not bad for 67 yrs.

  • Anonymous

    5/11/2010 8:06:08 PM |

    Yup, my mother-in-law was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis back in the '70s.  I convinced her to give up wheat a year ago and all her pains went away.  

    I'm convinced many "diseases" are actually symptoms of various food intolerances, with wheat being the most likely suspect.

  • Professor Tom

    5/12/2010 2:14:50 PM |

    Are you claiming that everyone should eliminate wheat from their diet?

    What about the recent attacks on sodium from the UN in the form of Codex Alimentarius? Personally, I think it's more about control as I documented here

  • DrStrange

    5/12/2010 2:56:39 PM |

    "I'm convinced many "diseases" are actually symptoms of various food intolerances, with wheat being the most likely suspect."

    More specifically gluten, so we need to include rye, barley, tritcale, spelt, kamut, in that.  Also dairy #2.  If it does not bother your individual body, it does not.  But for so many one or both of there are disasters.

    The hardest part, second after the addiction/cultural promotion of them as good, healthy foods, is that it can take many days of zero intake before improvement is really noticeable.  People are so emotionally attached to what they eat they fight tooth and nail against giving something up for that long "just to see." That is of course, unless/until they are truly desperate!

  • TedHutchinson

    5/13/2010 10:44:10 AM |

    Dr Dr Davis
    I think I may have mistakenly posted a link to an review on Resolution of Adipose Tissue Inflammation that I intended as a reply to a different blog.
    Although it's an interesting paper confirming the importance of the role of omega 3, it is off topic for this particular thread. I'd be pleased if you could delete it.Many thanks Ted

  • Anonymous

    5/13/2010 5:05:29 PM |

    I used to have severe menstrual cramps from the time I hit menarche. And miraculously they went away last year after I gave up wheat.


  • Neonomide

    5/15/2010 12:55:01 AM |

    Loren Cordain has written a paper on the role of dietary lectins in rheumatoid arthritis:

  • Neonomide

    5/15/2010 2:23:45 AM |

    How convenient - this brand new Cordain's Paleo newsletter has some information on the subject as well:

    Q: Could you suggest recent scientific articles on the topic of dietary lectins and rheumatoid arthritis?

    Many thanks,

    A: Dear Allena,

    To my knowledge, there are no recent studies addressing the role of a paleolithic diet and its implications in rheumatoid arthritis, except from that of Dr. Cordain. On his DVD How to Treat Multiple Sclerosis with Diet, Dr. Cordain thoroughly explains the dietary mechanisms of autoimmunity in MS which are almost the same for all autoimmune diseases, including RA. These include: increased intestinal permeability, increased passage of luminal antigens into peripheral circulation, molecular mimicry and genetic susceptibility (genes encoding for the HLA system), among other factors.

    In recent years, new substances have been discovered which might be responsible for increased intestinal permeability - namely saponins - found in legumes, potatoes, soya, quinoa, amaranth, alfalfa sprouts or tomatoes. If you've seen Dr. Cordain's scientific paper entitled "Modulation of immune function by dietary lectins in rheumatoid arthritis", I am sure you are aware of the role lectins play in autoimmunity.

    Adjuvants are used by immunologists in order to boost the immune system and induce immune response. It turns out that certain foods possess bioactive compounds that have adjuvant-like activity. This is the case for tomatoes or quillaja (a foaming agent used in beers and soft drinks).

    Gliadin is a prolamine found in wheat which has been shown to increase intestinal permeability, and hence the risk of suffering from an autoimmune disease. While several clinical trials conducted have shown promising results, unfortunately they have used a gluten-free diet or vegan diet instead of a whole paleolithic diet, which we think is superior.

    In the vegan diets, authors often claim that the benefits cited might be due to the lack of meat, but we think the positive effect relies on the lack of diary proteins and gluten. Meat has historically been seen as the "bad guy" of inflammation, but the data to support that notion is not sufficiently compelling.

    Listed below are some references that may be helpful.

    Maelán Fontes


    1: Modulation of immune function by dietary lectins in rheumatoid arthritis. Cordain L, Toohey L, Smith MJ, Hickey MS. Brit J Nutr 2000, 83:207-217.

    2: Gluten-free vegan diet induces decreased LDL and oxidized LDL levels and raised atheroprotective natural antibodies against phosphorylcholine in patients with rheumatoid arthritis: a randomized study. Elkan AC, Sjöberg B, Kolsrud B, Ringertz B, Hafström I, Frostegård J. Arthritis Res Ther. 2008;10(2):R34. Epub 2008 Mar 18.

    3:A vegan diet free of gluten improves the signs and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis: the effects on arthritis correlate with a reduction in antibodies to food antigens. Hafström I, Ringertz B, Spångberg A, von Zweigbergk L, Brannemark S, Nylander I, Rönnelid J, Laasonen L, Klareskog L. Rheumatology (Oxford). 2001 Oct;40(10):1175-9.

    So gliadin in wheat seems to be an important bad guy, eh ?

    PS: Thank you so much Dr Davis for bringing information on wheat havoc  to the masses. It's very much appreciated!

  • Felix Olschewski

    5/21/2010 7:13:12 AM |

    Dr. Davis,
    I hope you don't mind that I have (kind of) translated this post into German and published it on my Blog. You can find it on

  • Carrie

    6/23/2010 12:03:56 PM |

    With a few exceptions, I have found those who comment on this blog to be very well informed, adding wonderful references, insights and experiences to the conversation.

    @Professor Tom; even a rudimentary glance of Dr. Davis' blog would reveal that he does not think EVERYONE should stop eating wheat, but for his heart patients, patients with pain and inflammation, patients with neurological disorders, and patients with weight, blood sugar and hormonal imbalances, or other serious and chronic health conditions he advises them to TRY 4 weeks of completely avoiding all wheat/gluten and see if it makes a difference, and in 70% of people it does.  

    It is not some kind of mind control conspiracy theory to make us into docile sheep.  It is the opposite in fact.  He is helping people regain their health by bucking convention; opting out of the wheat based culture and freeing ourselves from dependence on pharmaceuticals.  

    I have seen miraculous health results of going totally grain free for 3 members of my family.  Personally, I only experienced weight loss and increased immunity but that is still worth it.

  • Neonomide

    6/23/2010 1:57:19 PM |


    I've had a different impression. I understand that Dr Davis does not consider wheat to be human food at all and as a paleo scholar, I completely agree.

    I also acknowledge that all wheat is not equal - here in Finland I think wheat elimination alone will not show as dramatic effects as in US. Different genome, in both humans and wheat itself.

    In energy versus nutrient equations wheat loses anyway and added salt further unbalances the essential sodium/potassium ratio that is very important in BP control and kidney health. Antinutrient in wheat are a great way to weaken your micronutrient status. The greens and berries own wheat every time.

    IMHO, playing risk game with not-yet-sick people with catastrophe food like wheat is simply stupid. When wheat derived autoimmune disease starts to take it's toll, it may not be reversed anymore. As for sdLDL, it may not cause symptoms at all before the first MI. Then you're dead or in the risk risk of sudden death for the rest of your life. Not fun.

  • hernia surgery Los Angeles

    12/22/2010 10:27:24 AM |

    That is amazing if you could detect something so smoothly and it's like a miracle or a magic.Why is gluten bad and for all joint pains?

  • Geoffrey Levens

    12/22/2010 3:52:33 PM |

    I would not say that gluten is bad!  What is bad or damaging is many individuals (NOT all) physiological reaction to it.  If you are reactive to gluten, then it is systemically inflammatory.  If you have poor blood sugar regulation, then wheat (maybe its the gluten?) can dramatically raise blood sugar and elevated blood sugar is also inflammatory.