Reintroduction to wheat = digestive problems?

by 108 · August 09, 2012 at 03:19 PM


I've been eating a paleolithic diet since about Thanksgiving of last year. I've lost roughly 25 lbs and for the first few months there were no issues. In late January I asked a question here because I thought I was having some digestive issues (constipation - diarrhea) . I started to take a probiotic and ate more fermented foods like sauerkraut and kimchi. I also ate less nuts and dropped artificial sweeteners. That seemed to help a little.

I even went on a sugar detox in February (No fruit, dairy, honey, chocolate, alcohol) for 3 weeks. It was more or less just to see if I could do it. I lost urges for sugar and 85% dark chocolate afterwards tasted pretty sweet (still does somewhat).

During this time (Nov - March) I drank some beer but I was mainly drinking red wine if I did drink.

I went on a trip for a week to South America in March and I ended up eating corn and wheat products. I'm sure if I was determined I could have ate Paleo there too, but I didn't. I did pretty good though. But since I've been back, I've occasionally eaten bread, rice, more beer, chips and other corn products, and sometimes pasta (very rare). Things I would not have eaten Nov - March.

Since about late April I've had a pain on my right side..maybe a few inches above my right hip. Its not intense pain but it feels like a muscle is pulled slightly. It comes and goes and usually after a big meal.

Once in late May and also a few weeks ago..I've had some moderate to intense pain in my stomach area. Felt like I needed to have a bowel movement but that was not the issue. This lasted a few days. The time in May was intense and lasted about 4 days. In July it was not quite as bad and lasted 2 days.

I've seen a Doc (who is Paleo friendly) and just went to see a Gastro Doc for an eval. I'd like to eliminate celiac and other bad things if I can. Today for an experiment, I had a breakfast wrap (wheat)..soup for lunch (rice)...and a few cookies at work (ultra processed shit). It is now about 8:30PM and I feel a moderate discomfort in my stomach..like a dull pain but not severe (yet).

My question is this.....since I started to reintroduce wheat/corn/rice in March and I will occasionally eat those things...could the reintroduction been the culprit of my digestive issues/stomach pain? I did not feel like this before paleo. For almost 4 months I did not eat any wheat/rice/corn.

Any thoughts would be appreciated.


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5071 · August 09, 2012 at 01:58 AM

Yes, it's very common to react to foods you ate your whole life upon reintroducing them back into your diet. It's a sign that you were never quite as good at digesting that food as you thought you were.

There's many theories why this is, but I believe the most likely culprit is that if the signals of inflammation are constantly on in your body, adding more inflammation onto that won't signal the same type of noticeable emergency response by your body. When you cut out a food and then reintroduce it, you allow your body to give the signal that inflammation is going on and you can actually read it because it isn't lost in the "sea" of inflammatory markers and digestive issues going on.

I've also heard that it's possible to "shock" your body if you haven't eaten high-carb or starchy foods in a while, because the enzymes necessary to digest those foods are different than the enzymes used to digest protein and fat.

505 · August 09, 2012 at 03:28 AM

I think this has to do with gut flora. For the past 3 to 4 days I've been reading studies on IBS and other bowel issues. Your symtoms sound just like those described in many of the papers I read.

Basically when there's an imbalance in the gut flora or it has taken residence in the small intestine it's possible to experience digestive issues after eating fiber. The bacteria ferments fiber in gases and short chain fatty acids. Change in the bacterial composition in the gut means change in the gases they produce.

If you've been on grain-free diet for sometime it's possible your gut flora has adapted to that diet. Adding wheat or grains back means introducing fiber the gut flora is not accustomed to handling. That means gas, abdominal pain and maybe bloating.

I also found a few studies that show that gluten is also fermented into SCFA. Here and here.

I don't think those symptoms are dangerous as such, and probably cause no long-term problems. If you were to eat wheat more regularly the gut flora might adapt back to it. It's just one of the ways humans adapt to their environment.

4113 · August 09, 2012 at 03:19 PM

I tried to eat Bertucci's bread again, which I used to love. Been sick for 3 days afterwards. Although I can't directly attribute it to the bread since I could have caught something, I don't think it helped. The bread taste bland now.

5744 · August 09, 2012 at 01:38 PM

I abstained from any intentional gluten exposure for almost a year. While in Ireland, I ate almost a loaf and a half of soda bread in a sitting. I did accompany it with a huge dose of grass-fed butter, but still. My body was shocked. However, I expected to feel far worse. A little bloating and inflammation was noticed for a few days afterward, but I definitely didn't react like some others I have seen.

2252 · August 09, 2012 at 11:34 AM

I have the same problem! I never appeared to react to wheat before, I had no serious diet induced health problems either. Now the stuff is actually painful! It is like alcohol, people who drink a lot have a high tolerance and need more and more to feel the "buzz." Whereas non-drinkers can have a single glass of and feel pretty lit up. I think our tolerance to allergenic foods is the same, we dont really realize what they are doing to our body until they are eliminated.

16813 · August 09, 2012 at 11:30 AM

Please don't reintroduce wheat! The stuff is very damaging on many levels. While there is some hyperbole in the book Wheat Belly, it's worth a read for a deep discussion as to why you should avoid it.

Basically, it will cause leaky gut, it is addictive, and contains some very bad things that can lead to autoimmune diseases. (Gluten, gliadin, WGA.)

This, along with other grains (except maybe for white rice) and also almost all legumes should be very much avoided permanently.

It's not like dairy, eggs, or nightshades where some people can tolerate it. Yes, it is possible, depending on your ancestry that you may have developed an immunity to it, however you most likely do not have it.

Even small amounts of wheat can cause damage to our gut lining which won't be healed for a month, or more, this allows undigested proteins, including those from wheat inside our blood, which will in the long term become autoimmune issues.

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