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No Grain, No Brain Drain

No grain, no brain drainWhat the cavemen knew back then.

With the popularity of paleo diets and Dr. David Perlmutter’s book “Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar—Your Brain’s Silent Killers, it’s time to remind ourselves that our bodies are still fashioned after the cavemen.

As strange as it may seem, genetically, we have changed very little since the “modern” human being appeared over 40,000 years ago. It’s a topic I’ve been writing about for over 25 years, so I’m happy to see that it’s “an idea whose time has finally come.”

Domesticated whole grains as well as their refined by-products like flour, bread and pasta are a relatively new addition to the human diet.

Dr. Richard Kunin, an orthomolecular surgeon from San Francisco says it best, “Grains are really Johnny-come-latelies on the nutritional scene. Meats, fruits, beans, seeds, nuts and vegetables have had a considerably longer historical alliance with the human gut. Almost as if to make up for lost time, grain has deluged man’s diet and this excess increasingly appears to have something to do with common major and minor ailments.”

Grains and grain products are associated with a whole range of health challenges. Sensitivity to grains that contain gluten (the protein fraction of the grain, which gives it its resilient quality), mainly wheat and rye, and to a lesser extent barley, not only cause gluten intolerance, but can develop into full-fledged celiac/sprue disease (an autoimmune disease of the small intestine).

When my clients first went on my two-week Fat Flush, I noticed something very interesting. When they stopped eating carbs, especially grains, they began reporting that their brain fog, disorientation, mental acuity, migraines, arthritis, eczema, intestinal gas, bloating, stomach aches, acid reflux, depression, and even IBS started to improve. Some people even lost a pound a day!

We now know that many of the most common grains can trigger inflammation, food cravings and elevated blood sugar and insulin spikes which prompt fat storage. They also contain addictive gluteomorphins that mimic the effects of opiates resulting in biological addiction. By eliminating them, each and every one of us can reset metabolism and activate our innate ability to lose weight and burn fat.

Gluten and grain intolerance have been on the rise for the last two decades and seem to match the rise in brain-related health issues like anxiety, depression, dementia, ADHD and more.  In the last decade alone, gluten intolerance levels have increased from 1 in 2,500 worldwide to 1 in 133. It’s become so common that almost every supermarket has a “gluten-free” section, and at most chain restaurants you can order off a special gluten-free menu.

But, what’s to blame?

Toxic pesticides and herbicides may have something to do with it. A study in the Journal of Nutritional and Environmental Medicine found that in the mid-1990s almost 100 percent of wheat crops were treated with an unhealthy dose of Round-Up herbicide during the final ripening period to “brown out” the unripe kernels so they weren’t rejected by the big grain brokers and mills.

Could the problem with wheat, gluten or grain sensitivity be how it was grown, processed or even milled, rather than with the grain itself?

In any case, it may be time to start eating like a caveman, or what I’d like to call a “Paleo Fat Flusher” —

  • Eat fat and quality lean protein to lose weight. Flax oil, fish oil, coconut oil, macadamia nut oil, olive oil, butter, and cream are essential and healthy sources of fuel for your brain and body. Eat grass-fed beef, organically raised poultry, limited cold water fish, and pastured free-range eggs.
  • In place of grains, stick to starchy veggies like squash, sweet potatoes, yams, peas, rutabagas, and turnips.
  • Load up on greens and non-starchy veggies for salads, sides and snacks.
  • Nibble on nuts and seeds like almonds, walnuts and pumpkin seeds instead of bread, muffins and crackers.
  • Use flours from almonds or coconut for your baked goods.
  • Supplement with probiotics. Disturbed gut flora is usually prevalent with individuals that have any type of grain intolerance.

Learn more about At-Home Gluten Intolerance Testing>>


Have you removed grains from your diet? Share how it’s affected your health—post a comment below.


DeCava, Judith, LNC, CNC, “Why Can Grains Be Such a Pain?” Price-Pottenger Journal, Spring 2010, 34(1): 6-11 citing Walt Kawecki, “Roundup-Treated Wheat,” Wise Traditions, Fall 2006, 7(3):3; S Gibson, et al, “A Clinical Evaluation of a Wheat-Free Diet,” J Nutritional & Environmental Med, 1995, 5:243-53.


Comments (35)

  • Ghislaine February 7, 2014 - 6:56 pm Reply

    I stopped eating grains and sugar 5 weeks ago. I feel so much better! No more cravings, no more brain fog, I sleep better, I feel much happier and I have lost about 16 lbs!!
    This is my new lifestyle – no grains – no sugar. And as a result I eat many more vegetables than I did before. I have changed my shopping list, it works.

  • Jennifer February 7, 2014 - 7:12 pm Reply

    What about the idea that meat and dairy contain caseins that cause cancer? My friend has cancer and said her own personal research indicated veganism and no fruit to be truly anti cancer

    • Ann Louise Gittleman February 8, 2014 - 8:21 pm Reply

      Hi Jennifer: Dairy (primarily milk and cheese – which were not part of the dietary recommendations, by the way) is the major source of casein. While many individuals thrive on a vegan diet for healing, others do better with clean animal proteins and healthy dietary fats. We are not created equal biochemically and ultimately “your body knows best.” We can all agree that sugar in all of its forms needs to be limited and is cancer’s best friend.

  • Diane February 7, 2014 - 8:05 pm Reply

    My pediatrician (retired) friend wrote a book several years ago called “Health Secrets of the Stone Age” It addresses this and other topics.

  • Pauline S. February 7, 2014 - 10:00 pm Reply

    I’ve been following a macrobiotic way of life for a few years, and it is my experience that sugar and highly-processed flours are the culprit, not so much whole grains.
    I gave up an acidic diet for an alkaline-based diet (because inflammation was problematic and I don’t care for steroid injections) and my inflammation disappeared. I still eat whole grains regularly but pass on sugary baked goods and my brain fog and hypoglycemia are unnoticeable.
    I agree that grains are new to humans, but sugar and baked goods are even newer and the constant insulin spikes cause belly fat and more. Cancer, I am told, feeds on sugars. I feel I still need some grains for proper elimination (fiber), but not as a mainstay.
    I have been an ALG fan since “Beyond Pritikin.” Keep up the good work here.

    • Elaine February 8, 2014 - 8:18 am Reply

      @ Pauline,
      Thank you for what you wrote. Even though I eat a huge salad of greens every day, I too need whole grains to stay “regular.” I believe moderation with most foods is the key to a healthy diet—yet we should rarely eat processed foods or sweets.

    • Ann Louise Gittleman February 8, 2014 - 8:27 pm Reply

      Thanks for your post. I personally agree with you. While not all of us are designed to go completely grain-free, selecting the most fiber-rich and biocompatible ones is key. On the other hand, there are a growing number of individuals who are intolerant to grains in general and fare much bettter with starchy vegetable substitutes. Since grain-free is a tenet of the Paleo diet philosophy, which is an increasingly popular dietary trend, I felt I would be remiss in not writing about it. So glad you remember “Beyond Pritikin!”

      • Ann Louise Gittleman February 9, 2014 - 1:22 pm Reply

        Please be aware that my own diet philosophy as expressed in the Fat Flush series includes many gluten-free grain alternative like brown rice, quinoa (a seed which is digested as a grain), amaranth, and teff. Moderation and balance is the key.

  • Lenny February 8, 2014 - 8:22 am Reply

    I learned about this diet program (grain free) from Dr. Norman Gonzales back in 1985. He called it the “Bioenergetic” program.

    It has proved true through the decades, when I eat grains, even for only a couple weeks, it takes several months for “brilliance” to return to my brain. A special kind of “super awareness” and ability to access and recite nearly all previously learned information.
    Bowel health + energy + pure blood = Brain health

  • debbie February 8, 2014 - 9:13 am Reply

    I love the FF Plan!
    I go on and off it every few years and I noticed an addictive behavior pattern, wherein, I was craving carbs insanely.
    Of course, my stomach was fat and bloated. I felt horrible.
    I went back on snd today is day 5.
    I have lost eeight already! I am ‘flushing’ my body and feel better for the most part.
    I now crave salads and chix protein mostly. No cravings for bread or pasta… chips.

    Thank goodness for Louise!
    Been a big fan since I triec this 15 years ago and got soooo skinny.
    It is amazing!!!

    • Ann Louise Gittleman February 8, 2014 - 8:14 pm Reply

      So glad to hear from a long time Fat Flusher. Many of the Fat Flush diet tenets are rooted in the Paleo/gluten-free philosophy and so I felt it helpful to review these “latest” dietary trends. Keep up the good work!

  • klara February 8, 2014 - 10:08 am Reply

    I hear you mention the risks of gluten-based grains. And then I hear you encourage people to not eat all grains. But aren’t there are several gluten free grains that are still important to supplying valuable nutrients to our bodies and mind: brown rice, quinoa, millet, amaranth, tef?

    Are you saying people should not eat any of these either? Isn’t that misleading and a little bit irresponsible reporting?

    • Ann Louise Gittleman February 8, 2014 - 8:32 pm Reply

      Hi Klara: Thanks for your post. I am merely reporting the basic dietary tenets of the no-grain Paleo diet philosophy – one of the main topics of this blog. My own Fat Flush philosophy includes many non-gluten grains – primarily quinoa, teff, amaranth, and wild rice – as healthy dietary choices for a sustained lifestyle eating program.

  • Shaleigha February 8, 2014 - 11:01 am Reply

    I think that is probably true. Ann. I know I am addicted to breads and am strugling to get off and to drop these many pounds. Wish me luck!

    • Ann Louise Gittleman February 8, 2014 - 8:29 pm Reply

      Good Luck! I think you would find Fat Flush a wonderful place to start your dietary journey. Please check us out at smoothieshakedown.com!

  • Denise February 8, 2014 - 11:20 am Reply

    I feel that the processed grains are definitely a big no-no! And we just eat too much of the stuff – whether it’s bread, pasta, rice, quinoa, etc. We fill up on the carbs and then fail to eat enough of what we truly need – REAL FOOD!
    Come on you guys, it’s not Rocket Science…….

  • Suzanne February 9, 2014 - 4:05 am Reply

    What about fruit?

  • Ann Louise Gittleman February 9, 2014 - 12:35 pm Reply

    Good Morning Suzanne: Your question about fruit is a good one! Seasonal, low-glycemic moderate fruit is a major tenet of Fat Flush and the Paleo diet philosophy. All types of berries are the very best and offer major anti-aging phytonutrients and bioflavinoids.

  • Kathleen February 9, 2014 - 9:41 pm Reply

    Dear Ann Louise: Thank you for your blog which succinctly described the latest gluten and grain-free trends. If my memory serves me right, YOU were the first to bring this out in your book “Beyond Pritikin” which was published in 1988 and again in “Your Body Knows Best” published in the mid-90s. Grains are clearly a “new” food biologically speaking and are not the staff of life for many people. Thanks again for bringing all this to our awareness. You were 20 years ahead as usual.

  • Ddeborah A DeGol February 11, 2014 - 4:55 am Reply

    Dear Ann Louise
    I started the Paleo diet a few weeks ago and already notice a huge difference in how I feel. My energy level is up,I noticed the biggest difference in my workouts at the gym. My brain is more clear, I feel happier, I sleep better and I feel more confident. Will definitly stay with the Paleo style of eating.

  • Kathrtyn Carey February 15, 2014 - 11:44 am Reply

    I so agree with you Ann Louise. I do stray from you from time to time with all the new diets but find myself coming back to the “Tried and True”, YOU. My question is about supplements. In Grain Brain, suggested supplements are ALA, coconut oil, DHA, probiotic, resveratrol (SP?), turmeric, and Vit D. Making sure you do not get much Omega 6 in your diet. I have turmeric tablets, and coconut oil, and I have UniKey probiotic, and Super-EPA. I am not to sure about taking the resveratrol and the ALA (I did just buy UniKey’s ALA). What do you think? I have had the UniKey, “Tissue Mineral Analysis” done previously, and it said I should not take a Vit.D supplement. I have been with you for 9 years. Thank you.

    • Team ALG February 18, 2014 - 4:11 pm Reply

      It would be advisable to have a blood test evaluation of your Vitamin D levels. If you are deficient, 5,000-10,000 IUs per day will help replete. Reservatrol and Alpha Lipoic Acid would be wonderful additions to what you’re already doing.

  • Kathrtyn Carey February 15, 2014 - 1:03 pm Reply

    Ooops…Also Ann Louise, I use Lecithin Granules, from time to time, and I just read on the label Linoleic Acid (Omega 6) 4500 mg.

  • laura February 15, 2014 - 10:42 pm Reply

    I stopped eating gluten about 4 four years ago when I tested positive for Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, and two years ago stopped grains altogether with the exception of an occasional gluten free Sprouted Sweet Potato chip:-) I never struggle with my weight , having enough good fat keeps me from feeling hungry and brain fog is no longer an issue. The one thing not mentioned in the diet I otherwise keep is fermented foods including Kefir and yogurt made from raw milk from grass fed cows.

    • Team ALG February 18, 2014 - 4:08 pm Reply

      So happy to hear about your grain-free success! Thank you for sharing your story, Laura. Fermented foods are a wonderful addition that aid in digestion and improving immunity.

  • clyde February 21, 2014 - 8:32 pm Reply

    Haven’t stopped wheat or rye consumption, but for years have insisted on organic whole grain breads and pasta.

    Am slim, and do not have the difficulties you mention.

  • Camilla Rees February 22, 2014 - 12:11 pm Reply

    @Clyde: We are all biochemically “unique” and while some individuals do well on whole grains, there is a growing segment of the population that is sensitive to them. “One man’s meat is another man’s poison” as the popular saying goes and this is becoming exceedingly evident in the field of nutrition. That is why there are so many different dietary philosophies that abound with passionate advocates on all sides.

  • natgrrl March 5, 2014 - 1:08 pm Reply

    I am very new to this and very confused. My doctor said to eat low carb to reduce inflation and raise my HDLs. OK… I stopped eating all refined sugars and white flour, and reduced whole wheat to one serving a day. I was feeling great for the first 2 weeks and even lost 5 lbs! However I’m in week 3 and feel lousy. I’m constipated, tired and have almost no appetite. Any suggestions??

    • liz March 5, 2014 - 8:48 pm Reply

      You may want to add starchy veggies to your diet for carbs, instead of more grain. Think sweet potato, peas, cooked carrots and squash.

      • natgrrl March 6, 2014 - 8:49 am Reply

        Thanks I’ll try that.
        Can anyone suggest which of Ann’s book I should start with? I’m not that concerned with weight lost (nice bonus but not my main goal) but more of a healthy maintainable lifestyle.
        I’ve got food allergies and am trying to avoid my family’s trend of heart disease and diabetes.

        • liz March 6, 2014 - 4:37 pm Reply

          Fat Flush for Life is a great book to eat and live healthy by the seasons.

          • natgrrl March 6, 2014 - 5:01 pm

            Thanks 🙂

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