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Rick shared the progression of facial and health changes he experienced by following the Wheat Belly lifestyle (above). Since he began 5 months ago, Rick has lost 28 pounds and 8 inches off his waist, he is freed from previously chronic knee and back pain, and experienced an improvement in mood. But take a look at Rick’s photos when we put his most recent photo at 248.6 pounds up against his 2009 photo at a weight of 250 pounds–virtually the same weight:

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Even though each photo was taken at similar weight, look at the impressive contrast in Rick’s face: The photos look like two different people at virtually the same weight.

The difference is inflammation.

Wheat and grains powerfully inflame the body. Inflammation can manifest as facial redness (seborrhea), as other forms of skin rash such as acne, dandruff, eczema, and psoriasis. It can show as joint pain, especially in the hands, wrists, and elbows, sometimes in the knees, hips, and low back. It can show as water retention/edema in the face (look at the 2009 Rick) and ankles. Grain-induced inflammation can also show up as an autoimmune disease, anything from rheumatoid arthritis, to autoimmune pancreatic beta cell destruction (type 1 diabetes), to pernicious anemia (autoimmune destruction of the parietal cells of the stomach responsible for vitamin B12 absorption).

What makes wheat and grains such powerful inflammatory stimuli? Here is a partial list:

Gliadin-derived peptides–This occurs in celiac disease and in people without celiac disease. Partially-digested gliadin-derived peptides are directly inflammatory to the intestinal lining.

Intact gliadin
–When the gliadin protein molecule remains intact (or nearly intact, since humans struggle to digest poorly recognized proteins from the seeds of grasses), it initiates the series of steps that lead to autoimmunity and results in diseases such as celiac disease, dermatitis herpetiformis, cerebellar ataxia, Sjogren’s disease, IgA nephropathy, some forms of schizophrenia, and type 1 diabetes.

Omega gliadins–The omega gliadins, one of the several variants of gliadin from wheat, rye, and barley, are responsible for some peculiar phenomena, such as exercise (and aspirin) induced anaphylaxis (severe allergy resulting in shock), some skin rashes, and make a contribution to Crohn’s disease.

Wheat germ agglutinin–Like intact gliadin, wheat germ agglutinin, entirely impervious to human digestion, is both a direct bowel toxin, as well as a trigger for autoimmune phenomena such as Crohn’s disease. If it gains access to the bloodstream (which it undoubtedly does, reflected by increased antibody levels against it in some people), it can activate inflammation, amplify the effect of insulin, and cause platelet aggregation (blood clots).

There’s more, but you get the picture. Take a look at Rick’s facial transformation, even when weight is the same, and you see the surface evidence of the body-wide inflammation provoked by following conventional dietary advice to eat more “healthy whole grains.”

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