Dear Mark: Wheat and Asthma, Minimalist Winter Shoes, High-Fat Rat Cognition Study, and Sun Exposure Timing

Today’s edition of “Dear Mark” runs the gamut. The topics will be somewhat familiar, since I tackle wheat, minimalist shoes, high-fat diets in the news, and vitamin D, but with interesting spins on each. First, I discuss the link between wheat and asthma. Next, I do a somewhat exhaustive search of the available winter minimalist shoe options, a topic that I’ve never had cause to explore for myself. Since I do this for you guys, though, I tried to help out. After that, it’s my quick but (in my mind) pretty conclusive take on the latest article to pin cognitive decline on a high-fat diet for a reader who’s dealing with a similar condition herself (or himself; the gender of the name “Jo” is somewhat ambiguous). And finally, I discuss whether or not there’s a best time of day to obtain vitamin D from the sun.

Let’s get going:


I love the website and your books. I have been eating paleo for the past 4 months and notice a huge difference in my athletic performance and general out look on life. I have suffered from asthma my entire life. After eating a sandwich made with french bread (refined wheat) or a plate of pasta (which is rarely now), I find my breathing slightly labored even while sitting. Is there any research supporting the removal of gluten and wheat help asthmatics?

I would love to know you thoughts…


I think so, yes. Something called baker’s asthma, which has been identified since at least the 1700s and is exactly as it sounds, is linked to the ingestion (this time via the clouds of airborne flour to which bakers are constantly exposed) of gliadins, the protein subfractions that make up gluten.

There’s also a related condition called wheat-dependent exercise-induced anaphylaxis where wheat-related proteins make it through the intestinal wall into the blood and cause an immune response that manifests as an asthma attack. It’s “exercise-induced” because exercise seems to speed up the rate at which the wheat gliadins make it into the blood, but even those at rest had evidence of an immune response to the gliadins.

There’s also evidence of plain-old wheat-induced asthma – no exercise necessary.

I’d say you’re on to something, Drew. You can keep experimenting if you like, but I’d suggest just staying away from the stuff myself! Good luck!

Hey Mark. I’m very addicted to my Vibrams, and with this nor’easter coming through I had to go back to my winter boots, and while they do keep me dry and warm, I’m hating it!

Tried looking through the site but didn’t find anything as far as some type of minimalist shoe for winter? Any recommendations?

Wish Vibrams made a winter type shoe. I see they used to make one that kind of looks like it would be helpful, but they don’t sell it anymore.



I share your addiction. For folks who actually have real seasons with a real winter, the minimalist winter shoe is something of a white whale – an enigma hovering just out of reach, a product that you know should exist but that you can never actually pin down. I’ve never really looked into it for my own feet, since they rarely see cold weather, but let’s see what’s out there, yeah?

First, a quick glance at the minimalist wintery offerings from the well-known companies out there:


Men – Nothing meant for winter that I could see.

Women – Barefoot Life Frost Glove: waterproof, insulated, Vibram sole.

Vivo Barefoot

Men – The Off Road Hi and Off Road Mid look to be decently protective options.

Women – They’ve got an entire winter boot collection for women, albeit a fairly small one.


Unisex – Adult Phoenix Boot: sheepskin lining, 5 mm Vibram sole, lighter and more flexible sole as of 2012, roomy toebox (very important, in my experience, for true barefoot feel), naturally water-resistant.

Now, how about the shoe options that might not be officially minimalist but are close enough?

Russel Moccasin now makes a full lineup of minimalist moccasins, some of which are winter proof. They’ve been around for decades, so they should be pretty high quality.

Otz Shoes has a Troop Boot. It’s not billed or promoted as minimalist, but as this review from Birthday Shoes suggests, it can certainly be modified to become an effective, minimalist winter boot. They’ve got ’em in women’s, too.

There’s an actual minimalist army boot out, as well – the Belleville Minimalist Training Boot. Read the review.

O’neill (yes, the surfwear company) makes a neoprene reef boot. Since it’s designed for water sports, it’s fairly water-resistant, and since it’s designed for cold ocean water, it’ll keep you warm. It’s also got good grip and the price is fantastic.

If you have a favorite barefoot shoe that isn’t quite protective or warm enough, you can always throw some overboots over your boots (or shoes). They work on hiking boots and shoes equally. Here’s another link. If you really want to stick with the FiveFingers and somehow stay warm, you could always wear them with some outdoor toe socks from Injinji.

That should do it. I hope you find something amidst all those links that works for you.

Hi Mark,

I’m an international fan — I live in Korea and have been reading your blog since February 2012. I first saw Dr. Terry Wahls’ TED talk “Minding Your Mitochondria” online, then went on vacation to Vietnam, where another tourist from Romania shared your website with me. So you have quite the far-reaching influence, and I now regularly quote you to friends from Korea, Canada, the US, and France, proselytizing as many as I can! 😉 I even try to raise primal-related questions among my students at Seoul National University, where I teach English for Academic Purposes.

Anyway, I also happen to have been diagnosed with MS (technically Clinically Isolated Syndrome), but to make a long story short, although I recovered nearly fully from my first severe attack before going primal (basically by unwittingly doing everything in the primal lifestyle except the diet bit), I have felt even better since going grain- and refined sugar-free, and my most recent MRI even indicates likely re-myelination of the lesions in my brain.

So naturally, when I saw this article on the NY Times today – Can Exercise Protect the Brain from Fatty Foods? – I was skeptical, given that I have been eating a high-fat diet and have simultaneously (if not causally) seen “improvements” in my brain. I wondered what actual foods, in both the high-fat diet and the “conventional” one, they were feeding their lab rats, and if there is a chance that a high fat diet could, in fact, damage the brain. My personal guess is that it really depends on the type of fat…I would love it if you could share your take on this study.

Thanks for all the work you do,


Browse the comment section of that NY Times article and you’ll find that one commenter (Edward Barton) contacted the study’s lead author and found out that the fat in the diet “consisted exclusively of commercially produced (soy and corn derived) lard and soy oil.” As we now know, the lard used in refined lab diets is far higher in omega-6 than previously thought due to the modern pig’s usual diet, which consists of mostly corn and soy products. If you look at the USDA nutritional database, lard is pretty high in monounsaturated and saturated fats and low in polyunsaturated, but the actual lard used in lab diets contains twice as much PUFA.

Does this matter? I think it might. Previous studies have shown that among polyunsatuturated fats, only DHA, EPA, and arachidonic acid increase membrane fluidity in the brain while linoleic acid failed to increase it, a significant finding for two reasons. First, patients with Alzheimer’s disease tend to have far less membrane fluidity than control patients, and a fluid brain is required for optimal cognition. Second, the added PUFA in the industrial lard is almost entirely linoleic acid (not arachidonic acid), which the pigs obtain from the soy and corn in their diets and incorporate directly into their adipose tissue. If these rats were on a high linoleic acid diet – which they undoubtedly were – we would expect membrane fluidity and cognition to be impaired. No real surprise there.

Besides, you’re not a rat, you’re not eating rancid refined lard and soybean oil high in omega-6 fats, and you’ve actually made progress against your condition. I wouldn’t worry. It’s not like your brain’s apparent re-myelination is merely a feint in the right direction before it begins backtracking toward progression of the disease. Even if the mice were on a rodent version of a Primal eating plan, I wouldn’t worry purely on the strength of your own response to the diet and lifestyle changes. Heck, even if you were a rat that had somehow gained the ability to send emails and compose thoughtful, cogent prose, I’d say you should stick with what is obviously working for you even if the high-fat lab diet wasn’t working for your fellow rodents. The proof is in the pudding, especially if the pudding is in your bowl.

Mark, I have read your book. What time of the day is best for the skin to create vitamin D from the sun?


Great question. The skin will make vitamin D from UVB exposure at whatever time of the day it receives it, so the real key is figuring out when UVB is out and about. That depends on where you are and what time of the year it is, of course, but for the most part, UVB peaks at solar noon, or whenever the sun is highest in the sky. If you’ve got a short shadow and the UV index is high enough, you’re probably making vitamin D.

However, there are other things to consider. Now, you may have gotten the impression that the sun is wholly our friend, that it can do no wrong, that skin cancer from too much sun is a myth. It’s not. The sun can damage our skin and, if enough accrues, it can cause cancer. Significant evidence from animal models suggests that sunning ourselves at the wrong time of day can make us more susceptible to skin cancer (PDF). To protect our skin from UV rays, we manufacture an endogenous compound called xeroderma pigmentosum group A, or XPA. XPA plays an important role in the repair of sun damaged skin, and it follows a circadian schedule. In other words, XPA isn’t just produced when you need it. It peaks at certain times of day. In mice, XPA peaked at 4 PM and dropped off at 4 AM; exposing them to UV at 4 AM gave them cancer fives times more frequently than exposing them to UV at 4 PM. For humans, XPA peaks in the morning at around 7 AM.

So, you can make vitamin D whenever the sun is strong enough, but you might want to consider your XPA levels, too. The rodents’ levels peaked at 4 PM and dipped immediately after, but they were still significantly elevated at 9 PM and totally tanked by 1 AM. If our XPA trajectory is similar, we should enjoy the most protection between 7 AM and noon, with the former time obviously offering the most protection. It’s also conceivable that all this gets thrown out the window if your circadian rhythm is messed up for whatever reason. Something to keep in mind, at the very least.

Hat tip to Jamie Scott for his excellent take on the paper.

TAGS:  dear mark, gluten

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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106 thoughts on “Dear Mark: Wheat and Asthma, Minimalist Winter Shoes, High-Fat Rat Cognition Study, and Sun Exposure Timing”

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  1. I read that same article about exercise protecting your brain from a high fat diet. The first thing I thought to myself is what kind of fat are they using. My guesses were either vegetable or soy oils that are high in omega 6, glad to hear I was right. Good fats (specifically omega 3) have a lot of benefits for your brain in fact I just published an article today about how high dosages of fish oil have helped brain damage victims come out of comas. Pretty crazy stuff.

    1. Hi Wayne,
      is your article published online somewhere?

      I’d be very interested to read it

    2. It is so cool to hear this connection between fat and the brain. And I love to hear about these MS improvements with dietary changes. Incredibly awesome.

      1. Hi Alison, I’m Jo from the post (female!). To be honest, I can’t tell for sure if the changes in my MRI were due to the dietary changes, but I wouldn’t doubt it! I try to eat lots of leafy greens, brightly coloured fruit and veg, garlic and onions (easy since I live in Korea!), and healthy fats (coconut, avocado, macadamias, sesame oil) in addition to meat. Sadly, it’s nearly impossible to get grass-fed anything in Korea – not much space here. I’ve asked around with organic farmers, but they save whatever they raise for their own families and don’t sell any. The grain-fed meat here is probably my largest source of the linoleic acid Mark mentioned above. But we all do the best we can, right? 🙂

        1. Jo, A recent post by Mark mentioned a recent article “Dietary Linoleic Acid Elevates endogenous 2-AG and Anandamide and Induces Obesity” which clearly shows that excessive intake of linoleic acid (LA)results in increased endocannabinoids which acivate the same receptors that are activated by marijuana.

          The backbone of the two major endocannibinoids Ecbs), 2-AG and anandamide (named for the Sanskrit word ananda which meas bliss or delight)is omega-6 arachidonic acid (AA)which is derived from LA.

          The study on rat found that, in mice, increasing LA intake from 1% to 8% of calories doubled Ecbs in red blood cells and the liver and increased brain Ecbs by 20%. The increased LA intake resulted in increased food intake of 10%, increased food efficiency of 10% (more weight gain per calorie due to increased lipogenesis in the liver) and increased adiposity of 33%.

          It was noted that standard operating procedure for making rats fat was to feed the a high percentage of LA. Mice did not get fat when fed a 60% fat diet with only 1 % LA.

          It is reasonable to expect that the Ecbs would effect the brain.

        2. Sounds like seafood would be a good foundation to outweigh the cornfed ruminants.

  2. Just wanted to say that I *love* my Soft Star Phoenix boots for our Canadian prairie winter. They are great in the snow and keep my feet warm all winter. I wear them without socks and the sheepskin is so soft. Toe box is very roomy so my feet never feel constricted. Traditional mukluks (with just a suede sole) would also be a great minimalist winter footwear option.

    1. I too love my Soft Stars (I have 2 of their Dash Amoks), but couldn’t swallow the price of the boot yet. So this winter I purchased a pair of Minnetonka Moccasins (with sole, admittedly, but I will be wandering through harvested corn fields and such) and wear waterproof socks in them to keep my feet warm…

      Saw one article where if you’re willing to take apart your old hiking boots, their suggestion is to take off the sole, and purchase just a new Vibram sole that you then ShoeGoo to the boot to create a minimalist boot…

      1. I tried the minnetonka moccasins and thought the sole was very flexible and they were almost PERFECT but I sent them back because the toebox was ridiculously narrow…like they tried to make it look like a cowboy boot. Such a damn shame.

  3. – some nice options for men or women. I do mostly urban walking, so got boots with rubber soles. They’re dreamy-comfy!

    1. You can also try Sodhoppers for totally all-weather boots. They are expensive, but are completely custom fit. Paul Wilson, the owner and artist who makes them is very helpful. I’m still working on breaking mine in!

  4. GoLite also makes a decent pair of hiking boots. They are zero drop, waterproof and fairly light. The sole is thicker than most true minimalist shoes, which is an obvious negative to true believers, but is a benefit in terms of insulation from the cold ground. They also fit great, and come with different insoles for customization (I just take them out).

  5. I can vouch for the overboots as a good choice for a minimal winter boot- I’ve got a pair of NEOS overboots, and they are awesome. You can throw them over a pair of shoes, or if you need even more warmth, wear them with a pair of felt boot liners. The only trouble I’ve had with them is that they are pretty bulky, and driving is pretty much impossible with them, but fortunately they slide on and off pretty easily.

  6. Vibram FiveFingers actually has a model for winter running called the Lontra. It just came out recently.

      1. Looks nice. They have women’s too, in awful colors.
        I just started wearing Vibrams, love them so far. I can use them outside in dry cold weather with leg-warmers or cuffs cut off old smartwool socks on my ankles.
        Minnetonkas aren’t bad at all. They stretch to the size and shape of you foot.

        1. Only problem with the Lontra’s, is that they don’t have that “ground-feel.” It can also be pretty hard to get on even if your use to Fivefingers. I wish they didn’t discontinue the Bormio’s, favorite Fivefinger shoe. Waiting for the Sorrento nevertheless.

  7. I’ve been living primal for about 5 months now, and my lifelong asthma has gone from needing a puff of albuterol after bringing the trash to the end of the driveway to running on the treadmill for 30 minutes last night with no medicine at all.

    Reason # 1257 to go primal.

    1. Primal living has also helped me get rid of my asthma. Post on asthma at PaleoHacks seem to suggest that many people are helped by the paleo diet. For me the diet did not do much for my asthma, for me hiking was important and sleeping on a firm surface. At least those were the moments that I noticed fast improvements.

    2. Same experience here. I needed daily Advare and an emergency inhaler to exercise at all and could NEVER do so in the winter when the air was cold and dry. No matter how many puffs I took it didn’t matter, I couldn’t so much as jog lightly when it was cold.

      Now? Not so much. I haven’t been on any asthma meds in over a year. My wife has been on a jogging kick lately (I prefer lifting and sprinting usually, but I’m happy to encourage her) and despite some initial worry, I’ve found I can now full out run/sprint when it’s 28 degrees out. That is crazy! I have never been able to to that.

      Paleo/Primal eating has changed my life! Is the organic/local meat expensive? Yes. It is. Is it better than taking puffs on a inhaler because I’m worried I’ll have an attack trying to get into my car in winter? Heck yeah.


        1. Yes, yes it is. I should mention also that when I have a pizza or a beer or two, my chest tightens up and I wheeze like crazy. It varies by the type of beer too. The really tasty ones I love the most (deep chocolatey stouts, crisp cloudy wheat beers) tend to give me the most problems, but it takes quite a few lagers to cause the same reaction. Still, not worth it most of the time. If only they made more dry hard ciders and meads, I’d be in business (and maybe not so lean.)


      1. Might I suggest that it’s the yeast that may be the primary trigger for your asthma after beer or pizza? I used to make dough for a deep-dish pizza place when I was in college and I never had issues until the owner switched from a granulated yeast to a powder. The powdered yeast was very fine and would become airborne during the mixing process. After two days of gasping and wheezing through a couple hours of dough making, I asked him to switch back to the granulated yeast.

        Craft beers and hefeweizens tend to have more yeast left in the final product than lagers do, so this might be a contributing factor. (Not that I’m suggesting that wheat is perfectly OK without the yeast.)

    3. Same asthma story here. Pasteurized, uncultured dairy also gives me problems, so pizza and ice cream night is out now. 🙂 The indulgence loses its appeal when it means waking up in the middle of the night wheezing.

      1. It’s possible to figure out a legendary pizza and ice-cream recipe combo that makes even hard-core Italian pizza snobs salivate and almost over-eat, with their die-hard dairy-eater spouses being unable to taste the difference between rich smooth chocolate ice-cream made with coconut cream or pasteurised cow milk.
        The only thing non-primal guests note at the end of this particular classic combo is rather than feeling slow, lethargic and strangely out of sorts they felt light, sated and happy .

        Vivo’s rock.

  8. I have a pair of Cushe winter boots, Tammerack WP, and they are great. Flat soles, little to no heel rise and super comfortable. Highly recommended. They use Vibram soles.

    I bought them last year and did some hiking in Iceland with them and couldn’t have been happier. The soles are very grippy and with the flat soles I felt very sure of my footing.

      1. I love the guy/girl squatting on the bottom of the heel!


      2. I just got my Cushe Baja Igloo from Zappos. At first it was too tight — my toe was pressing against the top, but after removing the insole, they felt great with plenty of space in the toebox. The toe flexes very well, but the midsole is a bit stiffer. Haven’t worn them “for real” yet, but I have high hopes.

        I also picked up a pair of Merrell Barefoot Orbit Gloves, which I figure I’ll wear with warm socks for cold but not snowy/slushy/icy days.

  9. I recently picked up the New Balance MO20, which is available with a waterproof upper, and when worn with a thick smartwool or wigwam sock, they make for a nice warm foot. While they dont have toes, they are much more minimal than the average winter shoe.

  10. Steger Mukluks make fantastic minimalist winter boots for cold and snowy conditions – people even wear them on Arctic expeditions. I love their moccasins for warmer weather, too – they have better ground feel than anything else I’ve tried, including my Vibrams.

    The moose hide mukluks and moccasins aren’t great for wet conditions, though. When it’s wet out I reach for my Vivo Barefoot boxing boots. I don’t love the ground feel, but I do love the large toe box and my dry feet.

  11. I’ve been using neoprene wetsuit booties for winter hiking. They’re waterproof, warm, and super minimal. I’ve put in 20 mile hikes on mud, dirt, snow, and rock and they perform great.

    1. Do you have any recommendations for particular brands? I’m planning a boat expedition through some remote islands in Palawan, Philippines and want something that I can snorkel in but also hike in.

  12. Russel Moccasin boots are great. I ordered a pair a couple years ago (not to mention the second pair I just ordered.) I use them for all of my hiking/wandering in the mountains as well as daily walking about(it is cold here in Alaska,) and they are still in perfect condition. With excellent great ground feel, and a traditional rugged style, and superb craftsmanship, I couldn’t be happier.

    Russel Moccasin has several minimalist styles, but every pair is custom made to your specifications so ANY model can be made with a minimalist, no drop Vibram sole, on the Munson army last (large toe box.) However, expect a long wait.

  13. RE: Wheat asthma

    Anyone who has ANY questions about the harm that modern wheat can do should read “Wheat Belly.” Just Google it. You will be ASTOUNDED by how truly awful modern strains of wheat are for your health. MDA has got it right; “Wheat Belly” will help explain why.

    FYI, I have no connection to the book or the author…just a guy who went primal including grains. Thanks for the site Mark.

  14. Manitobah Mukluks is a Canadian company that makes winter mukluks (moccasins) that have a Vibram brand sole on them for grip/durability. I’ve had my pair for years and they’ve held up incredibly well, even with tons of road salt exposure. Or alternately, you could just get standard mukluks that have a traditional leather sole, but they won’t be quite as waterproof.

    1. Amen to Mukluks as a great winter ‘soft sole’ boot! For a US supplier, Steger Mukluks in Ely, MN is the main commercial producer. I’ve had several pairs, and my feet are MUCH warmer in them than in hard winter boots (due to better circulation and more movement/stimulation of the foot, I suppose).
      I use the provided moosehide/canvas boot in cold (20 deg F and lower) conditions, and then I take the liner out and stuff it into a rubber ‘overboot’ for 20-40 F conditions, where the wet snow melts into the leather/canvas mukluk.

      1. I’m saving up for Steger moosehide mukluks– online reviews look great and they’re rated for the super-cold temps I experience here in northern Canada. Apparently they provide lots of good barefoot ground feel (yet still keep you warm)

  15. I wear sheepskin boots in winter – bare feet inside them. Lovely for my toes that are prone to the cold!

  16. I’ve had great luck with Inov-8’s minimalist hiking boots. I use the Roclite 335 with Gore-tex. I think they make something similar for men. Worth a look! My friend took them traversing over a mountain range in Turkey for a few weeks, and she was impressed with their performance. I think she also used them on her attempt to summit Mt. Denali last year.

  17. Our innate spf being at its highest at 7 in the morning sounds about right. First thing in the morning it’s cold and we might be out sunning ourselves for warmth if there is no fire.

    1. Oh, and in the African Savannah it would probably be too hot to go out in the afternoon.

  18. Hi, everybody. Just thought I’d mention I own a pair of Russell boots and they are amazing. They are custom fitted so expect them to be the most comfortable pair of shoes you will ever own. They also have a zero drop heel, and the actual sole of the boot is totally flat so you won’t have any uncomfortable raised areas (expecially around the arch, my only real complaint with VFFs). The boots will last forever basically (I’ve had mine for a year and a half now and they show little sign of wear) if you take care of them (clean and oil on a regular basis). They are very pricey however and will take a longgggggggg time to ship (I waited several months). Well worth the investment though as you will never need another pair of winter minimalist shoes.

  19. I was lucky enough to find the discontinued Vibram FiveFingers Bormio boot in my size. Without socks I’m comfortable in them down in the 30s. With socks, I haven’t worn them out in subfreezing temperatures yet. I use mink oil to repel water.

  20. I have an exercise induced allergy to shrimp. I usually can eat shrimp with no ill effect but if I eat shrimp and then exercise my face swells and I get hives on my back. When I tell people it only happens when I eat shrimp and then exercise they look at me like I’m nuts! Tune in to your body folks…it’s amazing what it will tell you!

    1. Me too! I found out the hard way last New Year’s when I ate shrimp then walked 15 minutes to my friends house to begin the festivities. Instead of fun, I had painful hives everywhere for several hours. 🙁

  21. Mainly for Drew, re asthma and wheat. Ever since I stopped eating wheat, my asthma has progressively improved. It took several years, but is now almost gone – unless I am ill. That too is now rare. I am someone who had repeated chest infections all my life, until I stopped all gluten.

    I was tested for allergies when I was 15, and was massively reactive to practically every known grain. Sadly, no-one at that stage realised that it might mean I was coeliac – which I am.

    I think if you react with asthma or hayfever to wheat, barley or rye, it would be good idea to be tested for coeliac – although of course, if you have stopped all grains, it won’t come out positive, and you have already made the correct change.

    It might be worth doing just one small trial – no more than a crouton’s worth – and seeing what reaction you get. Then you have the info for your Doctor.

  22. Regarding the link between wheat and asthma, how would one test for this? My children have asthma and life threatening food allergies, but not to wheat. Although, I am now wondering is some of the asthma attacks are related to being exposed to their known asthma triggers AND wheat?

    1. I’ve had allergies (including foods like milk and eggs) all my life but never once did I test as allergic to wheat. Funny how after I removed the wheat (and other grains too, full paleo) the eggs and the milk stopped being a problem and as I mentioned in a comment above: my asthma is 100% gone.

      So I would suggest that, rather than test for it, you just have wheat free month and watch their symptoms. It’s much easier for us with our kids as they’re schooled at home and we can control their intake by what we have available. But it can be done, especially once they realize that X food makes them feel terrible. Assuming it’s the wheat of course, it may not be… but it’s worth a shot! My asthma meds are long gone.


      1. Gratefulfoodie, if your kids go to school, be sure to let the teachers know that they are NOT to have anything containing wheat during the time that you specify. Get a note from a doctor if needed. Send in some special snacks not containing wheat for birthday parties or such with directions to be used then. Otherwise you may have a kind but misinformed teacher telling your kids that it is fine to eat the cupcakes.

        1. Thanks Crazy Cat Lady (love the name by the way), I will send it non-wheat snacks. The teacher keeps a supply for my daughter and my son keeps a jar of Sunbutter and crackers in his locker. I’ll change those out and tell the teacher. They have a 504 plan that covers nuts, etc. But I will simply ask for no wheat. It sounds like it is very much worth the explorations!

          I appreciate your support!

      2. I’ve had the same experience – I have had allergies all my life, stopped eating wheat and mine are (mostly) gone. The most severe allergies are still there, but I don’t have to panic if I happen to touch a crumb of something. It is such an enormous relief!

      3. Thanks Tim, good advice. My kids are 4th and 9th grade, so they’ll be old enough to avoid wheat and they take their own lunches and I provide snack if there is a party.

        I appreciate the advise quite a bit. I’m just going to pull it out for a month and see what happens! It is totally worth the shot!

  23. I wish you had posted this a couple weeks ago! I just bought a pair of Merrell boots that didn’t seem that bad in the store and they seriously messed up my knees and back in just one evening. I don’t know how anyone wears non-“barefoot” shoes anymore.

  24. Re the Merrell Barefoot Life Frost Glove — I heard this boot has arch support (gasp!), so they’re not being too well received by barefooters — not really a true barefoot boot. My local outdoor store says that next season Merrell will have a ton more winter options.

    1. I have a pair of the Merrell’s and they DO NOT have an arch support. The shape of the sole is the same as their other barefoot shoes. However the sole is a little more stiff, perhaps due to the waterproofing around the base of the boot and some extra protection from cold conditions. I have not had a chance to test them yet as we haven’t had any real winter weather, yet.

  25. I believe that there was a study about a year ago linking McDonald burgers to increased asthma attacks in kids. I suspect that it had less to do with the actual meat than it did with the bun and added biproducts containing wheat.

    1. I have asthma, it got really bad around the time SAD started kicking my arse 2 weeks ago, when I ate a lot of McDonalds……. interesting. Started eating primally 3 days ago and am feeling better already.

  26. I wear the shearling “wicked good” boots from LL Bean in winter. They have a vibram sole but it is reasonably flexible and not too thick.

    1. Those are ‘Ugg’ boots man! (Aussie ugg boots= ugly boots).

  27. Good news! Vibram (5 fingers) have just released a winter shoe

    “Keep the cold out but the comfort in with the all-new Lontra. The multi-layer laminate upper with fully taped seams provides insulation and water resistance. A soft, micro-pile fleece liner is soft against the skin and also wicks moisture and perspiration away from the foot. The neoprene heel cuff keeps out snow and debris. Get a secure fit courtesy of a reinforced hook-and-loop closure. Reflective surfaces make it safe to run at night, while the 4mm EVA midsole provides insulation from frozen surfaces. Count on the TC-1 Dura outsole to provide traction, durability and superior plating protection for all of your cold weather running endeavors. Machine washable. Air dry.”

  28. Minimalist winter boots and minimalist dress shoes are two markets that Merrell, Vibrams, VIvo and others should definitely look into, according to this Chicagoan.

    Of course, it is 60 degrees (Farenheit) on November 19, when its usually in the high 30s, so thanks to global warming, I am still wearing my Merrell’s.

  29. For primal winter wear, try mukluks. I wear my Steger mukluks at work, at home, anywhere. Warm, comfy and primal.

  30. I’ve been making an effort to get more sun. Pre-Primal I avoided it like the plague as I burn so easily, having red hair and pale skin. I’ve always preferred the morning sun because it always felt too hot and ‘burny’ in the afternoon.

  31. Anecdotally, I’d have to agree with the idea that the efficacy of sunlight exposure will vary with circadian rhythm.

    After all, light shuts down the production of melatonin, and studies have shown that taking vitamin d later in the day can disrupt sleep. I imagine it’s one of those ”if they fire together, they wire together” situations.

  32. I had the same breathing problem as mentioned above. I had been tested for asthma and even vocal cord disfunction. Going primal completely cured the breathing problems.

  33. Jambu makes barefoot winter boots for women (not sure about men) I have a pair and am madly in love. They look great, and I get lots of compliments from people who have no idea what a “barefoot” shoe/boot is. Minimalist grippy sole, waterproof lower, wool upper and lots and lots of warm fuzzy fleece inside. They do run TINY size-wise so be sure to go at least 1 full size up if you want to fit wool socks in. I live in CO and my feet have not been cold yet.

  34. Unless the term “wheat asthma” is a misnomer, then that is pretty unlikely to be the cause of Drew’s symptoms. Asthma is a delayed reaction. It’s more likely that Drew’s symptoms are simply related to reflux (which can cause slightly labored breathing).

  35. Belleville has recently come out with a military/ law enforcement-style minimalist boot. Not made for winter (it’s got drain holes for water, actually) but a thick pair of socks and they should be good for many wintery situations.

  36. Had asthma. When it went away I was eating wheat and nothing came back. I guess it could cause a problem while you have asthma but I don’t remember wheat every doing that.

  37. The asthma part of this post could have been posted by me! I had moderate asthma that would get severe when I had a cold and took me to the ER. I had no idea dropping wheat would help my asthma so it was quite a surprise when I realized that I had not used my inhaler in a while – not at all – when I used to use it sometimes numerous times a day – a good day maybe 2-3 times. It was allergy induced, exercise in the cold induced, dust induced. But that has gone away. I ate some whole-grain Dreamfields noodles a couple of days ago and not long after was wheezing and coughing up phlegm. I now SO much think it is worth it to fix a second meal when my kids have noodles – they are teens so it is hard to totally remove their noodles, especially my older daughter who was raised on them until age 7 in China. My sinus allergies are also better – I used to never be able to breathe with my mouth closed but now I can all the time, though that is not totally gone. It is so unbelievable. I second reading Wheat Belly and How We Get Fat by Gary Taubes. Life changers for me!

  38. Had asthma all my life but haven’t noticed an change in my breathing after eating wheat but I’ll take a bit more notice now

  39. A pair of 4mm Vibram 5F KomodoSports were put aside in favor of some 6mm Merrell Trail Gloves with ankle socks and a 5k 3mi run last week in a calm -16C +3.5F went fine. Thumb and index finger got cold in light wool gloves but that’s all. Key was 4 light top layers, 2 light bottom layers, and a good hat. Will use warmer gloves or light mitts next time. Running generates a LOT of heat.

  40. A couple times within the last several months Dr. Mercola has sent out some articles on Vitamin D production and sun exposure. He wrote that in order for the body to produce D, sun exposure has to be when the sun is at a 50 degree angle or greater (i.e. 55 degree angle is good, 45 degree not good enough).

    He listed a web link to the U.S. Naval Observatory Sun Moon Altitude/Azimuth Table. With this table you enter in your location and it will display the angle of the sun at any given date & time. For me, in central Florida, the sun does not reach this optimal angle from about mid-October through mid-February. I interpreted this info to mean that even if it is sunny and an 80 degree temp, during this period my body will not produce D even if I sunbathe. Of course, Mercola did say the sun has other benefits so we should still get out there.

    Mercola also wrote in this article that there is an app that will provide this same sun angle info. Sorry I didn’t provide links but didn’t want my comment to get held up.

  41. I live in upstate NY and my solution has been Softstar RunAmoc with a trail sole for winter running. No cold toes, like with my 5 Fingers. I use their Dash shoe with a steet sole as my daily shoe at the office. Great barefoot feel and fine to be outside for short time. It’s not often that the snow is so deep I can’t get away with one of those options.

  42. Malignant melanomas are created by UVA radiation, UVB is actually thought to be protective (as is vitamin D which is manufactured by UVB skin exposure). UVA is also fairly hard to block, where glass can filter out UVB. In fact until very recently nearly all sun screen formulas only blocked UVB rays, meaning that they only made the situation worse and more than likely lead to more skin cancers.

    So what is the answer? Make sure you get as high a percentage of UVB to UVA rays as possible, this means mid-day A low PUFA diet and astaxanthin both work to protect your skin from the harmful effect of UVA radiation. UVB will give you a nice surface level tan that will further block UVA rays.

    Until I discovered this about 18 months I could hardly walk from my car to a building without getting burned. I use to get terrible sun burns as a child and any time I didn’t cover up and wear sunscreen. Now I can lay out for hours in the midday sun with no sunscreen! The same applies for several other people I know, including my wife. Its truly amazing.

    From what we’ve always been told, if we don’t burn our cells aren’t being damaged.

    Astaxanthin is what gives shrimp, krill, salmon, etc. their red color and protects them from UV rays. Its thought that many insects also contain astaxanthin or similar substances. Our ancestors ate a lot of insects, crayfish, and sea food (when available). They also didn’t hide from the mid-day sun.

    If you’re already on a Paleo diet I encourage you to add astaxanthin (start taking 4mg all the time and 8-10mg in the summer) and enjoy some midday sun, our ancestors did! Just don’t burn (you’ll almost have to try to burn).

  43. I bought my first pair of Arrow Moccasins
    3 years ago. Now I’m ordering a second wool lined pair and having my first pair resoled. Great father son company here in the US of A.

  44. I’ve had success using neoprene over injinji and heavy wool socks in my minimalist shoes. It can keep your feet dry and it keeps them relatively warm unless fully submerged. You also need to have slightly larger shoes to accomodate the bulky socks.

  45. Russell Moccasins are not “pretty high quality.” They are handmade in the USA of the highest quality leathers, and are re-solable. A pair properly fitted will last a lifetime. Look at their ph line, with a soft sole – they are used for “stalking” in the woods, but were, really, minimalist way before vibram did the five fingers.

  46. Oh yay, a post about wheat and asthma!
    I used to cough and clear my throat ALL THE TIME and was prescribed asthma medication for it, which reduced it to some extent…
    Well now whenever I eat wheat or gluten (not entirely sure which), that cough comes back.
    I asked my doctor if it’s even a thing… and she said it’s a rare thing, but a thing nonetheless. xD

  47. If you live in a climate that never requires thinking about minimalist shoes for winter its because you live where there is no winter (or hardly any). And your feet, ankles, knees, etc, are better off for it. Unless you do something about the fact that bulky boots are neseccary in very cold snowy winter areas. Like using a sauna daily to warm the lower legs (as well as the rest of the body) and then targeting the lower leg and feet area specifically with stretching (passive, active, and ballistic – in that order) and a limited amount of jumping – this makes a huge difference. People in these winter climates immobilize their ankles for a good portion of the year and those who do go out and exercise do not have the ligaments, tendons, muscles, and joint capsules warm enough. The result can often be inflexibility, improper movement patterns, and injury. Winter sports such as hockey and skiing, which use other leg muscles and immobilize the ankles, make the situation worse, because of created imbalances. In northerly climates mobility issues with age are more common and more extreme, but it does not have to be that way. Living in the north, experiencing the 4 seasons, and being in an area where it will be easier to be self-sufficient compared to the south (as things get worse) has advantages. The cold weather will keep the dependent masses at bay once financial collapse hits. In the warm south all year, night and day, they can camp out anywhere, ready to attack.

  48. Finding minimalist shoes a bit over-priced??? You could try making your own – a moccasin type shoe where you stitch an upper to a homemade sole and glue a Vibram sole to the bottom to protect the stitches. Stitch the upper to two sole-shaped pieces of leather (upholstery or chap leather) with a 1/8″ layer of EVA foam sandwiched in between and then glue that to 5mm or 8mm Vibram Newflex. That gives a flexible sole with a little cushioning and a midsole that won’t come unglued from the Newflex. Some good ideas here:

  49. I was on asthma medication for 25 years and when I took gluten out of my diet I am off all asthma related medication. On a rare occasion I will order online Einkorn wheat for my pizza fix and make my own pizza dough and have no ill effects with this type of wheat. But it is not something I eat on a regular basis more like once every 3-4 months. There is definitely a difference between modern wheat and ancient Einkorn. I am in the medical field and it drives me crazy that nutrition, diet and exercise are rarely discussed and when they do talk about it it’s always that low fat eat your grains crap!!!

  50. I just got turned on to Vibrams and got my first pair at the site shown. I love these ugly shoes!

  51. I think we can hack Grok into thinking it’s getting Vitamin D on schedule by eating sardines or other fish including bones for breakfast.

  52. It wouldn’t surprise me about the link between wheat and asthma, although I think that everyone with asthma will get different symptoms from different triggers. My asthma behaves like this – noticeable laboured breathing – when I have been drinking squash.