Just because an idea is pervasive doesn’t mean it’s right. After all, it was widely “known” at one time that the earth was flat and also that the everything revolved around our planet, not the sun.
In a previous article we talked about much-maligned salt and how it’s actually necessary and helpful in the right amounts and right kinds.
Another popular idea is that of the healthy whole grain. This is encouraged by places like the AMA despite what the science really says. This idea is still alive and well, but it just may be the time that it’s dying out.
If you look at two popular diets that help bring people towards help (some would say they are fad diets) you have paleo and raw food. While there are big differences, there are many similarities too. One of those is an avoidance of grains. In fact, any diet that cuts down on grain will likely help people become healthier.
I’m not big on labeling myself as eating one way or another, but I like to experiment with many ideas to find what personally works for me.
In this two-part series, we’re going to focus on wheat and other grains and why it may be best you stop eating them completely.
The Evolution of Wheat
Wheat is ubiquitous in our culture. Not long ago when I went to a restaurant the only thing I could order on the menu that didn’t have any form of wheat was their salads, and only then by asking them to hold the croutons.
Looking back in time, it’s been found that the additions of grain to our regular diet, while being responsible in leading to civilization in large part because people could settle down into cities, also led to disease, tooth decay and decreases in bone size.
And since that time its gotten worse.
Grains simply are not an ideal food source despite their popularity. The most commonly eaten grains on the planet are wheat, corn and rice. Let’s focus on the changes in wheat that have occurred over time, both naturally and unnaturally.
The original wheat was known as einkorn. After that, as a result of natural changes, came emmer wheat. Further along came spelt and triticam. Look at your local natural food store and you’re likely to be able to find these more ancient varieties.
But those do not make up the wheat that is largely eaten today. In noble efforts to help feed the world’s population scientists at Clearfield engineered a new form of wheat by causing mutation through the use of extremely toxic chemicals. As they say “The path to hell is paved with good intentions.”
This wasn’t genetic modification in the classic sense of splicing genes as has been done to soy, corn, canola and others. But its close. And the end result is much the same. This resulted in a high-yield semi-dwarf strain of wheat.
So while grains aren’t the ideal food in the first place, this mutation took all the problems and made them worse.
Just go back 20 years ago and the idea that the majority of people should avoid wheat would be laughed at. The thinking was that the only ones that needed to do such a thing were those with celiac disease. However, it’s been realized that any autoimmune condition is triggered at least in part by digestive issues and allergies to wheat and other grains and foods.
Let’s take a look at the individual components of wheat that cause problems and you’ll see that these don’t just affect those with celiac, or even those that are gluten sensitive. Several of the problems occur independently of the gluten altogether!
In the interest of having both radiant health and peak performance, it may be best to avoid grains completely. And if not completely, definitely not as a staple in your diet.
Glutens are a group of the proteins found in wheat and other grains. Those with gluten sensitivity are told to avoid wheat, barley and rye. However, all grains have similar proteins. According to Dr. Peter Osborn, if you’re gluten sensitive it is best that you avoid all grains.
Gluten is indigestible in the human body. All people don’t have the capability to break it down completely. Some people can do so partially which results in peptides that attach to opioid receptors we have, causing addiction to wheat.
When gluten can’t be broken down it causes intestinal permeability. That means it pokes holes in your intestines which allow various food particles including other toxins to leak directly into the blood stream.
It is for this reason that autoimmunity has countless diseases and syndromes. The body attacks gluten, but it ends up attacking your own cells because of similar structures. This is known as molecular mimicry. This battle can travel to virtually anywhere in your body. Keep it in the gut and you can have Krohn’s, IBS and other digestive problems. Bring it into the brain and you have nervous problems and brain fog. Move it into the joints and you have arthritis. Move it to specific glands and that can help contribute to cancer.
Wheat is responsible for raising blood sugar to high levels. In fact, wheat raises blood sugar higher than table sugar. And whole wheat bread is worse, for some reason, than white bread.
Many of the packaged gluten-free substitute food like bread, cookies, pasta, made with things like tapioca starch, rice flour, corn flour, etc. are even worse than that!
Anytime your blood sugar raises over 100 mg/dl you’re causing glycation in your body. This is where sugars bind to proteins making them stiff and inflexible. Glycation is one of the major factors in aging.
Blood sugar problems don’t just start when someone is diagnosed with diabetes, but the issues can begin before then. Avoiding sugar in large part is necessary, but so many people think that grains are healthy even though they can lead to higher spikes in blood sugar, resulting in more insulin resistance.
Phytates are a defense mechanism of many plants, used to help avoid animals from overeating them to the point of extinction. Grains aren’t the only food that have phytates. Beans, legumes, potatoes, nuts and seeds all have them in different amounts.
These inhibit the absorption of certain minerals like magnesium, which is one of the contributing factors to the widespread deficiency its estimated 70-90% of people have. There is some evidence that some level of these are needed as beneficial bacteria in the body consume them turning them into nutrients, but too many can certainly lead to problems.
Phytates can be deactivated by soaking and sprouting.
Lectins and Wheat Germ Agglutinin
Again, lectins are found in many other foods, in fact most of them, but grains are some of the worst offenders. Lectins also contribute to leaky gut, or intestinal permeability.
One of the lectins found in wheat known as wheat germ agglutinin stops bile from releasing, thus causing other digestive problems.
For more information on all of these issues and more I recommend you check out the book Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis.
That covers enough for part one. In the next article in this series we’re going to dive into how you transition into a gluten and grain free diet.
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