After years of what I didn’t know was gluten intolerance, and after years of denial that something I loved so much would harm me, I came across William Davis’ MD’s “Wheat Belly”
- the book that left no doubt that I had to make change. There wasn’t much left in my freezer, since I nearly always had post nasal drip and throat phlegm within 24 hours. The sound of clearing this away, with the occasional cough my body produced to rid itself of excess mucous, was another symptom and once I stopped gluten completely, all sorts of other symptoms went away, too.
As I was preparing for a class on optimal gut health and whole grains, the research made me even more aware of how whole wheat, being generally suggested as a complex carb/fiber rich option, has a powerful impact on those sensitive to gluten. This applies to wheat, rye, barley, bulgur wheat and more. For me the relatively bland white flour presented a slightly lower affect. Not everyone is sensitive to gluten with actual symptoms; one thing we all have in common is how our large intestine functions: separating liquids from the bulk that is eliminated as stool. This process requires consistent hydration to ascertain proper elimination. We do know sticky gluten - ‘enforced’ by the ever present roundup in nearly every phase of its growing/drying time exacerbates the potential to harm the digestive tract. The commercial wheat products we buy as bread, cookies, bagels, pasta, pretzels, cakes, crackers, snacks, from pizza to baking our own goodies - as long as they contain gluten, such as wheat, white, rye, barley, bulgur, buckwheat and even ancient grains such as spelt, teff and einkorn, may be harmful for many of us. Please do your own research, on yourself, ideally. And while we’re at it, consider that processed cheese has similar effects on the large intestines ability to rid itself of stickiness, Pizza being one of the most perfect examples of this issue.
One particularly powerful and deadly component of modern wheat production over the past 25- 30 years is the excessive and harmful use of Roundup or Glyphosate. Since its increased usage in the mid 90s glyphosate has doubled celiac and general gluten sensitivity, as well as leaky gut, auto immune diseases, chronic inflammation and more. Dr. Zach Bush, MD is an excellent source of the consequences of spraying glyphosate/roundup has had on our ecosystem, with data linking cancer, soil erosion and increased autoimmune disease to the herbicide, which is in actuality a water soluble antibiotic. Since glyphosate is water soluble and crosses the blood/brain barrier, there has also been an increase in neurological issues. The gut blood barrier is far stronger than the easier to penetrate blood brain barrier intended to protect our brain. Both deeply impact our ability to think clearly and sap our energy. For more on this read You can Fix Your Brain by Dr. Tom O’Bryan to learn how this happens and what to do about it. I’ve seen the increase in digestive disorders, with ensuing reduced mental focus, over the years in my practice and noticed since coming here increased intolerance to US grown wheat in my own body.
Gluten free is not all in our heads - it’s been out in the open thanks also to the many mothers whose kids couldn’t handle their morning bagels or home baked muffins. While filling, these carbs take a lot longer to digest and have an impact on attention span. Even if eating bread in many European countries does not have the same deleterious effect, a comment I often hear with regard to bread, the advanced science on gut health suggests that just because we don’t have active symptoms doesn’t mean there is no tearing of the intestinal mucosa. It appears that gluten is really not for everyone and as such wheat, or cultivated grains for that matter, was not part of our ancestral diet.
The addictive quality for many when eating bread - I want more - is a consequence of gut microbes who feed on the waste created by gluten/gliadin, the protein that is too hard to break down and is at the root of celiac and other digestive disease. Perhaps you have heard of the power of our microbiome, this unique and individual response system that governs our vitality and mood and immunity. Since I’ve made the change I am fully aware that when I listen to my body. I feel so much better.
Today’s wheat and gluten products in the US raise blood sugar levels to alarming levels, disturbing the natural satiety mechanism (ghrelin) with an addictive affect on mood and hunger (you want to eat again 1.5 hours after eating it). These super hybridized grains are created for convenience of growing, for shelf life and have lost their original power to sustain. It feels like these formerly beneficial grains have been sapped of their own vitality and power to nourish. At the same time, humans have increased the size of their meals, have partaken of buffet offers such as “one price for as much as you can eat” have increased their girth and for some this has led to diabetes, clearly the leader in metabolic disease states. Together with many other ‘engineered foods’ this represents the intense control the man made food industry exercises over our diets and our health. ‘Let’s grab a quick bite’ is the epitome of convenience, feeding ourselves not with gusto but with the need to put something, anything into our system. There is no peace in this practice and food becomes something to stuff in, rather than the pleasant and calming meal time we used to appreciate.
The constant malnutrition such habits create, lead to more desire to eat as the nutrient value has dropped and the body is not actually nourished. We eat more and more, we are less satisfied and in turn seduced by the two major flavors - sweet and salty - that have taken over our palates and taste buds. Such outcomes are also a major contributor to overactive children and the mood swings in adults. The once enjoyable grain has been reduced to a harmful poison unsuited for human consumption.
The more alterations for the sake of convenience and shelf life, fast growing cycles, and grains sprayed with glyphosate to speed up drying for ease of processing and baking time, the poorer the food quality. We literally eat and drink glyphosate the core ingredient in Roundup, which we also spray liberally on our golf courses, city parks, play grounds, back yards and front lawns.
It doesn’t break down, it is highly water soluble and therefore in all foods it touches as well as in our drinking water. It kills all it touches and promotes biological death wherever it’s sprayed, including the once present soil micro organisms so essential to grow healthy food. The once welcome easy weed killer has turned into a serious disease causing agent that continues to diminish the health of the people.
In his book Dr. William Davis describes his own experiments with sugar spikes when eating conventional organic wheat flour versus eating the ancient grain called einkorn - Dr. Davis has a wheat sensitivity.
Day one: Home ground einkorn (an ancient heirloom grain thousands of years old, akin to hard winter wheat) baked into a home made loaf. Take blood sugar prior to eating a slice of this ancient bread. Sugar level before 84 mg/dl - Sugar level after eating a slice of einkorn bread 110 mg/dl - a normal result you can expect when eating carbohydrates. No other ill or after effects from eating this bread.
Day two: Repeat the process with organic whole wheat flour baked into a home made loaf. Sugar level before 84 mg/dl - Sugar level after eating a slice of this bread 167 mg/dl - a near triple increase in blood sugar and a spike of insulin output above the old grains with a deleterious effect on his whole body.
“This bread produced great discomfort, nausea, accompanied by stomach cramps lasting many hours. Sleep was full of discomfort and lots of dreams. Next day aftereffects were “fuzzy thinking and a lack of focus and attention to my work.”
These effects in Dr. Davis’ case, took 1.5 days before his body returned to normal.This example compares to that of many others, whether or not officially diagnosed with IBS, SIBO, IBD or celiac disease. The book contains plenty of science and case studies where wheat flour is implicated as the cause of physical dysfunction. And it goes much further than digestive disorders. There is an addictive quality to eating wheat.
“Gliadin is digested via stomach acid and pancreatic enzymes to a collection of polypeptides (small proteins) called exorphins, or exogenously-derived morphine-like compounds. The message to take from the research is quite clear: Wheat derived endorphins bind to the opiate receptors of the brain (the delta class of opiate receptors, for you neuroscience people). Different wheat exorphins, such as the A5 fraction, differ in their binding potency, but as a whole, the wheat exorphins exert an opiate-like effect.”
So, after years of wondering how it is that when I eat bread I want more all the time, the question has finally been answered. It sits on my brain like an addictive power, chemically asking me for more and more of it. It just takes so much more education today than ever before to select foods that nourish us and to find safety in our sources. Aside from that the increased output of insulin to work with the carbohydrates we just ate, over time, can create weight gain. And aside from this, the microbiome if loaded down with gluten hungry bacteria, will send out the urgency signal for more. You may be aware that after two or three days of fasting your cravings generally go away, it is important to get over this period if your intention is to eliminate the cravings for carbs and gluten.
Michael Pollan has plenty of good advice for us in his little book “Food Rules”. Whether you bake breads, crumpets, muffins or cookies with today’s flours, the art of baking has been cheated out of its secrets - an inferior, unhealthy imposter raw material has taken its place. No longer is baking with whole grains the art and science it was, secrets of how often flour has to rise to be digestible, handed down from kitchen to kitchen - today’s flour is soft, pliable, sticky and everyone can get a great result.
Unknowingly and innocently, we have bought into the convenience and speed of easy baking. There is no blame - once we know how things work, we might change our minds and find that which is both healthy and delicious. In Switzerland, for example, bakeries tend to use sourdough and let their breads rise twice, which in itself makes gluten less of a problem and much easier digestible.
“It is clear that the D genome of modern Triticum aestivum that, having been the focus of all manner of tampering by plant geneticists, has accumulated substantial change in genetically determined characteristics of gluten proteins. It is also potentially the source for many of the odd health phenomena experienced by consuming humans.”
You can still get the ancient grains - as with other heirloom seeds, we still have access to our heritage in ancient grains and it is good to remember that such wheats were eaten primarily and sparingly in winter when the season was cold and slow to counter the change in body temperatures and to keep warm. The slow longer digestion of these original grains sustained the body’s ability to hold heat.
Beware of Cheerios having the top spot on google’s search on ancient grains. Read carefully, don’t believe everything praised about whole grains, it’s a huge buzzword in the US food market. Michael Pollan always has interesting views and insights on food, including whole grains. History of Einkorn, the Ancient Grain
“Einkorn is an ancient grain, and is known as the oldest variety of “wheat.” Einkorn is also sometimes referred to as “farro” or “farro einkorn.” Einkorn was first cultivated 5,000 to 10,000 years ago. It is classified as a “diploid” because it only has two sets of chromosomes. Modern wheat varieties are classified as “hexaploid,” having six sets of chromosomes, due to a long history of hybridization. Einkorn is thought to have originated in the upper area of the fertile crescent of the Near East (Tigris-Euphrates regions), and is quite probably the main grain recorded in the earliest biblical history.”
For details on the origins of einkorn and a recipes.
Even though this sounds like ‘don’t do it’, eating gluten containing products sparingly is as delicious as ever. There are many local artisan bakers whose organically sourced breads are superior to anything you get from an assembly line. If you bake yourself, check out organic heirloom grains from small mills and help our farmers markets flourish (even if you still have to ask where their food comes from and how it is grown). Find other ancient grain providers and please, let’s support those in our communities who have been baking healthy foods, snacks, cookies, and more. One of my favorites is The Daily Loaf in Hamburg present at several of our local farmers markets, or you can pre order here: https://dailyloafbakery.com/
Gluten free: One caveat on gluten free eating, read labels - the increase in potato and rice, tapioca starches, or guar and other gums do not make for better health. Use nut or other flours. Remember that carbs are transformed into sugars; make sure you are full up on fiber and healthy fats and plant proteins to help your blood sugar stay normal and to help your body fully eliminate all that which turns into waste.
We do know that when our gut is not happy, neither are we!