If you’ve been part of my audience for a while, you’ll notice that whilst some of my recipes contain gluten, they are always 100% wheat-free. I’m not pedantic about avoiding wheat. On the odd occasion, I eat out, I don’t fret if a little wheat creeps into my diet. But when I’m behind the dish, it’s wheat -free all the way.
I hope the following will help to support why I choose to largely avoid wheat in my diet (or am quite fussy with the kind of wheat I eat), and why I think you should consider avoiding or at the very least limiting wheat. Also check out the link for the FREE screening of “What’s with Wheat” at the bottom of this post.
Wheat is simply not what it used to be
One of the most common arguments I hear for eating wheat is that we’ve eaten wheat for a long time, so what’s the big deal now? The thing is, the wheat we eat now is a completely and totally different grain to the wheat of the bible.
There are several things that have changed this grain significantly.
- In the 1960’s an American farmer tinkered with the genetic design of wheat to create a robust, high yielding grain (and in 1970, won a Nobel Peace Prize for doing so). The most distinguishing feature of his hybridized wheat grain (compared to wild wheat), is the presence of Wheat Germ Agglutinates (WGA) – a plant lectin. Lectins are part of plants immune system and are toxic to moulds, fungi and insects (so they protect the wheat so that the yield can be higher). Whilst humans have evolved to tolerate very small amounts of lectins, high doses exert pretty harsh effects. Specifically, WGA increases intestinal permeability (leakiness), wreaks havoc with the good flora (bugs) in the gut and triggers adverse immune reactions (inducing the symptoms that gluten often takes the sole blame).
- But in the last 15 years or so it’s got way worse. You see it has become fairly routine that wheat, in many parts of the world is genetically modified and sprayed with glycophosphates (commonly known as Round-up). Not only has the World Health Organisation declared glyphosate ‘probably toxic to humans’ – we know at the very least, glyphosates are killing our good gut microflora (particularly Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria). As well as this, glyphosate, via multiple mechanisms, impairs nutrient absorption and various essential enzyme pathways. These are all established causes of various diseases including gluten intolerance, gastrointestinal disease such as irritable bowel syndrome and the current and growing coeliac disease epidemic. For more, simple, easy to understand information on Genetic Modification, and how you can easily avoid it click here. Even if not genetically modified, a wide variety of pesticides and herbicides are applied to non-organic wheat.
- Then there’s the processing of the grain. In a recent article published in the Medical Hypothesis, Dr Anthony Fardet, a nutritionist and agro-food engineer, stated that it is the denaturation of grains “by drastic processing that has rendered gluten unhealthy, toxic and not easily digestible”. Certainly, the way wheat is processed now is very different to days gone by. For example; the processing of bread now uses wheat that has been processed to remove naturally occurring and beneficial compounds (fibre and antioxidants) which help to offset gluten’s undesirable effects and also protect the colon walls. Another change is that an ungerminated grain is used and food processors have developed means to shorten the fermentation of the grain so that the gluten is no longer broken down as it would have been in the past (more on this, in this post on bread). Couple this with the use of higher temperatures and pressure to process wheat, and then that wheat is most often coupled with other inflammatory and immune sensitive foods (like sugar and vegetable oils) and it’s no doubt that the health of many is declining.
- To add insult to injury, ‘vital gluten’, a purified gluten removed from its natural source is now added to bread and many other processed foods. Its extensive use has tripled since the 1970’s as has the drastic increase in the incidence of coeliac disease and gluten intolerance.
So knowing all this – I have to question if it’s gluten (or in fact wheat) that is causing harm? Or is it US and the way we have treated the grain? Certainly the rates of gluten-sensitivity is significantly less in countries where wheat is minimally processed, compared to countries like Australia where it is ultra-processed, chemically treated (if not organic) and highly refined.
Wheat is everywhere
The other issue I have is it is everywhere – pretty much every pre-packaged or processed food contains wheat in some form. Generally speaking, most Western Cultures are just over-exposed and nutritionally this is a problem. When consulting with patients, especially children, it’s not uncommon to see them having a wheat based cereal (like weet bix) or toast for breakfast, wheat containing snacks (crackers, sweet treats), bread at lunch and pasta, noodles or more bread with dinner. This really is a concern as they are only deriving nutrition from a very small range of foods and this is limiting their growth, development, and overall health.
Anything but natural
So you can see that wheat based cereals, bread and flour (even the wholemeal/grain varieties) are anything but ‘natural’. Certainly, the more we have tampered with wheat, the rates of gluten-related disorders has also increased.
Gluten is not necessarily the only villain (unless you have diagnosed coeliac disease)
So as you can see, it may not be simply ‘gluten’ that’s the villain – though food marketers have certainly ensured it’s somewhat of a scapegoat for our continuing decline in health because they make money from this being the case.
As I’ve stated in many previous posts, there are multiple factors at fault and simply removing gluten from your diet is not a holistic approach to resolving health issues and gluten sensitivities. Just as important is eating an organic (if possible), whole foods diet; opting for slow-fermented and sprouted grains and taking targeted probiotics, herbs and supplements if indicated.
In my experience, a holistic approach to your health and diet will reduce the likelihood of reacting to incidental gluten in your diet.
Watch this FREE upcoming documentary for more on this topic (limited time only)
What have we done to wheat? The Australian documentary ‘What’s With Wheat?’ follows the perfect storm of what has happened to our food over the past several decades. 15 experts come together to reveal why. Screen the documentary for free for 7 days from 24th June – 1st July 2016 only. Click HERE to register now for free.