Who didn’t grow up with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, tacos made with corn tortillas, and white rice dripping with butter or margarine?
Whole grains and the foods made from processing them have been a central element of the human diet since early civilization. Humans at one point in history ceased being hunter-gatherers and settled down to farming communities when they were able to cultivate grain crops.
People living in these communities – on all continents – had lean, strong bodies. In the Americas, corn was the staple grain. In India and Asia, it was rice. In Africa, people ate sorghum. In the middle East, they used wheat, making pita bread, tabouli, and couscous. In Europe corn, millet, wheat, rice, and pasta, dark breads, and even beer were considered health-providing foods. In Scotland, oats were a staple food. In Russia, they ate buckwheat or kasha.
Whole grains are a decent source of nutrition, as they contain essential enzymes, iron, dietary fiber, vitamin E and B-complex vitamins. The body absorbs grains slowly, so the energy they provide is sustained and high-quality.
Wheat, for one, plays a major role in our diets. It supplies about 20% of the total food calories worldwide and is a national staple in most countries.
We take for granted our bagels, pasta, bread and breakfast cereals. Still, the numbers of people switching to wheat-free diets is growing, and with good reason. Science is increasingly showing that eating wheat increases the potential for many health problems.
For example, people with celiac disease need to stay away from even a tiny bit of wheat. Their small intestine is unable to properly digest gluten, a protein found in some grains – wheat, barley, and rye. Gluten helps to hold baked goods together, giving dough its elastic texture and making the final cake, bread, cookie, etc., fluffy and chewy.
Wheat, however, is being blamed for the onset of other health problems, such as obesity, heart disease, and a host of digestive disorders, including the dramatic rise in celiac-like illnesses. Wheat raises blood sugar levels, causes immunoreactive problems, inhibits absorption of important minerals and aggravates our intestines.
Many of these issues may be prevalent now because, actually, wheat isn’t the wheat it used to be!
In the 1950s, long before we even heard the phrases “celiac” or “wheat sensitivity,” scientists began cross-breeding wheat to make it hardier, shorter, faster growing, and longer-lived.
Cardiologist William Davis, MD, notes in his book Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight and Find Your Path Back to Health that today’s hybridized wheat contains sodium azide, a known toxin. It also goes through gamma irradiation process during manufacturing. Also, the restructured wheat contains novel proteins that aren’t typically found in either the parent or the plant, and some of them are difficult for us to properly digest.
No doubt, gluten is a growing concern, and it is starting to have a serious impact on our health. We simply do not have the enzymes to break it down so it can be properly metabolized, even if we aren’t diagnosed with celiac disease.
Additionally, wheat is a high glycemic index food, and as such raises blood sugar. Davis claims that two slices of whole wheat bread increases blood sugar levels higher than a single candy bar. And while many have justified eating wheat as a source of fiber, that line of thought is now being dismissed as “myth.”
Just to be clear, here are 5 good reasons to give up wheat.
1.Improved Digestion. In my Health Coaching practice I see this over and over again. After a week or two with no wheat, digestive issues are drastically reduced, if not eliminated altogether. (If some problems persist, check for hidden gluten in processed foods. It is present in many of them.)
2. Less Pain. People with wheat and/or gluten sensitivity sometimes experience pain throughout their body- joint pain, muscle cramping, headaches, and numbness in the legs and feet. Comfort usually returns when the offender is eliminated from the diet.
3. Healthier Skin. The inflammation in the skin caused by gluten can cause acne breakouts, eczema, itching, hives, and rashes. After a month of being gluten free, these symptoms will have greatly diminished.
4. Better Mood. Some people complain of brain fog or of being just plain moody. Others have ADHD symptoms or depression. These symptoms also can be caused by the inflammatory compounds that are released when eating gluten.
5. Increased energy. Fatigue is another common symptom of gluten and/or wheat sensitivity. It can be caused by internal inflammation or the fact that the intestines are not absorbing nutrients from food, in general because of the disruptors. When the inflammation subsides and the body soaks up nutrients more efficiently, it’s better able to produce the energy you need.
Some people, in their efforts to gluten-free, have turned to some of the many packaged products advertised as “gluten-free.”
Beware of the hype. Check the labels carefully. These products may contain a host of other questionable or downright dangerous ingredients. Be gluten-free, rather, by shopping mostly in the produce aisle, the organic produce aisle, which is where you find whole natural foods, perfectly suited to the human digestive mechanism. The best way to better health and more vibrant living is with lots of fresh, whole fruits and vegetables, in as close to their natural state as possible.