Tag Archives: wheat

Wheat No More

wheat-shutterstock

Nutritionists first suggested avoiding foods with gluten when it started to become known that they were harmful to people with Celiac disease. Indeed, medical researchers discovered that when glutens are ingested, this serious autoimmune disorder, affecting the small intestine, causes the body to mount an immune response that can trigger such side effects as unexplained iron-deficiency anemia, fatigue, bone or joint pain, arthritis, osteoporosis, depression or anxiety and migraines, to name a few.

From that dietary acorn a giant oak of abstinence has grown. For some, it’s due to the fact that non-Celiac disease sufferers have milder but still unpleasant reactions to glutens. Call them gluten-sensitive, if you will. However, a greater and greater number of people also don’t eat anything containing gluten and it has nothing to do with a medical condition. They claim that by avoiding this latest “don’t-eat-du jour,” pain, skin rashes, acne, anxiety and depression, are said to magically disappear. And in their place is increased weight loss and energy, even happiness. Continue reading

The Bottom Line on Gluten – No Longer the “Staff of Life”?

Homemade Wheat BreadWhat’s the deal with Gluten?

With all the hype around “gluten-free” food, this is a question I often get. “What is the big deal?” the question goes. “People have been eating wheat for thousands of years.” They’re right, of course. Wheat is called the “staff of life” for a reason. It has been nourishing us since the dawn of civilization. Traced as far back as the ancient Egyptians, wheat has been a mainstay in the human diet. So, what happened that changed this nourishing grain into a toxin for many people?

The answer is that what we eat now is not the wheat our ancestors ate. It’s not even the wheat our grandparents ate. The wheat we grew in this country a scant 50 years ago does not even resemble the over processed, pesticide-laden, gluten packed stuff that is common throughout the western world. Most of the wheat in our current food supply is a dwarf variety that has been hybridized to have as much as 10 times the amount of gluten as its ancestors 100 years ago. This, plus the pesticides, fungicides, and over-processing over the last 50 years has made wheat almost unrecognizable from it’s original nutritious form.

In just 10 years, the numbers of reported gluten intolerance and celiac disease have seen a meteoric rise. One report found that while only 1 in 2500 people reported a gluten intolerance in 1990, the number is 1 in 133 today.

What is gluten?

Gluten is a protein found in wheat and related grain species like spelt, rye, barley, and kamut. This grain is used as a “glue” for holding together most baked goods, as well as some candies. It is used as a thickening agent for soups, glazes, marinades and sauces. Gluten can also be found in processed deli meats, textured vegetable protein, lipstick and play-doh, among other unlikely places.

So, what’s the problem?

The problem is that gluten is difficult for many people to digest. Gluten intolerance occurs when the body reacts to gluten as it would to a virus or bacteria. It sees the protein as a foreign invader and attacks. This is called an immune response. This response creates inflammation, and inflammation causes anything from joint pain to headaches to eczema to inability to concentrate to fatigue, as well as the more commonly associated stomach pain and indigestion.

 What is the difference between a gluten intolerance and celiac disease?

A common misconception is that gluten intolerance and celiac disease are interchangeable terms. Gluten intolerance and celiac disease have a common culprit, but the way the body responds to it is different. Both conditions create an immune response in the body. The difference is that celiac disease also creates an auto-immune response, which means that the body not only attacks the foreign invader, but it also attacks itself. This results in the villi in the lining of the stomach being killed off by the body’s immune system. The villi absorb the nutrients from the food we eat, so most people with untreated celiac disease will also show signs of malnourishment.

Either way, gluten intolerance and celiac disease create major disruptions in the way your body digests food. Doctors and scientists are discovering many ways that gluten can impact your health. A newly recognized form of celiac is called behavioral celiac. This condition occurs when the symptoms tend more towards disruptive behavior, and inability to concentrate, than the more common signs of celiac, and is often misdiagnosed as ADHD.

How do I know if I’m intolerant?

Unlike celiac, there is no reliable test for gluten intolerance. The best way to find out if you are gluten intolerant is to take it out of your diet for a while and then put it back in and see how you react. A major problem is that the Standard American Diet is packed with gluten. It is in nearly all processed and fast foods because it is inexpensive and flexible. If you are intolerant, you can be having a chronic low level inflammatory response and not even know it. Maybe you are tired in the afternoon or tend to get headaches or feel bloated. Maybe you think that this is not a big deal. The fact is that this low level inflammation is the root cause of most diseases, and should be taken seriously.

The Bottom Line on Gluten

Everybody’s body is different. If you’re interested in a gluten-free diet, the very best thing to do is try it out for yourself. You may be one of the many people who discovers it improves their health, mood, and overall wellness.

I strongly recommend trying a 7-day elimination diet. Eat absolutely no gluten for 7 days, and monitor your energy level, mood, and mental clarity. On the 8th day eat a bagel (which is like eating a brick of gluten) for breakfast and see how you feel for the next 24 hours. If you find that you get that familiar headache, stomach ache, or feel sluggish, then you might have an issue with gluten and should remove it from your diet.

Need help figuring out how to go gluten-free? Take a look at my list of gluten-free diet substitutes.

If you’re interested experimenting with GF recipes, try my delicious gluten-free banana chocolate chip muffins!

photo by: Emily Carlin

Secrets to Enjoying Gluten Again

 Can You Digest Gluten Comfortably?
How many of us have noticed that we don’t digest certain foods as well as we used to? Or started modifying our diet in our thirties and forties to feel better and be healthier? Though it makes sense to eat healthier, we have to be careful that we haven’t turned towards eating easier to digest foods in the name of eating healthier, when it is really because we can no longer digest them as well as we once did. If we don’t digest beef, wheat, dairy soy or corn very well, we can’t assume that we are digesting everything else perfectly.
 
I know there are issues regarding how these foods are processed that make them hard or even impossible to digest.  I am not suggesting that they are good for us. What I am saying is that many of us have taken certain foods out of our diets that have been unnecessarily deemed bad and indigestible. Gluten may be one of them and is the focus of this video-newsletter and article.
 
Gluten – Innocent Till Proven Guilty?
In the name of good health we are often told to stop eating wheat or gluten and to start taking digestive enzymes because,  "as we  age, we  lose our digestive strength."  While I am being forced to concede, albeit slightly to the aging process, I completely disagree that our digestive strength has to slow down just because of the number of years we have been on this planet.
 
In the last twenty years or so, gluten has been accused of causing allergies, chronic fatigue, insomnia, auto-immune conditions, attention deficit disorder, asthma, memory loss, focus issues, headaches, rashes, joint pain, digestive issues, malaise, anxiety, depression, cravings and exhaustion – to name a few.  In America we are innocent until proven guilty and I think gluten has been convicted without a fair trial. Giving gluten a life sentence with only symptomatic evidence just isn’t right!  Let’s dig in here and find out the truth about gluten.
 
10,000 Years of Gluten
Gluten is a protein that has been eaten for 10,000 years all around the world and still is to this day. It is most commonly found in wheat but also found in many other grains.

Undigested Gluten is the Problem – Not Gluten Itself
There are good studies that have shown that the undigested protein molecule of gluten can cause Leaky Gut Syndrome. This is a syndrome where the villi of the small intestine become damaged and begin to separate, which causes the spaces in the semi-permeable membrane of the small intestines to break down.  Undigested proteins, pathogens and fat soluble toxins can sneak into the blood and lymph before they are neutralized by the digestive system.  In my last two video-newsletters on The Miracle of the Lymph and Look and Feel Vibrant in 3 Steps, I explained that 80%  of the body’s immune response is located in the gut. When these villi get beaten up by undigested gluten you can begin to see why a host of symptoms arise and why gluten has been given a life sentence.
 
Weak Digestive Fire Can’t Cook Gluten

Gluten is a very hard to digest protein that requires a specifically strong acid in the stomach to process it. Without optimal digestive fire, gluten will not be broken down in the stomach.  If gluten passes through the stomach undigested, it will – if eaten in excess – cause irritation to the intestinal villi.
 
Though it is common for the strength of the stomach acids and the overall digestive strength to weaken over time, it is not due to the aging process. This is a very reversible condition at any age. If we don’t reset the digestive strength, a host of symptoms such as toxicity, food allergies, gluten intolerance and deficiencies will ensue. 
 
As it turns out, gluten is not particularly bad.  It is simply a harder protein to break down that can wreak havoc on the gut wall if our digestion has become too weak to digest it.  We are told, "Stop eating wheat and all your problems go away."   
 
Well some of them do disappear – for a while – until the problems start to return again.  Then we take other hard to digest foods off the diet like dairy, corn, nuts, soy, fish and so on, until eating becomes a very challenging venture.

Read Secrets to Enjoying Gluten Again below to learn how to improve your digestion.

Secrets to Enjoying Gluten Again
 
First we must diagnose why the stomach acids have been turned off in the first place and why we can no longer digest richer or heavier foods.  The main causes are dehydration, lymph congestion, thick bile, congested liver, inflamed intestinal villi and stress. There are simple treatments for all of these, which I have written about in these recent video-newsletters:  Surprising Symptoms of Poor DigestionTop 10 Weight Loss Tips (which is really about improving digestion) and The Miracle of Lymph.
Start Your Engines
Usually the stomach acids have been turned off for a reason and we must identify that first. Often, with good habits, the body balances itself and all that is needed is to turn the digestive fire back on. For this I use a technique called The Trikatu Protocol. This is where you increase the amount of Trikatu capsules you take with each meal until you begin to feel a sense of warmth and digestive heat before, during, after or in between  meals. Once you feel this, the stomach acids are working. Then you wean off the Trikatu while maintaining the digestive warmth around each meal, which indicates that the fire is still working even with smaller and smaller doses of the Trikatu. If you feel any burning or acid feelings then this means the stomach is not able to handle the fire for another reason.
 Gluten Isn’t Meant to Be Eaten Every Day of the Year
The other secret about gluten and wheat is that it was never meant to be eaten three times a day, every day of the year. This overwhelming amount of gluten, along with increasing stress, will bog down the digestive process and begin to let the gluten through the stomach without being properly broken down.
Wheat and most other glutinous grains are harvested in the fall and thus eaten in the winter. This heavy, warm, wet protein rich grain is the perfect antidote for the coldness and dryness of winter.  Interestingly, according to Ayurveda,  our digestive strength and fire is strongest in the winter. We can digest the hard to digest foods in the season they are harvested. In the spring, which is a damp, heavy, wet time of year, this grain is not available if you are eating based on natural harvesting cycles.

A Gluten Free Spring

After a long winter of eating heavy, insulating foods rich in proteins and fat, nature changes the harvest and gives us a fat free and gluten free harvest each spring. It takes about 6-8 weeks without gluten to heal and repair the villi and nature has designed this digestive rest to happen each spring:
  • Leafy greens fertilize the villi with new healthy bacteria.
  • Bitter roots that are harvested each spring, like dandelion and turmeric, cleanse the villi of excessive mucus.
  • The berries and cherries of late spring de-stagnate the Gut Associated Lymphatic Tissue that resides just on the outer wall in the intestinal tract.
Ancient Techniques to Help Digest Gluten
I am always amazed at how traditional cultures developed successful techniques to help them enjoy the tastes and benefits of wheat and gluten. Sourdough bread is one of them.  The culture of the sourdough goes through a fermentation process that breaks down the gluten protein and renders it much easier to digest. So look for a good quality sourdough bread and toast it for added digestibility.
 One other technique to help the stomach win the battle of breaking down the gluten protein is to soak your grains overnight. This softens the grain and activates enzymes within the grain that begin to break down and release this protein. Here are some ideas:
  • Soak oats (or other cereal grains) overnight before cooking them for breakfast
  • Soak grains like barley and bulgar before turning them into a delicious soup, casserole or stew
 Conclusion:  Eat Smart
If you abuse gluten, over eat it and let your digestive fires weaken, it will have its way with you.  With strong digestion, which we can rekindle, and respect of natural harvest cycles, most of us can enjoy the taste and benefits of wheat for many more years to come.

Gluten Free Diet

 Originally posted at Vitality Health Hub.

I wrote in my most recent post that one of my health goals for 2009 is to go ‘gluten-free’ for at least six months, possibly a year.

The reason I decided to do this is because gluten has many undesirable properties as a food product. Gluten basically means any grain that contains the protein gliadin. Some of the side-effects of eating gliadin are abdominal bloating or digestive discomfort, mood swings, energy highs and lows, depression and anxiety, failure to absorb and assimilate nutrients, and many, many more.

If you suffer from any of these and eat gluten then it is likely that you have a gluten intolerance – generally a sensitivity to these foods that aggravates your system. Even if you don’t have any of the above symptoms, you may still find that you benefit from a gluten free diet.

In the past I have suffered from many of the above, hence my desire to eliminate gluten altogether from my diet.

A gluten free diet means eliminating all grains except rice, millet, buckwheat and corn. (I also have a corn intolerance so I have to avoid this too!) Now for many people this might seem very restricting – eliminating breads, pastries, pastas, cakes, cookies, etc – but the benefits far outweight the foods that you might "love". I am just 9 days into my New Years Resolution and I feel fantastic already – clearer mind, less bloating, better digestion and better moods. Just 9 days in! Fantastic!

Since I can admit that I am addicted to gluten (or at least I was!), I decided to give myself a fallback, and I have definitely needed it. I am using rice and my food that I am always going to turn to when I get a craving. I like rice but was never a big eater of it until these past 9 days. This might be something you want to try if you also go for a gluten-free diet.

However, be careful! I was recently told by a fellow blogger that some rices  are actually coated in gluten. 

Not proven, but definitely an issue that is not solved yet.

I was directed to this site and I can take one rule from it regarding rice:

– Make sure it is not "enriched". If it is, then it is likely to be enriched and coated in a grain that is likely to contain gluten / gliadin. My suggestion would always be to go for organic produce too as you are then avoiding pesticides and other industrial farming chemicals.

So, there you have it. Try the gluten-free diet and see how you feel. Maybe you can’t commit yourself to a full 6 months just yet, but I suggest you try 21 days with not a sniff in your diet and re-evaluate. 

I’ll let you know how I get on with my own challenge!

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