Image Courtesy: Amancay Maahs
Exposing the “Ancient” Super Grain
Before you grab another heaping helping of that Captain Crunch, or sink your teeth into a buttery slice of bread – wait a second. The main ingredient in so many of our favorite (or at least most popular) food choices is wheat. Wheat was cultivated centuries ago, and even gets mentioned in the Bible. So, we’d be apt to guess that it’s good for us, right? Well, most of the world would certainly have you believe so.
Don’t be Fooled by “Health” Food!
Subscribe to any fad diet, take a trip to your local health food store, employ a nutritionist or simply watch the Food Network – and you’ll be hard pressed not to find someone advocating the health benefits of whole wheat. Soon after the good-carb craze hit – store shelves were stocked with whole grain wheat cereals, breads and pastas, and we were lead to believe that these products were better choices.
Sure, one can argue that whole grains are better than processed grains – or that eating pasta is better than eating cookies. However, consuming wheat in any form has the potential to cause serious intestinal problems over time.
Wheat Really Sticks with You
Wheat contains a protein, known as gluten, that gives your pizza dough its gooey texture. Gluten helps cakes and cookies stick together, and makes bread addicting. Recently, we’ve been exposed to news coverage and a wider range of views regarding the inability to digest gluten, and its affects on our bodies. Celiac Disease is a rather new term that identifies people who have a known allergy to the wheat protein – which surfaces itself in many varied painful symptoms.
Gluten, also found in rye and barley (as well as hidden in a number of every-day products), cannot be easily digested. Therefore, it slowly (or rapidly) deteriorates the lining of the small intestines. This inhibits the absorption of other nutrients and pokes holes in the gut. Over time, with constant consumption of wheat and gluten products – the intestines become more inflamed.
Symptoms of Celiac Disease are as varied as joint pain and diarrhea. Even without a definitive test for the disease, American doctors have agreed to its severity. Yet, what is wheat doing to the rest of us? Maybe you’re pretty sure you don’t have Celiac Disease, but could you benefit from a gluten-free diet?
Gluten and Leaky Gut: A Painful Combo
As gluten leaks through the gut, it disrupts organ function and causes skin problems, feelings of fatigue, spaciness, and depression. Parents of children with Autism can attest to how their children seem to come back to life after eliminating gluten from their diets. The protein has also been known to be linked to other neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s.
What Harms the Gut Harms Everything
Any food or product that disrupts the digestive tract will creep through to the blood and damage the organs one by one. Maintaining proper health begins in the gut, as 80% of the immune system is located there.
Not So Ancient
Wheat was actually cultivated a mere 10,000 years ago – which is pretty recent in terms of human development. Considering that most of the grains we currently consume have been genetically modified and overly processed, we are not eating the same wheat our ancestors ate. Before our wheat becomes pizza, cereal or pasta, it endures a frightening process that strips it of its nutrition. We also don’t have the guts of steel that flourish from natural foods and environment, like our ancestors did. Stress, pollution and highly processed diets make us more susceptible to food sensitivities.
Yet, only a small portion of our population is enjoying the benefits of a gluten-free lifestyle. Fibromyalgia patients claim eliminating gluten takes away their constant joint pain. Others stay depression-free without drugs after the diet change.
What Are The Hidden Dangers?
Since gluten is hidden in things like beer, lipstick, soy sauce, and emulsifiers, going gluten free can be tedious. However, many stores now compile lists of all of their ‘Gluten Free’ products, and there are some great cookbooks and websites to assist with meal planning. Of course, when you’re brought up on bread and pancakes, it can feel like you are suddenly giving up your world. Try out some new GF grains like quinoa, millet, buckwheat and amaranth. These grains help curb cravings for those good old treats. They also act as prebiotics (which feed your healthy intestinal flora).
Heal Your Gut While Eliminating Gluten
You may also consider adding probiotics to your daily routine as a way to re-establish healthy gut flora and settle cravings. Expect a period of die-off and elimination if you go Gluten Free cold turkey. The same sticky protein that keeps dough doughy, sticks to your insides and will need to come out. You may feel a bit sicker before you feel well. Take the die-off as a sign that you are ridding your body of unnecessary toxins.
Gluten Free is a Better Way to be Healthy
So, don’t just fill up your cereal bowl, read more. Research gluten intolerance and try some new wheat free recipes. Check your own symptoms and decide whether or not you could use less headaches or more energy. Thousands of people love their gluten-less lifestyles — perhaps you will be the next one.
Gina Laverde is a Chicago-based writer and researcher whose expertise in natural health stems from her experiences with Body Ecology Diet, Blood Type Diet and homeopathic remedies. Gina believes that we’re in the midst of a serious world health crisis, and that the key to survival lies within our guts.