The Reasons We Don’t Eat Wheat
It was just back in January 2013 that I decided to go wheat-free. My husband didn’t like the idea one bit; after all, we ate cereal and toast for breakfast, crackers, sandwich bread and macaroni for lunch, crackers or cookies for snacks and tortillas, pasta or sourdough rolls for supper on most days with some soy sauce in between… (Yes, soy sauce contains wheat. Weird, right?)
How would we live WITHOUT wheat!? It seemed as though we were addicted.
He deemed it impossible. Seems like I remember the words, “Have fun” being muttered.
In early January, I read the book Wheat Belly, by Dr. William Davis. Remember, this is just after I started this blog and one of my first posts was about a delectable grilled cheese sandwich on organic, 12-grain bread. Uh oh…
After reading Wheat Belly I determined I would stop eating wheat. I also discovered that a rash my daughter had under her nose for over four years was a wheat allergy. According Dr. Davis, Seborrhea, a red, scaly rash under the nose is actually a wheat allergy. So for four years, I had been told by my dermatologist to “put cream on” the rash…and cross my fingers? To quote Dr. Davis’ book, “Most physicians, including dermatologists, have next to no appreciation of its astounding potential for triggering multiple health conditions, including dozens, perhaps hundreds, of varieties of skin disorders.”
Our first few weeks were amazing. My daughter’s rash disappeared within a week of no wheat. She could eat wheat and it would reappear within 12 hours. WOW! Admittedly, it was hard at first… after all there were so many warm and fuzzy moments related to wheat. Comfort food casseroles–a staple in the South, PIZZA night–a staple in America, those Chipotle burritos, ice cream cones, S’mores!?
A couple of weeks into our gluten-free, wheat-free journey, my husband sat down in his comfy chair, opened the Wheat Belly book, read it, closed it and said, “I’m never eating wheat again.”
Whoa. I really didn’t know if it would happen, but it did. Since then, we’ve never looked back.
Here’s why, in short: the wheat we eat today is not even closely related to wheat of our ancestors. Wheat is actually one crop we don’t genetically engineer in a lab–yet– nor is it a Genetically Modified Organism (GMO). It’s even worse, if you can imagine. “Modern wheat represents the technological capabilities of the agricultural geneticist that predate the age of genetic engineering,” Dr. Davis writes.
The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off. –Gloria Steinem
This quote is at the beginning of the Wheat Belly Cookbook. And it’s so true. Back in the 1960’s and 70’s, geneticists started manipulating wheat by whatever crude means possible. The goal was to increase yield with smaller plant and more per acre. Whatever means possible meant x-ray, gamma ray and chemical mutagenesis, forced repetitive hybridization–thousands of hybridizations– until the plant bore no resemblance to the original mother plant, repetitive backcrossing and other techniques. Davis says, “Modern wheat is many thousands of years and many genes apart from the 14-chromosome einkorn, 28-chromosome emmer, and even the 42-chomosome wheat of the 19th century.” “…Soon, [countries] began realizing the production advantages of this super-yielding strain [of wheat]” and he says essentially this strain of high yield-per-acre wheat was embraced widely by the early 1980’s.
But what does this mean to us?
It gets even more twisted. Davis implies that the modern food industry is as guilty as the tobacco industry of years past. Just as more and more chemicals were added to cigarettes to increase the known addictive effects of tobacco, he says so the food industry is doing to processed foods by adding wheat to everything from tomato soup to “whole grain” cereals to licorice. He believes the “smart food scientists” knew about the appetite-stimulating effect of the gliadin protein found in wheat 25 years ago. He says the transformation of gliadin protein in this new wheat is accompanied by an extra 440 calories per day and an opiate-like addiction response. Just by eating wheat. And by putting wheat in everything, the “Big Food” industry ensures that you’ll come back for more. There’s the hook…
What is Gliadin?
Gliadin is a protein found in modern day wheat and has been called the “universal human poison.” Three quick facts about gliadin:
- Gliadin, a member of the gluten family of proteins, is the most abundant protein found in wheat.
- Gliadin is an opiate, with “its own form of euphoria and its very own opiate withdrawal syndrome” when wheat consumption is halted. All opiates stimulate appetite.
- Gliadin helps gluten bind to HLA DQ proteins along the insides of the intestinal tract which results in celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.
So now you know wheat is addictive, thanks to gliadin. But what about gluten? What does it do?
What is Gluten?
Here are three quick facts about gluten:
- Gluten adds lightness to doughnuts and biscuits, chewiness to wraps and pizza crust.
- Gluten is among the “most destructive of proteins” in the human diet because of number 3 above, thanks to many genetic manipulations.
- Geneticists bred wheat with non-wheat grasses, according to Dr. Davis, and used chemicals and radiation to produce new, more desirable gluten characteristics for baking and food purposes.
But wait! There’s more!
Not only do you get the freaky effects of gliadin and gluten that need each other to do the most harm, but also you get the lectin of wheat, Wheat Germ Agglutinin, absolutely free! Unlike the first two bonus proteins, wheat germ agglutinin can do damage completely on its own.
What is Wheat Germ Agglutinin?
Wheat Germ Agglutinin, a lectin–a protective protein found only in plants to protect against mold, insects and other predators, actually binds to the intestinal tract lining. Here are three quick facts about Wheat Germ Agglutinin:
- Wheat Germ Agglutinin causes abnormal cell growth or hyperplasia of the small intestinal lining.
- Wheat Germ Agglutinin increases intestinal permeability, or”leaky gut syndrome,” which allows foreign substances to leak into the bloodstream through the intestinal wall.
- Wheat Germ Agglutinin is resistant to digestion in the gastrointestinal tract which makes it possible for IT to leak into the bloodstream as well, amplifying the effects of insulin on fat cells (increasing fat storage) and triggering inflammatory responses in the body thus worsening celiac disease, arthritis and many other inflammatory diseases.
Dr. Mark Hyman (The Blood Sugar Solution) says in his article Three Hidden Ways Wheat Makes You Fat that one slice of whole wheat bread now raises your blood sugar more than a teaspoon of white sugar, thanks the super starch amylopectin A found in modern day wheat. There are even more facts about wheat, gluten, patient results and other terms not yet discussed here, in Dr. Davis’ Wheat Belly book and blog. I highly recommend reading the Wheat Belly book for a full understanding of why you should stop eating wheat.
Our Wheat-Free Results
If you’ll notice, I’ve never said the word “diet” in this post. Dr. Davis never calls his information a “diet.” That’s because it’s not a diet. We chose simply to give up a substance causing our bodies more harm than good. Yes, it affected a lot of processed food items, whether store-bought or homemade, but it’s one basic substance. Like Dr. Davis points out in his book, humans do not need wheat. No one has ever died from lack of wheat. And we have lived. No, we have THRIVED.
Besides my daughter’s rash, other changes didn’t happen suddenly for my husband and me. It was about thirty days in and my husband started noticing a few pounds dropping. Me, nothing much really. I didn’t feel like I really needed to lose much weight, but when I look back now, the changes would be drastic. The real results started happening more quickly after month one. By March, we were feeling much better. Most notably, I had more energy and was not as tired or “foggy.” By June, I no longer noticed any cravings for anything wheat. Truthfully, I had not missed bread, which had seemed impossible just 5 short months earlier. I figured out how to make pizza crusts from almond meal, substitute organic baby spinach for spaghetti noodles, and enjoy lots of fruits, veggies, organic meats and optimal health.
All of us had issues with low blood sugar and extreme hunger pangs between meals, which caused us to snack often, get light-headed or sugar crash. I’m happy to report this “symptom” is corrected in all of us.
By June and my 43rd birthday, I weighed 10 pounds less, but had dropped 3 clothing sizes. I realized that the weight was only a part of what we had lost; the inflammation was the most significant loss.
By June, and my husband’s 54th birthday, he had lost over 30 pounds! We had been working out, so he was building some muscle which weighs more than fat and inflammation. But again, his loss of inflammation was the most dramatic.
Now, only nine months after beginning the wheat-free journey, he has lost a total of 40+ pounds. He has abs. :) He is in the best shape of his life. For me, I lost about 12 lbs. total which is as much as I could lose and still be healthy, and I have redefined my muscles hidden by inflammation. We follow Dr. Davis’ guidelines in that we reduced the amount of sugar we eat, we don’t buy a lot of “gluten-free” processed foods that are full of empty, high calorie substitutes, we eat mostly whole, real, unprocessed foods and we exercise as often as we can, whether walking, running, yoga or cycling. We all eat sensibly what we want, as much as we want. We’ve increased our veggies and fruits and love the creativity of a wheat-free household. And our daughter? Well, she is a happy, healthy thriving teenager who is well-nourished, fit and content.
Friends will attest that we do not desire nor miss birthday cake, bread, biscuits and gravy, or pasta. I do often get the “pained look of terror” when they ask me, “What do you eat?” Which is why I’m here, writing on this blog. It’s why I’m in school to become a health coach and counselor. It’s why I want to see my friends and family realize their full potential by not letting unknown facts and food ingredients hinder their health and happiness.
Let’s face it, just a few short years ago, I didn’t even know what the term “gluten” meant. I lived as most do–in blissful ignorance, battling weight gain as it seemed to come with age, arthritic-like symptoms, and other factors I believed to be out of my control.
“What you don’t know CAN hurt you” but it can motivate you to do something about it today.
Practical Steps: Listen to your Mama!
We know listening to Mama is the smart choice. I hope you’ve learned some things today and I hope it’s your call to action. Your first step may be to order the Wheat Belly book. And follow Dr. Davis’ advice. Start by getting rid of all wheat in your diet for 30 days. You can do it! Know that at first, you will experience withdrawal symptoms. But you’ll soon start feeling better and realizing a wheat-free life is not only doable, but also wonderful. One of my favorite excerpts from Wheat Belly Cookbook: “Lose the wheat, lose the weight…and the acid reflux, and the edema and the mental fog…”
Your next step may be looking to expert advice and help. Thanks to Wellness Mama for informing me of The Gluten Summit, I’ll be tuning in to learn even more about the gluten-free, wheat-free lifestyle (It starts today! 11-11-13). And you may want to listen in as well. Investigate, inquire and imagine yourself healthier than you are right now. It’s possible and IN your control.
Let’s Break (the) Bread (habit), Y’all!