So why would this plant, who we may as well owe thanks to for our current life and lifestyle, be the subject of so many accusations for current health problems? It’s a good question, and there are several answers.
If you’re skeptical or don’t think that you experience any of the symptoms associated with consuming modern wheat products, try an elimination diet for a week or 2, a Whole 30 or the 21 Day Sugar Detox. There’s no harm in trying something, and you can always eat them again. But pay attention to your body when you start adding in your familiar foods. Do you get gassy? Feel bloated? Constipated? Get hunger pains or dizziness? These may be tolerable conditions for some, but why deal with them if you don’t have to? Either way I wish you the best of luck on your health and nutrition journey. Maybe a grain-free approach is for you or maybe you can include them in your diet. Listen to your body and do what is best for you.
Insulin resistance is when the pancreas produces insulin but it isn’t used efficiently. This causes miscommunication with the liver causing it to release too much sugar or most often not enough sugar. When the brain doesn’t get the sugar it needs, we can feel dizzy, light headed, nauseous, and even faint or pass out.
Lectins are a carb-binding protein that are present in a wide variety of plants, most often found in seeds where they act as a defense mechanism against other plants and fungi, and are considered an anti-nutrient within food. The wheat plant contains a Lectin called Wheat Germ Agglutinin (WGA). This is its vital defense mechanism. It helps to protect the plant from insects, yeast and bacteria, and very well may be the culprit of why many people can’t tolerate wheat products. Lectins have the ability to bind to virtually all cell types and cause damage to several organs. Many lectins are resistant to heat and digestive enzymes allowing them to bind to tissues and organs in our body.
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When we combine the modern day less nutritious wheat plant, with modern "speed baking", we are left with a loaf of bread that barely represents the bread that our species so revered.
Approximately 1 in 100 people worldwide have Celiac Disease, so again, why all the fuss for the rest of us? Why does almost every product on grocery store shelves have a Gluten-Free alternative, or in some cases, an entire aisle or section dedicated to Gluten-Free food items? Because there is a growing population that is Gluten Sensitive. They do not have CD, but they experience many of the same symptoms of someone who does. Especially the digestion related symptoms like bloating, gas, constipation and diarrhea.
during the baking process. If you were to strip raw dough of all of its starch, you would be left with a rubbery/pliable ball of gluten that would stretch out like a balloon, and snap back into place like a rubber band. That doesn't sound too harmful right? So why all of the fuss?
So…what does this mean for us? When we have a diet that is primarily focused on carbs…cereal for breakfast, bread and chips for lunch, pasta and potatoes for dinner, ice cream for dessert, we are overloading our body with sugar causing spikes in our insulin levels. Our pancreas and liver are working overtime to regulate our blood sugar to keep up with the high demands our body is getting used to. This is why many feel light headed or dizzy as lunch is approaching. Their blood sugar levels are dropping beyond a point their body is used to, and their liver is taxed and can’t make enough on its own. Thus the carb intake cycle starts over. Feed it carbs, feel ok for an hour or 2, and feed it more carbs. Whether these carbs are bread, cookies, cakes, sodas, candy, etc… the sugar effect is all the same if it’s not from whole foods. Prolonged exposure to these insulin resistant conditions can cause Type-2 Diabetes (formerly known as Adult-Onset Diabetes), heart disease and obesity.
Almost everyone has heard of Celiac Disease by now, so what is it? CD is an autoimmune disorder that can occur in genetically predisposed people where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine. Essentially when they eat gluten, the body mounts an attack on the small intestine which damage its sensitive lining and reduces its ability to properly absorb nutrients. Prolonged consumption can cause the small intestine to eat away at itself creating massive holes or requiring parts of it to be removed surgically. Symptoms associated with long-term untreated CD are Type 1 Diabetes, Multiple Scleroris, skin rashes, anemia, osteoporosis, infertility and miscarriage, neurological conditions like epilepsy and migraines, and intestinal cancers.
I won’t go into tremendous detail here as I will have entire page dedicated to carbohydrates, but we should talk about them briefly as wheat products are a significant source of carbohydrates in the average diet and they can have negative effects on our body.
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So what are we to make of all of this? First off, this is just a drop in the bucket of all the information that is out there about gluten sensitivity and harmful effects of modern wheat products. I picked some of the more prominent areas to focus on to show you that there are in fact credible studies and facts concerning our over consumption of wheat and grain based products. Hopefully enough to raise your eyebrows and I encourage you to do your own research as well.
The information on this website is intended for informational and entertainment purposes only. It is an opinion blog based on personal research and experimentation. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. The reader should always consult with a licensed professional healthcare provider before undertaking any diet or lifestyle change.
The wheat plant is one of the longest running agricultural experiments in the history of the world. No other plant has gone through so much study and manipulation. Intense cross-breeding with non-wheat grasses, irradiation of wheat seeds and embryos with chemicals, x-rays and gamma rays have all lead to today’s short, stocky, large seed headed dwarf plant that is grown in 99% of the world’s wheat fields. In the early stages, these were healthy grains. Wheat was grown in fertile soils, had an abundance of vitamins and minerals, and is arguably the reason our species has been able to thrive and multiply in the astronomical numbers that it has. But over time, the wheat plant has been reduced from a tall and proud 4 foot plant, to a little 2 foot plant filled with empty carbohydrates and harmful proteins. This plant was engineered not for nutritional content, but to maximize yield-per-acre. It has so little vitamin and mineral content that processors actually add iron, copper, zinc, selenium and synthetic B-vitamins into the processed flour.
How is this possible? By the natural process of fermenting. The flour becomes alive so to speak. Our ancestors knew this, and the process of making bread was a much longer one. Now that production must be speed up to satisfy a manufacturer’s profit line, fermentation steps have been replaced with quick rising yeast. Bread made by traditional standards, with fermented wheat…aka sourdough bread, is actually less harmful to celiac patients and those with gluten sensitivity than modern day bread.
According to Dr. William Davis, the author of “Wheat Belly”, The Gliadin protein, which is the most abundant protein in wheat, when broken down in the body can cross the blood-brain barrier and bind to opiate-receptors to induce appetite. Essentially when you eat products containing the Gliadin protein, they are conflicting with your body’s signals telling you are full, and in fact, are telling you to eat more. This effect, along with the body's spike and following drop in insulin after eating refined carbohydrates (most wheat products), creates an almost unending cycle of hunger spikes and binge eating, usually accompanied by headaches, dizziness, feelings of nausea, spikes and drops in energy levels, bloated feelings, gas, constipation and/or diarrhea.
Today’s wheat plant has been altered to increase the amount of WGA in it, acting as a natural insecticide, but this increase in WGA makes it more prevalent in our wheat-based food items. Studies have shown WGA to interfere with our gut’s function and metabolism. WGA has the ability to transport itself across the gut wall into the systemic circulation, where it gets deposited in the walls of the blood and lymphatic vessels. This can be referred to as “leaky gut”…essentially “holes” in the stomach that allow food into our system without being properly digested.
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Ah yes…Gluten. Today’s buzzword? The latest food industry marketing ploy? The next Atkins or South Beach Diet trend? Fear-mongering by the Illuminati? Well...that may be going too far. But it is worth looking into because this Gluten-Free thing must have some scientific backing right?
Every living thing has a defense mechanism. We have fight or flight triggers, the ability to recognize dangerous situations and the recognition of our own mortality to keep us alive. Along with mammals we have pain sensors and primal instincts such as fear. Even plants have their own defense mechanisms. Some have sharp needles or irritating dust to keep potential predators from eating them. Some have seeds that are hidden behind shells or protective coatings. Other plants contain toxins that make anything that eats those sick, possibly killing them.
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Further studies on the Gluten proteins have been showing more and more negative effects that even those without CD or Gluten sensitivity may experience. Along with the physical and nutritional changes that the wheat plant has undergone, the amino acids in the wheat plant's gluten proteins have also changed. Studies have suggested that the Gliadin protein is a potent appetite stimulant, and a trigger for the rise in many inflammatory diseases.
Ok so you’re interested in the negative health effects of grains; specifically wheat. This is a very controversial topic, and rightly so considering we probably wouldn’t be here today enjoying the long life we lead and all of the technological advancements we enjoy, without the wheat plant. No crop has been as important to a species’ growth and achievement as the wheat plant has been for humans.
Not only is the modern wheat plant vastly different from the wheat plant of yesteryear, so is the process involved in making it into bread. In its raw state, the wheat plant and its seeds are inedible. But by separating the seeds from its husk, and grinding the seeds into fine flour, we get closer to an edible form. Even this flour state is inedible. Paraphrasing Michael Pollan in his documentary Cooked, “Give a man flour and water and he will die, but mix them together and bake into bread and he can live indefinitely”
Other symptoms of CD are abdominal pain and bloating, chronic diarrhea, vomiting, constipation, weight loss, fatigue, behavioral issues, delayed growth and puberty, and possibly ADHD. This is a relatively new condition so studies are still being done to understand CD and its symptoms.
Other studies have shown that the presence of WGA can cause hyperplastic (enlargement of organic tissue that results from cell proliferation) and hypertrophic growth (increase in the volume of an organ or tissue due to the enlargement of its component cells) of the small intestine, hypertrophic growth of the pancreas and thymus atrophy (shrinking of the Thymus Gland which is closely associated with the immune and endocrine systems).
When we eat foods containing carbohydrates, our digestive system breaks down digestible carbs into sugar, which enters our bloodstream. As our blood sugar levels rise, our pancreas produces insulin, a hormone that prompts cells to absorb blood sugar for energy or storage. As cells absorb the blood sugar, levels in the bloodstream begin to fall. As the levels fall, the pancreas begins to make glucagon, a hormone that signals the liver to start releasing stored sugar. These organs working together ensure that our body and especially our brain have a steady supply of blood sugar.
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Foods you should definitely be eating to those you should avoid at all costs. Get to know about Protein, good and bad Fats, and how to manage the very tricky Carbohydrate intake.
There are numerous benefits to the wheat plant; the long shelf life of the seeds, its resilience and adaptability to different climates, the multitude of post-harvest uses and its ability to feed large masses of people virtually year round. Our ability to manipulate this plant for thousands of years allowed us to minimize times of famine and increase our rate of procreation.
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So what is gluten? Gluten is the main structural protein complex of wheat consisting of glutenins and gliadins. When wheat flour is mixed with water to form dough, the gluten proteins form a continuous network which provides the cohesiveness and viscoelasticity that allows dough to be processed into bread, noodles and other foods. You know when you cut open a loaf of bread and see all the "holes" or pockets of air? Gluten is the substance that allows those to stay in place. Those pockets of air are actually gas bubbles that are created