A few years ago, I was a client of BodyWorks Lifestyle, with the formidable yet friendly New Zealander Huw Lloyd Davies at the helm of this successful Orange County fitness company. Huw got me into shape in no time, and was actually the first person to talk to me with any sense about cutting beans, grains and potatoes from my diet. At first I was skeptical, until I started getting results. But, as always, I slacked off and started eating what I wanted again. And the pounds followed. So it wasn’t until I took a blood test to see what my food sensitivities were (and I found that corn was a big no-no in my system—goodbye polenta!), I started looking at this style of eating again.
Huw very kindly wrote this guest post for me months ago, but I’m only posting it now. It’s good timing, since I’ve embraced the Paleo way of eating again (and I intend to stick to it this time, for good) and need to remember why I should avoid these foods—logically. I want them. I love tortillas, I love beans—hell, I’m one of those crazy people who love tofu! But with the way we’ve messed with our food production, what seems good for our bodies on the surface can be hiding some nasty things inside. Well, I’ll let Huw explain.
(Vegetarians and vegans out there, I’m not trying to offend you or say that you’re “wrong” for eating grains and beans. There are just as many arguments against eating meat. We all choose what we feel is best for us ((well, most of us who have examined what we’re eating, why we’re eating it and what’s in it—i.e. NOT most of America)), and we have our reasons. I think we should all worry about Monsanto, animal welfare and over-processed junk food than trying to argue who’s food is “better”. I hope you agree.)
Grains, wheat and their byproducts are all around us, in everything we eat. We have a love affair with them, from pasta to bagels, from bread to tortillas. We love these foods and the very thought of dropping them from our diet seems crazy to most people. “What would I eat for breakfast?” and “I need carbs for energy!” are just two of the things we hear day in and day out.
The truth of the matter is that we need to start moving towards a grain-free diet, and we need to move quickly. All of the latest science is increasingly showing that eating these grains is increasing our chances for an alarming number of health problems. Without a doubt, grain-based products are a major part of the Western diet—in fact they provide around 20% of the total calories consumed worldwide, but they are also making us sick, causing disease and are slowly killing us.
Most people these days have heard of gluten, a protein that is found in grains. Check out any local health food store and you will be able to find gluten-free bread and pasta, as well as potato chips and muffins. People who suffer from IBS and celiac disease need to avoid gluten because their small intestine is unable to process the protein, but is gluten the only thing that is wrong with grains? The scientific community is pointing towards grains as having strong links to not only the staggering rise of small intestine and digestive issues, but also a bunch of other health issues such as obesity and heart disease.
It turns out that gluten is not the only thing that is wrong with grains. Grains are also being noted for their ability to raise our blood sugar levels, blocking the absorption of minerals as well as intestinal inflammation.
Added to all these problems are also the fact that grains—well, they aren’t what they used to be. In fact, grains are a long way from what they where even just 50 years ago.
Starting in the 1950s, scientists started to crossbreed grains to be able to make them stronger and able to grow better in adverse conditions. This enabled farmers to be able to decrease the normal amount of crop loss and increase the profits of farmers, even when faced with the disappearing of the topsoil across the American farmlands.
Now the increase of crops may have not been such a problem if it weren’t for the fact that these new crops contained some new things that we had never had in our food before. Dr. William Davis wrote in his book, Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight and Find Your Path Back to Health, that modern grains are now exposed to something called sodium azide, which has the benefit of reducing the germination length of the seeds and helping in pest control. Not only does sodium azide help the plant seed quicker, but it also is used in car airbags and airplane escape shoots to help them explode quickly! Sodium azide is extremely toxic with ingestion of dust or solutions inducing variety of symptoms within minutes potentially resulting in loss of consciousness, and even death. It is so toxic that if someone is known to have absorbed sodium azide, then you should avoid performing CPR on the person for fear of suffering the residual effects.
Dr. Davis also mentions in his book that today’s wheat also contains proteins that aren’t normally found in wheat, and some of these proteins are extremely hard for us to digest. Scientists now suspect that these proteins combined with the gluten are responsible for the rising levels of gluten sensitivity, IBS and celiac disease.
Let’s quickly look back at gluten again and see exactly what it is. Gluten is a protein that is comprised of gliadin and glutenin, and it appears in foods such as wheat, barley and rye (it is also in spelt and kamut so be wary of so called “health” breads). It helps dough rise and gives foods like bread and pasta their chewy texture. Sure, gluten is helpful in creating tasty treats for us. But the real issue is the fact that we can’t actual digest it properly. The enzymes that we have in our body cannot break it down, and this can cause our body to have an immune reaction to it. This then causes inflammation in our bodies, not only in people who have celiac disease, but in everyone who eats it.
Dr. Loren Cordain found during his studies that there is a strong link between arthritis and grain consumption. Grains cause an immune reaction as previously mentioned, the kicker is that the amino acid profile of the grains matches that of our own synovial (joint) tissue. When our body sends antibodies to attack the “invader” it also mistakenly attacks our joints, leading to arthritis. It doesn’t just stop there, as Dr. James Braly, M.D. states in his book Dangerous Grains. There are now over 150 known diseases associated with gluten intolerance, including type 1 diabetes. Most of these diseases can be reversed when gluten is removed from the diet, with the exception of type 1 diabetes, because unfortunately the attack on our own pancreatic Islet cells by our immune system kills them and it is not possible to bring them back (although stem cell research looks promising). So giving your children gluten-containing grains may increase their risk of developing type 1 diabetes.
Gliadin is being linked as one of the leading causes of “leaky gut syndrome” (gut permeability), which happens because our body cannot breakdown the amino acids in gliadin for us to digest. What happens is that we can only break them down into peptides, which are small chains of amino acids. Because these peptides are too large for our body to digest, our intestinal walls need to separate so that they can let the peptides through. If we are sensitive to gluten then our bodies become too inflamed and these walls do not close properly, and this is the beginning factor in setting off our immune system to try and fight these particles.
Almost 1.8 million Americans have been diagnosed with celiac disease and it is estimated that there are another 1.4 million who are currently undiagnosed. But celiac disease is the extreme form of gluten reactions, and the number of Americans who have been diagnosed with gluten sensitivity is much higher, around 18 million. Imagine how many people then have undiagnosed gluten sensitivity!?
Lectins are also found in different forms of grains, as well as other things like beans and potatoes. The problem with these molecules is that they can attach to both our intestinal lining and our insulin receptors. This cannot only cause inflammation and insulin resistance, but it can also cause the problems associated with obesity (stroke, heart attacks, diabetes) without the excess weight. Maybe the vegetarian at the office talking about the purity of a vegetarian or vegan diet might like to take another look at what they are eating…?
What else is in grains that we need to look at?
Phytic acid which is found in the hulls of grains not only can’t be digested by humans, but there is also has another nasty little problem with it. It attaches itself to different metallic ions in our body such as iron, magnesium, calcium and zinc. Once it does that, it means that our body cannot absorb these minerals that it attaches to.
Could our love affair with grains not only be causing all the digestive issues that are plaguing society today, increasing our risk to obesity related diseases but also the rising rates of osteoporosis and anemia?
So we really do need to re-evaluate our love affair with grains. They’re slowly killing us.