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Cut Your Grass!

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Wheat is a staple  in the standard American diet.  It is used in almost every meal, from cereal, bagels, toast, and pancakes for breakfast to  sandwiches, battered fried foods, pizza, breads, cookies, crust for pies and cakes. Please forgive me if I left out one of your favorite wheat –containing foods, but the list is too long for this short article.

The ancient wheat such as Emmer, Einkorn and Kamut were used before the cheaper high-yielding dwarf wheat burst on the scene.  The benefits of a high-yield crop are obvious, but we are now learning that there was some major drawbacks as well.  Wheat and rice belong to the grass family, which also includes rye, oats, barley, sorghum, sugar cane, corn, bamboo, pampas grass, and the grass in your yard. Quinoa and buckwheat are not grasses, they are pseudo-grains.

 

Semi-dwarf wheat (modern wheat) is less nutritious than ancient wheat.  The amount of copper, iron, magnesium and zinc has decreased by 19-28%. Modern wheat was developed via cross-breeding and crude genetic manipulation, which changed the nutrient and protein composition of the plant. Modern wheat is used mainly as a human food because it can be stored for years in kernel form, is easily transported, and can be processed into a wide variety of foods. Modern wheat consumption per capita in the U.S. exceeds any other single food. It is high in carbohydrates and still believed by many to be nutritious with valuable proteins, minerals, and vitamins. Modern industrial milling of semi-dwarf wheat eliminates the richest source of nutrients and uses it for animal feed. Decades of current research have proven white flour (refined semi-dwarf wheat) to be harmfully devoid of nutrients, but still the most widely used product in the world.

Mature grains contain all the elements needed for a new plant to grow. The germ (as in wheatgerm, not as in germs that make you sick) is the life-source of the plant. It contains vitamins and minerals and fat – the central nourishment of the seed. The main part of the seed, the endosperm, is the carbohydrate source that gives it the energy to grow. The bran or outer shell, also known as the husk, protects the seed and is mainly fiber. We do not eat these seeds raw, because for humans they are generally indigestible when raw. We usually eat them cooked, or sprouted.

All grains contain varied amounts of gluten and the rise in gluten allergies is real. Gluten allergies are increasing at epidemic proportions.  In children, the rate has skyrocketed fourfold in recent decades.  The National Institutes of Health convened its first conference on celiac disease in 2004, concluding that the condition is “widely unrecognized” and “greatly under diagnosed.” In other words, most individuals who suffer allergies to gluten are not diagnosed and suffer needlessly with symptoms ranging from poor nutrient absorption and discomfort to unexplained weight gain and bloating. Sensitivity to gluten affects from 1 to 6 percent of the population today; however, most gluten allergies are not diagnosed. A recent study compared frozen serum samples collected between 1948 and 1952 to serum samples collected at the time of analysis. After verifying the stability of IgA antibodies in the old samples, the investigators concluded that gluten allergies and celiac disease are at least four times more prevalent today than they were sixty years  ago.

Celiac disease is a gastrointestinal malabsorptive disorder resulting from the ingestion of gluten.  Allergic responses to gluten are highly variable and can include inflammation of the intestinal mucosa, which may result in atrophy of intestinal villi; malabsorption of nutrients; and a variety of clinical manifestations that can include diarrhea, abdominal cramping, pain, and distention.  Untreated celiac disease and gluten allergies may lead to vitamin and mineral deficiencies, osteoporosis, and other systemic problems.

Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Ernest Borlaug, was an American agronomist and humanitarian who led initiatives worldwide that contributed to the extensive increases in agricultural production termed the Green Revolution.  He is most noted for filling the need for food worldwide with his research and development of semi-dwarf wheat (modern wheat). Norman Borlaug inadvertently created a high-gluten wheat that humans have not evolved to digest. Modern wheat is making us sick.

Modern wheat contains more of the problematic glutens and there are some studies showing that older wheat varieties don’t cause a reaction in celiac patients. Studies show that modern wheat is also harmful to healthy people as well. A 2013 study compared Kamut (an ancient wheat) to modern wheat.  It was a randomized controlled cross-over trial with 22 healthy participants. The participants consumed either Kamut or modern wheat for 8 weeks each.  Kamut wheat caused a reduction in both total and LDL cholesterol compared to modern wheat. It also increased blood concentrations of potassium and magnesium, while these minerals decreased with the modern wheat.  The study also found increased inflammatory markers in modern wheat patients.  Excess inflammation in the body is linked to almost every modern disease, including heart disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, stroke, Alzheimer’s, arthritis and many more.

Spelt, Kamut and other related ancient grains contain gluten, but some people who claim to be gluten sensitive can eat them without having digestive problems. Why? It is not the gluten alone; it is a combination of all the things done to modern wheat and other industrialized grains. The amount of gluten in modern wheat has been dramatically increased by biological manipulation and is now about 80% of its total protein content. Most of the so-called gluten free products have rice or corn in them that can cause reactions in celiac and some gluten sensitive patients. The food industry, never one to miss a good opportunity, is responding with “gluten-free” foods by the dozens and, staying true to the nature of industrialized foods, most of it is junk.

The hidden gluten in our diets is a serious problem. Modern gluten is not only in bread, but it is hidden in many food products from soups, sauces, meat products, potato chips, candies, ice creams, even in medicines and vitamin supplements, because it has useful adhesive properties for processed foods. For example, gluten is added to potato chips to adhere flavors.

In Dr. Peter Osborne’s book “No Grain No Pain[1]“, he recommended discontinuing grains in patients with Celiac disease and gluten-intolerant patients because they all have some form of gluten protein that can cause cross-reaction. He also suggested for the duration of one month to remove dairy products from your diet, as well as all meats from grain-fed animals, but he allows the consumption of grass-fed animals, and to avoid soy product. Then, slowly reintroduce each food if your symptoms resolve. If your symptoms do not resolve, see a provider trained in Functional or Integrative Medicine.

Consider a whole food plant based diet, that includes organic vegetables, fruits, potatoes, legumes, nuts, seeds (sprouted), but not industrialized plants such as wheat and other grains. Do not be fooled by products that claim to be whole wheat. In some countries whole wheat products contain nothing more than white flour with some bran added back. The whole grain is not used and is processed the same way as barren white flour. If you cannot live without baked goods, try some ancient grains and make sure you read labels thoroughly.

[1] https://www.glutenfreesociety.org/no-grain-no-pain-the-book

 

Try some of these healthy tips.

Replace grain flour – Use almond or coconut flour. There are hundreds of online recipes using these flours.

Soak and sprout nuts and seeds and grind into flour – Nuts and seeds contain enzyme inhibitors that stop them from sprouting too early. This works out in nature, but for us, when enzymes are blocked, we can’t make use of them.

To soak: Soaking releases the enzyme inhibitors, so they help us digest these foods. It also neutralizes phytic acid, a component of plant fiber in grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds that reduces mineral absorption.

  • Use raw nuts or seeds. Cover with filtered water to about 2 inches above and let them soak overnight. Make sure the bowl is big enough to accommodate the swelling that will take place. Drain and discard the soak water.
  • Use right away or store soaked nuts and seeds in the refrigerator for 2-3 days.

To sprout: Sprouting increases the total nutrient density of a food.

  • Use raw presoaked nuts or seeds. Spread them out on a plate giving them a bit of space and cover lightly with cheesecloth or clean unbleached muslin. Rinse twice a day.
  • A tiny white tail will appear from the narrow end when they begin to sprout. Use them right away or store in a jar in the refrigerator.

Make your own sprouted granola – Soak almonds, pecans, macadamia nuts, and chia seeds in water for 8 hours, then set them out for a day on a paper towel. Toss them in a small amount of raw local unpasteurized honey, and add organic raisins, coconut flakes, cinnamon and sea salt. Place them in a dehydrator or oven and you have a great tasting metabolism boosting snack.

Quinoa (pronounced “keenwah”) is a seed that is harvested from a species of a plant called goosefoot. It is officially a seed and part of a group of pseudo-grains, making it neither a cereal, nor a grain, and more closely related to spinach and beets, than to cereals.

Buckwheat, which is commonly found in raw food diet recipes, has a slightly deceptive name that can easily cause confusion. Buckwheat is not wheat, nor is it related to wheat. Like many of the other so-called “whole grains,” buckwheat is not technically a grain or a cereal.  Buckwheat is derived from the seeds of a flowering plant. Both buckwheat and quinoa are gluten free and can be a great substitute for grains.

Discontinuing grains could reverse and improve a myriad of medical conditions, including autoimmune diseases, chronic pain, intestinal disease and obesity to name a few.  My motto is there is no food worth dying.  If you are suffering from any of the aforementioned conditions, you may have gluten intolerance or celiac disease.  As such, I recommend that you cut your grass!!

Ted Edwards, DO is a board certified Physiatrist who specializes in Interventional Pain Management. He is a graduate of Southern University and Des Moines University’s College of Osteopathic Medicine. He is in private practice and integrates his extensive knowledge of healthy eating, a vegan lifestyle and exercise with the art of medicine in the treatment of patients with chronic pain.

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