Wheat and gluten are among the top list of food allergies and sensitivities worldwide. And for long, professionals have been suspecting that gluten in general are problematic for human digestion, not just if you’re celiac.
Gluten are the predominant type of protein in wheat. Gluten are very rubbery and hard to digest. If you have ever held pure gluten in your hands like I have, you’d immediately see why your body would have a hell of a job digesting it.
Gluten. Yup, that’s in your afternoon sandwich!
Still, wheat products have been a staple food for many cultures for many years, seemingly without damaging our health. So what has changed in the last give or take 50 years to make wheat one of the bad guys? To sum it up; adulteration. Wheat as we know it is far from a natural existing crop. It has undergone decennia of breeding it to ‘perfection’ (this, of course, in the eyes of the farmers and subsequent producers, not the consumers). As a result, wheat now contains much more gluten than 50 years ago. As if that is not enough, we then started to genetically alter wheat too. Because of all this human intervention, wheat is now a measly and weak crop that needs a lot of pesticides to boot.
The second important thing not to be overlooked (though it often is…), is the preparation of wheat now versus 50 years ago. Whereas breads used to be fermented by yeast overnight, a solid 8 hours or more, today we whip up a loaf in under 2-3 hours. Impressive and time-winning solution or invention of the fast-food generation? Fermenting is pre-digesting and fermented products are easier to digest because of this. The tough and coarse gluten really need more predigesting than an hour or two for the human body to be able to handle them efficiently.
All of this had led wheat to become anything but healthy for human consumption. Here’s what happens when you consume gluten (in the form of wheat, barley or rye products, such as breads, crackers, pasta and baked goods). Your body will have a tough time digesting (breaking down) the gluten. Not only are hard-to-digest foods an extra stress on your body (making you more prone to fatigue and an upset stomach and bowels), the stringy, rubbery, half-heartedly digested gluten then move on to your small intestine where they prevent the absorption of nutrients because of their consistency (they coat the walls of the intestine). And so, nutrient malabsorption occurs both short and long term, which is where the real trouble begins. You can eat the healthiest foods, without proper nutrient absorption your body will still be under nourished. Deficiencies in essential nutrients open the doors to things like osteoporosis, depression, fatigue, headaches, poor quality of sleep and unwanted weight loss (more likely the case serious gluten intolerance aka celiac) or weight gain (the rest of us).
Last but not least: the prevalence of undigested food particles have been linked to food allergies and sensitivities. Undigested food particles can enter the bloodstream which is a major red flag for your body, activating so called antibodies which is known to us as an allergic reaction. And wouldn’t you know it, gluten is one of the very few substances that can readily enter the bloodstream without being fully digested.
* Quit your dependency on bread/wheat products. It’s fine to eat/love bread from time to time but there are more nutritious & less troublesome ways to get your carbs on.
* When you do eat wheat products, make sure they are unrefined & organic. This will make the wheat a little easier on your bod (in with the fiber, out with the GMOs and pesticides).
* Some grains do contain wheat, but to a lesser extend, and are easier to digest still because the crops have been less adulterated: oats, spelt & kamut.
* Cardboard gluten-free products are sooo 1999. Nowadays, it’s much easier and tastier to eat virtually gluten free. Try these grains & cereals: brown or basmati rice, millet, quinoa (personal fav), corn, amaranth, buckwheat (no that’s not a typo), teff. Not only can you eat these in their whole form, you can make or purchase foods made from the flour of these grains.
* If you’re a breast-feeding momma (to be) make sure not to feed your toddler wheat before the age of 1. Breastfeeding in general is the best way to decrease the risk for allergies and food sensitivities, and by not feeding your baby things he or she cannot digest yet their bodies won’t have to make antibodies for them, causing allergies.
* Undigested gluten and undigested casein, the protein found in dairy, make for double trouble in your gut. They become BFFs and stick together, making it even harder to absorb nutrients. If both dairy and wheat are part of your diet, at least leave a few hours between consuming either.
* These are general tips for everyone. Most people are sensitive to gluten without realizing it. If you have more serious/chronic health problems see if your symtoms match gluten intolerance or wheat allergy and consult a health care professional to get tested.
So there ya have it. Have your cake and eat it, too!