Put that Breadstick Down - The Harmful Effects of Gluten
- Created on Wednesday, 16 May 2012 09:11
- Written by Maria Tadd
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Is wheat gluten responsible for our declining health and expanding waistlines? Dr. William Davis, author of Wheat Belly and a growing number of healthcare professionals think so.
Of all the carbohydrates we consume, wheat is the most prevalent. On average Americans consume about 55 pounds of wheat flour every year! Wow, how is it possible? Well, just take a look when shopping at your local grocery store. You can’t miss the towering aisles of wheat products: breads, cereals, crackers, pop tarts, granola bars, pizzas, etc. And if this assault wasn’t enough, wheat also lurks in literally hundreds of thousands of different food-like products, or FrankenFoods.
Most of us probably know someone with Celiac disease, a disease triggered by wheat sensitivity. And although only around 1% of the population has been diagnosed with Celiac, it is believed that 10%-30% of the population has some degree of wheat sensitivity called non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) or gluten related disease (GRD). Symptoms and illnesses of NCGS include: irritable bowel syndrome, abdominal bloating, abdominal cramps, migraines, acne, skin rashes, fatigue, memory issues, joint pain, arthritis, brain fog and depression, just to name a few. It also has been associated with weight gain, difficulty losing weight, coronary artery disease and diabetes.
There also is some evidence that connects wheat gluten with mood disturbances, learning disabilities, and the loss of quality of life due to psychiatric and neurological illness. Wheat has also been linked to autism. Not that it causes it, but seems to be an aggravating factor.
Ozzie and Harriet
When we look at photos from the 50s, before wheat was adulterated, the vast majority of people of all ages were slim. Overweight children were an anomaly. And yes, a few adults were pleasantly plump as it was called back then, but no one was morbidly obese. Fitness was not part of one’s lifestyle in the 50s. No one went out for a jog or for a workout at the gym. People didn’t go on diets because weight simply wasn’t an issue. As a matter of fact, we didn’t see the commercialization of weight loss until 1963 when Weight Watchers was founded.
So what changed? The hybridization and modification of wheat. Today’s wheat is a far cry from what our ancestors ate and is not even remotely similar to what wheat was like just 50 years ago. With the genetic manipulation of wheat came higher yields ― farmers made more money and wheat was sent overseas to those living in poverty-stricken countries. The modification not only altered its DNA, (fourteen chromosomes have been transformed into forty-two chromosomes), but chemically it was also changed.
This new modern wheat may look like wheat, but it is different in three important ways.
1. amylopectin A, a Super Starch that is extremely fattening
2. a form of Super Gluten that causes inflammation
3. forms of a Super Drug that is highly addictive and makes you crave and eat more
These changes in this once wholesome staple have greatly contributed to our obesity epidemic.
Because of its high glycemic index, wheat causes a significant rise in blood sugar which contributes to insulin resistance, a precursor to diabetes. It also contributes significantly to coronary artery disease by promoting unhealthy forms of cholesterol. And if that wasn’t enough, it also has an addictive quality which can result in the consumption of an additional 350-400 calories a day. When we eat wheat we rarely experience satiety, so we continue to munch away.
“The glycemic index (GI) is a ranking of carbohydrates on a scale from 0 to 100 according to the extent to which they raise blood sugar levels after eating. Foods with a high GI are those which are rapidly digested and absorbed and result in marked fluctuations in blood sugar levels. Low-GI foods, by virtue of their slow digestion and absorption, produce gradual rises in blood sugar and insulin levels, and have proven benefits for health. Low GI foods help control weight by controlling appetite and delaying hunger.”
Now let’s compare a slice of whole wheat bread, a ripe banana, and a Snickers® bar.
Notice, that even though the slice of bread is half the weight of the Snickers bar and ¼ the weight of the banana, it has a much higher GI. One way to help offset a high GI is to combine it with a low GI food. So if you were to add peanut butter to whole wheat bread, you would bring down the GI. But staying away from high GI foods is a much healthier practice. Here’s a link that lists the GI for a number of foods.
Just when you thought it couldn’t get worse, it can. NCGS doesn’t happen overnight, it takes time. If assaulted enough, eventually the body recognizes wheat as the enemy, and if the sensitivity is ignored, it may identify other foods as hostile, triggering the same response as wheat. This is how gluten-associated sensitivities occur.
Here are just a few foods which can cause similar reactions to wheat: rye, barley, spelt, cow’s milk, casein, whey protein, milk chocolate, oats, coffee, millet, quinoa, tapioca, eggs, rice, and potatoes. There is a blood test that can determine if you have gluten-associated sensitivities.
Is there is a Way Out of the Gluten Rabbit Hole?
Some might think that gluten-free products are the way to go. Well they aren’t for the primary reason that they are often made from potato starch and rice flour and therefore have a very high glycemic index.
Grains too should be avoided. As noted above, many grains are cross-reactive foods. And since grains are often processed in plants that also process wheat, it is impossible to know if they have been contaminated. So it is advisable to stay away from all grains.
At first switching over to a gluten-free diet can seem very challenging ― what am I going to eat? But in reality there are loads of food choices including fruits, veggies, eggs, dairy, meat, fish, nuts (raw not roasted) etc. which will keep you full and satisfied and will probably help you maintain a healthy weight.