By Dr. Roopa Chari, M.D.
Feb 28th, 2014
What is the main grain that has become so controversial and why? We will be exploring this very important topic today.
Most of us love breads, pastas, bagels and breakfast cereals. Grain-based foods are everywhere and humans have eaten them for thousands of years. Studies have shown that whole grains have been reported to be beneficial for reducing the risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke and cancer. In addition, whole grains have important vitamins, minerals, B vitamins, vitamin E, iron, magnesium and fiber.
If there are so many health benefits from whole grains, which grain is causing health problems? The healthy grain that is causing a lot of controversy currently is wheat. Eating wheat increases the potential for many health problems including causing inflammation, digestive problems, heart disease, diabetes, asthma, eczema and obesity and many other health conditions.
There are several reasons:Why is wheat causing so many health related problems?
- Bleached Wheat: In general, wheat has been processed into bleached white flour for breads, pastas, noodles and baked goods (cookies, biscuits or rolls). Forty percent of the original wheat grain is removed which includes the bran and the germ of the wheat grain which are the most nutrient-rich parts. This also means that over half of the vitamin B1, B2, B3, E, folic acid, zinc, calcium, phosphorus, iron, copper and fiber are also removed.
- Hybridized wheat: Today’s wheat is very different from what it was 50 years ago. In the 1950s, scientists began cross-breeding wheat to make it hardier, better-growing, shorter and high-yielding, a scientifically engineered food product developed in the last 50 years. However, with this process, some compounds were introduced into wheat that are causing negative reactions in the human body such as sodium azide, a known toxin along with new proteins that are difficult to digest. Wheat currently has much higher amounts of starch and gluten proteins.
- Gluten: gluten is becoming more of a major problem for people of all ages. Gluten is a protein composite of gliadin and glutenin found in wheat and other grains such as barley, spelt and rye. It is the “glue” that binds bread or grains, makes them chewy and helps dough to rise and keep its shape. However many people are diagnosed with either celiac disease (body creates antibodies to wheat) or varying degrees of gluten sensitivities. We do not have the enzymes in our digestive tract to break down the higher levels of gluten currently in wheat (especially in the small intestine). This causes inflammation in the intestines, damages the gut lining, affects the absorption of important minerals and causes incompletely digested food and bugs to go across the gut barrier and be reabsorbed into the body (“leaky gut syndrome”) and negatively activates the immune system. This can lead to digestive disorders including irritable bowel syndrome, cramps and diarrhea, autoimmune diseases such as celiac disease and rheumatoid arthritis, mood disorders, autism, schizophrenia, dementia, nutritional deficiencies, diabetes and more.
- Pesticides are also being sprayed on crops which is causing negative health affects in our digestive tract, immune system and brain and leading to many diseases including early-onset Parkinson’s disease, memory problems, reproductive problems, birth defects, depression and cancer.
- Crop Dessicant Chemicals: new published studies (Journal of Interdisciplinary Toxicology (Vol. 6(4): 159–184 ) show that glyphosate which is the active ingredient in Roundup, is the culprit in the rise of gluten intolerance, irritable bowel syndrome and celiac disease. Glyphosate is a crop desiccant (chemical used to remove leaves from plants) that is entering our food supply causing illness.
- Diabetes: wheat raises blood sugar: Wheat contains amlopectin A, a super starch, which is converted more easily to blood sugar than even table sugar! What is amazing is that two slices of whole wheat bread increase blood sugar levels higher than two tablespoons of table sugar or one candy bar. In addition, the inflammation in the intestines and body triggered from the gluten and other proteins in wheat then causes insulin resistance, weight gain and diabetes.
- Heart health: After eating a lot of carbohydrates, the number of LDL particles increase which can affect heart health.
- Poor diets: Most people are eating diets low in fiber, high in sugar, taking many drugs (i.e. antacids and ibuprofen), drinking too much caffeine and/or alcohol and not drinking enough water which causes inflammation in the intestines. This makes people even more susceptible to gluten.
- Food addictions & appetite stimulant: the proteins in wheat are converted into shorter proteins (polypeptides) that are like endorphins (like the endorphins from a runner’s high) and get into your brain potentially causing schizophrenia and autism. They can also cause binging and cravings.
If you have significant health concerns (diabetes, heart disease, allergies, digestive problems, autoimmune disease, obesity) your doctor can test to see if you have a more serious wheat or gluten problem such as anti-gliadin (AGA) or tissue transglutaminase antibodies (TTG) or get tested for genes that predispose you to gluten sensitivities (HLA DQ2/8).
However, even if you don’t have any health concerns, but would just like to overall improve your health, lose weight, have more energy and possibly even sleep better, then try a 4-6 week 100% gluten free diet trial. Also journal and notice how you feel physically, emotionally and mentally.
Be sure to avoid eating too much gluten free food (i.e. gluten free breads, cookies, cakes and processed food). Just because it is “gluten free”, doesn’t mean it is healthy.
While removing or minimizing gluten and grains, be sure to eat plenty of organic fresh vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts and seeds and if you eat meat, choose lean organic animal protein.
You may be pleasantly surprised with how quickly you feel better. Getting off wheat could literally be life-saving!
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About Dr. Roopa Chari, M.D.: "Dr. Roopa Chari is a medical doctor in Internal Medicine and her brother Deepak Chari is an Engineer and Certified Biofeedback Specialist at The Chari Center of Health, an advanced integrative medical center in Encinitas, CA. * Sign up for a FREE 15 minute holistic medical consult with Dr. Chari and/or a FREE 30 minute Stress & Anxiety Relief session with Advanced Voice Biofeedback with Deepak Chari here or call (760) 230-2711."