The Problem with Grain, Reevaluating Grain in our Diet
Bread is called “the staff of life”. Our government tells us it should be a staple in our diet and part of any healthy diet and it has been strongly tied to some religious ceremonies, but is it really good for us? We have come to recognize that sugar is addictive and that too much sugar in our diets is unhealthy and leads to obesity, diabetes and other health concerns, but many people don’t seem to realize that flour, particularly refined flour, is turned to sugar in our mouth by our saliva even before we swallow it adding to our sugar burden, weight gain and the sugar roller coaster that we often find ourselves on, and this is only the beginning of the problem.
All grains (seeds) contain ‘antinutrients’ such as phytates, oxalates and lectins. These are the plants defense mechanisms that prevent the seed from being digested so that when eaten they are excreted intact and able to grow, with your feces as fertilizer. When the seed is ground into flour the seeds cannot grow, but the antinutrients are still present in the flour inhibiting our digestive system from absorbing nutrients, such as vitamin E, that we think we are getting from the grain, assuming it hasn’t been refined so that the nutrients have already been stripped away. In this case the antinutrients still interfere with the digestion of nutrients from other sources.
Of course some grains are more problematic than others. One of the protein polypeptides known as alpha-gliadin found in wheat, rye and barley is particularly problematic. It is particularly irritating to the human digestive tract and often triggers autoimmune reactions, the most well known being celiac disease which causes inflammation of the digestive tract of some people, but there are many other problematic protein polypeptides in grains that can cause autoimmune diseases that effect many other systems of the body such as the thyroid (Hashimoto’s), the brain (Alzheimer’s), the joints (arthritis) and even the heart and circulatory system (heart disease) to name just a few. But while the alpha-gliadin polypeptide is the most problematic, all grains (seeds) contain antinutrients and can cause problems with nutrient digestion.
As if this wasn’t bad enough some grains are genetically engineered to withstand spraying with chemical herbicides such as round-up, which contains glyphosate, originally patented as an antibiotic, which inhibits plants from absorbing nutrients from the soil as well as interfering with and disrupting our microbiome. (The healthy bacteria in our gut that helps us digest our food) and while wheat, is not genetically modified, it is still sprayed with round-up before harvest to kill the wheat and make it easier to harvest, so the wheat is also treated with an herbicide that disrupts our microbiome and impairs our digestion even if we are not sensitive to the wheat itself.
The US government recognized as early as 1943 that a high grain diet resulted in nutrient deficiency disease such as beriberi (lack of vitamin B1, also known as Thiamin), pellagra (lack of vitamin B3, also known as Niacinamide or Niacin) and anemia (lack of vitamin B9, also known as Methyl Folate, which can also result in neural tube defects in the children of pregnant women who are lacking it). As a result a law was passed requiring bread makers who stripped out the natural nutrients from their flour to replace them with a minimum of certain nutrients that were recognized as essential, however the bread makers were allowed to add synthetic forms of nutrients such as folic acid which was cheaper and easier to add instead of methyl folate which was the essential nutrient that the body needs which was stripped away. (see my previous blogpost for more information on this error of judgment).
The human body requires some essential fatty acids (EFA’s) e.g. Omega 3’s, and essential proteins (amino acids) but there are no essential carbohydrates and while a balanced diet is thought to include carbohydrates these are best gotten from fruits and vegetables. It also requires a wide variety of micronutrients (vitamins, minerals and antioxidants) which are found associated with fruits and vegetables. There is no requirement for any grains in the human diet and for 99% of our history on this planet grain was not part of the human diet and we got along just fine without it. One of the earliest recorded uses of grain was the Egyptians growing it to feed their slaves.
While some people can tolerate grains better than others nobody requires them, and the grains that are available to us today, are stripped of their natural nutrients and often sprayed with pesticide and herbicide, mostly working against our health, even if we can ‘tolerate’ them, and while we ‘enjoy’ them, mostly because of their addictive properties, we would all be better off without them. If you choose to eat grain you should choose to eat only whole grains and preferably sprouted grains. Personally I though I had been developing rheumatoid arthritis since I was in my 40s and 50s and was taking supplements for it (e.g. Glucosamine Sulphate and MSM). I had been ‘educated’ to believe this was a lifelong condition that could be managed but inevitably would only get worse, but when I stopped eating grain within a few weeks my arthritis started “going away”. While I still consider GS & MSM useful supplements I no longer need to take them to ‘relieve the pain from my arthritis’.
There are many other ‘conditions’ that have been documented to develop due to grain in our diets including heart disease, dementia (e.g. Alzheimer’s) and more that develop over time while we are not even aware of them, unless we test for antibodies. Should people eat grain? In my opinion if people were concerned about their health and were aware of the dangers posed by grain they wouldn’t. Flour and sugar would be classified with ‘those other’ refined white powders cocaine and heroine. I would guess that if all were evaluated impartially refined white flour would come out worst for our health with sugar not far behind.