As a blood type O, I knew that bread was not great for me, but when you’re loving it so much, and you’re only eating sprouted breads and breads made with clean organic flour, you think you may have an edge over the commercial, many times hybridized white and whole grain flour. Or so I thought.
Halfway through William Davis’ MD’s “Wheat Belly” - the book that opened my eyes completely - I went to the freezer and tossed out the already healthy (even organic) sprouted wheat breads and ryes. It was a small amount since I had been aware of the controversy. I was also preparing to teach a class on optimal gut health, and whole grains, being generally suggested as a complex carb/fiber rich option, played an important role.
The commercial wheat products we buy as bread, cookies, bagels, pasta, pretzels, cakes, crackers, snacks, from pizza to baking our own organic goodies - as long as they contain wheat or white flour - are pretty bad for many of us. Please read labels. Yes, I’m alarmed. I’ve seen the increase in digestive disorders over the years in my practice, and have noticed greater intolerance of US wheat in my own body. Gluten free is not all in our heads - it’s been out in the open thanks also to the many mothers whose kids couldn’t handle their morning bagels or home baked muffins. By the way, eating organic wheat in Switzerland does not have this deleterious effect when I eat it, at least as long as it does not contain wheat grown in the US.
Today’s whole grain, wheat and white flours in the US raise blood sugar levels to alarming levels, disturbing the natural satiety mechanism with an addictive effect on mood and hunger (you want to eat again 1.5 hours after eating it). These super hybridized grains are at the root of digestive disorders, of obesity and with other man made ‘foods’ represent the intense control the engineered food industry has over our diets and our health. The more hybridization for the sake of convenience and shelf life, in repeated annual growing cycles, as well as ease of processing and baking time, the poorer the grain quality. And just when you thought you were safe with organically grown grains, think again.
Day two: Repeat the process with organic whole wheat flour baked into a home made loaf. Sugar level before 84 mg/dl - Sugar level after eating a slice of this bread 167 md/dl - a triple increase in blood sugar and a spike of insulin output above the old grains with a deleterious effect on his whole body. “This bread produced great discomfort, nausea, accompanied by stomach cramps lasting many hours. Sleep was full of discomfort and lots of dreams. Next day after effects were “fuzzy thinking and a lack of focus and attention to my work.” This aftereffects in Dr. Davis’ case took 1.5 days before returning to normal.This example compares to that of many others, whether or not officially diagnosed with IBS, SIBO, IBD or celiac disease. The book contains plenty of science and case studies where wheat flour is implicated as the cause of physical dysfunction. And it goes much further than digestive disorders. There is an addictive quality to eating wheat.
“Gliadin is digested via stomach acid and pancreatic enzymes to a collection of polypeptides (small proteins) called exorphins, or exogenously-derived morphine-like compounds. The message to take from the research is quite clear: Wheat-derived exorphins bind to the opiate receptors of the brain (the delta class of opiate receptors, for you neuroscience people). Different wheat exorphins, such as the A5 fraction, differ in their binding potency, but as a whole, the wheat exorphins exert an opiate-like effect.”
So, after years of wondering how it is that when I eat bread I want more all the time, the question has finally been answered. It sits on my brain like an addictive power, chemically asking me for more and more of it. It just takes so much more education today than ever before to eat what nourishes us and to find safety in our foods. Michael Pollan has plenty of good advice for us in his little book “Food Rules”.
Whether you bake breads, crumpets, muffins or cookies with today’s flours, the art of baking has been cheated out of its secrets - an inferior, unhealthy imposter raw material has taken its place. No longer is baking with whole grains the art and science it was, secrets handed down from kitchen to kitchen - today’s flour is soft, pliable, everyone can get a great result, and unknowingly and innocently, we have bought into the convenience and speed of easy baking. There is no blame - once we know how things work, we might change our minds and find that which is both healthy and delicious.
“It is clear that the D genome of modern Triticum aestivum that, having been the focus of all manner of genetic shenanigans by plant geneticists, has accumulated substantial change in genetically determined characteristics of gluten proteins. It is also potentially the source for many of the odd health phenomena experienced by consuming humans.”
You can still get the ancient grains - as with other heirloom seeds, we still have access to our heritage in ancient grains. Beware of Cheerios having the top spot on google’s search on ancient grains. Read carefully, don’t believe everything touted about whole grains, it’s a huge buzzword in the US food market. Michael Pollan always has interesting views and insights on food, including whole grains.
History of Einkorn, the Ancient Grain
“Einkorn is an ancient grain, and is known as the oldest variety of “wheat.” Einkorn is also sometimes referred to as “farro” or “farro einkorn.” Einkorn was first cultivated 5,000 to 10,000 years ago. It is classified as a “diploid” because it only has two sets of chromosomes. Modern wheat varieties are classified as “hexaploid,” having six sets of chromosomes, due to a long history of hybridization. Einkorn is thought to have originated in the upper area of the fertile crescent of the Near East (Tigris-Euphrates regions), and is quite probably the main grain recorded in the earliest biblical history.”If you wish for a more details on the origins of einkorn and a recipe, help yourself to this site.
Please shop in the outside aisles of the super markets, check out organic heirloom grains from small mills, and help our farmers markets flourish (even if you still have to ask where their food comes from and how it is grown). Find other ancient grain providers and please, let’s support those in our communities who have been baking healthy foods, snacks, cookies, and more. Check out Melanie’s Farm Baked Goods for lovely gluten free, fiber rich, delicious snacks.
One caveat on gluten free eating: Read labels - the increase in potato and rice starches, the additions of gums and thickeners such as tapioca or guar gum do not make for better health. It is better to use nut flours and generally avoid the sweet carbohydrate foods, even if you’re using agave, honey and other natural sugars. Remember that carbs are transformed into sugars; make sure you are full up on fiber and healthy fats at every meal to help your blood sugar stay normal and to help your body fully eliminate all that which turns into waste.