Separating The Wheat From The Chaff
The sudden appearance of celiac disease (CD) and gluten intolerance as health concerns over the past decade requires a few remarks. Gluten is a protein found in a number of cereal grains. The common offenders are wheat, rye, barley, spelt, triticale and products derived from them. The prevalence of CD in the United States and most European countries has been identified as 0.71% of the population. The number of people thought to have a Gluten Intolerance (but not CD) is a similar number. Most of those people had not been formally diagnosed. According to an article in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, most people who were following a gluten-free diet did not have celiac disease.
There is no question that some people have CD (which can be confirmed by taking an antibody test), gluten intolerance, or other poor reactions to the above-mentioned grains. The symptoms of bloating, diarrhea or chronic constipation, fatigue or irritability are certainly worrying and serious damage to the intestine wall can occur with CD. This does not explain the 11 million people who claim to have CI or CD and experience symptoms when flour is consumed.
If we look at the fact that only 7% of the American population were eating “whole” as opposed to “refined” grain, we get an important insight.
Most of the refined products are manufactured along with sugars, yeast, oils, trans-fats, and a very wide range of other additives, not to mention high gluten-wheat varieties. These products produce excessive digestive stress which contributes to immune dysfunction. The actual consumption of whole grains or unadulterated grain products is not part of the assessment.
Here is What We Know Works
My experience in working with hundreds of clients who have been told that they are gluten-sensitive or intolerant is that if they change to a less stressful diet that eliminates the refined and adulterated products, most can add whole grain into their diet with no problems.
Complex carbohydrates provide energy and are rich in proteins, healthy fats, minerals, vitamins, enzymes, and fiber. Complex carbohydrates are made into glucose (blood sugar) in the intestines. Glucose is what the body runs on. When the complex carbohydrates found in grains and vegetables are eaten, the sugars are digested and absorbed slowly into the body. They can be used when needed and stored easily. They also contain all the other nutrients (minerals, vitamin’s and fiber) essential for the sugars to be utilized.
For the Love of Grains
Cereal grains are currently the most important nutritional component of the human diet, and for thousands of years, grains have been recognized as staples, necessary foods, and extolled as “the staff of life.” In Roman times, Ceres was the goddess of agriculture. The gifts offered to Ceres at festivals were referred to as Cerealia. Since the most important gifts offered were wheat and barley, these grains naturally became known as Cerealia or cereal.
The value of grains is reflected by common sayings such as: “The greatest thing since sliced bread,” signifying the absolute best; “bread and circuses” refers to keeping people happy; “cash” is called bread or dough; and “breaking bread” speaks of a sense of sharing.
After this long association of grains with goodness, this staple food is under attack constantly from the meat and dairy industry.
Many people imagine that eating grain will make them gain weight, but observing grain-eating cultures shows that is not the case. It is the kind of carbohydrate we eat that makes the difference. When sugars are refined and isolated we have problems. Sharp rises in blood sugar are associated with refined sugars. Excessive sugar in the diet, particularly of the refined varieties, means that the glucose must be stored in the form of Glycogen. My latest book, Go Vegan, is filled with delicious whole-grain based recipes that you will enjoy.
The fact that our body runs on glucose (a sugar) brings up the next aspect (and one of the most perplexing) of the SAD diet. Sugar. Sugar is the single dietary component that people recognize as harmful, and yet it is one of the most cherished. When talk turns to dessert, the conversation is passionate. It is always interesting to see the response when someone removes simple sugars from their personal menu. A bond with pleasure is broken, happiness evaporates. We are well and truly hooked; sugar is the most common drug of choice.
If you would like more information on the macrobiotic Human Ecology Diet, visit our website.
In good health,
This article was co-written with Bill Tara.