So, apparently there is a lot of confusion in the world when it comes to gluten! So much so, that Wheat Belly, a wonderful book written by William Davis is (and has been for a long time now) a top seller globally! So why is everyone talking about gluten? What’s the hype?
Well, my friends, in my opinion- the reason why gluten is becoming such a hot topic is because so many people are experiencing the negative effects of a product that is highly refined and processed and incredibly harsh on the human body. That, and gluten is literally everywhere. It’s very much like sugar, soy & corn now a days. You can’t eat anything without it containing one of those four products (or all of them, for that matter)- it’s literally close to impossible. Don’t believe me? Unless you have already done all your research and taken part in the gluten-free, corn-free, soy-free, gmo-free, sugar-free health and lifestyle transition- then I challenge you to grab the first product you lay your eyes on in your cupboard & have a look at the ingredient list. Do you see the terms: soy, corn, wheat, glucose (or their counterparts)?
So what’s wrong with all of these products?
This answer could extend into an entire blog, book or series of books called “What’s in my food?”- however, for the sake of the post length, I am going to try to stay as simple and concise as possible. If at any point you are confused or hungry for more information- I definitely recommend William Davis’ book Wheat Belly. Not only is it a great read, it is filled with incredibly intelligent, researched and useful information on food, your food & your health. Also, he has just recently come out with a recipe book to accompany it- Wheat Belly Cookbook.
Wheat is a lot more complicated than just that delicious piece of bread that makes up your mouth-watering sandwich, or that tantalizing dish of pasta. As with most (if not all) of food products in our world now a days- the integrity and quality of the product has become incredibly compromised, due to factors like cost, profit & quantity. There are several reasons why there is such a hype around wheat! For one, wheat became a huge health product, marketing wise. Once it became a known fact that fiber is great for digestion, wheat was in every health product. Fiber fiber fiber. All of a sudden- everyone was asking for whole wheat, whole grain and bran.
This is all great- until the big companies got a hold of the power of this product, began mass-producing it and boom! Quality and integrity of the product plumets. This same thing has happened with soy, corn, oil & sugar (yes, even sugar!) This same effect is now being observed with quinoa. Global news is showing that the areas of the world where quinoa is native (e.g., South America) are being greatly effected (not in a good way) because big companies are coming in to the towns who have subsisted on quinoa for generations- and taking all of their product. Not only this, but now they can’t even harvest their own food, their land is being degraded and things like quinoa are too expensive for them to eat. Talk about depressing and incredibliy absurd! The main variables which effect your wheat products are:
- Refining: wheat products are so overly refined, that the nutrients that make up the actual basis of the product are leached & destroyed. Through this process, the sugars are concentrated and therefore the effect that the piece of bread has on your body is exponentially more intense than it would if you made the bread at home or bought it from a local, reliable baker. So, for instance- wheat is made up of several things. The wheat kernel, which makes up the wheat plant- is made up of three things. The endosperm, the bran & the germ. The endosperm is the largest part of the kernel- and contains a lot of the B-vitamins, carbohydrate, protein & minerals such as iron. The bran, which is the outer coat of the kernel, contains all of the fiber, which is important when it comes to digestion. Finally, the germ, which is the sprouting location of the plant, contains an abundance of B-vitamins in addition to trace minerals.
- So, you can see, the essence of the plant, prior to harvesting/processing/refining/manufacturing- as a whole, contains a variety of characteristics which, together make up the plant. So, if you were to eat wheat from nature (or as close to nature as possible), all of it’s parts make a product that would be nourishing for the body and gentle on your system! However, when wheat goes through processing/refining- these parts are destroyed and factors like the B-vitamins, fiber, and protein are either leached or altered, while the carbohydrates become more concentrated.
- Bleaching: Not all wheat products are bleached, however- when they are, you can imagine that whatever hasn’t been damaged/lost through refining is guaranteed to be lost through bleaching. The process of bleaching is pretty much what it sounds like. The reason why they bleach wheat products, from what I understand and assume- is to create the uniform colour that apparently looks better and creates a more attractive, sellable product. Apparently, once the wheat product has been through the refining process it contains some yellow colours from certain by-products, that would be less attractive to the consumer’s eye. Also, this bleaching destroys the last of the B-vitamins, protein & other trace minerals.
- The other thing about refining, is that when these sugars are concentrated, it raises your blood sugar levels and consequently creates a paste in the intestines that resembles glue, causing issues like constipation. Due to the refining process and concentration of sugars, wheat products have a similar effect on the brain & the body that drugs do. The way that the refining process takes place, quite honestly- resembles the process of creating heroin from opium poppy seeds or cocaine from coca plants. Extracting the sugars and addictive qualities from the plant, while removing all of the parts of the plant that make up the bulk and nutritional value of it. That’s why removing wheat/gluten from your diet is very difficult- and you experience things like cravings.
- Yeast: The thing about yeast, is that if the wheat plant wasn’t already incredibly destroyed and altered by all of the previously mentioned processes- then yeast would have a less intense effect on the body. Yeast is what feeds something called candida albican, which is a fungus present in the human body. Candida albicans becomes an infectious agent when there is some change in the body environment that allows it to grow out of control. So, when your body is experiencing a candidiasis (candida overgrowth) things like sugar and yeast feed it, and increase the rate of overgrowth.
So, am I saying you have to cut out all wheat products for the rest of your life?
No. My recommendation is to put a little more time, effort and value into the food that you buy & eat. The issue with all food now a days is that convenience and the most “bang for your buck” have become the most important values. As a result, quality of food is severely compromised & you really can’t trust the integrity of most food products out there (I’m mainly speaking to large food producers and corporations whose value is first and foremost profit, power and financial growth.
This is where it is important that you spend a bit more time researching what your food is and where it comes from. & if you really hate doing that, then spend a little bit more money to buy from local professionals who do put more of their time into the food quality and integrity. Who are these people? Local business owners & farmers. For instance- I am currently sitting inside a wonderful cafe in the heart of Gastown, Vancouver BC. All of their food products are made in-house, fresh, daily- and this includes all of their bread. How do I know this? I am watching them right now- all I have to do is look up and see the boys in the open-concept kitchen, making their fresh bread and incredibly delicious baked goods. My point is that really, once you start to open your eyes to the food industry- it’s quite easy to see what’s going on and decipher those you can trust from those you should stay away from.
Some things that you can do, in terms of what to buy & eat are:
- Organic is obviously a big one.
- Local businesses especially; bakery, cafes and coffee houses, look/ask to see if they make their own products (e.g., pastry, bread)
- Farmers markets (these products are almost guaranteed to be of higher quality as they are coming directly from the farmer/small business who specialize in the production of that product- and most likely, their values are more towards quality versus quantity
- Do some of your own research online
- Gluten-free products; the thing about gluten-free products is that because the concept of gluten-free is becoming so trendy, big companies are tapping into this and once again, integrity and quality of these products are being compromised. So, when purchasing your gluten-free bread, pasta, pizza dough– have a look at where it’s from and what company has produced it. What is the brand? These are all things to keep in mind when you are buying any food product. If you are unsure and really curious- call them up, ask them about their products. If it’s a good company who puts value into the integrity of their product, they will most likely answer your questions, happily.
In terms of deciphering what is gluten and what isn’t, here is my list
Gluten-free Products: quinoa, oats, rice, buckwheat, amaranthe, millet, wild rice
- The reason why oats are a bit of a middle-ground is because more often than not oats are manufactured in the same place that a lot of wheat products are. Now a days, a lot of people are experiencing quite severe allergies to wheat (celiac, wheat intolerance) and therefore, in those cases- it is recommended to stay away from oats or at least make sure the oats are labeled as “gluten-free”
Gluten Products: flour, kamut, semolina, spelt, wheat bran, regular white-flour pasta, bread, pizza dough
Do I ever indulge in a delicious sandwich or a pizza?
Confession time. I love pizza. Pizza is honestly one of if not, my favorite food. I absolutely love it so much. Do I eat it everyday? No. Do I eat pizza hut, dominos or frozen pizzas from Costco, like Deliscio? No. However, I will definitely go out for a delicious italian pizza every now and then. You have to live, enjoy life and be happy. Otherwise- what’s the point? As a holistic nutritionist- this is always what I come back to. Be aware of your health, your food and the world that you live in. However, there is a fine line between awareness and obsession. The place to be is the balance between being aware and enjoying life. It takes some practice: some days are most definitely easier than others! Also, have fun with it! After all, we all have to eat.