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The Science on Gluten
At first glance, the case being made against gluten seems quite compelling. Many people feel bloated, tired, heavy and dull after eating it… so it must be bad for you, right? I am not suggesting you eat wheat or dairy if they make you feel horrible, but I am suggesting we look into the possibility that there are other causative factors at play. Experts make the case that we have not been eating it long enough and genetically do not have the ability to fully digest it, and therefore, should avoid it like the plague.
Before you permanently erase wheat from your diet, consider the following facts that you may not have heard yet!
#1. We Are More Genetically Able to Digest Wheat Than We Are Meat
Experts tell us that we have been only eating wheat for 10,000 years, and that’s not enough time for us to have genetically adapted to digesting it. However, new studies at the University of Utah have discovered evidence – from the teeth of early hominins dating as far back as 3.4 million years ago – that glutinous grasses similar to wheat and barley were eaten as a significant part of their diet, suggesting that we have millions, not thousands, of years of genetics for digesting wheat. (1)
In fact, this report also suggested that we are more genetically able to digest wheat than we are meat. According to the study, the earliest definitive evidence that early humans hunted their own meat was 500,000 years ago, while we have been digesting wheat and gluten for more than 3 million years. Ironically, many gluten-sensitive individuals are shifting to a Paleo diet that is much higher in meat – a food we may be less genetically adapted to digest! (1)
#2. We Have Wheat-Digesting Enzymes All the Way from the Mouth to the Colon
As soon as we start chewing a slice of bread, there are numerous microbes in the mouth that produce enzymes to start breaking down the hard-to-digest gluten gliadin proteins. (2,3) These microbes were also found in the esophagus and stomach, suggesting that we have evolved to have a sophisticated process to be gluten-ready in the upper digestive tract as well as in the mouth.
In the small intestine, a gliadin-digesting enzyme called dipeptidyl peptidase IV (DPP-IV) is produced to assist in the complete breakdown of hard-to-digest proteins such as gluten (wheat, rye, barley) and casein (milk and dairy products). (5) DPP-IV is one of the few enzymes able to facilitate the digestion of the hard-to-digest gliadins or proline-rich proteins and polypeptides. (5)
Gluten-digesting bacteria were also found in the large intestine where they release enzymes that also completely breakdown the hard-to-digest gliadins. The broken-down gluten proteins are used to feed intestinal bacteria that, in turn, produce gut healthy short chain fatty acids (SCFA). These microbes were also able to provide fuel supply for other important bacteria in the gut. Any extra gluten is eliminated in the stool. (3,6)
If we have not evolved to digest wheat, it seems the body has developed a very elaborate system to make use of wheat in every aspect of our digestive systems.
#3. Toxins Destroy the Gluten-Digesting Enzymes
Every year 4 billion pounds of toxic chemicals are dumped into the American environment. Take industrial mercury plumes, for example, which are emitted from coal-burning power plants. These emissions have the potential to reach almost anywhere in the United States and contaminate even organically-grown crops and organically-raised animals. (7) Studies show that these toxins, such as mercury and pesticides, literally break down and denature the naturally-occurring enzymes (such as Dipeptidyl peptidase-4 mentioned above) in our bodies that have been found to fully break down gluten, gliadins and other hard-to-digest proteins. (8)
If you have found yourself slowly taking foods like wheat and dairy out of your diet, you may feel better for a spell, but if you don’t address the underlying cause – an overwhelmed digestive system and a diet of processed foods – you may be setting yourself up for more serious problems down the road.
The ability to digest well directly relates to the body’s ability to detoxify well. A strong digestive system is required to not only digest wheat, but to effectively process the environmental toxins we are exposed to on a daily basis.
#4. Processed Foods, Not Wheat, Linked to Gluten Sensitivity
After the FDA took cholesterol out of the American diet in the 1960’s, good fats were replaced with trans fats, hydrogenated oils and vegetable oils used as preservatives that were refined, bleached, boiled and deodorized. These oils are still in supermarket breads, crackers, desserts and most baked goods today. These processed fats have slowly compromised our digestive systems.
In one study, a diet of processed foods increased the risk of metabolic syndrome by a whopping 141 percent. (9) In the same study, those who ate more whole grains, including wheat, reduced their risk of metabolic syndrome by 38 percent. Metabolic syndrome includes:
- Abdominal obesity
- High triglycerides
- Low HDL’s
- High blood pressure
- High blood sugar
Stress, processed foods, bad fats, environmental toxins and pesticide-laden foods have all contributed to the alteration of the microbiome and the breakdown of digestion.
#5. Digestive Solutions
Sixty years ago we took cholesterol out of the American diet only to find out that there was no link between heart disease and cholesterol rich foods. This mistake has been linked to our current epidemics of obesity, diabetes, depression and food intolerances.
Could current sensitivities to wheat be more related to decades of processed foods, indigestible fats, excess sugar, toxins in the environment that break down digestive enzymes, significantly overeating wheat and sluggish digestive systems more than the wheat itself?
Avoiding foods that make you feel bad makes sense – who wouldn’t do that? But have we solved the real problem by just removing foods that we were once able to digest and now we cannot? With almost 4 million years of wheat-eating genetics, globally taking wheat out of the diet seems eerily similar to what we did with cholesterol, which had devastating effects on our health!
Eating wheat is not a requirement for good health, but addressing the underlying cause of your food intolerance is – especially in a toxic world loaded with digestion-affecting processed foods.
Start boosting digestion with 5 amazing digestive spices: ginger, cumin, coriander, cardamom and fennel. These spices each support unique aspects of the digestive system and have been used to keep our digestive tracts and detox pathways healthy for thousands of years.
When these 5 spices are combined, they work synergistically to help your body digest better. Instead of taking a digestive enzyme to help you digest your food, these 5 spices stimulate the production of your own stomach acid, your own bile to break down fats and toxins, and your duodenal and pancreatic enzymes to help you fully break down hard-to-digest foods like wheat and dairy. (10, 11, 12, 13, 14)
Take them in a capsule as Gentle Digest (from my online store), sprinkle them on your food, or cook with them.