In This Article
Bread In History
A new study out of the University of Copenhagen found that the making or baking of bread pre-dated agriculture by 4000 years! (1)
By 14,400 BC, hunter-gatherers harvested wild cereals such as barley, einkorn wheat, and oats—ground, kneaded, and cooked or baked them into bread. (1)
These findings suggest that the bread-making may have encouraged the cultivation of wheat and grain, rather than the traditional belief that bread-making was a discovery that took place long after and was a result of the agricultural revolution, which started around 10,000 BC. (1,5)
Based on these findings, it is reasonable to assume that hunter-gatherers were gathering seed grains for a very long time before they figured out how to de-husk, grind, knead, and bake them into bread.
As you will read in this article, science suggests that we may also have been eating wheat for millions of years—not just thousands.
Hunter-Gatherers Debunking a Gluten-Free Diet
The wheat that was used to make bread some 4000 years before the onset of wheat and grain cultivation had significantly more gluten than the wheat that was cultivated during the agricultural revolution. (6)
In fact, when early wheat was cultivated, they selected grain that was bigger and easier to harvest. The bigger the wheat seeds, the easier to thresh and gather—but the bigger the wheat berry, the less gluten and protein and more sugar/starch they contained. (6)
So the original cultivated wheat—which has supposedly caused many of today’s modern human health concerns—was actually more gluten-free than the bread that was being consumed some 4000 years before they started to grow their own wheat. (6)
These studies suggest that not only was wheat and gluten consumed much longer than originally thought, but gluten may not be the public enemy it has recently been made out to be.
Studies have now shown that folks today who eat wheat compared to those who are gluten-free have:
- Significantly less heart disease risk (7)
- Significantly lower diabetes risk (7)
- More beneficial bacteria (7)
- Less harmful gut bacteria (7)
- Four times less toxic mercury in the blood (7)
- More killer T-cells in the blood (7)
Ancient Grains Eaten Long Before Previously Reported
The researchers analyzed hundreds of charred food remains from the Shubayqa 1 site in the Black Desert in southeastern Jordan. Twenty-four of these were bread-like, according to the study, including wheat, rye, millet, oats and barley. (1) The remains were very similar to flat, unleavened bread found in Neolithic and Roman sites in Europe and Turkey.
Professor Dorian Fuller (UCL Institute of Archaeology) commented on the importance of this study:
“Bread involves labor-intensive processing which includes dehusking, grinding of cereals and kneading and baking. That it was produced before farming methods suggests it was seen as special, and the desire to make more of this special food probably contributed to the decision to begin to cultivate cereals. All of this relies on new methodological developments that allow us to identify the remains of bread from very small charred fragments using high magnification.”
Based on previous findings in southwest Asia (Near East), where wild ancestors of domesticated crops such as wheat and barley occurred naturally, hunter-gatherers of the Upper Paleolithic period (c. 23 ka cal BP or 23,000 years before present) were already producing flour from wild grasses. (1,2)
Further research (cited in my book, Eat Wheat) out of the University of Utah found remains of seed grasses such as wheat and barley embedded into the plaque on the teeth of ancient humans dating 3.5 million years ago.
They also reported that these ancient humans were able to gather enough wheat berries (seeds) in just 2 hours to feed themselves for an entire day. (3) This, of course, only happened when wheat was in season.
That study also suggested that the average early human some 3-4 million years ago ate on average 40% of their diet as grasses—most of which had gluten—and some early hominins ate as much as 70% of their diet as grasses or grains. (2)
Recent archaeobotanical evidence from the Natufian period (some 14,000 years ago) indicates that the small-seeded grasses, fruit and nuts, and root foods made up the bulk of the diet. That said, other studies suggest that due to the labor-intensive nature of harvesting and preparing grasses such as wheat and barley, small seed grasses may have made up a smaller portion of their diet compared to nuts, tubers, and fruits. This may also be due to the fact that seed grasses were only ripe or eatable for just a couple of months out of the year.
Other studies advocated that the small seed grasses they consumed were always ripe, suggesting that they were eaten primarily in-season—during the fall and early winter. (3)
Based on studies I reported on in my book, Eat Wheat, amylase, the enzyme required to break down starchy grains, increases in the body during the colder months and decreases in the body during the warmer months—suggesting that the starch-digesting enzyme, amylase, is circadian in nature and that we may be better equipped to digest wheat and grain in the colder months when they are in season. (4)
All this said I do understand that it is common for folks to feel bloated, foggy, and tired after they eat wheat. There are many reasons for this that I discuss in my articles and in Eat Wheat.
The solution to these digestive concerns regarding wheat is to eat foods that are in season, organic, non-processed, and in moderation while restoring healthy digestive function.
In Eat Wheat, I take you through a step-by-step digestive troubleshooting guide that will help you identify the precise digestive imbalance that may be responsible for your intolerance to wheat.
Then, I take you through a series of holistic solutions to reboot the digestive strength required to not only digest well, but to also flush toxins from the body.