In This Article
Gluten-Free When You Don’t Have to Be
My book Eat Wheat is a deep dive into understanding wheat from an ancient, time-tested perspective within the context of current research and modern gluten consumption.
Eating gluten- and dairy-free has taken the health food industry by storm. Food manufacturers are realizing that unless they offer a gluten-free version of their product, it is increasingly difficult to be competitive. Studies show that within a single year, as many as 100 million Americans consume gluten-free products. Non-dairy foods and milk substitutes have also become increasingly common: in 2015, the U.S. dairy alternatives market was worth 2.09 billion, and growing.
In Eat Wheat, I explore the nature of food sensitivities and the trending gluten-free and dairy-free diets that often accompany such sensitivities. After all, our direct human ancestors have been eating wheat and other grains for 3.4 million years. Early humans have been grinding wheat into flour for 30,000 years. Could the gluten- and dairy-free trend be missing the point? Are these types of elimination diets really necessary?
The research in Eat Wheat is so compelling because it suggests that the popular “grain brain” phenomenon is not the truth for everyone. To get at the real issue, we have to turn our attention to the lymphatic system, where the path becomes very clear: decongest the lymphatic system, reboot digestive strength, and shift our food focus away from simple sugars to good, healthy fats, along with foods in their whole natural state.
I wrote Eat Wheat to guide you through through process of reintroducing gluten and dairy back into your diet (unless, of course, you have Celiac’s). Backed by over 600 scientific studies and 30 years of clinical practice, I will walk you step-by-step through the digestive healing and lymphatic decongestion process.
Wheat is a Seasonal Food
Most of the studies that suggest grains are unhealthy are done on refined or processed grains, rather than on whole grains, or, better yet, ancient or heirloom grains like einkorn or kamut. Ancient grains have been shown to deliver a host of health benefits while sporting a significantly higher dose of gluten.
That said, should we be eating grains every day of the year, three times a day? No. If we were meant to do that, grains would naturally grow year-round. But in most temperate climates, grains are only harvestable in the fall, after a long summer growing season. So, while our ancestors also fell in love with bread and have been grinding wheat and barley into flour for some 30,000 years, it was not a year -round delicacy.
Studies have shown that humans are hardwired to digest grains in the fall when they are harvested. Studies also show that the microbes in your gut that help digest starchy grains are more prolific in the fall versus the spring, when there are no grains available.
In addition, the enzyme that humans make to digest grains, called amylase, is more abundantly produced in the body in the fall versus the spring and the digestive aspect of the parasympathetic nervous system is upregulated in the fall and winter, compared to summer, in order to help the body break down hard-to digest grains, nuts, and seeds, which are all harvested in the fall.
Rather than only removing food groups, we aim to troubleshoot digestive imbalances and repair them with foods, spices, and herbs, so it is not necessary to eliminate foods—just eat them in season in the right form.
Eat the Right Wheat
Eating the right kind of wheat is crucial to having a good digestive relationship with it.
The primary reason grains have fallen out of favor is because of a global increase in the consumption of processed, refined, packaged, and non-organic foods.
Conventional foods that are sprayed with pesticides and herbicides kill the microbes in the human digestive system that manufacture the digestive enzymes that enable us to break down grain and sometimes hard-to-digest gluten.
In addition, highly processed vegetable oils that are used to preserve foods and extend shelf life are clearly not extending our lives. The microbes in our guts eat fatty acids but are unwilling and unable to consume processed fats, forcing fat to build up in the liver and gallbladder and causing bile sludge. This problem silently weakens digestive strength and we find ourselves placating the problem by taking foods out of our diets instead of fixing the broken down digestive system.
Whole grains have a fiber-rich outer bran layer that attaches to bile in the gut and escorts that bile, along with the toxic material it carries, to the toilet. Without enough fiber in your diet, up to 94 percent of bile (and toxic material) is reabsorbed back into the liver. The inner germ layer of whole grains is also loaded with B vitamins and healthy fats, while refining grain removes these nutrients, leaving only the starchy endosperm layer of the grain behind.
Are You Scared of “Grain Brain”?
In the video above, you can watch my podcast interview with Dr. David Perlmutter, MD, board-certified neurologist, Fellow of the American College of Nutrition and four-time New York Times bestselling author. Dr. Perlmutter wrote the #1 New York Times bestseller Grain Brain. See for yourself how our facts match up, and re-consider wheat within the context of your digestive strength and health goals.
More about our Podcast guest:
In this episode, Dr. John and Dr. David have a well-rounded debate on fiber, ketosis, and wheat’s impact on our gut microbiome. David Perlmutter, MD, FACN, ABIHM is a board-certified neurologist and Fellow of the American College of Nutrition who received his MD from the University of Miami School of Medicine where he was awarded the Leonard G. Rowntree Research Award. After completing residency training in neurology, also at the University of Miami, Dr. Perlmutter entered private practice in Naples, Florida where he serves as Medical Director of the Perlmutter Health Center and the Perlmutter Hyperbaric Center.