Delicious. Filling. Satisfying. An American staple. Wheat, in all of it’s forms, can be found at every single meal of every single day for some of us. What started as an innocent, versatile and necessary crop centuries ago has grown into a potent and potentially deadly science experiment that we eat more and more of each year. The problem is, the wheat that many of us adults grew up on is a thing of the past. Tall, amber waves of grain have now been dwarfed, deconstructed and transformed into an entirely new plant-monster to accommodate the masses.
What nobody seems to be addressing about the dramatic difference in our food supply from 30 years ago is that there are 90 million more people in this country since then. And not only did our appetites grow exponentially with the population, but the amount of each type of food that we consume has doubled and sometimes tripled PER MEAL. Plates, glasses, serving sizes and stomachs grew at a steady and drastic rate as our gluttonous nature began to renovate the American diet. Wheat consumption is estimated to be 20% of our diet.
On any given Sunday, we can eat a breakfast sandwich (egg, cheese and ham) on an English muffin with a small bowl of cereal (with milk); for lunch we enjoy a club sandwich (turkey, bacon, tomato, lettuce, tomato and mayo) ; and for dinner, perhaps, General Tso’s chicken (breaded and deep fried) with white rice covered in soy sauce. There are at least 5 instances of gluten in that 3 meal scenario- not to mention 8 types of animal product; loads of carbs; starch; ultra high sodium content; saturated fat; and only 1 vegetable (worthless lettuce.) Our bodies were simply not meant to intake all of those totals. Our race was born to eat to live, like many animals. Yet we have taught ourselves to live to eat instead. Our race was also not meant to digest the whole grains of today. If you don’t read one more word of this post, PLEASE watch this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UbBURnqYVzw
In the 1960’s, farmers had to figure out a way to develop a crop that massively increased its yield per acre to meet the ever-expounding population. (http://www.marksdailyapple.com/the-problems-with-modern-wheat/#axzz2slhnYdxh). They began to grow dwarf wheat: shorter, stronger, less nutritious. Many essential vitamins and minerals were lost or greatly decreased through the genetic modification- which was not only to grow more product faster in a smaller area, but also to keep it growing for longer periods and to introduce more and more pesticides as grain-eating bugs became more and more immune.
Some gluten proteins prominent in newer wheat strains are much more potent and therefore more powerful towards those with Celiac disease. They also greatly increase the gluten sensitive population as people who spent their whole lives eating bread, crackers and cereal suddenly sprout symptoms of the condition.
The major signs of gluten sensitivity are: weight gain (as your hormones attack the “new” poison, causing inflammation and fluid retention); irregular bowels (as the gluten causes irritation of your gut lining); joint pain; skin rash (known as “chicken skin” for the patches of small red bumps); and developing new sensitivities to other common foods (during cross reactivity your body confuses corn, soy or dairy with gluten as they contain similar proteins). If you recognize any of those symptoms regularly, try to isolate them and attach them to a previous meal. Look for functional medicine physicians in your area as your primary doctor may not be keen on making gluten diagnoses.
An episode of Dr. Oz in January stated that as many as 9 out of 10 people now have a gluten sensitivity. That’s not very good for news for bakers and pizza places. Luckily there are now an astounding number of gluten-free products available in restaurants. (http://www.bizjournals.com/dallas/news/2013/07/01/dfw-eateries-join-growing-trend-of.html?page=all). They will never taste or feel the same. And for many they may never satiate the craving- which is a big factor of our rate of consumption.
There are also some new impressive developments in food such as 100% pure brown rice pizza crusts, wraps and pancakes (www.facebook.com/FirstOnlyFoodsLLC), which not only retain all of the health benefits of brown rice but are also naturally gluten-free.
We are finally starting to drown in the consequences of a wheat and gluten epidemic. Another wide misconception that has contributed is that eating whole wheat products is somehow healthy. Wheat bread and pastas still contain gluten and lest you think this doesn’t pertain to you because you have never been diagnosed gluten sensitive then read this: (http://authoritynutrition.com/why-is-bread-bad-for-you/) – the most shocking key point that gluten damages the walls of your digestive tract and can cause brain disorders. Many people go to the doctor or hospital and spend thousands of dollars on testing to find out what might be wrong with them. The doctors don’t generally check for gluten sensitivities because if the patient has never had one then it is not assumed that they might develop one at any time. The amount of children that are diagnosed with ADHD has skyrocketed in the last decade. Though no link has been definite or solid, many studies are linking this drastic increase in ADHD cases to diet: http://www.additudemag.com/adhd/article/9807.html – most specifically gluten and wheat. This stuff is hurting us and we need to take notice.
When we were little and mama sent us to the store to buy a loaf of bread, we just took for granted- as she did- that it was a staple of our diet and certainly not going to change the very climate of childhood brain and social development. “God give us this day our daily bread…” But the bag of Wonder in your bread drawer is not your mama’s loaf. Our brains don’t perceive it to be different because we have a life-long association with it. And also because nobody has ever told us (for sure) that the ingredients and processes have changed and that we should be running the other way.
There also used to be only 4 main types of bread that we could order: white, wheat, rye and pumperknickel. Now, pumperknickel has gone the way of parachute pants and has been replaced by dozens of “healthy” and “heart-healthy” products that still contain gluten, enriched flours and sugars- which turn to fat when they are absorbed. They all still clog our insides and can cause migraines, headaches, mood swings and intestinal distress.
So if you have any symptoms that keep you feeling off kilter with no explanation, then give yourself a gluten break. Have organic oatmeal for breakfast; salads or soups for lunch instead of sandwiches; and skip the dipping bread for dinner. Do that for two weeks and see how much better you might feel. Gluten shows up in a LOT of unexpected places so if you are going to give it a shot, make sure you’re reading those labels. Maybe if enough of us cause a stir then the powers that be will make a change.