You’re a conscious eater, right? You stay away from those refined, bleached flours and eat only organic, whole grains because you’ve heard that’s good for you. Maybe you’re even buying gluten free flours or gluten free breads and products because you avoid gluten. We’ve been told that grains are part of a wholesome diet, but a grain-based diet isn’t for everyone, and it may not be good for anyone.
That the grains we’re eating now in the U.S. certainly aren’t our parents’ grains. Our bodies don’t recognize the denatured toxins and proteins from processing (even in the organic grains, which have been cross-bred and contaminated), causing an immune reaction and inflammatory response. Your body sees “foreign invader” and mounts an immune attack when you eat such foods. Too much immune misfiring causes major problems, like autoimmune disease, for one.
Our grain supply has been altered since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, and the potential inflammation all grains–from wheat to brown rice–are causing is contributing to a rise in autism, auto-immune disease, IBS, Crohn’s, brain lesions, pancreatitis, Type 1 diabetes, and thyroiditis. Grains contain lectins, which are difficult to digest and contribute to the inflammation I keep talking about. There is mounting and compelling research about the increasing rates of celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, and the resulting autoimmune issues that are part of a complex inflammatory reaction known as leaky gut.
Leaky gut results from an inflamed digestive tract (from eating foods that cause inflammation, like gluten and dairy and grains and other processed foods) and causes an increased immune response and an increase in the development of food allergies.
Celiac disease and gluten intolerance both are genetically passed through families and are increasing at a staggering rate–and because those folks are already highly sensitive to gluten, they are predisposed to be sensitive to all grains and can experience intestinal damage from eating even gluten free grains. Eating gluten free may not be enough–we have to start looking at eating grain free. Just FYI, grains include wheat, white flour, rye, teff, spelt, barley, oats, corn, rice, quinoa, millet. amaranth, kamut, buckwheat, and so on.
If this sounds scary, I understand. It’s because our food culture is based largely on the USDA food pyramid which is built on a platform of grains: Listed and pictured are whole wheat, bagels, pasta, rice, cereal, oats. The Department of Agriculture wants us to eat the top agricultural crops in this country and foods processed from them: wheat, soy, corn, and other whole grains. Farmers are subsidized to grow these crops, and the food industry, dominated by giants like Monsanto and Con Agra, makes big bucks from processing these foods into the cereals, bagels, pastas, snacks, crackers, and chips we’re being fed as part of a smart choice and a “healthy whole grain diet.”
As humans, we’ve only been eating grains for about 10,000 years, which means they are a pretty recent addition to our food supply. We really did evolve to eat a Paleolithic diet–one filled with plants and occasional meat. We thrive on a plant-based diet (with no processed foods, no corn syrup, no soy protein isolate) and high quality organic meats and veggies. Our bodies are simply not designed to process a high grain or processed food-based diet. Greens and veggies and fruits provide us with the antioxidants and fiber and minerals we need, while meat gives us protein, amino acids, essential fatty acids, zinc and iron we need.
Obviously the vegan backlash argument says that meat is bad for our environment and factory farming is bad for animals. No doubt about it. I argue that the processing of grains and fake foods in labs is not only bad for our environment but also our bodies. Obesity and diabetes rates have never been higher, because we are being fed the same diet that is used to fatten cows–grains! Not to mention corn syrup and other artificial ingredients in processed food. Obviously eating local & from small family farms with humanely raised meat is key. Consider even joining or starting a community supported agriculture meat project or a cow, lamb, or pig share.
But what about the USDA and Kraft foods telling me all over their products that whole grains reduce diabetes and cholesterol? Listen, we wouldn’t have an epidemic of diabetes if we weren’t eating so many grains! Especially processed grains which are denatured, stored in plastic (which increases mold and toxins) and enriched with sugar and other crap. And I don’t take my nutrition advice from an industry trying to sell me their products. The fact is, adding veggies, flaxseeds, chia seeds, and fruits will provide you plenty of fiber that binds up toxins in the gut and reduces the bad cholesterol load in the body.
I am seeing more and more clients with sugar and carb sensitivity who suffer from sugar cravings, mood swings, and weight gain. A grain free diet has liberated them from this roller coaster. Of course it’s challenging at first and feels restrictive, but there is a world of foods to explore out there, and it becomes second nature (I know this because I have generally been eating grain free for over a year now and gluten free for over four years!) I also have clients with intestinal problems who thrive when they remove not only gluten but all grains. They add in extra healthy FATS to heal their digestive tract.
Mary Vance is a Certified Nutrition Consultant and author specializing in digestive health. She combines a science-based approach with natural therapies to rebalance the body. In addition to her 1:1 coaching, she offers courses to help you heal your gut and improve your health. Mary lives in San Francisco and Lake Tahoe in Northern California. Read more about her coaching practice here and her background here.