Health

Stop Demonizing Wheat

While millions should avoid the grain, others need to get back to basics

Constant nausea and debilitating stomach cramps and back pain had become the norm for Mark Napier of Grand Prairie, Texas. He suffered for years, not knowing why.

So when he got sick on a family trip in the spring of 2015, his wife, Kelly, didn’t consider it out of the ordinary.

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When his condition only worsened and he lost 15 pounds, the couple went to the doctor. Napier was diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome and told to try eliminating food triggers from his diet. The most likely culprits? Dairy or gluten.

After two weeks without any dairy, the problems persisted — which the family considered a good thing. Originally from Wisconsin, none of them wanted to hear milk or cheese was the problem.

When Napier went on a gluten-free diet (GFD), he got this answer. “I was skeptical for sure,” said his wife. “But after two weeks, he felt better overall than he had in years. The stomach cramps and back pain were gone. The diarrhea was a thing of the past. His appetite came back. It was like he was a brand-new person.”

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Related: Let Them Eat Gluten

Napier has been GF for over a year, and the family said it’s been life-changing.

Millions of other Americans have either celiac disease or a serious gluten intolerance. But millions more continue to jump on the gluten-free diet (GFD) bandwagon — without any diagnosis. They either want to do it, or believe it may be better for them. As that happens, concerns continue to be raised about iron, calcium, and fiber deficiencies.

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Researchers at the Mayo Clinic stated in the January issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings: “In contrast to public interest in following a GFD, it remains uncertain whether there is any benefit of following a GFD for people without gluten-related conditions.”

In other words, a GFD may not be doing you any good — if you don’t need to be gluten-free.

Wheat Can Be Part of a Healthy Diet
“We have not yet run across a wheat deficiency disorder and taking wheat out of the diet surely would not cause harm,” said Dr. John Douillard, a natural health, Ayurveda, and sports medicine specialist. “That said, the gluten-free attack is also against all grains and even legumes and beans, leaving us with a diet of predominantly meat and vegetables. If the trend takes us to this extreme, problems will surely problems arise. We evolved with a blend of meat, starch, and fruits and veggies. There is good science suggesting the health risks of eating just meat and veggies, such as the stress these diets put on kidney function.”

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Wheat has been a seasonal grain for humans for more than 3.4 million years, Douillard told LifeZette. “In recent times, we have overeaten and processed wheat, which has overwhelmed and broken down our digestive systems. Eating less wheat, eating it seasonally, and avoiding processed foods will give the digestive system a chance to heal and reset.”

Whole, non-processed wheat has been shown in numerous studies to lower blood sugar, reduce risk of diabetes, increase cognitive function, boost energy, combat obesity, decrease risk of cancer and heart disease, and extend lifespan, according to Douillard. “Wheat, along with other grains, are staples in the Mediterranean Diet — which is still today the benchmark for a healthy diet. The key is whole, non-processed foods, wheat in moderation, and an emphasis on eating it seasonally,” he added.

Most Natural Versions Worth Trying
For those who don’t need to follow a strict GFD for their health, and who may enjoy keeping wheat in their diet, Douillard offers the following options:

Ancient strains of wheat that include Einkorn, Emmer, and Kamut have been found to have more antioxidant activity than modern wheat and are good grains to start with, as they are also typically prepared without industrial processing.

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Spelt, he added, is a much easier grain to digest because it has 40 percent less of the hard-to-digest anti-nutrients than common whole wheat. Sprouting whole wheat is another bread that is easier to digest. Rye has also been shown to have a significantly lower glycemic index and is better if you are concerned about your blood sugar.

Related: Allergy-Proofing Your Every Bite

“The ingredients in a healthy and digestible loaf of bread should look something like this: organic whole wheat, water, salt, starter — with no cooked oils. As for the rest of the potentially toxic ingredients unnecessarily found in most breads, avoid sugars or sweeteners, even natural ones like cane sugar, honey, or molasses. Also, avoid breads with ingredients you do not recognize.”

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