Why Foods May Turn Against Us
Even Hippocrates suggested to “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” When did food turn against us and we away from it as our medicine?
Ancient Egyptians are well-known for their agriculture, dominated by growing and harvesting grains. At this time, we see the first documentation of obesity, the first heart attack on a hieroglyphs, along with the many heart disease cases among mummies found and analyzed. This already should pose a question in your mind: what do grains do to us? Are they harmful in any way? If so: why and how? And if they are not good for humans: why not?
Increasingly, grains occupy a highly controversial area in health and nutrition. As we know, the USDA, the ADA, and the AHA all recommend very high “whole grain” percentages for our caloric intake—45% to 65% of our calories are advised to come from mostly complex carbohydrates and the most carbohydrate-rich elements are grains. We listened to the USDA, ADA, and the AHA, and eat a ton of sandwiches, rice, pasta, cereal, corn tortilla, popcorn, pretzels, crackers, and so on.
The goal of these organizations originally was perfectly legitimate: they wanted to reduce the incidence of cardiovascular disease, which was believed to have been caused by red meat and their saturated fats. These organizations recommended that we increase grain and carbohydrate consumption and reduce animal meats and fats. We followed the instructions, resulting in minimal reduction in the rate of coronary vascular disease because of improved medical treatment. However, we have ended up with a host of new diseases we rarely had to deal with before. Metabolic diseases, like type 2 diabetes, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, gross obesity, high blood pressure, and others like cancer, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, etc. have doubled since the 1980s. Even the incidence of type 1 diabetes is increasing—associated with “environmental influences,” which can mean pretty much everything. Humanity consists of a wide range of individuals. So one would expect that individual responses to a type of nutrition, such as grains, would differ. Interestingly, while there is a slight difference, the general population seems to be affected similarly, though the symptoms are broad.
“Houston, We Have a Problem”
Indeed, dropping animal meat and saturated fat and increasing carbohydrates (like sugar, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds—and of course grains), was not good for our health. Since I wrote about sugar and carbohydrates in general already, see here, and sugar and fat here, I will only discuss grains in this article. What are grains? Are they nutritious? Healthy? Or are they toxic? While I wrote about grains previously, see here, I would like to introduce a different angle that very few people know about.
Today there are fewer people than ever before who eat glutenous grains; the recent “trend” is to eat gluten free. I decided to examine what gluten free means, and could it be somehow connected to the problem. My reason for this research is a personal one: while I tested non-allergic to gluten, I have a huge negative reaction to even a morsel of grain. My reaction is an asthma attack to all grains—including rice. So if it is not gluten sensitivity then what is it?
Another reason for my curiosity, also personal, is that I am a migraineur and specialize in helping migraineurs prevent and abort their migraines without the use of any medicines. In that work, I have learned that carbohydrates are a migraineur’s enemy and grains are notoriously high in carbohydrates. It is also true that high carbohydrate foods, particularly those high in starches, such as grains, cause much more trouble to migraineurs and other glucose sensitive people than low starch low glucose carbohydrates, such as raspberries, for example. So what is the connection of all these to grains? Should we just look at gluten or is there something else of concern in grains?
What Are Grains?
Grains are seeds of grasses and are separated into two basic groups by most people: glutinous and gluten free. However, the distinction between these two is not nearly as significant as is believed. There is much to be said about non-gluten specific grain sensitivity—the condition I have—only it is less understood and seldom discussed. Gluten itself, is now understood to be a definite problem1. What about gluten free? To understand what gluten free means, one must understand where gluten comes from. I am fully aware that there are many celiacs—around 1% of the population are documented celiacs—who have major gluten allergies. For them gluten is a cause of major problems. The key to this sentence is “a” cause of major problems but perhaps not “the whole” problem.
Prolamins = Gluten + Gliadin + Zein +Hordein + Secalin +++
Gluten is not one thing but is just one member of a collection of proteins that largely fall into two groups: gliadins and glutenins, both of which belong to the main group of prolamin proteins. Prolamins have a high content of proline and glutamine (these are amino acids that are used to biosynthesize other proteins—so they have critical functions). In wheat, these prolamins are called gliadins, while in other grains they have mostly unheard of Latin names, such as zein of maize (corn), hordein of barley, secalin of rye, etc. See the complete (rather complex) article here. Since gluten is just one protein within this prolamin family, might the other proteins also be a problem? If they are, gluten-free is not enough protection.
Oats and rice, long considered to be gluten free and safe to eat, also have prolamins only to a smaller percentage. If you are gluten sensitive or have non-gluten specific grain sensitivity, you really should consider stopping all grains, including rice, corn, and oats. Sensitivity to any protein within the prolamin family may mean one is sensitive to prolamin, all proteins in the prolamin group and not just gluten. So now you can see the reason for non-gluten specific grain sensitivity.
Are Grains Digestible?
Grains are grass seeds, after all, and the goal of a seed is not to dissolve in our stomach or intestines but to germinate and grow into another grass. Grain proteins are amazing plant chemicals capable of stimulating direct immune responses due to their peptide fragments and their huge molecular size. This may explain why so many people have grain (especially wheat) allergies even without being celiacs2.
What is common in all grains is that their proteins are not water soluble (some to a small degree) and are heat stable—meaning even heat doesn’t break them down into digestible proteins. As a result, grains are indigestible by the human body. Grain proteins have an unbelievably high capacity for molecular mimicry (an alien protein’s ability to pretend they are human protein), but because they are large and ride attached to smaller human proteins, this initiates an immune attack against them to our detriment. Our immune system causes damage to our own cells by the attack, as the immune cells must destroy our own proteins in order to destroy the grain proteins. The only animals that are able to metabolize grains are birds3. Even cows are not meant to eat grains—they get fat and age very fast from grains and become very unhealthy at an early age. The quality of their fat also changes into something vastly less healthy than pasture-raised grass-fed cows.
So, what happens to people who eat grains? While each human individual is different, and each reacts to food somewhat differently, some basics are the same: grain proteins cause damage to human proteins. The difference between individuals and their responses to grain consumption may show up in the length of time it takes for symptoms to appear and in the symptoms’ intensity and duration. Unlike symptoms of something simple, such as a broken arm, where pain is the most prominent temporary symptom and which is an immediate reaction to the broken bone, grains do their damage little by little via making changes in health conditions that appear completely unrelated to grain sensitivity and often take years to appear—except for baker’s asthma4. Entire fields of medicine and the associated pharmaceuticals have formed to cater to the damages that grains cause. Why does it take so long for grains to cause harm?
Autoimmunity refers to our own immune system misdirecting its attack against an invader and attacks self instead—earlier I referred to this as molecular mimicry. Autoimmunity may be followed by many symptoms, all vastly different from one another, appearing to be unique and independent diseases. For example, grain proteins may stimulate zonulin, which relaxes the seams of gut endothelium causing leaky gut syndrome. It may take years to discover leaky gut because currently it is not part of the “medical standard of care” to check for the possibility of leaky gut syndrome, also referred to as increased gut permeability. Leaky gut syndrome leads to local or systemic immune-mediated diseases (autoimmunity), such as Celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, food allergies, and even type-1 diabetes mellitus. Because leaky gut is primarily an inflammation, atherosclerosis, which is an inflammatory response to grains and carbohydrates in general, may follow. In fact, reduced carbohydrates (and thus reduced grains) diets reduce cardiovascular risks. As a result of the negative effects of grains on the body, a high-grain diet gives rise to overeating while remaining malnourished, for a very simple physiological reason, which is well summarized in the following quote:
“Eating more of poor quality but abundant forage to obtain these components generates too much energy, which may be stored in white adipocytes or dissipated by diet-induced thermogenesis5. In other words, ‘burning off’ excess energy’ can help to correct nutritional imbalances in …barely adequate diets, distilling out scarce nutrients including amino acids, essential fatty acids, vitamins and minerals from energy-rich but nutrient-poor foods…”6.
Such malnourishment by overeating low nutrition/high energy foods, such as grains, aids in developing nearly all autoimmune health conditions, such as Hashimoto’s disease, Multiple sclerosis, PCOS, systemic lupus erythematosus, Sjögren’s syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, celiac disease, and also by some researchers: Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia7, cancer8, and many more. A more complete list can be found in the book Wheat Belly Total Health9.
In fact, the wheat germ agglutinin, is used specifically to increase immune response to produce antibodies in vivo. Grains cause autoimmunity—a deliberate, evolved plant strategy that ends up causing human diseases. However, since symptoms of autoimmunity differ among individuals, and because these autoimmune conditions take so long to evolve into full blown health conditions, most people don’t know about and won’t even suspect the causation. Human beings have proven to be excellent at adapting to all kind of adversity in their environment, including the availability – or lack of – certain food types. Certainly, some people alive today are less affected by grain consumption than others. Many of them may die in some unrelated illness, or what we term, “due to natural causes” before showing any symptoms as consequences of their grain rich diets. But we tend to live longer than ever before in the past so chances are that there is enough time for the emergence of some symptoms even for the most adapted individuals among us.
Autoimmunity and the Health Industry
Grains cause an immune response disrupting human health. However, they are cheap, have long shelf-lives, are addictive (grains release morphine-like substances in the brain), and they create life-long diseases that need medical care and medicines. While decades ago the health industry may not have been aware of the connection between grains and autoimmune diseases, by now we are closer to a more widespread recognition, and for conscientious scientists and medical professionals the information about the dangers is available. Production and selling of grain products in ever tastier and cheaper presentations will not be affected for quite a while, but you don’t have to eat them! There are hundreds of thousands of people who have already decided to take their health into their own hands and quit eating grains completely.
Why Are You Still Eating Grains?
This is a good question and I cannot answer it for you. Here is your chance to understand that grains may harm you. Now you cannot say “Oh I didn’t know”. I quit grains many years ago and I have reversed (or at least put to remission) all my autoimmune diseases within three years. You too can become a medicine-free healthy individual, free of diabetes, obesity, metabolic diseases, cardiovascular disease, lupus, Crohn’s disease, IBS, rosacea, acne, arthritis, asthma, osteoporosis, and many other autoimmune diseases. Make the change today!
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1 Aziz, I., Branchi, F. & Sanders, D. S. The rise and fall of gluten! Proceedings of the Nutrition Society 74, 221-226, doi:10.1017/S0029665115000038 (2015).
2 Watkins, R. D. & Zawahir, S. Celiac Disease and Nonceliac Gluten Sensitivity. Pediatric Clinics of North America 64, 563-576, doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pcl.2017.01.013 (2017).
3 Díaz, M. Food choice by seed-eating birds in relation to seed chemistry. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part A: Physiology 113, 239-246, doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/0300-9629(95)02093-4 (1996).
4 Anton, P., Walter, W., Colin, W., J., D. M. & Angelika, G. Sequence analysis of wheat grain allergens separated by two‐dimensional electrophoresis with immobilized pH gradients. ELECTROPHORESIS 16, 1115-1119, doi:doi:10.1002/elps.11501601188 (1995).
5 CANNON, B. & NEDERGAARD, J. Brown Adipose Tissue: Function and Physiological Significance. Physiological Reviews 84, 277-359, doi:10.1152/physrev.00015.2003 (2004).
6 Pond, C. M. in Adipose Tissue Biology (ed Michael E.; Symonds) (Springer Science+Business Media LLC, 2017).
7 D’Andrea, M. R. Add Alzheimer’s disease to the list of autoimmune diseases. Medical Hypotheses 64, 458-463, doi:10.1016/j.mehy.2004.08.024 (2005).
8 Giat, E., Ehrenfeld, M. & Shoenfeld, Y. Cancer and autoimmune diseases. Autoimmunity Reviews 16, 1049-1057, doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.autrev.2017.07.022 (2017).
9 Davis, W. Wheat Belly Total Health. (Rodale, 2014).