Is it a myth that wheat (gluten) is bad?

What’s the difference between GMO and hybridized grains?

wheat cautionOne of the most important ways I educate, in blogging, authoring books, and public speaking, is to point out how billion-dollar industries have falsely educated us, to make a profit. About nutrition, medicine, and health.

If you want the quick abstract of this article, scroll to the bottom! If you want a bit more detail, let’s talk about the gluten-free industry—read on! And whether wheat is actually bad for you. And what to do about it!

In the past, I’ve talked about the billion-dollar fish oil industry, which has done NOTHING to improve cardiovascular health. I’ve talked about the billion-dollar protein industry, which feeds us endocrine disruptors and toxic animal products. I’ve talked about the mega-billion-dollar pharmaceutical industry, whose agenda is to get people to eat chemicals for every health problem, to our toxic detriment, solving no health problems.

The low-fat food cult gave rise to a billion dollars in sales for the processed food industry, who fabricated all kinds of fake foods in the name of us getting skinny and healthy. Currently, the reigning cult, low-carb, has us spending billions in processed food that artificially increases protein and decreases carbohydrates. (Another topic, for another day: carbohydrates aren’t bad!)

We also now have thousands of companies selling us “gluten free” foods. One of my issues with the vast majority of these foods is that, while they’ve eliminated hybridized gluten grains, they are still processed foods with many other negative effects on health.

I’m not going to argue that you should eat gluten as much as you want. The problem isn’t with gluten in its original form. It’s with hybridized grains. A few generations ago, industry began hybridizing our wheat in order to increase protein content and make “better” bread. Many experts are calling what now masquerades as food “FrankenWheat.” Dwarf wheat, the genetic result, bears little resemblance to what your great-grandmother baked in her bread. Your great-grandmother’s wheat had 14 chromosomes. Yours now has 28, causing the body to produce antibodies to fight inflammation, and causing celiac disease and gluten intolerance. New research shows that 55 different conditions, including cancers and irritable bowel, depression, and many auto-immune conditions, can be the result. (You can search in PubMed and read for hours, as I did.)

Long story short, the gluten, or protein, in wheat, is now so altered that it causes all kinds of auto-immune problems in human beings. Many are even being diagnosed with celiac disease, a severe gluten intolerance, where the sufferer is often ill for years before finally being diagnosed and being forced to take up a vigilant nutritional lifestyle, reading labels and eating foods that are manufactured in facilities where there is no gluten.

(There are several other problems with wheat, now. According to Dr. Mark Hyman, M.D., our hybridized wheat, even “whole grain,” not only contains a “super gluten” that causes gut inflammation, it also contains a starch that causes you to gain weight and a chemical drug to make you crave more.)

The gluten-free label is now on a million different products all over North America. Ill-educated Americans often believe that “gluten free” means “good for me.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Gluten-free products are usually full of corn syrup, sugar, chemicals, hydrogenated fats, and not much of nutritional value.

I do think it’s wise to avoid all hybridized wheat products. Even “whole grain” wheat products. And all refined wheat products, especially, which are gluey and slow down digestive function, in addition to spiking blood sugar. Products with white flour include the description “wheat flour” on ingredient labels. “Wheat flour” means white flour–the grain has been stripped of its bran and germ (the fiber and nutrition).

Only “whole wheat flour” means that the bran and germ have not been removed. When even whole wheat is ground very finely, however, for cookies or pastries, for instance, the impact on blood sugar is quicker, with more deleterious effects. Coarse-ground, and even better, soaked/sprouted, grains are much better. When you soak a grain, you neutralize the enzyme inhibitors, making micro-nutrients more bio-available, and the grain easier to digest.

If grains aren’t organic (non-hybridized, pesticide-free), we really shouldn’t eat them at all. I do not feed my family white flour products. I minimize even whole-wheat, using only organic grains. If it is certified organic, it has not been hybridized, nor has it been genetically modified, nor has it been treated with most chemicals.

By the way, people often tell me that wheat is genetically modified, and I have to correct them. Most corn and soy, in the U.S., has been genetically modified. This process involves inserting or deleting genes in gene-splicing technology.

Hybridization, on the other hand, involves crossing different strains, to generate new characteristics. Some breeders even use chemical and x-ray mutagenesis to mutate the wheat. BASF’s Clearfield Wheat, for instance, was created using the toxic industrial chemical, sodium azide. When the seeds and embryos mutate, their offspring continues the mutation.

(Side note: this highlights how as we eat a toxic diet, and mutate our own genetics in deleterious ways, we pass down degenerated DNA to our children! Another reason to eat a very healthy, organic plant-based diet.)

In wheat hybrids, the breeders’ goal is to increase the amount of protein to make bread with more appealing texture. With genetic modification (corn and soy), Monsanto and other companies are looking for more pest resistance and higher yields.

Bizarrely, the wheat industry claims that its product is safe since it isn’t genetically modified. (They’ve tried! If they could gene-splice wheat, they would! And they are working on it.) The wheat industry is under fire as researchers and educators, such as Dr. William Davis, author of Wheat Belly, point out that your consumption of hybridized wheat likely is part of why you have flab on your belly–not to mention many auto-immune conditions. Just because wheat isn’t genetically modified doesn’t mean it’s “good for you.”

Sure, wheat is referred to as the “staff of life” in the Bible. But 2,000 years ago, mankind had not yet started to alter Mother Nature.

Wheat is probably a perfectly legitimate food, if we eat non-hybridized versions. After all, many cultures ate it for 100,000 years! It’s inexpensive to grow and to prepare, and people enjoy it. Spelt and Kamut and Einkorn are ancient grains that have not been hybridized, and becoming newly re-popularized. They are lower in gluten naturally than typical semolina wheat.

I believe that the longer we ignore the risks and indulge in white-flour products, and even in hybridized whole-grain flour products, the more severe our individual gluten sensitivities will become. My own personal response to burgeoning information about wheat, is to choose only organic (non-hybridized AND free of pesticide), and usually sprouted, wheat options. The Good Earth stores, where I live, have sprouted, organic English muffins, breads, and tortillas. Even those, I don’t eat very often—not every day, and sometimes not for weeks at a time.

I believe if we allow our inflammatory conditions to progress, most or all of us will eventually be in the position of having to become a diet vigilante and avoid anything even produced in a facility with a gluten product! So, better to become careful label readers and avoid flour products NOW. That way, if you’re like me, a little piece of bread now and then doesn’t cause a reaction.

I also think that eating 60-80 percent raw plant foods, every day, every meal, as I have been doing for 20 years, is a great preventative for gluten intolerance and the inflammation that comes with eating a diet containing occasional hybridized gluten.

On another note: wheat products also often contain yeast. Modern yeast does not die in the gut. It is bred to be “fast acting” and “quick rising” in this age of impatience, where food has to be prepared quickly or no one will do it! This is not what people did, for thousands of years. In ancient times, people baked bread from natural yeast spores in the air, with slow-growing sourdough starters where the less-virulent yeast died in longer baking periods.

One of the worst diagnoses I know of, is candida albicans yeast overgrowth. It is very difficult to get rid of, and takes a long, sustained effort of starving the body of ALL sugars to be successful, even fruit. It’s a very tough diet to follow.

I have known many people who suffer with chronic low energy, depression, and much suffering before finally being diagnosed with candida. This may be related to diets high in yeast, white flour, and processed sugars, as well as use of antibiotics (which leave the body vulnerable to yeast growth). So, wheat is very problematic for all the reasons we’ve discussed, but eating wheat in combination with yeast is truly begging for health problems.

I’m a big fan of Dr. Jeffrey Smith, a pioneer in the anti-GMO movement. He did a recent study showing that getting people off GMO’s ended gluten sensitivity. This makes no sense, if you believe that gluten sensitivity is the real problem. But what he found was that people were sensitive to genetically modified ingredients, and the processed ingredients, in the packaged foods they ate. It’s something to consider. What if we religiously avoided all corn and soy, all foods not labeled “NON-GMO PROJECT” or “ORGANIC” and ate mostly greens, fruits, vegetables, legumes, non-hybridized whole grains, nuts and seeds?

IN SUMMARY: I agree with the gluten-free proponents, that we must stay away from hybridized grains, even “whole grains” that are hybridized. You know they aren’t hybridized if they are certified organic. White flour products become “glue” in the intestines, and grain products also often contain fast-rising yeast, which leads to yeast imbalance in the body—two additional reasons to avoid most bread products.

Where I wave a white flag, though, is that unless your gut is severely compromised (celiac disease and other very significant gluten intolerance, where staying away from all gluten for a very long time is necessary), the rest of us should still be able to eat limited amounts of organic, ancient wheat and other grains. Sprouted, organic, yeast-free grain products are my favorite. Science has not yet genetically modified wheat. Hybridization involves crossing different breeds to eliminate or promote certain characteristics, and genetic modification involves gene splicing.

Anti-nutrients….are you letting them scare you off whole foods? Part 2 of 3

Phytates.  Science actually knows very little about these anti-nutrients that some say rob your body of minerals. Sally Fallon’s book Nourishing Traditions teaches how to soak grains to neutralize phytates. (I discuss this issue and, for ease of digestion, teach it as an option in Step 9 of 12 Steps to Whole Foods, too.)

However, Reddy and Sathe published a book on phytates, the “anti-nutrient” in many grains. They explain evidence that phytates may not do what we think they do. They may not leach minerals from our blood and bones. They may, in fact, be helpful and important.

After all, the Bible calls wheat the “staff of life.” On a logical level, it doesn’t make much sense that grains aren’t good food. Many more Egyptians would have died in the time of Joseph and Pharoah, had they not had stores of wheat. It keeps for hundreds or thousands of years because of its hard shell, protecting the nutrition inside.

Wheat is vitamin- and mineral-rich. It’s easy to grow and inexpensive. It’s great food. (Too bad it’s been so hybridized and chemically sprayed. Many people react negatively to gluten now, likely because of hybrids. Buy organic spelt or Kamut, ancient non-hybridized grains. Avoid any whole-grain products that are not organic. Many people now must avoid gluten entirely, but some whole grains do not contain any gluten protein. Avoid white flour always. “Wheat flour” on an ingredient list IS white flour. Only “whole wheat” is the grain with its bran and germ intact.)

Purines. These compounds are ubiquitous, in our cells and most foods. They are necessary and good, but in concentrated amounts can cause problems for people with gout and a few other childhood illnesses. But they are concentrated in high-protein foods (like many animal-flesh foods).

Several researchers, including Choi, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, have found that plant proteins do NOT increase gout risk, while organs and flesh of animals, do increase gout symptoms. Moderately high purine-content plant foods include beans, lentils, asparagus, peas, oatmeal, and cauliflower.

It’s a non-issue unless you have a nutrition-related health problem that affects your purine metabolism. Especially for children and infants, problems that may warrant looking at goitrogens may include autism, cerebral palsy, deafness, epilepsy, recurrent infections, inability to walk/talk, or anemia. In those cases, a doctor may limit purines to 150 mg or less. (Keep in mind that MOST cases of those illnesses have nothing to do with purines.) You could still eat a serving a day of one of those “moderate” foods and stay below that very low limit. (For other people, eating even ten servings, you would be fine and not at risk for gout.)

Cyanide.  True, it’s in apple seeds. Cyanide is actually a trace element our body needs. What’s in apple seeds is a tiny amount, and your body breaks it down into another harmless compound in metabolism. I put apples, core and all, in my green smoothies. My dad has eaten apples whole, with the core, his whole life. (He likes to point that out, to whoever is within hearing range—“Hey look, I ate everything but the stem.” It seems to be proof of superior manliness?)

The cyanide used by Socrates’ murderer, and the Nazis, is a synthetic chemical combined with another element—hydrogen cyanide or sodium cyanide or potassium cyanide.

In fact, the “amygdalin” made of natural cyanide and sugar, found in apple seeds, is the B17 found in other pits that had people lining up by the thousands in Mexican cancer clinics in the 1980’s.


More info coming on Friday.

More info about Rejuvelac, part 3 of 3

Question: You said to use quinoa or soft white wheat berries. Can I use hard red wheat? What about other grains?

Answer: At classes I taught in Washington and Oregon right after posting the original Rejuvelac video, I had a few readers tell me they’ve been making Rejuvelac for years, with hard red wheat, triticale, and even rye! One reader told me that Rye Rejuvelac is the best!

I love the idea of rotating our grains, for a variety of nutritional profiles and tastes, just like we rotate our greens.

One reader, Monika, who went to Hippocrates 16 years ago, said she likes Rye Rejuvelac the best as well, and she barely pulses the sprouted grains into the water (per Dr. Max Gerson’s instructions many years ago) to minimize damage and oxidation of the grains. She also uses the sprouted-grain bolus over and over for a week, after straining off the liquid, to drink, after the first 2 days. Then she adds more water, and covers it, and the fermented mass makes more Rejuvelac in 24 hours, over and over, for a whole week. This tip makes the whole process even easier, quicker (about 90 seconds a day!), and less expensive, and it keeps the habitual process going.

Question: I followed your directions, and this stuff smells like #&!$!! Should I still drink it?

Answer: I am cracking up at the thought of so many GSG readers, skirting their new, weird drinky-food, poking it, sniffing it. Like cats. Your anxiety is related to unfamiliarity. (If you hadn’t been raised with bacon cooking on weekend mornings, and hamburgers on the BBQ for dinner, those smells would be unpleasant to you. BTW, they don’t smell good to me.)

I had never sniffed my Rejuvelac, so because we got a handful of this question (I answered it but it’s buried in a couple hundred comments), I made a batch and smelled it. Just for you.

You’re right. IT SMELLS AWFUL. But I tasted it and it was just fine. Luckily, it doesn’t smell at all like it tastes. The predigested proteins and sugars may fizz, and you may smell that process, and the gases that occur, but it’s just a new smell. (Raw sauerkraut, another fermented food, smells bad, too. It tastes good, though.)

Just think, normally that digestion and fermentation has to take place inside you! (Think gas. Think alcohol. Many people have degenerative gut problems, most of them undiagnosed—and they do not digest many foods effectively.) Drinking a probiotic-rich food should quiet your digestion of other foods.

Question: Will my homemade Rejuvelac be alcoholic?

Answer: Only very small amounts of alcohol (like 10% or less of what there is in beer), is produced by the fermentation of grain in Rejuvelac—as is the case with many foods. Your gut produces alcohol as a byproduct of digestion, and if you have candida, or eat a lot of sugar, or both, you’re producing more alcohol in your gut than you’d get from a can of beer anyway. If you have a lot of undigested proteins in your small intestine, as many people on the modern diet do—causing a multitude of inflammatory responses—you will be tremendously benefited by probiotic-rich, fermented foods. So the small amount of alcohol produced naturally with homemade raw probiotic foods is a non-issue, health-wise. And it cannot make you inebriated. In fact, cultured foods will cause your body to produce LESS alcohol.

NOTE FROM ROBYN: Keep in mind that I am learning this new habit, myself. I have been making Rejuvelac only about 6 weeks. I may not have it completely figured out yet and there may be better ways of doing it. For instance, one batch I made, just this week, gave me some intestinal disturbance, even though I never had that at CHI with their Quinoa Rejuvelac. I have read and listened to, with great interest, the comments of those who have been making it for many years. Thank you for any information you have for me—usually I do something for a very long time before I start talking about it here. As I learn more (for instance, if I figure out why a batch had that reaction for me despite it tasting normal), I will share it here.

Raw green food and kidney stones

I have more requests to address oxalates.

It’s another one of those “they” things: first they tell us greens are good for us, and then they tell us oxalates will cause kidney stones and other problems.   Many people are fearful of kidney stones since they’re not only common (estimates are than 10 to 15 percent of Americans are diagnosed at some point), but also terribly painful.

Here’s the thing: it’s a gross oversimplification to say greens contain oxalates, oxalates cause kidney stones, and so you shouldn’t eat greens.   First of all, calcium is so plentiful and highly bioavailable in greens, and calcium binds to excess oxalates to render them harmless and easily removed from the body.   With all but a few serious health problems where specific nutrients are banned by your doctor, green foods are VITAL and should be eaten DAILY.   Some evidence says BLENDING oxalate-rich foods neutralizes it–voila, green smoothies!)

Foods high in oxalates include soy, beer, wheat, nuts, beets, chocolate, rhubarb, spinach, and strawberries.   I eat wheat, nuts, beets, chocolate, spinach, and strawberries regularly, most of them daily.   But if you have a problem with kidney stone formation, I would address eliminating three deadly S’s rather than greens: SODA, SUGAR, AND SALT.   Those chemically upset your body’s ability to utilize minerals like calcium and magnesium, leading to stones.

I know a schoolteacher who suffered with stones and eventually kidney failure, probably because for 30 years she didn’t want to have to leave her classroom to go to the bathroom, so she avoided drinking water.   Drink LOTS of water to avoid kidney stones!

Phytates . . . part II

The phytate issue is fiercely contested in the nutrition world, with some believing that soaking grains is critical, and others believing it’s unnecessary.   I have studied compelling evidence on both sides, leading me to the following recommendations.

Regardless of whether phytates in whole grains lead to mineral deficiencies, soaking and slightly fermenting your grain clearly aids in digestion.   It costs nothing and doesn’t really add time to a recipe’s preparation, although you do a portion of the work in advance.

Most adults in the Western world need to be kind to their digestive systems.   That’s because before most of us get serious about treating our bodies right (which you’re doing if you’re reading this), we have abused our bodies with the modern lifestyle.   In particular, we’ve damaged our digestive systems.   Some of us have developed chronic digestive problems, and many of us have decades of damage to undo.    Part of a whole-grain habit, then, is to as often as possible soak your flour or grain for up to 24 hours, and add a bit of whey, kefir, or yogurt.   Even 8 hours of soaking is very helpful.   Many  12 Step recipes (in Ch. 9) call for soaking the flour or grain.  

The grain with the highest phytate content is oats, so if you like oatmeal, put the boiling water in the rolled oats right after eating breakfast, add a Tbsp. or two of yogurt or kefir, cover with a lid, and just reheat it for breakfast the next morning.   It can sit for 24 hours and will be just fine, so don’t worry.   If you like sourdough, you’ll probably like the slightly fermented taste.   If it’s too much for you, soak it only 8 hours and use a very small amount of yogurt.   This habit requires thinking ahead but is worth developing.    

Unlike oats and wheat, brown rice, millet, and buckwheat have low phytate content, so you can soak them just overnight, for shorter periods of time.   When I am serving brown rice for dinner, I put boiling water in it in the morning.   I cover it and leave it to steam all day in the oven preheated to 350 degrees (and then turned OFF).   The rice is perfectly cooked at dinnertime.   When making kasha (buckwheat cereal), I put the boiling water in the night before, letting it steam overnight.   All of this is in Step 9.    

Part III (the end of this topic) tomorrow.