The Wheat is Over

By Martha Marcom

Food seems to be a recurring topic for my blogs! Food and diet—and I use the word diet in its original meaning (from Greek via Latin) “way of life”. How many people on this earth have the means to ponder the question of which foods to eat among a banquet of choices? But here in the US, we no longer have a traditional, time-tested way of eating, and so must muddle through a variety of opinions for what makes a healthy, sustaining diet.

I have come to understand that USDA guidelines, such as the Food Pyramid, are highly influenced by various food and agricultural lobbyists, and could well be steering us in an unhealthy direction. But to balance that, I have found that there is much wisdom to be gleaned from traditional diets such as one might find in rural areas all over the world, though not necessarily here in the US, where our diets have changed radically over the last four or so generations.

Recently, I experienced a long series of allergic rashes. Outbreaks on the skin can be a message of distress from the digestive system. So I was easily inspired by a blog I began receiving when we went to the Ashtanga Confluence last year. The Confluence Countdown referenced a book, The Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health by William Davis, MD and sung the praises of being wheat-free; I decided to give it a go and to eliminate wheat from my diet.

I’ve been mostly successful in the elimination process, with the exception of beer, though I do avoid pure wheat beer--no Shocktop! Eating at home is not a problem if I am willing to shift my paradigm a bit--I cook grains with rice being the main standby, but also corn, spelt, buckwheat groats, millet and quinoa. Not eating wheat is most difficult when eating out, especially when brushetta or crusty bread with butter is usually served. The usual fare in our culture, the SAD (Standard American Diet) becomes challenging as it is heavy on wheat products and also has wheat as a component in such foods as sauces and coatings. Creativity, flexibility and a good attitude are helpful in navigating a huge dietary shift!

In my opinion the gluten-free baked goods that are widely available in grocery stores have too much sugar. And they are so white! In my case, it’s strictly wheat that I’m avoiding, not gluten, so I eat pure rye bread and spelt and other old untampered-with grains. Both of our local co-ops, The Bexley Natural Market and the Clintonville Community Market have lovely selections of alternatives to wheat.

It seems that when you venture off the beaten path of food, you get to explore some new avenues. Years ago we discovered the North Market when we decided to add a bit of chicken to our diets, and this year we discovered wonderful spelt products at the Athens Farmers Market. The spelt donuts alone are what draws Jerry all of that way, and sometimes spelt loaves can be had. These are dense loaves that must be sliced and then toasted before eating, so you could look at this dark, heavy loaf and see why wheat bread could be more convenient and appealing.

Here are some of the basic precepts from the Wheat Belly book that inspired me to undergo a “wheatectomy”. The genetics of modern wheat have been extensively manipulated in the last 50 years. And what was the intent of this manipulation? If you guessed to increase the nutritive value of this food staple, you were sadly mistaken. The genetic material of our daily bread was changed to increase production yields including the shape of the plant for compact planting and ease of harvesting. Other manipulations were to make wheat less susceptible to environmental factors, and to change the properties of dough, making it more elastic, for example. And if you imagined that resultant hybrids were tested for safety, you would be mistaken again

Of concern to Dr. Davis is that wheat proteins undergo significant structural change in genetic manipulation and 5% of the proteins found in the hybrid grain are unique and new, found in neither parent. We don’t know how these will affect us long-term, but Dr. Davis, who practices preventative cardiology, sees remarkable changes in his patients who forgo wheat. He describes reversals of diabetes, arthritis, asthma, irritable bowel syndrome, acid reflux and long-term rashes among other ills. His patients also reported significant weight loss, feeling more energetic and having clearer thinking. This is a well-documented book and the information it holds could be life-changing for someone with health challenges—most of us!

I am wishing you radiant health as we head into Autumn and Winter!