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If you have chronic health problems that doctors can’t solve — things like digestive issues, various mysterious aches and pains, or skin problems that never quite vanish — you’re likely eating something that is punishing your stomach.
Giving up grains can sometimes offer a solution.
For me, giving up wheat and other grains improved my health immensely while helping me lose weight. It was my first step toward adopting the paleo diet.
Giving up grains represents one of the central features of the paleo regimen. The reason: The negative consequences of grains are just too serious to ignore for anyone looking to eat healthier.
Now, if you’re like me, your immune system goes a little haywire soon after you’ve swallowed something made of wheat. And other grains can have similar effects. There’s no doubt grains are my trigger food.
Meanwhile, there’s good evidence that the grains most of us eat at every meal are making us overweight and sick.
Problems with wheat
Consider what Dr. William Davis, an avid anti-wheat crusader, outlines as some of the health problems linked to wheat.
In discussing why people with diabetes should avoid wheat, Davis points out reasons that, in actuality, are reasons all of us should avoid these types of grains:
- Wheat and other grains increase your blood sugar levels at a quick pace. They are classified as “high glycemic foods.” Digesting those kinds of foods causes significant blood sugar swings. Aside from wreaking havoc with your mood, those swings eventually may make you more vulnerable to diabetes.
- It’s a mistake to think that “wholegrain” foods are healthy. They may not increase your blood sugar as much as refined grains, but they still produce undesirable effects.
- Wheat and other grains can contain substances that increase your appetite and make you want to overeat. As Davis explains, they can convey “gliadin-derived peptides,” chemicals that affect the brain in an addictive manner. Gliadin can also make your digestive tract more permeable, allowing allergenic substances to infiltrate the body. Plus, phytates in wheat may block your absorption of important minerals like magnesium, zinc and iron.
- Eating grains hurts the health of your mouth and teeth. Research on the introduction of grains into the human diet shows that eating grains leads to the crooked growth of teeth, gum disease, cavities and tooth loss.
- Grains impact the makeup of the friendly bacteria that grow in your digestive tract. Researchers suspect that this change in probiotic bacteria can make you more susceptible to illness. In normal circumstances, those bacteria help your immune system protect the body against infectious diseases.
By now, you’ve probably read about some of the problems gluten (found in wheat, barley and rye) can cause. I’ll be discussing more about gluten’s health effects in future articles.
But aside from gluten, wheat contains other individual substances that are suspected of doing serious harm to your health. In particular, a chemical called wheat germ agglutinin (WGA) is an indigestible part of wheat that can give your intestinal health a serious challenge.
According to Davis, WGA is “the complex, 4-part protein present in wheat, rye, barley, and rice… (that) penetrates intestinal barriers, causing direct intestinal toxicity and entering the bloodstream to activate antibodies, mimic insulin, and block leptin (the hormone of satiety).”
Robb Wolff, a paleo advocate, believes that WGA can keep the body from absorbing vitamin D while hindering your ability to lose weight and damaging the gut lining.
Wolff cites a study that shows: “Once the WGA enters the bloodstream, it is deposited in various cells and the blood vessel wall. WGA also causes an increase in the size of the pancreas and a decrease in the size of the thymus.”
I agree with Wolff when he advises people trying to improve their health to give up wheat for a month and see what happens. That’s how I started.
And I’ve never stopped.
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