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The harmful effects of gluten

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Celiac disease is the worst extreme of gluten sensitivity. But just because you don’t have Celiac disease doesn’t mean that you are safe from  other harmful effects of wheat and gluten. It is estimated that at least 20% of the world population has some form or another of gluten intolerance and most are not even aware of it.

Why is that? Mainly because it’s hard to diagnose. Harmful effects include fatigue and digestive problems. And this may sound weird, but  it can be hard to determine that you have digestive issues if you’ve had them all your life and have no idea what “normal” feels like. The only way to really tell is to not eat gluten and see if you feel better.

However, not eating gluten doesn’t solve everything. Grains in general seem to have a lot of nasty things in them that we shouldn’t eat.  That’s just their natural defenses. Did you know that before mass production and food processing (“quick rise” dough), everyone used to soak their grains before eating them. They didn’t do this just for fun… it had a purpose: removing lectins, phytic acid and partially breaking down gluten. Soaking is basically a way to pre-digest your food, because humans aren’t pure herbivores and our digestive system isn’t made to deal with grains. Not yet anyway… In the scheme of things, humans have been on a hunter/gatherer diet for much, much longer than they have been eating grains and we simply have not yet adapted.

From my understanding, lectins seem to affect the body much like gluten, causing digestive disorders and drawing an auto immune response. They’ve been associated with diseases such as IBS, Crohn’s, colitis, thyroiditis, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue and arthritis. Phytic acid acts as an anti-nutrient. It binds with minerals like iron, zinc, magnesium and calcium, preventing the body from absorbing all that goodness.

I think the healthiest diet would be one without any grains. That way, we avoid all this talk of gluten, phytic acid and lectins altogether  and we are forced to eat more vegetables as filler. However, I do agree it is hard to give up all baked goods, but it certainly seems a good idea to limit them.

My point is, if like me, you don’t want to give up all grains, you need to learn to prepare them correctly so you get the benefits  from them and as little of the drawbacks as possible. Soaking or fermenting grains, seeds and legumes largely neutralizes their harmful components and it is extremely important to do it, just like our ancestors used to.

Call me crazy, but we give up a technique used for thousands of years and we drastically increase the amount of grains in our diet and
suddenly all these new diseases come out of nowhere.

Again, I’m not a biologist or nutritionist, I’ve just read a lot on gluten and the above is a mere summary of what I have learned. Here are some of the wonderful blogs and studies that I’ve been reading, to condense the above information (if the subject interests you, I strongly recommend taking a look at those):

The Dark Side of Wheat

Whole Health Source

The Lowdown on Lectins

About Naelle

I'm very passionate about nutrition and health. I don't have an education in this field, but I try to keep myself informed as much as possible. I stopped eating gluten two years ago, which led me to become very interested in cooking, so that I could keep eating well on my budget. I like to experiment and find ways to make my time in the kitchen as much fun, cost effective, healthy and tasty as possible.

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