Friday, November 15, 2013

Overcoming Gluten Intolerance

Overcoming Gluten Intolerance
The problem of Gluten Intolerance and Celiac Disease is growing exponentially. And as a result, the gluten-free market is booming. Doctors, celebrities and the mom and herb kids next door are disavowing grains while preaching its evils with religious fervor. Hint or suggest that wheat may not be quite the villain it is being portrayed is can bring quick and harsh judgment.

As is so common in our culture, we are so quick to come to a conclusion and often not even asking the right questions to the issue at hand. One of the newer diets gaining in popularity is the Caveman or Paleolithic Diet, which espouses that we should "eat like a predator - not like a prey". Kind of catchy, isn't it. Or in other words, eat meat like a wolf or mountain lion, not grain and grasses like a cow. This approach of eliminating grains is somehow justified because early man did not begin farming and eating grains until about 12,000 years ago. Therefore, according to their logic, before that time man was healthy and it wasn't until they started eating grains that our health became compromised. Unfortunately, Gluten Intolerance really has not become a significant health problem until the last 10 maybe 15 years. To me, it doesn't stand to reason that it took 11,985 years for the human body to begin suffering from the ill effects of grains.

I am not questioning the reality that people suffer and indeed suffer greatly from eating wheat or other grains that contain gluten. What I am suggesting is that there is more to the picture of gluten intolerance than wheat being bad. Certainly, there is a genetic component, but that is not the only factor to consider. What I suggest is that wheat or grain is not so much the problem as they way it is prepared.

Our modern methods of food manufacturing emphasize a few things that translates in how they do things. Your typical manufacturer is interested primary in profits. To insure profitability, they focus on getting the product out as quickly as possible. They are also interested in shelf life of the product once it gets to market. There are other factors of course, but these are the main two that affect the digestibility of your bread.

Bread in times past, was not made with quick rising yeast. (Red Star, SAF, or Fleishmanm's). Bread and grains in times past where not laden with preservatives and chemicals to lengthen the shelf life or enhance the texture, color or whatever else they do to increase sales. Modern convenience dictates that we don't make "daily bread", but we buy our bread once a week and expect it to stay fresh and last at least a week.

Grains, as well as legumes and many other foods, contain what is known as anti-nutrients. The purpose of these anti-nutrients (such as phytates, enzyme inhibitors, saponins) are genetically built into many plants to insure their survival. If, for example, someone or some thing begins to eat too much of a bean or grain, after a while the body says hey that's enough of that food - move on to something else. With these anti-nutrients, the tasty grain or bean would be entirely consumed and its survival would be in jeopardy.

Ancient man, however, was pretty cleaver. Through trial and error (and without refrigeration), discovered how to preserve his food, make it more digestible as well as more nutritious.

If we ask the question, "What are we doing to the grains we eat today that people back in the day did differently?" We know as historical fact that people have been eating bread and grains for thousands of years without it causing problems. In Christianity, we pray from our daily bread and Christ refers to himself as the Bread of Life - each example with very positive connotations.

Every culture prior to ours would soak or ferment their grains and bread dough prior to cooking. Bread was not made with added yeast, but with a culture or sourdough started. This natural leavening (typically a lactobacillus bacteria) was acid and would break down the phytic acid, deactivate the enzyme inhibitors as well as cause the bread to rise. The resulting product was a fresh aromatic easy to digest and healthy bread. Genuine sourdough bread is made today as it was anciently with three ingredients - Grain, water and salt. And if done properly delivers a light nutritious loaf that is exquisite. This bread is not made in a day, but traditionally takes 2 to 3 days to make. This is why the Hebrew people in their exodus from Egypt were instructed to make unleavened bread - bread that didn't require the time to culture, ferment and rise. And the Jewish people today continue to make unleavened bread - but only once each year in celebration of the Passover. The rest of the time, bread is made with leavening over time.

Because bread and grains (this includes pasta, pastry and anything else made from flour), prepared improperly, have been eaten as a dominate part of the diet, these anti-nutritents cause irritation, inflammation and deplete minerals in the digestive tract. Coupled with a genetic predisposition that many have inherited, the result can range from mild discomfort of gluten intolerance to the ravaging inflammation of Celiacs Disease.

As a result of years of eating bread and grains that are milled too finely, risen too quickly and eaten too abundantly, these chronic and sometimes disabling digestive conditions are spreading as an epidemic across modern cultures. The consequences of gluten intolerance and celiac disease is an inflamed and damage digestive tract. The solution will not be found in simply eliminating gluten from the diet (although this is necessary and it does help with the symptoms). Honestly, people suffering from gluten intolerance, even though they have completely eliminated gluten in all forms from the diet, still have digestive problems and are oh so sensitive to many foods and stress. The digestive tract first needs to be healed.

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