Last week I was walking through the grocery store I frequent, looking around at the various food choices. I was amazed at the sheer amount of packaged items stating “gluten-free”—even on the sausages and can of nuts I was buying. Of course it’s gluten-free! As far as I know, neither sausages nor nuts have ever contained gluten. Ever.
So why are so many people worried about gluten, and what’s wrong with it?
The Beginning of a Trend
I remember meeting my first celiac patient about ten years ago. She was a pleasant woman and she told me why she didn’t eat bread—if she ate any gluten, her immune system would mount an attack on her small intestine and make her incredibly sick. She had celiac disease.
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease where you are physically unable to digest gluten, as you lack the digestive enzymes to break it down. The gluten then damages the intestinal wall, generating an autoimmune response that attacks the small intestine’s microvilli, which are critical for nutrient intake.
(NOTE: The pharmaceutical industry was working on a pill for celiac patients that would enable them to digest grains again; but like so many pie-in-the-sky cures offered by the corrupt medical/pharmaceutical establishment, we’re still waiting… and hoping for no side effects.)
According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, celiac disease used to be incredibly rare, affecting less than one percent of the population. Since that first meeting with my celiac patient, the percentage of people who have to eat a “gluten-free” diet has skyrocketed, as has the number of people with autoimmune disease. Today, eight percent of the American population (as many as 28 million Americans) have autoimmune disease, and many more still have difficulty tolerating gluten.
What the hell happened? Why is our ability to digest grains and gluten in continuous, rapid decline? Paleo, gluten-free, grain-free, and low-carb regimens are all abuzz in the diet world. Strangely enough, unlike other diet fads, people are actually getting better on these diets. Why?
A Brief History of Grains
Throughout the millennia of human history, grains have been ritually honored and cherished. According to the Smithsonian Institute, humans feasted on grains for more than 23,000 years and the storage of grains began around 8,000 B.C.
A key component to the development of the great early civilizations in Mesopotamia and Egypt was cultivated grains in fertile soil. Many Christians refer to Jesus Christ as the “Bread of Life.” The beloved song “America the Beautiful,” penned by Katharine Lee Bates in 1925 as she climbed Pike’s Peak, poetically describes the picturesque scene of “amber waves of grain.”
So why can we suddenly (and in terms of human history, we do mean “suddenly”) not eat grains anymore? Grain has more than 500 known nutrients. They are an ample source of B vitamins, minerals, and fiber. So what happened?
When you look at the big picture, the explanation is simple. We are not in harmony with nature, and we do not respect its laws of balance. The cause of this gluten issue is two-fold. Fortunately, there is one easy solution (which we’ll get to later).
Problem #1 – The Bread is Dead
Indigestible modern grain seeds have a coating to keep them viable over long periods of time. This protective coating consists of phytic acid, oxalates, tannins, and lectins, functioning as a preserver of the seed until it dissolves upon planting. An extreme example of this is viable grain seeds found in ancient Egyptian tombs of the pharaohs—these archaic seeds grew upon planting! It is a remarkable feat of nature to shield these seeds with this coating; however, to humans, it makes these same miraculous seeds, um, indigestible.
Which is why humanity evolved a highly complex process to unlock the great potential nutrition and essential enzymes within these otherwise inedible grains.
Traditionally, grains were planted in fertile, well-amended soil. Traditional methods of harvesting grains developed into a complex, slow, arduous, yet purposeful process that removed the coating from the grain seeds, thus freeing up the nutrients within for human digestion.
First, stone grinding pulverized the seeds. The grinding was slow, producing no heat, thus keeping the natural occurring enzymes intact. Then, sifting removed the coarse bran, which is high in phytic acid. Finally, the grains were soaked in water. This allowed them to sprout, waking the life within the seed.
To make bread, slow-rising yeasts were added, allowing for time to break down the remaining undigestible elements left in the grain. The fermentation that took place created the good bacteria crucial for healthy gut function. Thus, the bread produced was literally a living food, dense with nutrients and rich in enzymes.
According to Joy Zipper, owner of Berlin Natural Bakery and expert in the sprouted grain process, she says, “sprouting brings your foods to life—when done correctly, it increases the nutritional value significantly.”
How We Killed the Nutrition in Bread
Where to begin? Modern farming techniques plant seeds in depleted topsoil that is destroyed by massive petroleum based chemical inputs of fertilizer, pesticides, herbicides and fungicides. The grain that grows in this chemical concoction has unusually high amounts of our culprit, gluten.
Upon harvest, the grains are rapidly ground by machines whose high heat destroys the few enzymes left in this genetically modified mess. The fast-rise yeasts we use today are good for shortening the process of making bread; however, this shortcut doesn’t allow the yeasts and bacteria to do their job in breaking down the anti-nutrients within the grains.
Then, almost unbelievably, modern bread companies often bleach the grains. This bleaching ensures the removal of all 500 plus nutrients, enzymes and minerals in the grains. The bread is then “fortified” with five to seven synthetic man-made nutrients (which are also mostly indigestible) and labeled “enriched.”
The direct, perverse result is a bread that is literally dead, consisting of mostly indigestible components that actually inhibit enzyme production and rob minerals of your body. This is the definition of an anti-nutrient—it literally pulls nutrients out of your body.
Problem #2 – Loss of Healthy Gut Lining
These anti-nutrients are clearly detrimental to our health. Our bodies feverishly try to disintegrate and eliminate them. Many American are already severely deficient in the enzymes, trace minerals and gut bacteria necessary for this bodily process, and thus the downward cycle spirals continually, until we hit rock bottom with a major malady like celiac disease.
It might be obvious, but for a healthy body proper digestion is required. The correct and abundant amount of bacteria and enzymes are imperative to fulfill this requirement. The typical American diet of processed foods and sugar, with the addition of copious amounts of antibiotics, provides no enzymes and reduces or outright destroys gut bacteria, which results in a weakened gut lining.
Celiacs have no enzymes for gluten and their gut lining is weak, which is referred to as “leaky.” And now, many Americans who aren’t celiacs suffer the same symptoms and are developing carbohydrate intolerance. Leaky gut syndrome is now pervasive even among non-celiacs.
Stated simply: The healthier your gut lining, the healthier you are. All well-being and all disease begins in the gut. Our bodies contain ten times more gut bacteria than cells. Much like healthy soil, a healthy body is teeming with multiple universes of living and beneficial organisms. The symbiotic relationship we enjoy with these amazing microscopic creatures represents 90 percent of our immune system function and 95 percent of our serotonin production. Some might even argue, rather convincingly, that we are more bacteria and enzymes then we are human.
What is clear is that without them, human life is impossible. Once your gut is destroyed, you can’t digest your food anymore, especially grains. Once the good bacteria are gone, bad bacteria replace them, resulting in an unnaturally expanded abdomen that’s full of air from non-digested food. The irritated microvilli of the small intestine kick out a mucoid plaque that further inhibits the absorption of nutrients. Candida yeast infections are common and parasites abound within the weakened body, not to mention an abundance of farting and burping.
What Can We Do?
To further clarify, leaky gut occurs when proteins like gluten slip through the walls of your damaged small intestine. This creates a massive autoimmune response from your body in the form of allergies, asthma, arthritis, and other autoimmune disease. At this point you feel terrible all the time, but especially when you eat grains.
But there is a solution. It’s not a magic pill that instantly cures your ailment, but it is still rather easy. (For the record, there is never a magic pill for any ailment, unless of course you actually believe the propaganda of the pharmaceutical corporate giants.)
The solution is also easy to remember with this little mantra: Before the gut can heal, it must seal! The healing process does require a temporary elimination of all grains while sealing the gut wall. Simultaneously, you’ll rebuild enzyme reserves and the bacterial life of your intestines.
Chances are you don’t have celiac disease, as it’s still a rare condition. However, gut damage must be determined. All grains and carbohydrates must be cut for a minimum of 21 days (read more about this here). If in those three weeks your health noticeably improves (e.g. the bloating goes away, your energy increases, your pain decreases, and/or your brain fog clears), then you have a damaged gut lining. The Gut Rebuild Protocol (GRP) is thus an integral part of your full health restoration.
The GRP is simple and effective:
- Eliminate ALL grains from your diet
- Drastically reduce sugar consumption to 30 grams (1 TBS) or less per day
- Avoid antibiotics
Then do this for six months.
Six months is the minimum required time to seal a damaged, leaky gut. To ensure the gut seals, it can be helpful to take a probiotic and enzyme supplement with each meal, and/or eat a cup of broth with an added tablespoon of gelatin/collagen every day. The nutrients are necessary to seal the leaks.
If you want to reintroduce grains after the six months, do so slowly. Eat traditional harvested and unprocessed grains only, meaning they are organic, sprouted and alive, and are thus digestible like breads from natural bakeries such as Berlin Natural Bakery. This bakery was founded on the mission of producing the “perfect loaf of bread,” high in nutritional value and using only clean ingredients. They carefully stone-ground all of their grain on site under specific temperatures to ensure they preserve the quality of their grains to deliver the most nutritionally dense bread.
If you notice negative side effects after slowly introducing grains back into your diet, be aware that you may have to continue with the GRP for another six months.
Repeat this process as necessary, but always start slowly. Eventually, home-brewed beer, pancakes, and toast can be a delicious reality in your future.