Oh, for the Love of Bread!

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, scientist, nutritionist, or in any way qualified to give you medical, diet, or any kind of health advice. Please remember that my posts will always be about my opinions and personal experiences. Always seek professional advice before making any diet or medical changes.

Now that we have gotten that out of the way…

Since my Churg Strauss diagnosis, I have been on a search to find out what made me sick and if there is anything I can do to “cure” myself. I have decided to look at food consumption as one possible cause, and based on information I have read I have decided to make dietary changes in hopes that I will see improvements in my health. Before I jump into sharing my experiences and the changes I have made, I want to give you a bit of background about what got me started down this road.  So, here it goes…

Grains have become an essential part of the American diet, as well as all over the world. The U.S. government, nonprofit organizations, doctors, and many others, are telling us that we need to eat whole grains EVERY DAY! Just visit the Whole Grains Council website. Directly under their logo it says, “Whole grains at every meal.” The food pyramid (now called My Plate) recommends around 6oz of grains daily, or 6-11 servings. That’s at least two servings of grains for each of the three major meals, breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

In case you didn’t know, grains are the seeds of a wide variety of plants such as wheat, rye, barley, oats, corn, rice, sorghum, buckwheat, quinoa, and millet. That means you can find grains in a heck of a lot of foods. Wheat and corn alone are ingredients found in so many foods that it’s almost impossible to think of them all. Just off the top of my head, here is a list of common grain containing foods: pizza, bread, popcorn, cookies, cereal, calzones, cake, pasta, rice, tortillas, corn, bagels, donuts, and SO many other things. Can you even think of life without these things? Well, I have decided to give up these foods in an effort to seek improvements in my health.

So, what’s the problem with grains you ask? Well, first off, only certain parts of the grain (or seed) are edible by humans. In order for us to digest grains, they need to be processed in some way. For example, the chaff (aka hull or husk) of the seed is completely inedible by humans, and needs to be removed in two processes called threshing and winnowing. Prior to modern agricultural machinery, this was a very time consuming process. If preparing grains was so time consuming, I’m guessing humans did not eat as much of them years ago as we do today. So, what does this mean, and why do you care? You’ve been eating grains your entire life! Your parents, and their parents ate them too. Grains are even mentioned in the Bible! Well, there is a difference between the grains and foods that we eat today, and the ones that were eaten thousands of years ago. Here is a good blog post about this: Does the Bible Say We Should Eat Grains?

One of the biggest problems with grains is that they contain phytic acid, which inhibits the bioavailability of essential vitamins. [1] This is a documented historical fact. Diets high in grains can cause deficiencies in iron, zinc, calcium, niacin, phosphorus, thiamine (B1), and more. These deficiencies lead to debilitating diseases that can result in severe mental deterioration and death.

If you research pellagra you will find that corn based diets result in niacin and B1 deficiencies. Cases of pellagra were widespread in Europe when corn was brought from the Americas. There was an outbreak in southern U.S. states in the early 1900s, and cases are still seen today in poor regions of Africa and Asia. The World Health Organization explains, “The disease is classically associated with a diet based on non-alkali-treated maize.” So, that means that corn must be treated with alkali before consumption to reduce the phytic acid. The indigenous people of North, South, and Central America did not suffer from this disease, because they treated their corn with lime or wood ashes. [2] [3] Another disease to research is beriberi, which is a result of thiamine (B1) deficiency, and shown to occur in people that consume a diet high in white rice.

So, why don’t we see pellagra and beriberi in the U.S. today? The simple answer is fortification, the forced consumption of vitamins. In the early 1940s, the U.S. government created a policy to fortify flour, rice, pasta, and corn meal with niacin, thiamine and other vitamins. “The consumption of enriched flour and bread ensured that the dietary intake of niacin and thiamine was adequate, thus ensuring the prevention of pellagra and beriberi.” [3] [4]

Another problem with grains is the way it affects insulin. The higher the consumption of grains, the higher the insulin sensitivity. [5] Insulin is responsible for removing sugar in your blood so your body can use it as energy. If you are insulin sensitive, then your body does not react correctly to insulin and results in an overproduction of insulin. This can lead to obesity, diabetes, polycystic ovary syndrome, heart disease, and more. [6] So, why has the government not linked grains to obesity? We hear so much on the news about the obesity epidemic in the U.S. and they point to so many things like fast food, lack of exercise, and many other things, but I have only read about the link to grains online. I find this interesting.

Another problem I have read about is how grains cause inflammation in the body. This was the most interesting to me, since Churg Strauss and other autoimmune diseases are associated with inflammation, and because of the correlation between allergies and inflammation. Also, diabetes and heart disease are recognized as conditions of chronic inflammation, so it’s possible that the inflammation correlates to grain consumption just like insulin sensitivity. I have been unable to find any medical research that supports the inflammation theory, but I have read a lot of blogs from people that attest to curing various inflammatory diseases by cutting grains from their diet.

In addition to the anti-inflammation diets that I have read about, I also came across the paleo diet in this blog post, The Beginners Guide to the Paleo Diet. When I read this, I though it made sense, and made the decision to give it a try. Upon further research, I quickly found out that a true “hardcore” paleo dieter does not eat dairy, sugar of any kind, legumes, grains, seeds, potatoes, and more (some even stay away from nuts.) Many of them also do not agree with using paleo recipes to mimic foods you used to eat, like bread. This really deterred me as I started to think about how I would miss so many of the foods that I loved. I thought for sure that this diet was a recipe for disaster that would lead to uncontrollable cravings causing me to give up. So, I thought I would start slowly and chose to not “go paleo” for the time being. Instead I decided to go on a grain free diet, since based on my readings grains seemed to be the most harmful.

So, now that I have introduced you to the reasons behind my decision to go grain free, I can begin to share with you my experiences over the past four months, along with tips and recipes if you are interested in trying this yourself. I can tell you right now that I have seen quite dramatic and unexpected changes already, so I will definitely be chronicling about my grain free life for quite some time, as I don’t plan on giving up on it anytime soon. I’ll also begin to share with you some of the other choices I have made in regards to chemical free products and other lifestyle changes. So stay tuned!

Photo credit: Peggy Greb

I have done quite a bit of research on this subject, and I didn’t want to write this solely based on other blog posts that did not include informational references. Below I have included links to articles and websites under general information, that I felt were relevant for you to read if you wanted to research further. I have also included references from what I believe to be credible sources.


General Information:

http://www.choosemyplate.gov/

http://www.wholegrainscouncil.org/whole-grains-101/definition-of-whole-grains

http://whqlibdoc.who.int/hq/2000/who_nhd_00.10.pdf

http://hera.ugr.es/doi/14995931.pdf

http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=10872&page=45

http://www.westonaprice.org/food-features/living-with-phytic-acid

References:

[1] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7002470

[2] World Health Organization, http://whqlibdoc.who.int/hq/2000/who_nhd_00.10.pdf

[3] http://198.170.116.198/pellagra.pdf

[4] http://www.nobelprize.org/educational/medicine/vitamin_b1/eijkman.html

[5] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14594783

[6] http://diabetes.webmd.com/guide/insulin-resistance-syndrome

[7] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2821887/

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