Wednesday, June 7, 2017
Wisdom Wednesday: Wheat
Wheat is the most common food sensitivity in the world today. As noted in last week’s Wisdom Wednesday, you might react to any of the proteins or carbohydrates in wheat.
Wild wheat was a staple in the diet of most hunter-gatherer populations that pre-date farming.
The Egyptians are credited with being the world’s first farmers. This may have begun as early at 10,000 BC but was well documented by 5,200 BC. They grew barley and wheat in plowed fields then ground the seeds between stones to make flour. This “stone ground” wheat was a much healthier grain than the wheat produced today.
Despite the quality of their grains, archeologists are able to differentiate the hunter-gatherer from the farmer when examining mummified remains from ancient Egyptian tombs. Examination of those who ate farm raised grains shows evidence of cardiovascular disease, arthritis, osteoporosis and other chronic degenerative diseases. The hunter-gatherer will be free of all of these ailments. It is interesting to note that the Egyptians perfected the art of mummification long before they became interested in farming.
The wheat that was grown remained relatively unchanged until the 1960’s. Long before GMO (genetically modified) wheat, hybridization altered the very nature of wheat. By cross-breeding various strains, scientists were able to create wheat with a shorter, heavier stalk, which was insect resistant.
By the time genetic testing became available, they had created strains of wheat that were genetically a whole new species from the original wheat strains. One of those changes was a 400% increase in the gluten content.
Gluten is not a single protein but is the name given to a group of proteins found in wheat, barley, rye and oat. The actual proteins are prolamins and glutelins. The prolamins in wheat are called gliadins.
Sensitivity to glutelins or any of the proteins in grains is based upon the amino acid sequence that makes up that particular protein. When digested completely, single amino acids fail to provoke the immune system. However, if not completely digested an amino acid chain of as little as five amino acids can stimulate an immune response.
I believe everyone has some immune response to gluten. For some, the symptoms are severe – autoimmune disease. For others, maybe a little bloating or excess mucus production. It’s primarily because gluten is so pervasive in our diet. We were designed to eat foods seasonally as they were naturally available, not daily.
The carbohydrates in wheat are numerous, but starch is the predominant sugar. Starch is two carbohydrates - amylose and amylopectin. Amylose is comprised of 5 to 600 glucose units, while amylopectin is made up of thousands of glucose units.
Again, if these carbohydrates are broken down completely to glucose, no immune response will occur. However, even two linked glucose molecules (maltose – a disaccharide) will stimulate an immune reaction.
The Bottom Line:
Wheat is the most common food sensitivity because it is consumed multiple times daily and because has been so modified from its’ natural form. However, like all food sensitivities, it is incomplete digestion and malabsorption across a leaky gut that triggers the immune response.