Reducing Gluten with Ancient Alternatives

wheat field harvest

Out of all the man-made foods in the world, it seems most individuals immune systems respond dramatically to wheat and gluten the most. There are well over 50 autoimmune diseases linked to gluten, why is this? Why is something that is so widely available causing us so much grief?

In the 1970’s wheat was hybridised, it went from a short stumpy crop to a huge tall crop which had the ability to yield a lot more than the natural form. This resulted in the wheat being mass produced creating an extremely financially viable product.

wheat comparisonDue to the change in wheat production, some people react more than others when they consume it. This depends on the integrity of their gut lining, gut flora, enzyme production and so on. Someone who has a mild reaction to wheat and continues to consume it, may over time become more intolerant to other foods as well as wheat.

This is why, when the tiniest amount of wheat or gluten enters the digestive tract, gliadin (a protein found in wheat) leads to the upregulation of zonulin, which opens up the ‘tight junctions’ in our gut lining, leading to increased gut permeability. This happens to 100% of people, despite whether they have a diagnosed gluten intolerance or coeliac disease.

In basic terms, the consumption of wheat leads to a ‘leaky gut’. When these tight junctions open, undigested food floats out into our system and immune reactions occur, leading to an array of symptoms including weight gain, headaches, migraines, joint pain, sinus, skin problems, which can then progress further to autoimmune diseases. These immune reactions can last up to three months, depending on the form of your reaction, your gut flora, if you have an autoimmune disease, and so on.

Wheat strains have boomed to include over 25,000 varieties since the original cultivation of the most ancient wheat grain, Einkorn. Since the cultivation of einkorn more than 10,000 years ago, different types of wheat grains have flooded our fields. Originating as Einkorn, natural hybridisation created emmer wheat and many years later spelt was also formed.

Although spelt is classified as an ancient wheat grain, some people may find it difficult to digest it, resulting in inflammatory symptoms within the body. However, when we move to even older cultivars, such as emmer or einkorn wheat, it is generally tolerated very well if it is fermented, as is the case with sourdough.

There are many reasons why people can tolerate emmer and einkorn wheat better than ‘modern’ wheat. The biggest reason is the level of gluten within the grains. Einkorn is exceptionally low in gluten, emmer wheat is very low and the modern wheat grain contains high levels of gluten.

If you are unsure if you are entirely gluten sensitive or ‘modern’ wheat sensitive, remove all gluten containing grains first. This includes all wheat varieties including the ancient wheat grains; einkorn, emmer, spelt, barley, oats and rye.

Eliminate these foods for a minimum of 6 weeks and then slowly introduce them one by one every three days in order to see if you react to them. Personally, I believe no one should be exposed to the modern, chemically hybridised wheat grain as it’s not from nature, so your body is likely to view it as a foreign invader which may result in an immune system reaction.

An additional problem with wheat is the lack of preparation of the product.

We are creating ‘quick breads’, which reduces our ability to digest and absorb nutrients from the product. Many cultures ferment the wheat grain before consuming the final product. By doing this, it increases the digestibility and nutrient content. An example of this is sourdough bread!

As a rule of thumb, the more genetically pure the wheat grain is (such as Einkorn and Emmer) it is more nutrient dense. So if you can tolerate ancient wheat grains then use the grains sparingly rather than every day. Ensure that you fill your diet with plenty of seasonal leafy greens, vegetables, fruits, meats and enjoy grains as a ‘treat’ rather than a ‘filler’ or a ‘must have’.


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