In 2003, the Human Genome Project showed that most of the time our genes are not the cause of the diseases we see in modern times. It was believed that there had to be 100,000 genes to encode our DNA, one gene for each of the 100,000+ proteins in the human body. This had been the holy grail of human molecular biology for nearly a century.
However, the results of the project showed that there are only 20,000-25,000 genes, each of which contains information for assembling or producing the functional molecules we call proteins. (1) Simply put, researchers found that information is transferred to RNA in a cell’s nucleus, which then interacts with ribosomes to read the sequence and translate the code to create an amino acid. This transcription and translation is known as gene expression.
Even with this knowledge, modern misconceptions about the role of genes and how they express are difficult to break. It’s now known that diseases that result from errors in the sequence of a gene are extremely uncommon, with less than 1% of diseases falling into this category. Contrary to what you may believe, celiac is not one of them. (2)
Disease is not written in our genetic code. So why is humankind plagued with so many diseases? It’s not the genes, but what they’re exposed to that forms disease, and that includes our food and our environment.
A chronically elevated level of the hormone insulin is the number one problem we now have as a society. Insulin’s main job is to regulate sugar levels when glucose is present in the blood. When too much glucose is present, insulin stores it as fat, and when glucose levels are consistently high, cells become resistant to insulin because they’re overloaded. The pancreas begins to produce more insulin to bombard cells, and a vicious cycle begins. This new epidemic in westernized countries is called “metabolic syndrome”, and it comes from eating too many carbohydrates, refined carbohydrates in particular.
Epigenetics (the study of genes) has changed the way we think about eating. The changes that occur in organisms as a result of dietary or environmental toxins has made some researchers look at metabolic syndrome, celiac, cancer, Alzheimer’s, dementia, ADD, autism, autoimmune diseases, and even allergies as conditions that may someday be prevented or healed through the use of food rather than through any modification or alteration of genes themselves.
The history of wheat
Wheat is the third largest crop in the world after rice and corn mainly because it can withstand severe climates. Its earliest known existence is found to be about 9,000 years ago, and today, many experts still believe that, should disaster strike, few nations could survive for even a year without it.
- Wheat is used mainly as a human food because it can be stored for years in kernel form, is easily transported and can be processed into a wide variety of foods.
- The per capita consumption of wheat in the United States exceeds any other single food.
- It’s high in carbohydrates and is still believed by many to be nutritious, with valuable proteins, minerals, and vitamins.
- It’s a major ingredient in breads, rolls, crackers, cookies, biscuits, cakes, donuts, muffins, pancakes, waffles, noodles, pie crusts, pasta, ice cream cones, pizza, and cereals. Wheat flour, germ, bran, and malt are also added to packaged foods, baby food, soups, gravies, and sauces as a fillers, binders, and thickeners.
Although grain has been consumed for thousands of years, stored in kernel form and ground fresh, modern wheat is making people sick. Spelt, Kamut, Einkorn, and a few other related grains which are the result of ancient natural crossings also contain gluten, but do not have adverse affects on many who believe they’re “gluten sensitive”. So what’s different about wheat today that didn’t exist in ancient wheat? Just about everything.
The downfall of the modern diet: Modern industrial milling
Modern grain milling (the steel roller mill) is fast and efficient. It gives a great amount of control over how the kernel is separated. It allows for a barren “flour” to be made that lasts indefinitely, can be shipped over long distances through the seemingly endless distribution chain, and provides food for the masses. It remains virtually pest free because there’s nothing in it that pests want. In fact, with regard to nutrition, there’s nothing in it at all.
- Modern milled wheat was the first processed food.
- It allows shelf stable foods to be manufactured many months in advance of distribution, often thousands of miles from the end user.
- It eliminates the richest source of nutrients including proteins, vitamins, lipids, and minerals found in the bran, germ, shorts (fine bran particles, germ and a small portion of floury endosperm particles), and red dog mill streams (the middle grade into which flour and meal are classified and which are the richest in proteins, vitamins, lipids, and minerals. Ironically, “middlings” are used in animal feed).
- Decades of current research have proven white flour to be harmfully devoid of nutrients, but it’s still the most widely used product in the world.
- Manufacturers replace natural nutrients with just a few manmade replicas, all of which are without their whole food complex.
According to the Weston A. Price Foundation, here’s what’s lost by modern industrial processing.
- Thiamine (B1) 77%
- Riboflavin (B2) 80%
- Niacin 81%
- Pyridoxine (B6) 72%
- Pantothenic acid 50%
- Vitamin E 86%
- Calcium 60%
- Phosphorous 71%
- Magnesium 84%
- Potassium 77%
- Sodium 78%
- Chromium 40%
- Manganese 86%
- Iron 76%
- Cobalt 89%
- Zinc 78%
- Copper 68%
- Selenium 16%
- Molybdenum 48%
Excessive input farming and genetic alteration
The 20th century has brought a new monster to the “advancement” of food technology. While previous decades and advances in milling destroyed and voided wheat of all of its nutritional value, radical techniques in farming have changed the vital structure of the plant itself.
- The Green Revolution of the mid 1900s saw the development of a system that gave high yielding varieties of grains.
- Irrigation technology was modernized
- Management techniques were changed
- Hybridized seeds arrived
- Synthetic fertilizers were developed
- Chemical pesticides began to see regular use
All of this revolutionized the way grains were “created”.
The new species of wheat was “weather resistant” and this, coupled with the elimination of insect blights, gave us more than enough wheat to supply hungry people everywhere. Companies such as Dupont and Monsanto grabbed hold of this opportunity and, with no regard for nutritional value, began to “feed the world”.
- Wheat is now resistant to drought, pests and blight through the use of chemicals
- It’s easy to harvest which has given farmers a dramatically high yield per acre
- Biological manipulation (hybridized but technically not genetically altered) has made it higher in gluten (so it bakes into a fluffier end product)
- We’re eating seeds that have been grown in synthetic soil to make a wheat that’s macerated to flimsy dust, then bleached and chemically treated, a “food” that no other animal will touch.
Genetic engineering alters the genetic blueprint of living organisms by splicing genes to create specific characteristics or functions. For example, scientists can mix a gene from a cold-water fish into a strawberry plant’s DNA so it can withstand colder temperatures. (3) Roundup Ready Wheat is a patented product of Monsanto that resists the deadly herbicide, Roundup, another Monsanto product.
Ironically, exports of genetically engineered products are not accepted in many countries and Monsanto has made the decision to put the development of GE wheat on temporary hold. Currently, there is no genetically modified wheat available for human consumption.
We may not be safe from genetically engineered foods, though. “In 2000, Iowa, farmers planted only 1% of their corn crop as Starlink, a genetically engineered corn approved only for animal consumption. By harvest time, almost 50% of the crop tested positive for Starlink. Product recalls, consumer outcry and export difficulties have ensued. This mistake resulted in the recall of hundreds of millions of dollars of food products and seeds”. (4)
Here’s what experts are saying about modern wheat.
Dr. William Davis, author of Wheat Belly: “This thing being sold to us called wheat is this stocky little high-yield plant, a distant relative of the wheat our mothers used to bake muffins, biochemically light-years removed from the wheat of just 40 years ago.”
Neurologist Dr. David Permutter, author of Grain Brain: “The problem with gluten is far more serious than anyone ever imagined. Modern...structurally modified, hybridized grains contain gluten that’s less tolerable than the gluten that was found in grains cultivated just a few decades ago”.
Dr. Mark Hyman, author of The Blood Sugar Solution: “This new modern wheat may look like wheat, but it is different in three important ways that all drive obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, dementia and more. It contains a super starch, amylopectin A, that is super fattening, a form of super gluten that is super inflammatory, and [acts like] a super drug that is super addictive and makes you crave and eat more”.
Wheat was the one of the first foods approved by the Food and Drug Administration for irradiation as a way to control insects. The idea was to eliminate pests that found their way into grains and flours during the long storage process. Today it kills fruit flies, prevents mold from growing, delays ripening, prevents sprouting, and extends the shelf life of meat and fish.
In 1963, the consequences were as yet unknown.
In a 1975 study (5), children who were fed recently irradiated wheat were found to have abnormal cell formation and polyploid lymph, the same type found in patients who were undergoing radiation treatment. A dramatic increase in these cells showed up in blood samples, and because of the potential danger, the study was ended. For verification, the study was continued on both monkeys and rats with the same results. The children, monkeys and rats all returned to normal after the wheat was discontinued.
- Irradiated food lowers immune resistance, decreases fertility, damages the kidneys, depresses growth rates, and reduces vitamins A, B complex, C, E and K.
Chemicals, for the betterment of our food supply
For every synthetic chemical insecticide used in farming practices today, there is at least one species of insect that has developed a resistance to it.
Say hello to disulfoton (Di-syston), methyl parathion, chlorpyrifos, dimethoate, diamba, and glyphosate, the chemical pesticides and fertilizers that are approved and considered safe for human consumption. They’re designed to create neurological fragmentation in insects.
- They’re seen as foreign estrogens in the human body.
- They can cause severe hormonal imbalance, particularly in pre-pubescent teens, causing them to reach puberty at much earlier ages.
- They’re linked to hormone-dependent cancers.
Some farmers apply cyocel to wheat, a synthetic hormone that regulates growth, time of germination and stalk strength.
- Cyocel acts as an endocrine disruptor in humans.
Next are chlorpyrifos-methyl, cy-fluthrin, malathion and pyrethrins. These are sprayed into storage bins and added while the bin is filled. They’re then re-added to the upper four inches of grain to protect against moths and other insects that enter from the outside.
- Malathion interferes with the normal function of the nervous system.
- Pyrethrins are neurotoxic in humans
- Cy-fluthrin is highly toxic to marine and fresh water organisms, is a skin and eye irritant, and causes kidney damage and low growth rates in humans
In the standard threshold test, one live insect per quart of sample calls for fumigation. The goal of fumigation is to “maintain a toxic concentration of gas long enough to kill the target pest population.” (6) Methyl bromide and phosphine-producing materials are allowed to penetrate the entire facility.
- Methyl bromide is highly toxic. It’s a skin and eye corrosive, affects the nervous system, caused malformation in embryos of test animals.
- Phosphine is acutely toxic and can cause respiratory, speech and motor disturbances, and spontaneous fractures. It induces damage to genetic material in vitro.(7)
Organophosphates create the same action as nerve gases such as sarin, and are one of the most widely used classes of pesticides in the U.S. and around the world. They inhibit cholinesterase, an enzyme in the human nervous system that breaks down the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which carries signals between nerves and muscles. When cholinesterase is inactivated, acetylcholine builds up in the nerves. Victims die from suffocation because they’re lungs are paralyzed and they can't breathe. (16)
A study published in the journal Pediatrics showed that legally permissible amounts of organophospates have extraordinary effects on brain chemistry. The findings concluded that children with above-average pesticide exposures are 2x more likely to have ADHD, (8) indicating the build-up of acetycholine in the nerves that causes over-activity.
The myth of gluten-free
Spelt, kamut and other related ancient grains contain gluten, but some people who claim to be gluten sensitive can eat them without having digestive problems. Why? It’s not the gluten alone; it’s a combination of all the things done to modern wheat and other industrialized grains.
The amount of gluten in modern wheat has been dramatically increased by biological manipulation and is now about 80% of its total protein content.
For the increasing population of celiac sufferers, even minute traces of gluten can cause terrible discomfort, but symptoms of gluten sensitivity are generally much milder and health minded individuals who are honing their diet are turning to gluten-free products.
The food “industry”, never one to miss a good opportunity, is responding with “gluten-free” foods by the dozens and, staying true to the nature of industrialized foods, most of it is junk.
Modern grains and modern disease
Increasing numbers of scientists and medical professionals are beginning to make the connection between modern wheat and chronic digestive and inflammatory illnesses. Inflammation is the body’s natural response to pathogens and wounds, but persistent low grade inflammation (LGI) or continual activation of immune cells through incessant exposure to triggers is associated with a host of diseases including cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, cancer, autoimmune diseases, Alzheimer's disease, schizophrenia and depression.
- Inflammation in response to injury is good, but a low continuous burn from constant triggers can be deadly.
Phytates, gluten and lectins - three poisons we can live without
Phytates - Phytates, also found in lesser quantities in nuts and seeds, are not inherently damaging, but they do bind to dietary minerals and prevent their absorption. They’re not as harmful as gluten and lectins if the rest of your diet is mineral rich. To help break down phytates, you can soak food in yogurt, buttermilk, or water combined with lemon juice or vinegar.
Gluten - Gluten is a protein which enables bread to rise by forming gas cells that hold carbon dioxide during fermentation. Modern technology has increased the amount in wheat so that it now contains about 80% gluten.
Lectins - Lectins are so small and hard to digest that they tend to bio-accumulate in your body. They damage the gut lining which leads to leaky gut and other disorders. Lectins also cause leptin resistance, which means that your hunger signal is suppressed and that you’ll be hungry even when your body has had more than enough calories. They’re resistant to heat and digestive enzymes and can bind to almost all cell types, causing damage to tissues and organs.
All seeds of the grass family are high in lectins which cause agglutination.
- Here’s the Merriam Webster definition of agglutination - “a reaction in which particles (as red blood cells or bacteria) suspended in a liquid collect into clumps and which occurs especially as a serological response to a specific antibody”.
What agglutinin is capable of doing to us is this:
- It stimulates the synthesis of chemical messengers that are responsible for inflammation in response to some injury or invasion.
- It inhibits nerve growth factor which keeps neurons alive and thriving (9), and sticks to the protective covering of nerves (the myelin sheath)
- New research is showing that it may disrupt endocrine function and interfere with other genetic expression. (10)
- It shares similarities with certain viruses (10)
- It induces platelet aggregation (11)
- It stimulates pro-inflammatory cytokines and causes gut permeability (12) which allows bacteria and large particles to enter the bloodstream
- Gliadin epitopes in modern wheat contribute to gut-permeating activity that moves dietary antigens into your blood stream. It’s believed to be causative in autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis), asthma, chronic fatigue syndrome and depression. 30% of the population has noticeable amounts of anti-gliadins in their stools. Anti-gliadins are antibodies secreted when the body sees gliadin, a constituent of gluten, as an intruder. Having the antibody in your stools means that your body is actively fighting an intruder and that you already have low level inflammation.
- Gluten triggers the over-abundance of zonulin, a protein which is responsible for the permeability of tight junctions between cells of the wall of the digestive tract. Too much zonulin production disrupts intestinal barrier function
- Aggliglutin binds to the outer coating of human cells, can cross the blood-brain barrier allowing bacteria to enter cells (14)
What are some healthy alternatives?
The Paleo eating protocol revolves around whole foods including meat and plants, but not industrialized plants such as wheat and other grains. Don’t be fooled by products that claim to be whole wheat. In some countries, whole wheat products contain nothing more than white flour with some bran added back in. The whole grain is not used and it’s processed the same way as barren white flour. If you can’t live without baked goods, make sure you read labels thoroughly.
Try some of these healthy tips.
Replace grain flour - Use almond or coconut flour. There are hundreds of online recipes using these flours.
Soak and sprout nuts and seeds and grind into flour - Nuts and seeds contain enzyme inhibitors that stop them from sprouting too early. This works out in nature, but for us, when enzymes are blocked, we can’t make use of them.
To soak: Soaking releases the enzyme inhibitors so they help us digest these foods. It also neutralizes phytic acid, a component of plant fiber in grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds that reduces mineral absorption.
- Use raw nuts or seeds. Cover with filtered water to about 2 inches above and let them soak overnight. Make sure the bowl is big enough to accommodate the swelling that will take place. Drain and discard the soak water.
- Use right away or store soaked nuts and seeds in the refrigerator for 2-3 days.
To sprout: Sprouting increases the total nutrient density of a food.
- Use raw presoaked nuts or seeds. Spread them out on a plate giving them a bit of space and cover lightly with cheesecloth or clean unbleached muslin. Rinse twice a day.
- A tiny white tail will appear from the narrow end when they begin to sprout. Use them right away or store in a jar in the refrigerator.
Make your own sprouted granola - Soak almonds, pecans, macadamia nuts, and chia seeds in water for 8 hours then set them out for a day on a paper towel. Toss them in a small amount of raw local unpasteurized honey, and add organic raisins, coconut flakes, cinnamon and sea salt. Place them in a dehydrator or oven and you have a great tasting metabolism boosting snack.
Grains, a food group that we didn’t eat for 97% of our human existence, are now at the base of the USDA food pyramid with 6-11 servings a day recommended.
New science is shedding some light on the problems caused by this popular food group, but of all the habits that you can develop regarding your health, dropping the grains from your diet is probably the one that will pay off the most.