Is whole wheat bad for you regardless of what form it is in? Hard to even imagine this question, since from the time we were tiny kids we learned a staple of our diet was the sandwich – 2 slices of wheat bread with something tasty in-between them. How many of us began with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches – or the famous bologna bread sandwich everyone had in their school lunches?
Over the last several years more and more people, however, are either being diagnosed with explicit Celiac disease, or are finding that they may have an intolerance to wheat that doesn’t show up in any known testing, but results in several physical symptoms such as pain, irregular bowel habits, inflammatory bowel diseases, or bloating and gas.
To put context around relatively recent research and thinking around if wheat is bad for you, you have to look back in history.
According to Wikipedia:
“The earliest archaeological evidence for flour, which was likely processed into an unleavened bread, dates to the Upper Palaeolithic in Europe, around 30,000 years ago. During this period of human history cereals constituted just one of many food sources exploited by hunting and gathering; palaeolithic European diets were based mainly on animal proteins and fats. Cereals and bread became a staple food during the Neolithic, around 10,000 years ago, when wheat and barley were among the first plants to be domesticated in the Fertile Crescent.”
So let’s start with the figure 10,000 years for when grain based bread started entering our mainstream food chain. Seems like a long time right? In comparison, though, you have to consider this:
“Man’s evolution started anywhere from 2-5 million years ago depending on if you count when primates were thought to evolve versus the first form of man.”
If the research into early man is even partially accurate, wheat bread certainly was not part of their early diet. In fact, a ton of findings over the last few decades have completed what is considered a fairly accurate picture as to what prehistoric man’s diet consisted of – and it remained fairly steady through millions of years [basically the hunter-gatherer diet]. Prehistoric man did not bake bread, or in fact really have easy access to wheat or other grains as agriculture wasn’t “invented” yet.
So whether wheat and similar grains were bad for your or not wasn’t a relevant question until recently in our evolution. This is very significant given that we had millions of of years for our bodies to adapt to a fairly regular and unchanging diet [i.e. lean meats, wild fruits and vegetables, wild growing nuts]. As a result, our biochemistry became extremely optimized around these types of foods, and our bodies functioned at their peak levels on an ongoing basis with little to no diseases like cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and bowel issues.
So now look at that tiny little dot on the evolutionary timeline of man – that dot is the introduction of wheat bread as well as other grain based foods like cereals, rice, etc. Get a magnifying glass and now look at the right side of the tiny dot – now you see the modern western diet that is rich in whole grain products – wheat bread, muffins, crackers, snack mix, etc. So we’ve taken a machine that was “designed by nature” and basically began feeding it foods that are completely different than what is was designed and optimized to run on.
Enter stage left: Inflammatory bowel disease, Crohns disease, Celiac disease, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity…the list goes on
So given this history and loose correlation with diet changes, many experts are questioning whether grain based products are good for you as a primary part of your diet. Can wheat be traced as the single culprit that causes these diseases? Not entirely. What happens is wheat and white bread, as well as other recent introductions to man’s diet cause your body’s chemistry to change in ways it wasn’t meant to in order to try and adapt to a completely different food than it evolved on. The most relevant factor to look at is something called the “Glycemic Index” – which grew out of research in 1981 to try and map how the human body processes different types of foods.
In a nutshell, this glycemic index measures the affects of different foods on your blood sugar [glucose] and resulting insulin levels – do they go up or down, how rapidly, and how can these changes impact other functions and organs in your body. The most astounding finding is that almost all “staple” foods we consider good to eat actually cause dramatic gyrations in glucose and insulin levels – far above any of the types of foods our ancestors ate.
These gyrations lead to insulin resistance, as well as are thought to cause inflammatory responses throughout our bodies that contribute to the development of many modern diseases.
I could spend another 20 pages going through the latest research, findings, and experiences of people that have removed wheat from their diet – however, I’d encourage you to do your own research. The purpose of this article was to make you aware of the history behind why wheat bread may be bad for you, and give you a starting point to learn on your own.
I personally have removed all grain products from my diet – including bread, rices, pastas, etc. and have used the diet solution program to help me structure my diet in the right way. I carefully monitor other products I eat as wheat and gluten can slip into an amazing array of foods.
Because we started our son on a gluten-free, dairy-free diet several years ago as part of his therapy for Autism, I became almost obsessive about understanding why removing gluten was a recommended approach, and more importantly why we saw such immediate improvement in our son’s condition once it was removed. The research is out there for you to get – you first have to overturn the “marketing” message that has been instilled in you over decades by the agricultural industry as well as the government and get the facts for yourself – then decide if you feel bread is bad for you.
Almost any parent of a child with autism is forced to become a semi-expert on nutrition, and this awareness and knowledge of why wheat and other gluten foods are bad for you begins spreading past your child’s treatment plan to a lifestyle change for the parents and the entire family.