Updated: Dec 8, 2021
Do you suffer from irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety, depression, fatigue, or brain fog?
While the gluten in typical wheat bread is not necessarily the sole culprit in these conditions, it could be contributing to your physical or mental illness.
Research documented in 2009 showed a four-fold increase in celiac disease in the last half-century. In addition, far more people suffer from gluten intolerance these days.
It would seem that our reaction to wheat is not what it once was. Is this because of some change in us? Or is it a change in the wheat itself?
The science behind gluten-intolerance and negative reactions to gluten is becoming more clear. Our bread is not what it used to be.
With wheat hybridization, the abundant use of glyphosate, the mutation of gluten, and other culprits, whole wheat is no longer the nutritious food it was for thousands of years.
So does that mean no more bread? Not necessarily.
Read on to find out how we can still make bread that is nutritious, digestible, and may even be handled well by those with gluten intolerance or celiac disease.
The Hybridization of Wheat
In 1970, Norman Borlaug won the Nobel Peace Prize for his creation of high-yield dwarf wheat. This wheat yielded larger wheat kernels and grew at a shorter height for easier picking. Hopes were high that this would help decrease hunger throughout the world.
Unfortunately, this hybridization of wheat increased the amount of gluten contained in wheat. On top of that, clinical trials were not conducted on this new form of hybridized wheat before it was released to the public. After so much hype, it was simply produced and distributed to the American people.
Unfortunately, studies show that the gluten contained in this hybridized wheat is resistant to digestion. It is practically unusable for the human body and can cause some serious problems.
Not only does this new hybridized wheat contain a higher gluten content than previous wheat, but research shows that hybridized wheat also contains new forms of gluten.
While the label “organic” is often associated with “healthy”, unfortunately in the case of wheat, even organic wheat is still hybridized and contains disproportionate amounts of gluten that is very difficult to digest and harmful to the gut.
The organic label does not mean the wheat isn’t hybridized.
If you’d like to buy some wheat that is not hybridized, check out Einkorn Wheat. This wheat is grown in the Fertile Crescent of Italy and has remained untouched for thousands of years. It is incredible for nutrition and amazing for baking.
We’ll talk more about this and the use of “starter” that helps aid in the digestion of wheat later on in the article.
Wheat is Sprayed with Glyphosate (“Round-Up”)
It is the typical practice of wheat farmers to use glyphosate, or “Round-Up”, on their crops. They spray wheat with large amounts of glyphosate several days before they plan to harvest it.
This practice kills the wheat stalks, resulting in an easy and convenient harvest of crops, as all of the wheat can be harvested at once.
Glyphosate is a patented antibiotic; it kills bacteria. This may sound great until we come to understand a bit about the trillions of beneficial bacteria that live inside our guts. These little guys are responsible for just about everything. They make it possible to digest many vitamins and minerals, cause amino acids to be bioavailable by the body, produce hormones and most of the neurotransmitters that we use, including serotonin, dopamine, and GABA, and ensure that we are happy and healthy.
Antibiotics can devastate our gut microbiome, leading to a multiplicity of physical and mental health issues. Pesticides and herbicides, like glyphosate, are antimicrobial and kill the environment and our gut bacteria. We need to care for our good gut bacteria and intestinal walls if we want to remain healthy and free of disease.
Glyphosate, Round-Up, is an herbicide that has been linked to many negative physical and mental health conditions, including anxiety, depression, IBS, autoimmune disease, and cancer.
Unfortunately, research has shown that glyphosate sprayed on wheat does not simply disappear. Trace amounts of it are found in the cereals, bread, and crackers we eat, as well as inside of the animals, such as cows, who consume glyphosate-covered wheat. We then eat their meat and drink their milk that contains these trace amounts of glyphosate.
That is not to mention the glyphosate found in conventional fruits and vegetables, especially in juice and juice concentrates. Glyphosate is also found in abundance in the soil that is used to grow crops. As glyphosate is antimicrobial, it is killing critical, beneficial microbes and fungi that our plants need to thrive, and micronutrients that we need for our gut health.
A little glyphosate here or there would be okay. Our bodies can handle some adversity. But, when nearly every processed food we consume contains wheat, corn, and/or soy - all of which are sprayed with glyphosate in large amounts - it becomes a problem.
Research has shown a link between glyphosate-treated wheat and celiac disease.
It is possible that without the hybridized wheat and abundant use of glyphosate on wheat we wouldn’t see so many allergies to wheat, including celiac.
But that’s not all that’s wrong with typical gluten-rich wheat.
Iodine-deficiency & Hormone Imbalance: Bromine in Wheat
Bromine - also known as bromide or potassium bromate - is an additive found in many conventional wheat and white breads. This ingredient is used to help bread rise faster and to give it an appealing, white hue.
Sounds nice, right? Unfortunately, bromine causes iodine-deficiency and hormone imbalance. It has been causally linked with thyroid cancer. Potassium bromate (bromine) was banned in India in 2016 and has been outlawed in the UK since 1990. It is also banned in several other countries including China and Brazil.
So how does this little bromine molecule cause so many problems? The answer is fairly basic. It has to do with the essential mineral known as iodine.
Iodine is a mineral that we can find in certain foods, such as seaweed, fish, beef liver, and raw cheese. It is used by every single cell in the human body and is one of the most important minerals for hormone function. Without iodine, our thyroid - the organ responsible for the hormone regulation - would die.
We have thousands of hormone receptor sites throughout our brain and body. These receptors interact with vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and other micronutrients. These hormone receptors allow certain components to enter and fill them. Once a receptor is filled, that space is temporarily taken up and unavailable to other compounds.
Bromine and iodine are both known as “halogens”, and they have extremely similar molecular structures. Guess what that means? When bromine is consumed, it takes up space in hormone receptors intended for iodine.
This can lead to brain fog, fatigue, mood swings, anxiety, depression, and many other mental and physical health complications, including susceptibility to addiction.
What’s more? Chlorine and fluorine are also halogens, and their molecular structure is extremely similar to iodine.
Trace amounts of chlorine, of course, are found in our water supply and many foods we eat. If chlorine enters hormonal receptors intended for iodine this can lead to hormone imbalance.
Fluorine is popularly known by another name: fluoride. Fluoride is pumped into our water supply and is found in many brands of toothpaste, baby food, fruit juices, processed cereals, soda, and tea.
Taking a high-quality Iodine Supplement can help detoxify the body, protecting hormone receptors from pathogens like bromine, chlorine, and fluoride. Studies show that iodine helps greatly with cognition and mental clarity.
I personally take Nascent Iodine by Organixx. This form of iodine is more bioavailable than other forms and comes from a quality source. This supplement has done wonders for me, improving my mental clarity and helping with brain fog.
Conventional Wheat Does Not Contain Beneficial Bacteria
For thousands of years, many cultures used “starter” in their bread. It is believed to have originated in Ancient Egypt around 1500 B.C. Starter is a fermented substance filled with beneficial bacteria and natural yeasts that help with gut health. Starter is a natural leavin - it helps bread rise - which is why it has been used throughout time.
This fermented superfood contains many extremely beneficial bacteria and yeasts that are good for the body and mind, including groups of Lactobacillus bacteria, which are clinically shown to help with anxiety, depression, and weight loss. Lactobacillus can also aid in improving gut health, which helps decrease cravings and addiction.
These naturally occurring bacteria and yeasts help ferment the sugars in bread. Then, when we consume the bread, the bacteria and yeasts help us break down and digest the flour and gluten.
This is much like unpasteurized, raw dairy. When dairy is raw, it contains beneficial bacteria that ferments sugars, including lactose. These bacteria give our body what it needs to digest the milk properly. When milk is pasteurized, these probiotic bacteria are killed and the milk becomes very difficult to digest.
Studies have shown that those with lactose intolerance have an easier time digesting raw milk over pasteurized milk.
Perhaps our situation with gluten would be different if we were consuming sourdough bread made from naturally aged starter that contains live cultures, rather than the dead stuff we’ve been conditioned to buy off the supermarket shelves.
Gluten’s Effect on Zonulin: Development of Leaky Gut
The walls of our small and large intestines - our “gut” - are permeable. In other words, they are not completely solid. They contain microscopic gaps that allow specific micronutrients to enter our bloodstream.
When this permeability is healthy and balanced, much needed micronutrients can release into our bloodstream, aiding our body’s processes. When this permeability becomes too pervasive and intense due to inflammation, bacterial overgrowth, and other factors, however, it is known as increased intestinal permeability, or “leaky gut.”
Leaky gut has been linked with brain fog, fatigue, hormone imbalance, IBS and autoimmune disease, diabetes, mental illness, susceptibility to addiction, cancer, and even autism.
When we consume foods that increase intestinal permeability and don’t consume foods that increase good bacteria and heal our gut wall, we can suffer many horrific physical and mental ramifications.
Our choices in diet don’t only impact us; they directly impact our children while they are in the womb as well. Leaky gut can lead to harmful and adverse impacts on unborn children.
So how does all of this relate to gluten?
Gluten, at least in its current hybridized form, is directly involved in the development of leaky gut. This is all because of its interaction with a little protein called zonulin.
Zonulin is a protein that controls the permeability of our intestinal wall. This protein tells the gut when to expand its microscopic gaps, increasing the size of those gaps to allow molecules to exit (or enter) - for better or for worse.
Bacterial overgrowth: When bad bacteria are not kept in check by beneficial bacteria, they can multiply to dangerous levels and zonulin can activate in order to release those bad bacteria from the gut, preventing them from overtaking the intestines. This leads to pathogens of all sorts having the opportunity to enter the bloodstream and wreak havoc.
Gluten: Gluten, at least in its modern form, is also shown to stimulate zonulin.
That’s right. Gluten, found in all bread, is one of the two main culprits when it comes to the activation of zonulin.
When gluten activates zonulin, it expands the gaps in the intestinal wall, allowing nutrients, bacteria, fungi, pathogens, and other potentially dangerous molecules and substances to escape the gut and travel through the bloodstream. As reviewed earlier, this can lead to serious health complications including mental illness and autoimmune disease.
Alternatives to Gluten-Mutant, Glyphosate-Sprayed, Zonulin-Activating, Autoimmune-Causing Wheat (Whew...)
Don’t get me wrong. I’m all about bread. I love myself a piece of honey toast or a turkey sandwich. But with what has happened to wheat over the last several decades, it’s starting to look like those tasty morsels just aren’t worth it anymore.
So what can we do about it?
Einkorn Wheat and Sourdough Starter
As I said earlier, Einkorn Wheat is an excellent alternative to typical wheat products. While it does still interact with zonulin, it contains less gluten, is not hybridized, and is not sprayed with carcinogenic, autoimmune-causing substances like glyphosate.
Einkorn Wheat is grown in the Fertile Crescent of Italy, untouched by conventional toxins or mutations. It is filled with amazing nutrients, and only contains the lower dose and original form of gluten that has been in wheat for thousands of years.
Add some fermented starter to the mix to help digest the bread and fill your body with beneficial Lactobacillus, yeasts, and other incredible nutrients. Starter ferments the vitamins and minerals in whole wheat, increasing their bioavailability and nutritional content. It also contains many probiotic nutrients that promote physical and mental health and help heal leaky gut.
Purchase an Ancient Einkorn Starter and you’ll be golden. Also, as long as you keep the starter alive, you'll only need to buy it once. So that’s a nice financial benefit.
On top of that, if you always make your own bread, then you won’t be purchasing bread at the grocery store anymore. That’s sure to save you some dough.
Get it? Dough?
If you want to avoid wheat and zonulin-activation altogether, coconut flour is a perfect alternative.
Coconut flour is packed with vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, and MCTs (medium-chain triglycerides), and is even keto.
The benefits of MCTs in coconut flour have been researched in multiple clinical studies. They have been shown to protect against bacteria and viruses, promote weight loss, and improve brain and heart health. Nutrients from coconuts are also shown to be an effective anti-stress treatment and may help with depression.
One brand of coconut flour that I recommend is Anthony’s Premium Organic Coconut Flour. It comes at a great price and is highly rated.
Blanched Almond Flour
Almond flour is another absolutely incredible alternative to wheat flour. While more expensive, this stuff is filled with short-chain fatty acids (Omega-3's) which are clinically shown to improve mood, energy, and digestion. They're also awesome for hair and skin.
Almond flour is loaded with vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients that are powerful for mental and physical well-being, including Vitamin E, Vitamin K, Magnesium, Calcium, Zinc, and tons of excellent fiber.
When buying almond flour, make sure that you buy blanched almond flour. The reason for this is that almost all nuts contain phytic acid on the outside. Phytic acid is what is known as an "anti-nutrient." It is very difficult to digest and is harmful to animals and humans. So stick with blanched almond flour! I recommend Anthony's Organic Blanched Almond Flour.
If you'd like to learn about another food that is excellent for gut health and can improve mental and physical well-being, check out my article on the benefits of Raw Apple Cider Vinegar.
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