Gluten-free. Over the past few years, it seems to have shown up everywhere: Our products are more clearly labeled with it, recipes and restaurants make it easier to see which menu items are gluten free. The “gluten-free” diet is not a trend. Gluten sensitivities, wheat allergies and Celiac disease are all on the rise.
According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, “Examination over time shows that these incidence rates are increasing, with an average of 7.5% increase per year over the past several decades. Because the incidence of celiac disease is studied by examining only diagnosed patients, this does not take into account people who remain undiagnosed; there is evidence from other studies that the total number of people with celiac disease (not just diagnosed cases) has increased over time.”
There are a number of reasons why that might be – but it’s also important to understand that the way we farm and grow food has changed dramatically.
Wheat is not the same as it was when our grandparents were young.
Ancient grains such as einkorn, spelt, emmer and dinkel are some of what our ancestors ate. They are all “covered-wheat” grains, which have thick husks around each kernel.The inedible husk must be removed by pounding or milling and then winnowing before the grains can be ground or eaten.
Today’s modern wheat is considered to be a “naked-wheat” with a much thinner husk that is easier to remove.
Hybridizing, lodging, insecticides … oh my!
The move toward today’s modern wheat began with hybridizing for smaller or dwarf varieties of wheat. Shorter wheat means more of the plant’s energy is put into seed production, increasing yields. This was very successful, producing huge increases in production.
Chemical fertilizers were also introduced to protect crops and help yield larger production. Heavy applications of nitrogen fertilizer made wheat more susceptible to lodging. Lodging occurs when the stalks are too long for the wheat’s roots, and the stalk falls over and rots.
Dwarf hybrids of wheat. These varieties are much less susceptible to loding, allowing excess nitrogen to be applied without losing too much of the crop.
Insecticides and herbicides used in commercial farming have also unhealthy implications on consumers' bodies.
Wheat germ agglutinin (WGA) lectin is so powerful as an insecticide that biotech firms have used recombinant DNA technology to create genetically modified WGA-enhanced plants. WGA is harmful to your kidneys and there’s new evidence that suggests it contributes to weight gain and insulin resistance.
Glyphosate (which was designed to kill weeds) is also harmful to your body. It kills healthy bacteria in your guy, leaving a wake of digestive challenges in its wake. This herbicide is sprayed before harvest. It helps wheat, barley and oats dry out faster – which in term allows it to be harvested earlier.
Let’s reframe Celiac Disease
This line in a GreenMed Info article, really resonates with me. It challenges us to reframe how we think of Celiac Disease: “not as an unhealthy response to a healthy food, but as a healthy response to an unhealthy food.” Our bodies know the difference and are responding accordingly (appropriately to their environment).
With all that’s changed in how we breed and farm wheat, it’s no wonder our bodies are struggling to process wheat.
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