Chapter 4-2 of Healing Foods by Walter Last
Have a closer look at wheat and gluten. In some form they can be beneficial but as commonly used they tend to create a lot of problems for our health
Gluten is a mixture of two groups of proteins - gliadins and glutelins. Wheat has the highest content of gluten, especially hard wheat, and makes it possible to bake leavened bread and cakes. Under the conditions of baking, gluten forms a network of molecules, similar to a wire mesh. This molecule mesh traps small bubbles of carbon dioxide gas and prevents them from escaping. This makes the baked product light and easy to chew.
However, in this way we create a problem for our digestion because the gluten network is more difficult to break down. The gluten network is only partly digested, especially if the food is not very well chewed; this is a main cause of intestinal inflammation and wheat allergy.
Gluten seriously weakens the intestinal wall. Its effect on the tiny absorption villi in the small intestine may be compared to the action of sandpaper on wood. Animal experiments have shown that the intestinal absorption villi are long and slender before they come into repeated contact with wheat protein. Afterwards, they become blunt and broad, with a much-reduced ability to absorb.
Therefore, people on wheat diets absorb nutrients less well than those reared on wheat-free diets. This greatly contributes to the widespread incidence in our society of people with problems of malabsorption and who are missing out on vital nutrients. In such people, not only are the absorption villi blunted, the irritation caused by the sandpaper effect of gluten produces a protective mucus coating over the intestinal wall and this makes it still more difficult for nutrients to pass through the intestinal wall.
Thus we find gluten, and especially wheat gluten, implicated not only in the cause of typical malabsorption diseases, such as cystic fibrosis, celiac disease and sprue, but frequently also with arthritis, autoimmune diseases, cancer, diabetes, kidney problems, multiple sclerosis and schizophrenia. In addition, the irritation caused by gluten is a main factor in causing appendicitis, colitis and inflammation of the small intestines (for example Crohn's disease) as well as gastric and duodenal ulcers.
The degree of damage to the intestinal wall is proportional to the amount of gluten used. Most affected are close relatives of those with gluten allergy. But even so-called normal and healthy volunteers on high-gluten test diets showed a deterioration of their intestinal walls and that their ability to absorb nutrients had been reduced.
Malabsorption is even more of a problem if white bread is used because it has lost about 80 per cent of its vitamin and mineral content compared to that of wholemeal bread. What makes it even worse is the modern fast-baking method: instead of fermenting the bread for four to seven hours, it is now whipped with chemicals for two minutes. Thus the few remaining minerals stay tightly bound to phytic acid and cannot be absorbed.
When the intestinal wall deteriorates it becomes permeable so that molecules bigger than normal can pass through. This allows partly digested proteins and bacterial toxins to enter the bloodstream, causing allergies and a deterioration of the immune system. Thus gluten is actually the main agent causing allergies. Without a weakening of the intestinal wall, other potential food allergens would be prevented from reaching the bloodstream, except in the case of babies with intestinal walls that are still immature.
Young babies also are unable to digest starches. Feeding them wheat products, which is very common indeed, almost automatically leads to the development of wheat allergy. Therefore cow's milk and wheat are the two primary food allergies in our society; not only do they precede the development of other allergies, but their initial appearance makes it so much easier for secondary allergies to develop.
It has been estimated that about 90 million Americans suffer from gluten sensitivity, while celiac disease, a severe form of malabsorption caused by gluten, has now been found 50 times more prevalent than previously suspected. About 1.5 million Americans are thought to suffer from it. In its conclusions, the report states that celiac disease occurs frequently not only in patients with gastrointestinal symptoms, but also in relatives and others with numerous common disorders, even in the absence of gastrointestinal symptoms.
All these problems caused by gluten are greatly intensified by the tough network of gluten molecules formed in baking with gluten-rich flour. In former centuries only low-gluten wheat was available; high-gluten wheat is a modern achievement. In addition, the amount of wheat baking, especially with high-gluten wheat, has greatly increased in our society compared to former centuries, while at the same time our digestive powers have very much declined.
As this trend has existed already for several generations, most of us are by now sensitized to some degree against wheat gluten, and wheat-baking products have become problem foods for most individuals, including wholemeal wheat bread and not just the white variety. Our ancestors used mainly millet, rye and oats as staple grains in addition to low-gluten wheat and spelt. They also used grains more in the form of porridge or wafers than as leavened bread. However, when leavened bread was used, it was mainly as sourdough bread, except in the cities where yeast baking gradually dominated.
Processed food, including tablets and soy sauce, often contain added wheat starch or gluten. If you have a wheat allergy and use processed food, then read labels carefully. Wheat grass, however, is safe to use; wheat-germ oil needs to be tested.
Blue-eyed individuals with wheat or gluten intolerance usually have a whitish color in the area of the iris denoting the intestines. This reflex zone that surrounds the pupil indicates the irritation and mucus covering of the intestinal wall. Frequently, the white fans out to other parts of the iris, but especially to the head and brain reflex areas that are in the upper part of the iris (between 10 and 2 o'clock). This indicates gluten-induced mucus congestion of the head and irritation of the brain tissues. Such people are vulnerable to emotional irritability, bursts of temper and, in the case of brain allergy, to epilepsy and mental disease. They cannot relax easily, and attending emotional workshops or seeking psychiatric help will do little permanent good if the nutritional cause of the problem is not corrected.
In addition, these individuals often have oversensitive sense organs and tend towards far-sightedness. As long as there is no serious mucus congestion in the head, the sharpened senses provide good eyesight and excellent hearing. The disadvantages are oversensitive taste buds, an oversensitive sense of smell, and distress caused by loud noise. Magnesium supplements will help but not remove the basic cause. In later life, mucus congestion may lead to deafness and eye diseases. If there is, in addition to wheat or gluten intolerance, difficulty in digesting fats, the white iris areas will become increasingly yellow.
Baked wheat products, especially in combination with sugars, are the most 'fattening' food for susceptible individuals. The metabolism of such individuals becomes inefficient and the wheat starch is mainly converted into body fat instead of energy. Frequently individuals allergic to wheat, gluten and beer have a distended abdomen (potbelly).
For many individuals, gluten products especially wheat and beer, are strongly mucus forming. Generally, the whiter the iris, the more mucus-forming is the gluten. Wheat and gluten are often a problem for those with asthma and hay fever. If you have any problem with mucus, avoid all gluten products initially together with all foods containing lactose. After sufficient improvement you may introduce small amounts of rye and oats and explore how much of these your body tolerates.
Most 'improved' or 'health' breads contain added gluten, skim-milk powder, or dried whole grain and are worse than plain wholemeal bread. Most recommended are rye sourdough bread and rye crispbread. However, rye sourdough bread often contains added wheat described as wholemeal or bread-making flour.
Oats are high in proteins and nucleic acids, while the fiber (oat bran) is useful for binding and expelling surplus cholesterol from the intestines. Barley has an even higher cholesterol-reducing effect and both oats and barley are superior to wheat. However, oats are also rather high in gluten and easily cause the same problems as wheat in gluten-sensitive individuals.