Our challenge this month is eliminate wheat. But, but, you protest, “I don’t have any stomach problems” (or maybe you do, and your doctor told you it’s not celiac disease, so you don’t have to worry about it). So why is wheat bad for you?
The vast majority of individuals who are sensitive to wheat do not exhibit any intestinal problems. Yet when they cut wheat out of their diets, they experience improvement: better mood, less PMS, clearer skin, less fatigue, clearer thinking. Those who struggle with autoimmune diseases or mental disorders often see improvement, migraines subside, eczema and psoriasis improve, joint pain decreases, and the list of improvements goes on and on.
Anti-Nutrients in Wheat
There are several anti-nutrients that are found in wheat. What are anti-nutrients? Anti-nutrients are any substance, synthetic or natural, which disrupts and interferes with proper nutrient absorption.
1. Lectins: Causing Leaky Gut
Lectins are mild toxins which are found in wheat. They’re basically like a plants built-in pesticide—one of the ways a plant protects itself. Lectins aren’t broken down in your gastro-intestinal system but bind to receptors in your intestinal walls.1 This allows the lectins and also undigested food particles to leech into your blood stream (i.e. “leaky gut”). Yes. Poop gets into your blood.
When undigested particles are entering your blood stream, this is bad, as you might guess. Really bad. Why? Because your immune system mounts up an attack. These attacks can eventually be, at least partially, responsible for the development of autoimmune disease.2
On top of this, lectins are also implicated in causing leptin resistance which leads to weight gain, sleep disturbances, and a host of other problems.3 Now, you’re not probably going to be able to completely eliminate lectins from your diet. They are present in a lot (and I mean a lot) of foods, but you can decrease your consumption of them by cutting the biggest offenders (i.e. those with massive quantities of lectin), wheat being one of them.
2. Gluten: Not Just a Celiac Problem
Gluten has become quite a buzz word lately. Gluten is made up of the two proteins: gliadin and glutenin. It’s the glue that holds your bread together and gives it it’s elastic properties. For the 1% of individuals in the United States which have celiac disease, this is the protein that causes a major problem.Celiac disease is just one outcome of being intolerant of gluten, however.4
It used to be that doctors would only admit gluten was causing a problem if you had a positive biopsy showing damaged intestinal villi. The problem with this is a biopsy is only examining a very small part of the intestines. There very likely may be intestinal damage which is not in the area which was not biopsied.
Celiac disease is on the rise—a 400% increase in just 50 years.5 We don’t really know how many people suffer from non-celiac gluten sensitivity, but it’s likely a high number. Some doctors and researchers say they suspect everyone suffers from at least a small degree of gluten sensitivity.
Why is gluten a problem for most (or all people)? Because gliadin (one of the gluten proteins) universally (in everyone) causes zonulin to be released. Now you’re thinking, “What in the world is zonulin?” Zonulin is what regulates how permeable our intestinal wall is. The more zonulin present, the more permeable your intestinal wall becomes.
In other words, both lectins and gluten can cause problems with leaky gut. It’s imperative that individuals suffering from celiac disease avoid gluten. But it’s also important that those who suffer from non-celiac gluten sensitivity also avoid gluten (yeah, that means probably most everyone).
3. Phytates: Robbing You of Vitamins and Minerals
Last, but not least, are phytates. Phytates cause minerals to be bio-unavailable. That means, when phytates are around, it makes it much more difficult for your body to utilize the vitamins and minerals that are present.6
They do this in two ways, they binds up minerals and prevent them from being properly absorbed. Another interesting tidbit, is that phytates are also associated with increased tooth decay. So much so that anthropologists use the level of tooth decay to determine whether a society was agricultural or a hunter/gatherer society.7
Why Go Wheat-Free?
When our family went wheat-free, we had many questions from friends and family. This is the heart behind our book, Weeding Out Wheat. In the book you’ll learn more about the harmful effects of wheat on the body based on current medical research. You’ll also learn about how, as Christians, we’ve reconciled our wheat-free lifestyles while reading a bread-filled Bible.