Inflammation and Eating Grains
Dr. William Davis in his bestselling book Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health explains all of this at length.
He says that whether it comes in the form of organic, sprouted multi-grain bread or a squishy white loaf or a strand of spaghetti, all wheat is bad for you. He says that by eliminating what he calls “Frankenwheat” from your diet, you can lose weight and actually prevent many health problems.
He complains that most of wheat that is available is not anything like what our forefathers used to eat because of years and years of wheat growing in the US, it has been genetically modified so that American farmers can produce a high-yield crop of small plants that were never tested to see if they were healthy enough for human consumption. Now we have a “supercarbohydrate” wheat plant that is far less healthy than it used to be.
He says that today’s wheat elevates blood sugar levels that cause insulin spikes. These insulin spike result in chronic inflammation and an increase in visceral or belly fat. So therefore, by eating so much wheat, not only do we gain weight, but also more prone to many inflammatory diseases and conditions like Irritable Bowel Syndrome IBS, arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, fatigue, acne and even dementia.
What I didn’t know and only learned recently, is that today’s wheat is also a highly addictive because it contains a special protein called gliatin, which has the same effect on brain receptors as opium. Gliatin increase appetite and leads to hunger and cravings for even more wheat and other refined carbohydrates.
Stig Bengmark MD, from Sweden, who, I met at the Probiotics Symposium in Oct 2013, said something very similar. He told us how he took 2 years off to study chronic disease. He said that he called his paper ‘Acute and ‘chronic’ phase reaction – a mother of disease’ and now, he said, if he knew the what he knows now, he would have called it – ‘Discreet Persistent Inflammation, the Mother of Disease‘. He relates this state directly to the malfunctioning of the microbiota. The microbiota is the sum total of all the good bacteria you have thriving in your digestive tract.
When the composition and diversity of the intestinal microbiota is stable it provides us with energy-rich metabolites. These are the chemicals necessary for the maintaining life. They give us the nutrients, antioxidants and vitamins that we need, reduces inflammation and maintains balance in our immune systems. But when the microbiota are disturbed, it results in chronic inflammation and chronic disease.
He too, stressed how gluten contributed to inflammation. He spoke at length about dysbiosis i.e. a condition resulting from a disturbance in the good bacteria, and leaky gut (a condition where intestinal lining ‘leaks’ and allows offensive organisms to enter the digestive tract) – stemming from what we eat and how we live, far more importantly than our genetic make up. He highly recommended eliminating all processed foods and eating loads of fresh greens. It’s what is called phytochemicals, or the natural chemicals found in the plant foods, that help to reduce inflammation.
Dr Andrew Weil MD shows us a new ‘food pyramid’ that looks very different to what we were used to seeing historically. He talks about how to reduce inflammation with these anti-inflammatory suggestions. Starting from the bottom of the pyramid and moving up, the bottom being what we ought to eat the most of, are all fruits and vegetables and not grains. He also suggests to try and get all the colors.
In fact, inflammation is the body’s innate way to response to injury and infection. It is our way of defending ourselves by sending immune cells and key important nutrients to those areas that needs them the most. The fighter cells travel via our increased blood flow. This is what leads to the redness, warmth, swelling and pain that we think of when we think of “inflammation.” When it is as a result of an acute situation, inflammation is positive and healing. But when inflammation results as an immune response, it doesn’t shut off. This continual immune cells production is not good. It can cause damage, and then lead to IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), cancer, heart disease, arthritis and other health problems.
The actual cause of chronic inflammation is different from one person to the person. Things like being overweight, or dealing with lots of stress and even breathing polluted air are triggers. Then, there are life style choices like smoking or lack of exercise or even lack of sleep, that have a huge influence. Jessica Black, N.D., author of The Anti-Inflammation Diet and Recipe Book: Protect Yourself and Your Family from Heart Disease, Arthritis, Diabetes, Allergies – and More says that when there are repeated incidences, it results in an increase in longer-term inflammation.
Barry Sears says that the Zone diet with fish oil, is an anti-inflammatory diet. He wrote The Anti-Inflammation Zone: Reversing the Silent Epidemic That’s Destroying Our Health (Zone (Regan)). His diet is very popular and he, too, recommends low-fat protein, carbohydrates, and heart-healthy monounsaturated fats.
I notice that each health practitioner’s recommendations seem to vary in the specifics from diet to diet, but in general anti-inflammatory diets suggestions include:
- Eating lots and lots of fruits and vegetables.
- Reducing, if not eliminating saturated and trans fats.
- Eating a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, possibly eating fish or taking fish oil supplements and walnuts are recommended. According to a review of the research on omega-3 fatty acids and health in “American Family Physician”, Omega-3, in doses of 3 grams or more per day, has been found effective for people with rheumatoid arthritis, reducing morning stiffness and the number of joints that are tender or swollen.
- There is need to be very cautious of how much refined carbohydrates such as pasta and white rice you eat.
- Eating lean protein like chicken and cut back on red meat and full-fat dairy foods.
- Avoid refined foods and processed foods.
- Include anti-inflammatory spices in your diet. Ginger, curry, tumeric and other spices are all anti-inflammatory in nature.
So try and rethink some of your staple and comfort food combinations…..bagels and cream cheese, cereal and milk for breakfast, a large bowl of spaghetti bolognaise. It may not be as healthy as you think..