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Today is National Celiac Day!

September 13, 2014

Tags: food, order, agriculture, antinutrient, arthritis, autoimmune disease, bread, bulking up, cancer, celiac, Davis - William (born ???), depression, diabetes, diet, disease, Earth, fall, Fifties, foraging, fruit, gluten, gluten intolerance, grain, grass, greens, grub, gut, harvest, heart disease, humans, intestine, Jew, kamut, kernel, leaky gut, lectin, mammoth, medieval times, misery, Niemöller - Martin (1892-1984), nut, obesity, Our Daily Bread, overpopulation, poem, progress, rabbit, root, seasonal, seed, selection, Sixties, socialist, sowing, spelt, straw, Today is National Celiac Day!, trade unionist, wheat, Wheat Belly

For some reason – and, please, bear with me – the first thought to my mind is the famous poem by Martin Niemöller (1892-1984):

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.


So, what is the connection?

First, there were the celiacs – people who could not tolerate wheat because of the gluten it contains. They were the fringe of the movement, so to speak, and not many people who were not afflicted took the sufferings of the gluten-intolerant very serious.

But now, about twenty years later, it has become clear that most people do better without wheat in their diet – not least, because the book “Wheat Belly” by William Davis has opened the eyes to the damages grains can wreak in the body.

Wheat contains gluten, and for some people – the celiacs - this gluten acts like a poison, destroying first the gut, and then nearly every other organ: arthritis, depression, cancer, and so on are related to gluten intolerance.

But wheat – like every other grain or seed or nut – also contains lectins. The other name for lectins are “antinutrients” – which gives you the idea that they might not be healthy for you. They are not. Lectins inflame the intestines, similar like gluten does in celiacs – only less so. But in the long run, the wreak havoc anyway. Sometimes lectins are described as ripping little holes in the lining of the bowels, which is a bit of a simple explanation and not quite right, but good enough if you want to understand why lectins are not good for you.

Having a “leaky gut” as a consequence of gluten and lectins sets you up for many diseases – the most spectacular is obesity – hence the “wheat belly”.

Why are there lectins in grains and seeds and nuts? Because plants don’t want their next generation to perish – they want their seeds to grow into new plants. Like animals, plants don't want to be eaten. Lectins defend the seeds by making them harder to digest. “Our Daily Bread” has made it possible to populate the Earth (overpopulate!), but it has come with a price: Disease and misery.

Our original foods were greens and roots and fruit (in season only) and some nuts in the fall, and a rabbit or a mammoth, but at daily foraging grubs were more likely. Human ingeniousness discovered that one could sow and harvest the seeds of grasses. Selection made the tiny grass seeds bigger, and made agriculture and “progress” possible. In the last fifty years, we even drastically improved on the wheat plant: shortening the stalks (straw is unnecessary) and bulking up the kernel (mostly by increasing the gluten fraction) – our wheat is nothing what it was in medieval times or earlier. Not even like anything in the Fifties or Sixties! Spelt and kamut had much less gluten than our modern “improved” varieties. Spelt and kamut also caused less disease.

First, a few unlucky people suffered from gluten intolerance. Now it has become widespread. Surprised? No. But it reminded me of the Niemöller poem.
Aspen eyes, by Peggy Peters

Iguazu Falls, by Xin Liu

Alexa Fleckenstein M.D. 2012, by Lolita Parker jr.

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