Before I start on the stuff that really isn’t much fun, I want to point out that I’m not pioneering anything here. Everything that I mention comes from the hard work of others in the research and medical sciences fields. It will help me lay the groundwork for why I decided to do what I am doing and provide everyone else ways to investigate these topics further. In addition, genetics and gene expression play a critical role in most of the problem foods today that simply didn’t exist for our ancestors. People indiginous to particular locations may slowly developed tolerances for and adaptations to certain foods. However, there’s rarely a complete pass for anyone on all of these foods.
So, Paleo considers grains, legumes, and dairy to be problematic for many people. While sugar just plain isn’t good for anyone. Let’s break this down and examine what is going on here and why we want to limit foods from these groups.
This includes grains in general but the big offenders are wheat, rye, and barley. Have you noticed the “Gluten Free” labels showing up on so many things in your market? Gluten is the protein that comes from the endosperm of various grass-related grains. It’s actually the composite of 2 proteins, gliadin and glutenin. It is also the bain of any celiac’s breakfast plate. Celiac
disease is an autoimmune digestive disease that occurs when the villi and linings of the small intestine are damaged over time. This creates a “leaky gut” exposing the entire body to its contents and inhibits the body’s ability to absorb nutrients producing fatal results if not treated.
Celiacs are thought to be a genetically succeptible to gluten but other people diagnosed with the disease have recovered thru the elimination of gluten. This succeptibility may to be related to the number of your ancestors who have been exposed to grains. Agriculture started in Egypt about 8000 bc. On the other hand, Ireland, which introduced cereal cultivation relatively late, around 3000 bc, has one of the highest incidents of gluten intollerance in Europe. This is a pivotal point in a civilization where we transitioned from a hunter gatherer society to an agricultural one. Our diet went from roughly 100-200 varieties of wild animals, fruits, and vegetables to a very limited set of staple foods comprised of 3-5 domesticated meat species, a few cereal grains, and 15-20 other plant foods.
The term ‘gluten’ is the latin word for glue. This describes gluten’s sticky binding properties which make it so popular as an additive. Over the last few thousand years, those grains have been selectively bred to increase the amount of protein gluten in the seed as well as many other characteristics to improve yield. Most wheat today has 42 chromosomes which is a far cry from the 14 that it started with thousands of years ago. Increasing the yield of wheat production has been needed to satisfy the demand for Gluten as an additive in processed foods and a filler to bulk up even meat. This makes finding truly gluten free products very difficult. It even forms the basis for the production of monosodium glutamate (MSG).
People are going to be sensitive to gluten to varying degrees. However, this is only one problem linked to eating wheat, and may not even be the most serious one. That honor belongs to wheat lectin.
Lectins are sugar-binding proteins that play a ‘recognition’ role in biological systems. It’s like a key that fits certain types of locks. Dr. Del Thiessen explains in his article The Awful Truth About Eating Grains that “Lectins, which are proteins that are widespread in the plant kingdom, are recognized as major anti-nutrients of food. Cereal grain lectins are wheat germ agglutinin (WGA). It can interfere with digestive/absorptive activities and can shift the balance in bacterial flora shown to cause problems with normal gut metabolism. The potential to disrupt human health is high.” What’s more, WGA is found in highest concentrations in “whole wheat”, just where our nutritionist commonly direct us to. Soaking, fermenting, and cooking will remove some of the lectins from grains and legumes, but not all. And while various foods and supplements may inactivate some of these toxic lectins, it is impossible for such substances to protect the body from them completely.
There are many many kinds of lectins. They span from the extremely leathel Ricin found in castor beans all the way to those used to determine a person’s bloodtype. Robb Wolf agrees that WGA is one of the “nastier” lectins and explains in his book the Paleo Solution how lectins are not broken down in the normal digestive process allowing them to remain large proteins when they arrive in the intestines. These lectins attach to receptors in the lining and are transported intact through the intestinal lining where they are mistaken for invaders like bacteria. They also damage the intestinal lining allowing other proteins to escape from the intestines. Once loose in your system, WGA lectin can also pass through your blood-brain barrier and may attach to the protective coating on your nerves known as the myelin sheath. This book covers in detail the interaction of these nutrients and anti-nutrients with the myriad digestive hormones in the body.
Even if we put all of these concerns aside, grains still break down into sugar in our body. Our drastically increased carb/sugar intake is steadily deteriorating our health. I’ll have more on that later.