Wheat is the most widely consumed cereal in the US. and Europe today. More than a billion people use it as a staple in their diet and wheat production has almost doubled since the turn of the 20th century. In Britain it provides 27% of our daily calorie intake.
History has seen it as an essential element to a nutritious diet, and towns grew up around its supply. It was first grown in the Middle East over ten thousand years ago and has since adapted to grow in almost any climate. However, the wholesome wheat products of ten thousand years ago differ greatly from the refined white flour of today.
The pale, fluffy, white cake-like bread so many of us eat, is a far cry from the heavy, wholesome, chewy whole grain breads that were once the staple diet.
In history, the purity of what you ate reflected your social standing, so of course clean, white, light, and refined was very much preferred to the heavy, wholesome and chewy. To serve anything other than white bread on a ceremonial table was considered an insult. Even in the bible reference is made to the desirability of fine flour. So the wealthier classes would repeatedly sieve their flour and “whole” flour became a symbol of the lower classes.
With the rise of the industrial age the flour was processed still further to remove the germ, as its oil content caused rancidity, and prevented storage and distribution. All that was left of our “wholesome” flour was pure starch, very manageable commercially as it is practically dead food.
Refined white flour is used in bread, biscuits, cakes, pastry, pasta and cereals. So what is thrown away in the refining process?
The outer layer of the grain is the bran which contains a high proportion of B vitamins and about 50% of the mineral elements in the grain. The germ at the base of the grain is the actual embryo of the plant, rich in fats (mainly essential fatty acids), protein, iron, and vitamins E and B group. Also in the outer layer of cells called the aleurone layer, is the endosperm’s protein. Between the germ and the endosperm is the scutellum, which is particularly rich in thiamine.
Like the sugar in fruit, most forms of starch come complete with the other nutrients which are needed to digest them. If we refine these foods, stripping away the necessary vitamins and minerals, we end up poisoning ourselves with toxic by-products of incomplete metabolism. In an attempt to digest this dead food, our body will use up vital reserves of vitamins and minerals. Time has also shown that the depletion of fibre in the diet as a result of refining has had an impact on mans’ intestinal function, low fibre is implicated with various conditions from haemorrhoids to cancer of the colon.
Out of five million tonnes of milled wheat, 1.4 million tonnes of bran, germ, aleurone layer, and scutellum are discarded. This is known as 70% extraction, meaning that only 70% of the grain is finally used. During world war two, food shortages meant that the extraction rate went up to 85%, and there were marked benefits to the nation’s health. The reintroduction of flour of 95-100% extraction would do more for the health of this country’s people than any other single measure in the field of nutrition. In our de-vitalised western society, no-one can afford to throw away nutrients in these quantities.
As the refining process removes so many nutrients from flour, UK law requires that iron, thiamine, niacin and calcium, are added to 70% extraction flour. Secondly, to get the flour and its products to behave in the way the market dictates, a wide range of chemicals are added; flour improvers, bleaching agents etc. All additives should have a question mark over them, they are yet another source of toxins, and concern has been expressed by some that commercial interests over ride nutritional interests.
None of this would be necessary if we could only accept the qualities of 100% extraction rate whole wheat flour, it can no longer be regarded as a peasant food. Consumption of whole wheat bread is on the increase, but there is a long way to go for whole wheat pastry, cakes, pastas, biscuits and wheat based thickeners. Wholemeal flour used to be criticised as it naturally contains phytic acid which binds with calcium preventing its absorption, but studies have shown that whilst this does occur, there is a period of adaptation then calcium absorption returns to normal.
However here comes the “but”, whilst wholemeal flour is infinitely preferable to white, no wheat at all is preferable for some people.
Firstly wheat isn’t the essential staple food it is billed to be, and is not easily tolerated. As a source of protein it is very poor, as it only has incomplete protein to offer, it is grossly Lysine deficient, and so cannot be fully utilised by the body. The bran does provide fibre, but there are actually more suitable fibres in other foods. A study into irritable bowel syndrome at the Radcliffe Royal Infirmary found that 39% of patients found wheat to be a contributing factor to their IBS after completing an elimination diet.
It is the wheat protein gluten that is the major culprit in problems relating to wheat. Some level of gluten intolerance can actually be found in the majority of people, and is linked to a broad spectrum of symptoms. Gluten is a sticky substance, resembling the consistency of chewing gum.
It is gluten that gives loaves that springy, airy texture so much in demand, and that is why hard wheat with its high gluten content is used for baking.
Modern commercial bread making, where the dough is only proved once, requires higher levels of gluten and so crops are grown which have high gluten levels.
Being such a sticky, elastic substance it is quite hard to digest. If undigested gluten finds its way to the large intestine it can bind with the mucosa to form a sticky mass that lines the colon wall.
This makes an impermeable barrier both ways; hindering secretions and nutrient absorption. Lack of secretions mean reduced lubrication, so transit time for food around the colon is slowed, the colon, already narrowed by the glutinous layer, can simply grind to a halt.
It is when this occurs we see ballooning of the colon and or diverticuli, this mass will putrefy, leaching toxins into the blood stream, causing other seemingly unrelated problems, hence the higher occurrence of gluten intolerance than one might think. Needless to say there can be little or no absorption of nutrients.
If your digestive system is in peak condition these problems shouldn’t arise as complete digestion of the gluten will have taken place in the small intestine. However, very few of us, with de-vitalised diets, stress, toxins etc. can boast this level of functioning, so this scene in the lower bowel becomes almost inevitable.
Gluten also features highly in allergic responses, where the protein is incompletely broken down. The body may, due to inherited tendencies or incorrect weaning, have a gluten intolerance causing mal-absorption of any grain that contains this protein.
The intestines become irritated and the villi are damaged, reducing proper absorption of nutrients. This damage to the intestinal wall allows toxic substances to be absorbed into the blood stream.
At it’s most extreme, this allergic reaction is what we know as Coeliac Disease. It causes chronic mal-absorption of nutrients where the small intestine is unable to digest and absorb food. So the sufferer may eat a “healthy” diet but be ill and experience symptoms such as bloating, pain, cramps and constipation or diarrhoea.
Conventionally Coeliac disease is viewed as an enzyme deficiency or other metabolic fault. Whilst sometimes the biochemical element may be present, many nutritionists feel that incorrect weaning is more likely. The introduction of cereal grains before the body’s enzymes can digest them can only set the stage for gluten intolerance by causing gastric irritation, antibody reaction and intestinal thinning.
Wheat is added to the average infants diet much too early, digestive enzymes necessary for starch digestion are not even present until 6 – 8 months, let alone a complex substance like gluten. It would really be advisable to wait as close to the second birthday as possible before the introduction to wheat is made (whole-wheat of course).
Studies have shown that the children with the most coughs and colds are the ones that eat the most starches, and most asthmatics were weaned before their first birthday on to an abundance of wheat and dairy produce. Even without a strict food allergy, excess wheat alters the body’s acid alkaline balance and increases the production of mucous. In a study on migraines in children at the Hospital for Sick Children, Dr. Egger found that 24% of those studied had migraines as a reaction to wheat.
Wheat contains natural opiates, morphine like substances that may affect brain cell activity, influencing mood and mental activity and possibly inducing fatigue. It follows that anyone with mental health issues may benefit from following a wheat free diet.
Wheat seems to rank exceedingly high as a trigger of food intolerances and allergies, resulting in symptoms as diverse as rheumatoid arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome and neurological illnesses.
If you have any of the following symptoms it could be worth investing in a food intolerance test and excluding wheat from your diet:
• Abdominal discomfort
• Stomach cramps
• Feeling of heaviness after eating
• Drowsiness after eating bread
• Mood swings
• Joint pain
• Chronic fatigue
The Food Detective test is a simple DIY pin prick blood test that you can do at home.
It picks up IgG antibodies in the blood which develop when you become intolerant to certain food substances.
Within 40 minutes you’ll be able to find out which foods are a problem for you.
The test kit costs around 55 and can be bought online from http://www.bodykind.com.
Wheat/Gluten Free Diet
If there is a sensitivity to wheat the following foods should be avoided:
Wheat flour, wheat bran and wheat germ
Bulgur, durum wheat, spelt flour
Barley, rye (to avoid gluten)
Wheat based biscuits and crispbreads
Wheat breakfast cereals eg. Weetabix, Puffed Wheat, All-bran
Wheat based alcoholic drinks eg. whiskey, most gins, lager and beer
Bread baking powder
Pancakes and batter mixes
Cakes and cake mixes
Macaroni, spaghetti and pasta
Semolina, cous cous. (gluten)
Sausages, hamburgers & breaded meats
You should also check the ingredients lists of the following products which may contain wheat:
– Baked beans
– Chocolate, Cocoa, Drinking chocolate
– Coffee (cheap instant)
– Cloudy lemonade, ginger beer
– Cream (imitation), ice cream, ice cream wafers, custard
– Chutney and pickles
– Gravy powder, sauces. soy sauce and stock cubes, tomato sauces
– Curry powder
– Pie fillings and instant pudding
– Sausages, pates, spreads and pastes
– Soups (canned and packet)
– Canned fish
Alternatives to wheat
You can replace wheat flour with rye flour, brown rice flour, soya flour, potato flour, corn flour, gluten free flour.
Bread ~ Rye and soya bread, gluten free bread, oat cakes, rice cakes, rye crisp bread, rice crisp bread.
Biscuits ~ Flapjacks, macaroons, fruit bars.
Cereals ~ Wheat free muesli, porridge, millet flakes, Rice Krispies
Crumble topping ~ Rye bread crumbs, oats, sesame seeds, ground rice
Pasta ~ Rice, noodles, Orgran wheat free pastas.
* where a product is shown as being gluten free, it is also wheat free.
Broadland vegetable suet
Brown rice flour
Custard creams gluten free
Doves and Orgran gluten free flour
Orgran gluten free bread mix
Doves gram flour
Doves rye flour
Dr Schar gluten free vanilla wafers
Ener-G pure rice bran
Finn crisp original rye crispbreads
Glutano gluten free biscuits
Gluten free baking powder
Gluten free muesli
Gravy powder gluten free
Kallo rice cakes
Mrs Crimble gluten free macaroons, fruit loaf & chocolate cake
Orgran corn pasta, lasagna and spaghetti
Orgran Ris o mais pasta, lasagna and spaghetti
Premier gluten free biscuits chocolate coated
Premier gluten free chocolate & orange biscuits
Premier gluten free plain biscuits
Wheat free mueslis organic and non-organic
Rye/soya rolls, Rye/soya bread Sesame snaps
Wheat free Soya sauce
Village bakery gluten free bread
Village bakery gluten free cakes
Yeast Free Diet
Yeasts are part of an enormous family of fungi that includes mushrooms, bakers yeast and antibiotics.
Some illnesses are caused by fungus, e.g. farmer’s lung and Candida (thrush). Be wary of food that has been left about for some time, as yeasts need time and the necessary conditions to grow, and many yeasts are impossible to see with the naked eye.
Yeast will have been used in the processing of any products which have been fermented, e.g. wine. Preserved or dried foods will almost certainly have yeasts on them, even if they have been treated to give a longer shelf life. It is impossible not to ingest some yeasts as they are all about us in the air. The descriptions “dried, pickled, cultured, and fermented”, all indicate the presence of yeast.
Eating out is not difficult provided cheese dishes, any food with vinegar or alcohol, pickles, and mushrooms or truffles are avoided. Bread also must not be eaten, but some plain crisp breads may be acceptable. Salads should be without dressing, and meat without stuffing. Choose grilled meat without gravy, plain boiled or steamed vegetables, plain grilled fish or omelettes. It is wise to avoid fruit desserts and of course cheese and biscuits.
Following this diet will reduce the amount of calcium, protein, fibre and fat consumed, and adjustments need to be made in other areas to combat this. Use a raising powder that does not contain cream of tartar and make whole-wheat soda bread and scones at home, but eat within a short time of baking. Rye crisp breads, or whole-wheat breakfast cereals, (if they can be tolerated) such as Shredded Wheat and Puffed Wheat and rice can be eaten instead of bread.
It is advisable to increase the amount of vegetables eaten, especially the high potassium ones. All fruit eaten should be thoroughly washed, dried and peeled then eaten immediately, keeping the peel well away from the flesh of the fruit or you may contaminate it with yeast. Make oil or lemon dressings for salads with fresh lemon juice.
A problem with the omission of bread is that it could lead to a deficiency of B complex vitamins. To help correct this, drop scones or soda bread can be made with whole-wheat flour without yeast. An increase in the amount of liver to 4 oz (100g) per week would also help.
If a B complex supplement needs to be taken synthetic B vitamins would be more suitable as natural supplements will probably be made from yeast. Fruit juices should be made from fresh washed and peeled fruit and drunk immediately they are made. If the amount of whole-wheat flour used for suitable baking is not increased to at least 1 lb. ( kilo) per week there is a risk of too little cereal fibre in this diet. This is quite a difficult diet to follow, especially as no alcohol whatsoever should be taken.
Foods to Avoid:
bread, rolls, croissants, currant tea cakes, doughnuts, scones, breadcrumbs, pitta breads
Mushrooms, truffles, stuffing All cheeses, yoghurt, buttermilk
Vinegar of all kinds, ketchup, pickles of all kinds, chutney, sauerkraut, horseradish, mint sauce, mustard, salad dressing, soy sauce
Fruit skins, i.e. Apples and pears
Dried fruits of all kinds, sultanas, currants, raisin, mixed peel, apricots, figs etc.
Malted drinks, malted cereals
Monosodium Glutamate (E221) If eating out in a restaurant, check to make sure that M.S.G is not used, ask for it be left out if necessary.
Yeast of all kinds, fresh, bakers, brewers, dried, compressed, instant. Yeast extract spreads, marmite, vecon, yeastrel, natrex. Cream of tartar
B Complex vitamins with a yeast base
Antibiotics and other drugs derived from mould cultures
Alcohol of all kinds, including wines, spirits, beers
Soda bread, soda farls. (Avoid those which contain buttermilk)
Yeast free breads
Ryvita, crackers, matzos. Some Indian breads such as chappatis, check ingredients. Rice cakes, oat cakes, home made scones
Yoghurt for the first two weeks, then live yoghurt is acceptable. Salad dressing made with fresh lemon, oil, garlic and herbs.
A maximum of three fruits per day, peeled and washed (Fruits which cannot be peeled, such as small berries should be avoided unless they are very fresh.
Cereals which are malt free, such as shredded wheat, puffed wheat, rice, porridge oats
Plain crisps or brands with no additives i.e. Hedgehog
Nuts in small amounts are fine as long as they are fresh. Avoid peanuts and pistachios
Baking powder and Bicarbonate of Soda may be used for baking as a raising agent.