After going back and forth on the question whether gluten is harmful, I have come to the conclusion that it taxes the human body and hinders maximum performance—no matter who you are. Research shows that even if you don’t have celiac disease your health will be adversely effected, largely due to zonulin production1, a hormone that loosens the gaps between your intestinal lining, opening up the spaces for foreign particles to circulate in the bloodstream, increasing inflammation and fostering chronic illness.
Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity
There is growing consensus among natural health doctors and researchers that even if one doesn’t test positive for celiac disease she can still get symptoms similar to having the disease when consuming gluten. However, remove the gluten-containing foods from the diet and the symptoms go away.2 Strange, but true.
Thus, if the gene is not present that causes the intestinal tract to become inflamed, and yet inflammatory repercussions amount, what is going on here? I describe my hypothesis from personal experience.
Gluten-Containing Foods Always Cause Me Problems
For the longest time, since 2012, I suffered from a fluctuating case of eczema on my right ankle. It would flare up for a few days and then subside. It would embarrass me greatly, resulting in many ‘photoshopped’ images—if you know what I mean.
I researched and experimented with various foods and supplements to make it go away. I even tried eliminating gluten at times, which would lesson the symptoms, but later found the problem to be also due to ‘lectins,’ the plant compounds found in many grains, beans, and vegetables that trigger the same response of opening up the tight junctions in the small intestine. Turns out, gluten is just another LECTIN.
Pressure Cooking Destroys All Lectins, Except Gluten
Though pressure cooking destroys most lectins, a practice I now employ on beans and many vegetables thanks to advice from Dr. Steven Gundry (author of The Plant Paradox), gluten is NOT deactivated through this rigorous process. Subjecting plants to high levels of heat and pressure has a way of killing these sticky proteins that open up tight junctions in the GI cell lining. For whatever reason, gluten is a strong glue-like protein that just won’t disassemble, not matter how much you boil or cook it.
Therefore, you’re better off avoiding all gluten-containing grains altogether. It’s tough, but necessary if you want to enjoy ideal health and wellness.
Wheat Harvested in Pennsylvania, 1943
Sourdough Fermentation Partially Digests Gluten
The mild exception to avoiding gluten is eating fermented sourdough breads in moderation. However, it has to be 100% real sourdough—not the fake 70% variety found in most grocery stores. Though Whole Foods Market sells an organic sourdough bread behind the glass in the bakery section, read the ingredient label and you will find fermented sourdough starter as the second ingredient on the list. The first is “Organic Wheat Flour,” which means the bread is full of undigested wheat gluten, defeating the whole purpose.
Moreover, the process of fermenting grains with yeast via the formation of alcohol breaks down the gluten proteins some degree. It likely does not kill all of this lectin but makes it much safer to consume. Dr. Gundry still recommends avoiding sourdough bread in addition to all grains, but if you have to eat bread—choose real sourdough.
Sprouting Grains Can Predigest Gluten Too
Because ingredients are always listed according to quantity in the order of most-to-least, you can tell which ingredients quantify the largest percentage of the product. I read labels quite often, as many health-conscious people do, even though it takes an extra minute.
Likewise, the sprouting process of grain preparation can predigest gluten as well, making it easier on the intestine. It does this through the work of enzymes that interact with gluten.
Whole Foods (Fake) Sourdough Bread Gives Me Eczema
Recently after removing all gluten from my diet I have enjoyed healing and restoration to my right ankle, the place where my skin would become irritated. I have also noticed my joint pain diminish, a symptom on my right knee from doing many squats with weights.
Nonetheless, there have been times when I wanted to experiment (or perhaps compromise), to see if the bread per se was the culprit to this annoying skin condition. Unsurprisingly, whenever I ate this particular sourdough bread from Whole Foods, though it’s organic (free of glyphosate), my skin would get red and sore the next day. The joint pain in my right knee would also return, making it harder to get into full lotus pose. This is all exacerbated from eating a phony sourdough bread with plenty of undigested gluten.
Even Organic Corn Gives Me Eczema
Corn products have similar eczema-inducing effects to gluten, whether from tortilla chips, straight from the cob, etc. Corn is loaded with other forms of lectins, and though its organic (GMO and glyphosate free), doesn’t mean it’s healthy. I must therefore remain disciplined by avoiding these foods if I want to achieve optimal health.
My Current Approach to Gluten
Because I am now aware of lectins, of which gluten being one, I am skeptical toward anyone who haphazardly claims the anti-gluten movement is a hoax. Furthermore, Dr. William Davis’s 2011 book, Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health, goes into detail on how today’s wheat is not the tall golden “staff of life” we read about in ancient scripture. Ancient “einkorn” wheat was tall and of differing constituents. Today’s wheat however is short with likely adverse effects.
Since the 1970s, wheat has undergone testing with genetically modified experiments. New hybridized species have been made which changed the molecular structure, making it short and stocky, and providing greater hector to farmers. Though increasing profits for the industry may be the sole reason for this change, today’s wheat is far less healthy than its original einkorn ancestor.
Further, I seldomly touch wheat. If I do it is only organic due to the GMO and glyphosate contained in conventional varieties. Hence if I do have organic wheat on occasion it is strictly sprouted or fermented in the form of sourdough.