Dietary Grains and Their Role in Inflammation
Many people become easily confused when it comes to understanding carbohydrates, or carbs for short. Are they good or are they bad? It's complicated... Actually, it really isn't. Hopefully, this post brings more awareness to the relationship between grains and illness will help simplify the important information about dietary carbohydrates, what they do and what you should do with them. Hopefully, this blog gives awareness to the relationship between grains and illness while simultaneously emboldening communities' collective purchasing consciousness.
All grains cause some degree of inflammation in the body, always acting as double-edged swords. Some grains do more good than harm and some do far more harm than good. Determining which side of the blade your grains fall on becomes the important task at hand. Under normal circumstances, calculating your carbs should be no problem. However, corporate interest groups endlessly complicate the situation with colorful and deceptive advertising, tricking consumers into paying for poison. Let's pull back the curtain and take a look under the microscope, shall we?
All carbs are made from chains of carbon with hydrogen and oxygen molecules bonded to them. The oxygen molecules are attached as alcohol groups which is why grains and sugars can be fermented into alcoholic beverages. Sugars are made of carbs and sugars are essential to life. Our body’s convert sugars into energy to live and function. The problem is food labels don’t tell you what kind of carbs they’re talking about. Although, it’s a safe bet they’re talking about the bad ones. The key here is to not avoid carbs altogether but to pick the right ones.
Simple carbohydrates have simplistic nutrition and offer basic sustenance. Common simple carbs include table sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, glucose, fructose and sucrose, common flours, cookies, baked goods, sodas and cereals. They provide sugars that are easily broken down and quickly used. Twigs burn faster in a campfire than logs do. There is a post-meal blood sugar spike because simple carbs are so easily digested. The brain LOVES sugar and the excess sugar-spike becomes that fleeting good feeling experienced after eating sweets. This is a dangerous reaction as well all know how addictive pastries, cakes and cookies can become. Yes, the sugars are broken down by the liver for energy use. Though, if the body doesn’t need that energy at the time, the liver stores the sugars and carbs as fat.
Complex carbohydrates are advanced macronutrients that offer complex and dynamic sustenance. Fiber and starch are types of complex carb. Vegetables, whole wheat, ancient grains and rice are all complex carbohydrates. These carbs take more energy to breakdown but offer more ‘high-fuel’ in return. Logs burn more slowly than twigs in a campfire. For this reason, a diet of complex carbs will have you feeling fuller quicker and for longer off of fewer carbs.
WHAT IS GLUTEN
Gluten is the main protein in wheat and other grains, including barley, rye and spelt. When gluten flours are mixed with water, they create a 3D network, which gives dough elasticity and viscosity. In other words, the chewy gooey pizza dough that most of us love is packed full of gluten. Thus, it is a disaster for those with gluten sensitivity and celiac disease, in particular.
The mechanization of farming and the growing industrial use of pesticides and fertilizers have led to the rise of new variants of wheat that could play a leading role in the adverse immune reactions to gluten. Additionally, we now have increased concentrations of toxic gluten proteins in bakery products because the bread leavening process has been progressively shortened.
WHY IS GLUTEN TOXIC
When intestinal cells come in contact with gluten, they produce a substance called zonulin. Normally, gut cells are bound tightly together by structures called tight junctions. Zonulin disrupts tight junctions and allows for the inappropriate absorption of toxic bacterial and food proteins that would otherwise be excreted. This can stimulate the immune system to generate an inflammatory response.
SYMPTOMS OF GUTEN SENSITIVITY
- Joint pain
- Leg or arm numbness
- “Foggy mind”
- Eczema and/or rash
- Abdominal pain
SELF-TEST FOR GLUTEN SENSITIVITY
It’s called the “Potato Test.” Potatoes are a high-glycemic index food that contain no gluten so an appropriate digestive response will occur without consuming gluten. For at least 3 days, only meat, fish, chicken, eggs, vegetables, nuts, fats (butter), oils (olive, coconut) and spices should be eaten. This is essentially the DeFlame Diet. This will ensure that no gluten, refined carbs, whole grains, beans or starch will be consumed.
On the morning of the 4th day or longer (7-10 days if you like), breakfast should consist of a small to medium white potato only. This exposes the gut to a high glycemic food that doesn’t contain gluten. If bloating, fatigue, pain, or other symptoms occur within 1 hour of potato consumption, the impression is that a condition called Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) is present. SIBO is a situation where there is an overgrowth of bacterial flora into the upper small intestine, leading to an excess absorption of bacterial endotoxin.
If there is no reaction to the potato, and if you are still hungry, have a couple eggs or small omelet. Then for lunch, eat a slice or two of pizza. Choose a pizza place that does not skimp on the dough. The dough should be chewy, meaning fully of gluten. If you react to the pizza, this is suggestive of a gluten disorder.
WHAT TO EAT
You want to aim for complex carbohydrates. Vegetables more so than anything else, rice (especially brown and darker rice), whole wheat breads and nutrient-rich ancient grains are your best bets. Although, if you find you have a gluten sensitivity, I HIGHLY recommend avoiding ALL grains together with rice as the exception. Rice can be relatively gluten free.
WHAT TO AVOID
The most common refined forms of simple carbs are the most highly inflammatory and toxic to the body. The worst carbs are the most common carbs because the food industry can produce more of them for next to nothing. Refining simple carbs extends their shelf life, reduces spoilage and allows for more profit. During the process of extending their shelf life, refined flours and sugars are bleached of their natural nutrients. These refined carbs are often ‘enriched’ with substitute nutrients but never to the point of their original form because they would then spoil quicker. The end product is a poisonous, nutrient-hollow product that offers truly no benefit to the consumer. I recommend following the DeFlame Diet program proposed by a great instructor and professor of mine, the inflammation guru, Dr. David Seaman, DC, MS.