Sunday, January 22, 2012

Forego the Dough

Gluten is found in all grains; some more than others. Wheat is one of the major culprits and to my thinking, the original source of the sensitivity.  

Wheat, like all grains is actually a grass. The part we eat is the seed. Its’ been around since the beginning of the planet in one phase of development or another. According to some accounts, the human race has been eating wheat since 8,000 years before the end of the Paleolithic period. However, not the wheat that is available today.

 The wheat kernel  contains a dormant embryo (in this case the germ ). It lays within the seed waiting for moisture to bring about the environment that creates action. Also within the seed is all the nutrition and vitality the embryo needs to supply life until it has set root and developed its true leaves. This nutritional substance is the endosperm; also known as gluten. It is a source of protein and starch. All of this is covered by layers of bran, then the husk or hull.

The word “gluten” comes from Latin. Gluten, meaning  glue. Named so because it gives elasticity to dough, helps it rise and keep its shape. It gives bread products their spongy texture. It is also the standard base for wallpaper paste or glue for paper mache’ when mixed with water. 

The wheat berry or seed ( shown in the diagram below) has a much larger area of endosperm than ancient grains used to contain. In the 19th century agriculture began to ‘improve on nature’ by hybridizing  wheat. One of the desired effects was to create a plant that would produce greater grain/ more flour. By the first part of the 20th century the US was growing wheat with larger kernels and the food industry was removing all  germ and brand as well as the husk. Fluffy white flour with artificial nutrients was marketed. We were eating white;  flour, sugar and rice. No fiber, just starch.

Early civilizations gathered and threshed wheat and other ancient grains by hand. Only the outside husk were removed. The remainder was boiled, steamed or ground to make a flour. The process allowed most of the bulk and fiber to accompany the glutinous endosperm through the process of digestion.

The reason hybridizing and processing creates a problem has to do with to the way our body digest food. The small intestine is where most chemical digestion and absorption takes place. It is the site where most of the nutrients from ingested food are absorbed. To offer a larger surface for the digested food or chime  to pass, the first stage of the small intestine has folds or ‘fingers’ called villi. Minute food partials pass through and surround the villi fingers. These finger-like tiny hairs grab and absorb nutrients as foods pass through your lower digestive tract. When the diet is high in glutinous foods and low in fiber the gluten coats and covers the villi. Over time the coating causes the villi to suffocate and decay.  All of this is compounded when sugared drinks accompany meals due to the sugars negative effect on necessary B-vitamins and minerals.