With all the recent news surrounding the ill effects of wheat, it is frightening to discover the myriad of ways in which wheat can be harmful to our health. Wheat is among the most genetically modified crops today. Commonly known as a starvation food, wheat provided a somewhat-acceptable level of nutrition during the early stages of farming. Over the years, however, wheat has been modified and irradiated to produce fatter seeds and shorter growth periods. This is good for the profits of large agricultural companies, but less nutritious for humans.

Why the Cause for Concern?

Wheat has been found to be one of the most vexing and problematic foods in our diets today. It is believed to be the single largest dietary culprit associated with bacterial or fungal dysbiosis, leaky gut syndrome, and universal food allergies. It is also believed that gluten, a component of wheat, can cause systemic damage to internal regulation of our immune function. 

By example, over-consumption of wheat contributes to bacterial or fungal dysbiosis. This causes a heightened intestinal immune response with degradation of the intestinal lining, pancreatic dysfunction and a risk of acquiring a parasitic infection followed by an inability to absorb vital micro-nutrients. These reactions can lead to degraded health, vitality, chronic-sickness and disease (Edwards, 2008).

Starch molecules in wheat-containing foods can create pituitary disturbances; starch is disruptive to the pituitary hormones that allow for proper kidney function. It is also known that excess consumption of wheat can lead to a decline in pancreatic function. Moreover, blood sugar regulation problems such as hypoglycemia and chronic digestive disorders have also been associated with over-consumption of wheat.

If you think you don’t eat enough wheat bread for this to be a problem; you’re in for a surprise. Wheat is everywhere. Pasta is made from wheat, and so are most cereals and any breaded foods, including fish sticks. Wheat is also used in many canned soups, canned vegetables, gravy mixes and soy sauce. Even unexpected foods such as ice cream, beer, salad dressings and cocoa powder contain wheat.

Possible side effects of wheat allergy can include one or more of the following: 

  • appetite stimulation
  • exposure to brain-active exorphins
  • exaggerated blood sugar surges
  • menstrual difficulty
  • the process of glycation
  • activation of disordered immune responses
  • inflammation
  • fatigue
  • loss of memory
  • sleep disruption
  • allergies
  • muscle & joint pain
  • high blood pressure
  • asthma
  • severe headaches
  • obesity
  • visual difficulty
  • learning disabilities
  • chronic digestive disorders

In addition to this list, wheat allergy can cause ulcers, constipation, inability to absorb vital nutrients, parasitic infections, intestinal dysbiosis, sinusitis, candidiasis, and hyperthyroidism (Edwards, 2008).

If that isn't frightening enough, studies have linked other diseases to the consumption of wheat such as cancer, celiac disease, diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, rashes, schizophrenia, stroke, osteoporosis, high blood pressure, and kidney disease (Davis, 2011, para.28).

Identifying Wheat as an Allergen

Many people who have wheat intolerance live with the symptoms all their life without ever  realizing or treating the disease. Problems such as irritable bowel syndrome, recurrent migraines, and asthma are often related to wheat intolerance. This intolerance can also worsen cases of eczema and arthritis. Dr. Phillip Maffetone, author of twelve books on food and nutrition, suggests that due to wheat problems in both adults and children:

Many professionals now agree that mild forms of wheat allergy, much more common and now finally being recognized, is the same condition – a sub-clinical celiac disease that begins early in childhood. Eliminating wheat, or never introducing it to a child, is one of the first steps to take toward improving brain function.
— Dr. Phillip Maffetone

You don’t have to have symptoms of wheat intolerance to be affected; everybody should be concerned of the side effects of non-nutritious wheat.

Wheat and Celiac Disease

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease that affects 1 in every 133 people in the United States. Nearly five times as many people are suffering from this disease than four decades ago. Unfortunately, the numbers are continuing to rise year in and year out, according to a University of Maryland School of Medicine report. Surprisingly, many people who have celiac disease don’t even know they do (Ji, 2013).

People with celiac disease cannot digest gluten properly (a protein found in wheat), and as a result they suffer from symptoms including chronic diarrhea, bloating, vomiting and weight loss. Over time, people with celiac disease can develop more serious health issues, such as bone or joint pain, depression and fatigue, numbness in hands and feet, and skin rashes that are itchy and sometimes painful.

Amylopectin A

Wheat is not only bad for those suffering from celiac disease. In fact, experts now believe that amylopectin A (a type of carbohydrate molecule found in wheat) is worse for your body than table sugar. This is because amylopectin A can raise your blood sugar quickly and significantly, leading to cravings, causing weight gain and making your brain foggy. Rapid increases in blood sugar are harmful because the faster blood sugar goes up, the faster it comes down. As a result, you’ll experience what’s known as a “sugar crash.” This results in fatigue, bloating, increased hunger and weight gain (Hyman, 2012).

An excess of sugar consumption also increases the production of LDL cholesterol in your body. Even if you’re not seeing the fat accumulating around your waist, it could very well be building up in your arteries and around your organs.

Wheat Addiction?

Scientists are now discovering that wheat can be somewhat addictive. When your body processes wheat, certain substances move into your brain “pleasure zone,” causing a mild feeling of euphoria. The result is that you might start reaching for wheat products when feeling sad or upset, simply because they make you feel better. That could explain why people reach for certain foods when they’re feeling down. Most of those foods are rich in sugars, and many contain wheat. Additionally, other health effects of wheat consumption include depression, ADD/ADHD, and Alzheimer’s disease. The more wheat a person consumes, the more likely it is that gluten sensitively will reveal itself through neurological and psychiatric conditions (Mercola, 2011).

Lifting the Veil on 'Healthy Wheat'

Marketers would have us believe that healthier choices can be made if we simply reconsider the types of breads we purchase. Unfortunately this is not the case. According to experts, choosing to buy wheat, white, artisan bread, or whole grain does not appear to make a substantial difference. For example, 100% whole wheat has not been bleached, so you’re getting some some nutrients including B vitamins, fiber and folic acid. In that sense, whole wheat is better than bleached flour (white bread), since bleaching removes nearly every nutrient the grain originally contains. However, when eating 100% whole wheat you’re still eating irradiated crops that contain chemicals and other ingredients which are difficult for the body to digest, and can lead to internal inflammation.

Reversing the Damage

Undoing the damage caused by over consumption of wheat and other starchy foods can be a challenge.  The mere absence of wheat from our diet for periods as short as a few weeks to several months can give the pancreas and intestinal tract time to repair and rebuild these malfunctioning systems. Taking a break from these products also gives the intestinal flora time to re-balance. This helps to return intestinal enzyme and immune system activities to normal levels (Edwards, 2008).

Cutting out wheat from your diet can be challenging, but it can be done. Health food stores and many supermarkets now sell special, wheat-free products to replace many of the foods you normally eat. Some pizza chains are even making wheat-free dough for people who suffer from wheat allergies.

Sometimes it’s as simple as reading labels and comparing brands until you find one that doesn’t contain wheat. Remember to read the entire ingredients list. Wheat is often listed in the middle of the list and sometimes at the very end, with other additives. Furthermore, you can go another route by eliminating wheat and wheat by-products (barley, rye, oats, spelt, kamut, wheat, & triticale) all together for 2-4 weeks and take note of how you feel. Reintroducing wheat into your diet and measuring your body’s response can be an effective way to make a determination (Agatston, 2013). According to Dr. Mark Hyman, if you feel bad after reentering gluten back into your diet, you’ll need to stay off gluten permanently (Hyman, 2011).

Whole grains that contain gluten are a major source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. A gluten free diet can lead to a deficiency in fiber, iron, niacin, and other nutrients. Gluten-free items are fortified with these nutrients, but these products can be very pricy. Before completely giving up wheat, consult your doctor to rule out other intestinal disorders. In the end, however, giving up gluten products; such as, cookies, cakes, & processed foods may help you feel better because you’re replacing bread with fruits and vegetables (The Week, 2013).

As an alternative to completely giving up wheat, you may simply need to cut back; however, you may not be able to avoid wheat completely. In the past 50 years the prevalence of wheat products has increased, and products containing wheat can be found everywhere, including some unlikely suspects like commercially prepared sauces, sausages and even potato chips.

Difference Between GMO and Non-GMO Wheat

GMO wheat has been genetically altered with DNA from bacteria and viruses. These cannot occur naturally unless there is an experimental combination of genes from different species.

Non GMO wheat occurs naturally without human alteration and is devoid of experimental combination of genes from different species. Almost all commercial GMO wheat are genetically altered to withstand direct application of herbicide and to produce an insecticide. 

GMO wheat are modified to improve on already existing traits or to develop new traits which are absent from the Non GMO wheat; such traits as the resistance to pests and diseases, improved and increased yield, drought tolerance, enhanced nutrition and other consumer benefits. Despite promises made by biotech industries, none of the GMO traits currently in the market offer these traits, or any other consumer benefit (Non-GMO Project, 2013).                                             

                                         Reference                                                   

Agatston, A. (2013). Gluten: 5 things you need to know. Cable News Network. Retrieved                  April 11, 2013, from; http://www.cnn.com/2013/04/05/health/gluten-5-things/index.html?iref=allsearch

Mercola, D. (2011). 3 Ounces of This a Day May Be Harming Your Brain. Natural Health Articles - Latest and Current Health News and Information. Retrieved February 19, 2011, from; http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/07/04/can-eating-this-common-grain-cause-psychiatric-problems.aspx

Edwards, D.C. (2008). The Adverse Effects of Wheat and Other Grains. Retrieved April 22, 2013 from http://www.allergyexpert.wordpress.com

Davis, W. (2011). Excerpted from Wheat Belly. Emmaus Inc. Retrieved April 22, 2013 from http://www.trackyourplaque.com

Hyman, M. (2011). Gluten: What You Don’t Know Might Kill You. Retrieved February 19, 2013, from http://drhyman.com/blog/2011/03/17/gluten-what-you-dont-know-might-kill-you/

Hyman, M. (2012). Three Hidden Ways Wheat Makes You Fat. Retrieved February 19, 2013, from http://drhyman.com/blog/2012/02/13/three-hidden-ways-wheat-makes-you-fat/

Ji, S. The Dark Side of Wheat - New Perspectives on Celiac Disease &.GreenMedInfo | Alternative Medicine | Vitamin Research | Natural. Retrieved February 19, 2013, from http://www.greenmedinfo.com/page/dark-side-wheat-new-perspectives-celiac-disease-wheat-intolerance-sayer-ji

Maffetone, P. (2010). Why Wheat is Unhealthy for You and Your Child | Healthy Referral Newspaper. Retrieved February 19, 2013, from http://healthyreferral.com/2010/06/why-wheat-is-unhealthy-for-you-and-your-child-by-dr-phil-maffetone/

Non-GMO Project. (2013). GMO Facts. Retrieved April 23, 2013, from http://www.nongmoproject.org

The Week (2013). Is going gluten-free healthier for everybody? Retrieved April 11, 2013, from file:///Users/brendabillings/Library/Application%20Support/Zotero/Profiles/js1p807l.default/zotero/storage/JKDS3R2B/is-going-gluten-free-healthier-for-everybody.html

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