Wheat is one of the most common grains across the globe. As with other grains, wheat is obtained from the edible seeds of the grass-like plant. The grains are made up of three key parts: the bran (which is the shell or the hard outer layer), the germ (which is the core of the seed) as well as the endosperm that is the source of starch required for the growing seed.
By definition, whole grain refers to -all the three parts of the seed while refined grains are those where the bran or germ have been eliminated, leaving behind the endosperm only. For the longest time, whole grains have been preferred to refined grains because they are an excellent source of nutrients such as magnesium and vitamins which are absent in the latter.
Over the years, technological developments have made it possible to isolate the starchy endosperm and produce finely ground wheat flour which is cheaper and lasts longer when compared to whole grains. This, alongside a number of health complications have created furore on whether wheat is good for your health.
Part of the reason for this is that in addition to the carbohydrates present, wheat also contains a number of proteins that may pose a problem for the most part. These include gluten, Amylase Trypsin Inhibitors as well as Wheat Germ Agglutinin.
It is important to note that problems that result from these protein components may not be the same things as metabolic changes in the body, but all of these point to the tremendous effect wheat has on one’s health. Below are some of the reasons why you should quit eating wheat products.
NOTE: You may want to do this alongside your doctor’s advice.
1. Wheat Problems are not a Preserve of Those Diagnosed with Celiac Disease Only:
One of the most common conditions linked to wheat is celiac disease. This is a condition that causes the immune system to attack the body cells in the presence of gluten. This condition is often managed by strictly adhering to a gluten-free diet. It is interesting to note, however, that while most people are aware of this, there is the misconception that if you do not suffer celiac disease, you are out of the woods.
Contrary to this popular belief, research shows that there is increased sensitivity to gluten, a condition that is medically referred to as non-celiac Gluten sensitivity (and abbreviated NCGS). What this simply means is that there is an increase in the number of people who have shown sensitivity to gluten, yet this is a reaction that is not attributed to celiac disease.
Studies indicate that this could likely be attributed to the other two existing proteins present in wheat – Amylase Trypsin Inhibitors and Wheat Germ Agglutinin. It is clear that wheat poses a great health concern for every wheat consumer across the board.
2. Wheat Causes Inflammation Within the Gut:
Inflammation by itself, is an important bodily response because it is the immune’s natural response to injured tissues. This happens whenever you get a bruise or the skin gets damaged as it is evidenced by the redness and tenderness at the affected site. When it comes to wheat intake, the presence of the proteins mentioned above act as irritants.
What this means is that they cause irritation of the gut, akin to severing the lining of the gut. This triggers inflammation, a symptom that is common in individuals with celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity. What’s more, the Amylase trypsin inhibitors mentioned as one of the proteins are also known to trigger an inflammatory response within the gut.
This inflammation is potentially life-threatening because it increases the intestine’s permeability. To understand why this is important, it helps to look at the function of the gut more broadly. The gut has sensitive mechanisms to ensure that only digested food is allowed into blood circulation, and everything else is not.
It is a complicated network whose importance cannot be overlooked considering that every day, the human body is exposed to germs, bacteria and viruses which need NOT enter the blood stream. With increased permeability however, these regulations are slackened so that too much of the bad stuff passes through easily. This is why inflammation causes what is known as a leaky gut. Left unchecked, this has been shown to be a precursor for the development of autoimmune diseases.
3. Wheat has a Profound Effect on the Brain:
While wheat has a great effect on the gut, it is also important to mention its effects on the brain. Scientific studies show that many brain disorders may be triggered or aggravated by the consumption of gluten. One of the key conditions linked to this is cerebellar ataxia, a brain disorder that causes poor balance, uncoordinated movements and speech problems.
When this condition is linked to gluten, it is known as gluten ataxia. In extreme cases, it causes permanent damage to the cerebellum. This is key because this part of the brain is linked to motor control. It is interesting to note to, that in addition to ataxia, there are other brain disorders that are exacerbated by wheat consumption.
In these conditions, the elimination of wheat has a far more positive outlook, and is yet another reason why you should quit wheat products. These disorders include schizophrenia, autism and epilepsy.
4. Wheat is Very Addictive:
Have you always wondered why you get a seemingly insatiable appetite when it comes to wheat products? Why is it so hard to resist ‘just one more cookie’ or just a ‘small slice of cake’? Turns out there is a good reason for this, even though it is not as obvious as it should be.
Experiencing cravings for wheat products is far more common than people would like to admit. When gluten is digested in the body, it releases peptides that stimulate opioid receptors. These peptides are tiny proteins and are referred to as gluten exorphins.
An exorphin is a peptide that is not synthesized by the body, but which has the capacity to stimulate opioid receptors in the brain. Over a long period of time, established patterns cause a craving that is just as powerful as that of hard drugs.
5. Wheat has Been Linked to Weak Bones:
Optimal function of the body requires that pH levels are maintained for natural metabolic processes. When these levels fluctuate, and the body is either too acidic or too alkaline, then metabolic processes are affected adversely. Needless to say, acids that disrupt the pH levels in the body are pretty ubiquitous in modern diets.
Wheat is in fact, one of the most common food components in such a diet. Since grains produce by-products that are acidic in nature, continuous consumption of wheat makes the body increasingly acidic.
When this happens, the body starts to use reserves of the minerals found in the bones, and more specifically, calcium carbonate and calcium phosphates. This happens through a process known as demineralization, which is turn leads to weak bones. Weak bones are more likely to get fractured and increase the risk of osteoporosis.
6. Wheat Causes the Skin to Age Faster:
It is common knowledge that the skin is the largest organ in the body, and a fundamental part of the immune system. Sadly, the skin is not immune to the effects of wheat, and is one of the organs that is affected negatively. Wheat consumed is metabolized by the body resulting in glycation end products.
These end products affect skin cell production by interfering with elastin that maintains the skin’s elasticity. The result is sagging skin that gives a person that old-aged look. Add to this the inflammation that is characteristic of wheat, and its effect on conditions such as eczema and psoriasis and it is easy to see why you would quit eating wheat products.
7. Wheat is One of the Reasons why Weight Loss is a Challenge for many People:
For many people struggling to lose weight, one of the biggest hurdles is getting over wheat – and for good reason. When you consume wheat products, they are broken down to form sugar in the body. This triggers the pancreas to produce insulin.
Continuous production of insulin triggers the body to stop burning fat and instead store it in body reserves. This is what happens when your blood sugar levels are spiked multiple times over a short period of time. In the end, it becomes almost impossible to lose weight healthily if you continue snacking on wheat and wheat products.
8. Wheat has been Linked to Heart Disease:
Wheat consumption, due to the presence of a compound known as amylopectin A, stimulates the formation of tiny LDL particles. LDL (Low density lipoproteins) are commonly known as the ‘bad’ cholesterol which, studies have revealed, is linked to heart disease.
Add to this the increased appetite and spiked insulin levels that bring the added weight and it becomes easy to spot the multifacetted challenges wheat brings to the body. What’s more, this additional weight is often found in the abdomen, what is often referred to as a ‘wheat belly’.
This visceral fat not only contributes to inflammation, it also results in increased blood glucose levels and high blood pressure, all of which are a risk factor for heart disease. Simply put, quitting wheat is one of the most effective ways of cutting down the risk of heart disease.
It is evident that wheat is not the best product for your overall health. But, aside from the bread, cake and pizza, are you aware of other foods that are rich in wheat yet in a very subtle manner? Wheat is hidden in tons of packaged foods, ranging from salad dressings to fries, canned soup, frozen meals and even couscous products.
Granted, it will take time to adjust to a wheat-free lifestyle (certainly not without a fight), but the most important thing is to change your mindset about wheat. Learn as much as you can about this food type and then focus on making changes. Some handy tips you can use to make this transition include learning to cook healthy meals from scratch, steering clear of processed foods as well as maintaining an active lifestyle.