When I tell people I don’t eat wheat I usually get an unfavorable response. Some people roll their eyes – boy do I love those people. Others simply nod and check out. They’ve heard it before and they don’t want to hear it again. Occasionally, someone will be interested in the why. Why go wheat free?
What is Wheat?
The first question to answer when talking about living wheat free is: what is wheat and why is it a problem? Wheat is a seed. Like most seeds and nuts, it has several proteins that are unique to wheat and other grains.
Gluten is a composite protein, a combination of proteins found in many grains and it’s particularly high in wheat. There are other proteins in wheat that a person can be allergic to. In fact there are several thousand proteins found in wheat – it has a unique DNA structure that makes this possible.
So while millions of people are diagnosed as “Gluten sensitive” or with Celiac Disease, it may be entirely possible that you are allergic to one of those wheat proteins. An allergy to a protein isn’t uncommon. There are allergies to peanuts, eggs, diary, fish, and berries. These are all protein allergies. When the protein enters your body, you have an immune response as your body attacks the invader.
When it comes to going wheat free, you may not care so much what particular protein you’re sensitive to. The end result is the same. Eliminate wheat and your health will improve. Before we talk about how wheat affects your body, let’s first talk about the fact that the wheat you and I eat today isn’t the wheat that people ate 50 years ago.
It’s Not Your Grandma’s Wheat
You might wonder why it seems that within the past generation or two we’ve become a nation of sick people. Why is everyone eliminating wheat and gluten and why are lives changing because of it?
The truth is that the wheat that you eat today isn’t the same wheat that people ate just a few decades ago. We’ve genetically modified our wheat plants to produce more gluten. Why? Because the gluten is what makes bread so chewy and wonderful. Gluten gives baked goods their structure, texture and elasticity.
When you or the bakery adds water to wheat flour and starts the kneading process, glutenin and another protein called gliadin bind to each other and create long, stretchy loops of what we call gluten. The more gluten in the flour, the more the dough will stretch and the airier it will be once baked.
Let’s also say that we eat tons more wheat today than we did fifty to a hundred years ago. In fact, the average person in the U.S. eats around 132 pounds of wheat a year. This is almost a full ounce of gluten each day.
The bottom line…
It all adds up. A combination of a wheat being high in gluten, combined with high wheat diets, and the potential to be allergic to other proteins found in wheat, means that more and more people are experiencing health issues caused by wheat. Quitting wheat has changed millions of lives and it could change yours too. Next time we’ll take a look at the wide variety of health problems wheat can cause and why you might want to go wheat free.