The turning point for my move away from grains altogether came two lunches into my stay at Petford. In the last few months I had not been eating a lot of grain. My research with my partner had led me to be gradually reducing grain, and consuming fermented and sprouted grain where possible. I had read Gut by Dr. Gulie Enders, Nourishing Traditions by Dr. Sally Fallon, Clean Eating by Dr. Alejandro Junger. As I approached the lunch table, another guest, who wasn’t staying long and had bought and cooked spaghetti for dinner, mentioned that it was made out of spelt. I made an appreciative comment, and Geoff’s voiced boomed next to me ‘Spelt is just as bad as wheat!’. I was really caught out, having heard so many times, like others in my circles, that spelt is an ‘ancient grain’ and wasn’t genetically modified and didn’t have gluten, and had assumed that it was fine to eat. I knew to listen closely to what Geoff had to say on the subject, as he’s spent years rehabilitating substance abusers and wayward youths by taking them off grain. He says people can’t connect with each other when their bodies are playing up and they can’t concentrate.
So I took up the tongs with intention and lifted a solid serving of spelt spaghetti onto my plate and listened keenly to my gut over the next few hours. Sure enough, the cramping was strong and I massaged my gut to help with the processing. Geoff’s position is that going a couple weeks without grain makes the body especially communicative about things being put into it that it doesn’t like. Even one of the sons of the guest visiting mentioned diarrhoea. So I picked up Wheat Belly: Total Health by Dr William Davis, a book that Geoff keeps on a table at the front of the house so he can grab it easily to show to guests. I figured I better get comfy with the research if I’m going to live here.
Since I stumbled onto her a year ago, Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions has been an influence on me because she bases her dietary positions off research drawn from communities around the world. In this case, Dr Wilson Price’s seminal work of dental health in indigenous communities, including the widely-documented changes in health and diet as hunter-gatherer communities transition towards agricultural as well as agricultural communities towards industrial (for example amongst white Australian farmers moving to cities in the 19th and 20th centuries as documented by Robert Hughes in The Fatal Shore). As a person with anthropological background and interest, I value the stories of people who do things differently to how I have known how to do them.
William Davis, in Wheat Belly: Total Health, the follow up to Wheat Belly, takes a similar approach. I highly value nutrition for the role that I’ve felt it play in my own wellbeing. However, it is not a passion as much as people are. So in these words I will only briefly and simply paraphrase the arguments that Davis puts forward. If you want to know more about the science, then I recommend picking up a copy. If only because, to take up Geoff’s own position, people must learn to heal themselves.
Basically, Davis argues that cows are adapted to eat grasses because they have three stomachs, many times the amount of saliva and all the other perks that humans don’t have that help with digesting a well protected grass seed – a grain. Davis equates all the chronic problems of modern society with the dominance of grain in the diet, not just wheat. By extension, his critique extends to global capitalism, by explaining how grain is the perfect commodity, and a detailed account of the blurred lines between agriculture, business, government, and health information. For example, the popularisation of the phrase ‘healthy whole grains’ is a part of this matrix. He argues against the widespread dichotomy of simple and complex carbohydrates, as grains’ carbs break down into just as much if not more sugar than sugary products. Some of the nutrient information that is not widely known: genetic changes to wheat that impact the gut, brain, and blood stream include, not just increases in gluten, but the presence of gliadin, wheat germ agglutinin, phytates, alpha-amylase inhibitors and other allergens. Nutrient absorption is often impaired, leading to widespread deficiencies in zinc, iron, vitamin B12, folate, and vitamin D, amongst others. Proteins that act as toxins can break through gut walls into the bloodstream tricking the immunity cells and triggering autoimmune responses. Whilst reading Wheat Belly: Total Health it feels as if no stone is left unturned in investigating grain.
Not into books and want to try a video instead? I haven't watched it all, but this one on grain, the gut, and autoimmunity (as the apparent root cause of many maladies, unscrutinised as yet by western medicine) popped up in Geoff's email recently: www.theurbanmonk.com/autoimmunity-is-now-the-1-killer/
My move away from grain is a very recent one, that like everything, is open to revision, and I will continue to document changes that I experience as they come. Next up in my reading is Brain Maker by Dr David Perlmutter.