I've been eating paleo for the past 6 months or so because I've always wanted to be the most healthy version of myself and I think paleo really helped me achieve that. Paleo gave me a good understanding of what it really means to eat "healthy", something I was very confused about before. Seed oils, excess fructose, all make perfect sense to me, but the one thing I'm not totally sold on is wheat, specifically processed wheat bread which is what I use to consume on a daily basis but don't anymore. Every once in a while I'll have some and handle it just fine, but I've been abstaining from it recently because I really wanted to see if avoiding it does give me any benefits, which it didn't seem to. I don't have any reaction to wheat whatsoever, as far as digestion, mood, or energy levels go. So what the average person would say then is, "well go ahead and have wheat bread if you feel fine after consuming it", which would be an easy solution.
What I've learned though, is that there doesn't necessarily have to be a short term symptom for something to be dangerous to our health and that n=1 doesn't really mean anything in the context of health. I think it was Kurt Harris who explained how a smoker will feel great after a cigarette, but down the line that same cigarette that made them feel great will give them lung cancer.
So I guess what I'm asking is,
1. Is wheat something that has been proven to be detrimental to a person's health, specifically in the long term? In what ways specifially does it cause long term problems?
2. It may sound like a crazy question, but in something like store bought wheat bread, has it been so processed that in fact the toxins that are harmful to humans long term (I agree that any wheat bread will be problematic in someone with gluten allergies or celiac) that were originally present in the wheat have been destroyed? That the bread is somewhat benign when compared to crude wheat? During my bread eating days it seemed I almost felt a bit better after consuming the stuff that was more processed than the "whole grain" breads.
I understand that wheat bread is certainly not a nutritious food, I'm aware of that. This question is in the context of someone who doesn't need to worry about weight gain though, and could even benefit from putting a few pounds on, and wheat bread is an extremely convenient source of carbs for me. That's really the only reason I would care at this point to include it in my diet... convenience. If there is in fact reasonable evidence to exclude processed wheat bread from my diet though, I will just keep avoiding it.
I watched Mat LaLonde's talk at AHS via video. I then watched an interview with him on youtube just a few days ago. He seems like one very smart dude. He takes what he says seriously.
The baseline diet for all humans is meat, veggies and tubers. One needs to experiment from there.
About wheat... he believes that there is a small percentage of the human population that can and will do just fine with wheat without suffering any major side effects. Eating it for every single meal like the government has been recommending is complete nonsense. Would any of us paleo folks eat eggs for every meal every single day? No.
Maybe you are one of the few lucky ones that can handle wheat just fine.
I think its best if you made the decision yourself. I guess realize that its not true that wheat in very small amounts is as detrimental as most paleo folks want you to believe for 100% of the population. Perhaps as much as 99%.
If its convenient for you, you enjoy it and you are certain you suffer no ill effects from consuming wheat then I say eat it. Just not daily.
Cooking does destroy some of the harmful effects. I've always reasoned that bread is better than say whole wheat pasta.
Just my 2 cents. Anyone else?
Since several readers have already cited the book Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis, I felt an added motivation to include a link to Chris Masterjohn's review of that book. I think Masterjohn effectively covers (and debunks) a number of the proposed health detriments of eating wheat mentioned in the book. I'll elaborate on his post and try to answer your first question regarding some of the problems with eating wheat:
-Certainly refined wheat products are nutrient poor and this could contribute to nutrient deficiencies (the likelihood of this goes down when eating whole grain), but if they represent a small addition to your nutrient rich diet this probably isn't a concern.
-Gluten definitely poses a problem to a lot of people, but this is probably more likely to occur in those predisposed by genetics, nutrient deficiencies, and problems with gut bacteria. Even then, digestion of gluten peptides would prevent an immune response responsible for much of the problems of gluten intolerance. If you aren't predisposed and you're able to digest gluten, then you're much more likely to not have problems with gluten.
-As stated in the conclusion of Masterjohn's post, refined wheat products are often bleached or treated with chlorine dioxide or potassium bromide. They're also usually supplemented with synthetic folic acid. I think these chemicals are potentially harmful and worth avoiding.
-Cereal fiber and fructans found in wheat can be problematic, especially to gut health. This could be why you found yourself feeling better on refined wheat products.
-WGA or Wheat Germ Agglutinin is a lectin which may also cause a number of health problems. Though research is limited, I'm very curious about what we continue to learn about WGA and it's effects on health; it may prove to be very a very problematic substance. Due to it's concentration in the germ, this is another possible explanation for your better handling of refined wheat.
Personally, I think if you want to enjoy a some wheat and you feel pretty confident you handle it fine, go for it. If you want to be careful, traditionally prepared and/or fermented wheat will probably be your best bet. And keep in mind that you may not have lifetime immunity; many people develop problems with wheat after never having any prior problems with it.
Just because you don't feel the effects now doesn't mean your health is not being affected in a negative way.
The gluten, phytic acid and lectins are probably affecting your health.
Dr. William Davis insists that wheat has its own mortality rate, but I cannot find his reference at the moment. Mark Sisson said that after almost a year without wheat, his arthritis disappeared. It's certainly your choice to consume wheat or not, I noticed tons of benefits to not eating it, including IBS symptoms going away, skin rashes disappearing, weight loss, etc. On the other hand, there really is no compelling reason to eat wheat, as most of its benefits are from being fortified, and all the nutrients it contains can be gotten elsewhere.
Wheat doesn't seem to "bother" me either....but I don't eat it for the most part for all the other reasons that it's probably bad for me. Occasionally I will have a piece of bread for an off paleo meal for the sheer fact I enjoy it. Perhaps a celebration, or hot date. I think mental enjoyment of food is just as important as physical...but I don't dig too deep into the whole "is food reward bad or not theories"...I've got better stuff to keep me up at night. I say, and this is just how I function, if it's a tiny portion of what you eat and the rest of your eating is unprocessed and it's ok with you then don't worry about it. Worry makes cortisol and we all know that IS bad. :)
The answer to your main question is NO it doesn't make sense to eat wheat just because you can tolerate it. It's not Paleo in any form. I have yet to find a Paleo site that has said wheat is ok to eat. Eating wheat and saying you're doing Paleo would be like a vegan saying they eat meat and saying they are a vegan. It just wouldn't happen. This is a Paleo site correct? I'm just making sure because I'm starting to get confused with all these non-paleo questions these days.
Read the book Wheat Belly by William Davis
A renowned cardiologist explains how eliminating wheat from our diets can prevent fat storage, shrink unsightly bulges, and reverse myriad health problems. Every day, over 200 million Americans consume food products made of wheat. As a result, over 100 million of them experience some form of adverse health effect, ranging from minor rashes and high blood sugar to the unattractive stomach bulges that preventive cardiologist William Davis calls “wheat bellies.” According to Davis, that excess fat has nothing to do with gluttony, sloth, or too much butter: It’s due to the whole grain wraps we eat for lunch. After witnessing over 2,000 patients regain their health after giving up wheat, Davis reached the disturbing conclusion that wheat is the single largest contributor to the nationwide obesity epidemic— and its elimination is key to dramatic weight loss and optimal health. In Wheat Belly, Davis exposes the harmful effects of what is actually a product of genetic tinkering and agribusiness being sold to the American public as “wheat”—and provides readers with a user-friendly, step-by-step plan to navigate a new, wheat-free lifestyle. Informed by cutting-edge science and nutrition, along with case studies from men and women who have experienced life-changing transformations in their health after waving goodbye to wheat, Wheat Belly is an illuminating look at what is truly making Americans sick and an action plan to clear our plates of this seemingly benign ingredient.
I don't know enough about wheat to wade into this debate - I know it bloats me so that's why I avoid it - HOWEVER, if you do decide to incorporate some into your diet, I'd recommend sourdough since it's a fermented food and possibly that makes it easier to digest and gives you the benefit of probiotics. I know I've seen stuff on this somewhere... maybe someone more educated than me could elaborate.
Speaking from a completely unscientific place, personally I don't feel as affected by wheat as I do by dairy or sugar — but the fact that it's not nutritionally dense and COULD contribute to health problems like arthritis in the future for me (I'm 25) it's just not worth the risk for me to consume on a regular basis. Also would like to add I'm half Turkish (according to LaLonde the middle east would be the an area where you'd be most likely to find some sort of grain adaptation) but still won't risk it. Prevention is better than a cure, right?
Plus, pasta isn't all that tasty. If it was a matter of steaks I might roll the dice. :)