Forgive me - I know it is not a very "intelligent" question, but it bugs me and I just want to know what people think.
When I got gravely ill, I went gluten-free (my doctor told me so). This was probably the best advice any doctor has ever given me, considering the fact that gluten was slowly killing me. I really thought I was dying and nobody could find anything wrong with me.
However, as soon as I started a gluten free diet, I no longer could tolerate milk, then soy and legumes, then other grains, then nuts, and a whole bunch of foods. Then I ended up having a gastric erosion. Later I found out that many people experience the same. As soon as they start eating gluten free, they develop all kinds of secondary food intolerances. WHY?
And please do not tell me that I should have some gluten on a regular basis - consuming gluten makes me feel like I am dying. I would rather be all food intolerant than feel like that.
Please don't kill me, because what I am about to say is very anti-Paleo.
True hunter-gatherers do not consume any grains, and we know that. But there are more cultures on earth that do consume grains. In fact, some of them are very healthy and robust. This has been documented by Weston Price and many others.
Hence my question: MAYBE, just MAYBE there is something about grains (minimally processed, of course) that our bodies need? Maybe it is not vitamins and macronutrients, but some enzymes or amino acids or something that cannot be found in other foods but our bodies desperately need? Could it be?
Same goes for white potatoes.
Maybe we are simplifying the matter by just stating that vegetables are more nutritionally dense. Yes, they are. But maybe there are some mysterious elements yet to be discovered that makes grains an important part of our diet?
I am not talking processed food, additives and preservatives - those are nasty carcinogenic substances. However, raw unprocessed organic grains... Could it be another reason why they are almost every culture's staples?
CLARIFICATION: I am against eating grains and white potatoes. This is my personal belief and I stick by it. I am not looking for any excuses to try grains - I am not eating them, period.
The reason why I am asking this question is simple: I am not convinced that people during Paleolithic times did not consume grains.
I am 100% sure that coke cannot be good for you, because it is not found in nature, but grains are abundant in nature on every single continent. They are like seeds. So, logically, if they are organic, and close to a wild variety - my guess is that Paleo people threw them into cooking as well.
Or maybe they made flour out of some beans/seeds and a very primitive bread. I don't think they ate a lot of them and I also think they were a seasonal item - they did not plant, harvest or store them, but I am sure they consumed some of them. They ate EVERYTHING they found.
I think with the leaky gut/food sensitivities, you have to think of it from an inflammation standpoint. Inflammation is one way your body defends itself from attacks.
To use a simplified metaphor, think of your instestines as your arm, and gluten as coarse sandpaper. If you continually rub sandpaper over your arm, eventually your skin will callous over as a defense against the abrasion and you will no longer feel pain from it. This callous also indcidentally protects your skin from other irritants. Now, if you stop rubbing the sandpaper over your arm, eventually you will start to heal and the callous will peel off exposing new skin. Then all of a sudden, you notice that scrapes from a thorny bush, or brushing against a brick building hurt. Did these things somehow get more damaging? No, you just didn't notice them because your body was in a continual state of defense. Once the skin on your arm completely heals, those minor irritants probably won't bother you so much, but until then you are particularly vulnerable.
STORY: My husband when we first started Paleo had an autoimmune celiac-like response to gluten. He also had GI responses to soy, nightshades, and even more normal foods like veggies because his gut was damaged and needed to heal. If you follow GAPS - I don't believe in the enemas or everything but most of Dr. Natasha's explanation is good. You have to heal the gut and immune system or you could potentially respond to anything!
Now after nearly after 1 year of Paleo he can consume all nightshades, raw dairy, and CROSS_contaminated gluten! His gut healed! We did a LOT of probiotics - dairy and fermented veggies, refrigerated probiotic pills, etc.
My mother used to cheat occasionally with gluten. This is in spite of the fact her mother DIED from autoimmune ulcerative colitis. My mother used to have eczema and cold triggered hives (urticaria) that disappeared with Paleo.
Then I last heard from Mom, "Oh, I can't digest wheat anymore - I tried a piece of bread and I got bad stomach upset." I told her, "You NEVER could digest it." Your body was too inflamed in the past for you to notice it.
Take the analogy of boiling a frog SLOWLY. The frog (you) may not notice the water slowly heating (that is slow inflammation that people are trying to adapt to from constant gluten and gut irritants). But when you cool down the inflammation to near 0, and suddenly you get inflamed from gluten that would make things very hot!
Let's say the most people on SAD are inflamed level from level 7-10 (with 10 being highest). On Paleo let's say you're inflamed 0-5. Well you're going to notice inflammation a lot more easily when you go from 1 to 7 when you eat wheat after Paleo then when you are chronically inflamed and go from inflammation 7 to inflammation level 9!
As for Asians and grains ...
Dr. Peter Attia and Mark Sisson have written well: http://eatingacademy.com/nutrition/how-do-some-cultures-stay-lean-while-still-consuming-high-amounts-of-carbohydrates
If rice is so benign for Asians why do we have Asians going rice- free and having great results! http://www.marksdailyapple.com/a-primal-comeback/
I've seen rice bellies in parts of India and other Asian countries just as well as wheat bellies. They have hypertension and have diabetes, and/or pre-diabetes.
There are some healthy Indians .. BUT...
India has skyrocketing diabetes/metabolic, autoimmune diseases, cancer, etc.. Most of it is under-diagnosed just like gluten intolerance and celiac. Doctors will just blame IBS type syndrome on bad food, water, and/or parasites which is confusing because some symptoms are similar! If 90% celiacs aren't diagnosed in America what do you think that number is in India - 99.9%??!
Almost half Indians (50%) have poor lipid profiles - triglycerides, HDL, LDL. Maharashtra, Gujarat, and Tamil Nadu have the worst (note 2 out of the 3, other then Tamil Nadu are heavy wheat eaters). 22 year medical student had heart attack.
Indian cardiologist says he's had 30-40% increase in heart patients aged below 40 in just the last few years! http://indianherald.com.au/featured/smoking-hastens-cardiac-problems/1680/
India has 1 billion people+ but look how few athletes they have produced per capita compared to other Asian (primarily omnivorous countries like China & Japan). The Indian Army is composed from 10-15% Sikh religion (Sikh officers are 20%) - a reform Protestant version of Hinduism but Sikh's are omnivorous and can eat any meat - including beef. Yet Sikhs are less than 2% of the entire Indian population! What percentage vegetarian or vegan warriors or people in defense are you going to find worldwide??!! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sikh
In Gujarat, most are vegetarian Hindu and they have among the poorest nutrition and fitness. The average height of many Gujarati woman approaches under 5 feet and tend to be emaciated looking or overweight/obese- suggesting nutrition deficiencies from grains blocking minerals like magnesium, zinc, iron, calcium, etc. FYI I've known groups of strict lifelong vegetarians carrying the burden of modern disease - cancer, autoimmune, heart disease etc - almost everything on the symptoms of gluten intolerance below.
In some cultures food is so important they would rather die then change their diet - or they will change when they are in such excruciating pain that when offered the knowledge that contradicts their belief system they may change aspects (may not all) of their diet.
A great number of Bollywood actors/actresses and nearly all (perhaps all) of the beauty pageant (Miss Universe, Miss World) winners are omnivore (often Muslim/Christian) and are either from the Punjab area or Bengal, with some South Indians. Although you can look good on the outside and still be inflamed on the inside. Some people have delayed effects of a poor diet - in the 20's and 30's but then it catches up!
In some Indian villages they use sugar as a filler so you cannot taste the food - all you taste is sugar so 1 bowl of "tomato soup," tastes like sugar soup. They deep fry in vegetable oils and often there 3 meals consist of deep-fried wheat. They don't eat enough non-starchy vegetables - they tend to be very grain-based.
Those that have raw dairy (or low temperature pasteurized dairy), and eat less or no wheat, and eat eggs are better off. Vegetarians could gain some benefit from Lacto-Ovo-Paleo but the sicker they are the more they have to benefit from including eating grass-fed ruminants and wild caught fish in their diet and eliminating gut irritants.
The obesity of cities like Baroda (Vadodara) India approaches Texas and there are heart centers/clinics on every block like Starbucks. (Everything is big in Texas - the SUVs, houses, and the people ...) LOL!
The highest rates of celiac are found in the areas with the greatest wheat consumption - Gujarat and Punjab - and they are not healing because so many foods including spices can be cross-contaminated.
Am J Gastroenterol. 2001 Sep;96(9):2804-5. Increasing incidence of celiac disease in India. Sood A, Midha V, Sood N, Kaushal V, Puri H.
Gujarati and Punjabi Indians who settled in England get 3 times more celiac then Europeans!
http://www.aarda.org/autoimmune_statistics.php Total Autoimmune disease has outpaced CANCER and HEART DISEASE in the numbers in the US.
All the below conditions/symptoms related to gluten intolerance are skyrocketing in India. Some of these conditions change over time in the same individual! Some of 300 symptoms associated with gluten intolerance and/or made worse by gluten- Sound familiar?
Nutritional deficiencies due to malabsorbtion e.g. low iron/anemia, Vitamin D, magnesium, zinc etc..
GI, IBS, bloating, pain, gas, constipation, diarrhea, GERD, acid reflex, fatty stool, nausea,vomiting, flatulence, celiac, Crohn's, Ulcerative Colitis, Lactose Intolerance
Joint pain, Osteoporosis/Osteopenia, Cramps, tingling and numbness
Depression, Headaches, Migraine, Fatigue, Schizophrenia, Mood Swings, Irritability, Brain fog, seizures, ataxia (clumsiness), MS
Infertility, irregular menstrual cycle and miscarriage, Slow infant and child growth
Eczema, Allergies, Hives (Urticaria), Psoriasis, Acne, Rosacea
Type 1 diabetes, Lupus, Alopecia (hair loss, balding)
Down, Turner, and Williams Syndrome
Decline in dental health, dental enamel irregularities
Thyroid disease (both hypo and hyper)
I can't do much with 1) unfortunately, but in answer to this part of your question 2),
Could it be another reason why they are almost every culture's staples?
I would say that grains become staples because they are slower to rot in storage than animal products or leaves, berries, and some tubers. They're available and portable, they don't kill you (immediately), so you start basing your cuisine around them.
Proper gut function should allow you to tolerate many foods. The lack of tolerance to gluten indicates a compromised gut biome. It is not surprising that you discovered other food intolerances subsequent to gluten.
WAP's Swiss Alpiners had very good health on a hand made, fermented rye bread, goat milk, goat cheese and goat diet. Note the many things they did not eat - refined flour, sugar, HFCS, vegetable oils, transfats just to name a few. Also, no anti-biotics to mess with the gut biome.
This does not indicate that rye is a required nutrient. Please read (google) the post by Dr. Harris on "There are no magical foods". And, for what it's worth, I think white potatoes are pretty nutritious, although it is probably wise to follow traditional practices and peel them.
If we (hominids) survived 2.5 million years without consuming any significant amount of grains (and we did) and were in very good health (we were), then it stands to reason that we do not require cereal grains for good health. We should be able to get what we need by simply eating animals and plants like we have for 2.5 million years. Of course, we can still screw things up with our modern technology, such as antibiotics.
I should also mention that just because we didn't eat something for most of our 2.5 million year history is not sufficient to condemn it, although perhaps it is enough to at least be suspicious. I shun wheat, not because of it's recent introduction into the diet. I shun it because there is good evidence that it causes inflammation, leaky gut and other gut disbiosis. And because I generally feel better without it (less back and joint pain as one example).
Most likely the cultures eating those grains are eating them as part of a diet that does NOT turn them into Frosted Flakes, Cap'n Crunch, Pop Tarts, Doritos, and donuts. They're eating them in minimally processed form, along with other real foods - animal fats and proteins from animals eating species-appropriate diets. And very likely they don't have a long history of eating the absolutely wacky, insane garbage that passes for "food" in the modern U.S.
Chances are people in lesser-industrialized societies (and our neolithic ancestors) can tolerate grains better than most of us because their digestion and gut integrity are/were not subject to: antibiotics, Cesarian sections (babies get a good dose of their initial gut flora as they pass through the vaginal canal -- provided mom has a lot of good flora there), the levels of stress we're typically under, and all kinds of modern scents/soaps/chemicals for which the jury's still out on whether they might be damaging our insides, and if so, how much.
You're very right about the work of Weston Price. But the societies he looked at that were eating grains ate them in a completely different context from how we eat them today. (Not to mention the composition of the grains themselves, which we've selectively bred for higher gluten content and other aspects for supposed nutrition, cooking properties, and hardier storage. For more on that, check out Wheat Belly, which gets into the big differences between ancient varieties of wheat and their modern counterparts.)
ETA: And let's not forget about the genetic aspect here. What about the HLADQ issue with regard to wheat sensitivity? There does seem to be some genetic/ancestral influence on people's ability to tolerate wheat, with people from the Middle East/North Africa, where it was cultivated first and the most generations have had exposure to it, having less celiac and wheat sensitivity than other cultures. There might be a similar mechanism underlying Asians' ability to tolerate more rice (and not dairy, since they are traditionally not a dairying people), etc.
At this point, we're all mutts. Unless you know beyond the shadow of a doubt that you're pureblooded something or other, very few of us can be absolutely sure of our own long-term ancestral genetics. So most of us have all kinds of mixed up food tolerances, which, for better or worse, is why the best we can do is experiment and see what works.
But what I love about Price's work (and some of the researchers today as well) is that he showed people thriving on a variety of diets with very different macronutrient profiles and food staples. We know for sure there were no societies that were vegan by choice. But we do know some groups thrived on tropical fruits and lots of fish. Others thrived on milk, red meat, and blood. Others thrived on oats, cheese, and fermented dairy.
I don't think there are any nutrients specific to grains that we can't find elsewhere. There are properties, for sure, that make eating certain grains fun, especially if we consider the gluteomorphin issue, and gluten grains activating the dopamine centers. But as for actual health benefits that couldn't be gotten from less problematic foods? Ya got me there. I don't know if there are any. I tend to doubt it, though.
1] maybe you had the other intolerances, but didn't notice as you were focused on the discomfort caused by the gluten? Or maybe the gluten "broke" your gut? You might find taking a liver tonic (liquid st mary's thistle or others) and eating foods rich in sulphur help over time (garlic, onions, leeks, radishes, eggs, cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower))
2] Maybe it's not the gluten per say that is the problem, but what it is combined with it/or how it is prepared?
Just a thought, but good question.
2) Just think it's worth emphasising the evidence. When grain cultivation began - and perhaps the best documented was in Turkey around 10,000 years ago - our stature diminished about 4in.
Earliest evidence of diabetes and cancer was actually quite recent - around the same timing.
OK, this is correlation, not cause and effect, BUT there's plenty of more recent evidence to link grains with autoimmune disease in particular, and it gets harder and harder to argue against it. Rigid proof is difficult due to the logistics and ethics of conducting a double blind study with a large enough group.
I suppose one purpose of this site is mutual support for people willing to take a chance and see their health improve. Chance, but low risk.
I'm an undermethylator of folate (and probably b12 too), and I really think that for me anyway, the sudden absence of b vitamins was problematic when I first gave up wheat. Everything is so heavily fortified, and I still struggle to get in enough thiamine.