Wheat – it’s everywhere and in everything – or very nearly. But why has it become such a problem food for so many people.

Obviously, a high proportion of people who visit my clinic do so in an attempt to overcome some kind of digestive problem. That might be something like IBS, acid reflux, constipation or bloating. I do take note of their diet and often hear how healthy they are because they now choose brown bread instead of white, and eat as many whole grains as possible, in accordance with the recommendation of the somewhat biassed TV advertisers.

It’s true that, in order to help their digestion, some clients need to drink a little more fluid, or increase their vegetable, but nearly all would benefit from reducing the vast quantities of wheat that they consume on a daily basis.

There’s usually toast or cereal for breakfast, a sandwich or wrap for lunch, and then a hearty bowl of pasta for dinner, and maybe a few crackers and cheese for a late supper snack. That’s an awful lot of wheat going in to one body.

But when we think about our parents and grandparents and how bread and similar products were a sound staple back in the day, why is wheat creating so many digestive problems in our modern lives?

What’s happened to Wheat to make me so Intolerant?

In the past fifty years under the influence of agricultural scientists, wheat has undergone a transformation. It’s been hybridised and crossbred to both increase its yield, and make it resistant to all sorts of pathogens and environmental conditions.

Such great strides have required drastic changes to the plant’s genetic code, which have come at a price to us human beings. Because of human intervention rather than natural evolution, what passes for wheat nowadays has almost no resemblance to what would have been consumed by our forefathers.

Virtually no questions have been asked as to whether this “new wheat” is compatible with human health. So, whilst it may look the same in our cakes, buns, breads, biscuits, bagels (the list really is endless…..) its biochemical differences are astounding. The changes in the wheat protein structure in our modern product now produce a devastating immune response in our bodies, as compared to that of the original natural wheat, to which there is no immune response.

What is an immune response and why is it bad for me?

An immune response is the reaction of the cells and fluids of your body to the presence of a substance which is not recognized as a constituent of the body itself. So technically, your immune response is there to identify “foreign bodies” and protect you from them, which is a good thing right!?

Absolutely it is; especially when it comes to germs and bacteria, coughs and colds. But let’s just think about this for a moment. Isn’t the food you eat meant to nourish and fuel your body? How can it do so when your body is identifying it as a bad thing to protect you against?

In addition to this, your immune response is a quick reaction which shouldn’t be permanently stimulated. But if you’re someone who is regularly consuming wheat, your immune response is in constant reaction, and inflammation is the result. Many people think of inflammation in terms of external signs: swelling, bruising and so on. But in truth, uncontrolled inflammation plays a role in almost every major disease, including cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease and even depression.

Wheat is in everything these days. Just take a moment and think how much of your local supermarket is dedicated to wheat related products. Bread, cakes and biscuits are the obvious ones, along with the cereal and pasta… how many shapes of pasta do we need (none!). Couscous, pastries, pies, pasties.. all wheat. And then there are all the products that it hides in, like the jar and packet mixes, even soy sauce! Wheat is also used in lots of beauty products and creams, so take a look at that too.

For some, it’s a real challenge to reduce wheat intake but please do think of the long term benefits of doing so. If you don’t find time to live well, you’ll eventually have to take time to be ill. I know how hard that sounds but it is SO TRUE. It’s much easier to prevent illness than it is to recover from it.

I hope you’ve found this informative but I’m only scratching the surface with this information on the dreaded wheat! I occasionally have a bit of cake or the odd biscuit, but I generally find, with a bit of reframing mentally and time invested in shopping at the beginning of the week, you can easily live a largely wheat free life.

There’s a great wheat, gluten and yeast free recipe in my blog entitled Going paperless