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Wheat: The New Bad Kid On the Block

People hate to give up wheat! I get more dirty looks when I mention the W word (wheat) in concert with the E word (eliminate): "But I LOVE pasta" or I LOVE sourdough bread." or I CAN'T give up my toast in the morning!" or 'What will I EAT?" People take this very personally. I think wheat is comfort food - as in the sugary milk toast we had as a child when we were sick, or the sweet wheat goodies our Moms baked for us. Then there are birthday cakes and wedding cakes, Easter kuchen and challah - all the wheat products we associate either with love, a good time or our religion. You can see why wheat is a hard one to give up. After sugar, gluten is the second most prevalent food substance in Western civilization.

I can't help you with the motivation and the "just do it" part, but I can help you with substitutes. Please go on my web site at www.drbea.com and click on Handouts, then on Wheat. There are a few good ideas there.

As most of you know, I do a lot of muscle testing for food allergies in the office and more and more frequently, I am finding that wheat is coming up as a sensitivity. Off the top of my head, roughly 65% of my patients? Consequently, I have come to the dreadful conclusion - dread-full for those of you hooked on your pastas and sourdough breads - that NOONE should eat wheat. Nada, zip, noone, not even you. I seem to be getting a lot of agreement out there, too from some pretty knowledgeable and respected docs - Dr. Susan Lark and Dr. Joseph Mercola just to name two nationally known health writers.

I have my own personal opinions on why we are all becoming more and more intolerent towards wheat. First of all, I think that the wheat crop has been adulterated over the years to such a degree that it is no longer the ancient and classic grain that was probably good for us at the turn of the 20th century.

Secondly, the land on which wheat is grown is also not what it was in the early 1900's. Due to overgrowth and non- rotation of crops, the soil is devoid of natural goodness and over-burdened with chemicals and fertilizers from companies like Monsanto (who do not have your best interest in mind) in a desperate attempt to artificially create soil that can support crops without losing a season ie. big bucks.

Here's the third thing: When wheat is harvested, it is usually stored in huge grain silos for an indeterminate length of time. Fungi and molds grow on stored wheat and it stays there throughout the transporting, the milling and the baking of products. So, is it the wheat we are sensitive to, is it the adulterated crops grown on the artificial soil or is it the fungus and mold? Hard to tell. But, bottom line, I would try to ease wheat out of my life if I were you. Wheat is highly allergenic and difficult for the body to process.

Maybe you don't have celiac disease - which causes bloating, diarrhea and malnutrition - and which means you are seriously immuno-reactive to all gluten , not only the gluten in wheat but rye, barley, kamut and spelt and probably oats. But wheat in non-celiac people can create a lot of unnecessary havoc in the body. Wheat can trigger inflammation in the gut and if there is inflammation in the gut there is inflammation elsewhere. I have had patients tell me that the minute they put wheat in their mouth, their thumb joint hurts, or their bladder feels inflamed or they get a headache or they get constipated or bloated - all due to the release of histamines which cause inflammation. The gut is our second brain and that is its way of yelling at us.

Wheat is poison for patients with chronic fatique or fibromyalgia; it really kicks up the pain levels. Anxiety levels and phobias can worsen with wheat consumption and "menopausal women seem to be more at risk for wheat-related mood shifts." (The Lark Letter, 9/03) An astounding 80 to 93% of women suffering from migraines also suffer from food allergies which trigger their headaches , and one of the more common allergens is wheat.

I have found that the only really tough part of eliminating wheat is going out to eat either to a restaurant or to a friend's house. You are really SOL if your friend serves, for example, a nice pasta with clam sauce, sourdough bread and coconut cake for dessert. In that case, what I do is just eat it (loving every bite!) but I have started to tell people that I am "allergic" to wheat and really can't have it at all. Prospective hosts seem to welcome the information and don't seem to mind at all.

However, I do have emergency nutrition for those unavoidable situations: Before I eat the forbidden dinner, I take a scoop of buffered C powder (about 2500 mgs.) a 500 mg capsule of vitamin E and 50 mg. of pyridoxyl-5-phosphate: This combo seems to be good for damage control and lessens any symptoms I may develop. I might take another dose before bed, because if I eat wheat, I will get fibromyalgia or a generalized achiness which may last 24 hours. I never travel without my "rescue" remedy.

Spelt seems to be the good guy in the grain equation now and I rarely find my wheat intolerants sensitive to spelt (unless they have outright celiac disease, which is really quite rare). I also have an opinion about this, too: Spelt is a fairly new grain on the market and has probably not been messed with to the extent that the wheat crop has been. Maybe it is stored in silos - but maybe not, because the crop is still as small as the demand. Eat spelt while you can, bcause I predict that before long, as the demand grows, it too will become inedible because inevitably, in order to wrest the max out of the environment, we will start fooling around with Mother Nature's spelt crop, too.

Here are some tips for eliminating wheat: First of all look at the handout on my website and see if that will help you. Then just stroll through Whole Foods and look for wheat-free stuff. You will be amazed at the selection. If you like to bake from scratch, there are books to buy for wheat-free baking, but the following rule of thumb is that for every 3 cups of wheat flour, you can substitute two cups of rice flour, 2/3 cup potato starch and 1/3 cup tapioca starch.

Check out a magazine called Living Without, or their website, www.livingwithout.com. This is a very helpful magazine dedicated to wheat-free and dairy-free recipes. There is also the Gluten-Free Pantry or www.glutenfree.com. For products in Boulder: Breadworks, on Broadway near my office, has a to-die-for spelt bread. They bake it plain on Tuesdays and with raisins on Saturday. This is a sourdough-type of bread excellent for toasting. Don't live without it! Breadworks also makes a delicious wheat-free Vegan Cookie. Great Harvest over by McGuckins bakes a more sandwichy-type of spelt bread on Wednesdays.


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